First SAS User Group Meetup: "Inspired users can go to work the next day and start right away"

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First SAS User Group Meetup

Igor Khorlo, Senior Statistical Programmer at Syneos Health Germany and founder of SAS User Group Germany (SUGG).

A few weeks ago, the first German SAS® user group meetup took place in Berlin. I had a chance to talk to Igor Khorlo, Senior Statistical Programmer at Syneos Health Germany GmbH and founder of the SUGG, about his motivation to constitute this group. What I experienced was a fascinatingly engaged member of the SAS community.

SAS User Group Germany (later SUGG) is a community-driven, nonprofit local meetup organisation for everyone interested in the SAS technology stack – be that pharmaceutical or financial industry, administration, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, or just for fun. The meetup is powered by the enthusiasm and curiosity of actual users of SAS software.

What is the group’s main purpose? What would you like it to be?

We want this group to be helpful for the actual users of SAS software. The idea is to have presentations that will inspire and show what is already available in the SAS installations they have so they can come to work the next day and use it. Further, after the first meetup, we experienced exactly the reaction that we wanted. Many attendees got back to us with great feedback, saying that that the event was indeed helpful and they learned new things.

What inspired you to initialise a SAS user group meetup?

Quite often I see people using a pretty basic and small part of SAS, typically what was available 20 years ago. However, it is a drop in a tidepool of the ocean of what SAS is. It is a big platform and ecosystem with many instruments and technologies in a tool set and is no longer just a statistical analysis system. It is literally hard to keep track of everything that is going on, and that is where various SAS conferences, and particularly SAS meetups, came to the rescue.

There is a slight hype around SAS meetups in Europe right now. The first one was SAS London Users Group (SLUG), which debuted in November 2017 and then was expanded to SAS User Group UK & Ireland (SUGUKI). A remarkable meetup was held at SUGUKI on 2 August 2018. There was a very special guest – Tony Barr, one of the four founders of SAS Institute. It is unbelievable to have such a speaker. Later Belgium and Luxemburg debuted at the beginning of this spring. Poland SAS Users Group started at the end of this spring, as well.

Observing all this atmosphere, I also had some thoughts about starting a local SAS users group in Berlin. Certain offline meetings are a very efficient way to learn and exchange experiences. I usually attend many meetups in Berlin, and the city is very active in this way.

The last event that finally triggered a decision that “We must do it in Berlin” was when I attended a SUGUKI meetup in London.

How do you communicate within the group?

We became public in the middle of June 2018. Our current communications methods are:

The meetups are expected to be in English, as a “universal” way of communication. Some speakers are expected to be non-German speaking, as well as the lion’s share of members. Additionally, having a meetup in English is easier to share and promote. Nearly all tech meetups in Berlin are in English.

Tell us a bit about your initial meeting. How did it go? What was the spirit of the group?

Nineteen curious SAS users from the health care and financial industries came to the debut SUGG meetup in Berlin on 13 September 2018. We had fantastic talks about Lua and SAS Stored Processes.

Rowland Hale opened up a session with a talk about Lua language integration in SAS, and we had a big discussion and comparison with the old-fashioned SAS Macro. It was a totally groundbreaking experience to see a comparison of the performance in terms of CPU, I/O, memory usage and WORK library size, which Nikola Markovic made for PROC LUA and SAS Macro code using ESM.

The second talk was from guys from Boemska, where Allan Bowe showed the User Navigator and Data Controller, and gave us many tips on how to develop SAS Stored Process web applications. Nikola Markovic made a gentle introduction to SAS Metadata and explained how they simplify the process of development, testing and deployment of SAS Stored Process applications with h54s (which is an open source framework) and AppFactory. That was a fascinating talk and demo from a business perspective, as well as from a developer perspective.

I surely recommend watching a short video created by SUGG from the event to feel the atmosphere:

Others might feel encouraged to start a local SAS meetup, as well. How challenging is it to set this up in the first place?

The primary challenge of organising is to find presenters, especially when you plan to meet on a regular basis. If you are willing to present, please get in touch with SUGG organisers. We don’t stress the presenters with timelines for slides or papers. You are free in the format of your presentation – be that classic PowerPoint slides, a live demo or a table talk.

If you want to start a SAS meetup somewhere in Germany or would like to help us with organising in Berlin – do get in touch with us. We will help you with getting it done.By the way, we were already approached by some analytical experts from another SAS customer who were highly interested in starting a meetup somewhere near Nürnberg. Let’s see, we may hear from them soon as well.

Are you a #SAS Software user? Interested in learning about SAS User Group meetups and how to sharpen your software skills? #SASUsers Click To Tweet

What can we expect from the SUGG in the near future? What will your topics be?

Amounts of data available these days are becoming bigger and bigger, and we are in the centre of transformational processes with digitisation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things. We sincerely expect to see how users of SAS software solve these problems. I like the direction where SAS is going with SAS® Viya® and horizontal scaling. The topics we expect to see are not limited but will certainly include:

  • Anything related to SAS Viya and comparing it to SAS Foundation (SAS®9).
  • SAS deployments to modern infrastructure providers like AWS and Azure.
  • Integration of the SAS Platform with other programming languages.
  • SAS Metadata and its application.
  • Classic SAS®9 topics, including FCMP, GROOVY and related procedures, SAS Component Objects, SPD Engine and ARM.
  • Please do not propose topics from the 1990s about SAS Macro.

So new members and contributors are welcome anytime?

Exactly. This group is meant to be an open, organically growing network. Big thanks, by the way, to the sponsors of the debut meetup: Syneos Health, who gladly provided us with a venue and made this event possible; and SAS Germany, who made this event even better by treating us with pizza and craft beer from a local Berlin brewery.

Since we are a nonprofit organisation, we entirely rely on sharing information! Sharing information about SUGG and following our LinkedIn and Meetup groups is the best way you can help us!

 

This blog post was originally published in German on our regional blog site Mehr Wissen.

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About Author

Steffen Stahl

Sr Marketing Manager Customer Intelligence

Steffen Stahl is a marketing specialist for Business Analytics in marketing and customer management. In his role as Senior Marketing Manager Customer Intelligence at SAS in the DACH region, he focuses on adapting information and decision-making processes to the requirements of a radically changing market structure and customer behavior. The main areas of activity are developing communication strategies for B2C markets, processes for sales and marketing, and optimizing customer interactions in a multichannel environment. He has been with SAS since 2005. Previously, Steffen Stahl spent many years at Ascom (Switzerland) and Aastra Telecom, most recently as Head of Communications at the PBX business unit.

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