Early Career Program: Key Professional Communications


I thought it was useful to look at some of the presentations on early career development. This has cropped a number of times within HPC-SIG recently, mostly in the context of recruitment for areas of skills shortages touching on things like apprenticeships.

There is a related LinkedIn group for this session.

This session was presented by Louise Brown of Nottingham.

Building a CV 

(Links to proceedings later).

Many of these points are generic.

  • One key point was there is no ‘official’ template for a CV. Make it your own. Ensure that you can justify the contents, of course.
  • Another was see things from the short lister’s perspective so the desirability of the candidate needs to be made immediately clear on the first page and relevant to the job specification.
  • A CV can be as short as one page, even if in academia it is long. 
  • Use formatting and spacing effectively and visual impression.
  • State forward looking desires for career development.
  • Aim to make an impression within two minutes.

There was an exercise with people looking at each other’s CVs.

But are there any specific points for the HPC area?

A useful point was to focus on strengths not weaknesses relative to an application but in general look at the CV to examine gaps, opportunities for progression even when not actively seeking a new job, and also record progress (a generic CV/repository of achievements, etc.) This is also useful for PDRs.

Again, this is generic, so is there anything specific to HPC?

Non-work experience relevant to a job may be useful.

There was an exercise looking at job adverts. An interesting element was the one from the UK was short-term and mentioned salary, but the US one did not mention salary. The UK salary seemed not that generous given the risk of a short term contract and the responsibility required. Was the USA one expected to be sufficiently generous that posting a wage was not required? Another interesting point was that the UK advert made it very clear exactly what the skills and qualities required were and the job responsibilities in more depth. That means that the UK one is probably simpler to explicitly tailor an application too but might leave less room for being creative, perhaps? It would be interesting to compare applications to similar posts (as these were in many ways) between these two styles to see if there are significant differences that are caused by the advert style. This might be hard to measure, though.

There are links to useful resources to be pasted in later.

Panel Session

Introductions from people including Joanna Leng and James Hetherington from the UK

  1. Joana Leng: work with people who successfully get funding and understand how they get funding; understand the purpose of the call – talk to the funding council if it’s unclear; observe selection panels; ask for help from senior academics, finance, etc.; indicate special circumstances (e.g. about to have a child); provide the supporting information; be consistent; be ambitious, not too modest; reviewers work to a check list; make the first paragraph strong; letters of support – make them different – i.e. not signing a form letter!
  2. Barney Maccabe, Oak Ridge National Lab, USA. Everything is a social construct, not just technical; define the community you want to have impact in and show leadership within it; think about where to publish; think about who will fund you early; think about who you will collaborate with early; review ranking of journals, etc; get on technical programme committees; get to know programme managers; make the programme manager successful: deliver for them and on your promises; be useful to your community; avoid jargon; show how you are novel; Heilmeir’s criticism.
  3. James Hetherington (future HPC strategist for the UK): look for unusual funding for unusual proposals; use networking (human networking); some randomness in funding decisions – develop personal resilience; choose the right people to collaborate with – is also a motivator; make yourself someone people want to collaborate with; will hit a point where there too many opportunities – choose well.
  4. Didn’t quite get the name – will work this out later: know the funding sources; read the whole funding call; know the funding call decision makers; find a mentor; funding proposal names should be serious, to the point, explanatory; be a reviewer if you can (talk to the programme director explaining why you should be a reviewer); be aware of things like teaching responsibility buy outs which will show focus on the research.

Opened up to questions from the floor and panel.

  • Be aware of non-standard outputs from research work. Web presence, etc.
  • Letters of support are different in USA and UK? Letter of collaboration in the USA with a set format, not so in the UK. 
  • Read any grant proposal guides if there is such a guide.
  • Re-read the call after writing the first proposal draft.
  • What is in a successful proposal? Answer: Good writing; well presented; an obvious demonstration of the problem being understood; good understanding of broad impacts; contributions to research ‘bed rock’; what is to be done needs to be easy to see and understand; avoid jargon; good initial description of what is to be done without jargon in the first paragraph; explain the overall vision – how does this fit into the whole of a wider programme; takes practice to get things write, so get ideas from others, collaborators, research support office, etc.; get feedback from reviewers.
  • How do you get your stuff funding even if your stuff doesn’t quite match the typical call? Not so simple.

Writing Decent Papers

See slides and the Nottingham 2 day course from Davide Lo Presti.

What attracts you to read: author? reference? title?

Title: search engines; citations; track record; not too long; use key words; avoid filler words (‘A study to investigate….’); avoid question marks – get cited less; don’t be too clever with the titles?

Abstract is more important than many people think. Reviewers use the abstract to decide whether to review (this has been true for me); structure: context, content, conclusions – don’t expect the reader to plough through the paper to find the conclusions and a maximum of three sentences for each section.

Excercise looking at examples.