Shop Talk: 2020-06-15

The Recording

The Panelists

  • Kevin Feasel
  • Tracy Boggiano
  • Mala Mahadevan
  • Tom Norman

Notes: Questions and Topics

Should You Rebuild Your Indexes?

Mala gave me a bomb to throw with this question: what is the best index maintenance routine? Is rebuilding statistics by itself enough, or do we need index rebuilding (and/or reorganization)? Are common strategies really useful? How relevant are the “canned” maintenance routines like Ola Hallengren’s solution or Minion Reindex?

Answer: Given my job as Resident Bomb-Thrower, I needed to hold an unpopular opinion. Don’t worry, I didn’t let you down!

The short version is that all of our panelists and most of chat enjoy using Ola Hallengren’s solutions. I’ve set up Minion Reindex in low-touch DBA places where index maintenance is essentially fire-and-forget.

Tracy has built tooling to set fill factor based on the number of page splits an index gets as a method for reducing the likelihood of index fragmentation explosion.

If I’m a full-time DBA somewhere, I would pay close attention to Jeff Moden’s presentation on index maintenance. Jeff tried out the “Never rebuild a thing” route and fine-tuned it considerably from there. This solution has a lot going for it, though it does require understanding your systems and having the time to experiment. On the plus side, you come close to eliminating the number of unnecessary index rebuilds, so it’s got that going for it.

NVARCHAR Everywhere

We then got to my unpopular opinion of the night: use NVARCHAR everywhere. The immediate answer from every panelist and several members of chat was some variation of “NO!” That’s how you can tell you’re in a room full of DBAs.

I don’t intend to write up my thoughts on the topic here, so check out the video for my off-the-cuff answer. I am also preparing a full-length video on the topic to flesh out the idea a bit further.

Off-The-Wall Job Opportunities

My first topic of the night was, What are some weird job opportunity e-mails you’ve received? We’ve all received those e-mails from recruiters looking at decade-old resumes or sending out e-mail blasts based on not-quite-calibrated keywords.

Answer:  Check the video for everybody’s answers, but I had two of them. First, recruiters asking about technologies which haven’t been on my resume in well over a decade. In my case, I know a recruiter’s desperate when I get e-mails about ColdFusion.

The other example is that I had shared my resume on some job site or another and included the term “data warehousing” on it. I received two separate automated e-mails indicating that I would be a great fit as a shift manager at a warehouse.

Anders and I also spent some time commiserating about the “You would be a great fit for this job which pays you a third of what you’re making now!” e-mails from certain job websites.

Mala’s Book Corner

Mala recommended two books for us this week:

Kathi’s book has a new edition with another co-author in Ed Pollack, so I’d recommend that edition even with not much changing with respect to window functions–I just respect Ed’s work that much. Also, if you want a follow-up book, Itzik Ben-Gan’s T-SQL Window Functions is still the gold standard here.

Tips for New Graduates Looking for Jobs

My final question is something I’m having trouble answering. What are tips for new graduates trying to find jobs in the world of data science? I extended the question to include development and administration positions as well.

Answer: My normal recommendation would be to send the person to relevant user groups. In our area, that’s Research Triangle Analysts and TriPASS. That way you can meet people in the industry, make contacts, and learn about new job openings. Unfortunately, with user groups being virtual-only experiences, that’s not a great way to make contacts right now. Compounding this, a lot of places have frozen job hiring, so if you’re trying to get in at entry level, it’s especially hard to find a job right now.

Tom’s advice is to look for entry-level jobs and expand your scope beyond data science and into things like report writing or QA. I’d include business analyst roles in there as well. Tom also mentioned looking for internships, though those are harder to get after graduation.

Mala recommended checking the PASS Careers site, as well as the #sqljobs Twitter hashtag.

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