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recruitment


WE HAVE LOTS OF STUDENTS WHO WORK WITH US ALL THROUGH UNDERGRAD AND THEIR GRAD PROGRAMMES, WHICH IS ALWAYS EXCITING FOR US TO SEE THEM GROW JONATHAN HOWELL, NCSA


instruction in English, CSCS no longer subsidises attendance for employees’ children. ‘We find that if people integrate, there is less probability that they will leave us, which is an important aspect when you consider the investment we make in acquiring people and getting them up to speed. When we previously subsidised the international school, it turned into an English-language “island”. Now their children get to know the local children and play in local sports teams. Te spouses are more likely to learn some Italian and make local friends. When they set down roots, they stay longer.’


Being pro-active is key How tough is it to find HPC staff? ‘About a hundred times more difficult than normal,’ says Jonathan Howell, the HR coordinator at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He adds that it’s an exception to land an HPC engineer with significant experience; they’re staying tight with current employers due to the economy, difficulty in selling homes, school situations and the like. Tus, at NCSA they’re starting to broaden the applicant pool and search for people with ‘knowledge of’ and not necessarily ‘experience with’ HPC. In his efforts, Howell has


virtually abandoned passive recruitment, such as traditional


ads in print and online. ‘Te flow of applications decreased, and we’re not getting the calibre we’re looking for.’ Instead, he spends a great deal of time surfing the web for CVs, and making cold calls to people not actively searching for a job. He relates that some of his best applicants were never looking to begin with. NCSA has also started to train its managers to help out, so when they are travelling they can speak to good people and tell them what NCSA can offer. NCSA is also ramping up


its involvement with students. Howell explains: ‘We have lots of students who work with us all through undergrad and their grad programmes, which is always exciting for us to see them grow in knowledge and


a great way to nurture talent from day one.’ Getting a new staff member


sometimes takes years of perseverance. Howell remarks: ‘As part of my efforts to source applicants who may not be actively looking for positions, I once contacted a woman whose CV I had found online. She was still finishing her studies, but indicated that down the road it might be worth considering coming to work at NCSA. I promised to stay in touch and called her about seven months later to see how school had gone and what her status was. She had completed her studies and thought an interview would be a great idea. During our talks, we learned that her fiancé had recently applied for an NCSA position


involved in HR at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, relates that the type of work sometimes scares off potential applicants. ‘Especially with junior positions, sometimes we find that many candidates don’t apply, because they think we are looking for people with very high qualifications and skills. Tey think that our centre has a very good reputation and we only offer high-level positions, but in many cases they could do the job.’ To get in touch with junior staffers, Calvet finds that a very effective method is to visit universities and academic events such as HPC workshops, summer programmes, etc. BSC also tries to stay in regular contact with this kind of academic institutions and research centres to collaborate.


Always better pay with commercial companies? Most government-sponsored or university supercomputer centres feel they are at a disadvantage compared to commercial companies when it comes to the salaries they can pay. One


GETTING A NEW HIRE IS ALMOST LIKE THE SALES CYCLE WHERE YOU DEVELOP AND NURTURE CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS, AND YOU ONLY SEE THE BENEFITS AFTER A PERIOD OF TIME ANDREW CARR, BULL


experience, then parlay that into a great job with us or outside the NCSA world. We’re also currently formulating a programme that would enable undergrads to do mini-fellowships with NCSA in an effort to stimulate interest in the HPC world and expose them to technologies and tools that their future employers will simply expect people to have by then. It’s


and it turned out it was the same job she was being considered for. Luckily we had multiple openings! We brought him in and both ended up having great interviews and were extremely knowledgeable applicants, both with HPC backgrounds. Tey then relocated quickly to start with our Blue Water’s project.’ Merce Calvet, who is


THE PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAMME IS TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL GRANTS AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES TO SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING STUDENTS AT SELECTED UNIVERSITIES JOS MARTIN, THE MATHWORKS


36 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD


dissenting voice comes from Andrew Carr, sales and marketing director at Bull for the UK and Ireland: ‘Some large government bodies are using HPC for mission- critical requirements, and they typically pay top rates to get the best people.’ One of Carr’s laments is that


universities are training applied researchers, but not the system administrators of the future. A challenge is to work with higher education to give students the skills they will need for the business world. Tat has prompted Bull to get more involved with universities than in the past. For instance, Bull is participating in the UK’s ‘Catapult centres’,


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