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Humans of SCinet: Q&A with SC20 Fiber Team Volunteer Annette Kitajima

humans of scinet

Annette Kitajima, principle technologist at Sandia National Laboratories, is this year’s co-chair of the SCinet fiber team. Annette has been volunteering with SCinet for the past 15 years, and has led the fiber team for 11 of those years.

Due to the virtual nature of SC20, we will not be building the cutting-edge SCinet infrastructure that our attendees have to come to expect as part of their SC experience. This feature aims to spotlight the dedicated volunteers and generous contributors whose tireless efforts and enthusiasm have helped shape the SC experience over the last 30 years.

  • Years as a SCinet Volunteer: 15
  • SCinet Team(s) with which you’ve participated: Fiber and Project Management
  • If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess? The power to heal.

How would you explain SCinet and what you do as a SCinet volunteer to a family member or friend?

SCinet is a group of volunteers from all over the world who are tasked with building the world’s fastest network for the SC Conference. We provide a platform for researchers to show off and “play” with emerging technologies and prototype equipment in a production environment. Every year my family knows and anticipates my SC schedule. It’s kind of funny—SCinet is like an expected event on the calendar, right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What was your path to start volunteering with SCinet? What keeps you coming back as a SCinet volunteer each year?

I was recruited by colleagues at Sandia, Rick Maurer and Jim Brandt. Both knew I was looking for hands-on experience with fiber optics and a tangible example of how a network gets built from the ground up. The only experience I had handling fiber in my day job was connecting customer equipment to the local intermediate distribution frames (IDFs).

After several years of being a SCinet distributed network operations center (DNOC) captain, Mitch Kutzko from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who was the SC08 fiber team chair, asked me to take over leading the team. Mitch had done most of the tasks by himself, and it was a manually intensive process, so I suggested that the fiber team have more than one chair to lead the planning efforts. My first fiber team co-lead at SC09 in Portland, Oregon, was Warren Birch from the Army Research Laboratory.

I continue to volunteer with SCinet because this opportunity to learn new skills and network with professionals in my field is truly like no other. I get to work with colleagues from more than 80 organizations, learn from great minds, develop lifelong relationships, and, of course, have a great time while working hard to deliver SCinet. Over the years, these relationships have turned into friendships and colleagues I can count on for help in my day job.

It is very rewarding to collaborate with others on delivering a fast and reliable network for researchers to use at the SC Conference, especially when each year you want to incorporate newer technologies and experiment with network designs. Even though I have been on the fiber team for 15 years, there are new challenges to overcome each year and I look forward to tackling them.

Tell us about your SCinet team this year and what you are responsible for.

I am co-chair of the fiber team with Julie Locke from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Along with a team of volunteers, we provide fiber connections from the SCinet main distribution frame (MDF) to the exhibitor booths, by way of aerial and floor installs which traverse the main SCinet Network Operations Center, and supportive floor DNOCs. Depending on the equipment and architectural design for the year, we use different types of fiber and/or connection types.

What advice do you have for someone who is learning about SCinet for the first time and considering volunteering?

The fiber team is a great place to start as a volunteer because there is no prerequisite skill set or technical experience. Everything you need to know about the job tasks is provided in training before you arrive, as well as on the first day of setup at the convention center. As the setup progresses and the SC Conference show floor opens, you learn everything from how to repair broken thresholds to troubleshooting why a booth doesn’t have internet access. We all throw on our Sherlock hats, don our testing equipment, and methodically search for the issue. Sometimes it is an incorrect switch patch, other times it is broken fiber. Whatever the reason may be, it is always a rewarding experience to solve these problems and provide SC exhibitors access to the world’s fastest temporary network.

In addition to volunteering with SCinet, what do you do for fun?

I have played soccer a couple times a week for about 28 years. At times I played with my older daughter and younger brother, until my younger daughter’s softball activities became a priority for me—which was something I loved trading in for. I enjoyed playing soccer because of the teamwork and camaraderie. The same reasons I enjoy volunteering with SCinet. Now, I do fun runs, refurbish furniture, stitchery, reading, and traveling. Actually, I enjoy doing most anything every day and especially if my family is involved!

Learn more about SCinet.

Sara Aly, SC20 Communications, SCinet Liaison

Sara Aly is a communications manager at Internet2. This is her third year volunteering with the SCinet communications team.

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