My career path has taken me from the fields on my family farm to the boardrooms of organizations around the world. Starting when I was six years old, my summers involved working with my cousins on the farm from dawn until dusk. From a very early age, I learned the importance of humility and hard work.

I grew up watching family members dedicate their whole beings to growing plants, maintaining equipment and harvesting crops.  Although we were all physically exhausted at the end of the day, we were always surrounded by laughter and love. It wasn’t just farming. It was our way of life. That mentality has followed me through every day on the job, even today, where curiosity is a way of life.

How does that rewarding experience on the family farm relate to my job today? My father always told me that the life lessons you learn on the farm will give you the ability to do whatever you want to do. He taught me the importance of independence, loyalty, strength and humility. He nurtured my desire to contribute, to see the bigger picture, always give extraordinary efforts and look deeper for significance.

The life lesson that significance is just as important as success is something I've carried with me over many years. This belief is reflected in my career path as I've brought what I learned from growing up on my family farm to help organizations and people across industries.

Where do you find significance in your work?

For me, significance comes from helping others. For the customers I work with, significance comes from improving financial security for families, lowering crime rates, improving health services, ensuring food and essential supplies are on the shelves, and adding intelligence to crucial services like shipping, utilities and transportation – all in a sustainable way. It comes down to helping organizations positively impact the world. All of these efforts require a dedication to asking hard questions and an obligation to doing what’s right.

Something I’ve seen firsthand over the years at SAS is that where there is data, there is an opportunity to improve, propel positive change – and even save lives. When we put powerful analytics into the hands of social workers, policymakers and our commercial customers, change isn’t just possible – it’s inevitable.

One example is SAS’ work with the New Hanover County Department of Social Services, which uses predictive analytics to alert caseworkers of relevant changes to risks affecting children in their care – potentially lifesaving information.

Prior to implementing this solution, caseworkers had to manually monitor changing risk factors – checking sources like “mugshot” websites daily and wading through 20 years of case data. Now, caseworkers have a centralized system to reassess risk on a daily basis and receive alerts detailing changing conditions for children in their watch. With the alerts in place, caseworkers can act immediately should an incident of heightened risk occur.

It’s this kind of work that makes me excited to come to SAS every day. This is my “Why.” I want to be a crusader for children, for families. I want to make sure those same families I knew working on the farm – and others – have the support they need to live their own fulfilling lives.

A future of continued significance

In the last year, my “why” became clearer than ever before. 2020 was a year that challenged us all to re-examine our priorities and refocus on the areas where we could help the most. Leading with empathy, SAS showed up for our customers and helped them though this difficult time. Beginning at the very onset of the pandemic, we mobilized to help customers improve supply chains, optimize health care resources and keep communities safe.

In 2021, we will continue that journey to help our customers reimagine entire industries, to embrace change and improve the world we share.

I truly believe we can all be a part of something bigger than ourselves. For me, that’s using technology to help people, including data scientists, doctors, researchers, educators and social workers drive significant change for us all.

I’ve fallen in love with my career because I haven’t lost sight of the passion and curiosity that I’ve had since I was a little girl on that farm. When you take a step back, keep your sights on what matters most to you, and focus on significance in addition to success, you will create a career that can absolutely change the world.


About Author

Paula Henderson

Former Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer, Americas

Paula Henderson led teams across the Americas in industries such as government, financial services, health care, life sciences, consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, energy and telecommunications. She partnered with industry leaders to create transformational digital solutions designed to modernize and optimize the performance of corporations and communities.

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