Data Analyst vs Data Scientist: What is What?

By Mel Sim

Want to go down the path of being a data person but not sure if you should be an analyst or a scientist? Is there even a difference? We get the expert to weigh in – Sharala Axryd, founder and CEO of the Centre for Applied Data Science (CADS).

You hear the word data being talked about these days. How it’s the big thing now and why careers in data will basically seal the deal for you if you are after something that will make a difference as well as provide you with career satisfaction.

But maybe you aren’t exactly sure what data is all about. After all, it’s all encompassing so what do people really mean when they say data? To give you the answer, we got Sharala Axryd, founder and CEO of the Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) to give us the definition: “Essentially, data is your daily lives being quantified in a form of information or numbers collected to be analysed. This will be used to predict your behaviour, usage pattern, and create personalised solutions for you.”

So data is really anything about you and this can be tracked from just about anywhere – your smartphone, your loyalty cards, your daily health tracker, your hospital admissions, and so much more! How does data affect our daily lives? “We have to see it from multiple contexts,” further explains Sharala. “As an example, remember last time when we watched TV? There are targeted ads that is relevant to each market segment in conjunction with the type of shows being aired. But those ads were not personalised enough; it might be relevant to some but won’t be relevant to many. Paying media outlets for ad distribution is not cheap. Now, through data collected based on individual behaviours and preferences, we can target a right ad for the right audience. This is prevalent when you are flicking through a friend’s status update or story on Instagram where every two or three profiles later, you’ll stumble upon a scarily precise ad targeted to you. Other than that, your smart watch is collecting data on your daily steps, resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, your oxygen level and so many other personalised date to create a pattern and provide solutions for you such as changing a lifestyle, proposing a medication or straight up creating a personalised health plan for you.”

Take the pandemic for example too; there’s never been a more important time where data has become extremely relevant. “Through data, we could find a solution, or a vaccine to the ongoing pandemic. Through data, we could know that certain vaccine needs a timely booster to maintain its efficacy. Through data, we know whether it is necessary for another lockdown or not,” says Sharala.

Phew! Now that we got that definition and how data influences our lives out of the way, here’s something else you need to know about data: Many companies are taking it very seriously, and the right data can heavily influence corporate decisions. It’s all part of the digital transformation era where data dictates how we do things, like business decisions. “Taking business decisions shouldn’t be just supported by your gut feeling but it must be supported by data to ensure the decision made is economically viable and could be turned into profit. To work with data is not an option; it’s a must if you want to succeed. We have arrived at the convergence of multiple disruptions where our only option is to use data to support our mission,” says Sharala.

What does this mean for a talent interested to pursue a career in data? Tons of opportunities! Two of the most common roles in data are data analyst and data scientist. While they may sound similar, the two are very different. In fact, you’ve probably heard them being talked about a lot but you don’t know exactly what each role pertains. Sharala shares this with us: “A data analyst reviews and analyses the information that is already available while a data scientist works on new ways to capture and analyse data by the data analyst. Data analyst works on answering questions based on the data available while data scientist works in a more macro level of finding the way how we can collect data better and which area of data would be useful for certain context.”

And we just know what your next question is: Which one is better? “Both are equally important, both are equally sexy, and both have its own functions and importance,” says Sharala.

Data Up at CADS

What you should also know is that even if you’re not after a career in data or if you are working in an industry that’s not data specific, it doesn’t hurt to upskill in that area simply because the knowledge will only help you gain in whatever field you’re in. If you are still a graduate, many universities have relevant data degrees you can explore. But if upskilling is your aim, then check out CADS.

In essence, CADS helps empower companies to become data-driven organisations by upskilling their workforce through its multitude of courses. Established in 2015, it is the one-stop solution for everything data related for both individuals and companies. Log on to to explore what’s available to equip yourself with data-related knowledge. Not only that, is also your gateway to available scholarships, incentivised programmes, and even data-related jobs within ASEAN.

“With our personalised learning journey roadmap and best-in-class always up-to-date learning syllabus, our platform tailors a personalised programme for everyone based on their needs and their specific goals,” says Sharala. “The talent-matching function on our website matches the demand of enterprises for data talent our there with those who are seeking jobs and qualified enough to fulfil the job. It’s like a Tinder for job seekers and potential hirers. You can simply register yourself to be part of the ecosystem. Just go to our platform, take an assessment course, and we’ll see your competency levels to prepare a learning journey that is specifically for you to meet your own goals.”

Still wondering if data skills are important to your career? Without a doubt, we say yes, especially if you want to move ahead in your career path! “Data literacy is a must-have skill in the 21st century world. Our mission is to accelerate Malaysia as a high-income nation and to make ASEAN as the Data Literate hotspot of the world,” says Sharala. “In order to futureproof yourself and your career, I would advise you to be data literate regardless of field because this will be an essential skill for all.”

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