Sunday, January 31, 2010

My job - Computer Technician

While the reason I came to Antarctica was for beauty and adventure, the reason I was brought here was to work. We work Monday through Saturday 7:30-5:30 with a one hour lunch. Two or three times a season we receive a two day weekend instead of a one day weekend. I am employed as a computer technician for science support. We have a myriad of jobs available including tradesman, janitors, dishwashers, cooks, satellite engineers, laborers, carpenters, riggers, waste management, safety, mechanics, fleet ops, managers, and even shuttle drivers. There are over 30,000 applications each year for the 700-1,000 jobs we have available. Each year, we have an average of 30% turnover (all numbers are estimates).

Christmas at Crary.

My normal day involves me waking up around 6am, making a morning smoothie at 6:30am, and getting to work at the Crary lab around 7am. After that, I work on any longstanding projects, leftover projects from the day before, or just wait until a scientist walks in the door asking for help. They could need help on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines. It could be a problem involving printing, Internet connectivity, connecting to an instrument, hardware failures, or anything else you can think of that is even remotely computer related. Our job is to basically bend over backwards to make sure they don't have any down time when they could be doing their science.

By the numbers, Holly, Deke, and I serviced 78 science groups which include anywhere from 1-36 people, 521 total grantees, 34 NSF distinguished visitors, and various transients on their way to field camps or Pole. We touched approximately 620 laptops (Windows XP - 294, Windows 7 - 25, Vista - 80, Linux - 18, Mac - 203).

Our door says we offer Computers, Coffee, Counseling & More. I believe this goes under counseling.

A lot of people have asked which job I preferred, my current one as a computer technician for the scientists or my old one as a computer technician for the town. I think there are five major differences (attitude, work location, customer base, challenge, and travel). My current shop's attitude is a yes shop where we work hard to give our customers what they need. My old shop was a no shop where we usually gave our customers what headquarters wanted. At my old job, I was able to get into every building on base. Now, I sit in a single office all day. Since I was in almost every building at my old job, I met tons of people except for scientists. At my current job, I only meet the scientists. Being closer to the science is great though. It has given me a much better feel for what we are supporting. At my old job, we almost exclusively supported PCs. At my new one, I've learned more because I receive more exposure to other technologies. Perhaps the biggest difference is that I have gone into the field three times with my current job. My old job, I didn't get to travel at all. Which do I prefer? It is close enough that I've applied for both next year, but I'd prefer to come back as a member of the Crary Lab IT group as opposed to the Town IT group.

A tour of my building (my shop is featured from 6:15-6:45). Video by by H. Kaiser.


  1. From this blog, I take it I will have a returning house guest. Which is fine with me.

  2. nice post. thanks.

  3. pets are forever think first