Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Club: SAS meets in la ville de Québec

I've said it before and I'll say it again: God, I love Québec. Whether it's having the chance to wander the streets of vieux Québec while feeling transported a continent - and a few centuries - away, enjoying the chance to practice my French once again or wondering just how many attendees would grace us with their presence at the Club d'utilisateurs SAS de Québec this time.... c'est toujours une experience exceptionnelle.

Today proved to be no exception to the rule. Almost 100 SAS users from a wide variety of industries, organizations and backgrounds came together for an afternoon of learning and networking on the campus of the Université de Laval. Once again, SAS Canada showed up in numbers as well! Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa and of course the ville de Québec were all well represented. It was great to see so many of my colleagues take an interest in the growth of the user groups and rekindle relationships with the attendees.

The meeting itself was the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance. As I did last year around this time, I'd like to take a moment to single out M. Jean Hardy for his contribution. Jean has experienced personal challenges around the last two fall meetings; both times, he was heavily involved as a presenter or as a facilitator. As he has done previously, Jean ensured that his contribution went ahead as planned. My respect and admiration for him has growth appreciably given the difficult circumstances of his participation. Jean led an 'éspace participatif': an open discussion forum to share Enteprise Guide-related tips and tricks for editing and creating SAS tables within this environment. Contributions were solicited in advance... and I must say, I was overwhelmed by the response. It's a hallmark of the strength of the community that not only did over 10 individuals volunteer their own tricks - and explained them at the meeting - but the discussion was so robust, this section of the meeting had to end early! It's always gratifying and refreshing for me to see this level of support amongst SAS users in a community, it's what these user group meetings and online efforts like the SAS Canada Community are all about. Merci pour tes efforts, Jean: ils étaient bien reçus.

The agenda also featured Carolyn Cunnison of SAS Canada. I am perpetually in awe of Carolyn's ability to command la langue de Molière easily and with great poise. I'm even more in awe of how accessible she makes very complex topics... and this meeting was no different. Carolyn discussed the rationale behind creating OLAP cubes and demonstrated how to do so... with a hint as to the power and utility of them as well. Truly inspiring stuff: the power of cubes is remarkable for looking at data in multiple dimensions and deriving meaningful, valuable insight. I found myself wanting to know more and more... hey, I think there are some courses around this and other BI-related topics, perhaps my next training path addition when (if) I find some time!

Finally, the amazingly named Jean-François Ducré-Robitaille offered us a talk around 'l'utilisation de SAS dans un environnement intranet multiplateforme'... which for the non-French speakers reading this blog sums up as 'amazingly cool Flash-based live graphical representations of data using SAS'. What a finish to an outstanding day's worth of talks! JF is a fantastically gifted speaker; you can actually view a video interview I conducted with him in the SAS Canada Community to get a sense of how natural and well-spoken he can be. As an aside, you'll also find an interview I conducted with Jean Hardy and club président Louis-René Rheault in the same space... well worth a view! At any rate, JF has joined the ranks of the 'bravest of the brave' by attempting - successfully! - a live demo in the midst of a presentation. Given the 'oohs' and 'aahs' emenating from the crowd, I'm pretty sure everyone had the same reaction as I. In a word, WOW. Thanks JF for a very enlightening talk!

Although I've enjoyed myself here in Québec, I must confess to being a little annoyed. I haven't been able to satisfy my craving from what is the Worlds. Best. Poutine (no, I'm not telling you where, stop asking!). My delightful dinner this evening was lovely but not the proper time or place... and a 9:00am flight precludes me grabbing some on this trip, I'm afraid. Fortunately I'll be back here in Québec in just a few weeks for the Forum analytique SAS de Québec. I'm looking forward to seeing many friends once again... as I said at the beginning of this post, I just can't get enough of this city!

As I wing my way homewards I have one final meeting to prepare for this week; the Health User Group in Toronto. I'll have more on this meeting late on Friday. Merci, Québec pour votre hospitalité!

À la prochaine...

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