In December 2022, Christmas came earlier for the academic community and for us, at SAS. I had the privilege to be involved in launching the SAS Lab at the Politechnica University of Bucharest. This is a lab at the university equipped with state-of-the-art data analysis equipment. Both undergraduate and graduate students will benefit from access to it and will be able to learn real-life data analysis and data science skills.
This is the first SAS Lab in Romania. However, it is unlikely to be the last either here or in the region. It may therefore be helpful to share with others what I have learned from being involved in the launch.
This lab will offer the opportunity to the academic community to learn the latest technologies in the area of data science and advanced analytics. In the same time, this is also great opportunity for the local industry to gap the bridge between the market' requirements in search for higher skills employees and the academic community to stay in touch with the latest trends in technology.
At the press conference, we talked about the importance of data science, and the need to provide students with the skills to survive and thrive in this field. We also discussed the number of jobs available locally and in Europe and explained that the lab would help students to develop the skills they need to get well-paid jobs in data science. We discussed career opportunities for students, and the industries that are currently recruiting data scientists. This set a broad backdrop for the initiative and meant that press reports were able to set the lab in its broader context. In the same time, this lab is part of the SAS Talent Connection strategy at EMEA level to bring the technology and the solutions closer to the academic world and the industry.
One thing that surprised me about the press conference was the number of students who chose to attend: more than 50 in total. They were very interested in hearing more about the SAS Lab and the opportunities that would be available to them as a result. They also asked lots of questions. I suspect this gave the press conference a very different feel—and probably provided a better story. Next time, I would be tempted to invite students deliberately to emphasize the level of interest and showcase why the lab really matters.
It may sound obvious to say that the university was very enthusiastic about the initiative—but I also think it is true. University staff like to be able to teach using up-to-date resources, and students like to learn skills that will be relevant. This shows the importance of building links with academia and cemented the view that this certainly won’t be the last SAS Lab launch.
In hindsight, we could and should have made much more use of the SAS strapline ‘curiosity matters’ in branding the event. One thing that stood out for me was the level of curiosity among students, but also the press: they all genuinely wanted to know more. I think using the strapline would have helped to highlight the shared value there and built links with our audience in a very positive way.
All the attendees at the press conference wanted details, and especially figures: about the level of investment, the number of jobs available, and particularly at local level. The students also wanted to know how much financial benefit they might see from using the lab to improve their skills: that is, the data science premium in earning terms. Next time, I will be more prepared with local figures, not just European data.
One surprising question from a journalist at the press conference was how much we had invested in the programme in general. This is not an easy question to answer, not least because it’s not widely available information. However, in reply, we emphasized that SAS has invested widely in supporting education, working with many different universities across multiple countries. We also highlighted that SAS makes Viya available to universities free of charge, and the value of this is demonstrated by the fact that many of our commercial clients are making big investments in this package.
My final takeaway from the event was to have a success story to highlight. I would like to have been able to show a short video of a recent student who had gained from learning SAS. This has two benefits: first, it highlights the opportunities to students, and second, it gives the journalists a ready-made human-interest story, which is always going to be helpful in securing press coverage.
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