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Keeping Your Skills Sharp During the Pandemic

Jake Hedges

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed, as opposed to believing such talents are innate gifts, are known to have a "growth" mindset. Such people tend to achieve more than those with a "fixed" mindset because they spend less time worrying about looking smart, and more time being smart. People who have a growth mindset are focused on bettering themselves through hard work, dedication and input from others and, if you're reading this blog, it's likely that you think this way too!


One strategy those with a "growth" mindset use to stay sharp is known as "sharpening the saw". This term was coined by Stephen Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and is the last of the 7 habits to be discussed. In his book, Covey uses the analogy of a using a blunt saw to cut a tree instead of sharpening it in the first instance, to describe how applying a prepared and pragmatic approach to tasks is more important than working hard using the skill-set you already have. The same analogy stands true for the modern data professional: SQL Server doesn't stand still, so why should you?

A recent Artofmanliness article describes that there are four pillars of an individual's life which should be "sharpened" to allow oneself to become as effective as possible. These are: physical, spiritual, mental and social. 

We created a poll to gather information on how data professionals at Coeo have been sharpening the teeth of their personal saws during the pandemic. This poll collected data on techniques for addressing the physical, spiritual, mental and social pillars, as well as blockers to addressing them during the pandemic. Additionally, we asked the Coeo team to each recommend one learning resource they've used recently.

Our poll found that in order to sharpen the "physical" tooth of their saws, most people have been walking, running and weight training. It's no surprise that most of this walking is done in nature given the current weather in the UK, which addresses the most common spiritual activity (just in front of meditating). To keep mentally sharp, the majority of people we polled have either been reading, finishing long-running projects or cooking, whilst making a conscious effort to separate work and social time. Finally, video calling family and friends ranked as the #1 method of keeping socially active.

It's clear that the "social" blade of of the saw may currently be a bit blunt for most of us, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying to stay as effective as possible whilst at home. Our study suggests that the majority of people feel they have had more free time than usual in the past 2 months, so why not use this time to improve your data skills?

As mentioned above, we asked the Coeo team to recommend one learning resource they've recently used to hone their skills. From this, we got too many results to reasonably summarise in one blog post, so we've cherry-picked a few of the best:

  • Microsoft learn provides experienced professionals and new starters alike with learning materials in subjects such as Microsoft 365 and Power BI Desktop. The Coeo team especially recommend the Azure Fundamentals learning path.
  • Redgate learning circle (#RGCommunityCircle) is your go-to hashtag to find the latest on free courses and events, supplied by big names in the community such as Grant Fritchley and Kendra Little.
  • Coeo have made many self-led training courses available to Dedicated Support customers via the Coeo Portal, as discussed here.
  • Multiple courses have been made free on Udemy and Pluralsight.

If you're taking some downtime from SQL Server during your personal development time, some of the less technical recommendations include:

The Coeo team are eager to hear how you've been staying sharp during the pandemic, so please feel free to get in touch. Thanks for reading!

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