No, this is not your everyday tools and your normal toolbox. These awesome tools came from a week long training with SQL Skills on their Performance Tuning week. I learned new
shiny techniques to troubleshoot performance issues, different ways to look at problems and new approaches on how to prevent problems before they even become one. These tools are extremely important to have in my toolbox and an awesome addition to the ones I have. Soon, I might need a bigger toolbox!
I’m not going to go over each day on what we covered in this post. Erin Stellato (b | t) and Klaus Aschenbrenner (b | t) did a wonderful job to recap day-to-day summaries on their blogs, however, I want to summarize my experience and hopefully encourage others to attend this event whenever you can (and no, I’m not getting any cut for writing this) and to give my perspective to other managers out there if you are not sure which training you need to send your direct reports and what kind of ROI you can expect from an investment like this.
Let me start by talking about the instructors. Paul Randal (b | t), Kimberly Tripp (b | t) and Jonathan Kehayias (b | t) are very knowledgeable and each have a different areas of expertise. When you attend SQL Skills training (I have attended two of them so far. You can read my experience from last year here), you are not just getting the valuable material, but you are getting that from three different experts. They often talked about the same subject, but from different perspectives and used different analogies which I think it’s very unique and extremely valuable for the attendee. It is like hearing a story from three different people, each tells it slightly different based on their perspective, audience, and experience. Combined, you learn more than if you had only received the story from a single source. They are all very interactive and passionate about the subjects that they were talking about and it somewhat contagious!
We were learning a lot of in-depth topics and each of the modules has clear objectives on what the student is going to get. Unlike an hour or two presentations at some technical conferences, you are getting 8 hours of training material every day for 5 days. You are learning about the ins and outs of certain subjects and you get various demo scripts that written by the instructor team, and can be use to against your environment (another set of awesome tools for your toolbox.) You will get a clear understanding about how the internals of SQL Server works and how to utilize all the bells and whistles that come with it, and I’m not talking about some pretty wizard. I’m talking about some undocumented function and command that you can use to see or identify certain things. How awesome is that! It is like having a personal SQL concierge take you one a personal back stage tour of what is under the hood in your database server.
Here’s what most of the manager didn’t see. In the last two rounds of the training from SQL Skills that I experienced, we had 30 plus attendees from all over the world that have all kinds of background. During the training, you developed a relationship with the other attendees, some more than others and exchange stories about the challenges, environments and even solutions. Certain challenges that you are experiencing today, might be yesterday’s problem for others and they have found the solutions and sharing the stories during break or lunch (or happy hour) might give you the solutions you need for your challenges today. In summary, being in the same room with over 30 intellectual people who want to learn about the same thing and work in the same area, is another valuable aspect of this training.
Yes, there’s perks. Last week, we had Robert Davis (b | t) and Connor Cunningham (b) stopped by and gave a little talk. Robert Davis is a Program Manager for SQL MCM program and Connor Cunningham is the Architect for the Query Processor team at SQL Server Division. We get to learn more about MCM Program and ask questions about that program and we get to hear some inside story from one of the people who wrote the code behind SQL Server Query Processor. These two gentlemen are wicked smart and to be in the same room with them and hear their story always an a great experience on its own.
So, for the managers out there – here’s my message to you. If you are sending your people to SQL Skills training, I can almost guarantee that your staff will have a great tools that they can use right away when they come back. It’s not some tool that you have to sharpen or make it shiny first, but the knowledge they gain can be immediately used. You should expect your attendees to return able to either identify the pain-point of your challenges or preventing future challenges. They will have a great understanding on how the internals of SQL Server work and variety of techniques and resources available to gather the information and creating baselines for performance improvement of your system or recognizing potential problems. Not only that, your staff will have direct access to the instructors to ask questions for your specific problem during class and even have them look at it for you! I think that alone is already worth the investment!
As for me, I have pages of notes that I need to go through, and when I get the demo scripts next week, I already have plans on things I want to look at based on those scripts that I know will help me identify our current challenges. On top of that, I have a whole lab of virtual machines that they distributed during the class for further learning. I’m excited. I am always hungry for a new knowledge and I love to learn and I think I will always learning something new even on a subject that I think I already know.