With all the buzz surrounding data and analytics, there is often some ambiguity about the specifics of roles within the industry. Take data scientists and data engineers, for example. While both positions often work closely together, they serve different functions. This post will dive deep into the data engineer role and outline why the position is in such high demand. 

While data scientists focus on analyzing structured and unstructured data to derive insights, this activity wouldn’t be possible without data engineers. The latter role involves developing, testing, and maintaining data pipelines and architectures. 

Generally speaking, data engineers have a background in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or other related IT field. In addition, experience with multiple programming languages, including Python and Java, and a good knowledge of SQL database design is essential. 

A recent CIO article outlines the three primary roles for data engineers: 

  • Generalist: In this scenario, data engineers typically work for small teams or organizations and are one of the few employees that are laser-focused on data. These individuals generally are responsible for every step of the data process, from managing it to deriving insights. 
  • Pipeline-Centric: Pipeline-centric data engineers generally work with data scientists to maximize the use of enterprise information. This role is typically found in midsize companies, and pipeline-centric data engineers must have an in-depth knowledge of computer science and distributed systems.  
  • DatabaseCentric: This role is ideal for larger organizations in which managing the flow of data is a full-time job. Database-centric engineers work with data warehouses across numerous databases and are tasked with developing table schemas. 

Each of these roles is a highly technical position. It’s also essential that data engineers possess soft skills to effectively communicate data insights and help other stakeholders act on the data being collected. Look at this previous APEX of Innovation post for more on some soft skills and what can be done to nurture them throughout your organization.

And if you’re interested in diving further into what’s required of the data engineer role, head over to CIO.