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Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative: Building and Leading a Diverse Tech Team

Feb 11, 2020, by Taleitha Pytlowanyj
Tags: Inclusivity Initiative Award, Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative

Reflections from Attendees at 2019 Internet2 Technology Exchange

The Inclusivity Initiative and fellowships provide awardees the opportunity to establish relationships and build their professional networks, expand the knowledge and awareness of their institutions, and help diversify the technology industry.

These opportunities are made possible through the commitment and joint sponsorship of Internet2 community members. We appreciate the ongoing support of our higher education members and industry member sponsors through the years, including Cirrus Identity, Cisco Systems, Code42, DLT Solutions, Duo Security, Fortinet, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, ServiceNow, Skyhigh Networks, Splunk, Oracle Dyn, and Wasabi

The Internet2 Inclusivity Scholarship was established in 2014 by the Internet2 community as part of a larger effort to improve diversity and inclusion in the information technology field within research and education. Since the inception of the scholarship award, Internet2 has had the opportunity to sponsor over 40 women and minorities to attend our two annual events each year.

In conjunction, Internet2 also partners with the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) to support research and education communities in underserved countries with the opportunity to attend Internet2 annual events by sponsoring fellows. For the first time through this partnership, we were thrilled to be able to sponsor two women from tribal colleges in the United States.

The Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative Scholarship Awardees, NSRC Fellows and WINS Recipient Dinner at the 2019 Technology Exchange.

Another goal of the Inclusivity Initiative is to keep former scholarship awardees engaged and plugged into the community. This year’s Inclusivity Initiative lunch session included a panel of strong women tech leaders from higher education institutions and industry organizations.

The panel was moderated by Cirrus Identity’s CEO and Founder, Dedra Chamberlin. The panel consisted of two former Inclusivity Initiative scholarship awardees: Sarvani Chadalapaka, HPC Administrator, University of California-Merced; and Colleen Morrissey, Associate Director of IT Infrastructure, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute;  as well as Heather Flanagan, Spherical Cow Group Principal, and Erica Lomax, Oregon State University Director of Identity and Access.

L to R: Sarvani Chadalapaka, Colleen Morrissey, Erica Lomax, Heather Flanagan,
and Dedra Chamberlin.

They shared their personal career journeys, including challenges they faced, how they have helped create diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and mentorships, insights in leading a diverse tech team, and what has worked and what has not. One key takeaway from the discussion is how we can all play a part in advocating for DEI within our organizations, regardless of our title. An example included how and when we advocate and speak up for inequities we witness on behalf of someone else. 

We look forward to continuing the great discussions at our 2020 Global Summit in Indianapolis, IND from March 29 – April 1. We are excited to present an Allies and Advocates Workshop on Sunday, Google’s #IAMREMARKABLE Workshop on Monday, and the Inclusivity Initiative lunch session on Tuesday. We hope to see you in Indy!

The three Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative scholarship awardees and two NSRC fellows from the 2019 Technology Exchange shared their reflections from attending their first Internet2 meeting:

Bridget Bartell, Inclusivity Initiative Scholarship Awardee
Cybersecurity Analyst
University of Wisconsin-Madison

“I greatly appreciated the opportunity to attend the Internet2 Technology Exchange conference in New Orleans. The Internet2 team clearly put a lot of work and care into designing and organizing the event. As an Inclusivity Initiative scholarship awardee, I was grateful for the ability to meet with community leaders during the breakfast and lunch hours. The event clearly draws accomplished people from all over the world, it was helpful to have someone help connect you to some of these incredible individuals.
As far as sessions go, I appreciated Internet2’s staff member Adair’s session regarding diversity. The lack of women in IT is obvious, but I thought it was great to help call out some of the lessor considered aspects of diversity such as neurodiversity, mental health, education, and sexuality, and how that affects team dynamics as well. I also feel those areas can be judged more harshly and so people can be embarrassed instead of embracing the differences that make for a balanced and productive team. I overall enjoyed the information security track and was pleased by the number of incident response options. It’s great to hear how others are handling situations we handle on a daily basis and know that we are all in this together.
Once again, I want to deeply thank the Internet2 community, and Taleitha, for the time and effort put into organizing the event.”

Jacqueline Knight-Barber, Inclusivity Initiative Scholarship Awardee
Support Engineer

“I really enjoyed this event. I met a lot of great people and made connections that will help further my future. One thing I loved most about this experience was being able to meet mentors every day so that I had “go-to” people when needed. Everyone I met was so kind and extraordinary in their own way. While I was there, I was on a mission to learn a few specifics that I could take back to my coworkers and use towards our new Layer 2 implementation. These included EVPN, NSO and anything that involved implementing a new network. I gained a lot of valuable knowledge. I was very thankful Mike Kowal from Cisco took time to sit with me to teach me NSO because it gave me some good key pointers to bring back to my company. Aside from what my main goals were while there, I found it very easy to migrate from session to session. I especially enjoyed the social because it gets you to step out of your comfort zone a bit.

Overall, I would definitely go to this event again. I am very thankful for the experience to go this year. There are not many places that you can meet such a diverse group of people and connect with such a strong community.”

Shashwitha Puttaswamy, Inclusivity Initiative Scholarship Awardee
Research Scientist, Cyberinfrastructure
George Washington University

“I am very grateful the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative Committee selected me, and The George Washington University nominated me from our IT Department and supporting me in my travel and accommodation as part of the Scholarship program. The Internet2 Technology Exchange was well organized from start to finish.  I was also able to get in contact with my former colleague and project partners.

It helped me to build professional connections within the field and learn new tools and developments, which I can implement in my work. It made me much more confident in understanding the concepts and implementing the software. There were many interesting talks which were overlapped, but Internet2 community members were very supportive to put me in touch with the speaker and learn more about the projects and give a recap of the presentations. In the award program there were many women who shared their personal experiences in the field of IT which was a remarkable journey and a very inspirational talk.

Overall it was a wonderful and memorable experience. I will always look forward to being part of the Internet2 community.”

Deshon Miguel, NSRC Fellow
Interim Information Technology Manager
Tohono O’odham Community College

“I am very grateful to have taken this opportunity to attend the TechEX conference. It was amazing, I met many people and learned a lot from the conference. I am very grateful, and I would like to send my appreciation out to those people who made this opportunity memorable. I hope to see myself back at TechEX. Many great opportunities opened up and I feel like I can be a part of it.”

Joy Thompson, NSRC Fellow
IT Director
Dine College

“Over the course of the program, I came to learn so much about the impact of innovative determination. There were many presentations, some only 15 minutes long, that showed how one idea was acted upon to provide information for transmission, understanding and interpretation of data. The level of engineering that some institutions have is amazing and enlightening. Now I have connections to some of those innovators who have offered their assistance in helping to overcome issues we experience. On the other hand, many presentations had practical experience that brought me to a level of understanding to move forward with my key projects. I spent most of my time in the Advanced Networking track on perfSONAR, Science DMZ and multicast, which I can use immediately. I also took in the IAM and cloud architecture track sessions that were very meaningful.  
Best of all, I gained insight and inspiration from the personal discussions with some awesome leaders through the Internet2 team. Wow, I met and chatted with Kevin Thompson from NSF! This inspiration goes a long way to energize me to motivate my team. We are small but we can be mighty!”