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Changing Careers to Become a SAS Programmer in the Biotech / - page 6 / 9





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the rest to ensure that there are no such problems occurring elsewhere. There is a certain satisfaction and comfort knowing that he can ferret out all the discrepancies that exist in a database. An inclination to focus on details also helps in debugging SAS programs created by others.

He did not attend SAS training courses. Instead, Gene gravitated towards getting his consultant firm to pay for the SAS reference manuals he requested. He actually appreciated the cost effectiveness of user manuals since it is a continuous source of knowledge that can be referenced over and over. Good reference manuals had sample code that could be used as templates to algorithms in real world applications. Gene started his own personal electronic library of sample code that he refers to on occasions. This process started in his early days when he first started working with SAS consultants prior to him becoming a full time SAS programmer. Since then, he continued adding to it from other programmers, including original algorithms he came up with and code that he acquired at SAS conferences. Regarding SAS conferences, he sees SUGI being the biggest and the most expensive. There seems to be a larger representation of more seasoned SAS programmers and managers that attend SUGI as compared to other SAS conferences. He sees it as not necessarily focused on the Pharmaceutical industry so it is only by chance to find a paper with substance and relevance. Gene prefers the smaller regional conferences or PharmaSUG where there is more diversity of attendees and the focus of the talks seems to be more relevant for him. Recently, he had shared his original SAS applications as a speaker at these conferences. Gene is constantly sharpening his skills and looking for insight by these many resourceful approaches. It is a Darwinian world where if he sharpens his tools and constantly reinvents himself by learning new things, he would survive and thrive as a SAS programmer.


There are many career paths. Sometimes, it is the unexpected and unplanned ones that turn out to be the path that best fits your personality and talents.

In the early 1960ʹs when Suzy went to college, they did not have computer science as a major. Suzy majored in mathematics for her first two years at UC Berkeley. She found upper division math classes rather difficult and decided to switch to psychology, keeping math as a minor. Psychology was a very different discipline compared to mathematics but it was very inline with her interest in teaching. Throughout her academic experience, there were no computer classes offered for liberal arts majors. The only technology used at the time for psych statistics classes was a giant calculator that looked like a typewriter with a crank handle for the ʺenterʺ key.

Suzy graduated in June 1966 and planned to get a teaching credential starting the following fall. During that summer, she had plans to work as a cocktail waitress in Tahoe. Her father did not think that this was a fitting job after all her education. He therefore contacted a friend to arrange for an interview which resulted in an internship job at IBM. Suzy was overwhelmed at first during training since there was a group of 41 summer interns and she was the only female. This was her first introduction to computer programming which included languages such as COBOL and FORTRAN. The programs were executed on an IBM 360 computer. She used a terminal which ran IBMʹs early version of DOS that predated any PCs or Microsoft operating systems. This job was an eye opener for Suzy since she was fascinated with technology and programming.

After that summer she continued on her career path to become an elementary school teacher. She discovered that the student teaching program at Berkeley was not fully challenging her so she quit. The internship position that she held in the past lead Suzy to apply for a full time position with IBM as a Systems Engineer. The job entailed doing both programming and operating system upgrades along with enhancements for clients such as Kaiser Aluminum and the SF Chronicle. Suzy taught programming classes for IBM to clients in COBOL, RPG, and Assembler Language. Suzyʹs husband served in the military during that time so she traveled with him while juggling programming jobs and substitute teaching. Once they arrived to the San Francisco Bay Area, Suzy started to work for Bechtel in their corporate IT department as an operating system programmer.

Suzy took some time off to raise a family before she reentered the work force on a parttime basis. She taught Assembler Language programming at Laney College for a couple of years. This was rewarding but it was also frustrating since her students struggled to get computer jobs after completing their programming classes. They had to have 2 years of computer experience before they could get a job in the field, so it was very difficult getting that initial foot in the door. After her


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