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As you can see, the Graduate Academy covered Structured Query Language (SQL) last week. Led by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Steve Jones, we spent a week delving into the world of database design, tables and stored procedures.

SQL is a specialised programming language, used for creating and accessing data within databases. It’s relatively straightforward as a concept: you ask for columns within a table, with only the rows that meet specific criteria. How hard can it be?

The first day was relatively gentle, introducing us to the concept of what a relational database is. Apparently it’s not just list of cousins and close family.

Using paper and string, we covered the walls of London with database design diagrams. It was a great way to learn about the concept although I suspect we’d run out of string if we tried it on client site. We also looked at Access before jumping into SQL Server Management Studio.

We spent the week creating a database for a car dealership. So we created stored procedures to insert data into tables, updated tables with data and ensured the Primary Keys were all unique.

Then on the Friday, came the assessment. We were given a series of tables and asked to perform various actions on SQL. They varied in difficulty, from simple queries to procedure creation. As it was a realistic assessment, it was open book – rather than a test of memory it was a test of applying the skills learnt over the course.

So how hard was it? Well, not as simple as we hoped. It’s easy to forget the syntax of a specific command, and if you join your tables incorrectly you can end up with a large amount of error messages.

Thankfully, SQL Server Management Studio has an equivalent of a spell check, informing you when your code is likely to hit an error. This combined with excellent tutelage from Steve Jones and the occasional answer from Uncle Google meant that every member of the programme did well, finishing the exam well within the allotted time. I think I can confidently say that we’ll all be looking forward to using SQL again in the future.