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Steps to becoming a data warehouse architect (DWA)

Want to become a data warehouse architect (DWA)? Our expert recommends learning SQL as the first step.

I am a novice just beginning to learn SQL, but I would like to one day become a DWA. Where should I begin?

Well, you've got a long way to go, but you are starting in the right place. One of the best things that anyone who wants to become any type of database administrator (DBA) (such as a DWA) can do is to learn SQL. In my experience, the best DBAs rose from the ranks of application developers. If you know what it takes to build applications and write queries against your company databases, then you will be able to administer those databases more effectively.

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So, where should you begin? At the beginning! Lobby your employer to send you to a training class on SQL. This does not have to be for any one of the many database management systems out there (like Oracle, DB2, MySQL, etc.), but should teach you the difference between a set-oriented language like SQL and more traditional programming languages. It is imperative that you change your mindset from read, process, read to the creation of sets. In other words, learn proper joining techniques and no more master file processing. You can also become better-skilled with SQL through on the job training. Look at every query as a challenge and try to put as much of the work into the SQL statement as possible. If there are other, more experienced SQL coders at your shop try to establish a mentoring relationship with one (or more) of them.

Buy a couple books on SQL, too. There are several very good ones out there. Buy at least two: one that covers SQL statement structure and syntax and another one that offers SQL coding techniques and performance advice. I provide a nice list of recommended SQL books (among others) on my web site at www.craigsmullins.com.

If your eventual goal is to become a DWA, you should try to position yourself such that you are working on analytical systems. But not 100%. Learning how to code SQL for regular transactions is useful and will help you to become a better analytical query coder, too. After you have several months of experience with SQL (no, you won't be a master by then, but you'll be moving in the right direction) consider looking into acquiring some data warehousing training and books.

Regarding what DBMS you should learn, stick to the big three (IBM DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server) or Teradata (because you want to focus on data warehousing and Teradata is a leader in that space). Of course, there are other very capable DBMS products out there, but by focusing on one of these four you will increase your employability.

This was last published in January 2007

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