SC15 General Chair Jackie Kern Previews Conference and Exhibition

November 11, 2015

Nov. 11 — Following is a brief conversation with Jackie Kern, SC15 General Chair from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Since 2003, she has served as  a member of the SC planning committee and in 2007 she also served as SCinet Chair.

At the University of Illinois, she is the Director of IT Shared Services where she represents her department on various campus IT initiatives and committees including leading the community in a consolidation of service effort and being the operations chair of the Data Center Shared Services co-location efforts on campus.

In these efforts she oversees the development of standards, procedures and policies related to data centers, identifies IT resources needed for current and future projects, and markets the services to campus.

Describe how the “HPC Transforms” conference theme came to be this year?

Over the last three decades, HPC has become increasingly important in manufacturing, weather forecasting, medicine, entertainment and many other facets of everyday life. You would be hard pressed to experience a “normal” day for the average citizen without encountering something that wasn’t impacted by HPC.

Starting last year, the SC conference team launched a program called “HPC Matters” to highlight this impact. The program supports the creation of short videos that explore the use of HPC in improving daily life.

These videos are available at the SC15 video library. The program also supports public talks by industry luminaries, such as the SC HPC Matters Plenary.

For this year, we wanted to dive deeper into why it is important, and to do that we wanted to demonstrate how it transforms lives and the world around us.  We have put together these videos that demonstrate why it matters and how it transforms lives.

SC15 is returning to Austin, Texas for the first time since 2008 – what is it about Austin that makes it a good fit for the SC community?

Austin is fantastic because of the technology-centric community as well as the culture, food, people and music.  We feel this is a really good fit for our attendees and exhibitors. It gives them the right balance of fun and technical aptitude to spark the creativity, and offers a wide variety of opportunities to network and collaborate. And the city itself is also very warm and welcoming to our group.

For someone new to the community, what tips can you offer for tackling the immense Tech Program and the massive exhibition hall?

Plan ahead!  Quite frankly there is too much to see and do at an SC conference so you need to budget your time based on your areas of interests and priorities.  Your best bet is to get plugged into everything now – the website, blog, schedule, conference app, etc.

Start with the conference schedule on the website and go from there. Put a priority on not only learning, but also networking.  Some of the people you meet at an SC conference will impact your career for years to come.  The more people you meet the more opportunities you have to collaborate and get involved.  If you are new, go to one of the Information Booths – they are staffed by veteran attendees who are there to help you.

Also, you will want to download our enhanced mobile app and started getting organized for a very packed week in Austin.

What are some of the top things you are looking forward to experiencing/attending at SC15? 

Very difficult question since there are so many great things to experience or participate in at an SC conference!  Some of the things that I’m looking forward to are the rich and dynamic Invited Talks, the HPC Matters Plenary with Intel’s Diane Bryant, and the Alan Alda Keynote. In addition we have an international Student Cluster Competition that is sure to be exciting.

Plus the show floor has more than 300 cutting-edge exhibitors and I love checking in with SCinet – the world’s fastest, custom-built computer network.  Then there is the incredibly robust Technical Program. Quite honestly, there is too much to list here.

The student program went thru some modifications this year.  Can you explain what those were and how the changes have been received?

This year we merged every student program under one umbrella called [email protected]. This is an effort to make sure that we are encouraging the next generation of HPC professionals to be engaged in the community. It provides more opportunities for all the students that apply to be a part of SC. We encourage them to participate in many of the events, such as the Mentor-Protégé Program and Experiencing HPC for Undergraduates.

We have arranged to bring in key people from across the community to speak about their experiences and encouraged the use of the community to continue to move HPC forward into a new and exciting era.  We are also focusing on diversity and making certain that all students are treated equal and offered the same opportunities for success.

True success won’t be measured until after the conference once we see how it goes, but we are encouraged by those students who have applied to the program and their engagement thus far.  We are also working with an evaluation team to measure our success and will have those data points after SC15 is over.

Anything else knew this year that people should know about?

This year we have added an all-day track for Birds-of-a-Feather sessions.  There is so much demand for them and with the high volume of submissions, we are excited to introduce this all-day track.  Other exciting things are a much more robust mobile app and networking opportunities like the addition of Duckling – a new networking tool for conference attendees.

What can people expect this year from the HPC Matters Plenary?

It will be amazing.  This year will feature Diane Bryant of Intel who was recently named by Fortune as one of the 51 most powerful women.   She will describe how next generation supercomputers are not only transforming HPC and the future of computing, but also society.  Plus, there is no fee to attend the session although a badge is required.  It is shaping up to be an entertaining session that is a must attend event for everyone – from novice to expert.

Describe the process and time involved for putting on such a big event.

Planning a conference of this quality and magnitude couldn’t happen without a fantastic team behind me. Three years ago I was selected to be the SC15 General Chair and at that time I made a conscious choice to select the best of breed to make sure this event was spectacular.

Over the course of the last three years we have spent many phone calls, face-to-face meetings, site visits, and countless hours working towards providing the best possible experience for our attendees. One group in particular spends a considerable amount of time working towards providing the best and fastest computer network in the world for one week in November.

The SCinet team spends an enormous amount of volunteer time designing the custom network, gathering equipment donations from vendors, connecting equipment, working with providers to get connected to the right networks, and then sustaining the network for everyone at the conference.

In addition, our Technical Program team has worked diligently to evaluate the submissions and create a program that is second to none.  Truly it has been the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding three-year project of my career. I am honored to be a part of it.

What advice would you give someone looking to get involved in the SC volunteer community?

The SC community is always looking for dedicated volunteers. The best way to get involved is to come to one of the Information Booths at SC15.  We strive to have new faces as volunteers who are able to provide new perspectives and ideas to keep SC fresh and diverse.

What needs to happen for you to judge SC15 as a successful event?

To me, the most important thing would be walking around the Austin Convention Center and witnessing the engagement in the collaboration that we expect to see at an SC Conference.  I hope attendees leave feeling that there is simply nowhere else on the planet that offers as much education, collaboration and networking as an SC Conference.  After all, we are attendees ourselves and that remains the ultimate goal!

Source: SC15

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