CSC News

February 18, 2004

SAS vice president provides career-building pointers

Suzanne Gordon, CIO and vice president of information technology for SAS Institute, Inc., a leader in the software and information technology industry, gave women engineering students an overview of her career with SAS, as well as a few ideas for launching their own careers.

She was speaking Feb. 11 at a gathering of WISE - the Women in Science and Engineering living and learning community at Lee Hall, attended also by member of the Women in Computer Science organization.

Gordon, who was recognized by Computerworld magazine as one of its Premier 100 IT Leaders in 2003, said she enjoys helping others get a start on their careers, especially interns and recent graduates. An NC State alumna – she received her bachelor’s computer science and bachelors in mathematics in 1975 and her masters of statistics in 1980 – also enjoys being part of the NC State community through her involvement as a member of the Board of Trustees. She has also spoken on campus several times, including at a leadership class taught by Ken Tate, adjunct instructor and director of the computer science department’s ePartners program.

“Students are usually really excited about what they are working on,” Gordon says. She enjoys seeing the exchange of ideas that occurs when a student is paired with an experienced person at SAS. Students bring their knowledge of the latest technology “and new excitement,” while the staff person brings experience and the company perspective to the project, she says.

SAS hires many NC State students and recent graduates, and posts available positions on its website. Internships for this summer, she says, should be posted by the end of February. Those interested in internships should keep watching the site for new positions that may come up.

Gordon had been asked to describe her typical day as a SAS leader. Her reply: answer lots of email, attend meetings, and solve problems.

E-mail, she says, is a great way to communicate with people quickly. However, as efficient as it is, sometimes it’s still best to get out of the office and talk with a person face to face.

Meetings are essential, because “there’s lots of planning” involved with the work she does. “In my position, I work with all the different business units in the company,” she says.

Gordon draws on her experience with SAS to bring a big-picture point of view to projects. She also said that as a woman, she brings a different perspective to the issue at hand. “I’ve found over the years that this is one of the many advantages of being a woman,” she says.

At the same time, when Gordon and others on the Triangle Business Journal’s 2003 Top 25 List of area business women were asked if their gender made a difference in their careers, most said that they “didn’t dwell on that.” Gordon concurred, saying, “I think that’s one of the important things to do: don’t dwell on problem areas, just keep moving forward.”

That’s the approach she takes to problem-solving. “It’s fun to see something that doesn’t work, and to think that you can make it better,” she says.

Gordon also provided a few suggestions for developing a successful career.

  • Be persistent – whether seeking an internship or promoting an idea.
  • Have a plan – a general roadmap to follow but also a plan b and a plan c.
  • Be flexible – Be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they come up (even if they don’t fit your plan exactly).
  • Work hard – and let the boss know you’re doing it.
  • Get involved – network, build relationships.
  • Get real work experience – through internships, volunteer projects, or other positions.

- rzewnicki -

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