NCSA @ Grace Hopper Celebration 2018

09.24.18 -

Every year, the Grace Hopper Celebration brings together the world's largest gathering of female technologists. As part of NCSA's commitment to diversity, NCSA sponsors a select number of employees and post docs to attend the conference. This year, Kjellrun Olson, Bryan Fijalkovich, Farzaneh Masoud, and Madicken Munk will attend the Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, Texas from September 26-28 on behalf of NCSA.

As first-time attendees, here is a background of this year's NCSA-sponsored attendees:

Kjellrun Olson, Blue Waters Project Manager

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

My first job out of college was far from anything in the tech world. I then moved to a technology hardware company that had grown and just gone public and the work couldn't get done fast enough. The next stop on my career path to use my business and marketing background was a high-tech startup in Boulder, CO where the pace was even faster, I was constantly learning and the business and technology decisions could quickly make or break the company. I loved this experience and it set my course and desire to work in tech. So it wasn't so much an initial inspiration as it was trial and error that set my career in the tech world.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

Someone who has been a role model and has had a significant impact on my career and continues to be my mentor told me three years ago "if there is any way you can go to the Grace Hopper Conference, you must go! It's inspiring, it's motivating and there is nothing else like it." It is rare for a conference to get such rave reviews so I can't wait to experience it myself. I am especially looking forward to the leadership, organizational change and career advancement sessions. Leadership and organizational change have been long-time interests of mine and I appreciate new perspectives—this will be the first time getting the perspective from women in tech. I am also looking forward to the networking opportunities at Grace Hopper. I love unplanned interactions and conversations that bring something to light, establish new resources, or challenge current ideas and methods. That said, I hope to gain something unexpected!

Bryan Fijalkovich, HR Coordinator

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

My career path has been atypical, and I certainly had no idea I would end up in a technical organization. I am an intensely right-brained person and my early career was in the Arts. After a transition, I found a career in human resources at the University. Here, I grew an affinity for coordinating search processes and conducting job interviews. I LOVE job interviews! So much can happen in one hour! Technical organizations have a steady demand for candidates with hard-to-find skills and experiences, and I enjoy making that connection. So I found my home in Human Resources at NCSA.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

The topics covered at GHC, such as the gender gap in tech, how to make your diversity efforts count, and creating inclusive workspaces are highly relevant to my role at NCSA as an HR professional and diversity advocate. I would like to learn how other tech firms have implemented specific recruitment and retention initiatives focused on diversity, as well as what is happening nationally/internationally. I'm particularly interested in a session that covers returnships, which are like internships, but are more of an accelerated retraining of individuals who have prior professional experiences but had to take a period of time off of work. I hope to bring back fresh ideas and perspectives that could benefit NCSA. I am truly honored to attend GHC!

Farzaneh Masoud, Interdisciplinary Research Development Officer

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

We have reached an era in science that one specialized expertise can no longer answer the scientific gaps. To identify solutions to complex scientific questions, different disciplines need to come together. Computational science and engineering is inherently interdisciplinary. Furthermore, data-driven computation, modeling, visualization, to name a few, are great tools that can facilitate scalability and reproducibly of interdisciplinary research. That is why I am interested in career in tech.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

The key to success for interdisciplinary research is the innovation through diversity. I am very excited to attend GHC, because, I would like to identify other scientist in computation that we can engage in out interdisciplinary projects.

Madicken Munk, Postdoctoral Research Associate

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

Truthfully I chose to go into my field because I was indecisive! I have my degrees in nuclear engineering. When I graduated high school and was deciding a major to declare I had a difficult time choosing. I knew that liked math, physics and chemistry, but I couldn't decide which I preferred to the others, so I chose a field that combined all of them. As an undergraduate I had an amazing advisor that got me interested in scientific computing. I was given access to use a Monte Carlo code on our group's cluster to simulate the university research reactor. It was so cool to me that I could use these powerful tools to investigate the physics of a nuclear reactor. In graduate school I worked on not only using these tools, but developing them for more complicated applications that may be limited by current radiation transport codes.

When I had the opportunity to do broader computing applications work for my postdoc I jumped on it. I still can't choose a domain that I like best! I really enjoy getting to learn things from other scientific domains and scientific computing is a place where I have the chance to contribute to work broader than nuclear engineering. It's wonderful.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

I'm excited to attend GHC because it's going to be a completely new experience for me. I've primarily attended very nuclear-specific technical conferences, and none of them have the size or the gender ratio of GHC. I'm also very interested in diversity in computing, and I think the opportunity to learn about other diversity and inclusion initiatives in tech will be helpful in creating inclusive and diverse spaces in my own communities. I'm particularly looking forward to meeting other women in computing and learning about their experiences in tech.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Justine Cassel. Cassell is the Associate Dean of Technology Strategy and Impact at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, and the Director Emerita of the Human Computer Interaction Institute. She has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos for the past seven years on topics concerning the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on society.