Analyst and mathematician Clive Humby said, “Data is the new oil.” All companies today are fighting to get new information first. Most IT businesses are fueled by data of various sorts. The main nuance is that information itself, unlike oil or gold, has no value if you do not know how to use it.
Modern ETL specialists are essentially gold miners. They find new methods of collecting, processing, storing data, and apply the necessary tools to get really valuable information. ETL Developer’s work is one of the building blocks of business intelligence. Let’s consider in detail what such specialists do, what tools they use, and what skills are needed to become a real pro in the field of ETL.
What is ETL?
ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) is one of the most important business intelligence tools, which is a method of moving data from various sources to the warehouse, from source to target.
An ETL Developer retrieves the necessary information from various source data RDBMS (Relational Database Management System – used to support a digital database based on a relational model). After that, software engineers transform the results obtained and upload them to the specified storage. In more detail, this process is as follows.
All source data is stored in one place, structured in various formats, and shared among several programs. Moving the data, ETL specialists identify the relevant information and retrieve it. CRM, ERP-systems, third-party resources can be used as data sources.
The extracted data is moved to temporary storage – an intermediate area, formatted in compliance with certain standards, models, based on the further purpose. Thus, financial values are brought to a single form (number of fractional characters, currency, etc.)
The final link in the chain is adding the selected data to the database. If the amount of information is small, then any kind of resource will do. A special type of database with a custom-structured storage is advisable only for significant amounts of data.
Experts use an extensive toolkit here to perform certain data manipulations. The major business intelligence methods are used to conclude the data processing results via interactive dashboards and reports.
When & Where You Need an ETL Specialist
Technical background and areas of responsibility are the main points of contact between the ETL developer and other specialists in data reengineering. Work with a large-scale, complex data system is the main reason to hire such specialists, which are practically irreplaceable in this aspect. In turn, you don’t really require an ETL developer if you only work with small amounts of data.
All in all, your company is better off hiring an ETL expert in the following cases:
- your business is constantly scaling and the amount of processed data is growing;
- you need to establish the most insightful data representation possible;
- you need to keep your data processing system up-to-date;
- you seek to improve data analysis methods and keep them efficient long-term.
However, you can also find alternative specialists to take up similar responsibilities. The fitting alternatives include the following.
Database developer instead of an ETL developer
This type of specialist is a good alternative to the ETL programmer when you need to focus on the internal database operations. An expert with extensive experience in business intelligence projects can implement convenient data flows and use data integration systems properly.
Business analytics expert instead of an ETL developer
Business analysts are software engineers who rely on data pipelines. They are able to solve the database support issues when the project is focused on readymade solutions and integration with suppliers of analytical processing tools.
The Involved Team
Commonly, ETLs are part of the engineering team. They are responsible for retrieving, processing, storing, and maintaining the appropriate data infrastructure. Such teams handle the following tasks:
- receiving data;
- understanding the end type of data;
- formatting it to a single sample;
- data storage.
The members and size of the team is defined based on the current scale of the project, its prospects, the number of necessary processing stages, and may include:
- architect – designs infrastructure to be further implemented by engineers;
- engineers – develop interfaces, access systems;
- analyst – identifies suitable data collection methods, data models, describes the transformation process, and the final data formats;
- repository developer – responsible for modeling, developing, and maintaining databases;
- administrator (DBA) – responsible for managing databases, maintaining complex structures;
- business intelligence developer – specializes in developing business intelligence interfaces;
- ETL specialist – develops the database infrastructure, covers the stages of extracting, transforming, and loading data.
Roles & Responsibilities of ETL Devs
ETL specialists play an important role in a company’s business intelligence. Collecting, formatting, transferring data to the storage – these are the main tasks of such employees. However, these are the major moments and the whole range of responsibilities is much broader. Depending on the specifics of the project, ETL developers can perform several functions: engineer, technical manager, project manager, quality engineer. Let’s take a look in more detail.
One of the key data processing steps. The main tasks to be solved at this stage are:
- definition of the general view of the processing, setting the processing boundaries;
- creation of the system architecture of the pipeline;
- preparation of technical documentation in accordance with the requirements;
- development, implementation of ETL tools;
- checking the adequacy of the methods and processes as a whole.
Models are the final formats of data transferred to the repository. This approach helps ETL developers to represent the process as a whole, to highlight the optimal data transformation tools.
This step is fundamental to the entire ETL process, and in many ways determines the ultimate success of all manipulations. Modeling is handled in close collaboration with business analysts and data scientists. The results are used by the ETL developer to determine the required transformation stage and basic information formatting technologies.
Data storage architecture
The storage is often quite large. For ease of data processing, it is often broken down into smaller parts – “showcases” used to give dedicated departments access to the necessary data. In essence, these are small items of shared storage. They store themed data – information about taxes, accounting, marketing efficiency, web traffic, sales, and more.
The databases are connected to the interface of the selected user, providing access to data, the ability to edit, move, change, and generate reports. Resolution parameters are strictly regulated and are based on the functionality of a particular specialist and department. When formed, the data can be supplemented with metadata, which also affects the structure of the storage.
Data pipeline development
A data pipeline is a technical infrastructure that is a systematization of previously created elements. It helps handle:
- extraction of data from specified sources – an ETL tool must be integrated with every system;
- formatting of data in the intermediate zone, for efficiency and keeping the warehouse clean;
- removing unnecessary data fields;
- definition of a communication system between work items;
- adding metadata;
- portioned loading of information and its updating.
To ensure the adequate operation of the system, the ETL specialist checks the system, modules, models, and architecture for errors and bugs. The specialist is also entrusted with the functions like:
- checking presentation means and data flow;
- determining system performance;
- testing the speed of the object (hail, loading).
Troubleshooting is done by software developers, but it is up to the ETL department, data analysts (code testing, data design, defining mapping methods, etc.) to identify problems. The quality performance of such functions implies not only proper education but also the niche skills and experience.
IDAP specialists have all it takes to get the maximum business benefit out of your project. We can help choose the best approaches and solutions for your particular work in progress.
Starting the ETL Specialist Career
There are no specific instructions on how to become an ETL developer at the moment. The only recommendation for an eager applicant is a bachelor’s degree in computer science. The higher the degree, the better. Employers pay great attention to employee training.
ETL developers must have an education in one of the areas: computer science, electrical engineering, information technology. But you can’t stop there. Additional theoretical courses for advanced training and practical experience will give you lots of advantages.
The specialist must constantly self-educate. Search, study non-standard, new technical solutions, environments and such. In addition, the specialist must possess:
- good coding skills;
- analytical abilities;
- attention to detail;
- a good ability to interact with business users and understand their requirements;
- experience in project management;
- an ability to work in a team and non-conflict attitude;
- experience in problem solving, non-standard approach to elimination of errors.
An excellent ETL specialist must have a wide range of tools and be knowledgeable in several areas. Education in software development and experience in creating databases is fundamental. In more detail, the skill set looks like this.
Experience of working with ETL tools
The software market provides many out-of-the-box solutions for the data engineering industry. Among them are:
These are essential for ETL guys like Photoshop is essential for a graphic designer.
Readymade methods available on the programming market allow you to comprehensively and quickly complete all stages: extraction, transformation, loading. The ETL specialist in this case manages the toolkit, integrating existing solutions with ETL, manages operations, implements the interface.
Database architecture creation skills
Understanding the requirements for data storage and storage design obliges the ETL developer to have experience with SQL/NoSQL and information visualization. The knowledge of Hadoop also comes in very handily. With its help, you can integrate data quickly and efficiently.
On top of it, a database specialist must have experience in analytics. Without it, modeling, displaying, formatting information will be an extremely complex process, with a lot of errors.
Experience in composing scripts
Huge amounts of information require automation to be handled more efficiently. Especially, when performing simple, cyclical tasks. The ETL developer must be able to write the required scripts to save time and budget of the project. First of all, a novice programmer should get a hang of:
When working with large amounts of data, there are great risks of system failures. An ETL specialist must have an analytical mind and be able to use a wide range of technical tools available to solve these types of issues.
The Demand for ETL Experts
ETL specialists can work in any company that operates with a lot of information and pays a lot of attention to business intelligence. An additional employment opportunity for such specialists is consulting. There is usually no shortage of companies requiring such services.
Profiled websites systematically offer about 600 ETL developer vacancies. They are represented mainly by large employers in the IT sector: Avani Technology Solutions, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, CGI Group, Capgemini. Bids are mainly for full-time work (about 80%) and contract work (18%). The rest of the demanded experts either combine both or are interns.
As you can see, highly-qualified specialists will not be left without work. In addition, IDAP is always ready to consider the consulting services of promising, experienced candidates in the business intelligence field.
An ETL developer is an important link in large companies working with large amounts of varied, unstructured, and formatted data. Often, the correctness of the decisions made by the business leaders depends on the results of the employee’s activities (up-to-date information, adequate work of databases, etc.).
Good specialists must have not only an extensive amount of technical knowledge but also possess extensive experience in finding and applying the best ways to solve the assigned tasks. In addition, solo workers may not be suitable for this job because very often you have to work in a team.
However, having overcome all the difficulties, the applicant will be rewarded with high wages, constant offers in employment, the possibility of working in several organizations at once, and more. Specialists of this profile are really snapped up right now and will become even more demanded in the future.