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HPCC 5 QuestionsLili Xu, our next participant in the “5 Questions” interview series, has interacted with HPCC Systems in several different roles. She first began working with the platform as part of her Ph.D. studies in Dr. Amy Apon’s DICE lab at Clemson University. Lili has also completed three consecutive internships with HPCC Systems and recently joined the company as a full-time technologist. 

We chatted with Lili and discussed her time with HPCC Systems, her fascination with computer science, and her blossoming career as a professional technologist. 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in computer science?
It all began when I started working in a bank, and I realized that our integration products were lacking. I wanted to learn how to make them more efficient, so I decided to go back to school to learn computer science, especially big data technology. I started working more with machine learning and high-performance computing and realized that was what I wanted to do. This sort of computing was in its infancy stages, so it was a good time to get into the field. 


You have completed a total of three internships with HPCC Systems. What keeps drawing you back?
There are many factors that have kept me coming back to HPCC Systems. The first is that it is fun to learn and work with the incredible people here. Another big thing that kept me coming back was that I was able to choose my own projects. Every minute I spent on projects during my internship was something that helped me better understand machine learning and high-performance computing. I enjoyed working on projects that I designed, and I can publish my results, which helps me to progress in my Ph.D. program. So, it's really a one bird, two stones thing for me.


How would you compare HPCC Systems’ capabilities to other open source platforms? 
I tried different platforms, and I realized that many people who are willing to learn big data are scared because of the difficulty of installing all the components. Sometimes people give up because of the complexity to make a platform work. 


With HPCC Systems, there's only two things I need to do to get started on my journey: install the HPCC Systems package and learn ECL. I program in ECL every day, and I enjoy it because what I can code in one line in ECL would have required hundreds or more lines in other languages. It's also efficient and intuitive, which saves me time so I can focus on research instead of only coding.


What would you say was the most important thing you learned during your internships at HPCC Systems? 
In terms of technology, there are many things I learned at HPCC Systems, but on a more abstract level, I have learned a lot from seeing theories put into practical experiments. Doing experiments and seeing how the theory works is different from just learning theory in school. It gives me a different perspective that helps me better understand machine learning and high-performance computing. I can then apply my theory to a real-world problem more practically.


How has HPCC Systems helped transform you as a technologist?
I have to give the credit to the people I work with. HPCC Systems has a lot of smart, knowledgeable people who are incredibly helpful in guiding younger technologists. If I have questions or just want to broaden my knowledge, I can turn to people who are the best in their field. I also have to credit you, too, Flavio. You are the expert on all things machine learning, and I have benefited from your help. 


Want to hear more from Lili’s interview with Flavio Villanustre, VP of Technology, LexisNexis Risk Solutions? Listen to the webcast where Lili continues to discuss her work with HPCC Systems and her research in natural language processing and high-performance computing.