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On Being New and Getting Good

Premise 1: There’s a lot of data out there.
Premise 2: This data is most usable when organized.
Corollary 1: A lot of data needs to be organized (ideally into related tables).
Premise 3: It behooves me to expand my skillset in needed areas.
Conclusion: I should learn SQL.

This makes sense, right?! It’s too late now anyway. Not only have I never studied formal logic, but I’ve already purchased the book. In fact, I bought it months ago.

"Why do I care," you ask.

Here’s the thing: I'm not a CS major. I have an MS in computational physics. Why does this matter? Because if you’re in similar shoes and want to do anything in the area of, e.g., data science, analytics, or statistical modeling, you’re wholly unprepared.

Clearly it’s not that we’re uneducated! In my case, I’m fairly comfortable with Python. I've dealt with and cleaned dirty data. I've applied machine learning algorithms to large datasets. These matter to potential employers, right?

So I browse job boards, as one does. I apply the necessary filters so that I'm staring only at a wall of entry-level positions. OK, so I've got an inkling of Python, lots of MATLAB, and a sliver of C++ experience... but Java? SQL? R? Ruby? SAS? These are all on a single entry-level job posting!

"What's your point, good sir?"

With my own field somewhat saturated, the career option I'm trying to open up is arguably a bit of a sidestep, but I was initially pretty overwhelmed at how underprepared I seem to be. Or else, how overprepared I'm expected to be. But instead of either being stagnant or fretting about what I should do next, I decided to learn something new.

You know... git gud.

And if nothing else, it helps my sanity. If you're anything like me, you need to learn, need to press on, need to feel like you're doing something that will help you later on.

So this is my point. Even when you're not where you want to be, investing in an otherwise useful skill is never a bad idea. In fact, if you're not pushing forward, you're probably falling behind.

Back to SQL...

So here I am, learning the ins and outs of DCL. Eh... who am I kidding? I've been fighting with permissions for hours.


I'm new and this is my first post, so hello all!

Top comments (3)

jess profile image
Jess Lee


sk000f profile image
Mike Skaife

Good first post :)

Regarding all those job specs listing a million different technologies - most job specs list a lot, very few would actually expect you to know them all. Especially for entry-level jobs.

Speaking from experience as someone who hires developers, if you've got good knowledge of a couple, or even one, of the relevant technologies that's great. I can't speak for everyone, but personally I'm more interested in whether you are keen/able to learn more technolgies if needed, and have a solid understanding of language-agnostic principles like OO, design patterns, data structures, etc that are relevant to the role.

By all means learn SQL, that's no bad thing. But it's very easy to get bogged down learning different things and waiting for the perfect job spec to appear - trust me, it won't. Get a CV together with a cover letter or personal statement that outlines the points you've made above (you've applied machine learning algorithms, got experience in Python, willing to learn other technologies), and get applying :)

brandonelance profile image

Thank you for the compliment and the response!

I think I've managed to find a good balance between working, learning new things, and applying to jobs. My resume is written in such a way that my skills are mostly represented through the projects I've done, via easily digestible bullet-points. I don't yet know if it's for better or for worse, but I've always found random lists of skills and languages to be somewhat clumsy sans context.