In today’s connected world there is more raw data being produced every second of every day than you or I can fathom. This avalanche of data holds a tremendous amount of promise for industries in every sector. As ubiquity and utility of “big data” grows there is no corner of our lives that won’t be improved.
That’s great news for the corporations and the people who are already jumping on this trend, but for the people who aren’t enhancing their resumes to take advantage of our data-driven future…they are missing out.
In a report from Business Insider, a comprehensive survey found that as many as 2 in every 3 in demand and high-paying jobs required some kind of programming or data interaction experience.
That’s 66% of the most desirable jobs!
One of the easiest and fastest ways to upgrade your resume is to learn a new skill. This post is a review of a book that provides a strong foundation for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill and expand their professional horizons.
SQL QuickStart Guide by SQL mentor, database entrepreneur, and author Walter Shields is an easy to digest, highly actionable entry point into the in-demand world of database management. Packed with illustrative examples and hands-on exercises, this hefty 240 page guide is an indispensable resource.
Colwell doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to smashing common entrepreneurial myths. His direct writing style injects a healthy dose of reality into the business planning, launching, and execution processes while providing a high degree of hands on, actionable value along the way.
What is SQL?
SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is the workhorse programming language that forms the backbone of modern data management and interpretation. The popularity and utility of this language has never been stronger—now more than ever as the ability of businesses to warehouse, access, and most importantly, understand and interpret data has never been more critical.
SQL is generally considered fairly easy to learn and the basic concepts translate very well at scale. Whether accessing a database with a hundred entries or a hundred million, simple SQL commands produce laser-targeted results for organizations of all sizes. SQL-powered software applications are used by small businesses, government agencies, hospitals, Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between.
The ease of learning coupled with the growing need for competent employees who have a strong grasp on data access skills means a huge opportunity for motivated learners who want to enhance their careers.
Who is SQL QuickStart Guide for?
Thumbing through this book it is clear that it is appropriate for absolute beginners. There is no prior coding experience required to learn and execute the concepts covered in this book and the presentation makes sense for readers who are completely new to SQL as well as for veterans who need an easy reference guide.
Who is Walter Shields
Walter Shields is an SQL expert and mentor with over twenty years of experience in the field. He has worked with data-driven organizations such as the Target Corporation and the NYX Transit Authority and is currently the head of Datadecided, a Tableau provider that helps businesses of all sizes communicate and understand their data in a visual medium.
Shields got his start as mentor in a Tribeca coffee shop. He connected with others who were learning SQL on their own terms and began one-on-one coaching sessions at the crowded café tables. Now his mentorship has outgrown the coffee shop. Shields is an effective SQL visual course instructor as well as an accomplished author.
What’s Inside SQL QuickStart Guide?
The book is divided into 3 key parts.
Part I – Creating Your SQL Learning Environment
These first chapters set the stage for the concepts that are explored throughout the book.
Chapter 1 “Understanding Database Structure” covers the following key concepts:
- Understanding the language databases use
- How a relational database functions
- Data types
- Relational database management systems (RDBMSs)
Chapter 2 “SQL Tools and Strategies” discusses the tools that will fill your toolbox. Key concepts include:
- Setting up the SQL environment
- The sTunes database
- DB Browser for SQLite
- SQL learning strategies
Chapter 3 “Exploring a Database in SQLite” is a hands-on look at guided exploration of a database.
Key concepts covered in Chapter 3 include:
- Launching the SQL software
- Opening a database file
- The Database Structure tab
- The Browse Data Tab
- The Execute SQL tab
- Viewing query results
Part II – Writing SQL Statements
Part II of SQL QuickStart Guide dives right into the nuts and bolts of using SQL to produce a desired result. Chapter 4 “Getting Started with Queries” starts off with the backbone of executing commands with SQL. Key concepts include:
- Query notations
- SQL basic queries
- Using an alias
- Sorting results alphabetically
- Limiting query results
Chapter 5 “Turning Data into Information” discusses your ultimate goal as an SQL user: making sense out of the raw data that you are exploring. Key concepts include:
- Operators in SQL
- Using the WHERE clause
- Searching for text using wildcard values
- The DATE() function
- Using OR and AND together
- The CASE statement
After setting the foundation, Shields dives right into practical uses of the SQL language. Chapter 6 “Working with Multiple Tables” explores the very likely scenario, though not as daunting as it sounds, of working with multiple tables. Key concepts include:
- Introducing joins
- Joins and relational database structure
- Joins and aliases
- Inner join, left outer join, and right outer join
- Joining more than two tables
Chapter 7 “Using Functions” takes a look at some of the higher level aspects of sorting and understanding data. Key concepts include:
- Adding calculations to your queries
- Types of functions in SQL
- String and date functions
- Aggregate functions
- Using the WHERE and HAVING clause functions
- Grouping by multiple columns
Part III- More Advanced SQL Topics
Now Shields gets into the good stuff. Though the topics in these sections are listed as more advanced, once you have internalized the material in earlier chapters the exercises in this chapter really aren’t too hard.
Chapter 8 “Subqueries” covers the SQL practices of nesting one query within another. Key concepts include:
- Subqueries and aggregate functions
- SELECT statement subqueries
- WHERE clause subqueries
- Returning multiple values
- Subqueries and the DISTINCT keyword
Chapter 9 “Views” discusses the ways in which users can squeeze the most value out of their virtual tables or “views.” The chapter covers the following key concepts:
- Creating and modifying views
- Views and joins
- Removing views
Though it is not the end of the book, the final chapter “Data Manipulation Language” explores various practical uses of data manipulation language as well as key mistakes to avoid. After this chapter is a considerable amount of information contained within the book’s appendices as well as a glossary, index, etc.
Published by ClydeBank Media, Walter Shields’ SQL QuickStart Guide is a straightforward and breezy read. The topic covered has the potential to be quite dry but Shields keeps things moving along and doesn’t make it hard to keep up.
This book is an excellent starting point for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill and enhance their career potential. It is also organized in such a way that it makes a handy resource for SQL veterans as well.
Valuable even for pure beginners with zero coding experience, I absolutely recommend this book!