Side effects of working at a great place

I'm now into my 20th year of working for SAS. This year in November I'll have my 20th "SAS-iversary" and thus mark the beginning of my third decade here. I've worked here since the Clinton administration. I've met SAS employees who were actually not yet born when I attended my SAS employee orientation.

No matter how I try to make it sound like I've been working here a long time, it's really not that impressive to my colleagues. 20 years just isn't that big of a milestone here. We celebrate the 25-year mark with a bit more fanfare, but even that has become fairly routine. SAS has been accumulating employees since 1976, and the fact is that these employees rarely leave. We all know it's a great place to work, and the external validation -- as in today's Fortune announcement -- only serves to reinforce that.

Years ago during my daughter's "career day" panel at her school, an 8-year old boy asked me whether I "get along with the people I work with." I gave this answer:

We all get along very well. Everyone that I work with is professional, meaning that we all work together to get our jobs done. Now, that doesn't mean that we are all friends. You can choose your friends, but you can't always choose the people that you work with. That's why it's so important to be professional at work so that you can get your job done, even if your coworkers aren't the sort of people that you would usually hang out with. But sometimes you do make friends at work, and that's great too -- it's nice to work with people that you like.

It was a sincere response that applies to any workplace, but it has special meaning at SAS. If you don't get along with a colleague and you think, "well, that's okay - I'll just do my job and hope he moves on soon", think again. Even though I've had several different job roles in different departments, I still work with some of the people I met here on Day One at SAS. Lesson: it's best to be nice to everyone.

If this is true for SAS colleagues, it's even more true for SAS customers. When I attend a SAS user group event it's not unusual for me to meet customers who have used SAS for over 25 years. These long-time customers often love to "drop names" of long-time SAS employees they've met and worked with. They reminisce fondly about early SAS technology, I think in an effort to make feel like a "junior" staffer with my meager years of service.

Me: "Yes, I've been with SAS since 1993."
Customer: "1993 eh? Well, in 1993 I had already been using SAS for two centuries. In fact, I chiseled my first SAS program on stone tablets. My printouts were shipped to me via pony express. Oh, when we got the Wells Fargo wagon...that was a boon!"

My goal: to one day be one of those "dropped names" that comes up in conversation. But hopefully not in the same sentence as stone tablets, or even punch cards.

tags: gptw, great places to work

7 Comments

  1. David Biesack David Biesack
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Good points Chris. and words to live by as we all struggle to be the best professionals we can be. I think that is a big part of why we're consistently so high in these types of "Best Places to Work" surveys.

    And by the way, you are one of those people whose names we drop around here.

  2. Quentin
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    +1 on your already having achieved 'dropped name status'. I can admit I dropped your name at NESUG when chatting with some folks from SAS publishing.... Really appreciate your books and social media particpation etc etc etc

  3. Posted January 17, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Excellent points Chris as always. I look forward to another 20 years of blog posts from you. If you average two a month - that means about 480-500 left, I think. Where's Rick Wicklin when you need him? :-)

    All joking aside - I'm sure you'll have no problem being "name dropped" by some of those up and coming SASers.

  4. GingerR
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    If punch cards were all you had then that's what you used!

  5. Jack Bulkley
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Well at least I am not thinking of you as a new employee. Having been here over 30 years, I attach, mostly facetiously, the new employee tag to everyone with less than 10 years. I have also been known to tell people they can't eat the peanut MMs until they have been here a year. So far no one has believed me.

    But to your main point, I have also found being nice to people to have extra benefit when things change and people come back into your everyday work life.

  6. jaap karman
    Posted January 27, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Congratulations with your lustrum and the place where you work.

    This reply is of "one of those customers". I have to made some confessions:
    - I always admired the Nickname “The SAS Dummy”. I was thinking it was a marvelous example of British sense of humor of “the understatement”.
    Found: you are not British related at all.
    - When I want to explain someone who you are. I have said many times:
    “the guy of IBM writing promoting OS/2”. I should not do that anymore that is very old history

    You are one the biggest promoters of Eguide. That thing of SAS that is coming away of the old approach of having: a/ source code b/ output – results b/ processing-log. And even more weird, no letters / characters were existing, just some numbers. This is the way the IT was when the hardware was having punch cards and the paper printed. Still many people are kept thinking and working like this.
    I am connecting you to /* punch cards ; paper print */ to get that way of thinking to real history. I am sorry for that.

    I believe you : 20 years working at a great place is a good thing. You can always improve yourself, getting better all the time. That is the professional approach. On the other hand, being locked up in a special way can get you unworldly.

    Why I am saying this?
    I have some opinions and experiences in this direction with SAS. Perhaps a “SAS dummy” can do something with that. That is not in the scope of this posting of you anymore.

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