This is day eighteen of the SQL Advent 2012 series of blog posts. Today we are going to look at how to stay relevant and marketable

Whenever I interview people I always ask what the latest version is that they have used. I will also ask if they have used the version that is in beta now. More often than not I will get an answer that they are still running something that is two versions behind. Then I ask if they have installed the latest and greatest on their home computer. The answer to that question is usually no.

This to me is crazy, surely you can’t be in this field just for the money, where is the passion for discovering new things? Imagine you are a person who makes tables, after a while you will become a master and there is not much more for you to learn. The curse and the blessing of technology is that it is changing, and it is changing rapidly. If you don’t invest time after work, before work and over the weekend to discover new things, play with the newest versions and sharpen your skill you will become obsolete, there are many people like that, they fall apart during the interview process.

But I have no time to do all this additional work

People will complain that they don’t have enough time to do these additional things. Here are some things you can do if you are short on time. If commuting by public transportation read a book or download the latest papers about the newest versions of the product and read them. If you workout try listening to podcast while doing your aerobic exercises. Perhaps you can set the speed on your player to be 30% faster, this way you can get more podcasts in the same amount of time.

Ask yourself what will help you advance having up to date skill or being up to date with the latest episodes of Homeland and Dexter? Another option is to watch the shows on the train on a tablet and then do the tech stuff at home.

Attend an launch event or go to your local usergroup meeting, there are usually sessions on the latest and greatest versions of the software.

Step outside your comfort zone

Try out some other things, become a polyglot programmer. If you are a Java developer, give Scala or Clojure a try. If you are a .NET developer then try out F#, IronPython or Boo. If you are a SQL Server guy why not start playing around with Oracle, PostgreSQL or perhaps even a flavor of NoSQL, take a look at MongoDB, CouchDB, Cassandra and other solutions. Have you looked at Big Data? This is already getting big and it will only get bigger. Ever heard of Hadoop? No, heard of facebook? Sure you have, guess what, facebook claims to have the biggest Hadoop cluster, It is over 100 Petabytes and it grows by about half a Petabyte per day, and you thought your database was big 🙂

Trends are cyclical, every 10 years or so something new and big comes along. In the late 90s this was data warehousing, OLAP cubes, dimensions, fact tables. Every company these days does some sort of data warehousing. Now it is big data that is new and shiny and has a lot of weight behind it, even Microsoft has come on board with Hadoop. Microsoft abandoned their own Hadoop type project called Dryad and partnered with Hortonworks to bring Hadoop to Windows.

Here is what I want you to do, the last week of the year is usually slow, pick 3 things that are fairly new, research them a little and then pick one that you will focus on during the first quarter of 2013.

Leave me a comment of what you are going to pick.

That is all for day eighteen of the SQL Advent 2012 series, come back tomorrow for the next one, you can also check out all the posts from last year here: SQL Advent 2011 Recap