The Women in IT Networking at SC program, better known as WINS, was created to remedy the vast gender gap in Information Technology, particularly in network engineering and high-performance computing. When the program started in 2015, 13.93% of SC professional volunteers were women. By 2017, the number climbed to 20.97%. This upward trend is clear, and WINS continues to enable this growth.
WINS Women Rock SCinet
This year, nearly 30 women applied for the WINS program. Leaders within the Research and Education Network and HPC communities reviewed their applications to select the final seven candidates, who hail from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Among them a small college, a community college, a tribal college and one participant from Hawaii, a state that is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
“It’s been very gratifying to receive so many highly qualified and diverse applicants that helps to build not just gender diversity within SCinet but geographically and institutionally,” said Lauren Rotman, the SC19 WINS Team Chair and leader of the Science Engagement Team for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet).
Rotman, who has served as the communications chair for SC conferences in 2010, 2014 and 2017, and has taken on increasing responsibilities with the conference planning committee, credits her first volunteer role with SCinet in 2007 (SC07) with greatly expanding her skillset and connections to the community.
WINS provides selected candidates with travel support, per diem and full access to the SC conference as part of SCinet, SC’s dedicated high-capacity network infrastructure. They join SCinet teams that coincide with their field of interest, where they work side by side with world-leading network and software engineers from diverse labs and universities, as well as top technology manufacturers, to create an incredibly fast, ephemeral network system. The SC19 WINS group includes:
- Cassie Dymecki, from Ciena Corporation, and Kimball Sekaquaptewa, from the Santa Fe Indian School, both will join the WAN team. This team is responsible for delivering multiple wide area network circuits to the convention center. Typically, this requires using dark fiber resources in the facility; acquiring wave-division multiplexing transport equipment; and engineering, building and supporting a metropolitan area transport system. Kate Robinson, of ESnet/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is the team’s Deputy Chair and a previous WINS participant. Also supporting as mentors will be Hans Addleman of Indiana University who is the WAN Team Chair and Scott Kohlert of Ciena Corporation, a co-deputy Chair with Kate.
- Merritt Johnson, from Guilford College, was selected for the wireless team. This team provides networking services to conference attendees, including wireless access in the exhibit halls, committee offices, meeting rooms and public spaces. Jeff Hagley from Internet2, Chair of this team will provide leadership and support.
- Jennifer Kim, from Montgomery County Community College, will work with the edge team. This team also provides networking services to conference attendees, including wired access for tutorials, technical talks and to rooms, such as the committee offices. This team is led by a past WINS participant, Angie Asmus, from Colorado State University.
- Allison Tsuruda, from the University of Hawaii, will be on the routing team, which is responsible for installing, configuring and supporting the high-performance conference network. The routing team also coordinates external connectivity with commodity Internet and research and education WAN service providers. Debbie Fligor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is team Chair and also started her SCinet adventures with the WINS program and Jessica Shaffer, Georgia Institute of Technology, is team Deputy Chair and was a WINS participant at SC16. Nathan Miller of ESnet is co-Team chair with Debbie and will provide mentorship alongside her.
- Stacy Vincent, University of Utah, and Lindsey Whitehurst, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), will be on the network security team which is charged with protecting SCinet resources, vendors, exhibitors and attendees during the conference by providing a state-of-the-art security solutions. Team activities include filtering harmful network traffic, detecting and preventing compromised systems and mitigating the effects of compromised systems. This team is co-led by Soledad Toledano, from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, another past WINS participant. Patrick Storm of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), University of Texas co-leads the team with Soledad and will serve as a mentor as well.
“Throughout the WINS program, Wendy Huntoon, President and CEO of KINBER, has led the selection committee encompassing an excellent group of community leaders,” said Marla Meehl, Section Head of Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section (NETS) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, manager of Front Range GigaPoP (FRGP) for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Principle Investigator of the NSF Campus Cyberinfrastructure WINS grant.
Meehl added, “They do a marvelous job of reviewing the candidates thoroughly, have a detailed ranking process, discuss in detail and make very thoughtful and sound selections. Every year, they have chosen an excellent group of women who have been very successful. They have fine-tuned and improved the process through the years, making sure we try and address size of organizations, areas of the country, diversity within WINS and more.”
An Ideal Opportunity
SCinet has the privilege of working with state-of-the-art and early prototype equipment provided by partner contributors, allowing the network to consistently set a new record for faster connections every year, attaining 4.02 terabits per second in 2018. Hence, SCinet serves as an ideal professional development opportunity for WINS participants to expand their skill sets with new knowledge they can take back to their home institutions. They also meet like-minded peers to network, test new products and engage with during events throughout the week.
Meehl pointed out: “WINS also provides more than SCinet. It provides a focused mentoring and peer experience with other women and leaders who are there to ensure a positive and successful experience. This program also provides follow-up with professional growth experiences in other venues.”
Huntoon, who is a co- PI with Meehl on the NSF WINS grant, confirms that, “Outside of the SCinet experience, which has led to many promotions and some job changes, I think attending the I2 Tech Exchange has also been an excellent experience for a number of WINS participants.”
She continued, “WINS has had great support from I2 in providing this follow-up experience and exposure. I can’t say that it has changed their careers, but it certainly broadened their professional network, exposure to additional technical knowledge and raised awareness of them to a broader community.”
When the conference ends, WINS participants report on their experiences, what they learned and what they found useful, as well as answer targeted questions that are taken into account to drive additional gender diversity outreach efforts. Their reflections are shared with their home institutions, SCinet leadership, project leaders, the Department of Energy/ESnet and NSF.
Past WINS participants are encouraged to grow within the organization, which further illustrates the program’s sustainability and longevity objectives. As reflected in the current slate of SCinet team leads, past participants often return to SC sponsored by their own institutions.
“In 2019, seven of our former awardees have ascended to leadership roles within SCinet, either as Team Leads or as Deputy Team Leads,” Meehl added.
In addition to the five previously mentioned team leads, Maria Kalyvaki, from South Dakota State University, returned to serve as Deputy Chair of SCinet’s Communications Team and as a liaison to the SC19 General Committee Communications team. Meanwhile, Julie Locke, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is the current Fiber Team Co-Chair.
The SC WINS committee is proud to welcome its new team members and share this phenomenal experience with them.
Since 2015, the Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program has supported talented early-to-mid career women who help build the ephemeral high-speed network that powers the annual SC Conference. WINS is led and co-financed by the National Science Foundation via a grant to UCAR and KINBER, for domestic participants, and ESnet, which supports participants from Department of Energy national laboratories and this year will support one university participant. For SC19, the Supercomputing Conference will also support one university participant.
Christine Baissac-Hayden, SC19 Students@SC Communications Liaison (Easy English 4 All)
Christine Baissac-Hayden created Easy English 4 All, which provides multilingual communication tools for clients from diverse backgrounds in the renewable energy, medical, defense, marine science, and film industries. Easy English 4 All provides English as a Second Language (ESL), French, Spanish and Japanese tutoring from certified native-speaking teachers and organizes international student exchanges with personalized objectives and goals.