As I have been at SAS for a while now, well 10 years, I started to reflect on my time with SAS. I went from being a data mining systems engineer (SE), to an analytical strategist, to now being the Global Industry Marketing Manager for Education. I started in the SAS Public Sector group, which had minimal resources and staff. Several years ago, the public sector group broke into individual verticals: the Government Practice and Education Practice, each with substantial staff in sales, marketing, support, and consulting. Given those past changes and career transitions, an even bigger and exciting change is now underway for SAS education customers. SAS is using Research and Development resources to expand our offerings for the education market by offering OnDemand solutions or "hosted" software-as-a-service solutions.
The increase in R&D resources first began 2 years ago on the academic side, when SAS saw a need for a better and easier way for students in higher education to use SAS in their classes. The result is that professors can sign up their classes, then the students log in and they can all download SAS OnDemand via the web. I wish this was an option for me when I was in grad school. Instead, I had to go to the computer lab, wait for a computer and try to get all my work done before I had to head off to work. Now students can just use SAS on their laptops wherever and whenever they want. How times have changed.
As I mentioned, when I started at SAS, I was a SE. My job was to help prospects and customers understand and utilize SAS. When I went on site with K-12 customers, I could see how many of the K-12 school districts lacked the funds, resources, and skill sets to do the many things they wanted and needed to do with SAS. Over the years, I saw this exasperate when No Child Left Behind legislation passed. They still needed to do data driven decision making but now it was mandatory for them to submit required information to state and federal agencies.
Thanks to more SAS R& D resources, an OnDemand solution is now available to the K-12 market for administrative use. School districts can securely send their data to SAS then, they just access their needed reports via the web. It's very gratifying to hear customers all excited about viewing information and reports that they have always wanted but could never get previously. It makes working for SAS very rewarding. Especially because this is for the education market, I know in the end that they are using the information in those reports to help children learn.
When I was an SE, I also noticed that higher education customers were challenged with using predictive analytics for enrollment management. They all saw the need but many lacked a needed resource – a statistician. We would do consulting projects to help the customer get up to speed but in the end having a statistician on staff would have worked the best. However, it is a challenge for schools to acquire and retain this skill set.
Now, SAS is using R&D resources to create OnDemand solutions for higher education in both enrollment management and institutional research. This was particularly gratifying to me as I was a data mining SE and have a master's in math with a concentration on stats. I have been on site working with customers, building statistical models, etc. So, I know firsthand that this will be a great benefit to future customers. I can imagine how colleges and universities will be able to look at trends in student behavior to ascertain how well a student is doing or not doing. If they are not doing well, they can intervene and help to retain students. Again, in the end it is all about getting information in the hands of the people who can make a difference in a student’s life.
For all of these areas, it is also great to think about the fact that OnDemand solutions are eco-friendly. Each minimizes the impact on the environment by accessing the software and support you need electronically, without any CDs, DVDs materials, or packaging. With these solutions it is “easy to be green”.
It has been an entertaining 10 years at SAS. I really enjoy working for SAS as the Global Industry Marketing Manager for Education. This gives me the opportunity to talk about all theses exciting new offerings and opportunities that lie ahead for the education market. But, it makes me start to wonder what will the next 10 years hold.