The first person (group) I would like to recognize is Steve Jones (b | t), and all of the SQLServerCentral contributors. I didn't go to college to learn to be a DBA. There was a general database overview class, but nothing particular to SQL Server. The forums, the Question of the Day (and researching when I got one wrong), and the blog posts all helped me get up to speed in my early DBA life much faster than it would have happened without that resource. Thank you!
In (I believe) 2007, I went to TechEd in Orlando, FL. The first session I saw was by Kimberly Tripp (b | t). Her session was on indexes and it was fascinating. The way that she delivered the information both clarified that subject for me and simultaneously made me want to go and study further. I believe that session helped me to move from just wanting to know what to do to wanting to know how and why. That transition was a major step for my career as a SQL Server DBA. I've had the additional opportunity to attend several of the SQL Skills Immersion Events which just increased my knowledge of SQL Server. I can't recommend them enough. Thank you!
The last person on this list has less to do with learning about SQL Server (although he has been a huge helper at many times) and more about becoming a member of the SQL Server community. In 2008 or 2009 (neither of us can remember), I attended my first PASS Summit. At some point, I met Allen Kinsel (b | t). His passion for the SQL Server community was obvious and contagious. Because of that meeting, I became a part of the Program Committee, winning Outstanding Volunteer of the Year in 2010 and the PASSion Award in 2011. I've also served on the Election Review Committee and the Nominations Committee. This has led to me speaking at SQL Saturdays, SQL Bits and the PASS Summit during our SentryOne Boot Camp. I also like to think that I'm an honorary member of the SQL Saturday Houston committee, but I really think they do that just to humor me. One thing that Allen may or may not understand is that my involvement with this community directly led to me getting the chance to work for SentryOne and ending up in this role as Training Manager. I'm so very excited about this. Thank you!
There are so many other people who I could name, but these were the top three who popped up in my head. Thanks to everyone along the way who has helped me to get to where I am now.