A big part of my role at Red Hat these days is supporting events that connect researchers on topics we care about. One great example of this is the first-ever Microarchitecture Workshop, a one-day mini-conference on hardware security vulnerabilities that are exploitable via what is called “side-channel attacks.” The most celebrated of these attacks to come about recently was the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, explained nicely here by my colleague Jon Masters.
The Microarchitecture Workshop, which happens next week at Boston University and is shaping up to be a great success, is a perfect example of something that happens to me all the time: I start off pushing to make a thing happen with a vision of what that will be, but because I refuse to pay close attention to the details (I am a Connection Tilt, after all), the thing morphs into something quite different from what I was expecting. For a manager, this level of uncertainty can be quite terrifying, and I often promise myself things like “Next time I’ll make sure to get the details right on this thing!” But of course I never do.
Fortunately for me, it normally doesn’t matter whether I dig into the details or not, because what I do actually pay attention to is the people I hand things over to. In this case, I found a researcher at BU, Ari Trachtenberg, who was willing to be involved although he had a quite different vision for what the event would turn into. The result? A smaller, more focused gathering than I had imagined, but I think one that will turn out to be more effective than the larger symposium I had originally envisioned. I was also very fortunate to have help from the very capable Jen Stacy at BU, as well as my new team member Sarah Coghlan. (Sarah keeps telling me how much she loves her job, to which I say “Guess I’d better give you more work then.” So far this is working out beautifully.)
I’ll report back here on how the event actually went, but it looks like it’s going to be a really smart collection of people. Gatherings like this sometimes prove to be turning points in the path toward solving real research problems — maybe this one will fall into that category. Good thing I didn’t try to micromanage it.
(Like that would ever happen…)