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Is data modeling a career path for you?

By Alan Earls

Interested in getting closer to the business issues that drive storage? Data modeling may be a career path for you. Anne Marie Smith, who specializes in data modeling, is an adjunct professor of management information systems at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ and manager of information management services for the Sycamore Group a consultancy in Philadelphia. interviewed her regarding opportunities in data modeling. What is data modeling?

Smith: A data model is a logical representation of the information needs and business rules of an enterprise. The logical data model is an essential building block in the construction of business applications, both traditional and for decision support activities. Data modeling is an art, as well as a science. As an art, it is accomplished in steps, with much discussion among the participants, and with different approaches leading to the same results.

Users, data analysts and database designers/administrators all have roles to fulfill in the modeling process. Is this a career option for storage professionals?

Smith: Yes, although most data modelers come from other disciplines. Data administration and its sub disciplines: data modeling, metadata analysis, data analysis, is a relative newcomer to the field of data processing. It is only within the last 15 years that the industry has given serious consideration to the logical management and control of information as a corporate resource. What skills do you need to do data modeling?

Smith: Data modeling training does not assume much technical systems experience; in other words, an IS novice can become an excellent logical data modeler with no programming or systems administration experience. Basic requirements for a logical modeling candidate student would include the proven ability to think abstractly and conceptually, gather requirements from vague and often conflicting testimony, display logical thought processes and demonstrate excellent oral and written communication skills. What classes or books exist on the subject? Which are best?

Smith: Courses of varying intensity and knowledge transfer are offered through consulting companies and through training companies. Some universities offer distance learning in data management or offer data management courses as part of their IS curriculum.

Good books on the subject can be found: The Data Modeling Handbook by Michael Reingruber, A Practical Guide to Logical Data Modeling, by George Tillman (my favorite but not currently in print by McGraw-Hill), and Data Modeling, by Graeme Simsion, The International Data Management Association (DAMA) has an educational services function, where recognized vendors and instructors can display their course outlines and overviews of the programs in a central location. To learn more about the DAMA educational services "clearing house", visit the DAMA International web site at

Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.

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