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Tammy Dahlgren inspires women in technology.

Women in technology are making big moves, and LLNL’s Tammy Dahlgren is no exception. A computer scientist who has worked at the Lab for more than 20 years, Tammy was invited to serve as a co-chair on the Software Engineering Technical Track committee for the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC).  The conference connects women technologists from all over the world, giving them the opportunity to learn, network, and develop professionally. GHC attracted almost 12,000 attendees in 2015 and expects 15,000 to attend the upcoming conference in October.

“I wish I had known about GHC years ago,” says Tammy. “It can be really hard being the only female on a project.” Tammy was invited to serve as co-chair after participating as a reviewer on the committee last year. Her invitation to the conference from the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) cited her leadership skills and expertise as reasons for requesting her participation. “One of last year’s co-chairs really appreciated my detailed feedback,” she says. Track committee co-chairs are collectively responsible for defining the scope of the track, identifying the track’s Invited Technical Speaker, and recruiting members to the committee, among other things.

In an effort to strengthen LLNL’s presence at the conference last year, a Computation committee—spearheaded by Trish Damkroger—identified subject matter experts and encouraged them to volunteer and submit proposals.  Tammy was one of the people they identified.  As a whole, however, “the national labs weren’t well represented last year,” Tammy says. This year, a team in Computation led by Kim Cupps and Anh Quach is expanding efforts to increase the presence of national laboratories at GHC.  

As for the conference itself, Tammy believes the opportunity to see so many women technologists gathering in one place is awe inspiring, helping to build confidence that initiatives such as these truly can increase the diversity of those working in technology.  In fact, Tammy’s enthusiasm about the experience inspired her daughter, a first year doctoral student in computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to investigate options for attending the conference this year.

Tammy wasn’t always so enthusiastic about computer science, however.  She had few role models for women working outside the home when she was young and was not exposed to computers until she was in college, but she loved problem solving and had a knack for math. “My mom used to buy me puzzle books,” Tammy says. Once she took her first programming class, she was hooked. “It led to more programming classes. I’ve since programmed in over a dozen languages,” she says.

As for how she came to LLNL, Tammy says the Lab was recruiting at her university while she was pursuing her master’s degree. She accepted a position and has been able to work on a wide array of projects as a result, likening the Lab to “dozens of different companies all under one umbrella.” She says working at the Lab allows you to contribute, learn, and grow both professionally and personally.  Tammy even earned her doctorate through the Lab’s UC Davis Distance Learning Program.

At LLNL, Tammy has worked primarily in software development and research, as well as on efforts ranging from systems and middleware to applications development and software quality assurance. “I like challenges, trying different things, and the opportunity to make a positive impact,” she says. Tammy is in the Software Quality Engineering Group within the Applications, Simulations, and Quality Division, currently matrixed to the Uncertainty Quantification Pipeline (UQP) project. UQP is a scientific workflow system for executing and analyzing the results of UQ studies involving hundreds to millions of simulations, which are then used to evaluate the impacts of parameters and the likelihood of simulation outcomes.  

When she isn’t hard at work, you might find Tammy reading or jogging. She has completed nine half marathons since 2012 and has one more scheduled this summer. Tammy is also a member of the Software Improvement Networking Group and Women in Science and Engineering group at the Lab.