Meet CIS: Henry Johnson

Henry Johnson // IBES Systems Manager

Henry JohnsonHow would you describe your professional area within CIS? 
To begin, IBES (Institute at Brown for Environmental Studies) started as ECI, then became ISES, and then changed its name to IBES. I’ve been doing the same job for the past 5 years for the same people, even if the locale and name has changed. I'm basically the "technical liaison" for 85 Waterman (aka BERT, aka Hunter Lab), so I am usually called in when anything that has electrons (and strangely enough, water) flowing through it doesn't do what it's supposed to.  Being ensconced in 85 Waterman, I don't get out much and sometimes miss out on what's happening at CIS.

What is your background before you started working in CIS at Brown?
I’ve been all over the shop really. My first job was selling vinyl records in a record shop. Remember those? Then I worked in a bar, moonlighted as a mechanic for about 2 years and then went back to Uni to finish off a science degree and, after around 10 years, a PhD. While I was studying, I decided that computers should/would make my life easier (also a lot cleaner than mucking about under cars), so I started using the somewhat limited resources available to graduate students at the time. This, in turn, led me toward getting work as a "duty programmer,” a "network programmer," and an IT trainer.  I met my wife while trying to solve a networking problem she had, we both finished our PhDs, and then she took a postdoc position in Alaska. While at the University of Alaska, I learned about this new fangled thing called the World Wide Web, Linux and Apache, as well as supercomputers (A Cray Y-MP with 4 CPUs and 1.3 GFlops, about as powerful as your present day smartphone). I did a stint as a Systems Engineer for Network Appliance after which I landed a gig as the manager of the CIRES computing facility at the University of Boulder. By this time we had a young family, and decided to return to Australia so that the little ones could spend time with the grandparents and relatives. Tried my luck as a high school teacher, but it was damn hard work, so I went back to doing IT support at Monash University. With better job prospects in America, we returned about 5 years ago and I started at Brown.

What is your favorite thing about working with CIS?
For me, it’s mostly about playing with new technology and applying that new technology to help the teaching and research missions of Brown. Over the past 5 years, the computing environment at Brown has evolved, and being part of a team that is hopefully catalyzing a constant change for the better is something I'm proud of.  

What do you do for fun outside of work?
For fun outside of CIS, I mostly ride my bike. I used to do a lot of martial arts, but I seem to be getting too old for it! I find that keeping up with the kids is almost a full time job, too.