Lev Bernstein, ‘18
Lev: Ok, I am here with Chris Skelly, the new computer lab guy; Chris, what is your official title here at Bard?
Chris: Ah, “Technical Director.”
L: The new Technical Director, replacing Mr. Peter Kolbe, who was with BHSEC for many years, but not our entire history. He left BHSEC in late January, after finals, for a job closer to his home in New Jersey. Chris, you don’t live in New Jersey, and I don’t know if you ever have.
C: I have, actually. Weehawken, for about seven years, but I’m in Manhattan now, Lower East Side.
L: And where are you from originally?
C: Sydney, Australia.
L: When you took over the job, a lot of things were up in the air. There were a lot of things that no one knew about because Mr. Kolbe had doing them for so many years. What would you say was the biggest challenge in transitioning to this job, kind of going in blind?
C: Good question. I guess the biggest challenge was sort of like you mentioned, understanding what’s what, where things live and how they relate to each other. The other thing that was a bit of a challenge was that there are so many peripherals, printers, scanners, and the like, that I did not anticipate—I was thinking, y’know, computer, network, and that’s it, but… yeah. There’s a lot of things I’m still figuring out.
L: You mentioned to me earlier that you are hoping to… kind of put a sign on the door for prospective Lab Techs, and that you want a small number of committed students to help out… For anyone interested in applying, can you talk about what exactly you would want in a Lab Tech?
C: Sure, my ideal Lab Tech would be someone that can run the lab when I’m not here, and if any disasters pop up they can deal with them. But also, really to be here when I’m not, and to manage any faculty technical issues that pop up. I find it to be a relationship where I work with the Lab Techs, not order them around like I’m dictating everything. Being able to bring new ideas to the table, I’m ready to listen to those, if they’re feasible.
L: What would you say is the most common technical issue you’ve had to deal with?
C: Number one would be the internet isn’t connecting on my computer.
(We both laugh.)
C: That is literally the biggest request, and it’s mostly a hardware issue, is what I’ve found… there is some kind of ad-hoc wiring going on throughout the building, and they just get loose sometimes, so essentially, if everything is plugged in, it should pretty much all be working.
L: Now, you’ve been coming in pretty much half-time this year, and as a result a lot of the students in the building don’t really know you. They didn’t really know Mr. Kolbe either, as he kind of kept behind his desk, so introduce yourself to the student body. Tell us about yourself.
C: I took this job because I knew this contact who used to be a math professor here, and they suggested, “Why don’t you just contact Dr. Lerner and see if you’d be a good fit.” I’ve been doing software development and web development for almost a decade, and prior to that I did teach computers in a high school situation, so I am familiar with all this, and I was definitely interested. I had a freelance web business, and I thought this would be a good chance to get out of the house, to be honest, and one thing kind of led to another, and… so far, so good. I’m really enjoying it, and hopefully, next year I’ll be here full time, so I can get to know people a little better, and make my presence a little more felt in the building.
L: You’ve expressed to me the desire to change a lot of parts of the lab. What would you say is your overall plan to kind of change things up for next year?
C: I want to work on changing the layout of the actual lab. This is definitely a baby steps situation, but I think we could probably reclaim some space for the main classroom area, and really set up this whole labtech peripheral area, my desk and everyone else’s desk, that whole situation, a little differently.
L: Do you have any requests to make of the BHSEC student body with regards to the using the lab, using tech, using the WIFI, what would those be?
C: I would say just be honest and follow school policy, not, y’know, jumping around the proxy—essentially, you’re here to work, and to be a serious, committed student, and I hope your internet activities here would reflect that. The number one issue is low bandwidth, everyone suffers from that, and we’ve let people onto the network so they can do their work, but, y’know, just try not to abuse that.
L: On that topic, let’s talk about Netflix. We all know students in the building tend to use Netflix a lot, and it slows down everyone else’s Internet speeds, even when just one person is using it. With some new tools, you have determined that, on average, 40% of the school’s bandwidth is taken up by Netflix, not even counting other streaming services. As far as I am aware, new measures are being looked into and developed here in terms of finding out who is looking at what; can you comment on that?
C: Sure. At this point, it’s experimental, but I can say that we are looking into Linux-based measures at this time.
L: Chris, thanks so much for the interview.
C: My pleasure.