The Paths to HPC series, presented in collaboration with Women in HPC, showcases the women working in high-performance computing. Our hope is that by highlighting these trailblazers—and the sometimes unique paths they followed into the field—other women will feel inspired to envision themselves in similar roles.
Today we talk with Vitalina Morais Baptista Nhavene, HPC system administrator for the Mozambique Research and Education Network (MoRENet).
What was your path to working with HPC?
When I first applied to university I didn’t have any idea of what course to do. I first tried to apply for an architecture course, and a friend (actually my husband) suggested I buy a computer because I would need it to do my coursework. I bought the computer—and discovered I knew almost nothing about how to use it!
From that day, I focused on learning how to use the computer and dreamed that one day I would be an expert. Unfortunately I failed to get into university that year. The following year, I applied again, but with computer engineering as my first option because I really wanted to learn how computers work, and I believed that I could do more.
To my surprise, I was approved to study at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo City, the capital of Mozambique. I confess that I sometimes thought it would be very difficult to do this course, but I never gave up!
One day a friend told me that after I finished, I probably wouldn’t find a job in the field because I was a woman. She mentioned her cousin, who had finished the same course and was working as a secretary. After that, I put it in my heart and my mind that the same thing wouldn’t happen to me.
Unfortunately, it became hard for my parents to afford my tuition and I had to take a job to make money-- as a secretary. But I was determined that when I graduated, I would work in any computer or informatics area.
When I came near the end of my course, I left my job to look for an internship in my area. MoRENet gave me the opportunity, but it was unpaid. It wasn’t easy to make the decision to work there without the monthly paycheck I was used to. But I kept on and then started working as a system administrator for MoRENet.
There I worked on installing and configuring eduroam at three universities, in collaboration with other experts from Brazil. For the first time, we had eduroam in Mozambique. I was very happy to take part in that achievement and felt more confident about what I was able to do.
I then had more opportunities to work in server virtualization, website management and configuration, and email systems. In 2018, a project emerged to make high-performance computing (HPC) one of the services offered by MoRENet.
When the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in South Africa donated some HPC equipment, I was asked if I wanted to be a part of the team that would support it. I accepted the challenge, and now I’m fascinated with this technology.
The more I know about the benefits of HPC for science and the many areas of actuation, the more motivated I become. I’m so happy to be one of the pioneers bringing this technology to Mozambique and helping to manage it and spread its use.
What’s cool about working with HPC?
Working with HPC is quite new for me, and I like it because it is something that can help many researchers and students to improve their jobs. Most of all, it is a challenge and I like challenges and to explore new things!
What are some of the challenges you have faced in taking this path?
There are many. One is understanding how HPC infrastructure works. Building the clusters, and preparing the environment to be used by our students and researchers deal with all problems that can emerge to give the HPC clients a good quality service.
Are there any mentors you would like to thank?
Many people have directly and indirectly contributed to my success in many ways. After God, one of them is my husband, who always gave me the support and motivation to keep going and to do my best in everything. All the people that believed in me-- the MoRENet team, the CHPC team, they are many. I thank all of them.