Computing is the lifeblood of the Laboratory. Dev Day gives us a chance to build relationships and knowledge.
Bruce Hendrickson, Associate Director of Computation
Cyrus Harrison presenting in front of a group

Inaugural Developer Day Deemed an ‘Awesome’ Success

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On September 14, software developers across Lawrence Livermore gathered for the first-ever Developer Day, an event designed to highlight projects and encourage sharing and collaboration across various programs. Hosted by Computation, Dev Day 2017 included 3-minute Lightning Talks, 45-minute Deep Dives, and a discussion panel along with multiple opportunities for networking. The organizing team consisted of David Beckingsale, Kyle Dickerson, Todd Gamblin, and Cyrus Harrison with special thanks to Irene Dias, Jamie Goodale, Jamie Lewis, and Lorrie Rudock for ensuring the day-long event ran smoothly.

Dev Day arose from a growing desire to connect developers across Lawrence Livermore with each other. Dickerson stated, “I wanted to share solutions to common problems, get advice on Laboratory-specific issues related to software development, and help teams avoid spending time on problems that other teams have already solved.” Once formed, the organizing committee sent out a broad call for presentations. “Since this was the first time this kind of event had been attempted, we didn’t know what to expect in terms of what people would find engaging,” said Dickerson. Format was key: While Lightning Talks could provide an effective means of rapidly conveying a high volume of information, Deep Dives would offer longer discussions of some subjects.

A Full Agenda

To kick off Dev Day, more than 120 participants gathered for remarks by Computation’s Associate Director Bruce Hendrickson, who explained the importance of sharing information. “Computing underpins everything that happens at Livermore,” he said. “We can learn a lot from each other.”

The first session consisted of 12 Collaboration Lightning Talks in which developers briefly described projects that need help filling a technological gap. After a snack-and-networking break, the Exposure Lightning Talks began. These 22 talks were intended to raise technology awareness, explain project goals, and expose the audience to other resources around the Laboratory. Altogether the Lightning Talks covered topics in high performance computing (HPC), big data, system software, and web development. Some projects focused on customer-facing and programmatic work, including shot-configuration and diagnostic software for the National Ignition Facility. Other projects sought input on the Laboratory’s internal applications, such as project-planning software and institutional website authentication.

The afternoon session began with a panel on technical interviewing. Fielding audience questions, four panelists discussed a variety of scenarios: what to ask candidates over the phone versus in person, how to evaluate teamwork and problem-solving skills, the merits of assessing a candidate’s contributions to open-source software, how to remove bias in interview questions, and more. According to Dickerson, adding this discussion topic to the agenda was an easy decision. “I and many others work hard to make our interviews effective and efficient, and I felt Dev Day would be a great opportunity to guide each other toward even more successful interviewing,” he stated.

Figure. Michael Goldman (left) and Steve Smith discuss tactics for conducting telephone and in-person interviews. (Photo by Lanie L. Helms.)

Six Deep-Dive presentations rounded out the event. These longer sessions allowed team leads to detail their projects’ background, release history, and ongoing development. Some Deep Dives included real-time demonstrations. Topics ranged from application support across multiple air-gapped networks to enterprise system management for the Laboratory’s more than 3,300 Mac computers. Another Deep Dive covered the principles and terminology of SCRUM software development methodology. In the leaderboard image above, Harrison (standing) describes the “smoke tests” built into a Livermore-developed tool called BLT (Build, Link, Test). BLT is used to streamline development processes for HPC applications. (Photo by Lanie L. Helms.)

Survey Says…

As Dev Day ended, participants completed surveys about their experience. Overall feedback was positive, with 82 percent giving the event a grade of “Awesome.” Regarding event frequency, 100 percent of respondents agreed that Dev Day should be held at least once per year. Dickerson noted, “We received some great ideas about ergonomics and physical health for developers who spend most of their day sitting, as well as requests for talks focused on specific discipline areas.” Encouraged by the turnout and feedback, the organizing committee is already brainstorming ideas for the next Dev Day. “Knowing how popular the event was will help us plan a more focused approach in the future,” concluded Dickerson.

Figure. The first Dev Day event drew participants from multiple areas of the Laboratory. (Photo by Lanie L. Helms.)