Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Whirlwind in Winnipeg

I never feel that I have enough time in this city. Typically I'm flying in fairly late at night from Saskatchewan and snatching a late dinner before bed... then a fast morning meeting, an efficient lunch and a sprint to the airport. One of these days I want to be able to take a breath and see the sights. My childhood memories of camping with my family from Toronto to Winnipeg are fading over time... I really need to make some new ones.

Fortunately, my adult memories are of the wonderful SAS community members I get to see each and every time I come into town. Craig Kasper and Kevin Morgan who co-chair the user group never fail to make me smile - whether sharing deep SAS knowledge with a technical newbie or commiserating over the woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs (hey, misery loves company), I always feel welcome and at home. The other Executive Committee members are fantastic as well. I love the energy of Xue Yao and the friendly smiles of Stella Leung and Humaira Khair. I'm especially grateful that the entire team quickly and without debate rolls up their sleeves to help out. Whether that's delivering a presentation in a pinch, assisting at the registration desk, MCing the meeting or speaking with attendees one on one, they truly make my life easy.

Of course, there are other locals who offer just as much support. Charles Burchill is a frequent speaker (and delivered a great talk on SAS Dates at this meeting) and his enthusiasm and energy is really remarkable. His passion is infectious, to be honest - I always find I leave my conversations with him more charged up than ever around SAS and SAS usage... and I work for the company! There are many individuals who ask interesting, challenging questions at the meeting itself which is a very welcome feature of our get-togethers. Questions and answers fly around the room and we all learn something new. This, after all, is the overarching goal of the user group program.

I referenced a whirlwind in my title. While I meant to apply that to my quick stop in the city, it could just as easily be applied to the presentation stylings of Nate Derby. Once again Nate proved he could captivate a room and hold their interest. He delivered a talk on graphing which was fascinating - how to effectively communicate information visually and some options for the most effective ways of surfacing this information. As we slip deeper and deeper into the era of visual data discovery, these outputs are becoming more and more prevalent. I felt privileged to see some options first hand and I certainly learned a lot. You can find all of the talks posted on the Winnipeg SAS User Group website - do take a look, they are certainly worth your while.

The post-meeting lunch with the Executive Committee was as entertaining as always. It's always amazing to me to see how time inexorably marches onwards. Since I was last in Winnipeg a huge building had been constructed with a great restaurant in the base - but I never saw any construction at all! It wasn't there, and there it was. There's a very deep philosophical manifesto buried in there somewhere, but I'm not going to try and surface it now on the cusp of a long weekend. 

Speaking of which I hope everyone enjoys a relaxing and enjoyable 72 hour break. If you celebrate Easter, then I hope it's a good one. If not, well, enjoy your downtime. I'll be back following the Health User Group meeting next week with a guest blogger, SAS rookie Warren Woermke.

Until then...

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