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A WINning Program: WINS Successes at SC19

 

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During SC19, six volunteers enjoyed the distinction of participating as part of Women in IT Networking at SC, known as WINS. WINS provides travel support to the conference, where the volunteers are paired with a mentor and work hand-in-hand over a 19-day period to create SCinet, the world’s fastest temporary network. WINS is a joint effort between SCinet, Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

From October 23-30, the six WINS awardees began with SCinet’s staging. As network equipment arrived at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the volunteers made sure the inventory was complete and dispatched it as needed. As part of the Network Security team, WINS participant Stacy Vincent, from the University of Utah, was impressed by the process.

 

We unboxed those millions of dollars of equipment, screwed them into racks, and patched the racks (connected them with fiber optic cable), as well as the initial power-up and configuration of equipment.” — Stacy Vincent

 

Meanwhile, Cassie Dymecki, WINS awardee from Ciena on the Wide-area Network (WAN) team, said she found that the experience helped her “to understand the various networking roles and applications in a collaborative and open environment.” The WINS participants were impressed to see nearly 200 volunteers representing 18 countries from 79 organizations, as well as by the roughly $80 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment provided by 34 contributors.

 

The SCinet objectives and its complexity, at this point, started to sink in: two weeks to set up a network to support the multi-terabyte demands of thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of attendees.” — Stacy Vincent

 

From November 10–16, all of the SCinet, WINS, and student volunteers united again in Denver for Setup. During this stretch, WINS volunteers participated in installing 66 miles of fiber optic cable, including 92 spools for the floor alone, 372 aerial strands, 257 wireless access points, 3,524 fiber patches, and 1,812 equipment interfaces. To give an idea of the scope of the undertaking, David H. Smith, a volunteer with SCinet’s Wireless team, recorded 216,666 steps over seventeen days. To help fuel the teams’ work, Kay Stewart, a volunteer with SC19’s Culture and Marketing team, started each day with eight dozen donuts. Over the week, the teams consumed 32 cases of water, 18 cases of sparking water, 17 cases of juice, 12 cases of tea, 36 cases of soda, and likely incalculable amounts of coffee and snacks. After the hard days, the teams would gather each night to get to know one another, plan the next day, and play games in a shared suite.

During the conference, the WINS volunteers made sure everything remained up and running, ultimately sharing in the new SC record of 4.22 TB/per second of WAN capacity and 2.0 TB/per second of peak network traffic.
By the end of the two-day teardown in November, the SC19 WINS awardees all left the program feeling more knowledgeable and eager to implement new ideas and methods within their respective institutions.

Allie Tsuruda, from the University of Hawaii, noted the experience provided her with new tools, as well as a new network.

 

Through this experience, I was able to work with equipment that I don’t normally get to work with at my home institution, be a part of building a network from the ground up, and make connections with people from different parts of the country.” — Allie Tsuruda

 

Cassie Dymecki, part of the WAN team from Ciena, explained the experience helped her to connect the dots between vendors, service providers, and customers, so she will be able to provide better service to clients by having a more global view of their needs.

 

The work I did at the conference provided me insight I can apply for a more holistic view of networking.” — Cassie Dymecki

 

By working with the Network Security team, Lindsey Whitehurst, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said she became familiar with technologies that could be introduced into her lab’s environment.

 

In addition to working with new technologies, I also provided input on things I know well and fine-tuned other cyber security skills.” — Lindsey Whitehurst

 

In addition, Whitehurst found having another woman in cyber security as a mentor was particularly valuable, enabling her to better evaluate her own qualifications while surrounded by like-minded peers. (Notably, in 2019, only 24% of the network security field was represented by women.)

In serving as a WINS mentor to Merritt Johnson, from Guilford College, Jeff Hagley, Wireless Team lead from Internet2, also grew from this experience.

 

Being a WINS mentor was a great experience for me. Merritt was a great addition to the Wireless team and SCinet as a whole. For me, it was a great opportunity to meet and work with a talented engineer that I probably would not have had otherwise. The WINS program also introduced me to a number of great people, and I was honored to have a small part in the program.” — Jeff Hagley

 

Johnson also found the opportunity valuable, noting the experience helped her assess “how much I know and how much there is to learn!” She also appreciated having a “wonderful time getting to hang out and to get to know other geeky people.”

Applications for WINS at SC20 will open March 2, 2020.

Christine Baissac-Hayden, SC20 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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