Career Development

Data Engineering Projects for Beginners

In the era where every click, swipe, and interaction translates into data, the role of the data engineer has emerged as crucial. Data engineer profession that has rapidly ascended to the forefront of the tech industry, celebrated for its complexity, demand, and the pivotal role it plays in leveraging data for business success.

For those venturing into the field, engaging in a variety of data engineering projects is invaluable. These projects can range from constructing data pipelines that efficiently process and transport data across systems, to implementing big data processing frameworks that can handle the scale and complexity of modern data loads. Through these projects, beginners gain practical experience that is critically complemented by theoretical knowledge, bridging the gap between learning and doing.

But how does one navigate the vast array of projects available, and more importantly, how can you ensure that the projects you undertake are impactful, relevant, and conducive to your growth as a data engineer? This is where guided learning experiences, tailored specifically for data engineers, come into play. 

Through engaging with structured, real-world projects, aspiring data engineers can transform their theoretical knowledge into practical expertise. This hands-on experience not only solidifies their understanding of key data engineering principles but also prepares them to tackle the challenges of the data-driven world head-on. It’s a journey of continuous learning and application, where each project brings you one step closer to becoming the data engineer that the digital world relies on.

Crafting Your First Data Engineering Project

Crafting your first data engineering project can be a thrilling yet intimidating endeavor. As you stand at the beginning of this journey, equipped with theoretical knowledge and a drive to apply it, remember that every expert was once a beginner. The road ahead is paved with challenges, learning opportunities, and milestones that will shape your path as a data engineer. Here are some pieces of advice to help you navigate this journey, ensuring a rewarding experience as you embark on your first project.

1. Choose a project that resonates

Select a project that resonates with you personally. Whether it’s analyzing data from your favorite sports, understanding social media trends, or exploring financial markets, working on something you’re passionate about will keep you motivated. This intrinsic motivation is crucial, especially when you encounter obstacles.

2. Start small and expand gradually

Begin with a manageable scope. It’s better to start small and gradually add complexity than to be overwhelmed from the start. A simple yet complete project is more rewarding and educational than an ambitious, unfinished one. Early wins will boost your confidence and fuel your desire to tackle more complex challenges.

3. Leverage Online Resources and Communities

Make the most of online tutorials, forums, and documentation. The data engineering community is vast and supportive, with countless resources available to help you. Platforms like Stack Overflow, GitHub, and specific data engineering communities can provide invaluable insights and solutions to the challenges you might face.  Data Engineer Academy, for instance, not only offers comprehensive courses but also provides hands-on coaching from experienced data engineers. What sets structured learning apart is the curated curriculum that guides you through the complexities of data engineering, ensuring that you build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills.

4. Document Everything

Keep a detailed record of your project, including the problems you encounter and how you solve them. This documentation is not only a reference for your future projects but also a showcase of your learning journey for potential employers or collaborators. It demonstrates your problem-solving ability and your growth as a data engineer.

Data Engineering Project Structure

To efficiently wrangle the code and datasets involved, a systematic organizational framework is essential. This framework serves as your guidepost, ensuring that every piece of your project is just where you need it, when you need it. Here’s how you might structure your project for optimal clarity and functionality.

Configuration Directory (/config): This directory acts as the command center for all setup files necessary for your project’s operation. Here, you’ll store the specifics that help your code interface with the world — be it through connections to databases or keys to unlock APIs. By isolating these elements from your primary code, you make your project modular and adaptable.

Data Repository (/data): Segregated into subdirectories for unaltered (‘/raw’) and refined (‘/processed’) data, this repository safeguards the integrity of your data throughout its transformation. It’s a chronological record of your data’s journey, facilitating both accountability and ease of access.

Documentation Archive (/docs): This archive is your project’s encyclopedia — a comprehensive compilation of all the documentation that narrates the story of your project. From setup instructions to detailed explanations of the inner workings, it’s designed to enlighten both the creators and the users of your project.

ETL Scripts Folder (/etl): Structured into subdivisions for extraction (‘/extract’), transformation (‘/transform’), and loading (‘/load’), this folder is the operational core of your data workflow. Each script housed here is a cog in the machine, meticulously crafted to ensure that data flows smoothly from source to storage.

Pipeline Scripts Directory (/pipelines): Within this directory, you script the symphony of your data flow. It’s where you choreograph the sequence and execution of various ETL tasks, ensuring that every data note hits the right beat.

Source Code Haven (/src): The primary vault for all your project’s code — this haven is meticulously categorized to store data processing (‘/data’), utility (‘/utils’), and validation (‘/validation’) scripts. It’s the blueprint of your project, ensuring that each function and process is easily retrievable and understandable.

Testing Suite (/tests): Serving as your project’s checkpoint, this suite contains all the tests that challenge your code’s integrity.

Data Engineering Projects Structure 

Data Collection and Database Design

Let’s unpack how these core components are typically implemented in beginner-level data engineering projects.

For a beginner’s project, the process of data collection should be straightforward yet effective. Beginners should start with accessible data sources that do not require complex extraction methods.

  • Utilize Public APIs

APIs from social media platforms, open government databases, or weather services are excellent starting points. They often come with clear documentation and allow practice with JSON or XML data formats, which are common in data engineering.

  • Web Scraping Basics

Simple web scraping, using Python libraries like Beautiful Soup or Scrapy, can introduce you to the concepts of data extraction from HTML. Projects like collecting data from a blog or a news website can be good practice.

  • Data Storage Considerations

Initially, storing data in flat files like CSV or JSON may be suitable. As you progress, you might shift to more robust solutions like SQL databases or even explore NoSQL options for unstructured data.

Database Design for Beginners’ Projects

When it comes to database design, beginners should aim to understand relational databases first, as they are widely used and have a lot of educational resources available.

  • Start with SQLite

It’s a lightweight database that doesn’t require a server setup, making it ideal for small projects and for learning SQL queries.

  • Model Simple Relationships

Design a database schema that captures simple relationships, like a blog and its posts or a store and its products. This helps in understanding table relationships and primary/foreign key concepts.

  • Normalization Practice

Engage in exercises to normalize your database, which teaches you how to reduce redundancy and improve data integrity.

  • Use GUI Database Design Tools

Tools like MySQL Workbench or pgAdmin for PostgreSQL can help visualize database design and are more beginner-friendly.

Data Analysis with SQL 

SQL’s primary function is to interact with a database to perform operations like selecting, inserting, updating, and deleting data. For data analysis, the focus is on the selection and aggregation of data to discover trends, identify patterns, and inform decision-making.

Structuring SQL Data Analysis in a Project

Before delving into data analysis, clearly outline what questions you want to answer. These objectives will direct your SQL queries and ensure your analysis is goal-oriented.

While it’s often the role of a data engineer to prepare data for analysis, understanding the structure of your data is crucial. Familiarize yourself with the database schema, data types, and relationships between tables.

Write SQL queries to extract the data needed to meet your objectives. Begin with basic SELECT statements to retrieve relevant data and use JOIN clauses to combine rows from multiple tables.

See below for a SQL interview question from Microsoft:

Select the ID of the customer who has made at least 4 purchases with strictly increasing prices.


1AnalyticsAzure Databricks1000

Ensure your queries are optimized for performance, particularly when dealing with large datasets. This may involve creating indexes on tables, refining JOIN operations, or simplifying complex queries. Data analysis is often an iterative process. Refine your SQL queries based on initial findings to explore deeper or to adjust the focus as the project objectives evolve.

Document each query and its purpose. Maintaining a record of your analysis process and findings is important for transparency and can serve as a reference for future analyses.

Exploring Data Modeling Projects

Data modeling projects provides a concrete way to understand and apply theoretical knowledge to real-world applications. Let’s explore a project centered around Shopify, a popular e-commerce platform. This project will focus on designing a simplified data model that could underpin the core functionalities of a Shopify-like platform, including handling products, collections, orders, and customers.

Project Overview: Simplified Shopify Data Model

The objective is to create a relational database model that supports product listings, product collections (categories), customer information, and order management.

Entities and Attributes:

  1. Product: Represents items available for purchase. Attributes: ProductID (PK), Name, Description, Price, InventoryCount, CollectionID (FK).
  1. Collection: A grouping of products, similar to categories. Attributes: CollectionID (PK), CollectionName.
  1. Customer: Users who purchase products. Attributes: CustomerID (PK), FullName, Email, Address.
  1. Order: Records of purchases made by customers. Attributes: OrderID (PK), CustomerID (FK), OrderDate, TotalAmount, Status.
  1. OrderItem: The specifics of each order, linking products to orders. Attributes: OrderItemID (PK), OrderID (FK), ProductID (FK), Quantity, PriceEach.


  • A Collection can include multiple Products (one-to-many).
  • A Customer can have multiple Orders (one-to-many).
  • An Order can involve multiple Products through OrderItem (many-to-many).

Products can belong to only one Collection, but a Collection can encompass multiple Products.

SQL Schema Creation:

CREATE TABLE Collection (


    CollectionName VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL




    Name VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,

    Description TEXT,

    Price DECIMAL(10, 2) NOT NULL,

    InventoryCount INT NOT NULL,

    CollectionID INT,

    FOREIGN KEY (CollectionID) REFERENCES Collection(CollectionID)




    FullName VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,


    Address TEXT NOT NULL




    CustomerID INT,

    OrderDate DATE NOT NULL,

    TotalAmount DECIMAL(10, 2) NOT NULL,

    Status VARCHAR(50),

    FOREIGN KEY (CustomerID) REFERENCES Customer(CustomerID)




    OrderID INT,

    ProductID INT,

    Quantity INT NOT NULL,

    PriceEach DECIMAL(10, 2) NOT NULL,


    FOREIGN KEY (ProductID) REFERENCES Product(ProductID)


Implementing the Model in a Shopify Context:

For a Shopify-like platform, this data model provides the groundwork to:

  • List products along with their descriptions, prices, and available inventory.
  • Organize products into collections for easier browsing.
  • Register and manage customer information, including contact details and addresses.
  • Process orders, track their status, and maintain details about items purchased in each order.

Expanding the Model:

As you become more comfortable with the basics, you might consider adding features such as product variants (sizes, colors), customer reviews, and more detailed order tracking (shipping information, delivery estimates). Each addition would involve modifying the existing schema to introduce new tables or extend current ones with additional attributes.

Practical Application:

To further your understanding, consider populating the database with sample data and writing SQL queries to perform common e-commerce operations, such as:

  • Retrieving all products within a specific collection.
  • Calculating the total sales for a given period.
  • Identifying customers with the highest number of orders.

Cloud-Based Data Analysis with AWS

Cloud-based data analysis has revolutionized how organizations store, process, and analyze vast amounts of data. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a comprehensive suite of services that enable powerful and scalable data analysis solutions. Overview of how AWS can be used for cloud-based data analysis, highlighting key services and their applications.

AWS Services for Data Analysis

Amazon S3 is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. It’s often used as the primary data lake for storing vast amounts of unstructured data due to its virtually unlimited scalability.

Use Case: Storing raw data such as logs, raw text data, images, and videos for future analysis.

Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching, and backups.

Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale. It’s a fully managed, serverless, and multi-region database with built-in security and in-memory caching.

Use Case: Storing structured data that needs to be quickly accessed and queried for real-time analytics or transactional applications.

Amazon Redshift is a fully managed, petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud. You can start with just a few hundred gigabytes of data and scale to a petabyte or more. It’s designed for high-performance analysis and integrates well with data from S3, RDS, and DynamoDB.

Use Case: Performing complex queries on large sets of structured data for business intelligence and reporting.

Amazon Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena is serverless, so there is no infrastructure to manage, and you pay only for the queries you run.

Use Case: Running ad-hoc queries on data stored in S3 without the need for complex ETL processes.

Amazon QuickSight is a fast, cloud-powered business intelligence service that makes it easy to deliver insights to everyone in your organization. QuickSight lets you easily create and publish interactive dashboards that include ML-powered insights.

Use Case: Visualizing data analysis results and creating interactive reports for business stakeholders.

Showcasing Projects and Building Your Portfolio

A well-crafted portfolio not only highlights your technical skills but also demonstrates your ability to solve real-world problems. DE Academy create checklist with advice on how to effectively showcase projects and build your portfolio as an aspiring data engineer.

  1. Understand what you aim to achieve with your portfolio. Whether it’s landing a job, seeking freelance opportunities, or applying for advanced studies, your goals should shape the content and structure of your portfolio.
  2. Include a variety of projects that showcase a broad skill set. Projects involving data collection, database design, ETL processes, data analysis, and even machine learning models can demonstrate your versatility as a data engineer.
  3. Choose projects that challenge you and allow for creative solutions. Complex data modeling projects or innovative uses of data visualization tools can make your portfolio stand out.
  4. Don’t hesitate to include projects you’ve undertaken on your own or as part of an academy capstone. These projects can reflect your passion and initiative in the field of data engineering.
  5. Organize your portfolio so that it’s easy to navigate. A clear, logical structure helps viewers find relevant information quickly.
  6. Create a dedicated page for each project. Include an overview, objectives, technologies used, challenges faced, and the outcomes. Visual aids like diagrams, code snippets, and screenshots enhance understanding and engagement.
  7. For each project, narrate the story from conception to completion. Highlight your problem-solving process, decisions made, and lessons learned. This approach adds depth to your technical showcase.
  8. Clearly list the technologies, programming languages, and tools used in each project. This not only showcases your technical skills but also helps potential employers match your expertise with their needs.
  9. Provide links to code samples or GitHub repositories. Ensure your code is well-documented and organized, as it reflects your professionalism and attention to detail.
  10. Before finalizing your portfolio, seek feedback from mentors, or professionals in the field. Constructive criticism can help polish your portfolio to professional standards.

FAQs for Data Engineering Beginners

Q: Why Should Beginners Work on Data Engineering Projects?

A: Working on projects allows beginners to apply theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios, helping to solidify understanding and improve technical skills. Projects also provide tangible evidence of one’s abilities and are crucial for building a portfolio that can open up job opportunities.

Q: How Do I Choose a Project as a Beginner?

A: Start with something that aligns with your interests or solves a problem you’re curious about. Consider projects that are achievable with your current skill level, yet challenging enough to push you to learn more. Examples include creating a personal budget tracker, analyzing social media data, or building a simple recommendation system.

Q: Can I Work on Projects Without Access to Big Data?

A: Absolutely. Many valuable data engineering principles can be practiced with small datasets. Focus on the techniques of data collection, cleaning, transformation, and analysis. There are numerous public datasets available that are suitable for beginners and do not require big data infrastructure.

Q: What Tools Do I Need to Start With Data Engineering Projects?

A: Start with open-source tools and platforms. Python for programming, PostgreSQL or MySQL for relational databases, MongoDB for NoSQL databases, and Apache Spark for big data processing are all great choices. Many cloud providers offer free tiers or trials (like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure) that are sufficient for beginner projects.

Q: What Is Data Engineer Academy Coaching?

A: Data Engineer Academy personalized training program designed to equip aspiring data engineers with the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to succeed in the field. The program combines one-on-one mentorship, hands-on projects, and a curriculum that’s tailored to match your individual learning pace and career goals.

Q: How Does Personalized Training Work?

A: Upon enrollment, you’ll undergo an initial assessment to gauge your current skill level and discuss your career objectives. Based on this assessment, a personalized learning path will be created for you. This path includes a mix of theoretical learning, practical projects, and regular mentorship sessions tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Q: Is There Support for Job Placement?

A: Yes. Apart from technical training, the program offers resume workshops, interview preparation sessions, and portfolio reviews. We also leverage our network in the industry to highlight potential job opportunities for our graduates.


In wrapping up our exploration of data engineering projects for beginners, it’s evident that embarking on this path is not just about acquiring technical skills — it’s about a continuous learning and discovery.

If you’re ready to take your first step or the next step in your data engineering career, the Data Engineer Academy is here to guide you through. Our personalized training, mentorship from industry experts, and hands-on projects are designed to give you a competitive edge in the field. Get starterd for free!