This month, Mala Mahadevan (@sqlmal) challenges us to write about technology to learn that isn’t SQL. Interesting topic – I feel like there are quite a number of technologies that I feel I know outside the SQL space, but I had to give some thought to what I should encourage people to learn.
PowerShell was an obvious one – arguably, any command-line scripting. The number of times that people need to do things with files, or have some automated process, or need to do some old-fashioned grepping, but don’t feel confident enough to spin up a PowerShell window… it beggars belief. It’s incredibly useful and anyone technical should be across it. General data folk probably don’t need to jump right into creating their own cmdlets, but they should definitely know about ripping into files, looping, all that.
To help get you started in that, I wrote something a bit over a year ago at https://sqlperformance.com/2017/09/sql-performance/need-to-know-powershell
The other technology I can’t go past is Excel.
Excel because it’s the data environment that regular business people know, and you should know it at least as well as them.
They’ll want you to give them copies of data in Excel (tip: ask them what they will do with that data once you’ve given it to them!), they will create charts with Excel, they will give you data in Excel (another tip: learn about MDS and let them use Excel to maintain data stored within MDS), and they will implement their business logic there. Essentially, it’s where they do Data Analytics. Make sure you can read their Excel expressions / formulae, and the VBA code they write, and understand pivot tables, and so on. It will become a useful tool for you as well, because you can generate Excel spreadsheets through SSRS now (so long as you understand what SSRS will do around merged cells if you haven’t taken care).
And Excel can lead you onto teaching them about Power Pivot, Power BI, and Analysis Services. Your Excel experts can become expert data modellers, and you can be raising the next generation of data scientists.
So those are my two suggestions for non-SQL technologies – PowerShell and Excel. They’re not new, but they are set to stay significant for some time. If you don’t have them, you’re missing some serious foundations.