Recruiting diverse talent for computing

Fermilab takes hiring decisions very seriously. Each job opening must be approved not only by a management chain, but also by a special committee led by Fermilab’s director. The hiring process can be long and sometimes stressful. It can take several months to find the best candidates, and, once they are selected, members of the selection committee must interview each one and deliberate at length about the interviewees’ answers and qualifications.

A crowd gathers at ABI.Local Event at the Merchandise Mart. Photo: Tanya Levshina

In Computing, we are trying our best to follow Fermilab’s guidelines of hiring diverse talent and are committed to improving workforce diversity and workplace inclusion advancement. Unfortunately, the initial pool of resumes we typically get is not diverse. For example, for one open entry-level position, we received 24 resumes, only three from women.

As a result, Computing has started several initiatives, working with Fermilab’s Diversity and Inclusion and Talent Acquisition offices, to expand the applicant pool. One such initiative was participating in a local Anita Borg Institute. ABI is a nonprofit organization founded by computer scientist Anita Borg. Its primary goal is to recruit women to work in information technology. ABI.Local is a network of locally organized communities that bring women technologists together to find new opportunities in the city in which they live. Bo Jayatilaka, deputy head of the Data Movement and Storage Department, found out about the event and alerted Fermilab recruiter Cara Brown, who obtained the Directorate’s approval and funding to participate in a panel discussion and set up a recruiting booth.

Cara Brown, Fermilab human resources recruiter, represents Fermilab at a local Anita Borg Institute event at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Photo: Tanya Levshina

Brown and several volunteers from the Scientific Computing Division attended the tech careers panel discussion and internship fair on Nov. 9 at the Chicago Merchandise Mart.  One hundred three students, industry professionals, employers and industry gurus looking to connect with women in technology participated. Our goal was to find potential candidates for various summer internship programs. We talked to many attendees — some who were aware of Fermilab and  others who were not. We briefly introduced them to the world of particle physics, touting the Higgs boson discovery and exciting neutrino experiments. The typical reaction was, “That is so cool!” Of those looking for internship or co-op opportunities, we selected people who had the skills and interests that aligned with our projects and collected their contact information. We identified 10 possible candidates who were interested in a variety of topics, including access to high-performance computing, graphics-processing-unit-accelerated computing, big data and distributed computing. We also discussed open staff positions and answered questions, the most common of which was, “What technology or programming languages should I study in order to find job in IT?”

Krista Majewski and Lisa Giacchetti of Scientific Computing Division get ready to greet candidates for summer internship programs. Photo: Tanya Levshina

Collectively, we thought this event was a success. We exposed potential candidates to Fermilab  to enhance the lab’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. We look forward to continuing in these efforts.

Tanya Levshina is head of the SCD Scientific Distributed Computing Solutions Department.