Baylen Brus (U-Iowa)

PEARC19: HPC On-Ramp for Early Career Hawkeye

By Baylen Brus, HPC Systems Administrator

As a young professional just beginning my career in High-Performance Computing (HPC) Systems Administration, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend the Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing conference (PEARC19) in Chicago, Illinois last summer.

With my only HPC experience being with the Argon cluster at the University of Iowa, I was excited to learn about technologies outside of my environment and how other clusters are built and maintained. PEARC furthered my knowledge of the developments in HPC, and cyberinfrastructure, in general.

The thing I find the most fascinating about the field is the amount of open-source development that makes everyone’s lives easier when it comes to managing these massive systems. Hearing people talk about what software packaging was like before Spack or OpenHPC were around makes me pretty glad I’m starting in the field while these tools are already available.

One of my favorite workshops was the “Managing HPC Software Complexity with Spack.” The tutorial was presented so well that even I, who only knew what software packaging was like in theory, was able to participate and understand the material they were presenting. Follow-up discussions helped me understand why the need for Spack came about to begin with. Some other amazing technologies that I got to learn about were the practical applications with containers, post-Moore computing innovations, and OpenHPC development.

I never felt out of place when attending the workshops. Everyone was there to learn and there were no judgments when/if you asked a question. The presenters were very welcoming and passionate about their work, which made everything all that much more enjoyable to attend. Even after eight-plus hours a day attending sessions, I was still eagerly taking notes, which I’ve often reflected on since the conference concluded.

Another opportunity that PEARC provided was setting me up with a mentor. Senior Cluster Administrator Jenett Tillotson (National Center for Atmospheric Research/Mesa Lab) was there to talk about the conference and my career goals, and to answer questions. This was incredibly helpful to me because a lot of the workshops and tutorials were in-depth and technical. Being new to the field, I didn’t quite have the skill set and experience to comprehend everything. Having a couple of hours with her helped solidify what I learned—plus, they provided us with a formal four-course meal. What’s not to love about that?

Overall, I found PEARC19 to be a wonderful event. In a way, this was almost like my official introduction into the world of HPC, and has set me up with the knowledge I need to make the most out of my career.

Read Hawkeye Trey Godbolt‘s PEARC19 Blog!

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