In addition to his day job as Chief Technology Officer at SAS, Oliver Schabenberger is a committed lifelong learner. During his opening remarks for the SAS Technology Connection at SAS Global Forum 2017, Schabenberger confessed to having a persistent nervous curiosity, and insisted that he’s “learning every day.” And, he encouraged attendees to do the same, officially proclaiming lifelong learning as a primary theme of the conference and announcing a social media campaign to explore the issue with attendees.
This theme of lifelong learning served a backdrop – figuratively at first, literally once the conference began! – when Schabenberger, R&D Vice President Oita Coleman and Senior R&D Project Manager Lisa Morton sat down earlier this year to determine the focus for the Catalyst Café at SAS Global Forum 2017.
A centerpiece of SAS Global Forum’s Quad area, the Catalyst Café is an interactive space for attendees to try out new SAS technology and provide SAS R&D with insight to help guide future software development. At its core, the Catalyst Café is an incubator for innovation, making it the perfect place to highlight the power of learning.
After consulting with SAS Social Media Manager Kirsten Hamstra and her team, Schabenberger, Coleman and Morton decided to explore the theme by asking three questions related to lifelong learning, one a day during each day of the conference. Attendees, and others following the conference via social media channels, would respond using the hashtag #lifelearner. Morton then visualized the responses on a 13-foot-long by 8-foot-high wall, appropriately titled the Social Listening Mural, for all to enjoy during the event.
Questions for a #lifelearner
The opening day of the conference brought this question:
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) April 2, 2017
Day two featured this question:
— SASanalytics (@SASanalytics) April 3, 2017
Finally, day three, and this question:
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) April 4, 2017
"Committed to lifelong learning"
Hamstra said the response from the SAS community was overwhelming, with hundreds of individuals contributing.
“It was so interesting to see what people shared as their first jobs,” said Morton. “One started out as a bus boy and ended up a CEO, another went from stocking shelves to analytical consulting, and a couple said they immediately started their analytical careers by becoming data analysts right out of school.”
The “what do you want to learn next?” question brought some interesting responses as well. While many respondents cited topics you’d expect from a technically-inclined crowd – things like SAS Viya, the Go Programming Language and SASPy – others said they wanted to learn Italian, how to design websites or teach kids how to play soccer.
Morton said the connections that were made during the process was fascinating and made the creation of the mural so simple and inspiring. “The project showed me how incredibly diverse our SAS users are and what a wide variety of backgrounds and interests they have.”
In the end, Morton said she learned one thing for sure about SAS users: “It’s clear our users are just as committed to lifelong learning as we are here at SAS!”
My guess is that wherever you’ll find Schabenberger at this moment – writing code in his office, behind a book at the campus library, or discussing AI with Dr. Goodnight – he’s nodding in agreement.