Becoming a Power BI Developer can lead to a lucrative and rewarding career path, but what exactly does a Power BI Developer do on a daily basis? We’ll explain in detail what a typical day looks like for a Power BI Developer along with the education, skills, and training to get started and be successful.
As organizations increasingly turn to process automation to alleviate staffing shortages while collecting exponentially more data to support decision making, the demand for skilled Power BI developers has surged.
Let’s take a look first at what Power BI is, why businesses value it and then explain the essential skill sets, relevant certifications, and what it takes to excel as a Power BI developer.
Let’s jump in!
Table of Contents
Understanding the Importance of Power BI
To get started, it’s important to know what Power BI is at a high level, and why businesses value it. For the last couple of decades, business managers have made most of their decisions based on information that’s consolidated and formatted in Excel Spreadsheets or printed on sheets of paper.
As the amount of data and the number of people requesting data to make decisions has grown, it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with the demands of combining, formatting, and presenting data in a way that’s meaningful to each different manager who wants to view things in a slightly different way.
Microsoft’s Power BI and other business intelligence tools were developed to help solve these issues.
Why Power BI Beats Static Reports
Static reports, or ones that don’t change without someone manually updating them have their limitations. People have to manually updated them with new info, format them, and send e-mail it. Power BI aims to solve the time consuming part of these. In relation to Excel, the most common business software for reporting Power BI has several advantages.
- Advanced Data Visualization – Power BI offers more dynamic and interactive reports allowing managers to drill down, filter, and explore data on demand allowing for personalized views.
- Real-Time Data Processing – Power BI can ingest live data and present it eliminating the need for people to run reports, consolidate them, and manually send them to management.
- Ease of Sharing and Collaboration: Dashboards and reports can be easily shared and accessed by multiple users in a secure way.
- Integration with Multiple Data Sources: Power BI can seamlessly integrate with various databases and cloud sources, unlike Excel which has limitations in handling large datasets or diverse data sources.
The following video from Microsoft provides an overview of the Power BI platform and highlights some of what the product enables.
With a base understanding of what Power BI can do, let’s look at what it takes for a developer to create interactive dashboards that automatically update.
What Does a Power BI Developer Do?
Power BI Developers are the people behind converting raw data into reports and dashboards. It’s a unique blend of skillsets that involve analytics, data transformation, graphic design, and communication typically with a decent understand of varies functions of businesses.
A Day in the Life of a Power BI Developer
A typical day for a Power BI developer might look something like the following:
- Morning Check-ins – Starting the day with a team meeting to discuss project statuses and priorities.
- Data Gathering and Analysis – Connecting to data sources, gathering data, performing preliminary analysis, and collaborating with IT or Data Engineering teams to understand various data sources.
- Report Creation and Visualization – Developing and refining reports and dashboards. Presenting information with clean and compelling visualizations that business users want to engage with.
- Problem-Solving and Debugging – Identifying and solving issues in Power BI reports or data discrepancies.
- Collaboration with Stakeholders – Meeting with business users to understand their needs and gather feedback on reports and dashboards.
The mix of each one of these actions can vary greatly depending on the organization and how mature their business intelligence initiatives are. For example, companies that are fairly new to Power BI might not have many structured data sources, so a developer could spend more time gathering data and prepping it to go into a report. More mature organizations with highly structured data warehouses might have a BI developer spend more time on visualizations or working with managers to adjust or fix existing reports.
Another way to look at it, is to consider the challenges that a Power BI Developer might face.
Daily Challenges for a Power BI Developer
The following are some illustrations of things that might de-rail your normal routine and can become more time consuming than you might expect, depending on the organization.
- Data Accuracy and Integrity – Ensuring the data used in reports is accurate and up-to-date.
- Performance Optimization – Re-writing queries so report refreshes are faster or optimize to minimize the cost of storing and transferring large amounts of data.
- User Training and Support – Assisting end-users in understanding and using Power BI and supporting business changes that require updates of existing reports.
- Fixing Broken Dashboards – Ideally this should be minimal, but data sources change over time, or people upstream from your data source can incorrectly enter data causing transformations and formulas to fail.
Even though they are challenges, some things like optimizing query execution and speeding up dashboards can be fairly rewarding and fun if you enjoy problem solving and helping others.
Skillsets Required for Power BI Developers
When we interview Power BI developers, we look for a mix of several skillsets. People don’t necessarily have to be an expert at everything. There are those that have excellent soft skills, are great communicators, and excellent project managers keeping everyone informed and happy. Then there are others that are highly technical, enjoy challenging optimization problems, writing complex DAX queries, and working with data transformations. Others can lean towards presentation, building beautiful dashboards, and designing custom graphics.
The point is that the following are meant as general guidelines, different people tend to have a mix of all of these skills to varying degrees.
- Proficiency in Power BI – Mastery of Power BI functionalities like DAX, Power Query, and report creation.
- Data Modeling – Knowledge of databases, ETL processes, and data storage principles.
- Computer Programming– Familiarity with SQL, Python, or R for data analysis.
- Data Analysis – Skill in interpreting data for actionable insights.
- Problem-Solving – Identifying and addressing data-related issues.
- Asking Good Questions – Sometimes you won’t know why something looks off or if something is wrong until you find the right person and ask the right questions.
- Communication – Conversing with business users to understand what they’re looking for, keeping them up to date, and often trying to figure out what they need when they don’t even know themselves.
- Project Management – Managing timelines, resources, and project scopes efficiently.
- Business Acument – It’s helpful to understand what business users want, and why different metrics are important.
These are just a few of the core competencies that help become a Power BI Developer. Graphic Design skills can also help, and people with an eye for design and understanding of data can have a leg up. This depends a lot on the organization you work for though. Many companies just want to get the numbers out vs. investing more time in getting them out in a highly design optimized way.
Power BI Certificates and Education Requirements
While college degrees and Power BI certificates will usually help people new to Power BI land their first job, they are not strictly a requirement. Many developers who can showcase their technical skills and ability to produce dashboards or reports have been able to find employment as junior developers or business intelligence analysts.
The most common certification related to Power BI is the Microsoft PL-300 Exam. If you pursue certification, be aware that the requirements and material does change over time so be sure to look at the most recent syllabus and topics that Microsoft is testing on.
College degrees are fairly common in the United States for Power BI developers, but also not strictly a requirement. Degrees in data science, business management, accounting, information systems, and information technology are all relevant to different aspects of Power BI development.
In recent years, data science has become one of the more popular paths because of the cross-functional nature of working with data and programming.
Complementary Skillsets for Power BI Developers
The highest paid Power BI developers typically have a depth of knowledge in a topic that compliments their Power BI skills. For example, a developer might have advanced knowledge in SQL, Python, or R and use the knowledge to build out more complex dashboards and perform analysis.
- SQL / Database Administration – SQL is the basis for many Power BI reports connected to popular systems
- Data Modeling / Data Engineering – Large companies often prefer having centralized data models created in data warehouses instead of different Power BI dashboards.
- Accounting / Finance / Google Analytics – Many Power BI reports are based on departmental data that a developer could specialize in.
- Graphic Design – Making dashboards look great is a unique skillset, can be lucrative if working for the right company or working as a freelancer.
- Other BI Tools Knowledge – Converting dashboards from or to Tableau or using data prep tools like Alteryx
- Cloud Platforms Familiarity – Cloud platforms have a lot of nuance to their architecture such as Google, Azure or AWS.
When you look at a career in Power BI, think not just about what you need to do to get the bare minimum understanding of the tool to work with it, but think long term about what will make you unique and help you differentiate yourself as you gain experience.
The path to becoming a Power BI developer encompasses a blend of technical skills, analytical acumen, and continuous learning. The right mix of skills, certifications, and education can pave the way for a fulfilling career in this evolving field.
The learning never really stops, and the highest paid developers commit themselves to a lifetime of learning and adapting to new technologies as the business intelligence space continues to evolve.