I made a list of people I’d like to interview, and I asked you to send me names of people you’d like to learn more about. The first person on our list is Don Henderson. Don is a member of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board. You can connect with Don at sasCommunity.org.
- Why do you attend SUGI/SAS Global Forums? Do you still learn new things about SAS?
Mostly it is to catch up with other folks in the SAS community who I've known for a long time. Yes, I do learn a few things here and there. But, another reason is that I don't want to break my string of consecutive conferences. I’ve been to every one of them since SUGI 3, including the last time we were in Las Vegas.
- What is your title? Developer, programmer, analyst, etc. How do you use SAS at your organization?
My title is pretty boring. I'm an independant, single person consulting firm, and so, I typically refer to myself as "Principal" but those folks who've known me for a while know that I also refer to myself and a "Senior Level Lackey". A lot, though not all, of my work is SAS-related. What I do runs the gamut from business analysis, to process consultant to architect to designer to programmer.
- Who was your first mentor in SAS? Do you think mentorship is important?
That is a tough one. When I went to work for the USDA in 1975 right out of school, my boss handed me the SAS manual (yes, it was one book) and told me to learn it. Within a year of that, SAS ended up striking a deal with the USDA, and I became what you would now call the site rep where SAS did their development on the USDA mainframe. In some sense, it was Jim Goodnight, Jim Baar and John Sall who were the folks who mentored me in their software. And yes, mentorship is important. I am a big fan of the master-apprentice model of getting work done.
I've had a lot of other folks I've learned from throughout the years. I'm smart enough not to list any names, because I know I'd forget a few. The folks who've been important to guiding my professional and personal life know who they are!
- How do you network?
I'm not sure how to answer that one. I just do. Because I have been very active and very involved in the SAS community for more than 35 years, I know a lot of folks and a lot of folks know me. So, I really don't have to do anything other than keep in touch. That's not really an answer, but I really don't know what else to say.
- What makes you Don?
I love photography and to work in the yard; I can't tell you how many problems I've solved while cutting the grass. Traveling - for pleasure, not work - is something I really enjoy. I guess the thing that makes me who I am is the skeptic and contrarian in me. I love to have a good debate, and I will often take a position contrary to everyone else just to force myself and others to truly think about things. Sometimes, more than I'd like, I dig myself into holes. But so far, I've been able to dig my way out. I also think that this characteristic is what has made me reasonably successful as a consultant. A good consultant should always be questioning why.
I also love problem solving - regardless of what the problem is. Give me a scenario and let me try to abstract it and figure it out.
- Will you be presenting at SAS Global Forum 2011?
I don't think so. But, I've found out way after the fact that colleagues have put me down as a co-author and told me about it when it’s too late to say no. But I don't think that will happen this year.
- You said before that this won't be your first SAS conference in Las Vegas. What were some of the other trips, and what are you most looking forward to?
Absolutely, the first time was SUGI 3. I've also been to PBLS and the M-series Data Mining Conferences the last few years as well. I am looking forward to catching up with my SUGI/SGF colleagues.
- What is the most interesting SAS project that you have ever worked on?
That's an easy one. Way back in the 1980s, I was the Project Manager and Tech Lead on a contract with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to rewrite the processing system for the 1987 Revision of the Consumer Price Index. Between the code for the new system, the cutover code and the various ad-hoc type applications we had to write, it was close to 750,000 lines of SAS code. While I've worked on lots of interesting things since then, I would have to say that project was the most interesting and the one that I learned the most on.
- What do you read to keep you on your professional toes?
Frankly, I am not much of a reader. The way I keep sharp technically is to look for the hard projects that no one else wants to do - you know, the burning buildings. Such projects are frustrating as all get out, but they keep me sharp and on my toes.
- What do you read or watch for enjoyment? (Survivor, Ice Road Trucker, SpongeBob Square Pants?)
I love SciFi. If not for the fact that I am terrified of heights (don't ask me to climb a ladder or even stand on a chair), I've always fantasized about being an astronaut and traveling to another planet.
In coming weeks, you’ll hear from SAS users who have outstanding SASonality, including Sy Truong, Phil Holland, Carole Jesse and Phil Miller. I have interviews lined up with SAS insiders with SASonality too. Don’t miss these greats: Diane Hatcher, Rick Wicklin and Rick Langston. Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Let me know who you think has SASonality?