LAKSHAY ARORA — December 4, 2020
Beginner Data Engineering Listicle


  • Know which are the top 9 skills required to be a data engineer
  • Find suitable resources to learn about these tools
  • By no means is this list exhaustive. Feel free to add more in the comments



Data Engineering is one of the fastest-growing fields with a heterogeneity of job opportunities. From Google, Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Zomato everybody is generating data at an unprecedented pace and scale right now. Organizations with such a large amount of data are trying to tackle this data by rapidly adopting Big Data Technology so that this data can be stored properly and efficiently and used when needed.

Data engineering Skills

Data Engineers are responsible for storing, pre-processing, and making this data usable for other members of the organization. They create the data pipelines that collect the data from multiple resources, transform it, and store it in a more usable form.

According to the report by datanami, the demand for data engineers is up by 50% in 2020 and there is a massive shortage of skilled data engineers right now. So, in this article, I am mentioning 9 skills that you will require to become a successful data engineer and a few resources to start with.


Top 9 Skills to Become a Data Engineer

  1. Programming Languages
  2. SQL Databases
  3. NoSQL Databases
  4. Apache Airflow
  5. Apache Spark
  6. ELK Stack
  7. Hadoop Ecosystem
  8. Apache Kafka
  9. Amazon Redshift


#1: Programming Languages

Programming provides us a way to communicate with machines. Do you need to become the best in programming? Not at all. But you will definitely need to be comfortable with it. You will be required to code the ETL process and build data pipelines.

Data Science Skills - Programming

The following programming languages are the most popular among data engineers:

Python: It is one of the easiest to learn a programming language and has the richest library. I have found Python to be a lot easier to perform machine learning tasks, web scraping, pre-process big data using spark, and also is the default language of airflow.

If you want to learn Python, here is a great free course you can refer to:

Scala: When it comes to data engineering, the spark is one of the most widely used tools and it is written as Scala. Scala is an extension of the Java language. If you are working on a Spark project and want to get the maximum out of the spark framework, Scala is the language you should learn. Some of the spark APIs like GraphX is only available in the Scala language.

Here are some of the recommended resources to get started with:


#2: SQL Databases

You can’t get away from learning about databases when you are aspiring to become a data engineer. In fact, we need to become quite familiar with how to handle databases, how to quickly execute queries, etc. as professionals. There’s just no way around it!

Data Engineer Skills - SQL Databases

SQL databases are relational databases that store data in multiple related tables SQL is a must-have skill for every data professional. Whether you are a data engineer, a Business Intelligence Professional, or a data scientist – you will need Structured Query Language (SQL) in your day to day work.

You should know

  • How to insert, update, and delete records from your database?
  • How to create reports and perform basic analysis using SQL’s aggregate functions?
  • How to perform efficient joins to fetch your data from multiple tables?

Want to get answers to all these questions? Here are some of the best resources to clear your doubts – 


#3: NoSQL Databases

The sheer fact that more than 8,500 Tweets and 900 photos on Instagram are uploaded in just one second blows my mind. we are generating data at an unprecedented pace and scale right now in the form of text, images, logs, videos, etc.

To handle this much amount of data, we need a more advanced database system that can run multiple nodes and can store as well as query a huge amount of data. Now, there are multiple types of NoSQL databases, some of them are highly available and some of them are highly consistent. Some are column-based, some are document-based and some are graph-based.

Data engineer skills - NoSQL Databases

As a data engineer, you should know, how to select the appropriate database for your use-case and how to write optimized queries for these databases. Here are some of the resources that will help you get started with the NoSQL databases.


#4: Apache Airflow

Automation of work plays a key role in any industry and it is one of the quickest ways to reach functional efficiency. Apache Airflow is a must-have tool to automate some tasks so that we do not end in the loop of manually doing the same things again and again.

Apache Airflow

Mostly data engineers have to deal with different workflows like collecting data from multiple databases, pre-process it, and upload it. Consequently, it would be great if our daily tasks just automatically trigger on defined time, and all the processes get executed in order. Apache Airflow is one such tool that can be very helpful for you. Whether you are Data Scientist, Data Engineer, or Software Engineer you will definitely find this tool useful.

You can deep dive into some of these concepts with these clear articles and their examples –


#5: Apache Spark

It is the most effective data processing framework in enterprises today. It’s true that the cost of Spark is high as it requires a lot of RAM for in-memory computation but is still a hot favorite among Data Scientists and Big Data Engineers.


Apache Spark

Organizations that typically relied on Map Reduce-like frameworks are now shifting to the Apache Spark framework. Spark not only performs in-memory computing but it’s 100 times faster than Map Reduce frameworks like Hadoop.

It provides support in multiple languages like R, Python, Java & Scala. It also provides a framework to process structures data, streaming data, graph data. You can also train machine learning models on big data and create ML pipelines.

If you want to learn spark, here are some resources you can refer to –


#6: ELK Stack

It is an amazing collection of three open-source products — Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana.

ELK Stack

ElasticSearch: It is another kind of NoSQL database. It allows you to store, search, and analyze a big volume of data. If the full-text search is a part of your use case, ElasticSearch will be the best fit for your tech stack. It even allows search with fuzzy matching.

Logstash: It is a data collection pipeline tool. It can collect data from almost every resource and makes it available for further use.

Kibana: It is a data visualization tool that can be used to visualize the elasticsearch documents in a variety of charts, tables, and maps.

More than 3000 companies are using ELK stack in their tech stack, including Slack, Udemy, Medium, and Stackoverflow. Here are some of the free resources from where you can start learning ELK Stack.

#7: Hadoop Ecosystem

Hadoop is a complete eco-system of open source projects that provide us the framework to deal with big data.

We know that we are generating data at a ferocious pace and in all kinds of formats is what we call today as Big data. But it is not feasible storing this data on the traditional systems that we have been using for over 40 years. To handle this massive data we need a much more complex framework consisting of not just one, but multiple components handling different operations.

Hadoop Ecosystem

We refer to this framework as Hadoop and together with all its components, we call it the Hadoop Ecosystem. Here are some of the free resources to know more about Hadoop.


#8: Apache Kafka

Tracking, analyzing, and processing real-time data has become a necessity for many businesses these days. Needless to say, handling streaming data sets is becoming one of the most crucial and sought skills for Data Engineers and Scientists.

Apache Kafka

We know that some insights are more valuable just after an event happened and they tend to lose their value with time. Think of any sporting event for example – we want to see instant analysis, instant statistical insights, to truly enjoy the game at that moment, right?

For example, let’s say you’re watching a thrilling tennis match between Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic.

The game is tied at 2 sets all and you want to understand the percentages of serves Federer has returned on his backhand as compared to his career average. Would it make sense to see that a few days later or at that moment before the deciding set begins?

Kafka is a much-needed skill in the industry and will help you land your next data engineer role if you can master it. Here are some of the resources that you can refer to:


#9 Amazon Redshift

AWS is Amazon’s cloud computing platform. It has the largest market share of any cloud platform. Redshift is a data warehouse system, a relational database designed for query and analysis. You can query petabytes of structured and semi-structured data easily with Redshift.

Amazon Redshift

Redshift powers analytical workloads for Fortune 500 companies, startups, and everything in between. Most of the data engineering job descriptions specifically list Redshift as a requirement.

Here are some of the resources to get started with the Amazon Redshift.


End Notes

It is exciting to be a data engineer. A lot of advancements await in the future. In this article, we discussed the 9 most important skills needed to become a successful data engineer.

I recommend you go through the above mentioned resources to build the said skills to be a professional data engineer.

Do you have any other skills that you wish were on this list to become a data engineer? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author


Ideas have always excited me. The fact that we could dream of something and bring it to reality fascinates me. Computer Science provides me a window to do exactly that. I love programming and use it to solve problems and a beginner in the field of Data Science.

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