Like most things, effective database engineering is both science AND art. As such, you must learn DB2 features and functions PLUS the tools and techniques. To be proficient, you must gain experience through meaningful practice - a lot of practice.
In a perfect world, one would embark on this path via a "master and apprentice" relationship. In my opinion, this is the best way to really get it. Having a competent and caring teacher - someone who really knows the craft - is priceless.
Alas, this is not a perfect world; neither in terms of time, energy or money. Everyone wants the highest skill (and the corresponding results) as soon as possible. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.
But, you can get a reasonable and running head start. You can also raise the odds of success significantly. Just do these two things:
Get adequate education from true experts
Get periodic guidance from folks you can trust
When it comes to getting the most out of DB2 for i, I believe there are three main areas of focus, and one critical factor. All of which seem to get an inadequate amount of attention from the practitioner. Some of the reason for this is historical, and some of the reason is arrogance and/or ignorance. These reasons must be overcome if one is to be valuable and successful. (of course, if you do not want to be valuable and successful, by all means carry on with what you're currently doing)
The three areas are:
1. Data modeling - conceptual, logical, physical
2. Structured Query Language - DDL, DML, PSM
3. DB2 for i - SQL performance monitoring, analysis and tuning
And the one critical factor: Cultivate trusted advisers
Proper Education and Training
In the world of information management, data modeling can be a full time job. Whether it is or not in your organization, the DB2 for i Engineer can benefit greatly from knowing more about this fundamental area. To get started, I recommend looking at the material here. And for multidimensional modeling (star and snowflake
If you require the knowledge and skills to get your old and tired data model sorted out, then you need to learn about database modernization and re-engineering via this course. We can deliver it on a private and customized basis as required.
To gain more knowledge and skill around SQL, there are many books on the proverbial shelf that will show you the basics. When it comes to cleverly applying set-at-a-time processing via standard SQL, I tend to read Joe Celko. His books can be found here.
To obtain more specifics regarding data centric work with DB2 for i, I suggest enrolling in our recently updated "Advanced SQL" course. There happens to be one scheduled at the home office during February 2013 (i.e. winter in Rochester Minnesota) HEY! what a great way to focus on database technology; too cold and dark to skip class and go fishing. Wait a minute, they fish thru the ice in winter too - crazy. Me thinks it's better to stay inside and focus on DB2. More information on the Advanced SQL class can be found here.
If there is one thing my team hears over and over, it is:
"SQL just doesn't perform very well"
"we tried SQL and it's too slow, and uses too many resources".
Horse feathers! (ok, you know what I really meant to say)
The real deal on how DB2 for i actually optimizes and executes SQL queries can be ascertained and experienced during our four day course described here.
Best practices for coding SQL and getting high performance with scalability are not to be overlooked. Learning the proper techniques for monitoring, analyzing and tuning SQL is a core skill of the database engineer. An initial and substantial return on the education investment is immediate. If you are using or are about to use SQL against DB2 for i, the four day class, public or private is a must.
Acquiring knowledge while building skill, is a journey. Mastery does not happen over night. You will need assistance to avoid stagnation and frustration. More oversight up front, less oversight at the back. As you persevere with education/training/guidance, your knowledge/skill/value will rapidly grow.
Proper Leadership and Partnership
As I alluded to previously, initiating and building a relationship with folks you can trust is very important. The ability for a competent and recognized expert to fill in the blanks AND provide guidance is something that you will need through out your journey. I also believe it is advantageous to periodically connect with like minded people at conferences and events. I encourage you to look for members of the DB2 for i Center of Excellence team presenting topics around the world. Let me point you to a few conferences that always provide excellent ROI. Make plans now to attend one (or more) in 2013.
IBM Power University
RPG & DB2 Summit and/or SQL for i Spotlight
Of course, if you want more information on a particular education and training road map, or need some specific advice on how to get more value out of IBM i, please reach out.
Oh, by the way... I'm guessing 80% or more of the science and art I've called out is applicable outside of IBM i. Think about it.