Beyond Numbers: How Data Analysis Paves the Way for AI Careers

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Data analysts play a vital role in today’s data-driven world, providing crucial insights that benefit decision-making processes. For those with a knack for numbers and a passion for uncovering patterns, a career as a data analyst can be both fulfilling and lucrative – it can also be a stepping stone towards other careers in data. While a data analyst focuses on data preparation and visualisation, an AI engineer specialises in creating AI solutions, a machine learning (ML) engineer concentrates on implementing ML models, and a data scientist combines elements of data analysis and ML to derive insights and predictions from data.

Tools, Skills, and Techniques of a Data Analyst

Excel Mastery. Unlocks a powerful toolbox for data manipulation and analysis. Essential skills include using a vast array of functions for calculations and data transformation. Pivot tables become your secret weapon for summarising and analysing large datasets, while charts and graphs bring your findings to life with visual clarity. Data validation ensures accuracy, and the Analysis ToolPak and Solver provide advanced functionalities for statistical analysis and complex problem-solving. Mastering Excel empowers you to transform raw data into actionable insights.

Advanced SQL. While basic skills handle simple queries, advanced users can go deeper with sorting, aggregation, and the art of JOINs to combine data from multiple tables. Common Table Expressions (CTEs) and subqueries become your allies for crafting complex queries, while aggregate functions summarise vast amounts of data.  Window functions add another layer of power, allowing calculations within query results.  Mastering Advanced SQL empowers you to extract hidden insights and manage data with unparalleled precision.

Data Visualisation. Crafts impactful data stories. These tools empower you to connect to various data sources, transform raw information into a usable format, and design interactive dashboards and reports. Filters and drilldowns allow users to explore your data from different angles, while calculated fields unlock deeper analysis. Parameters add a final touch of flexibility, letting viewers customise the report to their specific needs. With tools Tableau and Power BI, complex data becomes clear and engaging.

Essential Python. This powerful language excels at data analysis and automation. Libraries like NumPy and Pandas become your foundation for data manipulation and wrangling. Scikit-learn empowers you to build ML models, while SciPy and StatsModels provide a toolkit for in-depth statistical analysis.  Python’s ability to interact with APIs and web scrape data expands its reach, and its automation capabilities streamline repetitive tasks. With Essential Python, you have the power to solve complex problems.

Automating the Journey. Data analysts can be masters of efficiency, and their skills translate beautifully into AI. Scripting languages like Ansible and Terraform automate repetitive tasks. Imagine streamlining the process of training and deploying AI models – a skill that directly benefits the AI development pipeline. This proficiency in automation showcases the valuable foundation data analysts provide for building and maintaining AI systems.

Developing ML Expertise. Transitioning from data analysis to AI involves building on your existing skills to develop ML expertise. As a data analyst, you may start with basic predictive models. This knowledge is expanded in AI to include deep learning and advanced ML algorithms. Also, skills in statistical analysis and visualisation help in evaluating the performance of AI models.

Growing Your AI Skills  

Becoming an AI engineer requires building on a data analysis foundation to focus on advanced skills such as:

  • Deep Learning. Learning frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch to build and train neural networks.
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP). Techniques for processing and analysing large amounts of natural language data.
  • AI Ethics and Fairness. Understanding the ethical implications of AI and ensuring models are fair and unbiased.
  • Big Data Technologies. Using tools like Hadoop and Spark for handling large-scale data is essential for AI applications.

The Evolution of a Data Analyst: Career Opportunities

Data analysis is a springboard to AI engineering. Businesses crave talent that bridges the data-AI gap.  Your data analyst skills provide the foundation (understanding data sources and transformations) to excel in AI. As you master ML, you can progress to roles like:

  • AI Engineer. Works on integrating AI solutions into products and services. They work with AI frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch, ensuring that AI models are incorporated into products and services in a fair and unbiased manner.
  • ML Engineer. Focuses on designing and implementing ML models. They focus on preprocessing data, evaluating model performance, and collaborating with data scientists and engineers to bring models into production. They need strong programming skills and experience with big data tools and ML algorithms.
  • Data Scientist. Bridges the gap between data analysis and AI, often involved in both data preparation and model development. They perform exploratory data analysis, develop predictive models, and collaborate with cross-functional teams to solve complex business problems. Their role requires a comprehensive understanding of both data analysis and ML, as well as strong programming and data visualisation skills.


Hone your data expertise and unlock a future in AI! Mastering in-demand skills like Excel, SQL, Python, and data visualisation tools will equip you to excel as a data analyst. Your data wrangling skills will be invaluable as you explore ML and advanced algorithms. Also, your existing BI knowledge translates seamlessly into building and evaluating AI models. Remember, the data landscape is constantly evolving, so continue to learn to stay at the forefront of this dynamic field. By combining your data skills with a passion for AI, you’ll be well-positioned to tackle complex challenges and shape the future of AI.

The Future of AI
UK Media Company WPP Acquires AI Company Satalia

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The process of developing advertising campaigns is evolving with the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI). Advertisers want to optimise the amount of data at their disposal to craft better campaigns and drive more impact. Since early 2020, there has been a real push to integrate AI to help measure the effectiveness of campaigns and where to allocate ad spend. This now goes beyond media targeting and includes planning, analytics and creative. AI can assist in pattern matching, tailoring messages through AI-enabled hyper-personalisation, and analysing traffic to communicate through pattern identification of best times and means of communication. AI is being used to create ad copy; and social media and online advertising platforms are starting to roll out tools that help advertisers create better ads.

Ecosystm research shows that Media companies report optimisation, targeting and administrative functions such as billing are aided by AI use (Figure 1). However, the trend of Media companies leveraging AI for content design and media analysis is growing.

Business Leverage of AI in media

WPP Strengthening Tech Capabilities

This week, WPP announced the acquisition of Satalia, a UK-based company, who will consult with all WPP agencies globally to promote AI capabilities across the company and help shape the company’s AI strategy, including research and development, AI ethics, partnerships, talent and products.  

It was announced that Satalia, whose clients include BT, DFS, DS Smith, PwC, Gigaclear, Tesco and Unilever, will join Wunderman Thompson Commerce to work on the technology division of their global eCommerce consultancy. Prior to the acquisition, Satalia had launched tools such as Satalia Workforce to automate work assignments; and Satalia Delivery, for automated delivery routes and schedules. The tools have been adopted by companies including PwC, DFS, Selecta and Australian supermarket chain Woolworths. 

Like other global advertising organisations, WPP has been focused on expanding the experience, commerce and technology parts of the business, most recently acquiring Brazilian software engineering company DTI Digital in February. WPP also launched their own global data consultancy, Choreograph, in April. Choreograph is WPP’s newly formed global data products and technology company focused on helping brands activate new customer experiences by turning data into intelligence. This article from last year from the WPP CTO is an interesting read on their technology strategy, especially their move to cloud to enable their strategy.

AI Research and Reports

Ethics & AI – The Right Focus

The acquisition of Satalia will give WPP and opportunity to evaluate important areas such as AI ethics, partnerships and talent which will be significantly important in the medium term. AI ethics in advertising is also a longer-term discussion. With AI and machine learning, the system learns patterns that help steer targeting towards audiences that are more likely to convert and identify the best places to get your message in front of these buyers. If done responsibly it should provide consumers with the ability to learn about and purchase relevant products and services. However, as we have recently discussed, AI has two main forms of bias – underrepresented data and developer bias – that also needs to be looked into.


The role of AI in the orchestration of the advertising process is developing rapidly. Media firms are adopting cloud platforms, making IP investments, and developing partnerships to build the support they can offer with their advertising services. The use of AI in advertising will help mature and season the process to be even more tailored to customer preferences.