I’m trying to pull my thoughts together after a lightning quick tour through the province of Québec. It truly was an epic voyage… but I’m fortunate I had a fantastic travelling companion with me for the duration: a man who needs no introduction (except occasionally to himself), Mr. Andrew T. Kuligowski of Florida.
Andy has been a stalwart supporter of the Canadian SAS user groups for many
years. In fact, we realized that there
are only a few groups which Andy has not
attended! Ottawa, you folks are next… and the last on Andy’s list. From Vancouver to Halifax, from Edmonton to
Hamilton and everywhere in between, last year’s SAS Global Forum Chair has
brought his easy, comedy-filled, jaw-droppingly knowledgeable presentations to
user groups across the country. I’ve
been fortunate enough to be his faithful travelling companion – and straight
man, at times. I have many fond memories
of sharing beers and groans over live hockey (when there was such a thing),
discussing the intricacies of SAS Global Forum and mapping out the best
aquariums to visit at our various stops.
In short, it’s always a blast to travel with him… and I know our
Canadian SAS users appreciate it as well.
First up for both of us: a stop in Montréal, the first time Andy had returned
since SAS Global Forum was held there in 2004 and my first stop-in this
fall. I absolutely LOVE Montréal. One of my closest friends at SAS Canada lives
there and it’s always a hoot when I’m able to get together with Sylvain
Tremblay – another user group road warrior like Andy and myself. The Executive Committee is best defined as
small but mighty. In fact, they don’t really get smaller! Mathieu Gaouette and Eric Lacombe have held
down co-leadership positions for many years now and have more than competently
facilitated a steady stream of gifted local speakers and special guests from
many a distant town. In fact, Andy’s
presence in Québec was entirely due to Eric’s dogged pursuit of lining him up for
the agenda! In pursuit of this goal we changed dates, we moved venues, we did everything we could to
get Andy in front of the Montréal audience.
Mission accomplished, Eric.
In Montréal, Andy truly was ‘the show’.
This was remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, Andy is a pure
Anglophone… and the good folks in Montréal and Québec tend to prefer French speakers
for obvious reasons. Andy’s content was deemed more than solid enough for the
audience: in this case, Andy’s technical prowess more than made up for any
perceived linguistic shortcomings. Plus,
as he would later demonstrate in Québec, Andy was MORE than willing to attempt
a few French phrases to good effect!
Secondly, Eric and Mathieu were prepared to devote a significant amount
of time on the agenda to Andy for the purpose of describing his involvement in
SAS user groups, SAS Global Forum and the importance and benefit of
volunteering. This was new territory for
any group to cover!
I think it’s fair to say that Andy more than handily acquitted himself in both
respects. His humour, grace and
willingness to engage the audience around their experiences – SAS and otherwise
– instantly endeared himself to all. His
presentation schedule was ambitious to say the least. Andy attacked a few of
his ‘greatest hits’: Set, Merge & Update
as well as Looking Beneath the Surface of the SASLOG. We had
hoped to fit in his Beneath the Surface of Sorting talk as well but we simply
lacked the time. Have no fear, MONSUG
attendees: all of these presentations will be posted shortly in the MONSUG
group in the SAS Canada Community as well as the MONSUG SAS Canadawebsite. We left Montréal having
received a very warm reception from the SAS community, which is ultimately the
goal of the user groups regardless of language, culture, or any other point of
difference. In fact, the user groups thrive the most in areas where differences
in community can united through the binding thread of SAS usage. In this respect, MONSUG was an overwhelming
After the extremely warm reception in Montréal – which I think may have calmed
Andy’s nerves just a bit – we were off to historic Québec City. I don’t know if I could have sold the virtues
of this amazing city any more to Andy… as regular readers of this blog will
know, I’ve previously sung the praises of Québec loudly and consistently.
Of course no trip to la belle province is complete without food. In Montréal we
introduced Andy to the MONSUG-burger. I
could tell you what it is, but I’d prefer you just found out for yourself. Give
a brief SAS talk in Montréal and I’ll show you! ;) In Québec City I took Andy
to one of my favourite restaurants, ‘Le Café du Monde’. Here we had a great
time discussing all things SAS and dining on some of Québec’s finest potages,
saumon, macarons et surtout du vin.
These are some of my favourite moments on the road with guest speakers;
finding some quiet time to really sit, talk and pick each other’s brains.
After retiring at the Auberge Saint-Antoine – truly one of God’s gifts for
travelers such as ourselves – we met up the following day for lunch with the
Executive Committee and the user group meeting itself. Here, again, the SASuser community is blessed with a strong, vibrant and dedicated executive
committee. Louis-René Rheault and his
team consistently pull together an outstanding agenda which represents both
local SAS experts and guest speakers such as Andy. The meeting itself was a very good one as
well. Over 70 people attended to hear Patrice Bourdages give the most unique
‘SAS Global Forum Wrap-Up’ talk I’ve ever seen and our own Sylvain Tremblay
delivering a talk around SAS programming techniques. Of course, Andy was there to reprise his Set,
Merge, Update talk once again.
Too soon, I found it was time to leave la ville de Québec. A quick dinner at possibly the best
steakhouse I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing and one very full,
satisfied and happy Matt was en route to the airport. Given the smiles, laughter and positive
feedback on the evaluation forms, I can confidently say that I believe the SAS
community in Québec City felt the same way.
I’m not being facetious when I say that this particular road trip brought
together some of my favourite elements of the user group program. I had the opportunity to work, converse,
laugh and relax with two amazing executive committees. I was also able to observe just how strong
the SAS communities are in both of these cities and to take some notes for how
to strengthen other groups across the country. Finally, it’s always a pleasure
to see Sylvain Tremblay and of course Andy Kuligowski. As ‘travel buddies’, you tend to become quite
close with your fellow SAS presenters… to have 2 of them in one spot at once
was truly a great experience. I was in guest speaker overload!
At the end of the day, Montréal and Québec are blessed to have such strong,
committed and attentive executive committees working on their behalf and their
efforts are truly appreciated. Not just
by me, of course: but by the community at large. There aren’t enough words in
either English or French to thank them for their hard work! I look forward to seeing them all again soon.
À la prochaine, Québec… et merci.