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Ask Slashdot: Getting Exchange and SQL Experience? 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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Ask Slashdot: Getting Exchange and SQL Experience?

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  • Just do it (Score:5, Funny)

    by gewalker ( 57809 ) <Gary.Walker@Astr ... inus threevowels> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:36PM (#43928885)

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

    • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:38PM (#43928919)

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      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 the

      • Re:Just do it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by erpbridge ( 64037 ) <steve&erpbridge,com> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:27PM (#43929499) Journal

        "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.

        • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:38PM (#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.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Friday June 07, 2013 @12:43AM (#43932931)

            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.

            IT moves way too fast for that.

            I didn't learn SQL until I was 5 years into my career. Virtualisation didn't start to take off until late last decade, now it's everywhere. The versions of Windows and Linux I would have done my apprenticeship on would have been obsolete a year after I finished. A carpenter almost never needs to update their skills after their apprenticeship, sysadmins always needs to be updating theirs.

            IT education needs to be more focused on how things work, then extrapolate what you need to do, not how to do things by rote memorisation. In this regard it's more suited for the university style of education as opposed to an apprenticeship.

            That being said, more companies need to offer paid internship (as opposed to an apprenticeship) for new sysadmins to get experience. Taking on juniors and giving them enough real world experience to turn them into seniors in a few years. This is the way it works in Australia where unpaid internships are illegal (The ATO and FWA will nail you to the wall for not paying staff).

      • And a foreign key is just a copy of a primary key in another table, plus constraints. Learn that one :-)

        If you want to give your employer a bit of value in your SQL experiments, show him an Iron Speed demo. Ain't free, but it's cheap, and you can pump out a lot of web-based reports for them quickly (Bosses love reports, and they love quickly). You'll also learn your way around IIS (yes all you out there, Apache rocks, I know, I've heard it, I've supported it. Give the guy a break, ok?) which means you can

    • 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.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      > 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.

      • by Aryden ( 1872756 )
        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.
        • 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.

        • 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.

      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        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).

        That's an orthogonal skill set.

        SQL admin skills are more about backup management, security, replication, clustering, performance, access controls, disaster recovery, performance monitoring, resource management ...

        You can be a fantastic schema designer and quer

  • Join MSDN Technet (Score:5, Informative)

    by David E. Smith ( 4570 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:36PM (#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 (Score:4, Informative)

      by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) <> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:38PM (#43928915) Homepage Journal
      ^^^ 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.
    • by jerpyro ( 926071 )

      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, con

    • by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:43PM (#43928961) Homepage Journal

      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!

      • by jerpyro ( 926071 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:46PM (#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.

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

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @05:37PM (#43930225) Homepage Journal

          This is good advice. I got my current position based on experience with open source projects I wrote and was able to demonstrate. Going to the interview with code print-outs in hand really helped.

          Specialist IT recruiters barely know enough to turn their PCs on. All they do is look for keywords, copy/paste requirements from other similar jobs and then try to bullshit both you and their client into getting together. As long as you really do have the skills to do the job don't be afraid of bullshitting them too.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            Specialist IT recruiters barely know enough to turn their PCs on. All they do is wait for the software to look for keywords, filter out any applicants with names like Gomez or Singh, copy/paste requirements from other similar jobs and then try to bullshit both you and their client into getting together. As long as you really do have the skills to do the job don't be afraid of bullshitting them too.

            Fixed that for you.

            Oh, they'll also reformat your CV into their standard and remove all your personal contact details.

            Interviews with recruiters are 100% personality interviews. They dont give a crap about your professional skills, as we've both said they have no idea what they mean in the real world. The interview with the recruiters is just to size you up personalty wise, figure out if you fibbed (very obviously) on your resume and get permission to contact your references.

            Take samples of your wo

          • by Xest ( 935314 )

            Well said. Don't be afraid to lie to recruiters because they don't know what the hell they're on about, because it's a dirty messed up industry that pursues borderline illegal (and sometimes outright illegal) practices in the UK at least. It's a skill in itself knowing how to play these guys. There are a few good ones, but they're so very few and far between - you'll know them when you find them though, they're the ones that'll be genuinely honest with you, and you can be honest with. When you do find one o

      • 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.
        • 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) ?

          • 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.

            • Alright, I'll put it in layman's for you:

              List the things you've learned, skills involved in the project AS SKILLS, don't say they're personal or professional it can't possibly help you. If they need to know they can ask and often will, but at that point you can justify yourself by getting granular and providing technical examples of what you know.

              Guy who built his own framework = dreamer
              Guy who built his own framework and explained how he improved the coding world with it = new hire

              They're the same guy btw

      • Just lie on your resume. If you really do know how to use the technology, just say you used it as part of your job. How would HR or the interviewers know you're lying?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      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.

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

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          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

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      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 t

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

        I would second the certificates. They are the -only- way (other than maybe references or word of mouth between PHBs) that one can stand out from the competition.

        The reason is that cow-orkers notice one's performance, so does one's immediate supervisor... but HR and the top brass? Unless there is a major reprimand, they only see the alphabet soup characters after a candidate's name, perhaps might punch the cert IDs in as validation. The technical guys might at best have a thumbs up or down vote, but it is

    • 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?

    • by PNutts ( 199112 )

      Good advice. Also, Microsoft has free fully functional Exchange downloads for evaluation, and IIRC on-line virtual labs for hands-on. Their 70-662 Training Kit (book) includes setting up a virtual environment and guys at work do it on their desktop with VMware Playah.

  • by kullnd ( 760403 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:39PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Synerg1y ( 2169962 )

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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

      • by kullnd ( 760403 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:23PM (#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.
        • It's hard because its cutt-throat, there's 20 bidders per contract, but people wouldn't do it if it wasn't profitable... duh. I'm also talking from the POV of the employee, with which I respond to most of what you just said with: Don't Care.

        • Considering I was being paid $20 an hour and when the company I was working for charged $95 an hour. I do believe that there is a problem.

          • by kullnd ( 760403 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @06:01PM (#43930487)

            Considering I was being paid $20 an hour and when the company I was working for charged $95 an hour. I do believe that there is a problem.

            $95/hr is split into:

            Your $20/hr + (Plus any benefits, Federal taxes, blah, blah)
            Plus the time that someone spent getting that client you just did $95 worth of work for
            Plus the money that was spent marketing to get that client you just did $95 worth of work for
            Plus the admin time that will be spent billing that client
            Plus dealing with the clients that don't pay
            Plus office rent, utilities, other office overhead that you probably have no clue about
            Plus tools used to perform the work (ticketing system, remote access tools?) . Again, you probably have no clue how much that actually costs
            Plus you were paid to drive to that client, and if using your own vehicle should have gotten mileage
            In addition to the drive, you are likely not billing 100% of your time anyway - Company still pays you when you are not billable right?

            Believe it or not, the Margin on those accounts is not that much. Does it make money? Well I hope so or your company will no longer exist - Does it make someone filthy rich? Probably not.

            • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

              The CEO of a company I used to work at gave that kind of rundown during a lunch-n-learn session. His conclusion came down to they needed to bill about three times what staffers were being paid to make a profit. That's fine, I understand that, but they were paying me $15/hour and billing $100/hour. He'd more or less said to my face he was ripping me off. It may vary by industry, but I'd say the $20/$95 difference is well into hefty profits rather than a thin margin.

      • There is a lot of overhead to running a business like that. Stuff like office space, equipment, contracts, and other normal business expenses aren't cheap. Plus, a lot of those places offer financial incentives for furthering your training. like paying for cert tests and stuff. They aren't that great for long-term employment, but they are a great option to pick up 2 or 3 years of experience to pick up experience working with a wide range of setups.

        You'll be knowledgeable in everything from SQL Server and

        • Assuming they want to teach you sure, most employers in IT are looking for people to hit the ground running. They might be willing to cross train you, but that's only so they can use you better... actually OP might benefit from that. Hopefully he understands that SQL and Exchange have little to do with each other though.

          • That's exactly my point. Those companies aren't looking to hire industry vets who demand 70k plus benefits. They want people just starting out who have the basic skills and education, but need experience. $20 to $25 an hour isn't bad for someone just out of college, looking for exposure to the widest range of networks and systems possible. Spend 2 or 3 years at a place like that (you'll probably get regular raises as well), and you'll most likely have everything you need to land interviews at an "enterp

            • Interesting, because the clients that use these consulting firms expect quality, as in they don't expect problems w the consultant brought in in regards to down time / misconfiguration because it is after commercialized under a contract and with deliverable. I've seen where they have a mix of people, like a senior and jr. admin working together, but sending in somebody new to handle somebody's corporate network is a great way to lose a contract and go out of business.

              • I can't speak for all of the consulting firms out there, but most don't just send new people in to make major changes. I worked with a few and they all start people out slowly, and with less critical client setups, like small offices and stuff. From speaking with others in the industry, it seems normal for the newer techs to basically do spend the first month updating the documentation, and doing basic server and network maintenance. They don't change anything, or setup new stuff, until the rest of the c

  • > 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.
  • [OT] A+ = F (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:45PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by alta ( 1263 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:53PM (#43929083) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • What does A+ even involve these days? Not like you're setting IRQ and DMA slots to get your sound card to play nice, or optimizing the loadhigh entries in your autoexec.bat file, or getting your mscdex driver to work along side your memory extender.
        • by niado ( 1650369 )
          I don't have A+ myself, but I taught a course for it recently. Lots of hardware-related stuff on it, mixed bag of useful and non-useful things. Some of it is outdated. Lots of assorted information about the various PC components and how they work together.

          Pretty much just a "do you know how a computer works?" and "can you memorize a bunch of seemingly arbitrary details?" It's not bad for someone just starting out, though it's redundant for someone with more than ~1year experience.

          To get the cert you
      • by spudnic ( 32107 )

        Another hint... Even if you don't have a lot of experience, don't pad your resume. Don't say you are proficient in Microsoft Word unless you are applying for some kind of clerical job. And if you put something on your resume you better be able to back it up. It will be easy to tell when the interview happens. Even if you're good in all other aspects if you put down you know something and I find out your only experience is reading an article on it, you're out. I can't trust you.

      • by niado ( 1650369 )
        A+ still satisfies the DoD 8570 baseline cert requirement [] for level 1 IA personnel (basically all DOD IT personnel, whether employed by the DOD or a contractor). Other government agencies and large corporations often have minimum certification requirements that include some of the entry-level CompTIA certs.

        Saying "leave it off your resume" is silly. Lots of hiring is still done by non-technical managers who like to see the "letters and stuff" for certifications. Most technical people out there who actua
    • 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.
      • Re:[OT] A+ = F (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cbhacking ( 979169 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. ... isiurc_tuo_neeb.> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:21PM (#43931459) Homepage Journal

        Hell, if at all possible, customize your resume for *every* job. A pure Windows shop is unlikely to care how much Linux knowledge I have, so I remove that and use the space to play up my skills in Win-specific areas and soft skills. A non-developer job (for example, security test) may care that I know how to program, but isn't going to be very interested in my knowledge of software development lifecycles and so forth. A job in a leadership role (even if nobody reports to you) requires different soft skills than one where you're part of a team, which in turn requires different skills from one where you work alone.

        Customize everything. Don't lie, and do have a good, general-purpose resume that you can use for almost any scenario, but if you really want to get hired you should go the extra mile and at least tweak things for each job where you have the opportunity. Additionally, you definitely need to write cover letters wherever possible. Keep them short, professional, and on topic, and ensure they are as well edited as is practically possible - poor grammar can lead to a mark against you just by making you look sloppy or uneducated - but unless your writing is absolutely terrible, they are well worth the time it takes. You want to stand out from the crowd.

    • Re:[OT] A+ = F (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:45PM (#43929687)
      Having interviewed a bunch of sysadmin candidates in recent history (technical interviews, I'm not an HR or management type) the single most important thing in our interviews is having enough knowledge to work through infrastructure or app scenarios "on the fly" in the course of the interview. We typically whiteboard a common simple app scenario (web front end/app server, sqlserver, storage, authentication source, fat client, and web client mix, firewalls, etc.) and discuss the architecture and securing of each section or connection of the scenario. Sufficient understanding to "think on your feet" is what's most important for us. We are somewhat atypical that way in my experience (I've been through a LOT of different shops in govt, private industry and now education), but thinking on your feet skills will never hurt you!
      • I can usefully interview for sysadmins with a single question: "if you were paged that a [type of server used at the company] system is out of disk space, what would you do?" There's no right or wrong answer, but more experienced people will normally include a long list of things they've run into when that exact situation hit in previous work. Great answers include details on how to write a shell/Perl/Python program looking for common disk hogs. Bad ones discuss how to click on icons to check disk space

    • Not yet. He's a kid, hence ignorance of the value of the + certs is acceptable and even expected.

      Once you have anything real on the resume drop the A+ and Net+, they are resume stains for anyone over about 22 years old.

    • I head the more certs the better or at least don't drop ones you have so if some has A+ as well other ones you drop them as well?

  • 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

  • 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 co
  • by they_call_me_quag ( 894212 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:58PM (#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.

    • #2 can be substituted with "help solve other people's problems on online forums". There's a lot of homework BS on MSDN Forums, Stack Overflow, etc - but there are quite a few great, diverse, relevant questions as well. When I was learning SQL Server in an environment where it wasn't a large part of my job, I combined extensive reading (books & blogs) with solving other people's problems on online forums. I went from zero to intermediate/advanced in a couple of years, using this method.
      • Helping on forums is not a bad thing, but I don't think it's an equal substitute for getting out of the house and doing real work for a nonprofit. Getting knee deep in the weeds at a real organization gives you a different level of experience than helping out on forums. Besides, there's nobody on the forums you can call on as a reference. Imagine how great it would be to have some senior person from the local food bank / animal shelter / literacy program / homeless shelter give a glowing reference to a pote

    • by D1G1T ( 1136467 )
      No mod points today, so, THIS. Working for a non-profit/charity will give you real world experience, and give the prospective employer a warm fuzzy feeling. Make sure you go through a backup/crash/restore disaster recovery exercise so you can discuss that as well.
  • 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 insta

  • by Let's All Be Chinese ( 2654985 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:03PM (#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?

    • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @05:13PM (#43929971)

      It doesn't matter if Exchange is crap or not. Your personal opinion is pointless if the companies he's applying for use it. Having said that, I personally don't see many issues with the Exchange servers I've maintained over the years, if they're setup properly.

      Anyway, back on topic. Going into an interview for a position that requires experience with certain software, only to tell them that not only do you not have that experience, but that they shouldn't even be using the software in the first place, isn't likely to make for a good first impression.

  • 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...
    • He's better off just getting a Technet subscription, which is exactly what it's for. They are great values anyway, if you work with Microsoft products at all.

  • 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 resum

  • 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 o

  • 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,
  • Literally the first result on google - Free 180 day trial and exchange download []
  • I'd suggest finding your local SQL Server user's group or a virtual chapter on administration. Start by looking at, the Professional Association for SQL Server. It's a nonprofit that runs a bunch of user groups and chapters and various free training events nationwide (SQL Saturday for example).

    For specifics on SQL Server admin, the true path to mastery starts with understanding transaction logs, backups, and restores. Paul Randal ( is the foremost expe

  • You young whippersnapper get on the front page of SlashDot with questions on how to get job experience as a junior Windows admin. When I was your age I just installed the product and played a bit with it, asked some questions on usenet and then did an exam. Shortly after that, I discovered that once you had the certifications, there wasn't much of a career left to make with MicroSoft products so I switched to better paying operating systems and gigs. Look around you, plenty of jobs in IT don't even require
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @05:09PM (#43929935) Homepage

    If you can't get a raise, then look for other work.

    Given you know nothing of either Exchange or SQL... what do you do right now for websites, databases and e-mail? Get a handle on your own environment first, know how it works down to the detail.

    Exchange and MSSQL Server are just implementations of an MTA and a database server. You've got to understand the principles first. I had minimal experience with MSSQL but when I moved from a hosting company using primarily MySQL to a manufacturing company using MSSQL, I had no issues understanding that it was slow because the tables didn't have any indexes or that it was unsafe to use in-code SQL statements.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      that it was unsafe to use in-code SQL statements.

      Its unsafe to concatenate sql statements in code you mean. In code parameterized queries are perfectly safe, and used all over some of the most security sensitive systems in the world.

  • Get a job at another company that uses that stuff. You can do helpdesk or junior network admin with the experience you have now. Offer to help out the database team with basic tasks, if their workload is anything like our team's is, they will not turn you down. After you build up some experience there is often room for career advancement.

    I could probably almost double my salary if I moved to an app development or dba role, but the headaches those guys have to put up with just makes it not worth it to
  • by AdmV0rl0n ( 98366 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @05:37PM (#43930223) Homepage Journal

    But, I started out long ago. Here is how it rolled.

    Started by accident. Foot in the door was someone I knew needed an AS/400 night operator. This job basically entailed loading tapes at given times, and handling print runs and batch jobs, and escalating where needed to 2nd line. That job ran for a while..
    That place decided to downsize and change, but the AS/400 stuff gave me enough to go look for more. I ended up in a place with AS/400 and Novell. They moved across adding Win 3.1 and 3.11 and NT4 with MS mail.
    This worked through 95 and 95b (at the same time at home at this stage I was running a mob of stuff, a Cyrix IBM 5x68 and some mixed Amiga gear. The office was moving through 286, 386, and 486 gear.
    Carried on as AS/400 and PC support continued to cross over, with growing aspect on PCs and support.

    Moved to London, carried on, the AS/400 stuff faded and I ended up full on covering PCs, Networks, Servers.
    I've been through the whole MS family and I started on Exchange 5 through to the current 2010 release.

    Cutting to the chase.
    1. Get Technet. I don't know if current circumstances allow MSDN, but get a technet account. Anyone, and I mean anyone working with MS software, PC stuff in their job aspect should have a Technet account. No discussion. No If's, no But's.
    2. One of the short comments above was one of the best. Get an MS virtual academy account, and get a trial of Azure.
    3. I'll assume you already use virtualisation. If yes, hit 4. If no. Stop everything else. Now go explore Hyper V. Learn it. Learn how to set it up on domain (easier) - and off domain (who made this shit) - and go find a tool called coreconfig from codeplex.
    4. Check 3 carefully. Check it again. Anything you are going to build in MS-SQL or with Exchange going forward will likely sit on Hyper V.
    5. The requirements of single handedly working on a large scale MS structure of AD, MS-SQL, and Exchange - have basically gotten pretty huge. So large in fact you'll then need to become expert in System Centre. So, slow down. Start to work this carefully. If you plan to do this, and you really mean it, start with some core parts, like Hyper V, and build an exam path and qualify what you can as you go.
    6. 5 is an enormous workload today in 2013. If anyone claims otherwise, I think they are talking shit. You are likely to end up majoring in parts, and being laymen in others. My suggestion is that if you choose to do Exchange, and you like it, then built it, test it, exam on it, and make the cert grade. If likewise you work on MS-SQL - and you like it, commit to a focus.
    7. The world is full of laymen. Then numbers of people who know enough to be laymen is legion. There are way too few people who really know their shit. In the near future, the laymen are the ones who are heading out of this, don't be one of them.

    8. IMHO, although I have said stuff in the above, I believe the above is an environment Microsoft are actively looking to kill, damage, reduce, and replace. As such, be exceptionally aware that you may take the above path and be heading for oblivion. Microsoft are buying more servers than anyone else at this time, and have done this for an extended period of time. Their sole intention to a greater degree is to make cloud their business, and make everyone else out there run their business on the MS cloud. And by MS cloud, I mean a non user serviceable cloud run by Jeffrey Snover level powershelling autobots, because the size and scale by intention is to make what I do now, and what I think you seek to do in near future - too expensive, too slow, and legacy. AD, PC management, Mail, and SQL won't be staying on our Local Lan's, and our users are already mobile. Areas like backup and system management will get automated out, or reduced. So, go look at point 2 carefully. The trial azure account, and learning azure to a level you were considering for Exchange and MS-SQL may be your first step along with Hyper V - and then you may take modifed roads on handling Exchange and MS-SQL azure versio

  • One way to get such experience is through a company looking to hire and mold candidates. I run an intensive training program for incoming folks at our hosting company which includes SQL server, IIS, and AD. We're hiring some folks to start in July so email me if you are interested, d d rem u n d@ gmail.
  • Firstly, you certainly do have some balls asking something involving MS on slashdot that doesn't involve shitting on them in some way... But really, you should find a local SQL Server user group and attend the meetings, they usually have some decent presentations and a good chance to network and likely find people looking to fill positions from Jr-Sr level, also attend any local SQL Saturdays. It's a full day of training for free or 10 bucks(for lunch) and usually has really useful sessions from 100-400
  • The easiest way to learn SQL is to get Microsoft Access, get MYSQL server, setup a server, use Access as the front end and then build an app for... I dunno, recipees or something.

  • SQL? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by niado ( 1650369 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @06:18PM (#43930661)
    After a quick perusal of the comments I haven't seen this mentioned yet.

    Dude, you have a CCNA.

    You aren't exactly clear what your experience has entailed so far, but, (if you enjoy networking) you should try to continue down that path.

    You're already a considerable way down the networking road with the CCNA. If you have been getting hands-on experience with Cisco gear at your current job, I would definitely leverage that to try and get a more networking-intensive position somewhere, where SQL experience would be superfluous.
  • Get an MSDN subscription from Microsoft. The subscription will provide you with access to fully functional copies of all Microsoft back office server software (Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, etc). Setup a VMware ESX server, or use Microsoft Hyper-V. You can build your own lab environment and tinker away.

    The road block you will eventually hit is that running SQL and Exchange in a small lab is nothing like running it at scale. There are massive differences in storage architectures and performance when you sta

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs