#SkillsYouShouldLearn: SQL

By Zipline Careers Team • September 16, 2018
Today we’re dropping our first installment of #SkillsYouShouldLearn. In these weekly installments, we’ll discuss the workplace skills you’ll need to learn if you want to stay abreast of changing trends in today’s workplace.  With that, let’s get to it.

Today’s Skill: SQL

Before you even say, “What is that?” Get in the habit of saying “Sequel.” As in, “The SEQUEL to that movie was more awful than my grandmother’s cooking.” It’s okay to say, “S-Q-L” as well but not everyone says it this way.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language.

In short, SQL is a programming language used to communicate with Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS). A user enters a query, or set of instructions to the database, and the database returns a response.
Without getting too complicated, let’s go over an basic example of what this means.

First, the SQL language has a number of commands used to communicate with a database.  Some of the most basic include (but are not limited to): SELECT, UPDATE, DELETE & WHERE.

Second, Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) have a framework with tables. These tables might look somewhat similar to a detailed grocery list.

This list can continue as far as your grocery needs.

But let’s say your grocery list is so long you can’t find what it is you’re looking for. For example, maybe it is 1,000,000 rows long for a worldwide catering business that has a large shopping list. How, with 1,000,000 rows do you find what you need?

Using the SQL language, you can write a query for the item or list of items that may be helpful to you.

In the above example, to narrow your bread items to just those under $4.00 you might use the SELECT, FROM and WHERE SQL commands.

For example, your SQL command might like something similar to this:

SELECT  Item = Bread

FROM GroceryList

WHERE Price < 4;

Stated another way, you will SELECT your needs FROM the ‘grocery list’ table WHERE your specific condition is that the price of the bread will cost less than $4.00.

The database will return a set of results to you that will enable you to shrink your 1,000,000 item grocery list to something much more manageable.  Assuming your list isn’t made up of mostly bread under $4.00. In that case, you’d need to write a more detailed query.

After completing your query (in our example) you should get a result that looks like the following:

These queries become vastly more complex and difficult depending on an organization’s needs and the variables included in their business. This is an extremely simplified example, and there are a vast variety of database programs that use the SQL language in one form or another.  This list includes MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and others.

 Why Does This Matter for Jobs?

We live in a world where data is continually being created, analyzed and used for important business decisions.  Every company, from car manufacturers to watch designers, has a need to store and retrieve useful data and information for their company and industry.

Moreover, data is being generated at a completely overwhelming rate.  At roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes per day, organizations are constantly trying and implement solutions on this big data.

So it’s safe to say some database skills can help your future career.

This is where databases and using the SQL language have become extremely useful, both for organizations and job applicants.

If this bores you to tears, you may be excited to know that a Data Analyst with SQL skills makes an average over $60,000 per year.

Moreover, being an experienced SQL developer is quite lucrative and can earn a six-figure salary.

Nevertheless, when one thinks about skills for a resume, having even a basic grasp of SQL can provide you with a more polished profile in nearly any job.

How Do I Actually Learn This? 

There are a lot of great options when it comes to learning SQL. Your success will depend on what learning style fits you best.

If you have the opportunity, many schools will likely have classes covering the subject in their Computer Science or Information Science courses. Many of these courses can often be taken online.

  • If you have the opportunity, many schools will likely have classes covering the subject in their Computer Science or Information Science courses. Many of these courses can often be taken online.
  • There are a number of good free online references and resources for those who prefer self-directed learning. W3Schools.com has a great introduction as well as tutorials and tests for you to polish your skills.
  • If you’d like another online resource we recommend checking out Codecademy.com and their resources for SQL.
  • If you’re a bookworm, there are a multitude of good books out there. We recommend the following two based on your interest level:For An Introduction:  

    SQL in Ten Minutes, Sams Teach Yourself (4th Edition) – Ben Forta

    For A More Detailed Learning:

    Learning SQL: Master SQL Fundamentals (2ed Edition)

    This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we encourage you to look for what fits your needs best, as there are many good books available on SQL.

  • Finally, do a web search for SQL Classes + “your location” and you will likely find a number of affordable classes and tutors to help get you started or advance your skills.

Where Do I Go From Here?

It’s essential to decide if you believe a skill like SQL would be useful in your future career. If you believe your career path crosses anywhere near big data, data science and analysis, project management, business administration, and the like, then you will certainly encounter people and organizations implementing technology that uses the SQL language.

Furthermore, technology will continue to grow and become more involved in every facet of our lives. More critically, jobs will continue to require ever-more tech skills of applicants, even in positions that did not previously require a skill like SQL.

At the very least, it will never hurt your application or employee profile to have an understanding of SQL in your career.

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