Three SQL Development Skills You Can't Live Without

by HSG on Apr 19, 2013 in Articles from Software Fans

Learning SQL development can seem like an overwhelming task at first. However, mastering just a few key points will help ease your way through 80 percent of the day-to-day challenges when writing stored procedures and solving common problems. Here are three important SQL development factors to keep in mind:


Outer Joins
One of the most crucial things to understand in SQL server are joins. Joins are a way to retrieve data from two or more tables based on logical relationships between them. Joins dictate how Microsoft SQL Server ought to use data from one table to select the rows in another table.

In my experience inner joins are intuitive while outer joins can present additional hours of grief by overlooking associations in the other table(s). The outer join is the key to answering questions about what the database does not have. For example, if you need to make a query to display all the students who are without report-cards, you’ll need a left join to get all students coupled with a “where clause” to return the ones who have nulls for their report card table columns in the results.

Many talented Java script programmers have muddled through the SQL Server by deficient coding around the inner join. As a result, their queries can take five hours to run, whereas, properly written left joins, can take only two seconds to run.

Aggregation
Grouping results comes up in SQL a lot more than you might think. Knowing how to write a query when answering questions such as, “What’s the average grade for each teacher’s student list?” is invaluable. This kind of question cannot be answered with a single table or solely by joins.  You’ll often find you need to use joins in conjunction with group by statements. Always write the raw query first and then look at the results. Next, you have to figure out the best way to group them, rewrite your select clause and add a group by clause in the end.

Digging Through Data
I find this is the most lacking skill in many programmers. In fact, many otherwise-talented programmers holding Master’s Degrees fail to get jobs because they couldn’t analyze rows of data objectively during interviews. It’s just something that’s not taught but is crucial to get under you belt. Why? Eventually, some query is not going to perform as you may expect. And, the only way to find discrepancies is to look at rows of data, identify what join isn’t finding a match or where bad data is throwing things into chaos. Get familiar with how joins actually work, even if you have to manually walk through the logic of a large stored procedure’s tree of joins. It’s boring and time-consuming but absolutely necessary.


Take the time to master the core skills that will make you a successful SQL Programmer and avoid queries that run for five hours!

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