Who is SQL for?
I'm a product manager and I've found SQL helps me across the product development cycle, from identifying opportunities, to validating that product changes work, to troubleshooting issues. The list goes on. By writing SQL a PM can be the primary analyst on a cross-functional team, giving the team the opportunity to focus on implementation and delivery. Most devs would prefer writing code for production rather than writing queries to answer questions about product performance. A PM or analyst who brings SQL to the team gives devs more opportunity to build. Any time you're making an engineer's life easier you're generally doing the right thing as a PM.
SQL is also for devs, and QA engineers, and of course data scientists. A tiny SQL snippet can help a dev validate that a thing works, or reset a value in a test environment. I'm no longer amazed when I teach a SQL course and a mobile engineer is learning for the first time how to write a 3 line SQL snippet. Even the best devs don't necessarily know how to write SQL! They never learned it because they never needed it.
SQL is also for people in UX and Design. They can use SQL to query a database to segment users by common characteristics, which can validate personas or influence product decisions.
SQL is for analysts
Anybody can be an analyst. Everybody is an analyst.
You don't need to know SQL to be a great analyst. The best analysts are detail oriented, they double check their work. They've got business sense, they understand how their business works in the real world and can see through the data to assess what might have an impact. The best analysts are excellent communicators. They cut to the chase. Their charts and visualizations are clear and clutter-free. The best analysts have experience. They were crappy analysts when they started. And they learned the hard way by fighting through problems and receiving feedback from good and bad managers.
You can have all the skills mentioned above and work only through Excel or Google Sheets (or Python or R) and you'd be a massive value add almost anywhere!
But good luck getting there. SQL is the shortcut. It's the most direct path to the raw resource that flows through the engine of every modern business. Data.
SQL is fun
Maybe not at first. Learning curves are always hard. But when it clicks, if you're anything like me, you'll get a little rush. You'll get sucked into your work. And then if you stick with it, you're in for a treat. The SQL journey is long. It's as long as your career. A career doesn't feel like work when it's fun. And it's a lot more rewarding when you bring skills that benefit everyone around you in the workplace.
SQL is power
Every company is different. But across companies one thing is the same — data is trapped. It's stuck in a database somewhere locked behind permissions and bad naming conventions. And actually a lot of the data is bad, and it seems impossible to know what's good from bad and nobody wants to be a nuisance by bothering the few people who do know.
If your company has its act together, then you've got a data organization that has set up data visualization layers like Google Analytics, Looker, Mixpanel, PowerBI, etc. And the data engineering org. keeps these updated and accessible.
The best analysts know how to use these and may even prefer these — no need to reinvent the wheel with a query when a funnel visualization is just a click away.
Most likely your company has some of its act together but not all of it. Inevitably there is data that is trapped. And SQL is the tool that will help you pry it out.
If your SQL journey is just starting, then these SQL 101 resources might be right for you:
Here are some tutorials if you already have solid SQL fundamentals and you want to take the next step:
Don't see what you're looking for or just want to say hi? Reach out.