Why attending a software conference made me sad

I went to the Western Users of SAS Software conference last week and came home sad. It wasn’t for the reasons you’d guess.

  • No one sexually harassed me (as if!).
  • I did not forget how to code a confirmatory factor analysis in the middle of the pre-conference class I was teaching.
  • The other statisticians didn’t make fun of me. (Not within earshot, anyway.)
  • All the other SAS programmers didn’t refuse to sit and drink with me at the networking mixer.

It was actually during Maura Stokes’ presentation on new developments in statistics procedures that I started to get depressed. You might wonder why discussion of adding link=alogit in PROC LOGISTIC so that the adjacent category is used as the referent would be a cause for dismay or what is disheartening about changing the default number of imputations in PROC MI to 25 from 5.

The problem is that as I sat there I thought,

This is some interesting stuff and I probably won’t get the time to try hardly any of it.

Now, I do realize that not being able to play with the latest software is close to first on the list of First World Problems.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this situation. When I started my career, I was a pretty good programmer. That’s what we were called back then and it didn’t bother us. Software engineer, software developer and data scientist weren’t things yet.

After I earned my doctorate and started teaching, my husband was in an accident and I became the sole breadwinner for the family, so my consulting side gig grew and all of a sudden I had more people working for me than I could count. It was more like dozens than hundreds, but I just didn’t have any time to count them. I also didn’t have time to do nearly as much data analysis and coding as I would have liked and ended up in the unhappy situation that some of the people working for me were more up on the latest technology than I was. (NOTE to young people: If your boss is not up on the newest OS, language, update etc. it maybe isn’t because he or she is unintelligent, uninterested or an old fogey but perhaps, instead, is doing the things that bring in the money to pay your salary.)

After a while, I disentangled myself, paid the bills and remarried, not in that order, and was able to get back to doing work that really interested me. However, here I am again, spending more time building a company than building a product.

A few weeks ago when we began our three months as part of the Boom Startup ed tech accelerator, The Invisible Developer turned to me and said,

“You know, I’ll bet there came a point when Bill Gates started to spend more time building Microsoft than building operating systems.”

I’d pout about spending so much time in meetings on convertible notes, discount rates and forecast returns but then I remember that:

  1. All companies need some adult supervision, so it may as well be me.
  2. The alternative to let someone else take the responsibility and make the decisions.

—- This is my company —

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