Monday, November 29, 2010

SAS Goes To A Ceilidh (Sort Of)

My manager Wally Thiessen was lucky enough to travel to beautiful Halifax for the SHRUG user group meeting last week. I say 'lucky' through gritted teeth set in a face tinged by the horrible green of jealousy... I absolutely adore Halifax and Nova Scotia in general and selfishly try to get out there myself as often as I can! I think I may have made a deal with SHRUG Dictator-for-Life (or the foreseeable future) John Fahey to ensure that my colleague Sylvain and I are able to join them for their spring meeting: John has amicably agreed to guarantee good weather... so how can we say no? But that is then, and this is now.

Wally was good enough to contribute a guest post for the blog this week. He's already given me very glowing reviews of the meeting in general, and this spells it out in a bit more detail. With no further ado, take it away, Wally!

Checking In With the SHRUG ‘Family’

It had been a few years since I last had the opportunity to visit the SHRUG user community, and I was curious to see how the group was faring. Ever since its formation in ’02, SHRUG has fostered a wonderful spirit of cooperation for sharing ideas— with the kind of kinship that you often find in a number of the user groups based in key cities across the country. They may be smaller in size, but certainly not in engagement and energy! It’s a real thrill to watch colleagues connect and pick up conversations which had been left at the last SHRUG meeting, and to clearly see how this community of SAS users goes out of its way to support each other outside the structured confines of the SHRUG meeting.

Of course I was not to be disappointed in this meeting either. Under the leadership of the SHRUG executive committee—John Fahey, Pan Andreou, Jo-Anne Douglas, Barry Campbell, Jill Casey and Martha Cox, I was pleased to find that the group was continuing to find new and interesting ways to encourage participation from everyone in the room. A series of shorter tips and tricks presentations from Lynn Lethbridge, Pan, and John provided enough new ideas to keep attendees’ synapses firing until well into the New Year! Prior to the break, Jill Casey, our emcee for the afternoon, asked everyone to introduce themselves, share a little bit about how they used SAS as well as one problem they had used SAS for in the past year (or alternatively, what they would like to use SAS for). Not only was this great fodder for future presentations (as Barry Campbell diligently noted everyone’s comments), but it also provided a terrific starting off point for networking during the break.

The interactive nature of the meeting continued as Gordon Flowerdew challenged everyone with a quiz on missing values, for which a series of prizes following the meeting were awarded. And by the time Peter Eberhardt had shared his content-filled 45 minute presentation on SAS dictionary tables, it certainly seemed as if people’s heads were ready to explode with the sheer volume of new SAS knowledge gained that afternoon. To end things off on a lighter note, I shared Matt’s social media presentation with the group as well as discussed some of our initial plans around building a Canadian community site to complement the SAS user group and insights e-newsletter programs. .. but more on that in the weeks and months to come.

To finish off the afternoon on a happy - if not completely sobering – note, the SHRUG gang invited Peter and I to join them at a popular local establishment called the Henry House - the historic home of William Alexander Henry, one of the fathers of Confederation. Although politics and history weren’t on the menu, good discussion on alcoholic and non-alcoholic topics ensued as Peter shared his passion for craft beer-making as well as the making of his DVD “Brewing Made Easy”. I thought I saw a glint in John’s eye as Peter expounded upon the DVD, perhaps hoping to put his newfound marathon skills to the test by running home to give it a first watch. While our plans for bringing SAS Global Forum to Halifax, or at least to Canada, didn’t get quite as fully formed as we would have liked, the company, the discussion, the food, and yes, the drink, were all top drawer, leaving us in healthy anticipation of the next SHRUG meeting in the spring!


Thanks Wally, and again: I'm very jealous! I hope I'll have great stories myself after the next SHRUG gathering.

As for me: well, I've reached the natural end of my Fall user group season with more than a little sadness. I'm off to Montréal tomorrow with Rick Miller of CIBC for the Forum Analytique d'Affaires SAS de Montréal meeting on Wednesday: I hope you can join us, and stay tuned for my feedback within a few days time.

Until then...

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