We spent our spring break in Austin this past week – at a 3-day SAS training session thanks to our employer. The only things flashing in front of our eyes were the computer screens for eight hours every day. On one side, I am extremely lucky to have a research assistantship on campus that sends me on such all-expenses paid training sessions but on the other hand, the only spare time I have to take advantage of such largesse is during spring break when others are busy frolicking. I wouldn’t have minded a temporary relief from an otherwise hectic semester but few personnel hiccups at work leaves only me apart from the principal investigator with some working knowledge of SAS.
For those unversed in statistics software, training for SAS isn’t preparing to be a mother-in-law (sorry, couldn’t resist) but just one of those more complex programming softwares to do your stat analysis in. I am well-versed in SPSS but haven’t used it since I started working at my current position which uses SAS more often. Incidentally this semester I also seem to be exposed to all kinds of new analyses softwares; others being advanced levels of ArcGIS and R (open-source version of S-Plus; used for spatial statistics.)
Anyway, since Ash now works full-time at the very place where I am employed as a RA (yeah, I know we are lucky that way), she too was offered the chance to partake in this training. So we made it into our little trip down to Austin. Austin is this tiny little blue dot in a largely red state of Texas and Ash having been there once was all praises. But more on Austin in a later post.
The SAS Training Institute is located within their regional center in Round Rock, a suburban community (and rapidly growing city) of Austin. We drove down in unrelenting thunderstorms the previous night and the weather was still foggy the next morning. It lent that melancholic touch to a verdant company campus. Wild turkeys were pointed out to us in the distance as we registered. I wondered if their numbers depleted as Thanksgiving approached but didn’t dare ask.
The actual training aside, the best part about the entire training exercise was believe it or not, the food. There was literally a cornucopia of breakfast options apart from your regular fare of coffee and muffins. The lunch was extra special as the company chefs whipped up customized meals from a variety of preselected options. The salad bar was well stocked and although it was all you could eat, the food quality was quite good which also made an employee from Dell remark that things weren’t this good even at the headquarters of the computing giant just down the road. The price of the lunch was included in the training fees which of course, was paid by our employer. It made me imagine how good the things must be at Google. No wonder employees wouldn’t want to go home and work longer.
The training itself was no great shakes and Ash and I acted like typical desis finishing up classroom exercises before everyone else could (but thankfully not screaming out answers.) Although the training was the first step in SAS programming and quite preliminary, it provided me with that extra bit of knowledge and confidence to look at the more complex programs back at work with hopes of figuring out things on my own.
Thoughts on rest of the Austin experience later.