National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA's systems administrators keep the computers running

July 29, 2016

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For Systems Administrator (SysAdmin) Day, meet some of the men & women keeping NNSA going. Thanks for all you do!

Technologist Michelle Swinkels has been proud to be a Lawrence Livermore team member since 1989.

Michelle Swinkels, Senior Systems and Network Technologist at NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 

  • What excites you about your work for NNSA? I’ve worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory since 1989, and since then I’ve always been proud to say where I work. I’m proud to play a very small part in what the NNSA does to protect our nation through nuclear science and the reduction of nuclear weapons.
  • What does a system administrator do day-to-day? My work as a system administrator changes daily based on the users’ needs. I could spend one day building a new computer for a user, and the next day I could be troubleshooting a difficult system error that renders a computer unusable, making for a very challenging time for me and the user. But then another day could be spent entering data in a lab-wide database. The diversity of this job is one of the reasons I love what I do. There is never a dull day. Even on those difficult days of puzzling problems, it’s very rewarding when you do finally find the solution.

Pantex System Administrator Robert Garrett enjoys outdoor activities with his family in his spare time.

Robert Lance Garrett, Systems Architect V, and Windows Server Team Lead at NNSA’s Pantex Plant

  • What do you like most about what you do at NNSA?  I get to work on some of the latest technologies and I also work with some of the finest and most talented people you will find. People who are 100 percent dedicated to the site, to the mission, and to our nation, and who understand the meaning of hard work. 
  • What does a person need to be a good system administrator?
    Being a systems administrator for the NNSA is a big challenge. System administrators need to have a wide range of experiences and knowledge to pull from on a day-to-day basis. They are expected to understand how hardware, software, email, data storage, and networking all fit together to provide a cost effective solution for the business model they support. At any given time they are faced with a number of issues and challenges. They need to know how to make quick decisions in stressful situations while considering safety, security, customer impact, and numerous government and site specific regulations.

Y-12 System Administrator Jack Sneed vacationed this summer in Costa Rica.

William Jackson (Jack) Sneed Jr., Senior Windows Systems Administrator, and Server Infrastructure Team Lead at NNSA’s Y-12 National Security Complex

  • What do you enjoy about your work at NNSA?  
    I like being a part of a historic organization like Y-12 National Security Complex. From its very beginning during World War II, to the current revitalization of the mission,, Y-12 continues to make history. I also like to continue to serve my country, from my days in the military, as I take great pride in our nation.
  • How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t know what a system administrator is?
    Being a Windows Systems Administrator isn’t a job for everyone. A seasoned systems administrator needs to know a little bit about a lot, as they are constantly presented with complex problems to solve. They must take into consideration the big picture of all of the many technical pieces of our interconnecting network and systems, to ensure they don’t fix one problem only to break something else. Thousands of employees depend on you to keep them working. Every keystroke could be a disaster if you make a mistake. The pressure of the role can cripple the ill-prepared. But to me, I think of it as being paid to solve puzzles. That’s how I know I’m in the right profession.

Kansas City Cyber Manager Eric MacEwen and his wife help provide a healthy environment for children in foster care.

Eric M. MacEwen, IT and Cyber Manager for NNSA’s Kansas City Field Office

  • How would you advise someone who wants to become a system administrator?
    It’s important to get a good, well-rounded computer science background, which should include networking, programming, mathematics, cybersecurity, and all operating systems. Also, the soft skills such as writing and public speaking are super important also. As an IT manager, I’ve written more white papers and assessment reports than I ever thought I would.
  • When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
    My wife and I are raising six kids who range in age from 2 to 16. We also help to provide a healthy environment for kids in the Jackson and Cass County area in Missouri who currently are in foster care. As a family we enjoy short road trips, finding interesting back roads. We love to stop and read every historical marker we pass. Small towns and museums are our family’s favorite.

Savannah River Site senior engineer Trey Bailey says that “knowing that what I do for NNSA contributes to keeping our country secure gives me a feeling of purpose.”

Giles W. (Trey) Bailey III, Senior Engineer working for NNSA at the Savannah River Site

  • What exactly does a system administrator do?
    It's my job to make sure that everything “just works.” That involves everything from making sure that the systems and data are secure (always back up your data!) to troubleshooting and resolving hardware, software, and network problems.
  • What do you like doing when you’re not “saving the world” with IT?
    I enjoy spending time with my wife and two sons out on the lake in our boat. We love swimming, tubing, and fishing. I also enjoy playing guitar in the praise and worship band at my church and being an assistant youth football coach.