When news about a new Coronavirus outbreak in China first hit the news, Falko and his colleague Anand Chitale wanted to know more. “We knew we could use SAS to analyze the data and discover new insights,” he said.
By now, you’ve heard about our work helping customers combat the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 numbers rose rapidly and cities around the world shut down; SAS ramped up. From the beginning, our teams moved quickly to be there for our customers when they needed us most.
Our models have helped customers make sense of the data to navigate the pandemic and continue to empower leaders to make informed decisions. But what exactly do these models do, and who brought them to life? Meet Falko Schulz. He’s a Distinguished Software Developer, world traveler, and one of the masterminds behind our COVID-19 dashboard.
It began with an idea
In the beginning, there wasn’t much data – and compiling it was a manual process. “When we started, we literally compiled and converted Excel sheets on a daily basis to track the outbreak,” he explained.
As COVID-19 continued its rapid spread, the world began paying closer attention. It quickly became clear others could benefit from Falko and Anand’s data collection and visualization. “We started this project to provide an updated daily dashboard,” Falko said. “It was initially just for internal use, but as data got more reliable, we decided to launch SAS’ first public live dashboard.”
Powered by curiosity
The SAS® Visual Analytics report, along with its user-friendly landing page, quickly gained traction. “It became the go-to site if you wanted the latest update on case numbers and geographical distribution,” Falko said. Frequent updates to the dashboard keep it useful and engaging, and it continues to be referenced frequently by social and other news outlets.
This project was no small feat and had no clear precedent to follow. As always, the team relied on their collective curiosity to get the job done: “It started small, but quickly grew, and we had many challenges along the way,” explained Falko. “There were many late nights, but we made the most of our 24/7 support coverage. I’d take over in Australia just before Anand went to bed the day before in the United States.”
The pandemic is a global issue, and this project was supported by people and groups across our company. “Every single person was willing to help and went the extra mile,” Falko shared.
Backed by the SAS family
This year has been one of uncertainty, but it’s also been a year of innovation and flexibility. “Many of the projects I worked on this year were exciting and brand new for SAS,” Falko shared.
And SAS’ people and culture are at the center of it all. “It’s been said a lot – but SAS truly is a great place to work. I haven’t met a single person here that I couldn’t work with,” he said. “Everyone is kind, supportive, and we look after each other. There’s a greater R&D family where everyone works together for a common goal – making the best analytics out there. The depth of knowledge here is unbelievable.
Using creativity to help customers
Falko’s always had a knack for technology and spent many years in customer facing roles. In his current role in R&D, he uses what he’s learned to make our software more agile, reliable and user-friendly: “As a UI developer, you have a direct impact on how people engage with our software,” he said. “I love my job. It’s very rewarding when you can help customers solve their business problems.”
Creativity and storytelling bring his work to life: “Most projects I’m involved in relate to data visualization and storytelling in one way or another,” he says. “The ability to take a business problem, analyze data, and visualize that story brings a different perspective.”
“It’s that constant curiosity, always learning new things, that makes a person creative." - Falko Schulz, Distinguished Software Developer
“It’s that constant curiosity, always learning new things, that makes a person creative,” he elaborated. “Not giving up, just because something failed the first time, drives you further and further into a subject field. You can become an expert in no time!”
Outside the office
Falko loves adventure, and global travel is one of his biggest passions: “I left home in Germany relatively early in my career, and since then I’ve never felt the need to be stationary,” he explained. “My family and I are constantly on the move. We’re always trying to go somewhere, see something or do something.”
From camping trips to sailing to caravanning, the Schulz family is never bored! “While short trips are the norm obviously, we just returned from two months of extended leave traveling across the Australian outback. Traveling for days away from civilization, crossing rivers of crocodiles and cuddling cute kangaroos – my two girls (ages 9 and 11) got to see it all. We enjoy every minute together as a family. As we keep saying, “Life is too short to stop.””
Curious to learn more about how SAS is making a difference in the global fight against COVID-19? Hear about more People Behind the Models.