How to Become an Open-Source Database Developer
Want to be a database developer? New to the industry or switching careers? We'll guide you through the tools and resources needed to achieve your goal.
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Just like any other profession, becoming a database developer requires some effort and investment on your part. But with the right tools and resources at your disposal, it's achievable. In this post, we'll guide you through making that happen. So read on if you're interested in making a career out of being a database developer.
Database developers have become a critical part of every organization’s application development process. More specifically, open-source databases have overtaken proprietary databases (like Oracle) in popularity and usage in modern apps. So these days, when you talk about becoming a database professional, you are talking about open-source.
What Is a Database?
Most people already know this, but a little clarification may help. A database is a collection of data that are organized, stored electronically on a computer system, and controlled by an application called a database management system (DBMS). The DBMS is a complex set of data, syntax, applications, and systems that work together to manage information storage and retrieval. In modern SaaS apps, this means making data available in an instant.
Open Source vs. Proprietary
When it comes to database software, there are two main types: open source and proprietary. Open-source databases are developed and maintained by a community of developers, while proprietary databases are created and maintained by a single company such as Oracle or Microsoft. There are pros and cons to both open-source and proprietary databases.
One advantage of open-source databases is that they tend to be more affordable than proprietary databases. This is because open source databases are free to download and use, whereas proprietary databases, with license and support fees, are very expensive to purchase and maintain. Additionally, open-source databases are often more customizable than proprietary databases, giving businesses more flexibility in using them.
Proprietary databases are good if you are comfortable with the features offered by the vendor. Proprietary solutions provide a wide range of features right out of the box. Proprietary databases also offer good support, but again, for a fee.
Responsibilities of a Database Developer
Database developers or database programmers are responsible for building, programming, designing, and implementing new databases and modifying existing ones. Therefore, they need to be able to use their expertise in design, programming, and performance across a multitude of platforms and ever-changing user needs.
Database development encompasses a broad scope of tasks, which may include any or all of:
- Database administrator (DBA): Responsible for installing, configuring, and maintaining databases, often tied to a specific "back-end" platform such as Oracle, MySQL, DB2, or SQL Server.
- Database programmer: Works with generic and proprietary APIs to build "front-end" applications that interact with a back-end database.
- Database designer/architect: Researches data requirements for specific applications or users and designs database structures and application capabilities to match.
- Security: Protects the database itself, the data it contains, its database management system, and the various applications that access it from malicious actors or errors made by internal employees.
Moreover, the database developer gathers some of the data and organizes and defines the indexing procedures and functions to analyze company information. They combine all of the necessary technical requirements with data protection and integrity.
Developers may create the user interface and define guidelines for data backup. This is similar to other development roles but with specific programming and technical languages specific to databases.
What Background Is Needed?
To start, read as much background as possible on databases in general, and open-source databases in particular. If you have no programming experience or are looking for a career change, a good option is to invest time and energy in an online course offered by sites like Udemy or Coursera.
IT Database Certifications
Certification can help you get your credentials as an experienced developer or someone looking into developing databases professionally. You can get certified in many different areas of database development, such as Java, Microsoft development, and Oracle development. The Oracle certification is a good fit for open-source database developers. The Oracle Certified Expert (OCE) in open-source database administration credential verifies that you have the skills and knowledge to administer open source databases using Oracle technologies, but teaches you skills that can be applied to other open-source projects.
There are other certifications available that can be helpful for open-source database developers. For example, the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification covers system administration tasks on Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems, including configuring Apache web servers, DNS servers, and email servers. Earning this certification could demonstrate your ability to work with open-source database solutions like MySQL and MariaDB on Red Hat Enterprise.
Many of the current and potential jobs that require database knowledge are not limited to IBM, Oracle, or Microsoft programs. For instance, the vendor-neutral certification is not tied to any particular database software. Examples include the ICCP Certified Data Professional, ICCP Certified Big Data Professional, and ICCP Public Sector Data Governance.
The primary language used by database developers is Structured Query Language or SQL. It allows you to query and extract data. You can also use SQL for adding, updating, or deleting records on your tables. SQL is the standard language for managing data in a relational database. It's used by millions of developers worldwide and is an essential skill for any database professional.
One of the best ways to learn SQL is to utilize online courses again. These courses are typically interactive, which means you can ask questions and get help from other students. They also include exercises and quizzes to help you practice what you’ve learned.
If you prefer books, check the top choices on Amazon. They range from introductory level books that teach the language basics up to more advanced titles that discuss specific features.
Finally, try sites like FreeCodeCamp.org and the Great Learning channel on YouTube if you prefer video. Many of these tutorials are free, and they cover a range of topics from beginner to more advanced levels.
Finding Open-Source Database Projects
Once you’ve learned SQL, the next step is to find an open-source database to work with. Some of the most popular open-source databases include MySQL, PostgreSQL, and ShardingSphere. These databases are well-supported, with a large community of users and developers. They also have various features that make them suitable for multiple applications.
GitHub is the world's largest repository of open-source projects that you can join and participate in. The first step is finding a project that interests you. You can browse GitHub for open-source database projects using the following steps:
- Go to github.com and sign in.
- In the search bar at the top of the page, type "database."
- Press enter or click on the search button.
You’ll see hundreds of options. To start, it’s best to sort projects by "most stars" to see the most popular ones.
Once you've found a project you want to work on, open the readme files, go to the discussion forums, and read about current issues. Make sure that you understand how it works and you know the programming language used before you start contributing.
A good way to start is to go to the "issues" tab and look for issues that are tagged "good for beginners" or "good first issue," etc.
Tools Used by a Database Developer
Once you’ve chosen a project, it’s time to download the source code and start working on the project. The great thing about open source is that open source tools are available to manage open source projects. For the database, here are some ones to explore as you get started:
- MySQL Workbench: For database modeling, administration, and development. With this open-source tool, you can create and manage schemas, tables, procedures, import and export data into different formats, and generate queries.
- Open-source code analyzer tools: Phan, Flay, and Code Sniffer help in finding bugs and bad coding practices within open-source projects that are written in different programming languages.
- Build automation tools: Apache Ant and Maven efficiently compile open-source projects using a task-based command-line interface, XML files, or by executing open-shell scripts. These tools also help in doing continuous builds and testing of open source projects and reporting incremental changes and status of the project at every step of the process.
- Bitbucket: A web-based collaborative development tool for Git which offers distributed version control and source code management for open source projects.
- Jenkins: A continuous integration tool written in Java that monitors executions of repeated jobs, such as building a software project or testing a web application.
- TortoiseGit and Tower: A graphical user interface for Git open-source distributed version control systems. They allow developers to manage their open source projects by providing features like committing, merging, rebasing, pushing, and pulling repositories from a single window.
Manage Your Reputation
Learning SQL and contributing to open-source are great ways to get you started with databases. Once you have mastered the basics, it’s time to showcase what you can do.
When trying to land your first open-source database development job, become a freelancer, or start your own company, it is important to have an up-to-date portfolio that showcases what you can do. A great open-source database development portfolio will set you apart from the competition and help show potential employers or partners why they should consider hiring you for open source database development skills.
Develop Your Soft Skills
Database developers must develop a range of soft skills to advance their careers in data management. For example, you must learn to translate business needs into database solutions, work closely with non-technical users to ensure that all databases are functioning as intended, and meet regularly with executives or managers on IT projects/objectives. Thus, database programmers need not only technical know-how but also communication techniques and critical thinking.
Join and Participate in Communities
Networking is the key to success in any industry. Database professionals are no exception. Communities are the best way to catch up with new trends, chat with peers, ask questions, and help others. To keep up with changes and for networking opportunities, here are some places to go:
- GitHub: Each project has a discussion forum you should monitor and participate in. Always be helpful and positive, and over time, your reputation will grow.
- Slack/Gitter/Google Groups/self-hosted forums: You can chat and discuss with other contributors outside of the GitHub community.
- Stack Overflow: A great place to go for quick support and questions.
If you want to start a new career in computing, consider becoming a database developer. There are many open-source databases projects that developers of all skill levels can use, and their development is encouraged through certification programs online. It’s important to know that contributing to these projects helps your reputation grow because your contributions are recorded, and you can create a portfolio that links back to your work to show the world your skills.
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