Making the Transition to Virtual Software Teams

Series: Strategies for Working Remotely

Recently, many tools and workflows have emerged in the software industry that have greatly enhanced the productivity of development teams. GitHub, a site that hosts projects in Git repositories, is a popular platform for open source and closed source projects. GitHub has encoded several best practices into easily followed procedures such as pull requests, which enrich the software engineering vocabularies of non-professionals and professionals alike. GitHub also provides integration to other services (for example, continuous integration such as Travis CI, which allows code changes to be automatically tested before they are merged into a master development branch). This presentation will discuss how to set up a project on GitHub, illustrate the use of pull requests to incorporate code changes, and show how Travis CI can be used to boost confidence that changes will not break existing code.



Panelist Bios

Jay Jay Billings is the group lead for research software engineering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Aside from leading the group, he works on software for computational physics, scientific workflows, and several Eclipse projects.

Mark Gates is a Research Assistant Professor at the Innovative Computing Laboratory, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Since 2011, Mark has worked in ICL’s linear algebra group, with both local and remote members and collaborators. He manages the ECP SLATE project for distributed dense linear algebra, which like many teams was abruptly thrust into working completely remotely since March.

Mahantesh Halappanavar leads the ExaGraph project in ECP. He is the acting Group Leader for the Data Sciences Group and the Team Lead for the Scalable Data Analytics Team in the Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In the transition to working remotely, his teams have faced challenges in management, immigration, staff engagement, and secure communication tools. An important lesson we all can learn from this experience is that the manner in which an organization treats its staff and the local community will determine its success in the long term.

Angela Herring is a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She specializes in leading multi-disciplinary, Agile research teams. Currently, she leads two research software teams. One team develops the remap software, Portage ( as well as an interface reconstruction library, Tangram ( The other team, Lynx, focuses on applications of code to code linking. Angela received a M.S. in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from U.C. Davis in 2005 and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Mississippi State University in 2003.

Axel Huebl is a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley Lab where he is part of the ECP-WarpX team. Prior to joining a DOE lab, he contributed to open source HPC software for about seven years, establishing development efforts in teams that are fluctuating in availability (e.g. students) or live in multiple time zones. One of his key experiences from this is that communication, transparency of decision processes, documentation and accountability are key for productivity (and happiness) in decentral teams.

Moderator Bios

Ashley Barker is the Group Leader for the User Assistance and Outreach (UAO) team at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) located at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL). UAO is responsible for facilitating access to OLCF resources, providing training, documentation, and technical support to users, collecting and reporting on user facility data, and acquainting the public with the work conducted at the OLCF through scientific highlights. The OLCF supports more than 1,200 users and 250 projects annually from a wide spectrum of science domains. Ashley served as the National Climate Research Center (NCRC) Project Director from 2014-2016. The NCRC project represents a partnership between NOAA and DOE and through this partnership, the NCRC team has delivered multiple computer systems to NOAA, allowing the agency to advance its climate modeling and improve our understanding of climate variability and change. Ashley is also currently involved in the Exascale Computing Project (ECP) as the Control Account Manager (CAM) for training and productivity.

Elaine Raybourn is a social scientist who has worked remotely for a combined total of 14 years while at Sandia National Laboratories: from the UK as a guest researcher at British Telecom; Germany (FhG FIT) and France (INRIA) as a Fellow of the European Research Consortium in Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM), and most recently from Orlando, Florida as a member of Sandia’s Statistics and Human Systems Group (Applied Cognitive Science) and the IDEAS-ECP productivity project.