Since late 1998, the IT Division has worked with local community colleges throughout the Bay Area to employ, train, and mentor student interns. Through the User Support Internship program, many students have gained valuable, real-world IT skills and experience at Berkeley Lab and moved forward to gain employment in technical roles at external companies. Other students who complete the program have stayed on to develop long, distinguished careers at the Lab. Jimmy Mai, a Computer Systems Engineer 2 with a broad array of diverse talents, is one of many such success stories fostered through the internship program.
When did your journey at the Lab begin and what is your background?
I studied at City College of San Francisco (CCSF). I was originally a Japanese major who yearned to translate games and other entertainment to help bring them to the US. I worked at a movie theater for 8 years in my previous career, eventually doing everything from management, cleaning, working the snack bar, being a bartender, to the projection booth. I saw the transition from film to digital media, and from 35mm film delivered by couriers to cloud-based delivery of movies.
In 2013, I got my start in IT by interning with the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition. They are a low-wage worker advocacy organization fighting for economic justice.
After I joined the Lab in 2014, I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Networking and Information Technology, with a focus in Wireless Networks. Tammy Campbell and I have been part of CCSF’s Curriculum Advisory Board in the past. We periodically present at job fairs hosted by CCSF and other community colleges in order to continue training and mentoring students.
How did you achieve growth in your career trajectory at the Lab? Please share some of your accomplishments!
Like other IT students, I started as a Desktop Support intern, responsible for technical support through the Lab’s Workstation Support Group. I leveled up to my current position of Computer Systems Engineer 2 where I am now embedded with the CAD group in the Engineering division.
I was very fortunate to have supportive mentors in the form of Tammy and the other members of our group like Jenny Brown and Bill Ou, my supervisor who is also a former student intern and a veteran. They all imparted their knowledge to me and encouraged me to take on new challenges and opportunities. I’ve also previously collaborated with our friends in the Scientific Computing Group, Computing Sciences area, and the JGI. All of these were incredibly fruitful experiences where I was able to learn a lot and help with each team’s endeavors at the time.
As far as achievements go, I’m a co-author on Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Potential, a study focused on energy consumption and video games. The paper and final report, A Plug-Loads Game Changer: Computer Gaming Energy Efficiency without Performance Compromise, have been cited in news outlets like Mother Jones and Science News for Students. This was a dream project where I collaborated with Norm Bourassa, Energy Performance Engineer, NERSC Building Infrastructure Group, and Evan Mills, now a retired Senior Scientist in the Building Technology and Urban Systems Division. I was able to combine my love for gaming, my experience in IT, my previous work in entertainment, and apply it all to something that could benefit ordinary people around the globe.
Aside from the Toward Greener Gaming project, I’m also particularly proud of my involvement in launching the Lab’s Site Operations Center in 2016 and helping bring the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) back into production at the height of the pandemic. This included migrating away from several legacy systems to a newly commissioned storage server and better integration with the Lab’s IT infrastructure.
Why do you enjoy working at the Lab?
It’s a lot like gaming. Each project is like a puzzle, where I need to gather clues and arrive at an appropriate solution. Different parts of the lab all have their own unique challenges to take on.
Who are you outside of working or volunteering at Berkeley Lab?
I was born and raised in San Francisco. I enjoy Star Trek, video and tabletop games, and Japanese animation. I’ve developed a fondness for city pop, a genre of Japanese pop music from the 1980’s.
“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based…”– Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ssn. 5, “The First Duty”
What resources would you like to highlight for current students and staff who are interested in getting involved?
Please check out the IT FAQ at faq.lbl.gov to learn more about current topics and the level of expertise expected in IT roles at the Lab. Recommendations for coursework may include familiarity and experience with areas like cyber security, IT desktop support, networking, programming, software QA, systems administration, data science, scientific laboratory benchtop work, high performance computing, technical writing, and much more.
Refer interested students to work with us in the IT division by having them email resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Berkeley Lab student job opportunities can also be found at jobs.lbl.gov.