Natali Ruchansky

  • PHD Student
    University of Boston, USA
    Attended SIGCOMM 2013
    2013, Hong Kong, China

You may roll your eyes if I talk about a major difference between first and second year grad student like a high school sophomore claiming they are so different from freshman. But for me there was a major difference.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be second author on a SIGCOMM paper, and to be able to attend. Having just finished my very first year of grad school (post-bachelors), I was intimidated to say the least. I was made aware all the big names that would be there, and had a chance to speak to many about their fascinating research. Much of my time was spent trying to attend and understand all presentations, and absorb as much information as I could. As you can imagine this left me a bit exhausted.

This year was different. I had submitted a poster, and after learning of its acceptance I was awarded the ACM-W travel grant, and was able to attend SIGCOMM again. While networking and attending talks was of course still a priority, I found that my attitude had changed. Rather than trembling at their sight, I was excited to engage in conversation with professors and fellow grad students. To my surprise many of them were even interested in my poster, and excited about my work. This year I experienced much more the feel of a research community like a small town where most people know each other, where they are friendly and always stop to chat. It was a pretty exciting and inspiring change in perspective from being an awed observer to a relaxed member.

The other major change was in terms of interest. This year I had a much clearer idea of which talks I wanted to attend, and which I found less interesting. This may seem trivial, but for me this is a very important and major step. I’ve always found myself to sort of have an interest in absolutely everything which is often great, but sometime not. Gaining a deeper understanding of the type of problem that not only interests me but also excites me is a major step. This is a step that I was able to take because of the people, conversations, and environment of SIGCOMM.

Overall, while the work and papers at SIGCOMM are truly impressive and fascinating, I found that the important impact was on me as a PhD student. Attending the conference has allowed me to mature, and acknowledge my growth as well as how far I still need to go. I am extremely lucky to have been awarded the ACM-W travel grant, it has made an undeniable impact on my graduate career. Thank you.