Data Engineer Guide on Skills, Roles and Responsibilities
Tech Insights

Data Engineer: Skills, Roles and Responsibilities

Joana Almeida
Software Developer - - - 3 min. to read

Data engineering is also known as information engineering; it translates to a software approach to developing information systems. In essence, data engineering comprises gathering, curating, and managing data from different sources and systems. 

Using this chain of command ensures that the result (collected data) is useful and accessible. Moreover, data engineering revolves around practical applications of collecting and analyzing data. 

To get accurate data, complex solutions are put into place, and data engineering is used for creating intricate paths to collect and authenticate data. These pathways include integrated data tools and artificial intelligence. 

Special mechanisms are used to gather data based on real-world scenarios. They help design, develop, and monitor intricate processing systems that ease data collection. 

Why is Data Engineering Important? 

Data engineering comes in handy by helping businesses optimize and utilize data. Some key aspects of data engineering include: 

  • Using the best practices to refine the software development life cycle
  • Discovering and rectifying information security loopholes thus protecting the business from cyber attacks
  • Learning more about business domain knowledge
  • Gathering data in one domain using data integration tools 

Data is used in every aspect of sales data and lead life cycle analysis. In recent times, advancements in technology have heavily impacted data vitality. 

Such advancements include open-source projects, cloud technology, and massive data growth in scale. Data engineering skills come into play more so in the organization of large data quantities. 

Data needs to be both comprehensive and coherent, and such is the task data engineers excelled at most. 

What is a Data Engineer?

A data engineer studies and hones skills in database architectural design. These aspects come in handy in the collection, storage, and data analysis. Engineers are tasked with setting up analytics databases and pipelines for operational use. 

A huge chunk of their work involves preparing big data and ensuring data flows are effectively working. 

Data engineers design and develop algorithms and databases that ensure data scientists effectively run queries for machine learning, predictive analysis, and data mining. Data engineers are tasked with formatting structured and unstructured data. 

Structured data conforms to conventional databases, while unstructured data encompasses images, video, text, and audio that conventional data models do not accept. Data engineers learn and continue using different ways to assemble and format data. 

What is the Role of a Data Engineer? 

Data engineers are technical professionals responsible for the architecture, construction, and maintenance of data pipelines. These pipelines facilitate the efficient and reliable flow of data from various sources to databases and analytical tools, enabling organizations to make data-driven decisions. The roles within data engineering can vary significantly depending on the size of the organization and the complexity of the data systems. Key types of data engineers include:

  1. Generalist Data Engineers: Typically found in smaller teams or startups, generalist data engineers handle a broad range of data-related tasks, from collecting and processing data to analyzing it. They possess a wide array of skills across the data lifecycle but might not specialize deeply in system architecture. Their versatility is crucial in environments where they are required to manage end-to-end data flows and support various data operations without focusing on large-scale system complexities.
  2. Database-Centric Data Engineers: In larger organizations, where managing extensive databases is critical, database-centric data engineers play a vital role. Their focus is predominantly on managing and optimizing data storage across various databases, particularly those designed for analytics. They collaborate closely with data scientists to ensure that data is structured and stored efficiently, facilitating easy access and analysis. This role involves creating and managing table schemas and ensuring data integrity within data warehouses.
  3. Pipeline-Centric Data Engineers: Suitable for mid-sized to large companies, pipeline-centric data engineers specialize in developing and maintaining data pipelines. These pipelines aggregate data from multiple sources, ensuring it’s processed and made available for complex data science projects. Working with distributed systems, these engineers focus on the seamless flow of data, enabling scalable and sophisticated data analysis across the organization.

What Skills Are Required in Data Engineering? 

Data engineers are also considered software engineers with more skills. Below are various tools that help data engineers do their job:


Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are critical for dealing with aspects related to data integration, such as data engineering. 

APIs are essential in every software engineering project. They are the link between applications and data transportation. 

Data engineering heavily depends on Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs that communicate over HTTP, thus making them an essential web-based tool asset. 

ETL Tools

Extract, transform, and load (ETL) describes a category of data integration technologies. 

Low-code Development

These are newer technologies that have replaced traditional ETL tools. However, ETL remains a paramount process in data engineering. SAP Data Services and Informatica are some of the fundamental tools for this intent. 

Which Programming Languages Are Used In Data Engineering? 

Several back-end and query languages and specialized languages are used for statistical computing in data engineering. C#, R, Ruby, SQL, Python, and Java are popular data engineering programming languages. SQL, Python, and R are often used together. 

Python is a general programming language with an extensive library and is easy to use. It’s perfect for ETL, thanks to its powerful and flexible language. Structured query language (SQL) performs ETL tasks. 

SQL is the standard language that queries relational databases that are a huge part of data engineering. R is the ultimate statistical computing programming language and software environment. R programming is popular amongst data miners and statisticians. 

Data Engineering Responsibilities 

Data engineers manage and organize data and keep check of inconsistencies and trends that may impact business goals. Data engineering is a high-tech position that demands experience and skills in computer science, programming, and mathematics. 

Data engineers also use soft skills to interpret data trends for the rest of the organization and help businesses utilize the collected data. Other common data engineering responsibilities include:

  • Data acquisition
  • Using data to find hidden patterns
  • Use data to develop set processes
  • Construct, create, test, and maintain architectures
  • Prepare data for prescriptive and predictive modeling 
  • Use data for discovering tasks that can be automated
  • Creating ways to improve data reliability, efficiency, and quality
  • Use analytics to deliver updates to stakeholders 


Data engineering is a field encompassing aspects such as data gathering, data curation, and data collection. These are aspects that help businesses both small and large keep track of their performances. 

Data engineers play a critical role in managing, optimizing, retrieving, storing, and distributing data that is needed to keep companies running and keeping track of performance. 

DistantJob can provide skilled data engineers that will be an integral part of your organization.

Joana Almeida

Joana Almeida, with her diverse experience as a programmer and game developer, stands out for her technical writing prowess on DistantJob, a remote IT staffing agency. Her background in software development and video game programming, enhanced by her roles in consulting and freelancing, has sharpened her expertise in areas like game design,tech stacks, UI development, and software development.

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