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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10 student papers from SAS Global Forum 2016

Academic Summit at SAS Global Forum 2016

Academic Summit at SAS Global Forum 2016

One of the encouraging changes we’ve seen at SAS Global Forum over the years is the excitement and involvement from the student community. These are the people we like call -- the next generation of analytics professionals.

The SAS Student Ambassador Program was successful again this year, and the newest addition to the conference was the Student Symposium competition. Here’s a short video interview I did with the winning team from the Université Laval in Canada.

Many more students presented papers during the conference, and we thought it would be helpful to highlight a few so you can see what some of your peers are doing. Read More »

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Students propose multichannel marketing for Sunny Days Holidays

Customers today have more control over the buying process than marketers. So it’s vital for companies to reach them when they're ready to be engaged. Communications need to be relevant and consistent across all inbound and outbound channels to provide the sort of customer service that will match or surpass the competition.

Many organisations use multichannel marketing to reach customers at the various touch points where consumers interact with brands. These include indirect and direct communication channels throughout all stages of the customer journey. However, companies are still facing challenges in terms of targeted messaging, customer preferences and marketing response.

We recently set students from Regent’s University, London the challenge of using SAS technology to improve customer engagement in today’s digital and multichannel environment. Students provided clever suggestions, covering marketing strategy and processes, marketing analytics, multichannel execution, and digital intelligence engagement.

SAS Group2

“It is important to understand the link between data (customer insights) and success (brand loyalty and increased revenue),” said Maja Vik, one of the participants who is studying MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics.

Participating students were majoring in Business Forecasting and MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics, along with the group winners from International Business Week. My colleague Vanessa Porter provided an introduction about what we do at SAS, an explanation on Integrated Marketing Management  and a description of the day’s activity.

The challenge for Sunny Days Holidays

The student's project was based on a fictitious holiday company called Sunny Days Holidays (SDH). The company was busy trying to move its business away from a very expensive brochure-based marketing programme to a multichannel programme that engaged customers on other channels to ultimately sell more holidays.

Students were divided into groups of five. While exploring the grounds at SAS, each group met key employees from SDH and asked a series of questions to gather key information about data collection, data management, customer insight and analytics, marketing and sales execution.

The aim was for students to recommend the top three activities SDH should put in place to improve sales and provide a great experience to customers.

“Knowing what SAS is able to achieve in order to help companies to increase sales by delivering the right message to the right person, at the right moment, via the right channel, have helped us to create clear recommendations,” said Emmanuelle Tremolet, studying MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics.

Presenting marketing recommendations

Each student group did a 10-minute presentation (without slides) setting out their recommendations. This gave students a feel of what it’s like to be a pre-sales employee at SAS and was also an opportunity to get a high level understanding of SAS technology.

“It was a great insight into how pre-sales and sales teams operate within a data analytics organisation such as SAS," according to Catriona Natalia Stobie, a first-year student in International Business. "It also allows you to see that companies such as SAS need people from different backgrounds – you don’t need to be an IT expert,” she added.

The results were impressive - students were motivated and enthusiastic, and networked with peers from the different courses. “I enjoyed being able to work with students from different courses at Regent’s University – both postgraduates and undergraduates – and the collaboration of different perspectives and ideas,” said Catriona Natalia Stobie, a first-year student in International Business.

The group winners won a SAS Swiss army card. The recommendations impressed SAS employees. “They demonstrated excellent team works skills by having all members of the team perform sections of the final presentation and provided a very clear summary as to the recommendations and the benefits that could be obtained through the deployment of their proposed solution,” said Andrew Gadsby, Customer Relationship & Escalation Manager at SAS, who was on the judging panel.


He added: “One thing that the teams appeared to be surprised about was how the different SDH employees had very different views on the actual processes existing within SDH, and how these processes supported their part of the business. This is very common in companies and I hope it provided the Regent’s students with a useful taste of dealing with corporate customers, where different departments frequently have different agendas.”

We wish all the students that attended the very best in their future careers and look forward to them spreading the word about the benefits of using SAS Analytics! Together we are bridging the gap between academia and business.

The final word comes from Andrew West, another student studying MSc Digital Marketing and Analytics: “Businesses are becoming more and more data-driven, so knowing more about SAS will be really helpful.”

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Congratulations 2016 SAS Student Ambassadors!

Places to visit while in Las Vegas for SAS Global Forum 2016SAS Global Forum is right around the corner, as in next week! Thousands of SAS users will travel to Las Vegas to talk shop, and let’s face it, have some fun too.  Many students will also be in attendance to present their work, learn more about SAS and what they can do with it, network, and get a jump start on their careers.  The SAS Student Ambassador Program recognizes those students who are using SAS to creatively solve problems, and rewards them with an all-inclusive trip to attend the conference.  SAS is proud to announce this year’s Student Ambassadors.

Attending SAS Global Forum 2016? Be sure and check out their presentations!  Use the mobile app, or log in to the agenda builder and view the sample agendas around Students and Academia.

Can’t make it to SAS Global Forum this year? That’s ok, you can check out the winners here, and follow along via social channels to see what’s happening.

Congratulations 2016 SAS Student Ambassadors!

Sara Armandi
University of Copenhagen, MS Economics
Graduation Date: January 2016

Katherine Cai
Arizona State University, PhD Statistics
Graduation Date: May 2017

Matthew Collins
University of Alabama, MS Business Administration
Graduation Date: May 2016

Lucy D'Agostino McGowan
Vanderbilt University, PhD Biostatistics
Graduation Date: May 2019

Kyle Irimata
Arizona State University, PhD Statistics
Graduation Date: May 2017

Cameron Jagoe
University of Alabama, MS Operations Management - Decision Analytics
Graduation Date: August 2017

Verlin Joseph
Florida A&M University, MS Public Health
Graduation Date: May 2016

Vinoth Kumar Raja
Oklahoma State University, MS Management Information Systems
Graduation Date: December 2015

Niloofar Ramezani
University of Northern Colorado , PhD Applied Statistics and Research Methods
Graduation Date: May 2017

Veronica Renauldo
Grand Valley State University, MS Biostatistics
Graduation Date: April 2016

Sherrie Rodriguez
Kennesaw State University, MS Applied Statistics and Data Analysis
Graduation Date: May 2016

Mostakim Tanjil
Oklahoma State University, MS Design, Housing and Merchandising
Graduation Date: May 2016

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Three tips for developing an analytics program that prepares students for big data careers

In a few short years, the need for people with analytics skills could significantly outpace supply. In fact, recent research from MGI and McKinsey's Business Technology Office says:

By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

So, what is higher education doing to address this need? Are colleges and universities developing programs to help train the next generation of data scientists? Many of them are.

For example, Dr. Robert McGrath discussed how the University of New Hampshire (UNH) is addressing the analytics skills gap in a previous interview on this blog.

In a new video interview, Dr. McGrath shared more details about UNH's Graduate Programs in Analytics. Here, we've turned his responses into three quick video highlights that explain you how the program works.

  1. Engage with industry partners and understand their needs.

  1. Combine industry experience with real world data.

  1. Partner with SAS to develop an analytics program like the one at UNH.

How are other higher education institutions  addressing the analytics skills gap and developing their analytics programs? Check out this blog series about analytic talent. It features interviews with professors, department leads and other educators who are seeding the market with analytical talent and directly impacting the analytics talent management pipeline.

Dr. Robert McGrath is an Everett B. Sackett Associate Professor and Director for Graduate Programs in Analytics within the Department of Health Management and Policy in the College of Health and Human Services at the University of New Hampshire. His academic focus surrounds health data and information issues for health care practice and policy. First introduced to SAS in 1996 while working for Healthsource Insurance (now Cigna Corporation).

How can you help fill the analytics skills gap? Check out these resources for teaching and learning SAS:

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Analytics Experience: Student Opportunities!

The name might have changed, but the conference hasn’t. You will still get all the great content as in year’s past.  The Analytics Experience will take place September 12-14, 2016 in Las Vegas, and the good news, there are some fantastic opportunities for students this year.

Once again, students can submit an abstract for the Student Poster Contest.  The top six (6) posters will be chosen as winners and will receive a free trip to Vegas for the conference including airfare, hotel accommodations and conference meals!  What could be better?  You’ll get the chance to show off your hard work and network with industry professionals, all while enjoying the sights and sounds of Vegas.  See the Official Rules for more information. Submissions are due May 1.

Registration for the Analytics Shootout competition is still open!  Ready to try your hand at solving a hypothetical, but common, real-world analytics problem?  Then this competition is for you.  Grab some of your fellow students and register your team today.  Registration closes May 3.  The top 3 teams will be honored as the winners of the Analytics Shootout at the conference.  The top three teams' universities will also receive donations from SAS.  See Official Rules for more information.

This year, there is an open call-for-content, and one of the session types that might interest students is the Lightning Round.  These are short, 10 minute presentations designed to share quick tips and tricks, and useful nuggets of information that make jobs easier.

Want to attend the conference, but not ready to present a poster or participate in the Shootout? That’s OK.  Full-time students will receive free conference passes again this year.  Details here.

So, come join us in Vegas September 12-14! Come for the learning, stay for the fun!

Questions? Contact Jenna Green.

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Mind the gap: Addressing the analytics skills gap with improved education

That famous warning phrase heard regularly on the London Underground, warning passengers of the gap between the train and the platform, also applies to the UK tech industry.

We’re facing a gap between the skills available in today's workforce and the demand for specific skills in today’s job market. And the gap is set to get bigger unless we do something about it.

So why is there a gap?

As organizations develop in the digital era and tackle new concepts such as big data and Internet of Things (IoT), they need workers familiar with those topics. But the concepts are so new that not many workers have learned the skills needed for these areas yet. In the case of big data, it’s not just a volume issue – it’s also complicated, unstructured data being delivered at high velocity. Therefore, employees need the right analytical skills to solve business problems analytically, deliver meaningful insight, and enable their organization to make faster and better decisions.

According to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and SAS: The value of big data and the Internet of Things to the UK economy, some £322 billion of additional revenue is expected to be generated by to the UK economy from 2015 to 2020. As a result, 182,000 new jobs are likely be created over the same period. That means that anyone with the right data and analytics skills will be in high demand.

However, the gap remains an immediate concern in the job market, so the commitment from the government, universities and businesses to tackle the issue remains high. SAS has already started to help address this problem.

In 2014, SAS Analytics U launched as an academic program to help bridge the gap between academia and business.

More specifically, in the UK & Ireland, we have already achieved the following:

  • 50+ SAS-based Master degrees being taught
  • 3,500+ students graduating with SAS skills annually
  • 80 universities using SAS for teaching and research
  • All 24 Russell Group universities using SAS

Every year, we at SAS Analytics U: UK & Ireland want to make sure that our future generations are aware of the new skills needed in the workplace, and we are committed to addressing the hard and soft skills that businesses require.

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Breaking into new markets with help from students at Regent’s University

In February this year, the Careers and Business Relations (CBR) team from Regent’s University London invited SAS to participate in their International Business Week – the topic was: “The challenge to get SAS into a new market” and called first year business students to develop a project using their knowledge, creative and research skills to generate the best solutions and recommendations for us.

Just as the international business week was a challenge for business students in the first year, it also was a challenge for us. SAS is global company. So, how can we expand into a new market if we are a global company? We've come up with a hypothetical scenario - predicting the future!

On Monday the business lecturer explained to students the assignment brief and we presented to them the scenario and an overview of the company, with a Q&A at the end. The idea was that students used that scenario as a basis for their research. Then, on Thursday, three different groups of students with the best projects presented final results to a panel of lecturers and SAS representatives.

What great results we had! We could see all the effort and thought that students put into the project. It was a tough decision but the group winners won a tour around the SAS campus in Marlow, where they will find out all about the SAS culture here.

The week was also a great opportunity to introduce students to our academic programme - all the benefits and resources available to them and how they can increase their analytical skills. And all for free!

We will continue to share details about future events and help students to stand out in the job market so they can be part of the next generation of analytical specialists.

Finally, I would love to share some of the memorable moments

Our colleague, Vanessa Porter gave to students a feedback about their presentations

Our colleague, Vanessa Porter gave to students a feedback about their presentations

Congratulations to the group winners.

Congratulations to the group winners.

Introducing our Academic Program to the students

Introducing our Academic Program to the students

And sharing some of our customer stories

And sharing some of our customer stories

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