Robust technical computer support and infrastructure is an integral part of the toolkit of operations services offered by the Information Technology (IT) Division to support Berkeley Lab’s research portfolio. As technological growth continues at a rapid pace, IT staff aim to keep up with emergent advancements in order to effectively guide and resolve computer-related issues encountered in the course of scientific discovery.
Kenneth Harper, IT Student Intern and Help Desk Specialist, is part of the IT Support Services Internship Program and a member of a small but mighty Help Desk crew sourcing solutions for all active staff and affiliates at Berkeley Lab. The Support Services Internships enables local students to earn academic credits and obtain real-world job experience through a structured learning and development program. The interns present an important mentoring opportunity for more experienced staff and the extra help is of great benefit to supporting Lab operations.
Education and Technology
A Bay Area native, Kenneth was always familiar with STEM institutions in the community but wasn’t drawn into the world of research until the birth of his daughter in 2016. Born with special needs requiring continuous home care, Kenneth’s daughter fueled his resolve to secure their future and explore the connections between education, health, and technology. After enrolling at Contra Costa College (CCC), Kenneth didn’t feel immediately connected with any particular area of study. However, once Professor Francis Reyes finalized a new Computer Information Systems program, Kenneth quickly formed a strong passion for the course content and gained a fresh perspective on his professional potential and career objectives. Students are required to complete an internship or apprenticeship as a final step of the CCC computer program. Equipped with a foundation of essential IT courses, Kenneth interviewed with Tammy Campbell, IT Support Services Group Lead, and Jenny Brown, IT Help Desk Work Lead, and earned a paid internship position with the Berkeley Lab IT Help Desk starting in May 2022.
For all program participants, the internship begins with an initial training period under the wing of Kevin Broussard, Help Desk Specialist. Introducing new interns to the incredible variety of projects and services at the Lab is greatly facilitated by one-on-one and group mentorship, weekly workshop learning sessions, and positive encouragement. Kenneth arrived at the Lab with years of experience in the storage, distribution, and management of cargo and merchandise in warehouses. Working as a team across multiple levels of organization to ensure every part of the chain is running smoothly is an important aspect of supply chain management as well as operations and technical support processes at the Lab.
“We’re the front line of IT,” Kenneth explained, referring to the Help Desk group. “No matter what your position is at the Lab, if you’re running into computer problems, we’re the first ones you contact for support.” He notes that Lab users are kind and understanding when they’re dealing with computer issues and any frustration expressed is directed toward the situation at hand. “You have to stay calm for the sake of the user and confidently present a solution or a plan to produce the necessary fix.”
Connect with the IT Help Desk
Help Desk Specialists are able to troubleshoot many common problems independently, such as account and password management, the basics of working with Lab applications, managing files across multiple devices, and dealing with documentation. Other issues, like defective hardware in Lab buildings or problems with externally owned applications, take more time to resolve and necessitate involvement from subject matter experts from other IT groups like Cyber Security, Networking, Telephone Services, Collaborations, Creative Services, and Business Systems.
Oftentimes, working with a user on a seemingly straightforward problem can unravel a thread of interrelated components which need to be addressed. Regular maintenance of hardware and software updates are basic but important tasks to curb compatibility issues. A lack of follow-up on responses has also proven to be an obstacle to resolving support tickets. The Help Desk recommends setting aside dedicated time to work with them on issues. Affiliates can set up their Lab email accounts to forward lbl.gov mail to their primary address so responses are not inadvertently delayed.
“I appreciate the connections we make with both users and IT coworkers and it’s fulfilling to be the one to remove barriers to their workflow. I’ve learned a lot from everyone at the Lab and it’s interesting to see what kind of scientific projects are going on here and how they can impact the world. I’m also learning more about what personally interests me and what I want to pursue going forward in my career. With more tech services moving toward a cloud computing resource model, I definitely want to learn more about working with cloud networks and cloud storage.”
— Kenneth Harper, IT Intern and Help Desk Specialist, Berkeley Lab.
The Difference at Berkeley Lab
The Support Services Internships Program bridges the gap between the classroom and applied experience for talented, curious, and dedicated individuals. For students and professionals looking to break into the IT sector, Kenneth strongly recommends testing the waters with a Help Desk position. “The Help Desk is a perfect way to get your foot in the door with IT. Define your goals, start learning with others and on your own, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll eventually get a better understanding of what work suits you best and what step you want to take next.”
Kenneth is grateful for the internship opportunity and the chance to experience life on the hill. “It’s the people that really make Berkeley Lab a special place to work. The people you work with and the people you work for are what truly makes the difference for me. Jenny always has your back and Kevin, Tap [L], and Patrick [Ramos] are there to go over questions, along with the other student interns. You’re not alone and you have someone to help when you need it.”
- Colleagues and employers can connect with Kenneth Harper via LinkedIn.
- Learn more about IT Education & Outreach at Berkeley Lab.
- View current student career opportunities at jobs.lbl.gov.
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