The Early Career Program Helped Four Young Professionals Thrive and You Can Too

Thaleia Dimitri Doudali

Having just earned her PhD in computer science from Georgia Tech University in 2021, Thaleia Dimitra Doudali was ready to embark on the next phase of her career.

At the urging of her advisor, Ada Gavrilovska, she applied for and was accepted into the Early Career Program for SC21 in St. Louis. The series of workshop-style sessions, pre-conference webinars and mentoring opportunities with experienced HPC professionals made a major impact on Thaleia during a transformative moment in her career.

“I knew I would get valuable advice and guidance to navigate this challenging transition on my academic path,” explains Thaleia, now in her first year as an assistant research professor at IMDEA Software Institute in Madrid. “I particularly enjoyed the mentoring sessions and panel discussions on topics that are often not discussed, such as how to build resilience, set goals and promote yourself to thrive as a junior member in a professional environment.”

Bashir Mohammed

Two years earlier, at SC19 in Denver, Bashir Mohammed – now a Computational System Research Engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – had a similar experience with the Early Career Program.

“The program helped me understand some of the issues and potential challenges faced while navigating a successful research career.”

“I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some great senior experienced scientists and researchers,” says Bashir, whose work focuses on developing machine learning algorithms as part of Berkeley Lab’s cybersecurity R&D for science and scientific workflow data management for HPC in the Integrated Data Frameworks(IDF) group. “I found the program super useful, interesting, interactive, and engaging.”

Thaleia and Bashir are two out of hundreds of young scientists and researchers across the HPC ecosystem who have benefitted from participating in the Early Career Program, which I am happy to chair for SC22. The program is an exciting opportunity for young professionals to engage with more experienced professionals as they search for or embark on job opportunities during a pivotal phase of their careers.

“Our desire is for the program to be engaging and not simply rely on presenters giving a talk,” says Marina. “It’s the chance to have conversations, to ask questions and to really get involved in what is going on in HPC.”

Starting with several optional webinars in the weeks leading to the conference, the Early Career Program will culminate with a whole day workshop full of panel sessions and hands-on activities.

For example, the Career Development session will focus on various career types. The panelists spanning industry, academia and government labs, will share their experiences and discuss what it takes to succeed in a chosen path. This will help program participants see a broader picture of the HPC field.

On the practical side, the pre-conference webinar on career planning will talk about creating a short-term action plan as well as a five year odyssey plan. The plans created as a result of the webinar can later be discussed with more experienced professionals during the mentor-protégé session on the day of the Early Career workshop. The session will start with a panel discussing strategies on building successful, long lasting mentoring relationships and will culminate with a networking exercise. I would like to note that in addition to pursuing mentee relationships with senior professionals, the Early Career Program participants will have an opportunity to serve as mentors to Student Volunteers.

Yasaman Ghadar

Mentorship was an important aspect of Yasaman Ghadar’s experience at SC19. “My mentor there was an HPC solutions architect with experience in bringing new machines to life. He was very friendly and provided valuable insight on how to stay current with new architectures and the HPC environment in general.”

Yasaman is certain that experience played a part in securing her new role as Training PI with the Exascale Computing Project; she is currently an assistant computational scientist at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.

“Attending this program helped me navigate through the HPC world and learn to communicate with people from different backgrounds,” Yasaman added. “It created more opportunities for me in terms of career growth.”

Valeria Barra

Valeria Barra feels similarly. She applied to participate in SC19’s Early Career Program in order to connect with other early-career researchers while acquiring professional development skills. And it worked.

“I particularly enjoyed the session on key professional communications. I learned a lot from it,” says Valeria, a research software engineer at California Institute of Technology. “I still remember the important tips they gave us on how to properly structure paper abstracts. Now, I can better communicate my research and increase its impact.”

A session on communication will also be part of the Early Career Program this year. We seek to provide a program of value, and plan to accept up to 40 participants. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2022.

Early Career Applications

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