Students in analytics: Jason Bentley

With the analytics skills gap and rise in big data, there’s never been a better time to study analytics.

In this series, Students in Analytics, I’ll interview several students and recent grads about why they’re pursuing degrees in analytics.

Jason Bentley is a PhD student at the University of Sydney. He talks about his passion for data analysis and using that information to help people in their everyday lives.

If you’re interested in learning SAS, check out SAS University Edition. Not only will you get access to SAS software, but there’s an online community, training and documentation to help you develop your analytical skills – and possibly lead you to a new future with what a new study confirms is the hottest skill in today's job market.

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Using data to tell better stories

Using data to make better decisionsAccess to SAS® at an early age can change lives. If the most valuable skills to have in today’s job market are SAS® Analytics skills – and we know they are – then what better way to support young people than to teach them SAS?

That’s the premise, and the promise, of the Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP program.

GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The Connecticut-based program, hosted by Yale University's School of Medicine in conjunction with the Bridgeport City School District, is a federally funded US Department of Education grant program aimed at significantly increasing the number of low-income and minority students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

Approximately 40 rising high school seniors from Connecticut participated in this summer’s boot camp-style program. At the heart of the program was instruction in SAS® Studio via SAS® OnDemand for Academics, available free of charge to educators. Lisa Dierker, Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University, and a group of peer mentors (undergraduate and graduate students from Yale and Wesleyan) led the students.

In just nine days, students with no background in analytics, programming or SAS selected a research topic, gathered and analyzed data, and presented their work to a host of academic, non-profit and industry representatives.

The students who participated in the program not only learned basic SAS programming, they learned about a whole new arena of professional possibilities.

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SAS Back to School Guide Part II: Getting access to SAS Software for teaching or learning

Getting access to SAS Software for teaching or learningAs I mentioned in Part I of this SAS Back to School Guide, SAS offers many options for teaching and learning SAS at low or no cost. Below, I’ll go into a little more detail on what’s included, common installation questions, license renewals and more.

You may also want to open the product matrix for a comparison as you follow along this blog.

Option 1: Obtain a license from your university

Many universities have license agreements with SAS and will provide academic pricing for students who want to access that license.

Universities typically license the SAS Education Analytical Suite, which is a bundle of SAS products.
Click here (see page 2) to see which SAS products are included in this option.

If information isn’t available on your university’s web site, you’ll want to reach out to your on-site SAS representative for information on how to obtain a license from the university. If you’re unsure whether your university offers a license, or who your on-site SAS representative is, just contact us here at SAS.

If you go this route, you’ll need to renew this license annually through your university. If you’re using a Mac, you can run this option using Apple Boot Camp software.

Option 2: SAS University Edition

Another option is SAS University Edition, which is available at no cost to anyone wanting to learn SAS, not just students. SAS University Edition includes Base SAS (the latest version, 9.4), SAS/STAT, SAS/IML, SAS/ACCESS Interface to PC Files, as well as several time series forecasting procedures from SAS/ETS. Click here to see full details and limitations.

Be sure to review the Quick Start guides and videos on the download page. They will walk you through the installation process and get you up and running.

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SAS Back to School Guide for Students (Faculty and Admins, too!)

SAS Back to School GuideIt’s that time of year—time to get your rear in gear! The start of a new semester can be overwhelming—new books, new subjects—but we’re making it easy to learn SAS, with loads of available resources.

Below is a guide to some of the most common inquiries we get from students and teachers on getting started using and learning SAS. I’ve broken them out so you can skip to the most relevant information depending on where you are in your SAS studies!

What is SAS, and what does SAS stand for?

SAS is a leading provider of business analytics software and services. S-A-S originally stood for Statistical Analysis Systems, however now that SAS (pronounced "sass") develops more than just statistical software, it is more of a brand than an acronym. Find out more about SAS.

How can I get access to SAS software?

There are several options for students looking for access to SAS software. Each provides access to a unique bundle of SAS products. The first two are free: SAS University Edition and SAS OnDemand for Academics (cloud-based). The third option is to obtain a license from your university (if they offer one) at special academic pricing. This is typically called the Education Analytical Suite. This comparison chart will help you determine which option might work best for you. You can also find more information on obtaining a license and getting started using SAS in Part II of this Back to School Guide.

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Student Opportunities at SAS Global Forum 2017

It’s that time of year again, universities and colleges are gearing up for the 2016-17 academic year, football is starting another season, and the call for papers at SAS Global Forum is open!  SAS Global Forum happens every year, and is the largest gathering of SAS users.  In 2017, the conference will be held in Orlando, FL at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort April 2-5.

SAS Global Forum is a great place to network with other SAS users from around the world, see the different industries where SAS is used, and find out more about the latest and greatest in SAS technologies. Once again, there will be some awesome opportunities for students and faculty to attend.

Student Ambassador Program

The Student Ambassador Program is designed to support students who are using SAS in innovative ways in their respective fields.  Students can submit an abstract to present at SAS Global Forum as part of this program.  Select students will receive an award package which covers flight and hotel expenses, as well as conference registration fees and a pre-conference tutorial.

The Student Ambassador application is now open:

  1. Submit your abstract to SAS Global Forum
    1. Deadline to submit – October 3, 2016
  2. Submit your Student Ambassador Application
    1. Deadline to submit – October 3, 2016

Student Scholarship Program

Not ready to present or submit an abstract, but still want to attend SAS Global Forum? This is a great scholarship opportunity! The Student Scholarship Program is designed for students who aren’t ready to present yet, or want to attend without having to submit a paper. Student Scholarship Winners will receive conference registration fees, a meal plan, and a free preconference tutorial. Travel and hotel costs are not included in this scholarship.

The Student Scholarship application process is now open:

  1. Submit your Student Scholarship Application
    1. Deadline to submit – January 13, 2017

Faculty Scholarship Program

Faculty, you are at the forefront of developing future SAS users, and this conference is the perfect place where academia and industry come together. The Faculty Scholarship Program allows you to attend the conference for free and receive a free pre-conference tutorial. Conference meals are also included. Travel and hotel costs are not included in this scholarship.

The Faculty Scholarship application process is now open:

  1. Submit your Faculty Scholarship Application
    1. Deadline to submit – January 13, 2017

Whether you are an experienced SAS user, or a beginner, SAS Global Forum has something for everyone! So students, start working on those abstracts, because who knows, you could be the next SAS Student Ambassador!


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How students can get an edge at Analytics Experience

The Analytics Experience, Sept. 12-14 in Las Vegas is not just designed for analytics professionals. It’s also the perfect environment for students to learn, network and even present their work.

There are so many benefits for students, but the best one – full-time students attend for free!

So what are the other benefits of attending? And what should students take advantage of at the conference?

Who better to answer these questions than Dr. Goutam Chakraborty? If you’re in analytics – you likely know Dr. C (that’s what his students call him). He leads one of the most competitive master in business analytics programs in the world at Oklahoma State University. And he’s responsible for mentoring thousands of students working in the analytics field today. Read More »

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The maths in the dates – and who Taylor Swift will date!

Would Taylor Swift date her suitors or not? Guess what? Data scientists may know the answer. But this time it was pupils who found the answer. Pupils? Yes, data science is for everyone, kids included.

During Tech Week, a UK-wide event in July promoted by the Tech Partnership, organisations were encouraged to create interactive and fun activities for schools, universities and colleges – all aimed at inspiring and motivating young people to get interested in STEM careers. The idea is to change the way students learn about technology and ensure they see all the different tech career opportunities available to them.

We hosted a tech careers event at SAS’ UK headquarters over July 5-6, where we opened our doors to Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School and Sir William Ramsay School. Year 9 and 10 pupils from each school spent a fun day on our campus in Marlow, learning about different careers in technology, the job of a data scientist and how to solve real-life business problems with analytics.

Loredana Cornea and Oliver Crowley, two data science graduates, created a fun activity using the abacus: “The Maths in the Dates." It was a game that allowed pupils to use their curiosity to explore problems and experience some of the technical skills required of a data scientist.

During the hourlong game, pupils were divided into different groups, and each group was divided into two subgroups. One subgroup was the training team, comprising six members, and the other the scoring team, comprising three members

The training team got a complete “data set” (in an abacus) with information on Taylor Swift’s preference in men – referred to as the training data set. In data science, a training data set represents known information and is used to identify patterns within the data. The pupils’ job was to identify logical patterns in Taylor Swift's dating habits, backing up it with facts. After that, they communicated their conclusion to the matching scoring team.

The scoring team got an incomplete “data set” (in an abacus) with information on people who would like to date Taylor Swift – referred to as the scoring data set. In data science, a scoring data set represents a population you want to test your theories on or use to predict the outcome of an event you’re interested in. These theories are built using known information in a complete "data set" which was given to the training team.

The two data sets were different: The suitors' characteristics were different for each team, and we didn’t know if Taylor Swift will really date them or not because she hasn’t accepted or refused them yet.

The first step in analysing the data was to look at the different variables and find a threshold that separates those who Taylor chose to date from those she did not date. This process is called binning the variable into two buckets.

Next, the teams identified the categories that correspond to people who got a date and those who didn’t. This is called collapsing the levels of a qualitative variable.

The main goal was to understand the concept of dependent and independent variables, quantitative and qualitative variables, training and scoring data sets, and statistical inference. These are just some of the concepts and activities in the day-to-day work of a data scientist.

Finally, here is a picture of the game’s authors:


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Disabilities don't mean you can't be an excellent data scientist

Gareth Hampson, a data scientist who graduated with an MSc in databases and web-based systems from Salford University, recently won a SAS prize for his excellent project using SAS® Enterprise Miner™. He has also been profoundly deaf since the age of 4 due to meningitis.

We spoke to Gareth to find out more about what he does, his course, his projects, his hobbies and future plans, and why he uses SAS.


  • Where did you grow up and how did you first develop an interest in analytics?

I grew up in Stockport, a town south of Manchester. I have always had a very logical and analytical mind, but I didn’t know I was interested in analytics until I did the Salford MSc course.

  • What made you choose the Salford MSc degree course?

I was working for Stockport Council as a Management Information Officer. An MI Officer is an analyst who deals with data and reporting inquiries across all areas of the organization, as well as from central government and the general public.

Additionally, I was initiating projects to streamline workflow and processes within the HR department, often based on Microsoft Access and SQL Server, and I also developed the HR intranet site for the council. This was an area of work that I especially enjoyed.

After a reorganization within the council, I decided to formalize my knowledge by embarking on a higher degree. I wanted to be involved with databases, and also to develop web-based applications hosted in the cloud. The Salford MSc in databases and web-based systems jumped out as covering all my aspirations.

  •  Has your disability held you back in your career choices?

Inevitably, yes. Any role that requires significant verbal communication will be difficult. My original career path was as an opto-electronic engineer for Hewlett Packard, after completing my BEng in electrical and electronic engineering at Loughborough University. My thought process for this career path was to be in a professional role that might not necessarily require significant communication. My father was also an engineer, so this gave me a background in engineering.

Over time, I discovered I was more interested in IT, rather than engineering. IT is another good career for deaf people, especially in development. There are still areas that might be difficult, e.g., in heavily client-facing consultancy roles.


  • What did you like best about your course?

Being able to go in depth into the complexities of database systems, and learning how to perform data mining using SAS Enterprise Miner. The web-development module was also another highlight.

Special mention must be made of the course leader (and my dissertation supervisor), Dr. Mo Saraee, who has a hugely infectious and humorous way of lecturing and project supervision.

  • What did you find the most challenging on your course?

Probably forcing myself to take some time off every now and then! I was very focused on the course.


  • Greater Manchester Police

I performed data mining using the CRISP-DM framework and SAS Enterprise Miner to explore the potential of data mining on police crime records, with a view to finding patterns within the data to assist in crime reduction and prevention. As an example, an interesting pattern was found relating to the age of the offender, the type of crime and certain offender home address outcodes within Manchester.

  • Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

Below is the abstract from Gareth’s dissertation:

This project gathered incident records from the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), with the aim of demonstrating to the Service the viability of incorporating Data Mining techniques into any future risk modelling and resource allocation analysis that GMFRS may perform.

Focusing on three specific incident categories; Secondary Fires, Primary Fires and Special Services over the period 2009 to 2014, this study tested several different types of predictive modelling algorithms using the SAS Enterprise Miner data mining suite.

By examining the results generated for each category, this study demonstrates the potential of such techniques to reveal hidden patterns within the data, that are worthy of further analysis and contextual study. The results presented during the case studies are only a small example of the potential inherent in using data mining techniques on fire and rescue incident records.

Such knowledge is particularly useful for improving resource management for GMFRS (e.g. in identifying areas for preventive intervention), and also in enhancing risk modelling analysis. This study concludes by proposing future areas of research to ensure that GMFRS and indeed, other Fire and Rescue Services within the UK, gain the maximum benefit from data mining.


  • What do you like about using SAS for analytics?

The SAS suite is probably the de facto professional analytics software used in industry, and having exposure to it at university via SAS OnDemand for Academics is a significant advantage in the job market.

Also, a lot of the SAS-produced user guides and white papers were a major reason for the in-depth understanding I developed around data mining, in addition to the university lectures and tutorials.


  • What are your future plans, and will SAS be a part of them?

As a result of completing my MSc, I realize that my interests lie within data engineering in the big data field, i.e., in the development of Hadoop and other large-scale distributed data systems. I would certainly hope to be using SAS in order to analyze the data.

In any case, I intend to be doing some form of business intelligence and data development role, potentially with a view to developing web-application systems to analyze and visualise data, e.g., by using the SAS API.

I am looking for the entry role that will enable me to gain a foothold into the industry. I’m sure I can develop and progress rapidly within the company that gives me this opening.


I enjoy the outdoors and outdoor activities of all forms. Now that summer is here, and I have a bit more time since the MSc finished, I intend to spend more time climbing in the Peak District, an activity that I have neglected for a long while!

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How one data scientist turns ideas into reality

As the demand for analytical skills continues to grow and the data scientist has been catalogued as the sexiest job of the 21st century, more and more students are showing interest in the analytics and big data world.

We asked one of our graduates to share her experiences working as a data scientist and useful tips about getting SAS Certification, so as to offer advice to future graduates.

Loredana Cornea is a SAS Associate Technical Consultant within the Data Science team (part of the Professional Services Department) following the 2015 Graduate Programme. Her responsibilities encompass data analysis and model developing for customers in various areas.

What is your role at SAS?

My job involves offering consulting services to businesses with a large range of activities, from marketing to banking to cybersecurity. Basically, a client has an idea that they want to implement but doesn’t know how. Once it's determined the implementation is possible, my job is to make that idea a reality.

What are the skills that your role requires?

This job requires an intense training programme in methodology and software use, as well as social and communication skills for dealing with a client and working in a team (as tension tends to build very fast), adaptability to new environments and time management skills.

How did you first come across SAS?

SAS software wasn’t a stranger to me before working at SAS. I used it during my second year of a master's. All my projects were in Base SAS: credit scoring modelling, time series modelling, financial econometrics, quantitative marketing and many others. I liked it even then because once you got to understand how the syntax worked and how much free documentation was available from the internet on procedures and functions I needed to use, it was easy and fast to code. The documentation was especially helpful, as it covered even the theoretical part behind the code. After first using it, it took me four months to fully understand how it worked and pass the Base SAS Certification.

Why did you choose to work for SAS?

My career goal was to work with data at a high level, and once I discovered SAS software and the things you could do with it, I knew it would be an amazing opportunity to be a part of the SAS community.

Do you have some tips and tricks for students and graduates who are planning take SAS Certification?

Well, I passed several SAS Certifications. But for those interested in starting with the Base SAS Programming, I recommend the SAS Certification Prep Guide. It’s a very thick book and often on sale at the Learning Centre in Marlow or online from the SAS website. It has the theory explained very well and each chapter has a test.

Also take the free SAS Programming 1 e-course and check out the free SAS tutorials; these resources really are going to help you. The preparation period will take you two full weeks approximately.

The questions are formulated in such a way that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll choose the wrong answer. For that reason I recommend a lot of practice. It is not a test of your understanding of SAS, but rather of knowing the glitches of programming (for example defining a character variable as $4 will give you completely different results than $4. If the length of the character variable varies).

Can you tell us about your job application process and any useful tips that you would recommend to future applicants?

After the idea to be part of SAS simmered in my mind for some time, I decided to take my chance and apply. I was contacted several months later and passed two interviews. The first one was an automated, timed video interview with four questions that I knew nothing about beforehand. I think the aim was to surprise you and generate an honest and spontaneous response. There was only one or maybe two minutes to prepare your answer, after which you had to respond in two minutes. The key is to remind yourself to be calm, avoid too much detail in your response and the most important thing: Give a personal touch to your answer and NEVER replay the video before sending it because you’re going to hate it. The second interview was with my present manager, and he asked me about my experience in data analysis and what I liked about it.

What is the SAS working environment like?

I have had feedback since I started working here, and people tell me my most important assets are my involvement and passion for my job. But that’s because I very much like being here and doing what I’m doing. The people are friendly and supportive. Lots of employees are seniors who have been working here for 10, 15, and 20 years or more. It feels like a big family.

SAS Analytics U: UK & Ireland provides a direct line between DATA SCIENCE students learning SAS and leading SAS customers. Therefore, we have supported The SAS / UCL Big Data Skills Portal, where you can register and apply for short- and long-term placements or entry-level positions.

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Ryerson ZLAS Competition Wins with SAS University Edition!

On February 26, 2016 the SAS Canada Academic Program hosted its first event with the brand new Zone for Learning Analytics School (ZLAS) at Ryerson University.

Ryerson created ZLAS in an attempt to bring analytics to all students across Canada and, so far, it’s working! Students from Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and McMaster University were in attendance throughout the day. The SAS Canada Academic Program hosted a half-day workshop using SAS University Edition. Chris Battison, a long-time SAS user and the President of the SAS Canada Health User Group, ran the workshop for over sixty students. For many of these students, this was their first time learning and using SAS University Edition. The students then spent the afternoon using SAS University Edition with an open data source. They analyzed Toronto Blue Jays data to find one area for the team to improve upon and then find two players in the MLB who can boost performance in this chosen area. Both a highly topical and exciting competition if you’re a Jays fan.

The event was a success! The winning team, “the ZLAS Sports Analytics team,” received the top $1000 prize and the second-place team, the “SAS-inators,” received $500. The winning teams consisted of students from the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. James Tieu, the co-founder and co-executive director of ZLAS stated: “All and all, the day was a great success and we are really looking forward to running it again next year with more students.”

The SAS Canada Academic program is currently working with ZLAS to create another competition for Fall 2016 and recently attended the ZLAS Year End Summit and Career Fair on March 30, 2016. Stay tuned for more competitions and SAS University Edition learning opportunities!

ZLAS Winning Teams

ZLAS Winning Teams

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