IHPCSS Mentoring: Career Paths

Elsa Gonsiorowski

July 10, 2023

Created: 2023-07-09 Sun 22:46

1. Session Overview

1.1. Schedule

20 min Career Paths Talk
3x7 min Returning Mentor Career Talks
Remaining Time Break into mentoring groups and go to lunch

1.2. Disclaimer

  • This is a quick talk, with links to some other resources.
  • You don't need to know exactly what you want to do, but it's good to have an idea of the possibilities.
  • Talk to the staff here about their career experiences and see which options appeal to you.
    • This makes a good topic for your one-on-one discussions

1.3. General Career Paths


2. Academia

2.1. Academia

  • Teaching at a college or university
  • Each institution has a difference emphasis on 3 areas:
    • Teaching Responsibilities
    • Research (winning grants and writing publications)
    • Community Service (departmental roles, conference & journal organization)
  • Some initial funding comes from the school, but then you must find more money

2.2. Academic Career Path (US)

titles may be different in different countries

  1. Post Doc (optional)
  2. Assistant Professor, tenure track
  3. Tenure
  4. Full Professor

2.3. Academia Pros

  • You get to work with students through teaching and research
  • You get to build your own lab
  • Once you have tenure…
    • You are "unfireable and almost rich"
    • Can explore any research topic you want (if you can get funding)
    • Long term career path and stability

2.4. Academia Cons

  • You have to work with students, teaching whatever classes need to be taught
  • Getting tenure is difficult
  • You have to move to wherever the school is

2.5. How to Get Started

  • Try teaching / being a teaching assistant
  • Try mentoring undergraduates, new graduate students
  • Talk to professors in your department
  • Talk to Scott Callaghan, Orly Alter, Erwin Laure, Brian Jewett

3. Industry

3.1. Industry

  • Beholden to customers, must create products to sell
  • Can work on government contracts / grants

3.2. Industry Career Path

  • Varies by scientific field & company
  • Larger companies typically have well-defined career paths with a specific progression of job titles
  • May look something like:
    1. Individual contributor
    2. Project lead
    3. Technical Expert

3.3. Industry Pros

  • Pay is usually higher than academia
  • Company perks: free food, stock options, bonuses, sabbaticals
  • May have the freedom to work remotely or more options of where in world/country to work
  • You work with/for the customer
  • Higher turnover, you can have a more varied career and change roles every few years

3.4. Industry Cons

  • You have to make a product / make a profit for the company
  • Less freedom to do "pure" research
  • You work with/for the customer
  • Company culture may not have the best work/life balance

3.5. How to Get Started

  • Look for summer internship programs
  • Go to career fairs / recruiting sessions
    • at your university
    • at conferences
  • Talk to ??????

4. Supercomputer Center

4.1. Supercomputer Center

  • Could be associated with a University or Government Research lab
  • Funding could depend on current political climate or vary depending on your current project
  • Best of both academia and industry worlds:
    • No required teaching responsibilities
      • option to work with summer interns
      • possibility to do HPC training sessions
    • Understand basic research activities, such as publication and conference attendance

4.2. Supercomputer Center Career Path

many paths available, depending on role

  1. Individual contributor; Consultant/user support; Trainer
  2. Team Lead or Project Lead
  3. Management or Technical Expert

4.3. Supercomputer Center Pros

  • Opportunity to do a specific role, such as user support or application development
  • Opportunity to do "pure" research/get grants
  • Some labs may have a "mission"
  • No required teaching responsibilities
  • Culture typically has good work/life balance

4.4. Supercomputer Center Cons

  • Government bureaucracy
  • Federal funding, not as many perks as industry
  • Not as well paid
  • Employees are typically there for a long time, some can become "Retired In Place"
  • Career path may be limited, depending on size/needs of the center

4.5. How to Get Started

  • Look for lab people in your research area, ask about an internship
  • Look for summer internship programs
  • Research if there are citizenship preferences for different labs
  • Talk to Elsa Gonsiorowski, Ilya Zhukov, Ann Backhaus

5. Research Software Engineer (RSE)

5.1. RSE

  • Could be a associated with a (Research) University or Research Lab
  • Bring software engineering skills to research projects

those who regularly use expertise in programming to advance research. This includes researchers who spend a significant amount of time programming, full-time software engineers writing code to solve research problems, and those somewhere in-between. We aspire to apply the skills and practices of software development to research to create more robust, manageable, and sustainable research software.

5.2. RSE Career Path

  • Can be a domain scientist who picks up computer science / software engineering expertise
  • Can be trained computer scientist who, over the course a career, supports research software in different domains
  • Gaining more recognition as its own career path

5.3. RSE Pros

  • Diversity of projects, improves the quality of scientific research
  • May have the potential to do "pure" research / get grants

5.4. RSE Cons

  • Funding for RSE's has traditionally been somewhat volatile, but "RSE" as a career path has been getting more recognition in recent years.
  • May have to fight for full recognition for contributions
  • Career path may be ill-defined

5.5. How to Get Started

  • Join an RSE society. They have job postings and host conferences.
  • Continue to improve software engineering skills, many online courses
  • Talk to Andrew Kirby, Weronika Filinger

6. Resources

6.1. Resources

7. Credits

Created with Emacs, Org Mode, and RevealJS

(using the Robot Lung theme).

View the source.

8. Returning Mentor Lightning Talks

After which, we will breakout into mentoring groups and head to lunch.