Toward a bright future, hand in hand with the diverse communities

Saba Sehrish

Saba Sehrish

Diversity in computing and related fields has become a high-priority topic in recent years, and the nation has been investing a great deal of resources to address it.

Fermilab is fully aware of the need to improve in this area. Director Nigel Lockyer has mentioned this in his all-hands presentations, and Fermilab CIO Rob Roser wrote about it in a recent issue of Computing Bits. Our goal is not only to attract bright minds from diverse communities but also retain our existing talent. Such efforts led to an opportunity for me to represent Fermilab at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC). The theme was inclusion and diversity.

GHC has emerged as one of the largest recruiting venues for diversity candidates. Since I first participated in GHC in 2007, I have seen it grow from a couple thousand attendees to more than 15,000 this year! The career expo featured 310 exhibitors, including universities, industry and national labs. DOE had a booth with representatives from some of the other laboratories. The Fermilab Scientific Computing Division is considering committing extra effort for the event so we can join the other DOE laboratories in coming years, increasing our effectiveness and becoming part of a larger coordinated presence.

A crowd of 15,000 gathers for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This year's theme was inclusion and diversity. Photo courtesy of Saba Sehrish

A crowd of 15,000 gathers for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This year’s theme was inclusion and diversity. Photo courtesy of Saba Sehrish

This year, my fifth time attending and second time presenting, I made two contributions. First, I served on the data and science track on the program committee, and second, I gave a talk, “Explaining the Fundamental Secrets of the Universe: How Spark and High-Performance Computing Might Help Experimental High-Energy Physics Analyses,” about the Scientific Computing Division’s big-data work. I was pleased to receive enthusiastic feedback about my presentation. This demonstrates that we can make a lot of progress connecting with diverse candidates by reaching out about our science and scientific computing projects.

I want to increase awareness about Fermilab to potential candidates, both as a premier particle physics lab and as a leader in cutting-edge scientific computing. We do amazing work; the key is to ensure our participation and presence at places like GHC, where it does matter. Presenting our work at such forums is extremely important and rewarding; people will learn about Fermilab from that experience and will remember us when they are looking for job opportunities.

But GHC is not just about recruiting. It offers several opportunities to learn about professional development, mentoring, leadership and more. It is not only a place to hire bright minds but also make our bright minds brighter. Attending GHC is always rewarding. It is a reassurance that we are making a difference, we are doing good, and we should keep it up.

Saba Sehrish is a computer science researcher in the Scientific Computing Division.