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What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

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What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

[ Edited ]

My role at my entry-level job is kind of close to a "SAS Admin" but this not my title. Before I got this job I didn't even know this kind of position existed, nor did I have any experience using SAS, and had more experience with general IT principles, programming, SDLC, some ITIL, using data, etc. My job description didn't even mention SAS.

 

My role doesn't act like a System Administrator would; another team handles this access, manages the server in the data center, manages the firewall, etc. I don't have any Sys Admin certs, etc. All we do is handle the SAS application install, add users, onboard new teams, help them put their code in production, make sure certain database connections work, interface w/ SAS support when there are platform issues, ensure uptime, integrate SAS w/ company processes, etc. I understand SAS programming/analytics only at a basic level.

 

Is this typical? What is the typical job description of a SAS Admin? What is the typical career path of a SAS Administrator? Is this a starting position, or an end-game position?

What are the transferable skills of a SAS Admin beyond knowing SAS?

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Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

In my experience, your path to being a SAS Admin is a bit unusual. It is more common for experienced SAS users / programmers to decide that they wish to specialise in administration as they like that type of work. Having said that, with SAS now becoming more widely used across organisations, particularly with the popularity of SAS Visual Analytics, more IT people, like yourself, are moving into a SAS administrators role.

 

The tasks you describe are typical of a SAS Administrator. It is common for IT Admin to keep the SAS server hardware and OSs going, and for SAS Administrators to stick to the SAS software. It does help though to be resonably literate with how servers and OSs work, so you can stop and start services and understand the monitoring and performance statistics and so on.

 

Where you want to head with your career is up to you, but I find building and maintaining SAS applications immensely satisfying so that is one path you could take.  

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Posts: 485

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

From my own experience of talking to SAS admins as a SAS Partner, at SAS Forums and other user groups, and on SAS admin courses, I would say it is a almost a 50/50 split between SAS programmers/developers and general IT admin people taking on SAS admin roles. Whilst the former have a benefit in knowing SAS software very well, the latter have the benefit of a wide range of admin skills/principles. Personally I don't think it matters so much which area you came from - there are lots of resources available these days to help SAS admins including SAS courses, documentation, best practice papers, dedicated admin streams at SAS conferences, and of course this SAS community too! Smiley Happy

 

With regards to the job description for an admin I would recommend having a read of the following 2 papers:

Who performs these tasks will vary depending on the organization, its size, and practices: sometimes with smaller sites/installs, a single person will be responsible for most tasks, perhaps part-time; sometimes an IT admin group will take on most tasks; sometimes an IT admin group will do some and a SAS admin person/group will do others; sometimes aspects are outsourced.

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Posts: 33

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

I'd have come from a Business Intelligence/SQl developer background (only in my 5th year of working anyway), and just as we use SAS more and more in our organisation, I've been promoted into this role as I'm the person on the team who knows servers and hardware the most. 

 

My tasks are similar to yours only I don't do the help teams put code into production or making sure database connections work. We only have one SAS developer now (and I do bits and pieces when I've time) so he takes care of all of that, my role is adding/deleting users, sorting log files, making sure VA is working, monitoring the servers, working with SAS support and just generally trying to make the platform better for the users (less downtime, sorting training etc). I'd generally try and make some QOL stuff to the system when I can but as we don't have a test environment, it's a bit dodgy trying to do anything to the production system so it can be slow progress there. 

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Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

Hello @KindOfASASAdmin,

 

as I see it, there are a few types of SAS Admin roles: closer to technical (more system admins), closer to functional/business (programmers/BI/DI/statisticians) and just in the middle. In some companies, you can find more than one of those roles, actually! And as such, the focus and background for each of those roles, can be quite different too. I think not everyone comes from IT, but a good understanding of IT, at present time, is key.

 

It has some hard skills requirements, definitely, but it is a lot about soft skills: translate technical laguage to business and viceversa, and to understand both, manage expectations, advise, lone and team player, and so on. 

 

SAS Employee
Posts: 2

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

[ Edited ]
Posted in reply to JuanS_OCS

The main types of backgrounds I've seen are SAS programmers\Data Scientists, DBA\BI developer, and UNIX admins.  I think the easy lift is probably on those with application dba background as they are used to dealing with both IT and end customer issues but all 3 backgrounds are a good beginning.  The field is pretty fluid and you get exposure to all types of OS and other types of software.  This gives you a broad technical perspective that usually is reserved for application architects.   You can go jr - sr SAS admin then architect, manager, etc.  I've seen many go in business for themselves because the position requires someone to be a planner, implementer, and a maintainer. I've also seen some just remain as architects or move into management role. 

 

The rewards are that most likely you won't get much notice if everything is going well which is typical of IT.  However, in your career, you can help those by creating an environment for users.  I've help create/maintain environments that customers have been able to use analytics that ended up saving millions of dollars and/or helped set policies that made impact in a way that made me proud to go to work the next day.  And occasionally, I get a nice nickname from the folks in IT like "SAS goddess".  So yeah definitely worth it  Smiley Happy

 

Good luck in your new career path!

Regular Contributor
Posts: 235

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

I'm definitely your outlier on this thread.

 

I have a B.S. in Computer Science, and always considered myself a programmer;

in the SAS world that means denying that I'm mathematician, statistician, etc.

 

I worked for a federal research agency for 25 years, 17.5 as a programmer,

and then took over Level III tech support for SAS software for the last 7.5.

 

I thought I was signing on for tech support for SAS users,

but was amazed to find that that job title meant I was tech support

for technicians installing and doing license updates for SAS!

Three years in I was managing not only licenses for SAS, for 2,500 users (largest SAS site in federal gov),

but several other stat softwares,  both competitors and add-ons.

 

My regret to this day, (2018: 5 years retired) is that I did not challenge the admin staff

(about a dozen campuses for 20,000 people) to reserve rooms for

lunch-and-learn sessions about SAS.

 

Recommendations:

 

* encourage and support internal dialog amongst users, what I said above: lunch and learn

 

* figure out how to make your work schedule looks like you worked for

the Big.Search.Engine.in.the.Cloud,

by which I mean schedule 20% of your time for self-education.

bricolage, creative tinkering, is the name of this game.

 

* find your niche, read up about it.

I tell people at conference they have to pick three papers and read one a week for the next month;

and get the code running: see bricolage agove

 

* write your own resume, either directing your certificate/training accural or publishing.

I was supported in attending national conferences -- SUGI/SGF --

but made it a point to get out on the regional circuit where I met many more of my peers.

 

I had the ungoodly fortune of getting into this job when my agency was carrying out their downsizing

from mainframe to PCs on a grid. As I said above I am/is/are programmer, of software;

I skipped all the hardware maintenance, by which I mean server admin duties.

 

This quote is about me:  "Beware of programmers with screwdrivers".

 

Ron Fehd  macro maven, who remembers the definition of

 

luck: that delicious combination of dedication, determination and hard work

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Posts: 10,520

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

Posted in reply to KindOfASASAdmin

I'm one of those who come from the IT side, and I came across SAS after gaining lots of experience in the IT world.

 

I took a university course back in the 70's that was called Introduction to Computer Science, where the prof (who later became the successor to Niklaus Wirth at the ETH Zurich) took us from transistors to flip-flops, registers, ALUs, command decoding, simple assembler in one year.

I learned programming with Pascal.

 

In the early 80s, I started working for a small software shop that made business software (accounting, billing, inventory); since I had some experience with electronics (and knew how to handle a soldering iron), I also became the prime "doctor" when one of our computers or terminals had a hardware problem (like a breaking drive belt on the hard drive, or burned-out serial communication chips in terminals). I also discovered how to properly "burn" a replacement BIOS EPROM for the original IBM AT (as we used large - 80 MB - disk drives that the AT 1 could not handle out of the box).

 

From that, I went to a company that built a specialized pattern-matching system for one of the major banking institutes (for automated reading of payment vouchers). I did the PCB routing for parts of the machine, and ported the interface code for the transputers from DOS to HP-UX, which was my first in-depth contact with a UNIX system.

 

Finally I ended up with the local branch of a global insurance company, and became the data warehouse admin when SAS was implemented and later moved from the IBM mainframe to a UNIX system (first SINIX, then AIX). Back then I was the only one in the IT department with UNIX experience.

 

I took SAS courses in Heidelberg, and learned most of what I know now by carefully studying the documentation (therefore Maxim 1), and in recent times by being active here in the communities; I came once for help (google let me find the predecessor to the current communities), saw that I also could be of help to others, and the rest is history, so to say.

 

I personally find that to be a SAS admin, you need a strong background in computing, otherwise you'll always be out of your depth when you run into system-specific obstacles, which happens quite frequently for an admin. And you need to be able to communicate with the guru-type techies by using proper tech-speak, and how to formulate (google) queries to get you relevant results.

If you come mainly from the statistics side, make sure you have an operating system guru for your server at hand, and be willing to learn the intricacies of the platform.

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Contributor
Posts: 50

Re: What is the most common background of a SAS Admin? Do they come from IT?

[ Edited ]
Posted in reply to KurtBremser

A persons background has two components. The first is academic  training and secondly experience/professional practice.

I have come across persons with diverse academic qualifications - chemistry, life sciences, engineering(other than computers) and computer science working as an Admin.  
Similarly like as others have said many SAS programmers have transitioned to admins and like wise many system admins have transitioned to SAS Admins.

Ultimately it is one's interest and the hard work that the person puts that makes the difference.

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