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From Beirut to Berkeley, Melissa Stockman is Newest Member of ESnet’s Tools Team

Melissa Stockman is the newest additon to ESnet's Tools Team.

May 2, 2016

Contact: Jon Bashor, [email protected], 510-486-5849510-486-5849

After living for 18 years in Beirut, Lebanon, where she was director of IT infrastructure and Support at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Melissa Stockman returned to the U.S. and was looking for a new position when she saw a posting for a job with the ESnet Tools Team to develop network automation tools.

“My first thought was that it looked so interesting and was a combination of my background in machine learning and networking,” Stockman said. “I had experience in both of those areas.”

So, she applied to see what would happen. She sent her resume and was contacted the next day for a number of phone interviews, then flew out from the Princeton area for an intense day of meeting and talking with staff. It took a couple of months but she finally heard back with a job offer.

“I liked the people and was struck by how nice they are,” she said, “and the weather was so much nicer than New Jersey. I think California’s a better place for me.”

Since she joined ESnet earlier this year, she’s been developing software in two different areas, one to perform network analytics and the other to assist in network automation. Her current analytics project involves storing large amounts of router data in the cloud for later analysis. On the network automation side, she is working on a tool to check, verify and automatically update ESnet’s point-to-point router information that can become out of synch when devices are changed. Finding and fixing such problems has to be done manually, but Stockman’s software will do the task automatically each day.

Stockman began her career as a software engineer in the Princeton-Washington, D.C. area after earning her bachelor’s degree in math from New York University. She moved to Beirut in 1997 and worked as a systems analyst at the Lebanese American University for a year before she became the IT director. She earned her master’s in computer science with an emphasis on networking from George Mason University and shortly after the American University of Beirut launched a Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering, she was one of the first to enroll. She completed her research in computer architecture optimization using machine learning and received her doctorate in January 2014.

But she found there weren’t a lot of opportunities in high tech in Lebanon, so she started looking homeward. The transition, she admits, amounts to culture shock.

“I really miss Beirut – I loved it there,” she said. “It’s a more social way of living, you walk a lot, you talk to people more and you go out all the time. There’s the beach and mountains for skiing in the winter and it’s sunny all day from April to December.”

Also, despite the fighting in the region, Stockman said she always felt safe in Beirut, even walking late at night. “My dad used to freak out, but I told him it was so much safer than New Jersey.”

In the Bay Area, she’s still adjusting. Her car has been broken into and it took awhile to find a rental house where she and her children can live. The first time she went to buy groceries, she handed her credit card to the clerk, who in turn told her to do it herself and pointed to the card swipe device, which Stockman didn’t recognize.

“And I really like Netflix,” she admitted. “I’m going back and watching every episode of ‘Friends.’”