March is Women’s History Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the essential roles and impact women have had throughout history. That impact is especially significant in the field of high-performance computing. We’re honored to highlight here just a few of the women in HPC. Their contributions – and those of many other women, including more than 200 women on the SC22 planning committee, led by General Chair Candace Culhane – are helping accelerate HPC and leading our field into an even brighter tomorrow.
Technical Sales Specialist, Intel
A computer scientist with a strong interest in parallel programming and HPC, Fouzhan works closely with customers to understand their needs, helping them choose HPC solutions that best meet their current requirements while informing them about upcoming technologies.
“While many people still do not know much about HPC, it touches the lives of every human on our planet through its various applications in science and technology. It is the engine that enables [astounding] innovation – and that motivates me to be part of this force.”
Much of Fouzhan’s work involves choosing the best HPC solution for a customer, which is often “a complex process which involves choosing the best solution that meets both technical and financial needs.” Fouzhan helps them understand and explore relevant trade-offs, helping decision-makers select a solution that maximizes the benefits to their end-users, the scientists or technologists who use HPC systems to advance human knowledge and improve lives.
She encourages women in HPC to “pursue their interest with courage and to not worry too much about having perfect results at every step of their journey. It is the ‘not-trying’ that we often regret.”
Fouzhan also suggests women participate in the HPC community, seek help when they need it and help others when they can: “Our community is realizing the importance of diversity, and [women] are part of the solution.”
CISL Outreach, Diversity, & Education (CODE) Team Lead, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Computational & Information Systems Laboratory (CISL)
AJ’s work is an extension of her lifelong passion for diversity and inclusion (D&I), and she recalls facilitating D&I educational training activities as far back as middle school. Throughout her professional career, she has continued to focus on D&I. She started in HPC by running the Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS) program at NCAR, which has a goal of preparing a diverse workforce for 21st-century computing.
“As I’ve learned more about the field,” AJ says, “I’ve expanded from working only with students to also working with full-time members of the HPC community.”
AJ is excited about working in HPC because “it touches every one of our lives. But what I think we sometimes forget about HPC is that it is more than just our supercomputers and what we do with them. It’s also the people who create and use those machines.”
As a result, AJ’s work is focused on advancing the field by providing resources and training to make the field as inclusive of all identities and ways of thinking as possible.
“We need a diverse, inclusive workforce to ensure that HPC will continue advancing at this rapid pace, and if we want to make sure these machines are used for good, for all people.”
She encourages women and anyone interested in HPC to take advantage of every opportunity to learn about the field, including participating in a multitude of events and groups through SC, including the Early Career Program, WINS or the SIParCS program. As she says, “There are lots of people out here who want you to succeed, so come hang out with us!”
HPC Specialist, EMEA Global Black Belt HPC Team, Microsoft
In her role at Microsoft, Laura leads HPC work relating to the energy, life sciences and research vertical markets, and enjoys working with a wide variety of customers and industry partners, all of whom are either active in the cloud or in the process of transitioning to a more cloud-based way of running HPC workloads.
“Cloud-based HPC adoption is bringing huge innovation to the industry. A move to cloud-based HPC is typically a phased approach, so helping customers determine what makes most sense for them, in their unique scenario, is a key part of my role.”
Laura has enjoyed a wide-ranging career: working as a music teacher before making the switch to oil and gas data management, during which time she traveled the world. With three small children she took on a role closer to home in 2011 to work for HPC Wales at Bangor University, the first-of-its-kind Welsh national supercomputing initiative.
“This provided excellent exposure to the variety of HPC applications and the very real need not only for hardware but also for support services, collaboration and training to ensure research impact,” Laura notes.
Staying in the HPC world, she next joined Dutch HPC systems integrator ClusterVision and then the Atos UK HPC team before joining Microsoft in 2020. “What I love about working in this field is the pace of change, the community and the variety,” Laura adds. “It is amazing how quickly technology is developing and how things have changed over the past few years alone: seeing customers achieve life-changing and transformative science through cloud-based HPC is enormously motivating.
It’s also been great to see the drive to increase diversity and inclusion within the HPC community itself: there are very many opportunities to get involved and learn, so I’d definitely encourage young women to consider HPC as an interesting, varied and exciting career path.”
Principal HPC Technologist, Amazon Web Services (AWS)
For more than 25 years, Heidi has worked in HPC, designing and building tools and solutions that enable science and new technology discovery. As she describes it, “I like to find ways to extract the maximum performance from a system while providing easy-to-use interfaces so that scientists can focus on their science.”
Throughout her career, Heidi has worked to identify and deliver the capabilities needed for large-scale application development and execution. Her particular area of expertise is application developer environments, especially the MPI distributed memory programming model and application profiling.
She has worked at AWS since February 2021 and is currently investigating how technology can be used to meet HPC computing needs in the cloud, searching for strategic solutions that advance HPC application performance.
“I am motivated by [finding creative solutions to] challenging problems,” Heidi explains. “I also like to make things go fast, which is why I gravitated towards leadership-class computing.”
An astrophysics major at the University of Minnesota, Heidi began her career at Cray Research, working on a compiler team and then developing software for shared and distributed memory parallelism. She then moved to application performance tools and to leading the technology direction for developer environments to help users reduce time to solution and to scale their codes, enabling the use of more complex models or more parameters in simulations.
“I find I am good at combining technical detail with the big picture to advance a product or a technology, and listening to users to find a solution to an issue or a pain point. I make it a point to learn something new every day and find some way to contribute.”
She encourages women interested in HPC to be “willing to try something new. Find mentors to learn from, while bringing your own talent and skills to the table. HPC is full of extremely talented people who want to advance computing capability and to make new scientific discoveries, and who are happy to share their knowledge.”
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