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Ask Slashdot: Getting Exchange and SQL Experience?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the limited-scope dept.

Education 293

First time accepted submitter william.meaney1 writes "I'm the sole network admin at a 25 person company. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity less than a year after getting a technical degree in IT. I've had some huge opportunities here (for a first time network admin). After my schooling, I went ahead and I'm now CompTIA A+, Network+, and CCNA certified. Now, being hired out of school, I was grateful for the job, and the boss hired me for peanuts (Less than $30,000/year) I've been living at home, using that money for loan payments, car payments, and certification expenses. I've started looking for other work, and I feel more than qualified for most of the requirements I'm seeing. The big hurdle I'm coming across that EVERYONE seems to want is experience with SQL databases, and Microsoft Exchange. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas for getting usable experience on a low budget. I have some SQL experience, I deployed a source control program here that uses a SQL express backend, but what else do you need to know for database maintenance?"

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Just do it (5, Funny)

gewalker (57809) | about a year ago | (#43928885)

Install some critical app (without permission if necessary) on your current corp. network that uses SQL server -- Presto, instant experience.

"Just do it"? (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#43928919)

Nike [] would like to have a word with you.

Re:Just do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928959)

Trail by fire. I like it.

Re:Just do it (4, Funny)

pastafazou (648001) | about a year ago | (#43929517)

You keep following the path you're on, you're liable to get burned....

Re:Just do it (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43929023)

Well to avoid getting the experience of getting yelled at for being stupid.
You can get Microsoft SQL Server Express. While it doesn't have some advanced features it does have enough to give you some experience.
Go threw Micorosfts SQL Server Management Studio, and Check out each feature and do some test examples until you understand them.
Make a Database, Add Tables, Create Views, Write TSQL Stored Procedures, Add triggers....
Install an other Type of Database server. and create a Link Server. Try to get them all to work togeter.
If you don't know how hit F1 for Help or Google it.

Re:Just do it (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929171)

Aka go learn it yourself, your approach doesn't work for everyone. I'm sure that if he could do that he wouldn't be asking above said question. Not helpful.

Re:Just do it (4, Insightful)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#43929545)

I think the ability to learn on your own is itself a skill - and an essential one if you want to be good. Get SQL Server Express. Install it. Then use the official web documentation or a highly rated book on it. Start at page 1 and walk through the features. When it gets to a section on setting up foreign keys, use your SQL Server Express to set up foreign keys. When it describes backups, set up backups.

However, this is only half the work required. If he can't point to work experience with SQL Server, then a lot of potential employers don't care what he claims to know from self-study.

Re:Just do it (4, Insightful)

erpbridge (64037) | about a year ago | (#43929499)

"I see here on your resume that you have SQL experience. Can you tell me about some of the SQL deployments and experience that you were doing in your last job? How did you integrate that into your business requirements?"

Its exactly THIS sort of question, which I'm getting a bit, which trips people up who self learn. I'm getting it with VMware... I had VMware experience building, maintaining, updating machines... but never anything server side, and never anything on the farm level of things like vMotion. After I was let go at end of contract after 5 years on build team/CMDB remediation team, all the interview screen questions tended to focus toward vmWare and Exchange. So, I went out, got myself a beefy machine, installed vSphere 5.1 on it, and have done quite a few things with it... but that experience means SQUAT when you're sitting in front of a board which includes interviewing manager, vmWare SME, and a couple other general members of the IT team who are trying to probe you for you BUSINESS level experience.

There's a heck of a lot difference between test lab, and business level, and interviewers can ferret that out REAL quick.

this why IT need more trades / apprenticeships tha (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43929617)

this why IT need more trades / apprenticeships that have ways to letter people learn. The trades schools are nice but should be more drop in to learn X skill.

Re:Just do it (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929153)

Meh, I actually agree, I've seen worse. We have an instance of K2 workspace that is there so the former developer could learn it. SQL at least is something a lot of people know / care about. K2 is like biztalk's anus.

Re:Just do it (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43929253)

> Install some critical app

Create some relatively small but interesting (to you) application. Being able to build a small application with a properly normalized database will put you head and shoulders above most people that call themselves DBA (especially the sql server crowd).

Use it. Manage it. Trust it with important data. Get burned when you don't back it up properly.

You can make a lot of useful mistakes on your own that you can learn from.

Re:Just do it (1)

Aryden (1872756) | about a year ago | (#43929353)

Normalization!?! You mean there are people other myself that actually know what this is? I swear, I've had to work on some horrible pieces of shit recently. Most not even able to meet 1NF.

Re:Just do it (2)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#43929447)

Sometimes de-normalizing is better than normalization. It all depends on what you're requirements are. If you love normalization, then go work fro DMSI. They take normalization to the highest level.

Re:Just do it (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43929469)

Wait till you find one in the 23rd normal form (or basically past the 3rd). You will long for the day when all you had to deal with is missing primary keys.

Re:Just do it (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about a year ago | (#43929347)

I mostly agree, except for the critical part. Learn on the job. Make something non-critical you think others who work there will find useful. Then respond to their feedback and try to make it better. After a while you can either ask for a huge raise because you've demonstrated skills and created useful tools for your fellow employees, or look for another job and add those skills to your resume.

Re:Just do it (1)

gewalker (57809) | about a year ago | (#43929389)

Ah, but you miss the importance of making it a critical app -- The boss won't demand you remove it -- thus assuring the opportunity for getting admin experience.

Join MSDN Technet (5, Informative)

David E. Smith (4570) | about a year ago | (#43928895)

Nothing beats hands-on experience, so get some on the cheap. Get an MSDN Technet subscription; for $199 a year, you'll get free personal/learning licenses of SQL Server, Exchange, and just about every other big Microsoft program. Play with them. Set them up. Try to break them, then fix them.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (4, Informative)

tekiegreg (674773) | about a year ago | (#43928915)

^^^ This

I'd also like to add that if your budget is zero, SQL server express editions exist for free, they have a few restrictions on things such as DB Size, but should suit you well enough.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929033)

Depends on what he wants to learn. If he's just after some T-SQL experience, the free versions will be fine. If he wants to learn the finer points of being a DBA he'll need Standard edition at least (although as your parent poster pointed out, Technet is the way to go for getting hold of these)

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43929319)

Might as well start out with the free edition for now and put off the expense of Standard until he's ready to start learning that much. I administered a SQL Server box at my last job with my only prior database experience being in Access... it's enough for you to learn the very basics of databases.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (2)

Volshebnyj Molotok (1855270) | about a year ago | (#43929383)

You can also see if you can get some of this software through Dreamspark [] for free. They have Windows Server editions, SQL Server Std editions, and other software that is at no cost to you as a student (or former student). You might have to check with your school first to see if they've set this up, but if they have, it's a great resource. You won't be able to get Exchange this way, but full versions of WinServer that you can use to set up a sandbox VM with a full version of MSSQL.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

Volshebnyj Molotok (1855270) | about a year ago | (#43929507)

By the way, the last I checked, the latest OS and SQL versions are 2012 for both, so you can get started with the latest tech on both counts! Also, if you happen to be into programming, or want to learn some, you'll also have access to Visual Studio Pro, Expression Studio and more.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | about a year ago | (#43929593)

They should of also limited how many databases you can have - if you have an app that will be storing data for multiple users, nothing stops you from creating as many databases as you need, and you can move the tables around to get around the 4 gig limit.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

jerpyro (926071) | about a year ago | (#43928953)

I was just about to post this. You can use technet to get educational licenses to all sorts of things. Once you have technet down, walk through a DotNetNuke ( installation and figure out how the database works, how the SSMS tool works, and how SQL Tracer works. Those are the basic experiences you'll need to get your foot in the door.

Set up a few basic email boxes and some SMTP rules on exchange and figure out how to get DNN to sent you emails to that, then you've installed, configured, and implemented both MSSQL and Exchange, not to mention some experience understanding the technologies that sit on top of the stack (which is ALWAYS helpful understanding the developer or software release point of view).

Re:Join MSDN Technet (5, Insightful)

raydobbs (99133) | about a year ago | (#43928961)

Sadly, personal experience != 'experience' in the corporate sense. I've had this fight with IT recruiters and headhunters - they want experience in a corporate setting with corporate problems, not 'I dorked with it at home for x months or years'. Of course, people who actually know what the hell they need value ANY experience, so its not a complete waste - just getting to interview with them versus the HR drone can be the biggest problem.

Good advice on TechNet though - helps you get a leg up on new OSes and obscure software without having to buy those licenses separately. BIG COST SAVINGS!

Re:Join MSDN Technet (5, Insightful)

jerpyro (926071) | about a year ago | (#43929011)

Personal experience can be 'experience' on your resume. What you need to do is to put them as 'personal projects' or 'side projects' instead of listing them as your job functions. Then, they will still trigger the keyword search, and it's enough to justify saying you have 'entry level experience' (which is MUCH better than not listing them at all). Better yet, once you have a little experience with them do a little consulting that makes use of that skill set.

ALWAYS work on your skill set. Don't wait for a position to come along to allow you to do it.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929215)

Nah, don't even flag it, just be purposefully vague (ASP.NET 5+ years). Need to know more? Ask me during a phone interview.

Mod parent up! (1)

BigDaveyL (1548821) | about a year ago | (#43929027)

Sadly, getting in the door is the hard part as HR and recruiters don't give a shit about any experience you may have outside of a corporate environment.

Re:Mod parent up! (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929251)

I've worked both in corporate and outside of it, nobody's ever asked me how many years of corporate IT experience do you have?... hasn't even headed in that direction. Could HR / recruiter's problems w you have something to do with your overly optimistic attitude (satire) ?

Re:Mod parent up! (1)

BigDaveyL (1548821) | about a year ago | (#43929489)

I list personal projects, things I've learned, etc. outside of my current role to keep up to date. The run of the mill recruiter/HR person (and even hiring managers) pass me over because they claim I don't have relevant full time paid professional experience.

Kinda hard to keep a good attitude when that happens.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929059)

As long as you can back up your experience with on the job knowledge you LIE about where you got the experience ... since most corporate HR policies disallow releasing any information other than that you worked for them and when, you're pretty much in the clear saying you got your experience there even if you didn't.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929189)

We interviewed a guy two years ago who hadn't worked in IT for 2-3 years. He knew someone at the company who said he was savvy, so we brought him in. When we asked if he had any experience with Exchange, SQL, etc. he went through a list of all the things he had built on his home network. He had multiple servers, a family Exchange server, and loads of other stuff. He landed the job and we didn't regret it. The biggest thing we saw was that he would be self-motivated and capable of learning what he needed to. He hasn't done any work with the things he tinkered with, but they landed him the job.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929239)

The big hurdle I'm coming across that EVERYONE seems to want is experience with SQL databases, and Microsoft Exchange


THis is what I do: just do it.

You NEED on the job experience so you create it - no matter how small.

Here's an example: Back in '92, C++ was starting its rise to the top. I knew my C - DOS job was going to be history. So what did I do?

I wrote utility programs in C++.

You need to be RUTHLESS. On the job experience matters - classes do NOT matter without experience,

I _I_ Have BEEN there.

Contrary to the group think you NEED to know every dip shit fucking "technology" and how to use it to stay relevant.

I mean really, JavaScript "engineers" getting paid 6 figures? That's retarded but reality. Play reality. If an "ASCII" programmer is were the jobs are at, you are an ASCII programmer.

Oy Vey!

Coding social networks?

And people think hedge fun managers are getting paid too much.

I'll refrain from my observations of HR and niring managers for fears of un-justified ad hominem attacks.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929663)

Someone who is trying to resume build may want to consider charity work. This can be for your local church (if you are religious) or for another charity that you find worthy. You'll have to donate your time, but you can point to real problems solved.

Or install Postgres, Mysql , and.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929007)

Learn other, better, software completely free, hack them yourself, play with them. set them up. try to break them, then fix them.

Or give Microsoft more $$$, your choice..

Re:Or install Postgres, Mysql , and.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929191)

This is the easiest path. Get a couple books on SQL, install MySQL and/or PostgreSQL, and start learning. Then do freelance work helping small shops with their databases.

If you want SQL Server and/or Oracle on your resume, don't go the DIY route. Get training and get certified, there isn't any alternative if you want to be taken seriously.

Re:Or install Postgres, Mysql , and.. (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43929519)

MySQL is a resume stain. You will only be hired by other MySQL shops. If you want to work with people who know their head from their ass avoid it.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43929035)

Nothing beats hands-on experience, so get some on the cheap. Get an MSDN Technet subscription; for $199 a year, you'll get free personal/learning licenses of SQL Server, Exchange, and just about every other big Microsoft program. Play with them. Set them up. Try to break them, then fix them.

just register a new company. might be cheaper. then go bizspark. you get a free msdn for two years, everything included.

or just wing it. everyone has a database of some sort so... so everyone has that requirement.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929263)

bizspark is a great program, but technet is meant for the scenario, bizspark is meant for you know... businesses.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43929369)

bizspark is a great program, but technet is meant for the scenario, bizspark is meant for you know... businesses.

and who is a business? anyone who has registered a new company. they even throw in some azure credits nowadays.
and free lunches.

why pay for a subscription when they have a program meant to provide tools for evaluating and using tools for new users? if you need MS tools it's really worth the minor hassle. if you want a coverstory tell them that you're developing a metro app.

or hell, just ask them for money to develope a new metro app, they have this program going on right now where you can apply for money to do a new app - the only catch is that the app has to be a ms platform exclusive which of course hasn't boded too well for the quality of ideas that program has spawned into apps(apps with genuine market tend to not skip android and ios just for that money). it doesn't really matter that much if the company is just one desk at your home either.

Re:Join MSDN Technet (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about a year ago | (#43929167)

Sorry but I totally disagree. Having interviewed many people for tech positions. I was amazed to see how often (i.e. nearly always) people in an interview situation will blatantly lie about their own skills/abilities. Its very easy to weed them out but consequently most hiring managers tend to not to give a crap about what people claim they have learnt on their own.

Having previous work experience is best, but having a label from some professional body that says you have the skills is the only other thing that most hiring managers will believe, regardless of your actual skills/ability.

My advice would be to get a certification in the technologies you keep finding you need for other jobs. In most cases, Its the piece of paper that wlll help you the most at least to get to the interview stage, not your actual skills.

Re: Join MSDN Technet (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about a year ago | (#43929283)

Why pay yourself when you can make others do it? You just need to convince your boss that the company really really really needs Exchange and SQL Server and whatnot. Don't feel ashamed, how do you think SAP or Oracle get their money and CIOs their curriculum?

SQL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928921)

you need to know TSQL...and maybe some new stuff like MERGE.
do you know how to use SQL profiler? are you exposed to custers? Normalization? OLTP?

Re:SQL (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43929159)

You bring up a good point. It's good to know the jargon. You don't have to necessarily have direct experience with all of that stuff or even expertise. But it is useful to know what nonsense is being thrown at you.

Work for a local IT company (2)

kullnd (760403) | about a year ago | (#43928923)

Work for a small IT company that provides services to small / medium businesses. Prove yourself there and get involved on as many projects as you can - You will get a ton of experience and learn more than you ever will sitting in corporate IT. It's not easy work if you are doing it right, but if experience is what you want - that is a good place to find it.

Re:Work for a local IT company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928991)

Or a local temp company that will farm you out as if you DO have exp... You will learn soon enough.

Re:Work for a local IT company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929021)

This is hands down the best way to get a broad range of experience with all sorts of things. Find yourself a company with a good dozen or more IT people that does break/fix and project support for SMBs. You will learn every way to do something wrong, and how to make those situations right.

Re:Work for a local IT company (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#43929063)

I've worked that gig, and it's great for resume-building, but getting in was mostly about who you know, not what you know.

Re:Work for a local IT company (1, Interesting)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43929277)

They pay you $20 an hour and charge $160, I have some serious ethical problems with that.

Re:Work for a local IT company (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929377)

So go out and get the support contracts on your own. Charge what you feel is acceptable. Let me know how well that goes for you.

Re:Work for a local IT company (4, Insightful)

kullnd (760403) | about a year ago | (#43929441)

That's a bit extreme of an example - but yes - you are failing to take into account everything that goes into running these types of operations such as Software Licensing (Which is crazy expensive for their ticketing systems and remote management tools), tools, rent, utilities, insurance (General liability and Errors / Omissions, Bonding (really good idea if you have employees in this type of business), your benefits, your payroll taxes, marketing, the cost of doing sales (i.e. not making money to get money) ... the list goes on. If you think it's such a great deal for the owner, why don't you try it yourself - It's a lot harder to get by than you think.

Re:Work for a local IT company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929443)

That's the gig I'm currently working. Landed the manager job here a short while back (came 6 years ago with about as much experience as the asker has). I make fair money, and have diversified myself enough that I'm seriously considering a business IT analyst job at a good sized corp. IT recruiters love guys that work for MSPs.

SQL experience -- create maintenance plans (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year ago | (#43928935)

> what else do you need to know for database maintenance?

Learn to create and edit maintenance plans. You can do it using SQL Server Mangler Studio connected to a real SQL Server. I do not believe you can create maintenance plans on SQL Server Express.

Re:SQL experience -- create maintenance plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929057)

Which SQL Server though? MySQL? postgres? MariaDB? There's a whole ecosystem of SQL Servers from a slew of different companies, you know...

Re:SQL experience -- create maintenance plans (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43929077)

These people mean Microsoft SQL server, as though that is the only one. They will also be very afraid if they ever have to use the keyboard instead of a mouse.

Re:SQL experience -- create maintenance plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929205)

Yes, and only one of them is named SQL Server.

Re:SQL experience -- create maintenance plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929269)

(same AC as before)
Oh, I see. Thanks for clarifying. That makes a lot more sense now.
Is it only supported under Operating System? Running on the Computer System architecture?
I wonder who sells it. It's probably made by Software Company, Inc., right?

Google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928963)

Everything you could need for free, just google.

Two links below explain how to set up maint. plans, add user/logins, import/export data, etc.

knowledge vs experience... again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928981)

The big hurdle I'm coming across that EVERYONE seems to want is experience with SQL databases, and Microsoft Exchange. ...
program here that uses a SQL express backend, but what else do you need to know for database maintenance?" ...

You're conflating knowledge with experience.
Having experience with SQL means being responsible if something breaks, and successfully fixing it. Not just knowing how it works.

fresh grad as network admin (1)

beefoot (2250164) | about a year ago | (#43928983)

Hire a fresh grad as a network admin ....!? This only happens on MS shop.

Re:fresh grad as network admin (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43929043)

What irks me is that they call them network admins. At best they are system operators. When kiddo learns scripting, automation and all that jazz then he can be a sysadmin.

Network admin should be someone dealing with Networking devices.

Re:fresh grad as network admin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929279)

What irks me is that they call them network admins. At best they are system operators. When kiddo learns scripting, automation and all that jazz then he can be a sysadmin.

Network admin should be someone dealing with Networking devices.

Wait. You mean I'm not a Systems Engineer just because I write Perl all day long?!?!?! Good thing my company doesn't know that and pays like I am ;-)

* For the sarcasm impaired, I'm fully aware I am no Engineer. I don't care what they call me as long as it comes with the paycheck that the role deserves.

Re:fresh grad as network admin (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929157)

It has nothing to do with being a "MS shop." It's much more likely that no one who understands IT/IS is at the helm of handing out titles and the last person who really held the title as network admin was probably 6 positions ago and they just keep the title alive because the owner/HR doesn't know any better.
Stop being such a flaming fanboi. It's embarrassing.

Re:fresh grad as network admin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929213)

It has nothing to do with being an "MS shop." It's much more likely that no one who understands IT/IS is at the helm of handing out titles and the last person who really held the title as network admin was probably 6 positions ago and they just keep the title alive because the owner/HR doesn't know any better.
Stop being such a flaming fanboi. It's embarrassing.

Re:fresh grad as network admin (2)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about a year ago | (#43929483)

For 30 staff? With a budget of $20k?

Sure... better than asking the Marketing director or sales admin to do the IT work (which is the other choice, given this budget).

Or do you expect them to hire an elder neckbeard at that salary?

LOL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928985)

Just fuck the boss's hot wife and jizz in her ass. That'll make up for being paid so little. It's even better if you get to cuckold his sissy ass and impregnate his wife while he watches.

FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929089)

Sounds like you have been watching too much gay porn. Wrong hole.

[OT] A+ = F (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43928993)

Offtopic, but I'd drop the A+ certification from your resume. When we get applicants with A+ listed, then we assume that they don't know enough to know that it means nothing and we bin them.

Re:[OT] A+ = F (4, Informative)

alta (1263) | about a year ago | (#43929083)

Not sure who's rating this down but I agree with it. A+ screams geeksquad. We look at A+ as people who have low expectations in life. It's a pretty poor way to look at it, but that's life.

Re:[OT] A+ = F (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929343)

And the unemployment offices like to set up people with A+ certification as job re-training.

The cert farms then try to sucker the folks who get A+ into continuing the paid cert cycle.

Re:[OT] A+ = F (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929621)

Also, A smart 14 year old could pass the A+

It is the bargain basement of certs, and a tech with experience doesn't actually need it.

Re:[OT] A+ = F (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#43929671)

I would make one caveat to the above. I have run across several jobs where they are looking for A+ certification. In those cases, keep a copy of your resume with the A+ certification on it to submit to just them. I would however mention that you will want to pay close attention during the interview to decide if you really want to work for that company.

Learning SQL and Exchange (1)

jmaros (617331) | about a year ago | (#43928995)

Honestly, if you're looking to learn them, there are plenty of resources out there. If you want the cert, I would suggest a certification specific class, as the cert tests contain many, many things you will never ever do in real life.

You could get info here []

or there are a few books.

  If you just want working knowledge, The issue is that its fairly common knowledge, at this point. You may want to look into a specialization around one of those programs? Maybe DR, cloud infrastructure? Administration is too commonplace to make a dent in your future, IMHO.

Re:Learning SQL and Exchange (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about a year ago | (#43929129)

I would definitely agree that certifications + some dicking around with SQL and exchange would definitely help. Go for the latest versions because MS is going Cloud-everything and you will need to know cloud, whatever your future career in IT may be.

Re:Learning SQL and Exchange (1)

ottothecow (600101) | about a year ago | (#43929243)

I used to think certs were dumb (and I guess I still do), but I think my friend used one successfully in this type of situation to get a job at my company.

Basically, he taught himself something but had never done it in an academic/corporate environment. He got the impression after several interviews that people didn't see it as much different than when recent grads list the 7 programming languages they have ever touched (oh yeah, I used R in that one statistics class, econometrics had Stata, and the intro comp-sci class used Scheme) plus the foreign language they took in 10th grade. Without any experience to back it up (the job he had done for the 3 years since college was entirely unrelated), it just looked like he was listing a buzz word.

He decided to get the certification. I asked why? I program in it every day, as do most of my coworkers and not a single one has a certification or has ever considered it. But, he studied up a bit (gotta review all of the irrelevant stuff that the cert needs that would never get used at a job like this), went to the testing center, and got the cert. I think the cert really helped show that he was actually proficient in the language and wasn't just listing a something where he had copied a few lines of code from a textbook for a semester in college.

Re:Learning SQL and Exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929627)

Even if you don't get the vert there are common situations in running SQL Server and Exchange that you probably aren't going to encounter if you just set it up for yourself. Following the certification roadmap will get you into using and understanding the tools in a more well rounded way.

Look at the Job Descriptions (1)

nman64 (912054) | about a year ago | (#43929087)

First, you need to look at what skills the jobs will really require. If they are looking for an experienced DBA, you're a long way from qualified. If the postings you're looking at are with SMBs looking for some general IT staff, then you can probably already handle most of their needs.

Database administration is a discipline all its own. It takes a long time to learn databases at that level, and that's probably not what you want to do. Most of the shops looking for someone experienced with Exchange and SQL Server are looking for someone who can handle basic installation, configuration and, most importantly, troubleshooting. You can learn those skills pretty easily by just playing around with the software and using Google and maybe a few books. As others have already recommended, a TechNet subscription will be helpful here. SQL Express will get you started nicely. Don't consider yourself ready until you've managed to break things a few times and figure out the fixes on your own. I strongly encourage you to get familiar with Exchange 2012 and PowerShell, even if the job descriptions don't mention them - they're the way things in the MSFT world are going, and you'd need to deal with them sooner or later.

The Software is Free (2)

paysonwelch (2505012) | about a year ago | (#43929105)

I have been developing .NET apps for a long time and prior to that I was using LAMP. If you want to learn SQL you can get a free copy of Microsoft's development tools, specifically Sql Server Express 2012, and Visual Studio Express 2012. If you have zero sql experience I recommend picking up a book and learning that way to get started. As far as Exchange you should get some computers / servers to practice on, or a really good one and use Hyper-V for lab setups. Spin up several of their eval licenses and configure the eval version of Exchange on Active Directory. I also recommend going through the features / roles of Windows server. Basically jump in, get books where you need the deep knowledge, but nothing beats hands on experience. Learn to talk the talk and walk the walk. If you want a good practice server I recommend getting a Dell XS23-SB on eBay, I paid about $300 for mine, it has four "blades" that you can use. Or like I said get a kick-butt system and use Hyper-V.

Self teaching, followed by volunteer work (5, Informative)

they_call_me_quag (894212) | about a year ago | (#43929141)

I see this as a three step process:

(1) Use the other resources mentioned above to teach yourself SQL server and Exchange.

(2) Find a nonprofit agency in your area who needs help with their computing environment. Offer to help them on a volunteer (ie, unpaid) basis. Be sure this help includes working with SQL Server and Exchange. Be picky about this. Do not get involved with an agency where the work will not help you build your practical skill set. Also be sure that there is someone at the nonprofit agency who is willing to act as a reference for you at some point in the future. You don't have to explicitly ask this upfront, just be sure that the senior most person you can find knows enough about who you are to say nice things about you.

(3) Use this real life experience to help you land the next job on your way up the ladder.

(4) Optional: Continue working with the nonprofit agency if it makes you happy.

BTW... you can do steps 1 & 2 in parallel, ie start looking for a nonprofit while you are learning SQL Server and Exchange. Both steps might take a little time.

Apply anyway (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929173)

Employers want a "jack of all trades / swiss army knife" IT guy.

Rarely do you actually get that. apply anyway, you might have enough experience to get the job.

Don't try and "fake" SQL experience. Especially do not try to "fake" Exchange experience. Exchange = Outlook = Users. Any half decent exchange admin will trash you in an interview and you'll leave with a prayer of getting the job.

Step 1: Lie (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43929185)

Do what everybody else does: get a buddy to lie, saying you have experience. I'm not condoning it, only reporting what I've seen others do that "works". Conscience optional.

How to Expand Horizons (1)

Kagato (116051) | about a year ago | (#43929195)

You may be out of luck with Exchange if your employer isn't using it, but you certainly have the leverage for SQL server. First off, what are you doing to be a good sys admin? Basics would be to set up monitoring for drive space, CPU and running services. You really only need to know cursory SQL and the rest is account security.

Then you would be able to truthfully say "I have experience installing and maintaining SQL Server. This includes initial setup, configuring users, databases, running vendor installation procedures and applying monitoring. I have automation checking my servers to make sure they are running, not out of space and have enough CPU to get get the job done."

If someone pushes you on knowing SQL the bottom line is a SQL developer position is going to make substantially more than the system administrator.

Start with SQL proper. (5, Interesting)

Let's All Be Chinese (2654985) | about a year ago | (#43929197)

Start at the beginning. Too many SQL users (including developers!) haven't a clue how to properly use it. As a DBA, you'll be called upon to provide that, among other things. So start with the theory and practice of SQL. Especially since it actually is founded upon fairly solid theory, meaning that if you know the theory the practice suddenly becomes a lot smoother. The rest will follow from that.

See [] for a MOOC intro. If you've worked your way through that you'll know where to start looking for learning about the DBA-type things you'll need to do: Schemata, indices, query tuning, and then the subtler tuning like moving tables and indices around on disk or solid state or in-memory or what-have-you. And the basic knowledge will be useful any time a user asks for your DBA-hatted help.

As to exchange, it's crap, and you'll be better off knowing less about its internals. It's hairy and quirky and apt to eat your mail. In fact, it's not even a proper mail server: It's a suitable server for outlook, just as outlook is not a proper email client, but a suitable client to exchange. The combination means a lot of interop trouble that could've easily been avoided.

Since you'll be called upon to make it play ("nicely" is not in the books) with the rest of the world, again, start from principles. Learn how to set up an MTA, know how SMTP and IMAP work. Send yourself an email by telnet. Know what the various headers do. That MTA set up with matching IMAP server, don't have to be exchange at first, in fact it's better not to. Once you know how the rest of the world does it, you can learn how exchange fscks it all up, and how to keep the thing on a leash.

For bonus points, learn how to provide everything that exchange purports to provide ("collaboration" and calendaring and "syncing" and so on, as well as half-assed not-entirely-unlike-email type "messaging") using open-source software. Get that down smoothly (there are several ways and alternatives available these days) and you have another selling point: Providing a better experience with less cost.

That was what you're looking for, right? Points to sell yourself with?

Microsoft Virtual Labs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929211)

The best experience is hands on, but in place of that Microsoft has virtual labs that allow you to setup and build whatever you want. It's been awhile since I've done any but I believe you get an hour to play around with whatever you want. They also have some guided labs.

talk to an M$ sales agent (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | about a year ago | (#43929307)

Get permission from your company if you want, but call M$ and say you are thinking about switching to exchange and want to know if they can help with a trail run. MSDN is great, but not free, and this way you have access to M$ support during your inital setup. Run it a few months, play with it, break it (on purpose if you have to), have M$ help you fix it again, then make sure you thank the sales agent profusely as you uninstall and decide not to buy...

Build Something (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#43929349)

Go learn a programming language and build something. Grab some decent books on the subjects necessary (PHP, MySQL, RDBMS architecture in general, CSS, HTML, Javascript, design); online tutorials are great but personally I find books to pack more valuable data in one place. I suggest (and I'm going to get attacked for this, but oh well) PHP and MySQL, and that you go build a forum (with user registration, threads, posts, profiles, etc.). I think that's about the right scope to be able to put on your resume while still being possible to do in your spare time. I should know, I built one about a decade ago, and I'm now a professional web developer with a great startup, about to release a mobile app for several clients nationwide.

If you want to stay with Microsoft, you could do the same thing in ASP.NET and SQL Server in place of PHP and MySQL (though I find that using Microsoft technology stacks tends to silo you from the rest of the development world). Or you could go all new-age and use Rails or other frameworks.

Even if you don't want to be a developer, this will give you a thing to point to on your resume / cover letter to say "see, I have experience with these methodologies" even if you've never worked with them professionally.


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929361)

> what else do you need to know for database maintenance?

A Lot more! I've been a DBA / SQL Engineer for 11 years. I learn new things about SQL Server and its tools all the time. The problem for you is that it is easy to cause problems or performance issues with a SQL instance and companies don't want you to break their websites and applications. If you really want to go in the direction of being a SQL Server DBA here are some things you should learn or complete:

1) Learn to program. T-SQL is a programming language just like any other (and while the GUI for Management Studio is nice you won't use it for everything.)
2) Programming will also help you when performance tuning queries and jobs. (Honestly, the best DBAs come from development backgrounds not Admin ones)
3) Get the MS certification exam study guides and go through the examples (It comes with a CD with SQL Enterprise 180 Day license to play with)
4) Work with the DBA developers at your current job on any SQL projects even if it is shadowing them just to see what is involved (You will learn something even if you don't get to practice it yourself).
5) Consider taking a Junior DBA position making less money where they will mentor you and get you the real world experience you need (Even if it means making less money to start off with)
5) Pickup the basic MCTS: SQL 2008 Database Administration Certification (Or 2012 if you want to start out ahead of the curve)
        - You will want to continue this as you get experience till you have your MCITP or one of the new 2012 certs.

Honestly with your resume (network+, CCNA) you may want to consider becoming a network administrator instead since you have all the certifications you need already. Good Luck either way!

Exchange Administrator? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929387)


Ask any seasoned exchange admin.... your life will become hell for not filtering the spam, or, because you filtered not-spam.

Installing isn't maintaining... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#43929423)

I have some SQL experience, I deployed a source control program here that uses a SQL express backend, but what else do you need to know for database maintenance

It's vastly easier to just install something that minimally works, than it is to maintain said system when you run into mysterious problems.

If you don't know all about the dark corners of SQL backups and imports, manually doing SQL queries, navigating around schema, looking for inconsistencies, manually truncating log files, the implications of all of the above actions, and more, you don't actually have any SQL experience. That's not DBA stuff, that's just basic admin stuff.

IMHO, there's no better experience than breaking shit. When some major service, with crazy service interdependencies just won't damn well start up, you'll quickly learn everything there is to know about that system, as you're tracking down the problem, step by step. Of course for some people in IT, sacrificing a goat, and just clicking random buttons, and doing a google search for the error messages they're getting is the only thing they can think to do, and they don't really get much benefit out of it. But for me, hammering on a system until it breaks in weird ways (even just filling-up a file system) and then figuring out how to systematically track down the problem, and going through the fixes, really is by far the most valuable IT knowledge.

Sinking ship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929425)

Rats usually 'leave' the sinking ship, not flock towards it.

Did occur to you that there are also jobs that don't require experience with SQL databases, and Microsoft Exchange, and they just might be better for your future in the long run?

If you're successful with your current plan to bring SQL and Exchange into your current job, you'll be forever remembered as that 'A hole who infected our company with SQL and Exchange'. That won't help your references any either.

Trial by fire!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929467)

Over the last 15 years at my company, I have upgraded to Exchange 5.5, 2003 and 2010 by researching online. No experience with any other than reading books\online posts on how to install and configure. Of course I did have to call MS support once or twice, but even the best admin needs help sometimes.

Just find a server and install the programs. If you do not have them, see if your company can purchase a Microsoft Action Pack Subscription. Its ~$400\year and gives you full version of their software to run your company. Eventually you will need to purchase them, but for that price you get LOTS of software to learn.

SQL Developer $50, $0 Kindle edition and BIDS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929473)

I work as a SQL DBA and Developer and I can say 90% of my learning at first was digital ebooks and certification exams, my first DBA job was over a 15K bump in pay from the Win Server Admin job I was working at the time. It always helps to have the 1 or 2 years of Windows Admin before going into SQL so there is a base understanding of the operating system and hardware.

The simplest and cheapest method would be to get the SQL developer edition (Amazon, $43), it has all of the features that the Enterprise version of SQL includes, it just cannot be used for production just development.

With this version you can learn the DBA role: Administration, logins/users, backup/restores, troubleshooting, T-SQL, managing jobs, writing stored procedures, triggers and automation. Kindle eBooks can be had for under $50 on amazon, there's even a free one called "Introducing Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012".

The SQL developer version also includes the SSIS and SSRS which is the ETL and Reporting Services part of SQL Server. (moving data and reporting on data) There is a growing need for people who can develop SSIS packages or convert old SQL 2000 DTS, create dynamic reports in SSRS and handling Business Intelligence requests and Datawarehouse needs (this usually includes SSIS and SSRS).

Try looking for jobs with SSRS and SSIS and check to get ideas for a career path and also doa google search for "sqlauthority interview questions" to get an idea of what a DBA is expected to understand.

Good Luck!

Can only quess the environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929503)

The description from the post makes me think of some company with a cable modem coming in from the outside with some crappy SOHO router branching off into a couple dusty old 10/100 switches from the late 90's scattered across the office somewhere in closets that only the guy that was there three or four techs ago know about. Then the office 'servers' are probably a few tower PC's underneath someones desk (if they are luckly otherwise they are strewen around on the floor in some back storage area). Daily tasks probably include helping Sally in accounting find the ANY key and replacing the DVD drive in Dan the boss' son computer after he uses it as a cup holder.

As far as for a help desk level persons depth of knowledge that they are looking for when they say knowledge with SQL Server is basically to know how to use the Admin too to go in and do import and exports of certian tables and maybe if you are lucky light knowledge of SQL. I'm sure everything will be prescripted for you in some SOP anyway so all you have to do is just read what the DB wrote and do that. You aren't going to know how to create table, triggers, sequences, indexes and all of that kind of stuff.

As far as helpdesk knowledge of exchange basically they are looking for someone who can set up mailboxes.

As the job descriptions are written by some HR twit who doesn't know jack anyway.

BitTorrent (1)

sasquatch989 (2663479) | about a year ago | (#43929525)

get you some exchange, sql, server 2003/8 (to setup Active Directory) and sharepoint, find and RTM on setup. Enjoy your very own Sharepoint site. Just dont use the software for enterprise use or commercial gain

Free options (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929539)

Microsoft Virtual Academy and a trial account on Azure

Powershell (1)

eedwardsjr (1327857) | about a year ago | (#43929543)

If you want to make yourself valuable with Exchange, start learning PowerShell. A huge bulk of the administration is command line through PowerShell scripts now. For SQL, start working towards a MCDBA. Check and see if there is a MSSQL user group near your area. They usually have training sessions during meeting and it would prove to be very valuable for networking with people in the industry when you start looking for a position. One of the best suggestions (as mentioned before) is pound the virtual labs.

SQL is a language ... (1)

citab (1677284) | about a year ago | (#43929599)

not a RDBMS ... Microsofties refer to MS Sql Server as "SQL" ...

Has always bugged me. My estimation of a person's SQL Skills gets taken down a notch when I hear them refer to SQL and I realize they mean SQLServer ..
Or as some of refer to it ... Fecal Server

Get certified! (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#43929615)

I know, I think they are garbage too, but it will at least lend a a bit of credibility to your resume if you have the MS certs for SQL server and Exchange. As for experience or with a non-profit (and these are two technologies that are not usually found in your local church or such unfortunately), if you can't get it through work then build yourself a lab. Grab the free VMware ESX edition and build up a virtual lab environment. You can do this for under a grand easy: case, PS, Intel desktop board, i7 proc, 32 gigs of RAM, extra Intel 1Gb NIC, and a couple of 2TB drives will allow you to run around a dozen VMs (assuming most are not doing much after they boot, usually the case). This will allow you to practice things like clustering, mirroring, etc. When the evals expire, build new boxes and start over. Added bonus: this will get your feet wet with virtualization.

Best bet is to get certified. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43929623)

Microsoft often has "second chance" deals on certification tests.

Buy the book, study, run samples on SQL Express, then take the test. If you fail, you'll know what the test looks for and can re-take the test.

Network admin? (1)

Leroy Brown (71070) | about a year ago | (#43929683)

Is this:
  "Network Admin" as in switches, routers, firewalls, etc.;
  "Network Admin" as in the often used anachronism dating from the 80s for novell admins but actually referring to what's presently known as "Windows Admin," or generically "Server Admin"; or
  "Network Admin" as in "Jack of all Trades IT guy" in smaller organizations?

If you meant the first one, which maybe you did given that you have a CCNA, then you don't need to learn Exchange and SQL server. It won't hurt, but it sure won't help as much as going for your CCNP will.

Also, consider this a branching-off point. It sounds like you might presently have a job in the "jack of all trades" category, which can give you a high-level perspective of many of the areas of specialization. Pick the one you like the most, and start learning your new specialty. Cross-training on the basics can be very valuable. Learning how to do basic scripting (perl, python, lua, whatever..) will save you much more time over the years than you spend learning it. If you encounter a repeatable process then automate it. If you don't know how, then learn how, and automate it. Sorry if I'm drifting away from your question, and into general advice for someone starting out. :-)

I also have to agree with some of the other posters, even if it seems like they're trolling. Get that A+ and Network+ crap off your resume! Nobody respects it, and it only serves to accentuate your inexperience. Start cramming and replace it with something better -- schedule your exam today if you need motivation to pick up the books!

Oh, and lastly.. Don't hang out posting on slashdot. Big waste of time!

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