And the winner is...

Ann Harding has been honoured with the GÉANT Community Award 2020. SWITCH is proud of her outstanding achievements as a GÉANT Project Activity Leader for over 10 years, covering areas such as multidomain network developments and more recently Trust and Identity.

Published on 11.06.2020

Congratulations on winning the GÉANT Community Award, we're very proud! Tell us what your job as GÉANT Project Activity Leader looked like, when you were responsible for the Trust and Identity services eduroam and eduGAIN.

Ann Harding: Sure. Let's take the example of eduroam, the international academic roaming service. It began as a joint venture between a handful of European universities which we turned into a product, launched it and grew it. So, it's all about taking on other people's sparks of innovation, helping them grow and finding a good operational model which ties the community together.

How does eduGAIN make life easier for academic staff and students?

Ann Harding: So, a Swiss student with a SWITCH edu-ID can log into all of the SWITCH services, their campus services, and services at a national level. Through eduGAIN, their SWITCH edu-ID is also able to access academic and research services from the all over the world. On their side they don't have to take personal details from me and set up another account, they can just take a trusted response from SWITCH edu-ID via eduGAIN. Which means we created one consistent way for all users to log in and streamlined the process while keeping it sufficiently safe.

When you say 'we', how big was your team, and who was on it?

Ann Harding: In total we were 120 people in the Trust and Identity development activity, from all across the European National Research and Education Networks (NREN). We took care of up to 19 different parallel developments, all part time. 30 people made up the core team, the engine to keep it all going. SWITCH assigned me to work 70% to be the overall activity team leader and Lukas Hämmerle, one of my colleagues at SWITCH, as a task leader. Most task leaders in charge of a team had about 50%, some team members had as little as 10% of their time available to work on the project. The working relationship with task leaders was really important as they had the in depth view necessary to deliver real changes.

That sounds quite challenging, working with remote teams with little availability. How did you collaborate?

Ann Harding: Well, things needed more planning with everyone working part time in different places and cultural contexts, but it worked well. We did all our standups via video calls and the more important meetings face-to-face. I certainly got to know Europe very well, I was travelling at least twice a month.

What is the essence of what you did at GÉANT?

Ann Harding: It's all been about finding the right balance, and neutral Switzerland is a good place to do it from. The balance of all these competing ideologies, about how we should do things, basically building consensus and moving forward.

What did you like most about your GÉANT times?

Ann Harding: Coming into contact with so many different extremely clever people, with so many different perspectives on how things could be done, was truly inspiring. Every country will have specialists in a field, but something very unique happens when you pull all these experts together, something that you can't do on a national scale.

Would you recommend it to other people?

Ann Harding: Yes, definitely, but not forever. Working just for SWITCH on the national level, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to run five or six services simultaneously or coordinate work for 120 people. I wouldn't have had the personal and professional opportunities at that scale or viewpoint.

You've recently started your new position as Team Leader Infrastructure and Platform as Service at SWITCH. That's quite a change, how is it going?

Ann Harding: Yes, returning to a national scope was interesting.  Working on a national level means some things that would take a week in a virtual team can actually get done within a day so you can go faster. You also get to go much more into the details. At the moment we're consolidating and maturing SWITCHengines and Data@SWITCH and working hard on reliability and stability. We acknowledge there have been difficulties recently but we know what needs to be done and the path to do it is very relatable to my GÉANT service development experience.

GÉANT 

SWITCH is a member of GÉANT, a collaboration between national research and education networks throughout Europe that is building a pan-European high-speed network to connect some 40 million users, including four million researchers, across 4,000 institutions in 35 countries. GÉANT means that SWITCH can guarantee Swiss universities access to the European network – and to the rest of the world. 

Harding-Ann

Ann Harding

Ann has worked for SWITCH since 2007 and is currently in the Infrastructure and Data team where she leads the project to build long term storage and supports research communities for SWITCHengines. Ann has gained third-level qualifications in Arts and Humanities and Computer Science and a Master’s qualification in Cultural and Media studies.

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