Before thinking that data literacy is not an essential skill that YOU will need in your profession, let us tell you now once and for all that the world today runs on data. Everyone is paying more attention to it now more than ever, and you should too. And if you want to go far in your career, you might want to consider some form of Big Data skills as companies hire more and more data professionals every day.
But First, What is Data Literacy?
When we think of literacy in general terms, it means being able to understand the written word. However, more aspects of life require a unique ability of comprehension, and data is one of them. “Data” is referring to pieces of information that are being used collectively to validate a claim. It can exist in various forms: As numbers or text on paper, as bits or bytes stored in electronic memory, or as facts living in a person’s mind.
OK, now that we got the term “data” out of the way, what does data literacy entail? According to The Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) Founder and Chief Executive Officer Sharala Axryd, “Data literacy is the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied. To simplify, data literacy is like Microsoft Word or Excel in the 90s. Back then, if you want to apply for a job and if you don’t have the skills in Microsoft Word or Excel, it’s tough for you to be employed.”
Why is this important now? Having the competencies to understand and work with data enhances business models and operations as the world moves towards digitalisation. On a personal front, someone who’s skilled in data literacy can understand the goals of a business and read appropriate data to ensure the correct strategies are being developed and implemented to help reach success.
Says Sharala, “Being data literate is not an option; it’s a must. The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited and accelerated the need for businesses to become digital. A business cannot just build a high-tech infrastructure and expect to go digital overnight. They need to have the right people and the right skills to be able to operate these infrastructures.
“It doesn’t matter if your educational background is in finance, social, legal, or anything. Most of the recruiters nowadays would want to headhunt someone who is data literate. So if you have any kind of skills related to data in your resume, you have a higher chance of being hired,” says Sharala.
So How Does One Become Data Literate?
It’s not exactly an easy skill to master overnight but thankfully, there is a wide array of learning resources available to help you get started, and it’s one click away.
Take The Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) for example! Established in 2015, the first in ASEAN to deliver Harvard Business School’s Executive Program “Competing in Business Analytics and Big Data,” CADS, an HR tech company, aims to transform organisations to be data-driven and individuals to be data literate with an AI-powered integrated platform. It is also the first to collaborate with Data Incubator New York to deliver Data Science Enablement in Malaysia. “Our vision is to future-proof the world by improving data literacy as an economy for the workforce,” says Sharala.
Candidates looking to join CADS programmes will first be assessed to understand their passion and level of knowledge. They will be advised on which programme is most suited for them – Data Engineer, Data Analyst, or the Data Scientist programme. The programmes are suitable for beginners to be trained step-by-step in a 10 - 20 days crash course.
This is all part of getting a CADS Skill Verification and Certification, which involves two levels: A pre-test and a post-test. “The pre-test is a process to understand a participant’s level of knowledge before advising them to join a suitable course. Then the post-test is where we will assess them to identify if they have met the industry-standard requirements,” says Sharala.
You can join CADS programmes for free. Sharala advises participants to look up online grants before registering for the courses. She suggested looking up Yayasan Peneraju through the Peneraju Teknologi Program and the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra). CADS courses are also available in Program Penjana, a hiring incentive initiated by the Malaysian government.
Aside from gaining a new skill, one of the benefits of having a CADS certification, says Sharala, is highly recognised by recruiters. “We are partnering with institutions like the Malaysian Board of Technologies (MBOT) to create industry-standard modules for those who join our programmes. Our purpose is to create employability and help build Malaysia into a highly-skilled nation. This can only be achieved when you manage to create a certain kind of talent. When there’s a huge talent, you attract certain kinds of investors. In simpler terms, when you invest in producing a highly skilled workforce, you will create an innovative and high-income nation,” says Sharala.
Sharala also shares that many students have come back saying that success in their data journey can be seen in just three months with zero knowledge in data; in the beginning, they are now equipped with machine learning and AI skills.
Even if it’s not for your career, Sharala urges everyone to have some form of data literacy. With the rapid growth of the digital and IoT industry, these skills will be shaping the future workforce. “You need to acquire data skills, just as much as you need Microsoft Office skills, to complete an assignment. These are the tools that will allow you to get your daily work done, and that’s what data literacy is all about. It’s not just about getting a job; it’s a skill that you need to have now more than ever,” Sharala advises.
Find out more about CADS at www.thecads.com and start future-proofing your career!