John O'Rourke

A portrait photograph of John O'Rourke, with the ocean in the background.
In 2008, colleagues and I started an internship program to help jumpstart IT careers for local residents of neighboring islands.

What's a typical workday like on Kwajalein?

I'm an early riser, so on my 15-minute bike ride to work, I often get to watch the sunrise. Once at work, I check the networks and all the servers for any errors — for example, looking for failed network links and disks, ensuring local backups completed, and scanning for outages between the Laboratory's Information Services Department and Kwajalein. Then, until late morning, I attend meetings with colleagues at the Laboratory's main campus in Lexington, Massachusetts, and Huntsville, Alabama, field site and with sponsors, as we only overlap a couple hours with the East Coast. Following these meetings, I focus on any local issues that staff may be having with the IT systems, such as crashed computers and external devices not working. I bike ride back home for lunch, against the wind — lots of wind! On the return trip to work, I'm often looking at the colors in the lagoon, which looks just like a postcard. In the afternoon, I focus on local improvements needed on the range and on maintenance of all the systems. I'm currently working on upgrading Kwajalein's video teleconferencing systems, network switches, and network links, and adding new network areas to other workspaces.

Are you involved in any Laboratory outreach activities?

In 2008, colleagues and I started an internship program to help jumpstart IT careers for local residents of neighboring islands. We all work in this field and knew how training the Marshallese in IT could lead to better jobs for them. Every year, we select a few candidates to come to this island every day for a 10-week IT learning "boot camp." The Laboratory's Ranny Ranis, who is also Marshallese, takes interns through the basic components of a workstation and then moves onto more advanced topics such as networking and virtual machines. I help the interns with their final project, in which they apply what they learned during the program and install technology into their community. Ranny and I work with community leaders to identify projects that would make a difference in the community. Some of the final projects have been installing IT equipment in the local hospital and in classrooms supporting deaf and special-education students. Marshallese interns who have completed the program have gone off to work at their local hospital, public school system, or Internet Service Provider on their island or on Kwajalein, or to the states for other job opportunities.

How do you spend your free time?

Before I went to Kwajalein, I rode dirt bikes and snowmobiles and loved working outside. While on Kwajalein, I have taken up diving. Both of my daughters are also certified divers, and we try to go diving as much as possible. I also enjoy taking boat rides to the neighboring islands out here and snorkeling. I've had some cool encounters. One time, I got really up close to a manta ray, which normally move slowly through the water flapping their wings, but, if spooked, they move extremely fast. I think we both surprised each other, and the manta ray took off like a shot. Another time, my daughter and I were at Troy's Coral Head when a bait ball went over us. This school of fish were being chased by sharks, so after the fish were gone, a bunch of sharks were going right over us! Both times left me grinning ear to ear.