What is Analytics Engineering?!

“It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits.” -John Maynard Keynes


As an Analytics Engineer, you may hear this a lot: ‘Wait, so you just make dashboards and reports, right?’ It’s common but often based off a deep misunderstanding about the analytics process. Let me attempt to clarify.

As an Analytics Engineer, you are responsible for moving the analytics and data processes into the layer above the data warehouse. Essentially, your task is to create something from the basic set of data and shape it into something both actionable and useful.  Naturally, this task lends itself to a broad and narrow set of skills. And it is probably why people are so quick to assume you just ‘make reports and dashboards.’ They see the result of the work, not the process that created that report and dashboard. They did not see you toil with a dataset too wide and at the wrong granularity. They did not see you automate the ETL of said table into an aggregated table with security, alerting and logging baked into the process. And, after all that, they did not see you worry about font, color, and styling of the dashboard. Because the effects of a terrible design are catastrophic for your message.

An Analytics Engineer must be, primarily, a technologist and thinker. With the sheer volume of options available (throughout the Analytics and Data layers), context and task shifting are an understatement. It’s common to spend most of the day at the data (SQL) layer, while spending a smaller portion of time creating and implementing a dashboard tool. And it’s that balance of time which allows for functional dashboards.

One vital piece that is worth mentioning (and possibility elaborating on) is how this field is not solely locked into one technology or stack (for example: LAMP stack, cloud vendors or analytics tools); rather, this field should be able to use all the tools and should leverage its own, more abstract, stack unrelated to a technology. So, today it might be MySQL but tomorrow it could be Redshift or the like. Therein rests the challenge: being able to adapt to the tool at hand without missing a beat.