In Focus T&I Incubator Trust and identity

Experiences from the first T&I Incubator Mentorship (TIM) programme

As part of its commitment to enable broad engagement with the R&E community, the Incubator joined forces with the GÉANT Learning and Development (GLAD) to initiate the T&I Incubator Mentorship (TIM) programme. TIM is an initiative that enables a sponsoring NREN to bring together ambitious young minds and subject matter experts to pioneer and prototype new ideas in the T&I field in the GÉANT Trust and Identity Incubator.

Nominated by their home NREN CESNET, participants Adrián Rošinec and Ondřej Ernst joined the TIM programme in November 2019. Together with their mentor Pavel Břoušek they share below their experiences of being integrated into the work of the Incubator via the TIM programme in this blogpost.

Ondřej joined the TIM programme, to work on implementing WebAuthN, a novel way for two factor authentication:
Being a part of the TIM programme was an excellent experience for me. The topic of my work was Enabling WebAuthn technology for SATOSA, which was also a topic of my Bachelor thesis. I was satisfied with the way the communication with the team was taking place. We had a meeting every week where we discussed our progress and possible impediment. If there was a problem, the team was glad to help. We also had a 15 minutes chat every Tuesday where we talked about what we were going to work on that week. I think that the most important thing was having a mentor because when I got stuck, I had someone who could quickly help and save me a lot of time.
There was also a Demo every month during which we presented our progress in the form of a presentation to many people from the Incubator. Those presentations were a tremendous experience because I had never had a presentation in front of so many people in English before. I am also happy that we could meet face to face in Slovenia, where we got to see each other and discuss many things. We also had the opportunity to attend several other interesting presentations. The people in the Incubator were very kind. I thank them for providing this great experience and the understanding they had.” – Ondřej Ernst

We had a meeting every week where we discussed our progress and possible impediment. If there was a problem, the team was glad to help. ” – Ondřej Ernst, TIM participant

Pavel was one of the CESNET mentors in the TIM programme. He describes his experiences as following:
My role in the Trust & Identity Incubator as a mentor was to help Ondřej with the WebAuthn development. As a mentor, I participated in the weekly coordination video calls, provided relevant information resources, helped to design the software architecture, and performed code review on the new code. Because of my practical experience in federated login development, I was able to identify some potential problems and edge cases, which could be therefore handled in the initial release. The size of the team was ideal, meetings were focused on the point and we were able to get helpful feedback. Progress is reported weekly during coordination and monthly at sprint demos, some of which are attended by potential stakeholders – co-developers or users of the product being developed.
For students, I regard the participation in TIM beneficial for getting a great experience with an international project and agile development of software with a large potential user base. Students may also benefit from practicing communication in English in both written and spoken form. Senior members of the team are happy to help with various aspects of the development, including general advice, testing, and sharing experience from different environments. “For senior members including mentors, it is a great opportunity to cooperate on an interesting topic, connect with subject matter experts, and save effort by creating a product that can be shared across organizations.” – Pavel Břoušek ”

“[TIM].. is a great opportunity to cooperate on an interesting topic, connect with subject matter experts, and save effort by creating a product that can be shared across organizations.” – Pavel Břoušek – TIM Mentor, CESNET & Masaryk University

Adrián joined the incubator to work on provisioning, where he developed an end-to-end solution to provision user data from a VO platform to Windows based virtual machines:
The students of informatics have a significant advantage in terms of being able to apply theoretical concepts and knowledge from the school in real-world projects. This is the case with me, the student of informatics at Masaryk University, who was proactively searching for getting any work experience.
I was in the last year of my bachelor studies when I had to find the topic for my thesis. I talked to Slávek Licehammer from the Institute of Computer Science, where he is working on the topic of digital identities. I found out that the topic is attractive for me, and that I wanted to participate in it. Slávek offered me participation in the GÉANT Trust and Identity Incubator. I thought that it will help me to obtain some experiences within the digital identities topic while having the possibility to work in an international environment.
The topic we proposed was about provisioning and deprovisioning user identities to the Microsoft Windows environment while utilizing the external identity management system – Perun. I had only small knowledge about how Windows handles users and how the authentication in the system works. However, the benefit of the incubator is that each student has a mentor (in my case, it was Slávek). The mentor has expertise in the subject and the ability to guide you through the topic and help you on how to think about the problem. In addition, you work in a small group of people where various other topics of the incubator are discussed in weekly meetings.
In six months of being involved in the mentorship programme, I learned why GÉANT is important for academic institutions. How it is possible to utilize knowledge from IT university, build IT solutions, and help in research and education. I have learned how SCRUM methodology is used in software development. I have gotten more confident while talking in English, as I am not a native speaker. It also helped me with my presenting skills as I was presenting my work to team members. I recommend anyone to experience the mentorship programme as it is a great opportunity to work on interesting projects and still learn new things while studying.” – Adrián Rošinec

“I have gotten more confident while talking in English, as I am not a native speaker. It also helped me with my presenting skills as I was presenting my work to team members.
I recommend anyone to experience the mentorship programme as it is a great opportunity to work on interesting projects and still learn new things while studying.
” – Adrián Rošinec, TIM participant

By participating in the TIM programme, CESNET was able to let two students engage with the world of the NRENs, while at the same time working with both local mentors and the GÉANT incubator team on innovative topics.

A new round of the TIM programme will start Feb 2020, and Nominations will be accepted until 26 Jan 2021. Nominating students for the TIM program is open to all NRENs participating in the GÉANT project and conditions and guidance can be found on the TIM programme website: https://wiki.geant.org/display/GIG/TIM+Programme

To learn more about the Trust and Identity incubator activities in general, please see the Incubator Dashboard: https://wiki.geant.org/display/gn43wp5/Incubator+Dashboard, or visit the Incubator wiki pages: https://edu.nl/g8mm8

About the author

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Niels van Dijk

Niels van Dijk is a technical product manager Trust and Security at SURFnet, the Dutch National Research and Educational Network.
Niels has been working in the GÉANT project for many years. Previously he led the service development of both the eduTEAMS service as well as the InAcademia simple validation service.
In the current GÉANT 4-3 project he is the work package lead for the Trust and Identity Incubator, which investigates new technologies that currently have no place (yet) in the services ecosystem of the GÉANT project.