Resources to prepare the next generation of SAS professionals

Yawn. Stretch. Blink. Blink again.

It is 8:00 a.m. on the first day of the semester, and you know you haven’t had enough sleep (or coffee), but did the professor really just say that we are going to learn statistics? Why did I sign up for this class again? While that statistics class seemed like a good idea at the time, after all you love numbers and data, right now it all feels just a little overwhelming.

At SAS, we know those feelings. The excitement of starting a new class and that ambitious feeling you get when you think this could be the first step down a career path for you. Still, it can be a little scary and leave you wondering: how do I get started?

Starting something new is always a challenge and starting to learn SAS software is no different. SAS has a number of resources for students and our student page on the SAS Academic Programs website was designed just for you. Here you’ll find information on how to get free SAS software and more about our tutorials, e-learning, books, blogs and communities to help you learn.

So as the professor begins to review the class rules and details about turning in assignments, now is the time to learn more about learning SAS. Grab your phone and go to our SAS Academic Programs website or directly to our student page.

Right away, you will notice there are a few resources and then a list of all the resources that you can use to learn the software. (P.S. this blog is one of them!)

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Want to learn more about SAS in academics? See what other students and professors are saying in the SAS Analytics U Community. Ready to start learning the software? Watch our how-to video tutorials or check out SAS books for students. Maybe even sign up to take a free online class. And make sure to bookmark this page, so that once you become a SAS expert you can take advantage of incredible certification discounts or maybe even become a SAS student ambassador.

Looks like the professor is coming up for air, so it’s probably a good time to download the software. Pull up your laptop and let’s get started. SAS offers free software for students and your choices can be found below the resources on the student page. Of course, check with your professor to make sure you’re using the right software.

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It’s just a few simple steps to set up the software depending on your professor’s directions.

Even in your sleepy, early-morning state it’s easy to see why our SAS Academic Programs website is your one-stop shop for learning SAS, connecting with others using the software and for getting help. Simple, easy, mobile. Just know we are to help you and see many linear regressions in your future.

Now go grab yourself a cup of coffee before you fall asleep on your desk!

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4 business lessons gleaned from Star Wars

#sasinternlifeNot too long ago (last month), in a theater not too far away (10 minutes from my house), I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. According to CNN Money, the standalone Star Wars movie brought in $29 million at the domestic box office on opening night, making it the biggest Thursday night opening of 2016. Now that’s a product launch we can all commend. But don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the movie, go into a storyline analysis, or talk about how bad ass Felicity Jones’ character is if you haven’t seen it (we can save that for another conversation). The entire iconic Star Wars saga does more than tell a legendary story; it’s a cultural phenomenon, a strong brand with endearing characters that teach valuable lessons that can be easily applied in business.

Yes, really, business lessons.

From teaching us to trust gut instincts, to being a great leader, to learning from our mistakes, there are many lessons that can be applied to business from this epic film series. I made this infographic to show you four business lessons from Star Wars that have impacted me the most.

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I never thought that Star Wars would teach lessons that could apply to business and then inspire me to write this post. It was an eye-opening moment when these applications popped out at me (and it wasn’t because I saw the movie in 3D). As business people, we need to be fearless, keep exploring and learning, and encourage creativity and innovation. Business challenges never stop, so without these lessons learned, problems can grow galactic in scale. As you cross into new territories and face each day, may these lessons be with you.

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Scholarship opportunities at SAS Global Forum 2017 – There’s still time to apply!

scholarship opportunities at SAS Global Forum 2017Calling all students and faculty! Did you know that you can apply for a scholarship to attend SAS Global Forum? Twenty student scholarships and ten faculty scholarships are available for those who want to attend SAS Global Forum 2017. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is January 13, so don’t delay!

Benefits of receiving a scholarship to attend include: networking with industry leaders and professionals from around the world, professional development, learning and enrichment, and financial assistance. Scholarship awardees receive free conference registration, a free pre-conference tutorial and a conference meal plan. Travel and lodging are not included in these scholarships.

Here is what one student who attended SAS Global Forum 2015 had to say about his experience:

“I had the chance to present a paper at SAS Global Forum 2015. This conference was a great place to network and interact with industry professionals. It was also a great opportunity to present my work to SAS professionals from around the world. Attending SAS Global Forum helped me to build and widen my analytics expertise. While applying for jobs, I was able to have a conversations about my publications and work in interviews which bolstered my chances of being hired.”
– Ramcharan Kakarla, Sr Data Scientist, Comcast

For students, attending SAS Global Forum as a scholarship recipient looks great on a resume! For faculty, attending helps you learn the latest and greatest tools and techniques to take back to the classroom.

Will you become the next Student or Faculty Scholarship winner?

Student Scholarship Program
Apply Here

Faculty Scholarship Program
Apply Here

Questions? Email academic@sas.com

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A new SAS user is born

Thanksgiving turkey, Blue Jays playoff baseball, and SAS ANALYTICS all in one day!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. The air is crisp, fall colours are at their peak, family and friends abound, and a veritable feast is at hand. This year was especially good because Thanksgiving Day included three of my favourite things: roast turkey, Blue Jays playoff baseball and coding in SAS/STAT.

First the baseball. If you are a SAS User residing in the U.S. then you are thinking that baseball is over by Thanksgiving, right? That’s true, unless you live in Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers on October 9 (Thanksgiving in Canada) to win the American League Division Series. Let’s not discuss the AL Championship Series.

The roast turkey, as a Thanksgiving tradition, needs no explanation. The real story here is how SAS/STAT found its way on to my Thanksgiving Day menu.

It is natural to enjoy perks from family members’ occupations: retail employee pricing, airline benefits, medical advice, etc. Are there any perks from having a statistician in the family? Yes indeed. And one who knows SAS programming, even better.

My niece, Meaghan, sent me a note before the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to let me know that she was bringing home research data from the University of Ottawa, where she is a Masters candidate in the Department of Biology. We were gathering at her parents’ home in Annan Ontario, overlooking the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron (exquisite view!). She had some questions regarding the statistical analyses. When we sat down to review the study and the data, I noticed that she was using two software packages: MS Excel (okay, I guess), and another package that will remain nameless. I joked that I could not help her until the offending file was deleted from my view. Meaghan explained that she would like to use SAS, but that it is too expensive. Ah ha! “Not so, mon ami.”

A new SAS users is bornIt did not take long to explain that SAS University Edition is free for use to students and faculty and suggested she download it. Within a few hours, Meaghan had SAS installed on her MacBook (!). In no time she was able to execute the SAS program that I helped her code to import her data from a CSV file, transform it for a mixed model analysis, and run several candidate models using the GLIMMIX Procedure. Meaghan’s study is a classic split-split-plot design where the plots, in this case, are rabbits. Seven replicates were measured in the smallest unit, and different rabbits were “measured” at 3 times: 4, 8, and 12 weeks. But it is better if I turn this blog over to Meaghan to explain the study and how she is learning SAS.

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Analytics competition provides students real-world opportunity (and why that’s so important!)

analytics-competition-provides-students-real-world-opportunity01Hi there! I am Murali Sastry, a student pursuing my Master’s degree in Analytics at Capella University (CU). I love data and really enjoy digging into it to find valuable insights. If you’re a student in an analytics program like I am, let me give you a bit of advice. In addition to your coursework, I encourage you to look for opportunities to apply what you learn either in a real-world setting, by pursuing an internship, or using real-world data, by participating in any of a number of analytics competitions. In this blog I wanted to share with you the experience I had in my first data analytics competition. The experience has already helped me in so many ways as I look to continue my study of and career in analytics.

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Fortunately for me, CU staff is well connected to industry events, especially in Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA). Recently, our department chair sent a flyer to students about an analytics competition opportunity. The competition was jointly sponsored by: Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC), an institution with a history of conducting analytic competitions in the academic community; Social Data Science (SDS), a non-profit society focused on applying analytic insights to the public sector; and, MinneAnalytics, a seven-thousand-member non-profit organization. The competition was part of these organizations’ commitment to advancing the analytic professional community.

For this event, MinneAnalytics provided all the funding and the judges (eighty of them!). SDS worked with the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council to provide the three datasets (those exceeded six gigabytes), and MUDAC shared its five years of experience in hosting analytics competitions among academic institutions. Per MinneAnalytics, the competition focused on “Providing an experiential learning opportunity during which students grapple with real world data and research issues, and where the outcomes they determine matter.”

The competition was a great way to sink into real-world data and what better opportunity could one have to experience real-world data than in competition, right? MinneAnalytics supported the event by bringing together students, employers, and judges to showcase student presentations and insights (i.e., all analytics professionals - budding or otherwise) in one place. It was fabulous!

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Training professors to teach SAS a primary mission for SAS’ Global Academic Program

training-professors-to-teach-sasThe combination of a looming shortage of analytical professionals in the workforce and a recent Money and Payscale.com study which named SAS the top skill to pursue in today’s job market, many students are looking to learn SAS. Many universities are stepping up to meet this need with a well-developed curriculum designed to teach SAS skills. To help professors in this endeavor, SAS’ Global Academic Program offers instructor workshops designed to teach professors how to teach SAS.

The workshops are free of charge to professors (though travel and accommodations are the responsibility of attendees), and include course materials, meals and instruction from some of SAS’ top experts. .

Workshops are offered three times throughout the year, on both the East and West coast, with different topics covered at each session.  The first round of workshops kicks off in January 2017 in San Diego, CA at National University.  For more information on the workshops, and topics offered, visit our website.

To find out what makes these workshops so enticing for professors, we asked Dr. Charlotte Baker, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, what she likes about the workshops.

Jenna Green: What made you decide to attend a Professor Workshop?
Charlotte Baker: I love learning new things and challenging myself to spend the time to learn. I really like the types of courses you all offered and it doesn't hurt that they are free!

JG: What value did you receive from attending?
CB: Continuing education is so important. The free workshops offered by SAS really provided me the opportunity to refresh myself on tools that I haven't used in a while and learn new things that I can use in my teaching and research. I feel like the workshops gave me a great value for the amount of time spent attending.

JG: What courses are you teaching?
CB: This semester I'm teaching a biostatistics laboratory that focuses on using SAS to apply what students have learned in their biostatistics course, advanced epidemiology and biostatistical methods, and a few advanced research independent studies.

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Three skills every student seeking a career in analytics should develop

skills_every_student_seeking_a_career_in_analytics_should_developThe job market for individuals with analytical skills is hot, and it’s only getting hotter. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute puts the situation in perspective, citing a shortfall of nearly 200,000 professionals with strong analytical skills by the year 2018. Businesses are looking to colleges and universities to help fill that gap, asking them to provide their students with the analytical skills they need to fill many of these currently vacant analytical roles.

How students can prepare for a career in analytics, and the role universities play in preparing them, is the focus of Dursun Delen’s recent article, Mandate for STEM Educators, found in the August issue of INFORMS magazine. Given the shortage, Delen, a professor of business analytics within the Department of Management Science and Information Systems at the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University, says educators haven’t had a “mandate this clear since the space race of the 1960s.”

And, the demand for analytics professionals doesn’t show any signs of abating any time soon. That’s great news for students educated in analytics. With so many businesses around the world looking to hire in support of their big data initiatives, these students are stepping squarely into a seller’s job market – a rare occurrence for many new graduates.

But that only works if the student is well prepared. In his article, Delen outlines three areas that will provide a firm foundation from which a student can build his analytical career.

First, is descriptive analytics, a simple concept but critical in solving big data problems. Descriptive analytics uses a sample of a given population or data set to report on and draw conclusions without having to use all data points. With the amount of data collected in today’s digital world, students with strong skills in descriptive statistics – think mean, median, standard deviation and a number of other reporting skills – is non-negotiable.

Delen cites predictive analytics as the second area critical to any analytical professional’s knowledge base. Of course, predictive analytics builds on descriptive analytics by using advanced statistical techniques, like data or text mining, to go beyond the snapshot descriptive analytics provides. According to Delen, predictive analytics builds a model to forecast future trends, understand customers, improve business performance, drive strategic decision-making and predict behavior.

Delen says the third layer in the “analytics hierarchy” is prescriptive analytics. Prescriptive analytics goes beyond even predictive analytics by identifying the optimal decision from the universe of options. Delen says techniques in prescriptive analytics include optimization and simulation, methods that can have the greatest impact for companies using advanced analytics.

To help build a student’s expertise in analytics, a number of universities have created advanced degree or certificate programs in analytics. In addition to course work, many of these schools partner with area businesses to provide practical experience solving real-world problems.

SAS plays a critical role in many of these programs by partnering with universities to offer master of analytics, applied statistics, data analytics and a number of other degrees that use SAS software as the analytical tool of choice. Other schools offer joint certificate programs, marrying course content with SAS knowledge. (If you’re a student looking for such a program, here’s a list of the master programs with a SAS focus, as well as joint SAS/university certificate programs.)

Delen says cloud-based technology makes it even easier for companies like SAS to get software in the hands of students as well. He cites the Teradata University Network (TUN) as a great example of how software providers can provide the tools and resources professors need to ensure that their students have access to various technologies. Experience with analytical software and advanced technologies will serve students well as they launch their professional careers.

Delen talks about the importance of hands-on experience in the education of students, which is one reason why SAS, along with the INFORMS Analytics Section, sponsors the Student Analytical Scholar Competition. The purpose of the competition is to practice the process of structuring and presenting a compelling proposal for analytical work in the prescriptive analytics realm. Students read a case study that is based on a real-life project involving optimization and/or simulation and must craft a document known as a “Statement of Work” (SOW). Such documents are usually created early in a project, after some exploratory work, but may or may not fully define the problem. The challenge requires students to combine the “hard” STEM skills they’ve learned along with “soft” skills like business problem framing, communication, and presentation, just as they would have to do if they were competing to win business.

If you’re a student interested in pursuing a career in analytics, I encourage you to read Delen’s full article on the INFORMS website and learn more about the work SAS is doing in support of teaching, learning and research in education.

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Learn SAS on your own time with these simple steps

SAS Mini MOOC!!! What is MOOC? Yes, this was the big question from attendees who visited our Data Science Skills pod at SAS Forum UK 2016 – If you missed the forum, here are the resources. I also thought: why don’t write about it?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course - free online learning, open for everyone, which you can use as part of a university course to improve your skills. Apparently, the term was created by Dave Cormier  (the Project Lead for Student Relations Management at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada) in 2008 as a response to a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08), run by George Siemens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council. Then 2012 became “the year of the MOOC”, when top universities started to implement the model. More about its history can be found in Wikipedia.

Dave Cormier suggests five different steps to success in a MOOC:

  1. Orient: Materials, links and time.
  2. Declare: Have a place for your thoughts, maybe a blog.
  3. Network: Follow other people and make some connections.
  4. Cluster: Find yourself a cluster of people to connect with, a community for sharing.
  5. Focus: in what you want to achieve at the end of the course.

Now, we know what MOOC is, let me tell you about SAS’ Mini-MOOC. To make your journey with SAS simpler, we condensed all the SAS free resources and materials into six simple steps; the perfect route to get started with SAS and learn in your own time.

So, let’s navigate throughout the steps:

Step 1: Download the free SAS University Edition Software

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Yes, hit the button: Get free software, and start using world-class analytics software used by more than 80,000 business, government and university sites around the world. That means you'll be using the latest statistical and quantitative methods available, which allow you to build your analytical skills and prepare for gratifying careers across all industries.

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Working with the Hidden Markov Model

Editor's note: This post is part of a series of blogs written by SAS interns. To check out more posts written by our awesome interns, visit our SAS Intern Life blog series webpage.

Making a difference at SAS: My current project

the hidden markov modelI am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in the Department of Economics at North Carolina State University and earlier this year I secured a graduate student internship with SAS. For the last several months I've been working as an econometric fellow in the Econometrics Time Series group and have been fortunate enough to work on some very interesting things. One project has been particularly exciting (and it matches my dissertation) - developing the new Hidden Markov model (HMM) procedure for next year’s release.

HMM has been widely applied in engineering and the Artificial Intelligence industry, including signal processing and speech recognition (like Siri and Cortana, or the automatic subtitles in YouTube). Hidden means you can observe a sequence of signals, but do not know the sequence of states the model went through to generate the signals. Markov represents the hidden states or regimes evolve according to the transition probability under some assumptions.

Naturally, the HMM can also be applied in the financial market, since the asset prices are the signals you can observe, and the states of the economy are not known to most people. The one identifies the incoming bull or bear market and can make a fortune or avoid a loss. With the new multivariate HMM model, we can identify the most possible sequence of hidden states producing the combination of signals.

For example, by evaluating the return of the portfolio of 10 different stocks, we can find out the hidden states and how these stocks perform in each state. Then, by predicting the probability of incoming states, we can select the investing strategy accordingly. The following figure demonstrates how we used HMM to break down the stock index returns using S&P 500 data. We assume there are five states of the return process and the number of states also can be totally data driven. From the graph, we can clearly see each state cover a market condition, including positive return, negative return, the one with high volatility or peaceful period, etc.

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Students in analytics: Sara Armandi

Next up in our series, Students in Analytics, we feature a recent graduate – Sara Armandi.

Sara graduated from the University of Copenhagen earlier this year and stayed close to SAS – very close. She’s part of graduate program that SAS offers to help her develop her skills as a data scientist.

Hear more about her experience with the SAS graduate program in her area.

Interested in a career using SAS? Visit the getting started with SAS webpage to find all the resources to help you – it could even lead to your own job at SAS.

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