3/18/16: Professional Organizations (The ASA)

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Well, it has been a while since I have posted a new entry, and part of that is that immediately after my last entry I spent two weeks at a conference and then a program committee event for the American Statistical Association (ASA). This made me think that I should probably post an entry related to what I get out of the ASA and the events that I attend and volunteer to help with.

As an independent consultant, I really can't stress how important it is to me to belong to a professional society. This is where I go to learn what is happening in the word of statisticians. In particular, I belong to the Section on Statistical Consulting (CNSL), and this has really helped me to connect and stay connected to other individuals in my area. This was true when I was at my previous job at the academic consulting center, and even truer now as I am operating on my own. The section's e-group is fairly active, and it's a great place to ask questions and share your expertise as a consultant with others in the section. I have belonged to the group for a number of years and have played several administrative roles as well--at present, I am the newsletter editor. In the past, I was the program chair for 2015. This gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for planning the section's program for the 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings, and was a great excuse to reach out to the community and find out what we were looking for in our JSM program. (I'm running for section chair for 2018, and I am hopeful I will be elected for this new opportunity to serve!) I am also on the steering committee for the Conference on Statistical Practice, and we are currently working on the program for 2017. This is another great chance for me to learn what others in the community feel is important, and keeps me in touch with the current "hot topics" relevant to the practice of statistics.

Clearly, there is an aspect of belonging to the ASA and being an active participant that helps me to be a better consultant. Honestly, this is where I assumed the benefits ended; I assumed I was paying the membership fee and paying to attend conferences for "big picture" benefits rather than immediate ones with respect to gaining clients. However, I was pleasantly surprised at this most recent CSP (just last month) when I gave a poster presentation that featured this blog as one of the main resources for others who may be interested in starting their own private practice. My goal was to be able to provide information and hopefully start a dialogue with others in my same position (or who are already well ahead of me!), in a way that would benefit the larger community. What I didn't expect is that I connected or reconnected with several colleagues at this meeting who ended up referring me to several potential clients afterward! Ultimately, there was not only a big picture benefit to being part of this event, but also the immediate benefit of receiving some referrals that I think may ultimately even cover the conference expenses.

In fairness, I think if I had gone to this event with the hopes of receiving client referrals, I would have been disappointed; however, because I went and presented my expertise, and presented myself as a colleague rather than a desperate, client-hungry "new kid", it ended up working in my favor. One thing I heard emphasized many times at this particular conference was that there are three things your clients have to do in order to want to work with you: they have to know you, they have to like you, and they have to trust you. After this most recent experience at CSP, I would argue that the same goes for colleagues or other people who aren't potential clients, but may have potential clients to refer to you.

Here are some resources for anyone interested in them:

The ASA homepage: www.amstat.org
The ASA Section on Statistical Consulting: community.amstat.org/cnsl/home
The 2016 Joint Statistical Meetings: www.amstat.org/meetings/jsm/2016/
The 2016 Conference on Statistical Practice (it's over but you can still access the program): www.amstat.org/meetings/csp/2016/

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