Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 23:40:03 GMT
Sender: "SAS(r) Discussion" <SAS-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Roger Lustig <trovato@BELLATLANTIC.NET>
Subject: Re: Entry-level SAS programmer's skills?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
You make me nostalgic. I encountered SAS on one of my first consulting
jobs in grad school. Being a music-history student without a
fellowship, I needed income, and the only alternative was shelving. I
had FORTRAN, PL/I, and SPSS (and a major in statistics), so this was
much more palatable.
Mind you, none of the above qualified as "formal CS training". And I
was a dreadful SAS programmer for a long time--until last week, one
might argue, but next week that point will be moved up again--yet I was
able to get work doing things that involved SAS.
Which is probably what you really want, anyway. When my older relatives
ask me what I do, I tell them; then they tell everyone else, "he works
with computers." Sure, I do--the same way they work(ed) with
typewriters and adding machines. I solve problems, build models, look
for answers (or, more entertainingly, better questions)--all with the
aid of a trusty computer, preferably loaded up with V8.2.
Now, to your question: what does an entry-level SAS user need? You've
got a lot of the skills already, according to your list; and you truly
warm the cockles of my heart by leading with formats and labels. Master
the cool things you can do with formats, and you'll be in the top 5% of
SAS users. The emphasis on labels (remember the data set label, too!)
shows you're a nice, considerate person.
Recoding variables: do you use formats for that? That's one of the cool
Now, have you used the macro facility at all? I can heartily recommend
it, especially if you're as lazy as I am. Why write code when SAS will
do it for you? If you haven't, think of the three SAS-related tasks you
do most often, and then read up on macro basics.
As Ian Whitlock explained eloquently in a SUGI paper some time ago, SQL
is necessary to the serious, "good" SAS programmer these days. The good
news is that SQL is pretty easy, and that the two-day SAS course on it
is worth every penny. (Besides, once you're hip, you can work with all
manner of other programmers who know SQL but not SAS! All you have to
do is keep an eye open for differences of dialect.)
Ultimately, what you need is not specific skills, but
a) the ability and willingless to RTFM,
b) imagination--finding not one, but two or three ways of getting a task
c) the sort of laziness that leads you to develop a method of doing
something, in order to be able to click twice, type three words, and
thus get your day's work done.
(Actually, that also requires d) the ability to *look* busy--but that's
not something you need to bring up at the job interview.)
Do you help the other SAS users in your shop get their work done? Do
you take the questions they ask, and do a little more research after
they've got the answer, and add the results to your quiver? Do you
check SAS-L (or comp.soft-sys.sas) for questions you know how to
answer? Do you have bookmarks for the on-line SUGI proceedings and a
few other SAS-related sites? If so, you're going to be just fine. SAS
has a terrific community; and making use of that is a skill that's even
more important than SELECT blocks in the data step.
Best of luck!
"A. Jones" wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> I've found the recent discussions of interviewing candidates quite
> interesting - especially since I'll hopefully find myself on the
> interviewee side of the desk sometime in the next couple of years
> - and I have a follow-up question:
> What do you look for in an entry-level SAS programmer?
> Although I've been a SAS user for nearly 5 years, it's been mostly in
> academic settings and SAS has been an important, but not integral,
> part of my job (I have a master's degree in a social science
> discipline, but no formal computer science/programming education).
> For a number of reasons, I've decided to try to make the jump from
> university research staff to SAS programmer and I'm curious as to what
> types of skills you expect an entry level applicant to bring to the
> table, so to speak. (BTW, my current skills include creating and
> maintaining permanent SAS datasets with user-defined formats, variable
> labels, etc.; recoding and calculating new variables using do-loops
> and arrays; and simple reporting (tables, graphs, means, simple
> statistical tests)).
> If you can give me an idea of what level of SAS knowledge you expect
> entry-level applicants to have, I'd appreciate it.
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