PEARC22: How to Change Your Career in 4 days 

by Ruth Hammond, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

The best things a student can do for their career are (1) Connect with a dedicated mentor, (2) Learn how to network both vertically and horizontally, and (3) Expand your knowledge by learning new skills. At PEARC22, I had the amazing opportunity to do all three through the Student Program! 

I originally applied to the program because I had an interest in high-performance computing (HPC) but was unsure of how to pursue a career in the field. I was very nervous about attending the conference because I felt that my background was a bit untraditional – my major is Mechanical Engineering and my school, which is an excellent engineering institution, does not have many HPC resources due to its small size. 

However, the PEARC22 Student Program was very welcoming and encouraging toward students from non-traditional backgrounds. There were students from a variety of majors and backgrounds, from large institutions with lots of funding, to smaller institutions that are beginning to introduce HPC into their programs. Despite our differences, we all seemed to have one common goal – to absorb as much knowledge as we could in four days. 

I attended two workshops. The first was a series of presentations given by HPC educators at various colleges about their efforts to bring HPC education to undergraduates. It was fantastic to see how HPC education is becoming more widely available to students of all backgrounds and how many opportunities there are. The best part of the workshop was when the educators started to collaborate, in real time, about how they could leverage each other’s knowledge and resources. You could tell that this field is full of passionate people that care about their students. I also attended a talk from Dell about their computing efforts in life sciences. The talk was very technical but to my delight I understood a good chunk of it!

The PEARC22 Student Program was one of the best planned professional development programs I have attended. Each day we were presented with a workshop that helped us develop a specific skill necessary to further our careers. On Tuesday, the Elevator Pitch workshop prepared us for an Exhibitor speed-Interviewing event the following morning. I am not very good at public speaking, but several industry representatives complimented my speech, which bolstered my confidence. There was also a resume workshop where our resumes were reviewed by professional, “resume doctors.” I have never been this excited about recruitment!

Above all, I am most grateful for the meaningful connections that I had during the conference. Fellow students were the most supportive and friendly group of people I have ever met. A group of us were able to tour Boston together and talk about our ambitions and dreams. It turns out that a few of us plan to apply to the same grad schools and plan to keep in touch! The program also connected me with my mentor, Sean Cleveland, who is Associate Director of Cyberinfrastructure and Affiliate Researcher at the Hawai’i Data Science Institute. I shared my fears with him surrounding the graduate school application process. He used examples from his personal journey into HPC research to assure me that I would be okay. I was also able to learn about several grad school programs that have specializations that interest me: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue, Indiana University at Bloomington, Boise State University, University of Hawai’i, University of Rochester and others. One grad programs I decided to apply to in the fall is because another student thought I would be a good fit. 

Before the PEARC conference, I was scared that I knew very few professionals in the career field that I wanted to pursue. This conference allowed me to gain a supportive community of practice in my field. Attending PEARC22 at this point in my journey was one of the best things I could have done for my career.

Ruth Hammond and her PEARC22 Mentor, Sean Cleveland (Associate Director of Cyberinfrastructure and Affiliate Researcher at the Hawai’i Data Science Institute).

Thank you!

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