At SAS, we recognize and appreciate the valuable skills and experience that veterans, active military, and military families bring to our workforce. We honor the service and sacrifice of military families, and actively support our employees in their transition from the military to the civilian corporate work environment.
Our own Michelle Ryals is a testament to the value that the military community brings to our company. She’s a Senior Manager in Software Development, a veteran, a military spouse, and a mom. Today, she’s sharing her story about how her time in the military led her to a 25-year (and counting!) career with SAS!
Michelle’s Story: A love of country and passion for technology
My military journey started when I joined the Army at 18 years old, just out of high school. I wanted to do something challenging, see the world, and I also wanted to attend college. The opportunity to serve my country while earning an education was a win-win for me, so I went for it!
I started as a Unit Supply Specialist (76C Military Occupational Specialty at the time, now 92Y) stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado. It was a great fit for me, combining my organizational skills and interest in computers and technology. I transitioned from full-time Army to NC National Guard in 1990 – and it must have been fate because that’s where I met my husband, Raymond. Our unit was then deployed to support Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
My work with computers ignited a passion for technology, so after my deployment I joined the National Guard and moved back to North Carolina to pursue a degree in Computer Science at NC State University. During my job search, I met recruiters from SAS at a career fair and ended up accepting an offer to start my civilian career at SAS as a programmer. I was elated, to say the least!
Supported by SAS: Balancing deployment and employment
When I joined SAS in 1994, I was still serving in the Army National Guard. My manager was wonderful and extremely supportive of my military involvement, and I worked in programming for many years, sharpening my skills in C, SAS, and other languages.
Along the way, Raymond and I had three wonderful children, and I found myself needing more time to focus on my young family. SAS supported me through this time by offering me a part-time position in Testing that allowed me to better balance my young family and work. I was thrilled to spend more time with my kids, continue to be challenged in my career, and excited to learn more about the client side of the business through software testing! In 2011, I returned to full-time development, joining the Enterprise Data Integration area as a Manager. I’ve been working in that area ever since, and I love helping our customers understand and manage their SAS environments.
Life as a military family can be difficult to balance, but SAS and my co-workers have been incredibly supportive of our family’s needs.
While my husband, Raymond, was deployed, I was tasked with moving my kids in and out of dorms, attending graduations, and holding down the fort at home. And SAS was always extremely supportive – I just can’t describe the feeling of knowing your employer has your back. The stress of my husband’s deployment was a heavy weight to carry, and knowing that my company was behind us was (and still is) priceless.
SAS’ Military Network
Being a military family and spouse can be isolating, so I’m thankful to be involved with SAS’ Military Network (VETS)! VETS is an Employee Inclusion Group (EIG) that helps bring together employees connected with the military, whether they’re a vet, military spouse, or in the guard or reserves. The group focuses on professional development, networking, and local military outreach.
Just recently, Raymond and I were volunteering for the United Healthcare Children’s Foundation Tour de Triangle, an annual bike ride through Raleigh to fund medical grants for kids. The SAS Military Network was enlisted to volunteer since we partner closely with OPTUMServe™, UnitedHealth Group’s new federal health services business to help federal health agencies improve the health and well-being of our military service members and their families, veterans, and all who benefit from federal health programs. United Health Group is also committed to and passionate about military outreach, enablement, and support, so this was a great partnership!
SAS Military Network and OPTUMServe™ sponsored the rides of a few experienced cyclists who are in the NC National Guard, and members of the VETS group came to cheer on riders and staff a hydration tent along the route. As the race came to an end, we were shocked to see Raymond’s friend and former comrade, MSG Robert Wheeler, ride up to our tent! Raymond and Robert had exchanged goodbyes ahead of Raymond’s deployment in April of 2018, hoping to see each other again one day. The reunion was completely unexpected, and they were overjoyed to see each other again almost exactly one year later!
Their reunion was just another reminder of why I’m thankful for the opportunities provided by the SAS Military Network group. I’m proud to work for a company that actively supports the military community and look forward to watching the VETS group grow!
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story! Curious about how we support the military community? Check out our webpage.