If you’re looking to advance your knowledge and your career, few activities are better than attending a professional conference, where new ideas, best practice discovery and networking opportunities abound. For many SAS users, regional user group meetings provide a forum to learn from other users and meet successful professionals in their field. Since SAS users events are powered by volunteers, there are a number of great growth opportunities available through volunteering as well.
To learn more about the benefits of attending a SAS users event, the Users Groups Programs Team chatted with Venita DePuy, 2015 SESUG chair and Gary Schlegelmilch, SESUG treasurer, about their first SESUG experience, what inspired them to dedicate their free time in order to keep the organization going and why first-time attendees are so valuable.
What year was your first SESUG and why did you first attend?
Venita: My first SESUG was 2003, when Gary was the Academic Chair. It was in St Pete's Beach, Florida and I had just finished my Masters of Statistics that spring at NCSU and gotten my first job (at DCRI). My boss said I should go and I remember thinking that 1) WOW they are paying me to go to a beachfront hotel... I have “arrived!” and 2) I thought I knew most everything about SAS and realized that it was only the tip of the iceberg. It was a very welcoming group. Since then the only SESUGs I've missed were 2008 and 2013. I'm looking forward to 2018 when we return to St Pete’s Beach!
Why is it important to hold a session geared towards first-timers?
Gary: First of all, we want to thank them for being a part of the conference and make them feel like a part of the community. Sharing tips on how to best enjoy and learn from the conference ensures that they get the most out of their time with us. We also want to reassure them that though they are here to learn, we also want them to enjoy themselves! Finally, we want to introduce them to all the conference has to offer so they can become inspired to seek out volunteer, even leadership opportunities, at future events.
Why are first-timers important to SESUG as an organization?
Venita: Our primary mission is education; and it's through first-time attendees that we reach more SAS users. Whether you're a student, a relatively new SAS user, or an 'old timer,' there's always some new aspect of SAS to learn. Whether it's from attending a presentation, or bringing a bit of troublesome code to the Code Doctors for some one-on-one expert consultation, or just a chat with a new friend over breakfast that leads to some new insight, I can honestly say that not a single SESUG has gone by that I haven't had at least one "ah ha!" moment.
SESUG has a great student scholarship program. Why would a student want to attend SESUG?
Gary: Students not only benefit from top SAS presenter’s knowledge, they also motivate new questions. The diversity of classes allows them to broaden their knowledge and experience SAS outside of a regular curriculum. Students are SAS’ users of tomorrow. In many ways, attending SESUG helps them get a jump on their career.