What is data modelling and the main data modelling skills?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Data modelling roles are increasing in demand in the data science industry, making data modelling skill sets a significant advantage to any STEM CV. The benefits of data modelling are that it is dynamic, flexible, technology-agnostic and future-proof. Not only are these skills needed for data analysis, but data modelling is the foundation to collate interpretable data that can help make important business decisions. In this article, we explore what data modelling skills are, why you need them, how it helps in your role, review the requirements of the position and career outlook.

The importance of data modelling skills

Data modelling skills can help determine how an organisation generates and uses its data and how different data points connect. As this has a significant impact on a company, it's important that it makes crucial decisions about data modelling early on. Many software applications utilise data modelling processes to ensure customer satisfaction with an easy and smooth customer experience. This ensures that they adapt the data that is held by the organisation in a way that suits the needs of the customer.

Data modelling is vital for a Big Data project to succeed once they take the data into a data hub. An important part of this process is to ensure you still organise and make sense of it to communicate it to other people. There is no better way to do this than data handling.

What is data modelling?

Data modelling is the process of measuring and evaluating how a company deals with data flow in and of its database management system. As data modelling ensures there is space for your data, it's a highly important part of many analytics projects. Simply, data modelling is the process of managing data within a company.

Roles and responsibilities of a data modeller

If you have an interest in a role as a data modeller, then you're likely to be responsible for database design. Depending on the specific needs of the business, your focus could include minimising data redundancy, facilitating data retrieval and improving data migration. Other responsibilities may include:

  • Implementing IT and business data requirements by using designs and data strategies across a wide selection of platforms.

  • Working with application teams to build data flows and implement a range of data strategies.

  • Identifying the infrastructure, interfaces and architecture to data tools.

  • Being hands-on with the design, modelling and configuration.

  • Working to address project needs and articulate issues within the project.

Related: Top data analyst interview questions and example answers

What is the data modelling process?

The data modelling process acts to support current business models and generate a database. This includes three main schemas: logical, conceptual and physical. While you can design data models using several methods, there are two well-known and proven methodologies that produce the most efficient model, namely the bottom-up and top-down data modelling processes.

The bottom-up data modelling process

Also referred to as the integration model, bottom-up models use a design via re-engineering efforts. It often starts by using current structure forms for underlying and data reports. The bottom-up data process might not be ideal for data sharing, as they're created without reference to other aspects of the company.

The top-down data modelling process

Created by gathering information from people with adequate expertise in the field, the top-down data process serves as a significant reference point. This data processing model might not make use of all available entities. Which process you use depends on why you're gathering this information in the first place and what datasets you're working with.

Becoming a data modeller

The skills needed as a data modeller differ from the skills needed for systems administration and programming. Data modellers have technical expertise and a good grasp of logical thinking. This includes the following skills:

  • user communication

  • abstract thinking

  • internal communication

  • conceptual design

Based on this, an individual who doesn't have the necessary knowledge, yet can think abstractly and conceptually, may make for a good data modeller. Besides the skills mentioned above, data modellers have excellent communication skills as they balance and translate user requirements.

Requirements to become a data modeller

Most people who are looking for data modellers ask for candidates who have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field such as computer science, mathematics or information science. Not only are these the most ideal degrees for a data modeller, but they also make the candidate desirable. Some employers could also want data modellers who have completed several courses in business management. Demonstrate the following skills before you pursue a career in data modelling:

  • Digital logic: Otherwise known as Boolean logic, this system helps simplify challenging processes and issues into 'true or false' and 'yes or no' values to create input and output operations.

  • Data representation: This involves breaking down challenging information into increments to ensure easier analysis of data and manipulation. For example, coding data into numbers.

  • Computer architecture and organisation: A firm understanding of architecture (rules that allow the interface between software and hardware), logic and organisation (the means of structuring a system) are key to making the most of performance.

  • Responsive to different modelling methods: Like all technology, data modelling is ever-evolving. This includes data sources and infrastructure so the ability to adapt and respond to new modelling methods ensures that data modellers stay up to date.

  • Memory architecture: Data modellers have an understanding of representing, coding and storing data for future retrieval. Memory architecture involves the way in which a computer's cells stores binary data so, the key elements are durability, speed and cost-effectiveness all while maintaining the integrity of the data.

  • Familiarity with several modelling tools: There are numerous data modelling tools to work with to define and structure data for the best results.

  • SQL language: Standing for ‘structured query language', SQL is vital when becoming a data modeller as it's used to manipulate and access data. As it's easily portable, it's almost a universal language used by querying databases.

  • Experience using a selection of database systems: This helps data modellers manage a challenging data environment.

  • Excellent communication skills: Data modellers have excellent communication skills to interact with people of all levels in a business to promote growth. This can be rather difficult, but it's vital that a data modeller can convey technical information to everyone, regardless of their understanding, while respecting business politics.

A good combination of these hard and soft skills could potentially benefit anyone looking to successfully break into this field.

Career development as a data modeller

Once a data modeller begins their training, they're assigned to someone with experience in the field as a mentor. The mentor may have many years of experience in data modelling and have taken part in several training programmes as a trainer and a learner. The mentor is very familiar with the techniques for data modelling. They also know about the range of systems used by specific organisations and why those get used.

The experience a mentor comes with allows the data modeller to learn and apply their skills with a new company or organisation. There are opportunities for advancement for data modellers in a range of organisations. This happens over time. Eventually, they could lead their own department and may work to become an IT firm manager that works in data modelling.

Related: How much does a data analyst make? (With qualifications)

Career outlook as a data modeller

A data modeller has to work closely with architects and data analysts to recognise the key features and dimensions to support the requirements set out by a company. The data modeller manages and maintains the quality and integrity of the data, besides having domain knowledge. Many data handlers begin their career as data analysts, then move their way up the hierarchy with their accomplishments and hard work. There are many opportunities to learn and prove themselves as analysts.

Related: How to write a data analyst cover letter (with examples)

What are the salary expectations of a data modeller?

A data modeller can expect to earn around £68,670 per year, according to the national average. This figure may depend on previous experience, employer and location. Salary expectations and possible benefits are important things to keep in mind when looking for a new job and you might want to consider it a key part of the decision-making process.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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