Three 'Must Have' Criteria for a Hiring Data Integration Specialist

Loraine Lawson

I've written about integration for more than two years, but I have to say in that whole time, I've seldom seen posts about how to hire qualified integration staff.


Isn't that odd? Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places, but you would think-given how critical integration is both to IT and the business-more people would write about this.


To be honest, the issue hadn't even occurred to me until I stumbled across this recent post by Tod McKenna about how to hire a qualified data integration specialist-or, more specifically, an ETL developer or architect. McKenna refers to these staff members as "ETLers."


He argues that a good ETLer "needs to have a healthy mix of programming talent, an approach discipline, and tool knowledge." While knowing a tool is important, he notes, when it comes to senior members of your data integration team, you might be better off with a trained database administrator or software developer who understands the value of keeping projects on time and within budget.


To help ensure you're getting a well-rounded ETLer, McKenna suggests you look for these three types of expertise:

  1. A technologist or programmer who can step in with hand-coding when your ETL tool falls short.
  2. A theorist, who knows data integration best practices and a proven data integration methodology.
  3. A tool specialist, who knows the nuances of your tool. To me, this seems the less critical of the three, since you can always train someone on a particular tool. McKenna even acknowledges "a solid programmer who has a great understanding of ETL theory will be able to get by using most tools with little learning curve." But, he points out, if the ETLer doesn't know your tool, it can cost you in time and rewrites. So, that's something to consider.


You might also want to check read the ETL Developer/Data Integration Specialist Job Description and the Data Warehousing ETL Checklist, which are available for free download in the IT Business Edge Knowledge Network.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 8, 2009 6:58 PM Chris Ames Chris Ames  says:

Loraine, at first your advice seems like "simple common sense" but with a little bit of retrospect the message is clear and very well stated.

I like analogies so here is my take on what you have presented; in the medical field if you have a heart defect you want a Dr. that has "bed side manner" aka theorist, is technically proficient about the operation of the heart aka technologist and has steady hands aka tool specialist. Without someone that has these rounded skills you would be remiss to trust your life in their hands.

Ok. so what we do is not heart surgery, but the impacts that a proficient ETLer can have on an organization are close if you consider the datainformation traveling through an organization as the life blood of business. 


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