Someone asked me the other day how to become a Data Professional. Here's a list of the 10 most helpful steps/resources in my journey.

1) Learn SQL
SQL is still king. While some companies might be moving certain workloads to a NoSQL backend, relational data will always have a place.

2) Join Local User Groups
User groups are valuable learning industry trends and networking. Check out SQL, R, and Python user groups in your area.

3) Watch Training Videos
My personal favorite is Pluralsight. They have a lot of tech training videos on SQL, Analytics, Software Dev and Machine learning. I’ve used many of the videos to assist with academic and work related projects.

4) Use Twitter
I enjoy following some of the industry experts. They usually have interesting insights worth a look. One of my favorites is @BuckWoodyMSFT. Another great use of twitter is for technical advice. For example, #sqlhelp is monitored by the top experts in the field of SQL Server.

5) Blog
Clear thinking translates to clear writing. I’m also a believer in the adage - “the best way to learn something is to teach others”. WordPress and Ghost both have free packages to get started.

6) Go to Conferences
I usually hit up local SQL Saturdays through the Pass organization. Living in Omaha, NE I usually find these beneficial enough to visit SQL Saturday in Lincoln NE, Kansas City, Sioux Falls, etc.

7) Get Certified
I don’t get a chance to use all features of every technology during my normal job. Getting certified exposes one to a wide variety of technology and concepts.

8) Set up a Lab Environment
It can be hard to get hands on experience with SQL and analytics because of privacy, policy, or politics. One can set up a database lab environment quickly and install the AdventureWorks or NorthWinds database for practice.

9) Present
Start off building presentations and technical documentation for your team. After enough practice try speaking at a local user group. You don’t have to be an absolute master to develop a presentation. If you need help with public speaking then consider joining a local Toastmasters club.

10) Take Chances
Push boundaries and ask questions. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant on a particular subject. I once heard an advanced SQL expert say, “Everyone starts off with exactly zero knowledge about a subject”.