Monday, January 12, 2015

Did You Know That 15 Minutes Could Save You...? Yea, Everybody Knows That!

SAS Programming Professionals,

You would have to be a caveman to not be familiar with the "Did you know that 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance?" advertisement.  Multiple versions of the commercial are on television, on the radio, on the Internet, and likely on every other medium that has ever hosted that cute little gecko with the cheery British accent.

Well, the same sort of thing is true about SAS programming.  I would state it this way:

Did you know that studying SAS for 15 minutes a day could save you hours of programming time?
It is true.  Knowledge is power, and the more SAS knowledge you have the more powerful is your SAS programming prowess.

Some programmers are content to simply let their work tasks take them wherever they may lead, and to learn additional SAS programming hacks from solving the various software development problems that arise.  They hit a problem that cannot be solved with the SAS that they know, look up additional PROCS or functions, or options, or call routines, or SQL statements, etc. and use the new material to resolve the question at hand.  Fair enough!  On the job training is good, and it may make sense to let real-world problems dictate some component of your SAS acumen.
But, relying solely on a stimulus-response type of SAS learning is a bit short sighted.  A better way to increase your SAS knowledge is to be aggressive and actively study SAS.  That way, when you bump into a programming problem you have not previously experienced, you can reach into your in-memory SAS toolkit and pull out one of the SAS hacks that you have read about, but not yet had an opportunity to try.  You will already be familiar with the concept, so you will not need to spend much time coming up-to-speed on it.  Instead, you can customize the PROC, or ODS template, or hash, or... whatever to resolve the issue and go from there.
There are two things you need to implement this proactive approach to increasing your SAS knowledge:  fifteen minutes each day, and good material to study.
Fifteen minutes is only 1% of the 1,440 minutes available to you in a day.  So, it should be easy enough to find fifteen minutes to study SAS each day, right?  Well, that can be problematic for all of us.  We have so many work and personal commitments to attend to, that every moment of every day seems to already be scheduled with other things to do.  So, we need to get creative.  Perhaps you can take fifteen minutes on the subway or bus commute to work to read SAS material.  What about taking fifteen minutes the moment you get into your office before you begin reading emails?  How about using fifteen minutes of your lunchtime to read new SAS hacks?  Or, maybe fifteen minutes at bedtime.  Whatever time slot you decide upon, try to make it your own, inviolable, uninterruptable SAS study period each day of the week.  If becoming a stronger SAS programmer is important to you, you will find that elusive 1% of a day.
Regarding good material to study; there is a plethora of great SAS programming publications out there.  But, for "... studying SAS for 15 minutes a day ...", I recommend one of the SAS tips books.  Here are my recommendations:
Of course the first recommendation is my favorite because I am the author.  However, you absolutely cannot go wrong with any or all of the publications in my list.
So, did you know that studying SAS for 15 minutes a day could save you hours of programming time?
Well yea; everybody who read this blog knows that!
Best of luck in all your SAS endeavors!
(aka Michael A. Raithel)
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