I've never met Sy Truong face-to-face. (That will be one of the top items on my SAS Global Forum 2011 to-dos.) I’ve talked with him on Twitter and enjoyed his blog so much that I listed it in an edition of the SAS Tech Report. I’ve even talked with him on the phone a couple of times, so I knew that he would make a good prospect for this SASonality post. I contacted him because more than 10 people, all people I respect, said that he would be a great addition. Wait until you read this! I had no idea that Truong’s SASonality is so over the top.
- Who is the working-day Sy Truong?
I am a co-founder of Meta-Xceed (MXI) - we design software for Biotech and Pharma companies. Most of my work is consultant work with organizations doing clinical trials analysis and electronic submissions – I began doing that in the early ‘90s. I work on anything from mainframes to iPads. Some things have changed over the years but the need for innovative software solutions for analytical problems remains.
My main work at MXI is to work with clients to identify inefficient processes and then develop a more efficient optimal software solution. I get a kick out of this since I am constantly looking for efficiencies in all things - it has become second nature. The challenge for me is to narrow down the multitude of ideas to one or two elegant ones for implementation.
- I first met you via Twitter and social media, so I’m very interested in that facet of Sy the SAS user: how did you get involved in social media?
Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school. I took pictures for the local paper and yearbook in college and enjoyed composing images that are captivating yet communicate emotion using black and white film, lighting and composition. Now, instead of carrying around my Canon SLR, I usually have an iPhone or other smaller device to capture pictures and videos. With the use of YouTube and Flickr, it has made it much easier to share. The same passion for esthetics is still in effect in these new mediums as they open up even more possibilities when videos and sound are accompanied with text in a blog. I find it true for software development - but perhaps it is useful for any line of work - that communication is essential and in today’s environment, that means utilizing the full range of social media.
- How did SAS become a part of Sy?In the late eighties when I was at the University of Santa Barbara, they were just breaking down the card reader machines and bringing in new computer terminals. I had a statistics class, and we had the choice of using BMDP or SAS. I decided to use SAS running data steps and PROC MEANS in order to complete assignments. This stuck with me as I started my first job at Syntex in 1990 on the foothills of Palo Alto in Silicon Valley. It must have been SAS version 5 something, but it was still very dynamic platform. I am eager to learn more about what is to come in SAS 9.3.
- Do you present, keynote, tutor, chair … ?
I used to have stage fright and was terrified of getting in front of large audiences. I couldn’t imagine making mistakes or hear people laugh at all of my flaws. In my sophomore year in college, I had a summer job to take a group of about 100 foreign students to Disneyland. About half were Japanese and the rest were Europeans including Swiss, French and Italian. None of them spoke English proficiently. I had to coordinate or else we would all be lost. I thought that even if I did not articulate with knowledge and elegance, my English will suffice for this crowd. I stood on benches and presided over the group and to my great surprise; I can command the whole group. It was a thrill. This changed my whole sense of confidence and my view toward public speaking. I now often present at SAS Global Forum, SAS regionals and tech classes on SAS and CDISC. I find that each experience is different and a lot of fun.
- I’ve been told that you are very active in charities and such. Can you tell me more about that? I wasn’t given any specifics except that you are awesome!
I find that blogging is a great way to reflect upon events that sometimes move too fast to be fully understood. The reflection allows me to process and see subtle yet meaningful things within experiences that would otherwise pass me by. I was born in Saigon but left in 1975 at the end of the war. My first trip back wasn’t until recently, and it was a life changing experience. I started to blog about the visits sharing with friends using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. The highlights of my trips and what I started to blog the most were about my visits to the orphanages where I was able to buy loads of gifts using the US dollar against the relatively cheap Vietnamese Dong. I began to bring back stuffed animals and clothing from the US, and it brought such joy to these children. On each visit, I sat with them and saw in their eyes a sense of desperation yet innocence that was so different from my world experience. But with a slight of fate in 1975, I could easily be just like that orphan child.
- SAS has recently sponsored two science- and math-related events to help encourage young students to enter the technology field. We want them to see that statistics, analytics and math are fun. Can you tell me about one of your most recent projects that might really be exciting for kids?
I recall my childhood friend Bao and I would see these programs on TV that describe how to create your own phones using tin cans held together with a thin thread. We would play with these devices for hours testing how far we can go before our voices would falter. It was fun but so primitive compared to all to sophisticated social media smart phones of today. I get engrossed into this medium today as it takes that social curiosity that I had as a child and yet brings it to the nth degree.
I am working on an iPhone App code named "Social Cloud," which takes all the incoming Twitter or Facebook messages from friends. It would then take the most frequently used words and display them in a tag cloud, an arrangement of words in different sizes indicating the significance of each word. The reader will be able to drill down on the larger words and see what their friends are discussing. This is just an example where simple statistics combined with effective visual presentation can organize even the most veracious social media consumer.
- Which of your SAS projects was the most fun to work on? Why?
The current projects that particularly interesting to me recently is delivering information that’s generated from SAS to mobile device such as the iPad. An example is the Patient Profile App where it delivers clinical patient reports to clinical research associates and medical monitors on their iPad. We used to develop these SAS SAS/Graph or PROC Report type reports on paper. I thought the update to PDF using ODS was cool as we delivered them via email and web browser. However, when it can be placed onto an iPad where a physician can pinch and zoom in on a data point that could avert a serious adverse event from affecting the health of a human being in real time. That was when I realized that technology has arrived.
- Will you be attending SAS Global Forum 2011? If so, what will you be presenting? How many SUGI/SGFs have you attended?
I lose track how many SUGI and SGF I have attended since they seem to loop back to the same group of cities between east coast and west coast. I will plan to attend this year’s in Las Vegas which will be my first SAS conference there. I am presenting a couple of papers entitled SAS® Global Forum Conference iPhone App and SAS® Data and Stored Process on BlackBerry®. I find SAS conferences fascinating since the attending users are so passionate about SAS that it becomes a cult-like retreat with religious-like fervor and love fest ambience. If there was a graph measuring how much users dig SAS compared to other conferences such as Microsoft or Oracle, SAS would be an outlier.
- Is there something else really cool about you that I’m missing? Do you volunteer, raise money for the poor, are you a cancer survivor, do you raise animals, etc?
I recently saw a YouTube video that showed a homeless man, Ted Williams who had this “Golden Voice” of a DJ. He was down on his luck due to drug and alcohol but he was two years sober and trying to turn it around. It was quite inspirational how social media was able to take his video, made it viral leading him to employment and a brighter future. I found this story inspirational.
I was also experimenting with social media on my visits to the orphanages where in a period of about three weeks through emails and sharing blogs and YouTube videos, I was able to raise more than $3,000 for the orphans. I think this is an empowering medium where a little effort can make a big difference.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. For me, this post underscores the value of taking time to connect with other SAS users while at SAS conferences and events. I’m not talking about quick hellos in the hallways between presentations – I mean really connecting. Go to lunch or dinner with people you have only e-mailed or chatted with during the previous year. Learn about their hobbies, children and research projects. Make new friends. It’s important for you as a person, and it’s important for your career. You just never know if that new person from this year will be the perfect research buddy down the road OR a great job connection!
Do you have questions for any of our SASonality hosts? Do you have a suggestion for a SASonality interview? Write them in the comments section or send them to me via Twitter: @waynettetubbs.
Tell me about your SASonality. I can't wait to meet you at SAS Global Forum 2011.