This is an interview with SAS Guru Susan. She learned SAS in graduate school at North Carolina State University. She earned a Master of Science in cognitivedevelopmental psychology with a minor in statistics. She is the co-author of The Little SAS Book, which is now in its 5th edition. In this interview she covers three valuable tips and strategies for becoming a top SAS programmer, including the need to be a self-starter. She discusses how you can do this by signing up for an SAS on demand account, going to SAS conferences, and finally, presenting a paper at a conference.
While Susan doesn’t have a favorite SAS program, she tells us about how much she loves data step and how it is a flexible traditional programming language. However, she particularly likes PROC Format.


I learned SAS in graduate school at North Carolina State University. I earned a master of science in cognitive developmental psychology with a minor in statistics. And while I was doing my graduate work the thing I really loved was the data analysis and this was a surprise to me. I didn’t know that I would love it so much. So, when I finished my degree then I went out looking for a job as a SAS programmer and fortunately for me I was hired at Shand’s Hospital at the University of Florida and one thing led to another.

A few years later I met Lorette Elwic and she asked if I would like to write a book with her and that became “The Little SAS Book”. Which is now in its 5th edition, it’s published by this by SAS Press, it’s the bestselling book about SAS and in fact it’s so well respected that for many years a copy of SAS of book “The Little SAS Book” was shipped with the SAS software. This is back when they were shipping DVDs. So people would get their SAS software and they would get a copy of our book. So that was a great compliment to us.

And nowadays we also have “Exercises And Projects” for “The Little SAS Book” Rebecca Audison as the first author. And we have “The Little SAS Enterprise Guide” book for people who want to use enterprise guide which is a point click interface to SAS. So, we’ve been very lucky and have done well with our books.


What I would say generally if you want to be a top SAS programmer you need to be a self-starter. And the reason I say that is that you probably have a college degree maybe two or three college degrees; right? And you’ve done well in school and you did that by following the instructions. So, the professor says no listen to this and you learn it and do this and you do that. And once you’re working you can wait for your boss or your supervisor to tell you do this and do that and you’ll be fine. But if you want to be a top SAS programmer you need to go beyond that, you need to be a self-starter and you need to seek out new information and new skills and look for new and interesting ways to apply what you know.

So, I will suggest three ways to do that:

The first is especially if you don’t currently have access to SAS software, sign up for SAS “on demand” account and the way to do that is just you know enter your internet browser search for SAS “on demand” and follow the instructions. And you can sign up for a free account on SAS Institute‘s servers for the purposes of learning and you can try things out and that runs SAS studio which is the newest interface to SAS. So, you will learn that too.

Second thing I would recommend is you go to SAS conferences. There are SAS global forum in the spring and then PharmaSUG in the early summer and then in the fall at the regional conferences and there are international conferences and they’re all good. And the reason I say you should go to a SAS conference is because at a SAS conference you will meet other people who are excited about the same things that you are excited about and you’ll get to meet people from SAS Institute and you’ll learn lots of information in a short time.

And the third thing I would recommend is after you’ve attended a conference then presenting a paper at a conference. And really even if you only present one paper that puts you in a very elite group because a very small percentage of people have presented papers. And don’t be concerned about the fact that maybe you’re not the first person who ever presented on that topic because you’re going to present it in a different way. So just find a topic that you are really excited about and that you want to share your knowledge and submit a paper. And I would recommend that for your first paper you go to a regional conference because they’re smaller and friendly and people are very generous with their support.


Well my first reaction to this is I don’t have a favorite SAS procedure. I’m more of a data step person. I love that flexible, it’s more like a traditional programming language. But actually, there are some procedures I’m particular fun of. So, I will give you a favorite and a runner up. So, my runner up procedure would be PROC SG[namemissed06:08] which is part of ODS graphics and is a huge array of graphics, it’s very big procedure, it has lot of statements. So in that sense it’s not an easy procedure but what it does is it is very easy to use. But my favorite procedure will have to be PROC Format. Because there are many times I’ve woken up the middle of the night and thought oh I can solve that problem with PROC Format. It’s deceptively simple and once you learn it there are an abundance of ways you can use PROC Format to solve a wide array of problems.


Yeah! I would like to close with the SAS blessing, “may all of your data be clean and all of your code run the first time”. Thank you.


Thank you Liz. I’ve enjoyed it.

#SAS #BigData #DataScience #MachineLearning #SAScommunities
#SASusers #SASGrid #analytics #SASsoftware

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