Anne Hawley’s "Introduction to Statistics” professor asked the class what percentage of students at St. Lawrence University in New York state were smokers.
Although the answer (according to a survey of students) was closer to 10 percent, most of the class guessed a much higher number, possibly due to the fact that every time they came to class, they saw people smoking near the building’s entry.
This exercise and more in that first-semester college class stuck with Hawley, a math and economics major.
“The professor used real-life examples to turn a dry field of study into a really interesting topic,” Hawley said. “People are always making assumptions. I see statistics as a way to expose the truth.”
She made it a point from then on to take all the statistics courses offered, and she minored in statistics.
Close to graduation, at a Math and Computer Science division event for the seniors, the department chair urged students to go on to graduate school.
“I thought statistics was a worthwhile career choice to investigate so I sat down with my advisor and he picked out the best graduate schools for statistics, with NC State topping the list,” said Hawley.
Although the courses in grad school were challenging, Hawley discovered a love for applied statistics. “I like taking the knowledge we gain and making decisions on it.”
A chance meeting on an airplane with the dean of the NCSU Textile Department got her interested in taking a quality control class and becoming certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt.
That led to her first job out of school as the principal statistician at Hospira, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. As a consultant in the Regulatory & Compliance Division, Hawley was able to participate in many different areas of the business, including acting as advisor to the industrial engineers on how to design experiments.
“I got so much foundation [in that job]and an understanding of what people do with data,” Hawley said.
That understanding of customers is critical in her current role at SAS as Pre-Sales Support Manager in Inside Sales, with a team of 12 systems engineers. In her first full year on the job, she spoke with 250 unique customers.
Part of the job of Hawley’s team is to look for a way to fit the SAS platform with a smaller company.
“I can relate to our customers,” said Hawley, who works typically with customers in the small- to medium-business market that have several million dollars in annual revenue. “I can picture their struggles and know how SAS software can make their job easier.”
“Small companies often don’t know much about SAS software and want us to tell them how they can use it,” she said. “It’s my job to uncover what these folks are doing with their data and what could be changed or improved by having SAS. We want small companies to start using SAS now and then grow the SAS footprint as they grow.”
One of the most interesting parts of her job is the diverse range of customers she comes into contact with: health and life sciences, financial, government, communications, casinos, law firms. “The list goes on and on,” said Hawley, citing even a food company using SAS to ensure a consistent smell to the product. “Every company can use our software. There is no limit to whom we can reach out.”
Hawley loves hearing about the ways customers use SAS software and predictive modeling to get ahead of their competition.
“They combine knowledgeable people, data and SAS to get ahead of a competitor,” she said. “It’s good to be in a supportive role in that environment.”
Analytics is everywhere, she adds. “I feel so lucky to be a contributor to SAS’ sweet spot!”
Learn more about Anne Hawley in this Q&A
What should readerss know about the field of statistics?
- Statistics is not about a field for people with pocket protectors and bowties. The perception might be boring, but statistics is rewarding and fulfilling.
- There are statisticians in areas at SAS other than R&D and Tech Support.
Who is your favorite statistician?
- Robin Lock, my advisor and statistics professor at St. Lawrence University. He gave me the best advice to become a statistician.
What is your favorite statistics blog or journal?
- AMSTATNEWS, the membership magazine of the American Statistical Association, which always has good updates regarding career paths, challenges that statisticians face and salary discussion.
What do you like to do outside of work?
- I was a lacrosse and soccer player in college. I continue to play soccer, in both a Triangle-based adult league and the SAS lunchtime league.
- I play with my new puppy, Leo Messy (named after soccer player Leo Messi), a French bulldog and Olde English Bulldogge mix.
- I do home renovations. I’ve purchased and fixed up four different properties and like to get some good advice by watching HGTV’s Income Property.