My SAS journey: from data citizen to analytics "explorer"


Editor's note: Jack Liu is a member of SAS Analytics Explorers, a SAS community that is dedicated to exploring analytics, sharing knowledge, having fun and helping SAS users in their careers. Members were recently invited to share their analytics journeys, and Jack responded with his impressive story. If you're a loyal SAS advocate and you love analytics, check out SAS Analytics Explorers as a way to connect with others!

Inspired to find a better way of working

Unlike many members of the SAS Analytics Explorers community, I don't have a background in statistics or data science. Arriving in Australia in 2007 as an international student, I studied at Griffith University on the Gold Coast majoring in Hotel Management. In the years to follow, I worked my way up from a casual uni student housekeeper to the assistant front office manager at a 5-star hotel in downtown Brisbane.

It was at that point I felt somewhat burnt out in the hospitality industry. Not because I was trying to smile for every guest every day, but because of how manually things were done in the hotel. A simple guest restaurant bill reconciliation that should be done in a few seconds with a proper automated system in place, was instead done by two people spending hours matching pages of printed receipts against a printed spreadsheet.

Thinking like an analyst

So, in 2015, after a three month holiday, I left my hotel career behind and joined Bupa Australia in their Health Insurance division. As I was switching sectors at that point, I started from the bottom to better understand health insurance. I started working at Bupa as a junior contact centre consultant after weeks of training. With my strong customer service focus and large-scale operational experience gained in my hotel days, it didn't take me long to progress into Bupa's national contact centre operations team. It was there that I felt déjà vu, where many things that could be done by machines were instead done by people. My data and reporting assignments made me consider whether our analytics could be done better.

With this curious mindset, I joined the Business Integration team, where I learnt how to use SAS and other reporting tools, and how to think like a data analyst. Fast forward to today -- I'm now working for Bupa Asia Pacific as a Senior Resource Planning and Reporting Analyst. As part of the Workforce Optimisation team, I gather and analyse data related to customer demand in contact centres and retail stores. I use that data to provide insights and reports about staffing levels and performance at each engagement point with our members.

Many might say my career path is a bit all over the place in the last ten years, but wherever I am, I have always been chasing better performance, improved productivity, automation and insights, and using those to make people happier -- be that as hotel guests, insurance members or stakeholders.

SAS products are used in many parts of Bupa's business. In my current portfolio, I mainly use SAS Studio and SAS Enterprise Guide to conduct data mining, data cleansing, analytics, and process automation. One thing I particularly like about SAS Enterprise Guide is how user friendly the point-and-click system is. It makes it easy to teach and train people with no data background.

Being a good "citizen"

The concept of 'data citizen' was mentioned many times at SAS Global Forum this year. As someone without a data background, I believe strongly that the more people I can help to establish a data mindset in an organisation, the better it will be for the organisation’s future. For users like myself, the first step into the data world can be very intimidating if you start with coding in SQL, Python or R. However, with SAS Enterprise Guide, the users are put at ease with a familiar desktop application experience. There are also many high quality tutorials on the SAS Users YouTube channel. Almost any question can be answered with a quick Google search -- almost always leading to the SAS Community (

On top of all these great resources, there is our beloved SAS Analytics Explorers platform. Not only has it gathered a great number of fun activities, it has also provided rewarding points to keep users engaged, and the leaderboard is something that people can be proud of. From time to time I would hear people telling me that learning data and analytics at the beginning is hard work, and while that is true to an extent, SAS Analytics Explorers has certainly made it more interesting and would put a smile on your face watching the points rolling up after a hard day at work.


Throughout the years, my team and I have conquered many challenges using SAS products, providing data, analytics, reports and insights to the business. I'm inspired by "Curiosity Forever". It is the people, not any technical problem, that motivates me to keep exploring. I love the Chinese proverb that says "Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." My curiosity in recent years has driven me to nurture the next generation of data citizens.

Working to inspire others

Countless times, I've seen my fellow data analysts work for days non-stop to be that "knight in shining armour" who saves the day with answers and insights. While we feel proud and appreciated as part of the data community, I would rather not be the hero. At the end of the day, the more people with a data mindset that we have in the business, the easier it will be for us to leap into a data-driven future. Having this in my mind, I have been curious about how to get more people engaged with the data community, especially those without a data or statistics background. And for that, I think SAS Enterprise Guide is a perfect platform. It is quick to learn and easy to use, and new users can get to a visualisation of basic data relatively easily, helping them to feel a sense of achievement and be motivated to keep going.

Introducing people into the data world to become future data citizens has been one of my biggest achievements in the last few years. I have personally introduced six colleagues without a data background to SAS Enterprise Guide -- and my team has helped dozens of people here at Bupa on their journey of becoming future data citizens.

I'll end with a quote I admire from President Obama, "Change is never easy, but always possible." Have a “Curiosity Forever” mindset and explore what's possible. Good Luck!


About Author

Jack Liu

Senior Resource Planning and Reporting Analyst, Bupa

Jack is an open-minded, tech-savvy, professional critical thinker and natural problem solver, plus a passionate golfer. Also the proud winner of the Bupa Global Everyday Hero award in 2018!

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