1in10 Success Stories: Ritu Arora

I joined the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in May 2020 as the Assistant Vice-President of Research Computing. In this role, I have been helping expand the hardware and software infrastructure required for research computing.

I am passionate about High-Performance Computing (HPC), cloud computing and data-intensive computing and its applications to societal problems, and love teaching large-scale data management. I enjoy solving hardware and software problems and working with scientists, researchers, faculty and students to help them reduce the time-to-results and increase their productivity.

I first met Dr. Holmes in 2009 when I studied at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and applied to the Broader Engagement (BE) Program at the SC Conference. Raquell chaired the BE program in 2010 and engaged me as the Communications Chair. I worked with the conference committee, which helped me grow in the SC community. Throughout this process, Raquell was my mentor, providing advice, coaching me to develop my communication skills and how to engage additional people in SC. Raquell’s style of communication is one of pure encouragement: listening, asking questions and providing resources. She is very supportive of trying new ideas.

In 2014 I invited Raquell to lead an improv session at the 2014 workshop on "Leveraging High Performance Computing Resources for Managing Large Datasets," which was an opportunity for me to experience team-building skills offered through improvscience. And I discovered the value of play. I learned how improv games can open us to a sense of “we’re in this together” and strengthen the teams to comfortably work and build things together. With her work in improvscience, Raquell makes it easy for people to communicate science.

Best of all, perhaps, I learned about the power of vulnerability: that when we are open and vulnerable, especially as leaders, we open space for communication. Now, when I lead a team, as required in my current position, I see how my vulnerability, my ability to let the team know that I do not have all the answers, that we will be learning together, contributes to creating an environment of learning, discovery and ownership, which in turn strengthens the team.

What I so highly admire about Raquell is her willingness to take risks. From her, I learned that leaders who take calculated risks have the potential of opening new opportunities for themselves and their teams. In her workshops, I have seen the role improv plays in pushing people out of their comfort zones and developing loyalty and trust in teams, how it encourages participants to take risks and helps them develop the confidence to handle rejection or failure. As is said in the movie "Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year," even Spiderman has to take risks!

I always look forward to the next opportunity to play improv games with Raquell and the improvscience team.

~ Ritu Arora, Ph.D.