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Students@SC Mentoring Program a Win-Win for Professionals and Students

The mentoring program, part of Students@SC, is being led by Scott Pakin this year! Students can expect to meet, mingle and learn from professionals with industry and academia backgrounds. These opportunities are priceless both for professionals and students. Professionals can sign up and meet future collaborators, or guide students to fill a void within their industry, while students can benefit from personal experiences that can foster their future.

How have you been involved in SC?

Scott Pakin

Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory

I started attending SC in 1995 (San Diego, California), when I published my very first research paper as a graduate student. From 1995 to 2020, I’ve missed only three SC conferences. Every year I look forward to attending and learning about the latest research developments from the Technical Program and seeing the latest technology innovations on the exhibit floor.

In 2005, I was invited to serve on the Papers Committee and enjoyed doing my part to maintain SC’s high-quality standards for technical papers and engaging in interesting arguments with my fellow committee members. I have since served on the Papers Committee six more times, on Workshops three times, and on Posters twice (including serving as a judge for the ACM Student Research Competition). In 2013, I chaired the Architecture & Networks area of Papers, and in 2019, I co-chaired SC’s entire Papers component—that was a blast! It helped having a fantastic co-chair: Prof. Michelle Strout of the University of Arizona.

This year represents my first involvement with Students@SC, and I’m excited to do what I can to make the conference as beneficial as possible to the HPC community of the future.

What services will be provided and who are the leads?

  • Mentor–Protégé Matching: Mike Lam, Associate Professor at James Madison University
  • Speed Mentoring: Jonathan Beard, Principal System Architect, Arm, Ltd.
  • Alumni Networking Session: Stephen Herbein, Computer Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

What is Mentor–Protégé Matching?

Mentor–Protégé Matching pairs up students with experienced mentors from industry, academia, and government research laboratories. Students can tap into their mentor’s experience to seek guidance on anything from major life, career, and education decisions to tips on “not to miss” sessions at SC.

Matchmaking begins far in advance of the conference. We expect to have two rounds; one ending in late August/early September, and one ending just a few weeks before SC begins.

People interested in participating in the Mentor–Protégé Matching will be asked to complete a survey, which will be used to match students and mentors based on research interests, career goals, long-term plans, and general interests. Surveys will be made available from the “Students” and “Mentors” links at the top of the SC21 website, as well as to those who indicate interest while registering for the conference.

Mentor–Protégé Matching is open to students at any level of education and to any conference attendees out in “the real world” who want to share their experience and knowledge with the younger generation.

What is Speed Mentoring?

Speed Mentoring is a fast, fun way for students to solicit advice from mentors who have been in their shoes before. The idea is based on speed dating. Students are distributed among tables, at each of which one mentor is stationed. Students can ask the mentor questions regarding anything on their mind. Then, after ten minutes or so, students rotate to the next table and mentor and continue the process, listening to different views and opinions each time.

Relative to Mentor–Protégé Matching, Speed Mentoring provides a quick, low-commitment way for students and mentors to meet and for mentors to pass on their accumulated wisdom. The two events are complementary, and many students participate in both. Although we’re planning for Speed Mentoring to return to its pre-pandemic in-person format, we’re considering additionally running a virtual Speed Mentoring session. Students who travel to St. Louis this November can join both sessions even if they would like to participate in-person or virtually.

A good way for students to prepare for the Speed Mentoring event is to come prepared with a set of big life decisions they’re struggling with for which they would like advice. Questions regarding education, career, family, financial decisions—any sort of “What should I do with my life?” challenge—are all fair game.

What is the Alumni Networking Session?

The Alumni Networking Session is traditionally run as a by-invitation event that brings together this year’s student volunteers and former student volunteers for an evening of food and pleasant conversation.

It provides student volunteers with a comfortable networking opportunity with people they share at least one thing in common—SC student volunteer service.

Current student volunteers can gain inspiration from their predecessors: Are they still in school? Did they get a job? How do they like their current location? Have they found their calling? What are their most pressing concerns?

If you’re a current or past SC student volunteer, you won’t want to miss the Alumni Networking Session.

Why does SC offer these programs to students and what are some of the benefits?

It’s important to the future of high-performance computing (HPC) to foster a new generation of people working and conducting research in that area. It is largely a “behind the scenes” field so it’s not as highly visible on a day-to-day basis as the computing we see running on our computers, tablets, cell phones, and gaming consoles. Consequently, many students may be largely unaware of the excitement inherent in HPC and its importance to society. These programs expose students to ideas and opportunities that otherwise may not have occurred to them while guiding them to reach their own decision as to whether HPC is right for them.

College and graduate school are a critical time in a person’s life. It is the point at which students really consider how they want their lives to be, and what they’ll do with their education. The guidance provided at all three mentoring events—Mentor–Protégé Matching, Speed Mentoring, and the Alumni Networking Session—helps to steer students toward making the best decisions for their interests and life situation. Mentors benefit not only from the joy of doing a good deed but also from building up a pipeline of new workers who may one day join their organization or the field of HPC as a whole—and getting to know a few students personally far in advance of any sort of job interview.

What do you look forward to as the program chair?

I’m looking forward to putting together a set of events that should prove to be productive and enjoyable for everyone involved. I hope I get a chance to participate myself! Mike, Stephen, and Jonathan will soon be hard at work finding and matching students and mentors and handling all of the logistics needed to provide a smooth experience for all participants. When it’s all over, I’m hoping I and my team can look back on SC21 and think, “We helped make a positive difference in students’ and mentors’ lives.”

Christine Baissac-Hayden, SC21 Students@SC Communications Liaison

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.

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