Data Engineer Tünde Alkemade about her Work
What does it mean to be a data engineer and how does it differ from being a software engineer or being a data scientist? Tünde Alkemade, Data Engineer at GoDataDriven, explains her role and what it means if we refer to a day in the life of a data engineer. She is working with cutting edge big data platforms and read her input for 'The Project of a Data Engineer'.
Puzzling Until a Solution Pops Up
Sharing her knowledge and continuously developing herself are two of Tünde Alkemade's passions. As a data engineer working for GoDataDriven on a Dutch Railways project, she gets to do both. She says, "I love to puzzle until I find a solution."
Working with big data is challenging. With the latest technologies, there are always bugs and errors that haven’t been solved yet. You have to come up with those solutions on your own, which, a lot of the time means you need to dive deeply into the code of an open source application.
The best thing about working with open source applications is that you can build your own solutions and contribute to the community.
With software packages, you have to work with what you get, so I prefer not to use those. Sometimes, introducing open source software to a client is more challenging, because they’re used to working with a black box. But fortunately, we do convince many of them to use open source software instead.
To the Workshop
I’m one of the lead data engineers in the data and analytics team for the Dutch Railways. I’m responsible for the architecture of the advanced analytics projects. We develop algorithms and deploy models into production. We have to connect data from different sources, and we’re often busy with data wrangling.
One of my projects is for the maintenance department of the Dutch Railways. They use sensors on trains and alongside the track to investigate whether the compressors of the train are still working correctly. We went to a train maintenance workshop to see where those sensors are located, and I learned a lot from the train engineers about the different types of trains. We use Spark for building the algorithms. I’m now working on creating a continuous integration and delivery pipeline and making sure that Python packages are used where needed.
As the tech lead for projects, often I'm responsible for the migration of data to a new, modern data platform. During this process, I make sure we share our knowledge with the client’s team. We’re agile, and we implement the same way of working with our clients. So, our method includes a daily standup where we discuss what we’ve done and still will do.
The goal is to make sure the client’s team can work independently after we have left.
GoDataDriven is a great employer. I can speak my mind freely there, and with the customers as well. I can also ask my colleagues for help whenever I need to, and we figure out the solution together. We use different communication channels like Basecamp and Slack to keep each other up to date. I have been working at here for five years now. Before that, I worked at a company where I mainly did software quality assessments. I find it more challenging to work on the actual implementation of new applications. I prefer building software and seeing how it is used to impact the company.
In Romania, where I was born, there is more gender parity in IT. Here in the Netherlands, I am only one of a few women in this sector. I’m okay with working in a so-called “man’s” world, but there should be more women working in IT. We need to reach out to young girls and identify why they are not choosing to pursue a career in IT, and then fix that.
Since my profession is also my hobby, I also work outside business hours. I spend a lot of time reading different blogs and books to stay up to date and build my knowledge. My husband also works in IT, so we're used to talking about work together. Although, nowadays our conversations are a bit more about diapers and baby-food, since we have a very sweet one-year-old, hahaha.
I prefer building software and seeing how it is used to impact the company.