From Learn SQL in a Month of Lunches by Jeff Iannucci
Need to learn SQL for a job (or just for fun)? This book will have you querying databases like a pro in no time—no programming experience required!
Read on to learn more.
Nearly every act of our lives generates data. Every purchase we make, every mile we travel, and every internet link we click adds to a colossal and ever-growing amount of data. It’s mind-boggling to think how much information is being generated, and how, for many organizations, this data has become the most valued of all assets.
All this data must be stored somewhere, in a place which is often referred to as “the database.” This database can be a virtual folder with any number of files, or it could be a sophisticated product designed for performance or scalability. Some people even refer to an Excel spreadsheet as a database, although the validity of that claim is disputable.
For many organizations, data needs more than a place to be stored. It needs to be secure, able to grow, and searchable by a multitude of users and applications. To meet all these requirements, much of this prized data is contained in a certain type of database: a relational database. Relational databases have been around since the 1970s, have been in use in commercially available products almost as long, and because they are so well suited for most business scenarios, they remain extremely popular among organizations throughout the world today.
But this data in relational databases is only worth something if it can be used. So how can we read and change data in relational databases? Presumably, this is the reason you are reading this book, because the most popular answer is Structured Query Language, or as it is more commonly known, SQL.
Why SQL matters
Even though much of the data of our modern lives is stored in relational databases from different brands, such as Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM, nearly all of them have something in common: their data is primarily accessed and changed using SQL.
SQL is decidedly different from most programming languages. You can’t create a web application in SQL. You can’t create a mobile app in SQL. You can do one thing with SQL, and that is read and manipulate data in a relational database. That may seem like a limitation, and yet SQL is far and away the most popular language to work with relational databases. This means even if you were a software developer using C# or Java or some other language to build an application, you would still use SQL for the parts of your application that need to read or change data in a relational database.
Now, you may be wondering: is SQL worth investing an entire month of lunches? Rest assured, learning this language is without a doubt one of the best skills anyone who uses data can acquire, because perhaps the most amazing aspect of SQL is how durable this skill has proven to be. While many application languages may have a lifespan of only a few years before being replaced by some other language that has become more useful and in higher demand, SQL has been the standard language for querying relational databases for decades and should continue to be so for the foreseeable future. This means the skills you will learn and develop by reading this book and practicing the exercises it contains could potentially benefit you for your entire career.
Is this book for you?
There is no shortage of books, videos, courses, or web sites that offer to teach you SQL, many of which are designed for an audience with software development experience. They frequently start with the history of a language, move on to a discussion of many technical concepts, and then follow with chapters grouped into showing what various commands do. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach, it ignores the many non-technical folks who need to learn SQL. Folks like me.
Despite using SQL for over two decades now, my career did not begin in software development. My first experience with databases was in a position called data administrator, where I was responsible for importing data from different sources into a relational database. I needed to read that data to validate the success of the import process, and the only way to do that was by learning and using SQL.
Even though I had limited programming experience, I was able to quickly grasp how to use SQL, and I’m confident you can as well. Why? Because SQL was designed to be written like the English language. As you will see throughout this book, if you understand how to write in English, you should have little trouble learning how to use SQL.
The many uses for SQL
Of course, data isn’t just for the IT department. For example, if you are a business analyst, you can use SQL to quickly retrieve and analyze the data about operational trends to make smarter business decisions. If you are a marketing professional, you can use SQL to uncover actionable insights about recent ad campaigns to help grow your business. If you work in finance, you can use SQL to retrieve vital data to help your company meet compliance requirements.
All this data is the lifeblood of any modern organization, and success depends on having members of nearly every department possessing the skills to use relational data to make critical business decisions. This book is designed to help people like you learn SQL to build the skills to do just that. If your technical experience is limited to working with spreadsheets, then you’re at a great starting point to begin using SQL.
Then again, if you are a software developer, database administrator, or data scientist, this book does not exclude you at all. It simply takes a different approach to learning. Whereas most other SQL books will begin with terminology and concepts, this book will quickly get you using SQL to solve practical problems, while briefly sharing concepts and defining terminology along the way.
Conversely, this book isn’t designed to simply teach you a bunch of SQL commands. Instead, it is designed to progressively show you how to apply components of the SQL language to do your job, regardless of your level of computer programming experience.
What you’re going to learn
Basically, you’re going to dive into SQL and start queries databases! Here is a non-exhaustive list of what you can expect to learn from this book:
- Use SQL to perform basic queries in nearly any relational database
- Filter, sort and aggregate data
- Use dozens of functions to read, filter, or manipulate data
- Create, update, or delete data
- Create database objects to store, read, or manipulate data
What you need to know to use this book
This book is written primarily for the innumerable non-programmers who can benefit or may even have to learn SQL to use data in their everyday work—it’s for anyone who wants to learn SQL. No programming experience needed.
Being immediately effective with SQL
As with every other book in the Month of Lunches series, the primary goal of this book is for you to be immediately effective with SQL. In nearly every chapter, a particular part of the SQL language will be presented and briefly discussed, but the majority of any given chapter will focus on how to apply what you just learned, using real-world scenarios. Furthermore, at the end of every chapter, you will get hands-on practice yourself, with exercises to complete in a lab environment.
As stated earlier, if you are looking for a deep dive on relational database theory and history, there are many other books out there to guide you down that path. Although there are many points throughout this book where details and nuances are discussed, every chapter is driven by the goal of making you immediately effective at accomplishing actual tasks.
OK, enough about this book. Let’s start using SQL!
Learn more about the book here.