10 min 19 sec

Database Expert Helps Students Solve Real Problems

She wanted to influence the next generation in her field. But after first teaching at a local university, this database consultant decided to design her own curriculum in the form of a book and online course.
Developer Hustle eBook Online Course Product Self-Publishing

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What It's About

A teacher who goes the extra mile for her students.

Business Model
Skills Required
Teaching & Developer
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

So if it’s working and selling through Amazon, why take matters in her own hands and design her own course on her own website? Well, first of all, she can sell her course for a lot more money and keep more of the money. She’s also less reliant on the "gods of Amazon." If your business is dependent on a single sales channel, you don’t have a business, you have a codependent relationship.

Fun Fact

Sylvia’s job teaching worked out as a net loss for her financially. But the experience gave her a business to create a huge financial plus over the coming years!

Notes from Chris

Episode 570

Sylvia Moestl Vasilik is passionate about her career as a database consultant. Over the last 15 years, she’s built a portfolio of clients and created databases for titans of industry like Microsoft and T-Mobile. It’s safe to say that she’s good at what she does.

As her career progressed, Sylvia felt a growing itch to teach what she knew. Since 2009 she’d been sporadically sharing her real-world knowledge on her blog, Databases Are Fun, but she wanted a more concrete way to help the next generation of database engineers and architects.

First, she was able to land a side-position teaching a SQL Server Certificate course as part of The University of Washington professional education program. Here she taught people the standard database language, SQL, and gave people a foundation for their future careers. Her students paid lots of money, over $1,000 per person, to attend the course—and they came from far and wide.

But, Sylvia couldn’t help but feel something was missing.

She had realized that 90% of the skills the students needed weren’t being taught in the course. Like many education programs, it gave an overview of the basics but rarely went to depth on any individual topics. This meant her students were prepared for entry-level requirements but would struggle with more complex tasks.

While teaching the course, Sylvia began to toy with ideas of how she could help her students go to more depth. She thought about writing a book or creating a course the students could use to get extra practical experience. But wasn’t sure if it would be worth the time or investment, so she kept it on the back burner.

However, when the course was finally over, she received lots of emails from students asking about how they could get more practical experience. They’d realized their education wasn’t enough, and they were hungry to improve their skills. This confirmed to Sylvia creating a product would be a worthwhile venture, and she set out to write a book.

Her book was called SQL Practice Problems. It gave students real challenges. These weren’t the hypothetical assignments of university textbooks, but actual problems developers and engineers would face in their day-to-day lives. They started at the beginners level and moved their way through to advanced problems.

Sylvia also stayed in constant contact with the students who bought her book. She included her email in every copy and answered any questions she was sent. Keeping contact allowed her to request reviews to include on Amazon, and gather information about what students were looking for. In fact, she started getting so many questions, she decided to progress her side hustle even further and increase the value she was delivering.

Sylvia decided to adapt her book into an online course. Students would still get access to her book of 57 SQL problems, but she also offered additional services. These came in the form of video tutorials, email support, an additional 40 practice problems and free updates.

Since the start of 2018, Sylvia has made $13,508 from her side hustle. $11,052 from selling her book on Amazon and $2,456 from direct sales on her course page.

One of her goals is to create a gamified version of her course that rewards people with achievements as they progress throughout. She’s aware that people often buy materials and courses with good intentions but never use them, so she wants to find ways to keep them engaged. You don’t just learn by osmosis, you learn by doing. As she continues with her mission, her mission should continue to pay good rewards.


  • SQL Practice Problems: The ability to write SQL and work with data is one of the most in-demand job skills. Learn more about Sylvia's resources over on her website!
  • Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing: Amazon's self-publishing platform that helps new authors publish and sell their books
  • Canva & Screencast-O-Matic: Two of the platforms that Sylvia used to create her online course
  • Wordpress & Gumroad: The platforms that Sylvia used to create her website and payment process for SQL Practice Problems
  • Quora & Reddit: Two of the platforms that Sylvia used to answer questions related to SQL and help drive more traffic to her ebook and course
  • Databases Are Fun: The blog that Sylvia had prior to teaching her SQL course


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"Put yourself in your customer's shoes. How could you best give them what they need?"
—Sylvia Moestl Vasilik #SideHustleSchool

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