How A Summer of Lemurs and Analytics Helped Me Find My Voice

A Coquerel’s sifaka at the Duke Lemur Center, as photographed by my fellow intern Thiago De Souza during our visit!

By Briana Ullman, Corporate Creative Intern at SAS and student at NC State University

RALEIGH, N.C. — Never in my life could I have imagined myself talking about data analysis just inches away from a lemur – and as a part of my job. And honestly, this was only one of the many incredible things that have happened during my internship at SAS.

I started working at SAS this summer as a writer in creative marketing. Three weeks into my internship was the first time I saw our CMO, Randy Guard, as he spoke at our departmental meeting. I was surprised to hear the challenges he offered up to myself and my new coworkers. His goal for us was to,

“Be bold and aggressive.”

These words changed the way I thought about my responsibilities as an intern. At first they seemed daunting. Bold? As an intern? I was sure there was no way that speaking my mind could go over well at such a large, prestigious company. And aggressive was something I had never been.

But then, I was put onto a team with two other interns and challenged again. In meetings, in conversations with coworkers, in our new group project, I was encouraged to think outside the boundaries of what rules already existed. The biggest way I was able to enact this change was, believe it or not, through lemurs.

We may not have been looking for them, but the lemurs found us. My roommate is an intern at the Duke Lemur Center and came home one afternoon with a giant stack of spreadsheets full of data about lemurs, telling me that the Duke Lemur Center uses SAS. I told my teammates Thiago and Owen about this connection, and we were encouraged by our managers to explore this topic further – even though it didn’t fall under the projects we had been assigned for the summer.

We dove into our research and became so excited as we combed through page after page of the Duke Lemur Center’s website and discovered that former SAS employees actually introduced SAS to the center through their volunteer work. I even interviewed my roommate on my iPhone in our apartment kitchen to get an employee’s perspective on the role of analytics and lemurs. We ended up using this homemade interview and our creative skillsets to put together a series of videos and presentations explaining why the Duke Lemur Center’s relationship with SAS is so extraordinary.

Through it all, our enthusiasm for the project spread like wildfire. Each person we told about the Duke Lemur Center’s story emboldened and encouraged us to dig deeper into the project and produce ideas that were fitting to such an incredible organization. Our voices were heard and accepted in a way that surpassed the definition of how an intern typically works at a company. The project that started in an apartment kitchen has now been heard by the CMO, and is actually going to be continued after the summer ends.

One thing that I have learned as a SAS intern is that projects aren’t just a checkmark on a resume. We are truly able to make an impact on the company, and are encouraged to work boldly and passionately. My internship at SAS has given me a voice, inspiration to take initiative and so much more than I ever knew to dream of. I’m truly thankful for my experience at SAS – and for the lemurs.

Reposted from the original, with permission of the author.

Published September 26, 2017.

For additional coverage, see “How data is helping save the world’s most endangered mammals” (SAS Voices, September 25, 2017) and “How SAS helped save a baby lemur’s life” (Durham Herald-Sun, September 26, 2017).