Mmm... Dr. G and the M&Ms


“Do you really serve M&Ms every Wednesday?  Tell us the story!” clamored a wide-eyed class after sampling the M&Ms lighting up the breakout area.

Seeing how hard they worked on their exercises, it seemed ok to have a slight diversion from technology. Besides as you’ll find out, the story has a lot to do with what you do.

Here’s the story of a young statistician, how he created a company and not just any ordinary company, now the 2nd best multinational workplace in the world and while in the process, shattered all barriers for data analysis.

Vintage 1970s! The idea of freedom was extended beyond anything ever imaginable. The Beatles carved out great music, freedom of thought flourished and the floppy disk was invented.

Dr. Jim Goodnight is working away tirelessly in a basement with Dr. Jim Barr, Dr. John Sall and Jane Helwig on their new project, SAS. Jim B is working the architecture while Jim G is working on implementing the features that sit on top of the architecture as leverage. Young Jim G’s vision was clear. The software was going to be top notch. The World’s best in terms of analytics. It was going to employ the best talent and in turn he would take great care of them so they would continue to be motivated to invent and produce the best technology the world had ever seen.

“Jim, are you coming?” a female voice breaks his chain of thought. Shaking himself awake, he looks up to find Jane's administrative assistant ready with her grocery bag. It was his turn to accompany her for their weekly grocery run.

“Go ahead, I'll come later, just working on something” he says carefully to conceal his dreamy vision.

“No problem” says Mary (the admin) stepping out to the grocery store.

She makes a beeline for the grocery aisle. Common among struggling researchers, a bag of potatoes and a bag of green apples was standard fare. About to pay, she spots something gleaming.  The check-out clerk tells her this is a new wave of candy called M&Ms and asked if she would she like to try some.

"Sure” says Mary, popping a few into her mouth. “Wow! Jim B, Jim G, and John are sure going to love these”.

Making an executive decision, she dumps the potatoes and apples, buys a pile of M&Ms and bravely returns home.

She finds Dr. G leaning against the door. Losing a bit of her bravado she clutches her bags closer.

“What’s this” he exclaims, surprised at her lack of grocery bags.

“Just try it Jim” she says.

The others rally around wondering how their staff admin could squander their hard earned research dollars. They’re watching Dr. G for his reaction.

He pops one, seems to like it, then another and before you know it, he’s emptied the bag. Mary heaves a sigh of relief.

Dr. G rushes to his desk and finishes the algorithm he’d been working on. Finally lifting his head, he declares “We’re going to have M&Ms every Wednesday at SAS. For every customer, student, employee, contractor, in every country where SAS has an office. Just about everyone who walks into a SAS office on Wednesdays will be treated to M&Ms. They’ll have M&Ms at reception, M&Ms in the lunch room, M&Ms will rule Wednesdays”.

And so history was made with SAS debuting in 1976 and establishing ‘M&Ms Wednesday’.  I’m guessing, SAS owes a small part of its creating and completion to the researchers surviving on just M&Ms, enabling them to toss out algorithms with amazing speed.

There you go. I’m sure you already know a few students who take their training (coincidentally of course) on Wednesdays. I’ll bet it doesn’t surprise you to hear that SAS is the world’s largest corporate consumer of M&Ms-we consume 22 tons per year. That’s my story of the M&Ms with due apologies for any liberties with names, places and dates. What’s yours?  Have you had M&Ms at SAS lately? Do you find they help you to think & program faster?

Hope you enjoyed this sweet treat and I wish you a happy holiday season. I'll be back in the New Year with even more SAS treats for you!


About Author

Charu Shankar

Technical Training Specialist

Charu Shankar has been a Technical Training Specialist with SAS since 2007. She started as a programmer, and has taught computer languages, business and English Language skills. At SAS, Charu teaches the SAS language, SQL, SAS Enterprise guide and Business Intelligence. She interviews clients to recommend the right SAS training to help them meet their needs. She is helping build a center for special needs kids in this project.

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  1. Charles Krajewski on

    So here the problem with this story. M&Ms were invented in 1941. Peanut M&Ms were invented in 1954. SAS was "invented" in 1976.

    • Thanks for the accurate reporting Charles, Leave it to a SAS user for helping out with details. I guess I should have cross-referenced dates. But I was just hoping for a fun break from learning when I wrote this post. thanks to your tip, I went hunting on wikipedia for dates & much much more!

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  4. Hi Charu,
    I was in your programming 2 class from Feb. 1-3/2012. In class you showed me how to calcuate top 20 payment. You referred me to "top 3 percent" for the data and codes. Unfortunately I could not find it. Would you please kindly send me the link?

    Many thanks,

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