Data Engineers Are From Mars, Data Scientists are From Venus

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March 28, 2023

What’s the difference between data scientists and data engineers?

According to the 1992 bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, most relationship problems between men and women are caused by fundamental psychological differences. This book introduced a now-famous metaphor that men and women come from different planets.

In many ways, data scientists and data engineers differ even more!

Data scientists must discover hidden trends, predict future outcomes, and come up with new solutions. According to the “no free lunch theorem,” the optimal solution cannot be determined in advance. To find a suitable solution, they must experiment with data cleaning, feature engineering, algorithm tuning, and decision rules. They must act fast in a rapidly changing world, or their solutions will be obsolete before they are released.

Data engineers, on the other hand, are responsible for designing and managing data warehouses that are secure, reliable, scalable, and available. They must ensure data quality, efficiency, and reliability, while also keeping costs down. Once a design decision has been made, it is difficult to reverse or change it. Hence, they only load data into the warehouse once its purpose is defined.

Scientists rapidly experiment, while engineers carefully design and maintain.

The two often work together closely on data projects. Yet their working paradigms differ fundamentally. What’s been your experience as either a data scientist or data engineer?

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