ETL, SQL, Python, data storage, data tubes, big data, cloud platforms, databases, data integration… Terms that often flash by in job postings for Data Engineers. But what exactly does the work of a Data Engineer look like in practice? And what skills does a Data Engineer need to succeed?
A Data Engineer, the plumber of the world of data, is a data professional who prepares the data for analytical and operational use. Among other things, a Data Engineer designs, builds, tracks, and integrates data from a variety of sources, creates data tubes and data warehouses, and implements solutions utilizing the data. In practice, a Data Engineer gathers and prepares all the ingredients that are used to bake the cake.
Although the work of a Data Engineer mostly sounds very technical, which it naturally is, one shouldn’t forget about the so-called soft skills. The importance of soft skills, such as communication, cooperation and self-directedness, is more often emphasized in every field. For example, according to the Talent Shortage survey, one in every ten employer found the lack of soft skills to be the reason behind the talent shortage.
If you are planning on advancing in your career, the importance of soft skills is further highlighted. With soft skills at the forefront of present and future working life, you might want to check if the following five skills are already in your toolbox, especially if you are dreaming of becoming a Data Engineer. With these skills, you are guaranteed to succeed as the plumber of the world of data, as well as in any other role.
1. Strengthen your social intelligence
In a Data Engineer’s everyday work there isn’t a lack of social situations. Therefore, the most important skill of a Data Engineer is social intelligence. A socially intelligent engineer is able to sense different social situations. Such a person is empathetic, understands one's own and others' feelings and behaviors, is able to seamlessly jump into different situations and modifies one's own behavior according to the situation. Thus, social intelligence is both situational awareness and the ability of taking perspective.
However, social intelligence is not a skill that can be learned simply by reading books or completing certificates. It develops in interaction with other people and can further be developed by practicing empathy, compassion, kindness, flexibility, adaptability, and with the help of active listening.
2. Success comes from the right attitude
I don’t think the role of a Data Engineer can ever be completely fulfilled. While some basic skills hold up for a long time (such as proficiency in ETL, ELT, or SQL), in an ever-changing world, new technologies are popping up like mushrooms, and it’s impossible to master them all. Instead of becoming an expert of the syntax of every technology or every language, it’s more important to take bold actions in projects and challenges ahead. Be bold and jump into the deep end, even if you have big shoes to fill.
It’s important to bravely take on new challenges even when you feel uncertain about your own skills. Be prepared to do things outside of your own comfort zone without the fear of failing, because the man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything (William Magee). Boldly answer “yes” to the opportunities that come up, such as writing a blog post, even if it may seem daunting at first. 😉 I urge you to add the sentences: “I can do it”, “I can solve this”, and “I will examine this” to your vocabulary.
3. Keep your ears open
The job of a Data Engineer is continuous collaboration and interaction with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders. Effective collaboration requires the ability to communicate and interact with fellow human beings - and by communication I don’t mean just talking or presenting oneself. Communication requires more, such as negotiation, discussion, listening, and presentation skills. Of these, we often forget to appreciate the listening skill, which is one of the most important interaction skills. However, listening is not just about hearing. Listening is an active function in which verbal and nonverbal communication is observed and interpreted. So keep your ears open and listen. This often opens new possibilities: What does my client or colleague need? Where can I help? Could I offer help and expertise, even if I haven’t specifically been asked?
4. Live and learn
In my career so far, I haven’t come across a project where the technology or even the code language is exactly the same. Instead of mastering the syntax of a particular technology or code perfectly, I value learning ability and curiosity. Curiosity is the engine of growth, development, and learning. It’s also the key to continuous lifelong learning, which is paramount in a changing world. The constant change requires that a person is ready to learn and update his or her skills. In a working environment, the employee is required above all to have a desire and readiness to learn.
So keep your mind curious and open, as research shows that intellectual curiosity and a “hungry mind” play an important role in success. Show curiosity, ask questions, and embrace new things and experiences as opportunities to learn something fascinating. Also, be curious about things outside your core area of expertise as diverse skills are increasingly needed. When mastering things outside one's own area of core competence, the ability to solve various problems is greater, as well as the ability to perceive larger entities.
5. Have fun because it's more important than anything!
"There is little success where there is little laughter." (Andrew Carnegie)
Last but by no means least: remember to take it easy! The job (or life in general) isn’t always that serious. We Data Engineers can also blunder big time, but everything is much easier with a twinkle in your eye and a grin on your face. So remember to laugh at your own failures and sometimes throw humor into it. Besides, research shows that laughing strengthens memory, creative thinking and problem-solving ability, and acts as a great repellent to stress and negativity. A touch of humor and laughter is known to prolong life! 😊
Are you interested in working at Advian? 🤔