This is the fifth post in the SASonality series. In this week’s post, I’ve interviewed Rick Langston, a man most SAS users have met or read about. He’s been with SAS for 30 years and attended nearly every SUGI/SAS Global Forum. In the photo at the right, Rick is the gentleman on the second step from the bottom on the left hand side. Those bleachers are in front of a building that is no long part of the SAS campus in Cary.
I met Rick at my first SAS Global Forum in Washington, DC, in 2009. He is warm, fun-loving and outgoing. You’ll see his fun-loving streak when you check out this list of Rick’s papers. But before you start reading all of that, read his interview and learn a tiny bit about him.
- Rick, I’ve heard that you’ve been at SAS for a while. What do you do at SAS?
It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but I’ve been at SAS for 30 years. I first joined SAS back when we had only one building in Cary – the former Building A. I joined SAS 6 months after the company moved from Hillsborough Street. I had been using SAS for 3 years while working on a biostatistics project at UNC and was given the opportunity to join SAS Technical Support. Later, I had an opportunity to join the Applications Division and support PROC FORMAT and other procedures.Since then, I’ve been involved in the development of many core components of SAS, as well as managing our Core Systems Department. Programming and problem solving have always been my favorite activities, and I do much of both on a daily basis. I also enjoy public speaking and speak at many local and regional conferences where I have been keynote speaker many times.
- Do you have a hobby, favorite sport or something you do for fun? Are you a cross-word junkie or ski diver?
My wife and I have two teenage daughters: One is 18 and the other is 15. With one in college, we spend a lot of time involved in the challenges facing most parents. We have enjoyed traveling as a family as the girls have grown up. We’ve visited Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, England, Denmark and Sweden, as well as many of the states in the continental US. As for being a puzzle junkie, definitely that’s the case with Sudoku, Kakuro and Kenken. I contributed to a panel on solving Sudoku with SAS at SAS Global Forum a couple of years back. I’m always looking for more interesting puzzles to keep the brain active!
- I’ve heard you could be a top contender - if there were a prize - for “Attended the Most SUGI/SGFs.” How many have you attended?
My first SUGI was in 1979, and I’ve been to 29 altogether through 2010. I am planning to attend SAS Global Forum in 2011 in Las Vegas. My abstract for Coders Corner was accepted, so I will be describing SAS code that reproduces a SAS data set using only a SAS program.
- What is the most interesting SAS project that you have ever worked on?
I’ve worked on many different things during my time at SAS. Interesting projects include the Sudoku solver, the MODULE functions to call external programs, SAS/TOOLKIT Software to allow users to write their own PROCs and functions, and “UNPUT” processing to optimize performance of formatting in SQL queries.
- What do you read or watch for enjoyment?
Although I was once a big TV watcher, I rarely watch TV these days and instead read a lot on the various Internet news sites. I do enjoy movies though, and have been catching up with many classic titles via our Netflix queue. For example, I recently watched “Fargo” and “Chinatown” for the first time.I also read books, mostly non-fiction, on various topics. Most recently I went back to the 1980s for the book “Liar’s Poker”, Michael Lewis’ scathing depiction of trading in the bond market.
Take a look some of the fun things Rick has done with SAS. For instance, check out The Pegboard Game: An Iterative SAS® Program to Solve It, SAS® and Sudoku, and Text on My Remote Control: An Experiment in Shortest Distance Using SAS® Software. But Rick has a serious side, too. In December, he was acknowledged as “instrumental in the development of the ETS Interface engine.”
Now that you know Rick a little better, make sure you say “Hi!” when you get to Las Vegas in April. Rick will be in the Solutions Center (formerly called the Demo Hall).
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That would be a great talk to give to first-timers at SAS Global Forum. In fact, it would be great to give at orientation when you arrive for your first week of work at SAS. I've never heard it.
Rick has been very generous in giving his "history of SAS" talk to our Alliance summer interns each year.
I always enjoy listening to his talk and seeing his pictures.
Rick Langston is shy? Not the guy that I met.
The "bleachers" you refer to are actually the stairs from the back of Building A to the lake. They were located more or less where the stairs from the Umstead Hotel to the lake are now.
BTW, I met Rick at SUGI 79 (both our first SUGIs) and he got me my job at SAS (1981) when he was looking for someone to replace him in Tech Support so he could move to development.. I'm so glad Rick was able to overcome his shyness
I completely agree Brian. When I drove off campus after my interview, I called my mother in tears. I told her that this was the place that I felt I was meant to work. The paths winding through the beautifully manicured campus and the quiet halls reminded me so much of working at my graduate degree. SAS is home.
The photo of "Rick and the gang" from the early 80's is just priceless! I came to SAS in the summer of 84' to take a couple of courses, wound up applying for work, and coming on board 02Jan1985. The laid back yet cerebral vibe set against the beauty of the NC outdoors is exactly what drew me here. This photo nails it!!
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Glad I read this on a whim and learned about UNPUT!
I love that old picture. If you love it too, you might enjoy the four oldies at the end of the Treasures, Memories and Trash post at http://blogs.sas.com/supportnews/index.php?/archives/56-Treasures-and-Memories-and-Trash.html#extended
Great job with these interviews, Waynette.