If you use PROC Report, you may already know technical support analyst Jane Eslinger, who joined SAS in 2010. Her experience supporting this foundational component of SAS software was the inspiration behind her new book, "The SAS Programmer's PROC REPORT Handbook: Basic to Advanced Reporting Techniques."
In this Q&A, she shares what led to her writing her first book, tips on getting the most out of PROC Report and how becoming a certified Base SAS programmer helped her professionally.
What made you decide to study statistics at N.C. State University?
I started in the Engineering Department at NCSU. Near the end of my freshman year I went to a session on the professional engineering exam and it scared the mess out of me! I decided I had to change majors.
I had taken a statistics course in high school and remembered that I both liked it and understood it. So I changed majors between freshman and sophomore year and never looked back.
How did you end up working at SAS?
I had been using Base SAS professionally for about seven years before coming to SAS. All of my colleagues kept telling me that I should work for SAS but I always thought “they would never hire someone like me.”
Then one day I saw a posting in the Technical Support department that I liked so I applied. My resume caught the attention of the manager for the group that supports the Base SAS procedures. I started working here a couple of months after I originally saw the posting.
You’re certified as an advanced SAS 9 programmer and advanced visual business analyst. What was the certification process like and how has it benefitted you?
I viewed the Base SAS certification as a growth opportunity and studied three months in preparation for the exam. I earned the certification a month before applying to the Technical Support position. Having the Base SAS certification helped propel me to the top of the list of applicants. I highly recommend it for all programmers, but especially those who want and need to show their programming proficiency.
I earned my Visual Business Analyst certification last year after becoming involved with an internal project that used SAS Visual
Analytics. Visual Analytics is a new world and I wanted to be up to speed.
Why did you write your book? Is it your first?
Yes, this is my first book. And no, I haven’t decided if I will write another! I wrote the book because I saw the need to have everything about PROC REPORT in one place. Right now examples are spread throughout the procedures guide documentation, SAS Notes, and conference papers. In Technical Support, I identified certain parts of PROC REPORT that always trip people up. In my book, I address all of the common questions.
What was the writing process like?
Book writing is truly a process. You can’t do it all in one day. The toughest thing is being overwhelmed with the thought “I am writing a book.” A book is written in pieces and you can start anywhere you want. For example, I wrote chapter 6 first; it is the chapter on using styles, colors, and pictures. I started with one example that I wrote the explanation. Step by step the book was written.
Being a new author I found the feedback and editing process to be slightly overwhelming simply because it was a new experience. In Technical Support, I have more back and forth, question-answer interactions, with no one looking over my shoulder looking for misspelled words.
Ultimately you have to believe the book will truly be useful for the end user. That belief will make the process a worthwhile endeavor.
What are the most important things someone needs to know about PROC REPORT?
The most import thing about PROC REPORT to a statistician or programmer is the ability to disseminate data in a consumable form to a cross functional group of people. PROC REPORT is powerful because it is capable of creating many table structures to present your data. I have found it to be more flexible than PROC TABULATE or PROC PRINT.
For many report structures you do not have to sort or transpose your data. PROC REPORT can do it for you. For the report structures that do require pre-processing of the data, see chapter 5.
There is a learning curve for PROC REPORT; however, once you understand the basics you have a lot of power. Even a little bit of PROC REPORT knowledge allows you to create a lot of different kinds of reports.
Here are specific tips:
Remembering these two rules will get you a long way to mastering PROC REPORT.
What’s the most interesting use of PROC REPORT you’ve ever seen? Or accomplished yourself?
This is a hard question because so often in Technical Support, I only get to see a tiny bit of the process. A lot of users can’t send their data or final output for security and confidentiality reasons so the test data only focuses on part of the final report.
However, what most people get really excited about is when one PROC REPORT step can be used to replace a manual process that took hours and hours to complete. They get so excited when they figure out how to do something in PROC REPORT that matches exactly what they used to do in Microsoft Excel by hand.
Even if the final table doesn’t look sophisticated, sometimes it requires a bunch of tricks from SAS to get it done. Once the SAS code is up and running, the user has so much more time to focus on bigger problems.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work helping SAS customers?
I am an avid reader so most days you will find me sitting in a quiet corner reading.