I recently had the chance to talk with Dina Duhon, chair of SAS Global Forum 2021. And since you all didn’t get to meet her during the traditional closing session of SAS GF 2020, I’m taking the time to introduce her now. Take a read through our Q&A. I think you’ll find her SAS experience (conference and work-related) quite impressive!
Question (Q): Tell us a little about your SAS background? How and when did you start using SAS?
Answer (A): I was first exposed to SAS at university, although I am not sure if I would describe it as "using SAS." It was more about following a recipe from a professor. My first real exposure to SAS was in 1997 when I started my first job at BMO Financial Group. I started as a Research Analyst in the Credit Decision Support Group that conducted advanced analytics and data science (or data mining, as it was referred to at that time.) I started using SAS 6.08 on the UNIX platform. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: When did you attend your first SAS Global Forum, and what was your favorite part of it?
A: My first SAS Global Forum was in Seattle 2010. There are a lot of favorites, so it’s difficult to settle on just one. The Opening Session and Technology Connection were impressive. I loved the ODS Hands-on-Workshop, and I was really impressed by the quality of the breakout sessions! And of course, meeting new people and networking with other SAS users, executives and SAS employees was a great experience. See what I mean when I say it’s hard to pick just one?
Q: When did you decide you wanted to be more involved with SAS Global Forum?
A: I have been involved in running the Toronto Data Science Forum since its inception in 2005. John Amrhein, 2017 Global Forum Chair, approached me after one of our fall meetings in 2014 and asked if I would be interested in getting involved with SAS Global Forum and helping support him through his conference year in 2017. I said yes, of course, and it set my SAS conference path in motion. I applied to be a member of the 2016 SAS Global Forum Content Advisory Team (CAT) team and have been involved in SAS Global Forum ever since.
Q: What made you decide you wanted to submit an application to chair SAS Global Forum?
A: I was involved in the conference for a couple of years and I thought it would be fun to chair a large conference. I was excited to participate at that level because it would allow me to collaborate closely with SAS and see the overall behind-the-scenes process, from marketing to logistics. I was also eager to learn new skills – step outside of my comfort zone – and enhance my project management, communication and public speaking skills.
Q: Given that SAS GF 2021 will again be virtual, what are your goals for the conference?
A: The main goal is to provide the best content to SAS users in the way that is easily consumable in the virtual world. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand our virtual programs and social connection. And I am really looking forward to building on our successes in 2020.
Q: I know there are a lot of details that still need to be worked out as you and your conference teams plan users content for attendees. But what can users do at this time, while the program is being built out?
A: We have a lot of processes underway, and there is more to come. But for now, we are happy that the SAS Global Forum 2021 Student Symposium Competition has launched. This great program has been a part of SAS GF for years. It allows students, alongside a faculty advisor, to compete in an analytics competition. Teams can sign up now through Nov. 15, 2020, with the opportunity to win some exciting new prizes.
Also, we’re defining the requirements now for potential presenters to submit their ideas for a virtual presentation, so everyone should get their ideas ready! We’ll be announcing dates for the submissions in the coming weeks. And don’t forget this will be a different presenter experience - bring on your best ideas and video presence.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: Glad you asked. As SAS, the SAS Global Users Group and the SAS GF conference team formulate what an exciting and engagement SAS GF 2021 looks like, we’d like input from SAS users around the world. Please take this brief survey to share more about what you are looking for from the conference. Thanks in advance!