Interview with Anne Milley, SAS II

Anne Milley is director of product marketing, SAS Institute . In part 2 of the interview Anne talks of immigration in technology areas, open source networks ,how she misses coding and software as a service especially SAS Institutes offering . She also reveals some preview on SAS s involvement with R and mentions cloud computing.

Anne_Milley

Ajay – Labor arbitrage outsourcing versus virtual teams located globally. What is the SAS Inst position and your opinion on this. What do you feel about the recent debate on HB1 visas and job cuts. How many jobs if at all is SAS planning to cut in 2009-2010.

Anne – SAS is a global company, with customers in more than 100 countries around the world.  We hire employees in these countries to help us better serve our global customers.  Our workforce decisions are based on our business needs.  We also employ virtual teams–the feedback and insights from our global workforce help us improve and develop new products to meet the evolving needs of our customers.  (As someone who works from her home office in Connecticut, I am a fan of virtual teaming!)  We see these approaches as complementary.

The issue of the H-1B visa is a different discussion entirely.  H-1B visas, although capped, permit US employers to bring foreign employees in specialty occupations into this country.   The better question, though, is what is necessitating the need for H-1B visas.  We would submit that the reason the U.S. has to look outside its borders for highly qualified technical workers is because we are not producing a sufficient number of workers with the right skill sets to meet U.S. demand.  In turn, that means that our educational system is not producing students interested or qualified to pursue the STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) professions (either at a K-12 or post-secondary level), or developing the workforce improvement programs that may allow workers to pursue these specialty occupations.  Further, any discussion about H-1B visas (or any other type of visa) should include a more comprehensive review of our nations immigration policiesare they working, are they not working, how or why are they, are we able to limit illegal immigration and if not, why not, etc.

I am not aware of any planned job cuts at SAS.  In fact, I am aware of a few groups which are actively hiring.

Ajay- What open source softwares have SAS Institute worked in the past and it continues to support financially as well as technologically.  Any exciting product releases in 2009-2010 that you can tell us about.

Anne- Open source software provides many options and benefits.  We see many (SAS included) embracing open source for different things.  Our software runs on Linux and we use some open-source tools in development. There are different aspects of open source software in developing SAS software:

-Development with open source tools such as Eclipse, Ant, NAnt, JUnit, etc. to build, test, and package our software

-Using open source software in our products; examples include Apache/Jakarta products such as the Apache Web Server.

-Developing open source software, making changes to an open source codebase, and optionally contributing that source back to the open source project, to adapt an open source project for use in a SAS product or for internal use. Example: Eclipse.

And we plan to do more with open source in the future.  The first step of SAS integrating with R will be shown at SAS Global Forum coming up in DC later this month.  Other announcements for new offerings are also planned at this event. 

Ajay- What do you feel about adopting Software as a service for any of  SAS Institute’s products. Any new initiatives from SAS on the cloud computing front especially in terms of helping customers cut down on hardware costs.

Anne- SAS Solutions OnDemand, the division which oversees the infrastructure and support of all our hosted offerings, is expanding in this rapidly growing market.  SAS Solutions OnDemand Drug Development was our first SaaS offering announced in January.  Additional news on new hosted offerings will be announced at SAS Global Forum later this month.  SAS doesnt currently offer any external cloud computing options, but were actively looking at this area.

AjayWhich software do you personally find best to write code into and why. Do you miss writing code, if so why ?

Anne- In my current role, I have limited opportunity to write code.  At times, I do miss the logical thought process coding forces you to adopt (to do the job as elegantly as possible).  I had the opportunity to do a long-term assignment at a major financial services company in the UK last year and did get to use some SAS and JMP, including a little JSL (JMP scripting language).  Theres nothing like real-world, noisy, messy data to make you thankful for the power of writing code!  Even though I dont write code on a regular basis, I am happy to see continued investment in the languages SAS providesamong the most recent, the addition of an algebraic optimization modeling language in our SAS/OR module contained within the SAS language as PROC OPTMODEL.

I have great respect for people who invest in learning (or even getting exposure to) more than one language and who appreciate the strengths of different languages for certain tasks and applications.

Ajay- It is great to see passionate people at work on both sides of the open source as well as packaged software teams- and even better for them to collaborate once in a while.Most of our work is based on scientists who came before us (especially in math theory).

Ultimately we are all just students of science anyway.

SAS Global Forum –http://support.sas.com/events/sasglobalforum/2009/

Annual event of SAS language practitioners.SAS language consists of data step and proc steps for input and output thus simplifying syntax for users.

SAS Institute The leader of analytics software since 1970s , it grew out of the North Carolina University, and provides jobs to thousands of people. The worlds largest privately held company, admired for its huge investments in Research and Development and criticized for its premium price  on packaged software solutions.A recent entrant in corporate users who are willing to support R language.

Weathering the Stormy Economy

Here is a conference you may want to visit. At first glance it may look like one of those self-help free webinars but it is a very relevant topic with a great speaker. Plus it is on the web.

 

Free Seminar Hosted by SAP Business Objects
Thursday, March 12, 2009
11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST
Robin Fray Carey, CEO of Social Media Today will discuss the best ideas gathered from MyVenturePad.com, SMT’s online community for growth companies. Plus, two fast-growing companies, Fresh Direct, and The Life is good Company, will share their practical recommendations on how to manage business and IT priorities in these challenging times. Register today.
http://events.businessobjects.com/forms/Q109/ideas/?source=SMtoday1

Social Media Today builds Wordframe based communities like Smart Data Collective ( for data ,BI,Analytics people) Best of the Blogs ( for progressive bloggers), Energy Collective ( for Green energy enthusiasts,thinkers and researchers) ,Social Media Today ( for understanding and leveraging Social Media and Networks) and My VenturePad (for Entrepreneurs).

These communities basically work as online newspapers by aggregating and moderating the RSS feeds of thousands of bloggers (for some sites) and their sites. I have written on Wordframes concept of content driven communities and Nings concept of community driven content earlier.

Disclaimer- I have worked as an evangelist to SMT , have been awarded the Blogger of the Week once (for my article on R).

For other conferences you may also want to see AnalyticBridge s page on conferences.

http://www.analyticbridge.com/group/conferences/forum/topics/best-ideas-for-weathering-the

Disclaimer -I have been awarded the Member of the Month twice by them.

I like the third party apps of Ning better than the old outdated format and themes. One Ning application can actually serve as a competitor to Wordframe that is the RSS application ( see feed on my page ).Wordframe has capabilities for even category level filters so Analytics category  feed goes to Smart Data ,Internet category feed gets published on Social Media (when i am lucky) and my attempts at poetry go to Best of The Blogs.

The Decision Stats group (on Linkedin) also has a group on AnalyticBridge.

But why join so many communities and go to webinars ? Because knowledge is useful and productive and fun and I have a personal motto of learning one new thing a day .

Where do you get the time ?Just sleep one hour less and devote that one hour purely to your self learning for yourself.8 hours to the boss, 4-5 hours to the family.

1 hour to yourself ??

Sounds reasonable, eh  🙂

So try this one –

http://events.businessobjects.com/forms/Q109/ideas/?source=SMtoday1

Interview – Anne Milley, SAS Part 1

Anne Milley has been a part of SAS Institutes core strategy team.

She was in the news recently with an article by the legendary Ashlee Vance in the Bits Blog of  New York Times http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/sas-warms-to-open-source-one-letter-at-a-time/

In the article,  Ms. Milley said, I think it addresses a niche market for high-end data analysts that want free, readily available code. We have customers who build engines for aircraft. I am happy they are not using freeware when I get on a jet.

To her credit, Ms. Milley addressed some of the critical comments head-on in a subsequent blog post.

This sparked my curiosity in knowing Anne ,and her perspective more than just a single line quote and here is an interview. This is part 1 of the interview . Anne_Milley

Ajay -Describe your career journey , both out of and in SAS Institute. What advice would you give to young high school students to pursue careers in science. Do you think careers in science are as rewarding as other careers.

Anne-

Originally, I wanted to major in international business to leverage my German (which is now waning from lack of use!).  I found the marketing and management classes at the time provided little practical value and happily ended up switching to the college of social science in the economics department, where I was challenged with several quantitative courses and encouraged to always have an analytical perspective.  In school, I was exposed to BASIC, SPSS, SHAZAM, and SAS.  Once I began my thesis (bank failure prediction models and the term structure of interest rates) and started working, it was SAS that served as the best software investment, both in banking (Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas) and in retail (7-Eleven Corp.).  After 5+ years in Dallas, my husband wanted to move back to New England and SAS happened to be opening an office at the time.  From there, I enjoyed a few years as a pre-sales technical consultant, many years in analytical product management, and most recently in product marketing.  All the while, it has been a great motivating factor to work with so many talented people focused on solving problems, revealing opportunities and doing things betterboth within and outside of SAS.

For high school and college students, I urge them to invest in studying some math and science, no matter the career theyre pursuing.  Whether they are interested in banking/finance, medicine and the life sciences, engineering or other fields, courses that will help them explore and analyze data, and come up with new approaches, new solutions, new advances based on a more scientific approach will pay off.

Course work in statistics, operations research, computer science and others will help hone skills for todays data- and analytics-driven world.  One example of this idea in action:  North Carolina State Universitys (NCSU) Institute for Advanced Analytics is seeing a huge increase in interest.  Its first graduating class last year saw higher average salaries than other graduate programs and multiple job offers per graduate.  Why?  Because there is still a huge demand for graduates with the ability to manipulate and analyze data in order to make better, more informed decisions.  I personally think careers in math and science are especially rewarding, but we need many diverse skills to make the world go round :o)

Ajay- Big corporations versus Startups. Where do you think is the balance between being big in terms of stability and size and being swift and nimble in terms of speed of product roll outs. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a big corporation in a fast changing technology field.

Anne-

Ever a balancing act, with continuous learning along the way.  The advantage of being big (and privately held) is that you can be more long-term-oriented.  The challenge with fast-changing technology is to know where to best invest.  While others may go to market faster with new capabilities, we seek to provide superior implementations (we invest in R (Research) AND D (Development), making capabilities available on a number of platforms. 

In todays economy, I think the big vs. small comparison is becoming less and less relevant.  Big corporations need to be agile and innovative, like their smaller rivals.  And small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to use the same techniques and technologies as the big boys.

First, on the big side, Ill use an example of which Im very familiar:  At SAS, a company founded more than 30 years ago as an entrepreneurial venture, weve certainly changed over the decades.  SAS started out in a small office with a handful of people.  Its now a global company with hundreds of offices and thousands of employees around the world.  Yet one thing that has not changed for SAS in all this time:  a laser-like focus on the customer.  This has been the key to SAS success and uninterrupted growth .Not really a secret sauce. Just a simple yet profound approach: listen carefully to your customers and their changing needs, and innovate, develop and adapt based on these needs.

Of course, being large has its advantages:  we have more ideas from more people, and creativity and innovation knows no borders.  From Sydney to Warsaw, So Paulo to Singapore, Shanghai to Heidelberg, SAS employees work closely with customers to meet their business needs today and in the future.

SAS provides the stability and proven success that businesses look for, particularly in troubled economic times.  Being large and privately held enables SAS to grow when others are cutting back, and continue to invest in R&D at a high rate 22% of revenues in 2008.

Yet with our annual subscription licensing model, SAS cannot rest on its laurels.  Each year, customers vote with their checkbooks:  if SAS provided them with business benefits, results and a positive ROI, they renew; if not, they can walk away.  Happily for SAS, the overwhelming majority of customers keep coming back.  But the licensing model keeps SAS on its toes, customer-focused, and always listening and innovating based on customer feedback.

As for SMBs, they are rapidly adopting the technologies used by large companies such as business analytics to compete in the global economy.  Two examples of this:

BGF Industries is a manufacturer of high-tech fabrics used in jet fighters, bullet-proof vests, movie-theater screens and surfboards, based in Greensboro, NC. BGF turned to SAS business analytics to help it deal with foreign competition.  BGF created a cost-effective, easy-to-use early-warning system that helps it track quality and productivity.  Per BGF, data is now available in minutes instead of hours.  And in the business world, this speed can be the difference between success and failure.  Per Bobby Hull, a BGF systems analyst: The early-warning system we built with SAS allowed us to go from nothing to everything.  SAS allows us to focus away from clerical tasks to focus on the quality and process side of the job. Because of SAS, were never more than three clicks away from finding an answer.

For Los Angeles-based The Wine House, installing a SAS-powered
inventory-management system helped it discover nearly $400,000 in lost inventory sitting on warehouse shelves.  For an SMB with annual sales of $20 million, that was a major find.  Business analytics helps it to compete with major retail and grocery chains.  Per Bill Knight, owner of The Wine House: The first day the SAS application was live, we identified approximately 1,000 cases of wine that had not moved in over a year. Thats significant cash tied up in inventory.  We had a huge sale to blow it out, and just in time, because in todays economy, we would be choking on that inventory.

So regardless of size, businesses must remain agile, listen to their customers, and use technologies like business analytics to make sense of and derive value from their data whether on the quality of surfboard covers or the number of cases of Oregon Pinot Noir in stock.

3) SAS Institute has been the de-facto leader in both market volume share as well as market value share in the field of data analytics. What are some of the factors do you think have contributed to this enduring success. What have been the principal challengers over the years.(Any comments on the challenge from SAS language software WPS please ??)

At SAS, we seek to provide a complete environment for analyticsfrom data collection, data manipulation, data exploration, data analysis, deployment of results and the means to manage that whole process.  Competition comes in many forms and it pushes us to keep delivering value.  For me, one thing that sets SAS apart from other vendors is that we care so deeply about the quality of results.  Our Technical Support, Education and consulting services organizations really do partner with customers to help them achieve the best results.  That kind of commitment is deep in the DNA of SAS culture.

The good thing about competition is that it forces you to re-examine your value proposition and rethink your business strategy.  Customers value attributes of their analytics infrastructure in varying degrees speed, quality, support, flexibility, ease of migration, backward and forward compatibility, etc.  Often there are options to trump any one or a subset of these and when that aligns with the customers priorities of what they value, they will vote with their pocketbooks.  For some customers with tight batch-processing windows, speed trumps everything.  In tests conducted by Merrill Consultants, an MXG program running on WPS runs significantly longer, consumes more CPU time and requires more memory than the same MXG program hosted on its native SAS platform.

While its easy to get caught up in fast-changing technology, one has to also consider history.  Some programming languages come and go; others have stood the test of time.  Even the use of different flavors of analysis ebbs and flows.  For instance, when data mining was all the rage almost a decade ago, many asked the very good question, Why so much excitement about analyzing so much opportunistic data when design of experiments offers so much more?  Finally, experimental design is being more readily adopted in areas like marketing.

At the end of the day, innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage.  As noted above in question 2, SAS has remained firmly committed to customer-driven innovation.  And SAS has stuck to its knitting with respect to analytics.  A while back, SAS used to stand for Statistical Analysis System. If not literally, then philosophically, Analytics remains our middle name.

(Ajay- to be continued)

Linkedin Tools : Getting job and contract

Here is a great tool by Linkedin to do the following get a J   O  B

Where is it located ?

Look on Linked Page Footer Area

Look in Row called Tools

Click on Jobs Insider

You get the below webpage-

image

Download and follow as per your browser. No Download for Chrome users.

But firefox is good enough.

 

Download it here

http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=jobsinsider_download&trk=hb_ft_jobsins

 

And enjoy Linkedin s tool which is more useful than all the Facebook applications put together .

Dataset too big for R ?

In case you have a dataset too big for fitting in memory for R, there is a package called biglm .

You install it like this-

install.packages("biglm", dep=TRUE)

 

 

  Information on package ‘biglm’

Description:

Package:       biglm
Type:          Package
Title:         bounded memory linear and generalized linear models
Version:       0.6
Date:          2005-09-24
Author:        Thomas Lumley
Maintainer:    Thomas Lumley <tlumley@u.washington.edu>
Description:   Regression for data too large to fit in memory
License:       GPL
Suggests:      RSQLite, RODBC
Enhances:      leaps
Packaged:      Tue Feb 24 10:47:44 2009; tlumley
Built:         R 2.8.1; i386-pc-mingw32; 2009-02-24 21:35:12; windows

Index:

bigglm                  Bounded memory linear regression
biglm                   Bounded memory linear regression
predict.bigglm          Predictions from a biglm/bigglm

and in case you are the statistical kind of chap who want to know whats IN the code for these functions

function (formula, data, family = gaussian(), …)
UseMethod("bigglm", data)
<environment: namespace:biglm>

 

R tip of the day If you want to know what an R Function say procmeans does..all you need to do is type procmeans at the command prompt , and it will tell you what is inside the code.

If it gives an error most probably you need to

1) Install

and 2) Load the package containing the function

Which are conveniently here

image

credit source –http://www.nabble.com/R-f13819.html

Award : Analyticbridge.com

Blog post on http://www.analyticbridge.com/group/memberofthemonth

Ajay Ohri has been selected as our Member of the Month for the second time. Most recently, Ajay recruited great new members, posted numerous interesting messages on his blog, added many applications and feeds to his profile, and contributed in many other ways to make AnalyticBridge better.
To be eligible for the Member of the Month award, a candidate must .

 

More details here

http://www.analyticbridge.com/group/memberofthemonth

ps — I am still waiting for the SAS Rookie Slumdog of the Year Award.

An R Package only for SAS Users

Dear All,

I am doing some research into creating a R Package for SAS language Users.

The name of the beta package is Anne, but I am open to suggestions for the name please.

The basic idea is to enable SAS language Users (especially Windows SAS language  users) to get a feel to try out the R package without getting overwhelmed with the matrix level powerful capabilities as well as command line interface.

Creating new functions is quite easy as the following code shows.

The first R code for the Anne 1.0 Package is

procunivariate(x) <- function(x) summary(x)

procimportcsv(x) <- function(x) read.table(x,header=TRUE,

                           + sep=,, row.names=id, na.string=   )

libname(x) <-function(x) setwd(x)

 

Note I am tweaking the code as we speak and would be trying to add one proc per week.

But how to put functions in a R Package ?

This is how to create a R package ( To be Continued)

Note- SAS here refers to SAS Language.