Anyone Can SQL

I love the SQL Community. Plain and simple. I will extend that to the overall Microsoft Data community as well. We are a hugely supportive bunch. That fact that many of us refer to it as #SQLFamily is not an accident. There are so many ways to reach out for and provide help. A huge number of folks in this community blog and present and offer help on Twitter, StackOverflow, MSDN, etc. It is truly astounding to me the depth of help you can get from this community.

I get a lot of joy out of seeing people welcomed into the SQL Community. You want to learn SQL? Come join us. We’ll help. I love encouraging people to get involved. I often tell folks just starting out about how welcoming and supportive this community is. Sometimes they get involved and encourage others to do the same. Typically, it works out wonderfully for everyone.

Courtesy of ktylerconk on FlickrHowever, recently, I was told of a pretty terrible experience that happened at a SQL-related event. People with certain backgrounds were treated with derision and scorn. They were laughed at. They were told they would not be taken seriously in this community because of their extensive experience with database technologies other than SQL Server. This is the exact opposite of what this community stands for.

In Pixar’s Ratatouille, August Gusteau is a famous chef. He writes books, does interviews, etc. One thing he is famous for is his closely held belief that “Anyone can cook.” A key antagonist, and infamous food critic, Anton Ego, doesn’t agree with Gusteau.

Note: There will be some spoilers for the movie coming shortly. If you haven’t seen it, fix it. It is another fine example of Pixar’s spectacular ability to craft stories and characters that resonate. It’s charming.

Anton Ego prides himself on his ability to eviscerate chefs and restaurants with his scathing reviews. He raises himself up by tearing others down. In this sense, the name of the character is spot on.

It isn’t until near the end of the film, when he enjoys an amazing meal that takes him back to his childhood, a dish prepared by a chef who is a rat, that he comes to understand what Gusteau was talking about.

In his review, Ego writes, “The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extra-ordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: ‘Anyone can cook.’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France.”

My goal with this post is not to rant or to point fingers or to vent my or anyone else’s anger or disappointment over this situation. Rather, it is to remind all of us that EVERYONE is born knowing NOTHING about databases in general and SQL Server in particular. We all come from somewhere. I started with Access. I know many people who did. Some people started with FoxPro. Others with Sybase. Others with DB2, or Oracle, or FileMaker. The list goes on and on. The fact that we have such varying experiences helps to make the community rich and varied. Like Ego came to learn, we will not raise ourselves up by tearing others down.

The onus is upon us, in my opinion, to ensure that we can live up to the promise of this outstanding community and treat people who want to learn with respect and encouragement. The onus is upon us to apply Gusteau’s most cherished belief to our community as well: Anyone can SQL.

6 replies »

  1. Last weekend’s SQL Saturday Jacksonville had the most diverse attendance I’d ever experienced: age, race, gender, experience-level. I talked to students, web developers, DBAs, clerical admins, IT veterans and help desk reps. Registration was free at #SQLSatJAX, normally about $10, so there was no barrier to aspiring folks looking to learn besides their time on a gorgeous Saturday. At the same time, some of the top SQL Server consultants in the US were speakers. So a very wide range of expertise. I suspect many Ratatouilles were overwhelmed but politely silent.

    We could use a true “SQL beginner’s track” that kicks off the day with an intro to the Microsoft SQL Server ecosystem, define terms & acronyms: SSMS, SSIS, SSAS, Azure (free for students!), PowerBI. Sponsored handout with a glossary? Suggest SQL Express or Dev version for testing/learning. Where to get more info, PASS, free training videos, etc. Introduce Adventureworks, a couple demo SQL statements. Review the upcoming sessions. I feel like I just volunteered for something….hmmmmm… Actually, I got the idea from @PhillipLabry who got it from @Hope_Foley.


  2. Hi Mark,

    I’m actually listening to a presentation you are giving on Elastic DBs on Azure right now – well, listening and also typing this response to your post.

    I wanted to echo the “welcoming-ness” that I felt when I attended SQL Saturday in San Antonio, TX. This was my first SQL PASS event. What you spoke about in the SQL community echoes what I felt from that great event. I was able to connect with and chat with people who have been in the community for over a decade as well as rubbing shoulders with other nameless newbies like myself.

    Personally, I’m transitioning from MS Access, Desktop Support and Training to BI or BA or something a bit more nerdy than what I’ve done previously. Something involving data and also involving people. The welcoming spirit of the SQL Community is great.

    Thanks for this post


    • Thanks, Brett. I’m glad you are having a great experience with the SQL Community. Happily, the events that inspired this post are the exception. Thanks very much for sharing.