Data engineers are an indispensable resource for companies working in data analysis and machine learning. They are the helpers behind-the-scenes in areas that require vast amounts of data. In this article, we will explain what a data engineer does, and introduce the skills required and job description for the job in Japan.
What is a Data Engineer?
Data engineers are professionals involved in data analysis and utilisation. They are responsible for data collection, coordination, and data management. Teir main task is to build and operate information infrastructure for data management. They may also create training data in the fields of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
What is the difference between Data Engineers versus Data Scientist and Data Analyst?
Data scientists are the most common type of job function involved in data analysis and utilisation. However, data scientists and data engineers are strictly different, although in some cases their work overlaps.
Data scientists are specialists in data analysis and utilisation, where their main tasks are to analyse data and propose business improvements. They analyse data by building data analysis models and algorithms, and make proposals for business improvements in management, marketing, sales, and other areas based on the results of the data analysis.
Data analysts, on the other hand, are also doing data analysis-related jobs. Data scientists are sometimes referred to as data analysis specialists, but data analysts are those who provide decision support to companies. The main role of a data engineer is to prepare and manage data in the correct format for use by these data scientists and data analysts.
What is the difference between Data Engineers and Database Engineers?
Another job title with a similar name to data engineers is database engineers. Data engineers and database engineers are the same in that they build databases and manage data. Both require knowledge of databases and infrastructure.
What differs is the purpose for how the data is used and managed. Database engineers handle all types of data, from business systems to web-based services. In contrast, data engineers manage data for analysis. Since data for analysis is huge, management methods are different, and technologies using distributed management and cloud services are used.
What makes up a Data Engineer job in Japan?
Data engineers are mainly responsible for the following data analysis tasks:
Construction, design, and operation of information infrastructure
Data engineers design, build, and operate the infrastructure that serves as the information infrastructure. First, they select databases and cloud services to build the infrastructure. Then, we store the data so that data scientists can retrieve and use the data for analysis without any problems. After that, we monitor the information infrastructure to ensure that it is operating error-free and take action when errors occur.
Data rrganisation and processing
In most cases, data used for analysis cannot be used as is. In order to centralise and manage the data in the information infrastructure, it is necessary to organise and process the data by unifying the data structure, filling in missing data, eliminating data duplication, and so on.
Creation of AI operational data
In machine learning and AI development, the creation of "teacher data”, which is data for AI to learn, is implemented. Since AI performance is improved by incorporating good quality teacher data, it is necessary to create the data by preparing it appropriately. Creating this teacher data is also the job of data engineers.
Skillsets required to become a Data Engineer
The following skills and qualifications are required for data engineer jobs:
Basic knowledge of data management
Data engineers need basic knowledge and design skills for data management. In particular, knowledge of relational databases (RDBs) and SQL skills for moving data in and out of them are essential.
Knowledge of infrastructure and distributed processing
Knowledge of distributed processing as well as knowledge of servers and networks, which form the foundation for data analysis, are also required. The data used for analysis is massive, and there is a limit to the amount of time (several minutes to several hours) that one server can realistically process it. Therefore, technologies are used to distribute the huge amount of data to multiple servers for processing. A typical distributed processing technology is Hadoop, an open source software in distributed processing system infrastructure.
Knowledge of cloud services
Knowledge of cloud platforms that use distributed processing technologies is also required. In addition to major public cloud services such as "Amazon EMR" and "Google BigQuery," there are services developed by overseas companies such as "Snowflake" and "Vertica”. In machine learning, you will also want to know about cloud services such as "Amazon SageMaker Studio".
Data engineers also have the opportunity to do some programming. Experience with Python and R languages used for data analysis and Java used in distributed processing system infrastructure would be good to have.
Mathematics and statistics
Knowledge of mathematics and statistics, including differential and integral calculus, are also required as a foundation for data analysis.
Ability to gather information
Data science is an industry where technology advances at a rapid pace. It is often the case that necessary documents are not available or have yet to be translated into Japanese. Therefore, it is necessary to actively gather information by carefully reading official documents in foreign languages, contacting vendors, and conducting trial-and-error on your own.
Preferred qualifications to become a Data Engineer
IT certifications relating to data management and statistics are listed below, including the sponsoring company or organisation in brackets:
- Database Specialist Examination (IPA Information-technology Promotion Agency)
- System Architect Examination (IPA Information-technology Promotion Agency)
- Google Professional Data Engineer (Google)
- CCP Data Engineer Certification Examination (Cloudera)
- Statistical Certification Examination (Japan Statistical Quality Assurance Association, sponsored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and others. (Supported by Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, etc.)
What are the future prospects for Data Engineer jobs in Japan?
The field of data science has been described as having an "urgent need for human resource development" in a survey conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and in a whitepaper on human resources issued by the IPA. As such, data engineers will only continue to be in demand as personnel would be needed to handle vast amounts of data.
Can I change my career from other professions to a data engineer?
Many engineers who have worked in other fields change their careers to become data engineers. For example, some system engineers have worked in data collection and analysis, as well as data warehouse construction and operation. Engineers in operations may also analyse logs in case of problems or to help improve services. This type of analytical work can also be utilised when looking to become a data engineer.
How can you progress in your career from a Data Engineer?
After building a career as a data engineer, the following career options or jobs in Japan are possible if you want to expand your career:
Data engineers are closely related to data scientists in terms of job scope, and there is a path to becoming a data scientist by leveraging on your skills and connections.
If you have experience in machine learning and AI development, you can look to become an AI engineer by contributing to a team of AI engineers and machine learning.
Database Engineers, Infrastructure Engineers, etc.
There is also a way to specialise in each of these fields by utilising your knowledge of data management. One way is to join a project that promotes MLOps.
Are you a data engineer in Japan or looking to become one?
Those who are meticulous are suited to work as data engineers, paying close attention to ensure that there are no errors in the data, and being able to correct mistakes as soon as possible. If you have worked in data management and analysis in your career, or if you want to master data analysis in the future, please check out our data engineer jobs.
If you would like to be find out what are some of the confidential roles or want to get advice in advancing your career as a data engineer, please fill out the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.