Thursday, October 20, 2011

Data Mining Meeting Sets the Bar High

We're in the midst of a cold streak here in Toronto, with the Fall season undeniably upon us in spades. Yesterday was a drizzly, wet affair... even more reason to be incredibly pleased with the 130-odd SAS users and data miners who braved the elements to attend the Toronto Data Mining Forum. This group has grown rapidly over the past few years. The increase in interest can be attributed both to the increasing importance of analytics and data management within the dynamic business environment and the tireless efforts of the executive committee to fill the needs of the regular attendees. A big thank-you has to go to Dina Duhon and her whole team for their consistent efforts to deliver high-value presentations for the group.

I can honestly say that yesterday's meeting delivered on this goal. We were fortunate to have incredibly strong presenters. In addition to my 'SAS 9.3 and SAS Support Options' overview, there were 3 compelling talks from some well-known members of the data mining community.

Leading off was long-time SAS supporter Daymond Ling of CIBC. Daymond has offered many talks at user groups and conventions. In fact, I learned over lunch that he has worked with our head office to test SAS products and releases while in development! He has a unique set of skills: as a Senior Manager in Marketing, Daymond offers a keen grasp of business processes and requirements. At the same time, he comes out of a risk management background with a strong technical skill-set at his disposal. In addition, he's a wonderful speaker: his words are well-considered and meaningful with a humerous and relaxed feel. In many ways, he's an ideal speaker! Daymond's talk around 'Segmentation Do's & Don'ts' was amazingly well-received. I myself certainly got a lot out of the talk and from conversations I had with attendees, all of whom found something relevant to their own business in the talk. Questions from the audience were so numerous that we had to hold them in order to ensure we were able to enjoy a networking break.

Our next presenter was Alex Salvas of National Bank. Alex's presence speaks to my earlier comment around how the executive committee was always on the lookout for speakers. Dina had heard a presentation by his group at a risk management conference and approached them to speak at our meeting here in Toronto. Fortunately for us, Alex was happy to represent his group and deliver a thorough and thought-provoking talk. Case studies are often compelling as they lend weight to theory. In sharing National Bank's approach to Practical Data Governance, Alex was able to speak with some authority on a complex and common business need. Confident and collected - meme s'il avait parler en anglais - his talk was also a hit with the group. As a self-confessed data nerd, I found the insight into pulling data from numerous sources in timely fashion for analysis and reporting to be absolutely fascinating. Merci, Alex!

Our final talk of the day was delivered by Derek de Montrichard of CIBC. Following the trend established by the two previous presenters, Derek's talk entitled 'The Curious Complications of Confounding Covariates' was humous and enlightening. It made statistics and the many ways of interpreting them accessible to a broad audience in a down-to-earth, practical way. Through examples and anecdotes Derek successfully demonstrated that data can be tricky to interpret. I think it raised enough questions to give pause to many in the room regarding their own data interpretation practices.

As always, I do like to focus on SAS users coming together within this blog. As I've watched the SAS Canada Community continue to grow, it's a real pleasure to observe how SAS users are supporting each other through the user groups and beyond. The data mining group in particular is one of the best at supporting each other outside the semi-annual meetings which bring everyone together. Alex Salvas' talk was particularly demonstrative of this fact. Not only did he reference a talk on KS previously given by Mark An at the 2010 spring data mining forum, but he in fact credited the talk with prompting internal discussion and change within his own organization. Even better: Mark was on hand to receive very public thanks for his talk! It's this kind of support and collaboration which makes the user groups particularly gratifying as both a SAS user and a program manager.

I can also offer up that the networking activities of this group have continued to result in amazing connections. I heard from many attendees that in addition to the great talks, the networking itself proved to be very valuable as former colleagues caught up and new connections were made. I would be remiss if I didn't indicate that we all had a lot of fun as well.

I'll be on the road next week for the Calgary and Edmonton user groups and I'm sure I'll have great stories to tell when I return.

Until then...

No comments:

Post a Comment