Saturday, January 24, 2009

Learning

Although I'm not currently seeking employment, I do get notices from my old school of job postings. Some of them sound interesting until I get to the requirements section and I lose interest. They always want someone with experience with some fancy Oracle or SQL database software. I think to myself, "I've never used a database in my life and I can only assume it's very complicated. I don't think I am qualified for this job."

Lately I've finally had the need for a database in one of my own projects. I'm using Ruby and heard there is a nice module for something called sqlite, so I tried it out. It's very very easy. The concepts are easy; the api is easy. All there is to it, it seems, is the SQL language, which is pretty simple. I learned everything I know from a cheat sheet. I had a database up and running in my project in a couple of hours, after having almost zero knowledge of how the stuff works.

I think that anyone with a good background in computing / programming could pick up a working knowledge of a particular skill in a weekend. Is that the secret? Do employers know it's that easy, and yet they list a skill as a requirement in order to get you to put in some of your free time to learn it?

I am simplifying things. The wikipedia SQL article is pretty long and interesting, and contains references to a lot of things I know nothing about. But, if it involves expressing logic in a language a computer can understand to accomplish some computational objective, then there is likely nothing shockingly new there.