Clemson Computing Information Technology

Sawadogo made history and impact in 2023 WINS program


Pauline Sawadogo made Supercomputing Conference (SC) history in 2023. Sawadogo, an IT Technician II in the Network Operations Center (NOC), was the first woman from South Carolina and Clemson University to participate in the Women in IT Networking at Supercomputing Conference (WINS) Program. Flash forward twelve months and Sawadogo is grateful she had the chance to collaborate and network with so many women in highly technical spaces spanning industry and academia. 

“This gathering brought together researchers, experts from diverse fields, and professionals,” Sawadogo explained. “Being part of it provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with them, learn, and establish connections for lifelong collaboration.” 

The WINS program started in 2015 to help bridge gender gaps in Information Technology spaces, with specific focus on network engineering and high-performance computing. The program also funds travel opportunities and enables women to complete S.C. projects together, gain hands-on skills and mentorship. In 2023, seven women, including Sawadogo, were selected as awardees to participate. The annual international conference was held in Denver, Colorado November 17-19, 2023, and Sawadogo attended as a member of the SCinet group of volunteers.  

In her role at Clemson, Pauline describes her daily tasks as diverse; including “monitoring network devices, troubleshooting wired and wireless network connection issues, creating DNS records, and firewall rules and Network security.” Through her participation in WINS, she said she was able to further build on these skills. 

“The event highlighted the latest advancements in hardware and software technologies. We gained hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology, addressing issues and optimizing performance,” Sawadogo explained. “In the edge and wireless team, we implemented zero-touch provisioning to swiftly configure numerous switches, significantly speeding up our daily tasks and minimizing errors associated with manual configurations.” 

Sawadogo’s participation in the WINS program noticeably coincides with gains in her performance at Clemson, as Steve Fullerton, director of the NOC, noted. 

“Since Pauline has worked with the WINS team(s) she has exhibited more confidence in her work abilities,” Fullerton said. “She is willing to explore the network further in depth to find issues and solve them. Pauline has also shown a desire to take on more work to continue her learning.”

While her time as a WINS awardee has come to an end, Sawadogo said she will fondly remember the experience and impact on her, and so many other women’s lives. 

A studio headshot of an African American woman with short, curly hair wearing glasses and a yellow v-neck shirt and burgundy cardigan sweater.

Daily collaboration with my fantastic team members, and particularly enjoying exchanges with fellow WINS women, adds to the richness of this experience. Working alongside inspiring women has reinforced the understanding that women excelling in this field is not a myth. The existence of the WINS program is crucial, and if it didn’t exist, it would need to be created.

Pauline Sawadogo, IT Technician II in Clemson’s Network Operations Center (NOC)

Steve Fullerton is proud of the recognition Pauline has brought herself, CCIT, and Clemson through her participation in the WINS program. 

“I believe the WINS program is fantastic. Pauline has made contact with people who can coach or mentor her in her career. I am sure, because Pauline was a part of the WINS program last year, and possibly in the future, CCIT will benefit from the knowledge gained. It brings great recognition to Clemson and CCIT.” 

For Sawadogo, participation in this program has left her with immense gratitude.

“I am grateful to my management team for placing their trust in me to represent Clemson at this global event, and I appreciate the WINS program for providing early-career women with the chance to embark on such an exciting and valuable learning journey.”

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