Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rain, Sunshine, Sleet and Fog: Just Another Day in Vancouver

Vancouver strikes me as a bit of an abnormality on the west coast, at least in one sense. With its frantic, hurry-up, always-changing weather patterns it reminds me in some ways of the pace of life here on the east coast which is so markedly different from the more relaxed, outdoors-focused way of life we generally associate with BC. OK, so maybe it's just the weather that reminds me of the east and I'm likely stretching that comparison just a teensy bit too far, but the weather analogy is also useful as it serves to reflect my general inner-state of being upon landing in Vancouver.

I've stated many times in this blog how fortunate and grateful I am to be able to do what I do. Travelling from one end of the country to the other for the purpose of sharing experiences and supporting SAS users is a fantastic opportunity to broaden my horizons culturally and socially. However, it's not just my horizons being stretched: it's also my constitution and health! Adjusting to time zones and constantly looking at my watch are both minor irritants to what is an otherwise amazing occupation. The constant stress on my body systems does eventually take it's toll, unfortunately, and I was a sorry sight stepping off the helicopter upon our landing in Vancouver. Thankfully, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was about to have an energizing and revitalizing encounter courtesy of former SAS Customer Value Award winner and past-President of TASS, Rupinder Dhillon.

This is yet another great example of SAS users supporting SAS users. One of Rup's best friends from her school years now lived as an actor and presentation coach in Vancouver. Knowing full well the importance - as well as the challenge - of encouraging and supporting new presenters from within the user group community, Rup had suggested that we take the time to connect in hopes that we could pick her brain. It was certainly worthwhile! Colleen McGahan and I chatted at length with her about common fears and limitations which presenters deal with and also put on themselves as well as some suggestions on how best to approach a presentation. This was incredibly valuable insight for myself as someone who presents quite often in front of large groups, and even moreso in terms of recognizing how to support new presenters. Thanks for the introduction, Rup: if I could give you the CVA again, I would... ;)

The meeting the next morning was truly outstanding. the VanSUG executive committee are an incredibly engaged and innovative group. I was meeting some of them for the same time, and they definitely lived up to the exceptional feedback I'd heard. Sharon Relova - a relatively new member of the team - drafted one of her colleagues and faithfully manned the registration table (without complaint, might I add!). Mei Chong the new president was omni-present, socializing and helping out where she could. Of course, perennial dynamos Colleen McGahan and Nate Derby - in addition to presenting once again - ensured that the catering was set-up, that the networking functioned smoothly, and that all possible logistic issues were dealt with far in advance. I need to single out Colleen here. Dealing with some difficult home issues which had suddenly sprung up, Colleen pushed on to both support the group and deliver her presentation flawlessly. My respect for her - which was already very high - has gone through the roof.

Content-wise, the meeting was a great one. As I mentioned, Colleen and Nate reprised their talks to exceptional acclaim - with Nate somehow managing to populate his presentation with some small coding errors in the 12 hours between deliveries. Nate is a master at dealing with adversity and the group really engaged around his transparency and willingness to admit and address his errors. Of course, the content was exceptionally valuable as well! Colleen's talk found a receptive audience able to grasp the complex concepts she was illuminating. And yes, Cheryl Sivertson's demo went off fantastically this time (albeit with her working in a version of Enterprise Guide she was unfamiliar with: version 4.3). She's a natural with the software, though, so it went off without a hitch.

I'm saving some of my biggest praise for David Dobson. The Vancouver community has been wrestling for some time with what type of interesting, new content to deliver to their members. Coming primarily from a health, academic and telecommunications background, there seemed to be diverging ideas of how best to support everyone. Enter David, our willing guinea pig! An additional session was added on to the user group meeting with David delivering an hour long talk on the importance and future of business analytics within Canadian industry... and more than 50 people stayed to hear the talk! It was extremely well delivered and generated a lot of questions afterwards. I think it's safe to say that we'll be seeing a lot more business analytics-themed talks taking place in Vancouver in the near future. As always, all of these presentations will be posted over the course of this week on the VanSUG website as well as a VanSUG newsletter update and more.

Finally, a word or two about the Vancouver SAS user community: what a warm and welcoming group. I'd like to first give a hat-tip to Mr. Howard Cherniack. Howard is familiar to many in the SAS world in Vancouver; a long-time user and supporter, Howard has presented and been an active supporter of VanSUG since it's inception and before! At any rate, Howard is the first person to answer a challenge I often throw out to the user groups. I have one prize in particular which has been a mystery to me: it's full of strange, seemingly unrelated components and I've been utterly flummoxed. Without instructions, it seemed that the item would remain shrouded in confusion. I've made the commitment to every group I've offered it to that if it can be deciphered, I will be happy to ship one of every single other item I have to the lucky solver of the 'mystery prize' riddle. I'm happy to report that Howard has done so! Thanks, Howard! Just in case there are other entrants reading this, I'm going to keep your solution a mystery for now...

I'd also like to share a little about the community itself. In the span of the morning, I connected with a young lady from BC Hydro looking for some Enterprise Guide help, a recent UK transplant hoping to connect with other SAS users with an overall goal of finding SAS employment, a faux-celebrity (great to see you, Mr. Mel Gibson!) and a wonderful gentleman from TELUS who - to my absolute shock - used to pack 5 double Americano's into his body EACH EVENING... and then he would go to sleep! I'm also pleased that I've already had a few members of the community connect and start discussions within the VanSUG LinkedIn group. If you haven't yet joined, please feel free!

Although my second-last roadtrip of this user group season has come to a close, there's still lots more to report from last week. As I was in Vancouver, my colleague Kerry was experiencing her first user group meeting in Ottawa. She's been good enough to write a guest-blog post at my request, and I'll be sharing that with you in the next few days. Finally, I still have to tell all of you about the Health User Group meeting which featured impossibly long titles, sublime SAS tricks and one very happy quasi-epidemiologist... but more on that in the next few days!

Thanks again, VanSUG: sorry to leave but looking forward to the spring meetings already.

1 comment:

  1. such an interesting blog Matt, love your travel and user group stories. Your blog is what inspired me to begin contributing to the sas training blog. Lookin forward to more from you! Charu