Ron Cody’s title, “An Introduction to SAS University Edition,” is the first book about University Edition. It acquaints you with its point-and-click environment in SAS Studio and will help you increase your comfort level with programming in SAS. In this Q&A, he talks about his journey to using SAS in academia, what it's like to author multiple titles and what he considers the most important things to know about University Edition.
You started using SAS in 1977. What was the impetus?
I started working at the Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 1977 and one of my tasks was to help faculty members with statistical analysis. Believe it or not, I was actually using SPSS, together with a programming language called PL/1 to analyze data. Although SPSS was a decent statistical package, it was not a programming language. That's why I needed to pass files back and forth between PL/1 and SPSS. (By the way, the first version of SAS was written in PL/1.)
Learning SAS on my own from a manual was a bit difficult, but I soon found out that SAS was a powerful programming language as well as a statistical package. When I say "a manual" I actually mean, "THE manual. " Yes, there was a single SAS manual that covered programming and procs.
Tell us about your professional life. As you look back on your career, what did you enjoy most about it? What do you wish you had done differently?
My first job out of college was for the New Jersey state computing network. It was a great job. I helped students and faculty from all of the state's 56 colleges with programming problems (on a main frame, of course) and taught short courses on various programming languages.
After leaving the NJ computing network, I was hired by the medical school, to provide statistical support to the faculty and to teach part of a biostatistics course to the medical students.
After 26 years, I retired from the medical school as a full professor with tenure. For me, I can't imagine a better job. I loved the freedom to pursue my own research and work with so many dedicated faculty members. Best of all was teaching. When the medical school and Rutgers University started a school of public health, I taught biostatistics and a SAS course.
You’ve written more than a dozen books on SAS programming. What got you started? What kept you going?
Good question. I got started because I thought it would be "fun" to have a book published. It was much harder than I expected, but the rewards are huge. Writing, as well as teaching, forces you to understand your topic on a much deeper level. I see writing as an extension of teaching. When I'm at SAS conferences, I often meet up with people who have learned about SAS from one of
my books. It's very gratifying.
At this point, the motivation for writing is mostly to keep a few of my brain cells alive (use it or lose it) and I continue to learn new things (such as the University Edition and SAS Studio).
What is your writing process like?
I was very fortunate because my job as a university professor allowed me to write during work hours. If I had to write on my own time (weekends and evenings), I doubt I could have produced all those books. Now in "semi-retirement," I like to spend a few hours each day working on a book. To aspiring authors, my advice is to try and write almost every day--if you stop for a period of time, it is really difficult to get going again. Writer's block is real!
What are the most important things someone needs to know about SAS University Edition?
I was completely new to the SAS University edition and its interface, SAS Studio when I started work on the Introduction to SAS University Edition.
I think it is important for new users to realize the tremendous amount of material in PDF's and videos that are out there on the net. Just Google just about any question on the University Edition and there will be useful information.
I have never been a fan of point-and-click applications. I must say that SAS Studio has changed my mind. I am presently working on a book on biostatistics using SAS Studio. The statistics tasks in Studio are really well done.
Without question, at least for me, was using a virtual computer and creating shared folders is the most challenging part of learning SAS University edition. My advice is to carefully follow the installation instructions and place your data files in the folder \SASUniversityEdition\myfolders (the default shared folder). Once you are comfortable with this, you can try creating your own shared folders.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing or programming?
I enjoy hiking, especially if there is a geocache at the end (if you don't know what geocaching is, Google it).I also enjoy bike riding and SCUBA diving. Sitting outside and reading, especially with one of my cats sitting on my lap, gives me great pleasure.