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Effective Way of Accumulating Knowledge

January 11, 2008

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, obstacle of entry-level job seekers, specially in the area of Database and Business Intelligence, is their lack of experience. I have posted a question in my network in LinkedIN.com about how to accumulate knowledge. I have received the following answers so far:

Question: What is an effective way to accumulate knowledge and credential if you are into BI and Database field?

Pam Barker WaldhelmBusiness Intelligence Architect

As in most areas of knowledge, you need a variety of sources and experiences. I’ll rattle off a few, but there are many:

* Yes, work in the field, either as a perm employee or a contractor. The most important thing is that you need to be doing development work where you’re finding out how to do things, creating new code, solving new issues. Sometimes working as a contractor is a way to quickly accumulate knowledge as contractors usually focus on development tasks only. On the other hand, a support position as a permanent staff member could lead to a development role.

Most important bit of advice, is to always be thinking “why does it work this way?” Or “can I make it better?” Or “what would happen if I did it this way?” This sense of curiosity will lead you to investigate and learn even more.

* Read and study on your own. No matter which technology (Oracle/SQL Server/DB2/etc or which area (design/ETL/OLAP/reporting/data mining), there are many books and self-study materials available.
* If you’re not already working with your desired database platform in your current job, obtain a developer’s edition (often free or very low cost) or eval copy. Try out the software, figure out how to implement a solution. Using some of your books as examples, work through some development tasks.
* Find the blogs and forums that provide the best coverage for your chosen technology and area of interest. Read them regularly. Find out what pain points are being experienced. Read the solutions and try them out on your dev environment. See if you can start contributing answers yourself by researching a problem or 2.
* Network with people working in your chosen technology and area. Find local user groups and professional associations and attend meetings and become active, volunteer These folks can provide local networks that can help a lot. Most important bit of advice, is to always be thinking “why does it work this way?” Or “can I make it better?” Or “what would happen if I did it this way?” This sense of curiosity will lead you to investigate and learn even more.

Of course, there is also formal training from colleges, technology vendors, and conferences. And certification is always an option. But there are no “quick” solutions. After all, it still takes a year to accumulate a year’s worth of experience. It’s your task to make sure that the year’s worth of experience is the best year that it can be.

Ray LoftusIndependent Consultant with Information Technology Staffing Expertise

If you are a Full Time Employee, it might be possible for you to get your employer to sponsor your training/education in new technologies since they should want to invest in you. They will probably also bring consultants in on any new projects to leverage their previous experience in the hopes that they can avoid any mistakes that were discovered on someone else’s time.
Make sure that you are able to participate in a hands-on role in whatever work that is done. As a staffing executive, I have witnessed candidates that were rejected because they supervised the people who actually did the project and did not acquire the actuall skill.

Make sure that you are able to participate in a hands-on role in whatever work that is done.


Finally, spend some time on your own to research an emerging product or tool that you find both interesting and also commercially viable. For instance, you might want to jump on the PerformancePoint wave as an early adopter, or you might want to focus on BusinessObjects as that will now lead to SAP exposure since they were bought by SAP.

[Note: Cross-Posted in my other blog (now inactive) at devPinoy.org]

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