Seven Women in IT Chosen to Get Hands-on Experience Building, Managing World’s Fastest Computer Network – SCinet

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SALT LAKE CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#ACM–Seven women who work in IT departments at research institutions around
the country have been chosen to help build and operate SCinet, the
world’s fastest, high-capacity computer network, under the Women in IT
Networking at SC (WINS) program taking place at SC16 [the premier
international conference showcasing the many ways high performance
computing, networking, storage and analysis and lead to advances in
scientific discovery, research, education and commerce].


Now in its second year, WINS is a collaboration between the University
Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Department of Energy’s
Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) and the Keystone Initiative for Network
Based Education and Research (KINBER). Even though women have been
members of SCinet since the earliest days, WINS was launched to further
expand the diversity of the SCinet volunteer staff and provide
professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the
field of networking.

Each year, volunteers from academia, government and industry work
together to design and deliver SCinet. Planning begins more than a year
in advance and culminates in a high-intensity, around-the-clock
installation in the days leading up to the conference.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – I’m very excited and
very proud,” said Kali McLennan, a systems analyst at the Oklahoma
Supercomputing Center for Education and Research at the University of
Oklahoma who was chosen to participate. “I’m looking to soak up as much
knowledge as I can from the experts on SCinet and form working
relationships with people to talk with in the future on various topics.”

McLennan added that low oil prices have put the squeeze on her state’s
economy and the university has strict limits on travel. “If it weren’t
for this program, I would have to pay for my own trip or not be able to
attend.”

Other participants are Angie Asmus, Colorado State University; Denise
Grayson, Sandia National Laboratories; Julie Locke, Los Alamos National
Laboratory; Amber Rasche, North Dakota State University; Jessica
Shaffer, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Julia, Staats, CENIC.
Indira Kassymkhanova of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will
participate in the program, but is not funded by WINS.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide funding for
participants from universities and the Department of Energy will support
the women from the national laboratories.

Locke from Los Alamos said she’s looking forward to working directly
with the teams laying out the fiber to create the network. In her job at
the lab, she’s been upgrading the switches powering the four internal
networks at Los Alamos.

“I’m really excited by the opportunities. I want to see a group of
people build this super-fast awesome network from the ground up,” Locke
said. “I haven’t terminated fiber for 15 years and am looking forward to
that. I also want to learn more about the higher level technical stuff,
like the strategies of fiber and get into the hows and whys of
programming switches.”

Marla Meehl of UCAR, who was able to expand her NSF funding to support
WINS, said the program was created to help early to mid-career women in
IT to expand their skills, build professional networks and serve as
mentors for younger women and encourage them to pursue careers in
technology. In all, 33 women from 13 states applied, of whom 25 met all
of the requirements, compared to 19 applicants last year.

“Although there are more jobs in IT, there’s a massive shortage of
workers, especially in the number of women in the field,” said Meehl,
who is manager of UCAR’s network in Boulder, Colo. “It was really
fulfilling this year to see a huge jump in the number of really
qualified applicants. It was very hard to choose.”

Wendy Huntoon, who worked with Meehl, along with Mary Hester and Lauren
Rotman of ESnet, to create WINS, understands the value of working on
SCinet. She helped build the very first iteration of SCinet at the
Supercomputing ’91 conference in Albuquerque.

“It was a great opportunity for hands-on experience and to interact with
a broad group of people; a chance to help build a community,” said
Huntoon, who is president and CEO of KINBER, the Pennsylvania research
and education network. “That experience has helped me throughout my
career in high performance computing and networking.”

Huntoon led the selection team and said they were looking for a variety
of factors – applicants who had experience in networking, whose skillset
matched their area of interest, whose participation was supported by
their institution, and who added to the group’s diversity, whether
geographically, institutionally or otherwise.

ESnet’s Kate Mace, who joined the WINS management team this year, calls
her experience as SCinet chair at SC14 “one of the best training
experiences I’ve ever had. I worked with a lot of different
personalities toward a common goal and learned a lot about the value of
teamwork, coordination, communication and the value of documentation.”

She also cited the value of professional networking. It was through
SCinet that she met ESnet staff and “got a pretty good feeling about the
organization and the people.” In December 2015, she left Clemson
University where she had worked for 15 years and joined ESnet’s Science
Engagement Team.

Mace offered this advice to WINS participants: “Take time to understand
how your tasks fit into the overall picture and if you don’t understand,
don’t hesitate to ask questions,” she said. “There’s a wealth of
information there – definitely take advantage of it.

“Also, try and jot down things as you are experiencing them and
benefiting from them, then relay them to your employer when you get back
to convey the long-term value of the experience. Finally, build a
professional network and don’t be afraid to access it.”

About SC16: SC16, sponsored by IEEE Computer Society and ACM
(Association for Computing Machinery), offers a complete technical
education program and exhibition to showcase the many ways high
performance computing, networking, storage and analysis lead to advances
in scientific discovery, research, education and commerce. This premier
international conference includes a globally attended technical program,
workshops, tutorials, a world class exhibit area, demonstrations and
opportunities for hands-on learning. For more information on SC16,
please visit http://sc16.supercomputing.org/.

Contacts

For SC16
Brian Ban, 773-454-7423
BrianBan@SC16Utah.com