Getting Schooled by Brent

Earlier this year Brent Ozar invited me to attend some of his online classes for free. Free is good! Training is good! I signed up with a few thoughts in mind:

  • I had not taken a class recently (I like to self learn, perhaps to a fault)
  • I was curious to see how Brent did the training (both as student and as someone who teaches here and there)
  • Wasn’t sure how much I would learn, so I’d have to be patient and see

So far I’ve taken Mastering Index Tuning and Mastering Query Tuning. Both are online only, three day classes. Presentation is done using GotoWebinar, but class discussion is done using Slack. It’s an effective combination, more so than using the chat function in Goto or trying to mute/unmute all the attendees. I took portions of the class at home with multiple monitors and that was good, plus no need for headphones. I also did portions while having coffee at various places. That required headphones of course and worked ok, but I had to occasionally toggle back and forth between the apps. Not a deal breaker.

You see Brent the entire time and he monitors Slack, reading out comments/questions and responding to them, comes pretty close to the in-person experience and makes it feel more interactive, less watching 24 hours of webinar. The flow is good. Lecture/demo, then a self paced lab, then watching Brent work through the same lab. The labs are what I consider open – a goal to reach, but not one of those where you do step 1.1, 1.2, etc, etc, and really do give you a chance to put concepts into practice. Watching Brent work was interesting. Stuff I picked up:

  • Prefixing index names with your initials when tuning so you can easily see if the query uses them, then easy to drop
  • Related to that, prefix indexes you add to 3rd party apps with company name so you can easily identify (or add back when they make you drop them for upgrades/support)
  • Looks for the place in the query plan where the estimates diverge more than usual, take that as a starting place for tuning
  • More emphasis on removing dupe/overlapping indexes (adding indexes is common task for most of us, removing less so)

I’m sure I learned more than that. I’m guessing I knew 90 or 95% of what was taught (which doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from the discussion), but that other 5-10% was interesting and worthwhile. I’d say the main thing for me was watching someone who specializes share their process.

I thought both classes were very well done. I think deciding to go depends on where you are on the learning curve – take the time to read the course outline so you can see where you expect to learn. Senior DBA’s will get some value (I did), but someone who knows the basics plus a little will find this a great place to grow. The classes are not cheap, offset some by not having to pay airfare/hotel to get to an in-person class, and there is the intangible of having access to the recorded version, very very nice if something happens at work and you have to miss a couple hours (what are the odds, right?).

I had a good time, met my goals, and came way resolved to invest more time in classes than I have recently. Good stuff.