New Year’s resolutions: Learn, network, connect


Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that wonderful time of the year when people start anew and we all start making promises to ourselves about the things we want to accomplish in the year ahead. If you’re looking for some ways to ramp up your personal and professional expertise this year, I’m going to give you a few things to consider adding to your top 10 list.

  1. Take a class. In today’s tough job environment, it’s critical to stay up-to-date on new trends and technologies. Many universities are recognizing how important (and lucrative) it is to offer classes and programs in relevant business and technology disciplines. The great news is that many colleges and universities now offer online programs, so if you have an erratic schedule, this can be a great way to learn. Some schools even allow you to take a series of post-graduate elective classes (typically 12-20 credit hours) to earn a specialty “graduate certification.” Often these classes can be applied towards a Master’s degree should you choose to continue your education. If you’re fortunate enough to have a tuition reimbursement program where you work, take advantage of it. If not, consider low cost alternatives, such as your local community college, which are great places to pick up computer and technology skills. Finally, don’t forget to check out MIT’s OpenCourseWare project.
  2. Get certified. Certifications provide an excellent way to highlight your expertise in a very specific discipline. In the business analytics arena, there are certifications for business intelligence (from The Data Warehousing Institute), business analysis (International Institute of Business Analysis), project management (Project Management Institute), data management (Data Management International), and Lean Six Sigma (ASQ) for methodologies, or consider a technical application certification, like the SAS Global Certification program. Many organizations will pay for the training classes if they are directly applicable to your job. If you’re already certified in something, take a specialty or refresher course to keep your skills fresh. Certifications can help you differentiate from the competition in a job hunt, and shows your commitment to a methodology or discipline.
  3. Join a user community. User communities provide an excellent low or no cost way to network and meet new people. Communities can be virtual (such as LinkedIn) or live (SAS user groups). If you’re near a larger town or city, many user groups hold monthly meetings and would love your participation and support (many large organization have internal user communities as well). Also, if you’re looking to gain a certification, you can join a community to better understand the benefits and possible career options of that certification. There are also great opportunities for leadership roles in these communities – whether you facilitate meetings or join a board of directors. You could also consider starting a user community if one doesn’t exist in your area or workplace.
  4. Teach and mentor. If you have a particular skill or gift – give back to the community by providing your expertise or mentoring someone. There are many opportunities to present at user groups and conferences (most conference organizers waive registration fees for speakers). You might find the opportunity to speak to middle or high-school students (my sister, who is an engineer, runs a program called “Girls in Engineering” to encourage girls to get engaged in math and science). She and her fellow engineers hold monthly workshops at local schools.

I’m happy to say that all of these things were on my 2011 list and I accomplished everything I set out to achieve. And they all made my 2012 list AGAIN. Education and learning is the gift that keeps giving. Of course, there are still the other six things on my list that I didn’t get around to….


About Author

Rachel Alt-Simmons

Business Transformation Lead - Customer Intelligence Practice

Rachel Alt-Simmons is a business transformation practitioner whose expertise extends to operationalizing analytic capabilities vertically and horizontally through organizations. As the Business Transformation Lead for customer analytics at SAS Institute, she is responsible for redesign and optimization of operational analytic workflow, business process redesign, training/knowledge transfer, and change management strategies for customers. Prior to SAS, Rachel served as Assistant Vice President, Center of Excellence, Enterprise Business Intelligence & Analytics at Travelers, and as Director, BI & Analytics, Global Wealth Management at The Hartford. Rachel Alt-Simmons is a certified Project Management Professional, certified Agile Practitioner, Six Sigma Black Belt, certified Lean Master, and holds a post as adjunct professor of computer science at Boston University’s Metropolitan College. She received her master’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University.


  1. I second the thought to add teaching and mentoring to the list of things to accomplish. Although I do so selfishly, as I get great satisfaction from working with children (would have been my career did it pay better!), there is nothing more rewarding than hearing the impact that you have made, no matter how small, in the life of a child. Even if the child decides not to pursue a career in your field, you've helped them to make that decision and you've given them the opportunity to see what's out there. I happen to work in a field that spends a lot (time and money) on encouraging youth to stay interested in STEM but schools are always looking for people to speak to kids about different careers.

  2. Pingback: This week in SAS blogs: Happy New Year! - SAS Voices

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