Contributing to the SQL Community … Without Being an Expert

For those of you who have seen my previous blog, you might recognize the title.  It’s because I had written on this subject before, and it was a pretty popular topic.  However, due to bad administration (I really should have known better) and bad management (I never claimed to be a good manager) I ended up losing all my content.  So I am going to try and recapture the ideas I had before, as well as add a few more ideas to the list.

Speak at PASS Local Groups on Beginner Level Topics

This year I am speaking at my first SQL Saturday event.  I am going to be presenting a session on data warehouse building 101.  I am certainly not the most qualified expert, nor am I the most experienced.  However, like many of us, I am self-taught in SQL Server and business intelligence.  Data science was not a degree program when I was in college, and business intelligence wasn’t as popular then as it is now.  The biggest weakness of a self-taught person is that they have knowledge gaps.  You don’t need to be an expert to fill a beginner level knowledge gap, and what seems like common sense to you might just be profound wisdom to a 20 year veteran of SQL Server.

Blog About What You Know and What You Don’t Know

Blogging about what you learn is perhaps the easiest way to get involved and contribute to the SQL community.  As a blogger, you can establish connections throughout the industry as well as share your ideas and ask questions.  Going back to the first point, if you run a blog (even badly) you can still share tips and tricks you pick up that could save someone hours of frustration later.  Also, blog about what you don’t know.  Pick a topic you want to be more knowledgeable on and voraciously read up on it.  Read blogs, forum threads, TechNet articles, ebooks, white papers, and other sources.  After you have read through a bunch of material, start looking for common threads and bring them together into a dense blog post that you can then use as your personal reference library.  (Note to self:  Start doing this!)

Give a Lightning Talk

A lightning talk is a very short mini-presentation about a very specific topic.  These typically last 5-10 minutes, and are ultra focused.  Chances are good that you can do one of these right now with no prep time.  For example, did you just install Analysis Services and had to figure out how to create a data model?  Give a lightning talk on it!

Participate in Slack and Twitter Conversations

Twitter will always hold a special place in my heart, as that is where I first met the people that would mentor me through starting a PASS Local Group as well as getting my start in speaking at local groups and SQL Saturday.  Use the Twitter hastag #sqlhelp to ask questions, or #sqlfamily to talk to other people who use Twitter for SQL stuff.   Participating in online conversations creates actvity which indirectly helps to grow the community.  No one wants to hang around in a dead Slack server, right PASS?  😉

Join PASS

Ok, so I used the acronym PASS several times so far but you have no idea what it means.  PASS is the Professional Association for SQL Server and is the force behind SQLSaturday events.  By joining this organization (it’s free!) you can  get a chance to attend virtual group meetings online, local group  meetings in person, and interact with thousands of other people who love SQL Server as much as you do.

Ask questions and share answers!

This is the single best method I can think of for a beginner to start contributing.  As a person’s expertise grows, they forget all the questions they had when they first started out.  By asking questions, you remind them of the learning curve newcomers face, which better equips the experts for teaching those newcomers and helping them over the curve faster.  Also, once you get an answer to your question, share it!  Write a blog post about it, or give the answer to someone else with the same question as you.  Don’t forget to also share other things you create: T-SQL scripts, SSIS packages, SSRS report templates, etc…   It doesn’t have to be the best to be useful, it just needs to solve a problem.  Chances are if you created it, you created it to solve a problem.

So get out there, and start contributing!

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