What it does: Analytics
Staff stats: Around 14,000 globally
The good bits: Too many to choose from
The not so good bits: There don’t appear to be any. (Seriously.)
Hiring grads with degrees in: Engineering, Maths, IT & Computer Sciences; Finance, Accounting, Economics & Business Administration; Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences
The SAS story
Back in the mid-1960s – long before university-industry incubators or big data were all the rage – the US Department of Agriculture wanted to feed the vast amounts of data it possessed into one of the computerised statistics programs cutting-edge universities were starting to develop.
A consortium of universities headed up North Carolina State University got the gig. They did such a bang-up job that soon other government departments as well as private companies, particularly in data-rich industries such as banking, insurance and pharmaceuticals, were queuing up for the useful insights the university statisticians – or, more precisely, their computer programs – could provide.
Jim Goodnight, Jim Barr, Jane Helwig and John Sall were four North Carolina State University academics who’d played a crucial role in developing the software, known as Statistical Analysis System (SAS). In 1976, they formed a private company, SAS Institute Inc, “devoted to the maintenance and further development of SAS”. Dr Goodnight took the CEO role and held on to it for the following 35 years.
With what’s now known as the digital age in its infancy, the conditions were ripe for SAS to grow phenomenally fast. That’s essentially what it has done ever since.
SAS now has four decades of commercial experience helping its clients turn data into knowledge; feeding figures into its acclaimed business analytics software to provide organisations with a “fresh perspective” on their activities. One that allows them to identify what does and doesn’t work and discern possible business opportunities.
Still headquartered in a smallish North Carolina town, the company is now a tech-industry giant with customers in 149 countries. Its “innovative analytics, business intelligence and data management software and services… [help] customers at more than 80,000 sites make better decisions faster”.
Goodnight became a billionaire several times over. In 2016, his company had revenue of US$3.2 (A$4 billion).
SAS has an exceptional corporate culture. One which embraced diversity (or at least diversity-generating employment practices) long before it became fashionable. Unusually for a tech business, women make up almost half of all SAS’s workforce and over 40 per cent of its leaders. For over a decade, the company’s ‘R3 student program’ has “focused on recognising, recruiting and retaining women and minorities in technology”. SAS also has “a robust accommodation process for employees with disabilities”.
At SAS “caring for our people – and our planet – has been paramount” since the early days. The company has long sought to reduce its environmental footprint through green-building, water-conservation, waste-management and pollution-mitigation initiatives.
Its ‘Data for Good’ program uses analytics to help fight cancer, prevent child abuse and save endangered species. The company has also invested in fostering a new generation of technologically proficient innovators. It offers free digital learning resources through ‘SAS Curriculum Pathways’. These resources are currently being used by 2 million students and teachers. The company also collaborates with universities to address the “analytics skill gap”. As a result, university and college students across the globe can access SAS software and training options that are either low cost or free.
The recruitment process
Given the incredible conditions it offers staff, SAS has no shortage of job applicants. To be in the running, you’ll probably need a background in STEM, though those from disciplines such as accounting and business will also be considered. You’ll definitely need to be passionate, tenacious and resourceful and possess solid communication skills. Ideally, you’ll also be tech and data savvy and have some experience using programming languages and modelling tools, as well as analysing data.
SAS’s New Zealand arm offers three entry-level programs.
The ‘SAS Graduate Program’, involves working in three customer-facing departments – Technical Support, Consulting and Pre-Sales. This program provides a solid grounding in the SAS business and the opportunity to refine your technical and customer-engagement skills. It involves attending a ‘Graduate Bootcamp’ including online and face-to-face training.
The ‘SAS Pre Sales Academy’ provides extensive, in-depth knowledge of SAS’s software and solutions, as well as presentation-skills training. It involves intensive training as SAS’s North Carolina head office followed by two years of “structured mentoring” back in New Zealand.
The ‘SAS Sales Academy’ trains people how to sell SAS software and solutions. It also involves intensive training at head office followed by two years of structured mentoring back home.
SAS also offers an internship program via an online matching service - RiBit. Students can register and apply for roles offered by SAS's customers.
If you want an entry-level grad role, you’ll need to keep an eye on the company’s career page and apply online when a suitable role is advertised. The remaining stages of the recruitment process are surprisingly low tech. The company describes its hiring process thus: “We begin the process with a phone interview. If there's interest on both sides, we then invite you for an on-site interview or additional phone interviews (depending on location), typically with the hiring manager and several teammates.”
Possibly because it was launched and has continued to be run by idealistic academics rather than hardnosed businesspeople, SAS is world renowned for its extensive and lavish benefits. (Google modelled itself on SAS when creating its famous menu of workplace perks.)
While conditions vary between countries, SAS staff typically receive: competitive salaries; discounted health insurance; access to onsite fitness options, subsidized health, salary sacrifice car leasing options, affordable or subsidized meals at onsite cafeterias and a comprehensive range of wellness programs. Dress for your day enables staff to determine appropriate levels of dress. Staff are also offered generous leave entitlements and encouraged to maintain work life balance.
With the Internet of Things now taking off, and everything from toasters to home-security systems now generating vast oceans of data, it’s entirely possible SAS could grow even faster over the next four decades than it has over the past four.
By this point, you’ll no doubt be unsurprised to learn SAS leads the pack when it comes to providing opportunities for staff to “continually evolve [their] skill sets”. Such opportunities include “emerging leadership programs, tuition programs [and] technical training”.
In short, if you manage to get into one of SAS’s entry-level programs, your career prospects are excellent.
The vibe of the place
Economic commentator Richard Florida has expressed amazement at SAS’s “holistic integration of work and play, art and science, and business and life”. The company has topped ‘Best Places to Work’ surveys for decades. It has a turnover rate that is a fraction of the industry average. It’s ability to achieve consistently high growth and generate enormous profits while pampering its employees in a manner reminiscent of a Scandinavian welfare state is studied at business schools around the world.
In short, if you’re not happy and engaged after getting a job at SAS, you most likely need to see a psychologist rather than a recruitment consultant.