Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Drizzly Day in Downtown Hamilton

That was the scene for the Golden Horseshoe SAS user group meeting (GHSUG) ... or the start of a really poorly written crime novel, one or the other. At the risk of sounding contrived, the only crime taking place in Hamilton last Friday was that the meeting wasn't able to go on longer.

A small but dedicated group of SAS users from a wide variety of backgrounds assembled for a special treat. I've often commented that the Hamilton group has one of the strongest executive committees across the country. Knowledgeable, engaged and friendly, this team of individuals are truly greater than the sum of their parts. Collectively, the group boasts well over 100 years of SAS experience from a wide range of backgrounds: manufacturing, industrial, academic, health, and more. They're also one of the nicest groups of people you'd ever hope to meet: it's a real honest pleasure to spend time with them. Last Friday's meeting agenda was a first - at least in my experience - for the group. The executive committee were offering the bulk of the presentations (save mine). And what a line-up it was.

My own humble talk focused on SAS 9.3 upgrades as well as SAS support options, particularly in the area of community growth and development. Those who know me and have heard me speak can probably testify that I'm not shy speaking in front of a crowd. I actually enjoy it! I can honestly say that this time, I did feel more intimidated than I have in quite some time. While I'm extremely comfortable in the Enterprise Guide/Enterprise Miner world of SAS users (no snickering, programmers), I'm the first to admit that I'm not the 'go-to' for coding issues. Speaking on new developments in this area is both challenging and terrifying at the same time!

The real meat of the meeting was to be found with the executive talks. First up, Barry Hong regaled us with a great overview of the ODS Graphics Designer. In typical Barry fashion, his talk was tempered for easy digestion by all SAS users... and I got a lot out of it as well! It was really neat to see how much can be done with code around processes which my EG sessions happily run in the background.

Next up: Bill Droogendyk offering his take on the Proc du Jour which was Proc Format. Using multiple examples, Bill stepped us through (pun FULLY intended) effective ways of formatting and grouping data. It was nice to see Bill up and talking in front of the group as he works so hard behind the scenes most of the time. Cheers, Bill!

Finally, Lesley Harschnitz delivered a tour-de-force around gathering requirements for projects. This was a most thorough talk which seemed to generate great buzz throughout the room. While it didn't feature a single shred of SAS code, it still had everyone's undivided attention. The framework Lesley provided was clearly something the assembly could gravitate towards. It was applicable to everyone's workplace no matter what industry. The massive number of requests for copies of the talk immediately after the meeting demonstrated the relevance of it for each and every person in the room.

As I said, one of the highlights of the team is how it really feels like a community and always has. The openness of the executive committee was felt through the open conversation flowing between the members in mid-presentation, the great networking event featuring vacation photos - where HAVEN'T you been, Barry?!?!? - of the team with prizes for identifying them correctly, and of course the traditional delicious lunch afterwards, this group always makes me feel welcome and at home. If I could only bottle that sense of goodwill and togetherness to share with the rest of the SAS Canada Community, I would. I'm already looking forward to the spring meeting. Thanks as always for being such great hosts, guys.

Coming up for me this week: the Toronto Data Mining Forum which is currently climbing over the 200 registration mark with no end in sight. Will I survive? Will the building? I'll let you all know later in the week!

Until then....

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