I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend SAS Global Forum in Dallas as a presenter and New SAS Professional Award recipient. At the conference, I was able to learn more about SAS features and applications, share my knowledge of SAS applications in the clinical trials space, and make new professional connections.
Here are 11 reasons why you should consider applying for this award, too.
1) Free registration & conference hotel: The obvious perk for award winners is the waived fees associated with the cost of attending the conference, including the registration fee, pre-conference tutorial, and free stay at the conference hotel for award winners who are also presenters. As a junior-level employee, it can be difficult to convince your department to allow you to travel to a conference, but it makes it a lot easier to pitch the idea when an award covers most of the costs.
2) See a new city: I arrived at the conference a day early, so I was able to take advantage of my time in Dallas to see the city. I walked around downtown, toured the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and ate some delicious barbeque. SAS Global Forum 2020 will be held in Washington D.C., so there will be plenty of sights to see there as well.
3) Receive guidance from a mentor: Award recipients who publish and present a paper are eligible to be matched with a mentor through the Presenter Mentoring Program. My mentor, Chris Battiston, was incredibly friendly, helpful, and personable. He provided advice on presentations to attend, public speaking tips, and even referred me for an opportunity to fly out to Canada as an invited speaker at the SAS Canada Health Users group conference. Having a mentor helped set my expectations for the conference and make a plan to maximize my experience.
4) Open doors to additional opportunities: This award, and my associated presentations, provided me with a huge boost in my credibility and the publicity around my work. As a direct result of presenting at this conference and receiving the award, I received invitations to speak on the main stage in front of 5,000+ people at SAS Global Forum 2019, to attend the SAS Canada Health Users Group as an invited speaker, to serve as a panel speaker at the Research Triangle SAS Users Group, and attend SAS Global Forum 2020 as an invited speaker. I also had opportunities to meet Jim Goodnight and other SAS executives, which was an incredible honor.
5) Speak with SAS employees: Have a question about a SAS procedure? At SAS Global Forum, you can ask your question to the actual developers of those procedures in The Quad. The Quad is a large exhibit and demo area with dozens of SAS booths as well as the conference sponsors. At the booths, I spoke to quite a few representatives from SAS and learned about the variety of areas where SAS is making an impact. I learned about the features and functions of SAS Viya, efforts at SAS to make data visualization accessible to those who are visually impaired, the rationale behind moving the certification exams to a performance-based format, and the free SAS-supported software platform to teach coding to children at a young age.
6) Free swag: Not the most important reason, but still an awesome bonus! I walked away from the conference with two free t-shirts, a backpack from the Pinnacle Solutions sponsor booth, and many trinkets, pens, and notepads collected from the various booths.
7) Have fun: There were quite a few events at the conference that were a lot of fun! It was easy to meet people because everyone at the event was so friendly. There were happy hour events, lunch networking groups where you could sit with a table of people based on common interests, escape rooms, get-togethers for SAS regional user groups, and a big party for all conference attendees on the last night. It is a great opportunity to spend time with the people you meet at the conference.
8) Practice public speaking skills & teach others: Presenting at the conference is a great opportunity to practice speaking in front of a large group and to teach other professionals about some aspect of SAS. As a "New" SAS professional, it may sound daunting to come up with a topic that would be useful for a more experienced audience, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who attend the conference with no knowledge of many of the base procedures. Additionally, conference attendees find it incredibly valuable to learn about how SAS can be used to solve a problem or how an existing common task can be programmed more efficiently. My topic was "Using PROC SQL to Generate Shift Tables More Efficiently", and it taught programmers and statisticians a shorter way to produce shift tables, which are commonly used to present categorical longitudinal data. Because of the preparation I put in to present at the conference, I left the event as a much more confident speaker than I had ever been before.
9) Learn something new: At the conference, you'll have the opportunity to attend sessions on virtually any topic you can think of that is related to SAS. Most of the talks I attended were related to statistics because the topic aligns with my job description as a Biostatistician. Some of the topics I learned about were Bayesian analysis, missing data, survival analysis, clinical graphs, and artificial intelligence. Additionally, the conference allows you opportunities to ask specific questions about any SAS procedure or task you’re struggling with. A resource available at the conference is the “Code Doctors” table in The Quad, where you can ask programming questions to SAS experts. I had the opportunity to serve as a “Resident” for the Code Doctors program and was able to observe and help those who needed advice.
10) Increase visibility within your company: I was the only attendee from my company out of those working in my office, but there were several senior-level IQVIA employees from other regions in attendance, and I had the opportunity to meet them and spend time with them at the conference. I work at a very large company and would not have had the opportunity to meet these coworkers otherwise, so it was an excellent opportunity to increase my visibility even within my company. Additionally, I’ve had opportunities to apply the knowledge I gained from the conference at work and to share advice with coworkers based on what I learned.
11) Make new connections: Perhaps the most important reason to attend SAS Global Forum as a New SAS Professional is the connections you make at the conference. There are opportunities to meet people from all stages in their career who use SAS to complete statistical analysis. Despite working in different industries, I found that many conference attendees used the same procedures and dealt with the same issues that I did, and I truly felt a sense of community among the long-time attendees. Like most of the programmers, analysts, and statisticians in attendance, my day-to-day work is in a solitary environment on the computer. Although teamwork is involved within project teams, there is not a great amount of face-to-face interactions. I love connecting with other people, and this conference gave me the opportunity to meet other people working in similar positions.
The New SAS Professional Award is perfect for those with the potential to become a leader in their field and who are looking for more opportunities to present their ideas, to network and make connections, and to learn from experts.
This experience has allowed me to expand my skills and network, and served as a launchpad for my successful career. My attendance at the conference has allowed me to feel a greater sense of community with other SAS users, and to serve as a representative from the "next generation" of SAS Professionals. I encourage you to submit your abstract by September 30th and your award application by November 1st if this seems like the right opportunity for you. More details about this award and other award and scholarship opportunities are available on the SAS Global Forum 2020 website.