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I am a Data Engineer. Been working over 4 years in big corporations and government organization. My main tools are Microsoft SQL Server, Integration, Analysis and Reporting Services, R and Tableau.

Lately I decided to move into small organizations, startups and maybe even to freelance, and I wonder:

  1. Is there even a need for dedicated data people in small places? My assumption is that they either don't have enough data to govern and draw conclusion, or due to small budget, prefer to outsource all into the cloud.
  2. What data tools startups and small organizations mostly use? My guess it'll be an open source equivalent to those I use, but which in specific?
  3. Is it even possible to freelance with databases? From my experience organizations are very protective and discreet about their data, and prefer to give access only to their own workers.

Would really like to hear your experience.

EDIT: I am not a software developer by any means. I don't know any coding language. I am just an Engineer who works with databases and SQL.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because its not about navigating the workplace as describe in the help center – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 23 '18 at 14:39
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    imo this is a perfectly valid question. – Jim Horn Oct 23 '18 at 15:28
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Let me answer like that: If you take out games, and very small isolated apps, then EVERY app I worked on in the last 25 years used a database somewhere. My< job now is to write the backend API for a website - odata vs SQL - and it will keep me busy around another 4 years. THere are TONS of them. Startups have databases.

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    Yes, but as you said yourself, you are a back-end developer, not a dedicated data person. I am not a coder/developer by any means (I don't know any coding language), I'm just an Engineer who works with sql and data. – Riddle-Master Oct 23 '18 at 16:51
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The size of the organization is probably less important than the nature of the organization.

I've worked at companies with ~40 employees but terabytes upon terabytes of data in databases, where someone with the skills you describe was an absolute essential because data was the very lifeblood of the organization. Conversely I've been at other organizations with hundreds/thousands of employees who despite having databases in some aspects of the business weren't particularly focused on that and having such a specialist would have been an unnecessary expense.

What data tools startups and small organizations mostly use? My guess it'll be an open source equivalent to those I use, but which in specific?

For what it's worth I've only worked in one organization where the DB stack wasn't primarily SQL Server - and that was a tiny webshop many, many years ago who used MySQL. But that might have more to do with the fact that as someone who is experienced and specialized onto MS technologies (both in development and databases) I naturally gravitate to organizations that use it.

Is it even possible to freelance with databases? From my experience organizations are very protective and discreet about their data, and prefer to give access only to their own workers.

It certainly is.. look at the success of organizations such as Brent Ozar Unlimited that's exactly what they do!

Yes organizations want to take steps to protect their data - but that's what NDAs and tightly worded contracts are for.

  • That is a very cool site! – Riddle-Master Oct 23 '18 at 16:56
  • @riddle-master very much so! I've made extensive use of their toolkit over the years, I consider it an essential when managing SQL boxes. I believe that some the the BO team are active on DBA SE as well. – motosubatsu Oct 23 '18 at 17:13
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Question #1 - Need yes, dedicated often no unless the database is a key part of their business. When I was freelancing I did a lot of work with small-ish companies, and the hazards were they would often leave you alone for two months and then want a month of development work done in a week. And some of them had payment terms of 'Net/whenever we have the cash to pay you'.

Also 'outsourcing to the cloud' doesn't play with development needs, as that's hosting needs. I've seen a few that would go the rentacoder.com and offshore and always regretted that decision.

Question #2 - Mostly whichever ones you bring with you, although they'll have to have the database. Don't expect much as far as tools. And if the startup executives are not technology people then they'll be looking for you to tell them what tools are needed.

Question #3 - Yes I freelanced for five years, and didn't have a problem with this. If they cared that much about their data they make you sign NDA's / confidentiality agreements.

For some more info on your questions check out my witty article Contracting: How to go out on your own

Good luck.

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