Recently, I spoke with Sally Carson about the Junior Professional Award, a SAS Global Forum 2015 program for people who have used SAS three years or less. The award offers free registration, free training and lots of opportunity to learn and become involved.
This is the third year that Junior Professional awards have been offered for SAS Global Forum. Junior Professional programs started in 2009 at US regional conferences and have really caught fire. Since 2013, the SAS Global Forum program has had almost 250 applicants, and recipients have attended the conference from as far away as China and New Zealand.
Sally is a member of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board and is the 2015 Junior Professional Program Coordinator. Developing programs that support new SAS users has been a passion of Sally’s for a long time, and the Junior Professional Program is one of her particular favorites. Here’s a little bit of our conversation:
Sally, let’s start with the basics. The deadline for application is December 15. What do our readers need to do to apply?
Well, first they need to meet three pretty straightforward requirements: have used SAS on a job for three years or less, have never attended a SAS Global Forum and aren’t otherwise able to attend the 2015 conference.
Beyond that, applying is a simple matter of filling out and submitting the online application form.
SAS Global Forum offers a number of scholarships for students and faculty. How is the Junior Professional Award different?
Naming a program like this is always tricky, isn’t it?! This is a good opportunity to clear up any confusion.
Unlike the scholarships for students, the Junior Professional Award program is intended for full-time SAS professionals. You don’t even have to be young – just “junior” in terms of your SAS experience! So, even if you’re making a mid-life career change or your team just recently started using SAS, you can still receive a Junior Professional Award.
And “professional” doesn’t necessarily mean you have “SAS programmer” in your job title or use SAS exclusively. You can qualify if you use SAS as a researcher, systems administrator, analyst or essentially any line of work.
Given the number of applicants, receiving this award is certainly a distinction. Can you tell us a little more about the benefits?
Well, there are the obvious rewards of free registration and a free training course. While this program doesn’t offer a full ride, it does help reduce the cost of attending and may remove some of the barriers newer SAS users may have in getting approval to attend.
For recipients, I’d say it’s what you learn, and it’s a big step in building a network of SAS peers and potential friendships that can last a lifetime. The activities planned for Junior Professionals help them forge connections as a group and with conference leaders and other experienced SAS users. Even in today’s world of tweets and emails, there’s still nothing like face-to-face.
For their organizations, it’s all the good information and techniques that recipients learn about and can bring back to share with others. I was a manager of SAS programmers, and attending SAS Global Forum was always a wise investment in my team’s professional development. So if you manage newer SAS users, encourage them to apply. Believe me -- they’ll use everything they learn at the conference on the job.
You’ve been an advocate for the Junior Professional Award program from its beginnings in the regional SAS Users Groups. Why is it so important to you? And to the SAS community?
At any professional conference -- not just SAS Global Forum! -- you’ll find a larger population of more experienced professionals. Yet it’s the newer, less experienced professionals who often get the most out of the educational and networking opportunities. New users absorb the content and resources like a sponge and can use almost every tip and technique or piece of product or support information they’re exposed to at one of these gatherings.
The Junior Professional Award program makes it possible to introduce a handful of novice SAS users and possibly even their entire organization to SAS Global Forum and its value. It’s our belief that receiving this award will help those with a strong interest in a SAS career make deep, lasting connections with the SAS community and kick start their active participation in it.
At the bottom of application, there’s a note about a half-day of volunteering. What’s that all about?
I’ve mentioned a huge benefit is networking and building those professional connections. What better way to get involved than rolling up your sleeves and helping out? It’s only one of many opportunities for building that network, including a social event held just for Junior Professionals early in the conference.
Thank you, Sally, and thanks to all the other SAS Global Forum volunteers who are doing great things to support SAS users—both new and experienced!