TA Spotlight: Hal Elrod

Hal Elrod

Hal Elrod is a TA for CSE 6220: Intro to High-Performance Computing. Keep reading to learn more about Hal!

What do you do professionally?

I’m a consultant in the energy industry, having served at a bunch of companies in senior technology roles. When you live in Houston, Texas and you work in technology, it’s kind of inevitable you end up doing something in the energy sector. It’s important to be nice to folks because you’ll end up working with them again.

Why do you TA for OMSCS?

I’m an Instructional Associate (a TA who’s graduated) in CSE 6220: Introduction to High-Performance Computing. I do it because it’s awesome. The subject matter is the best, and because it’s a non-core, non-easy course it attracts the best students. Every semester there are one or two who are stunningly brilliant.

What is your advice for future OMSCS students?

Enjoy it. My first masters, in Operations Research, I did 30 hours + a thesis + TAing + working part time, all in 16 months. I got the credential, but it was a miserable blur. I know the degree is important, but so is actually learning things. Take a couple courses outside your concentration. Take a break during the summer.


You start your career as a developer, and you’re pretty okay at it. You write compact, optimized code and you see some results. Then because you can talk to other humans, they make you a team lead, and then because you can string two sentences together they make you a manager. You learn how office politics works and you switch companies a couple times and blink and you’re a vice president and your days are filled with budgets and capitalization and org charts and mergers and negotiating vendor contracts and the closest you come to coding is animating the builds on your PowerPoint slides. And it pays for your kids’ school and nobody is poking you with sticks so you can’t complain, but you realize you didn’t start this career because you care if customers are billed and gross margin targets are met for Q3 but that you started this journey because back in junior high school they had a computer lab with these new PCs and you learned how to program so you could cheat at Snake and you started dreaming in code.

Then one day you see an article in the WSJ announcing a new program at Georgia Tech—an MS in CS part time, the real deal, totally cheap. And you wonder, “Am I still capable of academic computer science?” So you figure what-the-hell and you look up the registrars’ addresses for your 30 year old transcripts and you apply and get in. And your first course, the only one left open because first semester students pick last, is High-Performance Computing, and you realize that you not only remember how to code but you remember how to write compact, optimized code and you see results and you go to sleep thinking about how to solve the labs and you start dreaming in code again. And you graduate and another degree means nothing for your career but it means everything for your mind.

That’s why OMSCS.

Find Hal on...

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/helrod
GitHub: https://github.com/hal-elrod