SAS training for home-workers: Keeping your mind active and your skills current

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I have been working from home on and off since 1996, so it now feels quite normal to start my work day by walking from my kitchen into my office. I know some of my colleagues have struggled with the many distractions that exist at home, so I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I still do not like doing nothing at all. To stop any boredom setting in I will look for ways to do something useful, and, over the years, I have taught myself many programming languages by reading books, running example code, and trying to write applications that will be useful day-to-day, for example:

  • Database applications for calculating hours left to work and printing invoices in Visual Basic.
  • Web applications to send me emails and SMS messages in Perl.
  • Smartphone apps for webOS (remember HP/Palm phones?) in Javascript and HTML5.
  • Smartphone apps for Android in Java.
  • Crossword puzzle word-finder scripts in LibreOffice Basic.
  • SAS Enterprise Guide custom tasks in VB.Net.
  • SAS Studio custom tasks in XML.

Each language presents a different set of problems and solutions, so each new solution will broaden your knowledge of the computer world. Not all language have been central to my day job, but my views on solving computer problems has been moulded by each new programming language I’ve used. In 1996 there was no significant online help, so you couldn’t easily ask anyone for help, but instead you had to rely on hints and tips in computer magazines. Later the online communities have become vital, but you will now have to ask your questions in the correct way, so that it will be understood by each community, as names are not necessarily consistent, otherwise your question is likely to be ignored. I’ve now found ways to improve the chances of my questions being answered, even if my problems are not always resolved:

  • Write a subject line that asks a question that could be answered, otherwise it probably won’t even be read.
  • Set the scene by describing the environment you are working in, such as operating system, and software language and version.
  • Describe in as much detail as you can what you are trying to do, what you have already tried, and any results/messages that you are getting, even if you don’t understand them.
  • Never assume that you’re problem can be solved, but work with anyone who offers you assistance.
  • Be humble and grateful, because there will be programmers out there who know more about this than you, and you might need to call on their skills again.

So what has all this got to do with SAS training? Well, thanks to COVID-19, there are now more home-workers than ever before, and in some cases the work available may not be filling your day, so what can you do to fill your spare time and improve your programming knowledge? I have gathered together some sources of SAS training and information which are either free or inexpensive, which you may find useful, and if you find out about any more, then post a comment and I’ll be happy to check them out:

  • Training courses:
    • My corporate SAS training courses are intended for large groups, but each course has an associated eBook that is much cheaper and available through the Training section on this site.
    • I have a low-cost forum with a monthly subscription called the SAS Programming Forum, which welcomes SAS programming questions, but also includes the SAS course with a growing number of SAS-related topics, such as Data Steps, SAS Macros and PROC SQL, either as individual posts or LMS courses.
    • If you prefer to learn from eBooks or Android apps, then the topics in the SAS course are also available as eBooks and Android apps (on Amazon Appstore and Google Play).
  • Papers and books:
    • The Conferences Paper section on this site is filled with papers covering a wide range of SAS-related topics, which can be downloaded for free.
    • Other SAS-related books can be bought through the Books section on this site.
    • The largest searchable collection of SAS-related conference papers is maintained by Lex Jansen, including papers from SUGI, SeUGI, regional SAS user groups and forums, VIEWS, PhUSE, PharmaSUG and SAS Global Forum.
  • Competitive learning:
    • Sasensei is a SAS-related quiz and learning site where the flashcards, questions and quizzes are contributed by the users, and you earn points and awards from contributions and correct answers, but you will always learn from your incorrect answers too.
  • SAS support:
  • SAS programming platforms for learning:
    • SAS University Edition is free for use as a learning platform, and can either be downloaded and installed on your laptop using VMware or VirtualBox, or accessed through the web on the AWS Cloud.
    • WPS Analytics Community Edition is a free version of WPS Analytics, which can be licensed from World Programming for 6 months at a time and installed on your PC, and can run SAS programs using quite a large subset of SAS programming features, and includes R and Python interfaces.

I think that should at least get you started on your SAS improvement projects!

Did you miss the links to the blog posts and forums? They are now visible again under the menu!

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Did you miss the links to the blog posts and forums? They are now visible again under the menu! I’m not sure when these links vanished, but I re-instated them this morning:

  • Blog posts are visible whether you are logged into the blog or not.
  • The Forum widgets are only visible when you are logged in.

Skills needed by a good SAS programmer apart from programming

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You have a certificate from SAS saying you can program, and you have been offered a job as a SAS programmer. Well done! So what happens now?

Hopefully your new employer will arrange for SAS training for you, and then you’ll be given a computer to run your SAS programs on. If you are lucky you’ll be in a team of SAS programmers where some are experienced enough to assist you. However, your team may only include inexperienced programmers like yourself, so how do you get answers to your questions?

Do:
(1) Research: Search Google for possible answers to your questions. This may produce links to http://support.sas.com or http://www.lexjansen.com, so try these links first.
(2) Experiment: Try out these suggestions to see which work for your situation.
(3) Discuss: Talk about these solutions with your colleagues.

Do not:
(1) Delegate: Post vague questions on forums in the hope that someone will write your program for you. You will never improve your skills by using someone else to do it for you.
(2) Break copyright: Post any company data on the web or in external emails.
(3) Reveal: Ask questions on the web which may reveal confidential information about your employers or clients. It is also recommended that you never post your email address or phone number either, because they could be used to spam you, or even to spam others looking as if you are doing it.

Once you have a working SAS program, and this may take a while to achieve, remember to re-visit it regularly with a view to improving it using knowledge you’ve gained over time. No program is ever perfect, but your aim should be to approach perfection with each amendment.

So how do you gain SAS knowledge? The SAS certification questions and answers cover only a tiny fraction of what SAS can do. The temptation is to stick to what you know, but this will never allow you to improve your SAS programming, so read the SAS blogs, SAS-related forums and SAS conference papers regularly, and then try out the new techniques to learn new stuff all the time. This should never end. I’ve been using SAS since 1981 and I’m still learning new stuff about SAS every day!