Taking in. Giving back.


When we breathe, we breathe in and breathe out. If we choose only one or the other, the results are disastrous.

The same principle applies to professional growth and development. Whether we are programmers, statisticians, teachers, students, or writers, we benefit from taking in and giving back. We "take in" when we learn something new: a new fact, a new skill, or a new technique. We "give back" when we share one of our talents with someone else, such as when we teach, mentor, or coach. Taking in and giving back reinforce each other and lead to a virtuous cycle of learning and sharing.

The COO at SAS, Oliver Schabenberger, often speaks about "lifelong learning" and encourages employees to grow and learn. Learning prevents stagnation, fosters creativity, and benefits the company as well as the individual. SAS also encourages giving back by promoting the Data For Good movement, STEM education, community outreach, and more.

In my own career, writing this blog promotes my professional growth, as does my involvement in the SAS Support Communities. These activities require me to take in and give back. I take in when I research a blog topic, when I read a journal article, and when I search the SAS documentation. I give back when I share a programming trick, a statistical method, or an interesting mathematical tidbit.

Conferences provide a unique opportunity for taking in and giving back. This week I am at SAS Global Forum, where I will give several presentations and talk with SAS customers about their data and business problems. But I will also take in information from the other attendees. I expect to learn as much as I teach. I expect to return home full of energy and excitement from days of give and take.

Breathing in and breathing out is easy. Taking in and giving back can be harder when you face the day-to-day demands of a job and family. How do you make time in your day to learn new things? How do you share your knowledge? Are these activities valued at your company? Leave a comment.


About Author

Rick Wicklin

Distinguished Researcher in Computational Statistics

Rick Wicklin, PhD, is a distinguished researcher in computational statistics at SAS and is a principal developer of PROC IML and SAS/IML Studio. His areas of expertise include computational statistics, simulation, statistical graphics, and modern methods in statistical data analysis. Rick is author of the books Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software and Simulating Data with SAS.


  1. What a delightful and inspiring post Rick! I agree with the point you make about "virtuous cycle of learning and sharing". I love doing both. I think it also depends on the individual and their personality whether they get a joy/buzz in giving... I certainly do and I know I spend more time giving than taking and for me that brings overwhelming happiness/joy. :-) Hope to see you at SASGF!

  2. Hello Dr. Wicklin, just read this blog and find it so inspiring! Thanks for this reminder. I'm flying to Denver now and your points are so well taken. If I don't see you, best of luck on your talks. I just also want to say that the Do Loop is the best part of my email life!

  3. Peter Lancashire on

    That's a nice way to put it. I too try to learn new things and share with others. Fortunately my job makes both a necessity, and a pleasure too. And thanks to SAS for providing so much to learn!
    How can we encourage others to do the same? Our universities should have been the first stride on a journey of lifelong learning. Maybe it is peculiar to computers and statistics, but I encounter many who must be taught.

    • Rick Wicklin

      Thanks for the comment. I agree it needs to start early. In a family, parents can promote a love of learning, and even in elementary school kids can learn that doing something for others can be a rewarding activity. In the workplace, role models such as yourself are essential.

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