Manager, Marketing Analytics
Paul Grasso is a Manager, Marketing Analytics at Chico's FAS Inc. in Fort Myers, FL. He specializes in data integration, reporting and analysis and has been using SAS software for more than 25 years. In the three years since he joined Chico’s, he has worked on several integration projects and has been key in assisting users of the SAS® Customer Relationship Management analytics database. Prior to Chico’s, Grasso worked in the transportation industry, streamlining a marketing analytics database. He has also worked as second-level support for a large corporation assisting SAS users with programming questions, issues and training. Grasso received his bachelor’s in computer science from John Carroll University.
How long have you been using SAS®?
What SAS products have you used in the past? What products and solutions are you currently using?
I started with Base SAS 5.18 in MVS. For the first 22 years, I primarily used SAS on the mainframe. I did start using PC SAS about 15 years ago. Other products I have used in the past include SAS/FSP®, SAS/GRAPH®, and SAS/SHARE®. In my current role, I have the ability to use SAS® Enterprise Guide®, SAS Customer Intelligence Studio, SAS Web Report Studio, SAS BI Dashboard, SAS® Enterprise Miner™ and SAS Data Integration Studio. I primarily use SAS Enterprise Guide to code Base SAS programs with extensive SAS macro usage.
What is a problem you have solved using SAS?
Early in my career I used to work with name and address files from new sources almost daily. The data was used to produce direct-mail pieces. The data was not always the cleanest and would not look good printed in direct-mail pieces. I developed SAS macro code that I could use over and over again to properly case and pull apart a name field. I also developed a routine to properly case, punctuate and standardize an address field. Both routines worked well with 98 percent of the data passed to it.
What is the most innovative way you have used SAS?
The SAS macro language allowed me to be the most innovative when programming. In one of my past positions, all the programmers worked with column formatted text files on the mainframe. I set up a library of macro routines to dynamically create the infile and input statements used in the DATA step. The SAS programs only need to pass the filename and the fields to be read, and the macro built the statements. The efficiency this created was huge, by standardizing and consolidating layout information, simplifying coding and reducing processing time by skipping unneeded fields on the input.
What is your most memorable SAS moment?
Anytime I can rewrite a piece of code to save processing time is memorable! On several occasions I have taken code that took hours to run and rewritten it to run in less than half the time. A recent example was a daily process that was taking almost two hours to run. I was able to rewrite part of the process, and it now runs in about 45 minutes.
How has SAS changed in the time you have been using it?
SAS continues to add functionality and software solutions. But as much as SAS adds to and improves the software, I have always appreciated how much Base SAS has stayed and worked the same. A program I wrote 20 years ago would still run the same today. The products and solutions that SAS has available now work great at generating code behind the scenes. Although I code for efficiency, I can appreciate the ease in which new users can quickly generate and run SAS programs using products such as SAS Enterprise Guide.
Have you ever attended a SAS users group meeting or SAS Global Forum? If yes, please list them.
I have attended the SUGI (predecessor to SAS Global Forum) in 1994 (Dallas), 1996 (Chicago) and 1998 (Nashville). I am fortunate to be able to attend the events once again and have now been to the SAS Global Forum in 2011 and 2012. I have also started an internal SAS users group at my current company that has a membership of about 30 SAS users.
Has your work with SAS been influenced by any other members of the SAS community?
Although I have been using SAS for 24 years, I am still learning! As I interact with other SAS professionals, I learn more about how they use SAS and their approaches to writing SAS programs. In every job I have had, I always pick up new ways to program by seeing how others with different experiences use it. Connecting with other SAS users is one of the best ways to solve problems.
If you could point a new SAS user to one resource, what would it be?
I would say that collectively I've been influenced by the people who have presented at the SAS conferences. SAS conferences are a gold mine of information, and if a person avails her/himself of this resource, the returns on the invested time will surely pay off. LeRoy Bessler has been an important mentor for me. LeRoy gave me and my co-chair great advice and assistance for planning the 1993 MWSUG conference and was directly I always get more out of going to SAS Global Forum or other SAS conferences than I do out of a specific training course. I would point a new SAS user to SAS Global Forum as a way to learn about a variety of topics and to network with other SAS users.