When many people think of SAS' headquarters in North Carolina, they often think of the variety of food, entertainment and technology available in the Raleigh-Durham triangle. The area is certainly a hub for free-thinking and innovation. There are a number of universities in striking distance of each other and many software, social media and consulting groups have set up shop in the region. My associations with 'SAS' and 'triangle' are a little different: OK, a LOT different. I associate SAS with The Olde Triangle, a phenomenal Celtic music bar which I visit each and every time I'm in Halifax. One of the wonderful benefits of my role at SAS is that I get to sample a bit of the local colour of most cities I'm in. For those of you who have been to Halifax, you will agree with me that it is certainly chock full of colour!
Pleasant diversions aside, my purpose for travelling to Halifax was to support their users at the local user group meeting. This small but potent group of SAS users never fails to impress and entertain. My companion for this particular trip was M. Sylvain Tremblay - the most Celtic Quebecois I know. I would swear that he's more Irish than some of the people who proudly belt out sea shanties at The Olde Triangle! As an aside, my single greatest moment of pride was knowing lyrics to a song that he didn't. I nearly shed a tear.
But back to the meeting.
As many of the attendees are health-focused, there was a distinct health slant to most presentations. John Fahey led off with what seems to be a persistent topic at SHRUG meetings: survival analysis. John is a pleasure as a presenter. He is about as relaxed as one could be, yet his knowledge is so deep and so vast, he can address virtually any question or comment. He was followed by the newest SHRUG executive Kara Thompson who offered a SAS Global Forum recap. I can honestly say that this was one of the better recaps I've seen. Kara focused mainly on a great tip which she learned at Global Forum and described how she applied it in her work. Nice job, Kara! There were two other talks offered as well. Devbani Raha discussed SAS dates - a very popular topic everywhere, it seems - and Sylvain Tremblay looked at the MIANALYZE and MI procedures for imputing missing data. Great talks all around, to be sure! You'll be able to find them all posted shortly on the SHRUG website. However, one of the most interesting elements of the meeting for me was an open discussion session.
The SHRUG group had included a SAS challenge on their invitation which was meant to spur discussion by soliciting a variety of responses. While we didn't have many submissions, this did allow the group to discuss ways to improve their meetings for the benefit of all. Were interactive exercises like this something that made sense? Or, would more presentations be in order? What did the attendees want to see moving forward? The discussion was interesting and spirited... and we even managed to delve into the SAS challenge as well!
To me, this type of open and frank discussion is really what the SAS community is all about. Coming together in collaboration to help each other and share their knowledge. This type of engagement is something I'd like each and every user group across Canada to embrace... and most do, in their own way!
I left Halifax much, much too soon. 24 hours is not enough time to spend in this great city. I know I'll be back sooner rather than later, however... and I look forward to it already. My next adventure: Saskatoon and Winnipeg this week. The agendas for both meetings look great and I'll be glad to share my thoughts on these heartland communities upon my return.