Power Talk » Meet Richard Wright

posted: March 2008

Richard Wright's use of SAS started as an opportunity to make a little extra money while he was studying at the University of Oregon in the late 1970s.

Wright was majoring in economics and computer and information science. He was the first student at the university to own a personal computer — an Apple II. His econometrics professor, seeing his dual pursuit, asked him to write a multistep auto-regression program testing a theory on US - Canadian exchange rates. "He tossed me a book on something called SAS. A couple of months and three boxes of punch cards later, I had my first SAS program."

Today, Wright is regular contributor to the SAS Knowledge Base, offering his tips and advice on using SAS. He works for state agencies in Texas and is certified in base and advanced SAS programming.  View Wright's contributed tips

Using SAS to Help State Government Run Smoothly

For the past 20 years, Wright has worked in state government using SAS for a broad array of projects. "I have used it to compile and analyze worker compensation medical costs, usage, and system performance; to generate school finance estimates; to analyze and monitor risk exposure in state agencies; to generate precinct maps; to extract information from word documents; and to generate e-mail reports," Wright says.

Wright has often found innovative uses for SAS — sometimes to the point of being a bit embarrassing. One of the functions of a division he worked in was to monitor the state house and senate financial committee meetings. "But they would adjourn with no definite return date or time, so we would have to periodically monitor the live Web feed for their return," he says.

"I got the bright idea to run the Web site through some SAS code, and when the committee was back in session, to send an e-mail to the appropriate beeper. And it worked. Trouble was when I first tried this, I forgot to put a stop in the data step, which resulted in a half-dozen beepers getting called 10 times a minute," he recalls.

Wright has even put SAS to use in his volunteer pursuits. "I did a little GIS and analytical work when I was the campaign treasurer for a friend who was running for the board of the local community college. That was exciting - downloading gigabytes of census track information to a PC at dial-up speeds."

Wright did take a break from government work to take a position with a small energy contracting firm. There he was stuck using dBase, Excel and WordPerfect on an AT&T 6300. "I didn't use SAS then, but I wanted to."

Learning More and Helping Others

Wright enjoys staying abreast of the latest developments and helping others do the same. "I find myself constantly referring to the 'what's new' part of the online documentation for insight into alternative ways of approaching a task. Sometimes this leads to a new function; sometimes it leads to a new proc. Sometimes it suggests other paths to explore. In the same vein, I find that reading the SAS communities and SAS-L sites help, but frequently from a more 'clinical' or pragmatic perspective." Wright has recently been working with SAS Learning Edition to prepare presentations on subjects like using multiple SAS sessions in a virtual machine environment.

His knowledge has made him a popular "go-to" person in the SAS community. "I've always made myself available for help. I take questions through e-mail, in person, through the local SAS user group, the online SAS community and SAS-L. I do it as much for myself. It forces me to re-examine how to explain something or to hone how a SAS 'something' works."