My university degrees were in Chemistry, but when I tried to find my first job there were none in Chemistry, so, as I’d developed an interest in computing, I decided to move into Information Technology instead. I have never really considered my jobs to be work, even to the present day, but more like a paid hobby.
I first encountered SAS software (version 79.5) in 1981 while working as a mainframe systems programmer at the University of London Computer Centre. Not long after that I was the SAS Representative at Prudential Assurance in London installing SAS on their mainframes, and making myself known to SAS UK by asking their Technical Support question after question about a wide range of SAS features.
In September 1992, 25 years ago, I went freelance, formed my own SAS software consultancy, Holland Numerics Limited, and started work on the first of two SAS contracts in Belgium. Since then I have also worked with, and provided training for, SAS-using companies in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain and the USA. As a permanent employee I was never allowed to attend conferences, so I’ve made the most of my freelance status to attend at least one conference every year since 1993, and have presented SAS-related papers at many international conferences since 1995 too. My first paper was presented at SeUGI in Stockholm.
I discovered social media in 2005 when I registered on LinkedIn, but my social media activities really took off in 2008 when I joined Squidoo, and then Twitter, to advertise my first SAS-related book, “Saving Time and Money Using SAS” published by SAS Press. Since then I’ve become active on a number of sites answering SAS-related questions and advertising more of my books. The web sites have included LinkedIn Groups, SASProfessionals.Net, sasCommunity.org, Google+ Communities, SAS Customer Support Communities, BeBee, and now WordPress on this site.
So why do I still not believe that I’ve won a SAS award? I was sent an email the previous week asking if I wanted to attend the Awards Dinner at SAS Forum UK, as I’d been nominated for an award, but not that I’d actually won one, or even which award it was. Everyone from SAS UK I’d met from when I arrived at the conference in Birmingham had been very welcoming, but that certainly wasn’t unusual. Even the description of me before my name was finally revealed referred to me presenting on Analytics at conferences didn’t seem to fit either (until someone later explained to me that SAS staff generally include graphics in Analytics!). Even stepping onto the stage to receive my award felt like I was part of an elaborate hoax, but the warmth of Laurie Miles and Charles Senabulya soon removed that thought from my mind, and I felt extremely honoured to be there and receiving the SAS Lifetime Achievement Award from friends I admired.
Back at my seat I sent a message to my wife Angela to tell her about it. She replied: “Does that mean you can retire as they don’t expect you to do anything else”. Remember at the top of this post I called my job a paid hobby. Some people retire so they’ll have more time to spend on their hobbies, but I’m not sure it is possible to retire from a hobby!!