Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SAS Presents: Kerry Blanchard in Ottawa!

As promised, I'm turning over this space to my colleague Kerry Blanchard. Many of you will know Kerry as an indispensable asset in the SAS user community. Assisting with user group logistics, analysis and support, she's definitely made my life easier and helped grow the user community through her bright personality and eagerness to contribute. With no further ado, over to you, Kerry! I'll have the Health User Group post ready for your consumption within a few days.

Musings from a TRUE Outlier
– by Kerry Blanchard

To begin my first guest blogging experience on Matt’s wonderful blog ‘Musings from and Outlier’, I must say I’m a little intimidated! I’ve read quite a few of his posts and he always writes with such eloquence, passion and pizazz that I don’t think that it’s at all possible to mimic the feel that he gives to his readers…but I’ll give it a shot!

As a TRUE newbie to SAS (a mere 6 months young) I was both nervous and excited to head out to my first on-the-road user group meetings for the Ottawa Area SAS Society (OASUS) and the Ottawa Platform User’s Society (OPUS.) Arriving the night before and staying in downtown Ottawa was such a nice experience as I’m familiar with the area having grown up about an hour away in Brockville. There is something about Ottawa that is so peaceful to me - I’m not sure if it’s the stunning beauty of the Parliament Buildings or the Chateau Laurier, or just the fact that it seems a lot less busy than downtown Toronto (even during rush hour!) – but it was nice to be back in a city that I knew and loved.

The morning of the meeting started bright and early and even though I made it to the National Arts Centre by 7:15 am, the executive committee was already hard at work setting up. I have to say a few ‘thank-yous’ here to the entire executive for making me feel so welcome even though I had never met any of them face-to-face. Hing-Poon Chan was diligently working at the sign-in table and cheerfully greeted me as I walked into the room. OASUS President John Ladds gave me such a warm smile I would have thought I was visiting a dear old friend. It was great to see that even though I thought I was an outsider, they definitely didn’t make me feel like one.From then on the day went quite smoothly. The sound, computer and equipment tests were all completed before the first guest arrived and the NAC staff was more than happy to get any little extra thing we asked for (they even photocopied more evaluation forms for us!) The only issue throughout the whole day occurred around 8:45 am when we realized that we wouldn’t have enough SAS pens for all the attendees. Now, we still aren’t 100% sure what happened, but somewhere between receiving 200+ pens in the mail from our Toronto office the day before and 8:44 am when most of them had been given out… well, let’s just say that they were ‘misplaced.’ I’d like to make a formal apology to the attendees of the OPUS meeting in the afternoon because of this unfortunate incident and I hope that many of you had brought your own pens which hopefully made up for it …but I will say this: someone out there must really be enjoying about 50 SAS pens right about now, and shame on you for not sharing with the others!

Regardless of this little mishap, OASUS and OPUS went flawlessly. We had a wonderful turn out with 132 people at OASUS in the morning, and although attendance was smaller in the afternoon, Joel Orr and the rest of the OPUS executive gave members who had attended the past five OPUS meetings with a token of their appreciation for being so dedicated. I have also been informed that this little ritual is going to continue, giving you all the more reason to make it out to the next OPUS meeting on June 1st (shameless user group plug, I know!) We also had some great presentations such as Robert West’s ‘SAS & Excel Targets’ in the morning, a pair of very detailed book reviews, a great explanation and demonstration of how to use OLAP cubes by Benoit Morin (I especially liked the NHL sample data he used) and a phenomenal panel discussion around the ‘Challenges of BI’ moderated by SAS’s Tara Holland in the afternoon.

As OPUS began to wind down at around a quarter-to-four I was suddenly struck by feelings of sadness. My on-the-road user group experience had just begun and it was already time to go home! The people I had met that day and the whole trip to Ottawa had been such a fun and educational experience that it didn’t feel right to just up and leave. It wasn’t until I was in the car on the way back to the airport did the excitement from the day begin to fade away and tiredness settled in.

I’m not sure where I’ll be next, but I’ve been told that I may get to experience more user group meetings on the road in the spring time. Will I get to experience the mountainous West, or possibly an ocean-side city in the East? Only time will tell. In the meantime I just want to let my new-found friends in Ottawa know that I am extremely grateful for the warm wishes and friendliness you showed me. Not only did you give me an experience I will never be able to repeat, it was also something I will never be able to forget.

Until next time…

Thanks for that great contribution, Kerry: I had no doubt you'd have a warm reception in Ottawa. Those two groups are standard bearers for community and support: thanks John and Joel for being yourselves and for once again surpassing expectations.

My brief hiatus from this space will resume a little later this week. As I mentioned earlier, I'll be writing about the Health user group meeting which took place last week within a few days... but my manager, Wally Thiessen, is headed out to the east coast with SAS legend Peter Eberhardt for some SHRUG-style user support: I have to admit, I'm incredibly jealous! I'm sure he'll have great tales to tell upon his return as well, and I've asked him to contribute an upcoming post as well.

Stay tuned, lots more to come!

1 comment:

  1. What a terrific first post Kerry, loved reading about your Ottawa user group experience. You have a great natural style and I'm looking forward to more! and I do hope the missing pens turn up somewhere...charu