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Chris Tinker - Tinkering with IT
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From fixing computers to adding chrome to his Harley, IT Field Technician Chris Tinker enjoys tinkering.

Name: Chris Tinker
Title: IT Field Technician
Organization: Code 750, Information Technology and Communications Directorate

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?

My days are fun. I mainly work in Buildings 8, 22, 23, 12 and the Hubble buildings. Some people have even asked me to make house calls, which I cannot do. I install new computers and make old ones work. You name it; if it is computer-related then I pretty much am involved. I work on laptops, desktops, and Macs. (Driving the point home, it was at this moment that Tinker’s Conversations with Goddard interview was interrupted by a service request.)

Chris Tinker on his Harley› Larger image
Chris Tinker on his Harley. Credit: NASA/GSFC/W. Hrybyk
Although I get to play with everyone else’s cool tech toys, I do not have any myself. Some of the peripherals which people have attached to their computers include projectors, televisions, high-end web cams, various speaker systems and panoramic monitor displays. My personal computer is a six-year-old laptop, which does all I need. As into technology as I am, I prefer cool mechanical rather than technical toys. So I have a Harley instead of the latest laptop.

Chris snowboarding down a double black diamond trail.› Larger image
Chris at the peak of a Double Black Diamond at Snowbird in Utah. Double Black Diamonds are the most difficult and steepest terrain and the skier generally has to forfeit all resort liability to even be allowed to ride the lift up there. Credit: C. Tinker
At least a few times a week, I have to help someone whose hard drive has failed. These people are understandably extremely upset. In prior positions, I have even seen people literally smash their laptops on the ground out of frustration. So I always tell people with failed hard drives that 90 percent of the time we can still recover their data, and that for the other 10 percent of the cases we have already automatically backed up their data. Ironically, computer technicians really have to be as good with people as they are with computers.

Do you prefer Macs or PCs?

I like both for different reasons. When I walk into a user’s office, it does not matter to me if I see a Mac or a PC. I can work with both types of systems.

As someone who has only been at Goddard a few months, what are your initial impressions?

This place has a lot of users to support. We have about 10 technicians supporting more than 5,000 users on our contract. Our response time for the average ticket is less than eight hours. My personal goal is to make initial contact and schedule an appointment within an hour from receiving the ticket.

What is the one more important piece of advice you would offer to a new person?

Find people that you can ask for help who are readily available to you. In other words, find a mentor who can explain the nuance of life at Goddard. I was lucky enough to have met Jimmy Campbell a few weeks after starting work here. He has become my mentor and always answers my questions and offers me sound advice.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

I’m calm here to keep my users calm, but I’m actually pretty exciting outside of work. I started snowboarding when I was 12. I have placed in local snowboarding
Chris racing demolition dirt track cars› Larger image
Chris racing one of his demolition dirt track cars. Credit: C. Tinker
competitions. I especially enjoy snowboarding in the back country of Snowbird in Utah. After I shattered my wrist and broke my arm doing tricks, I now prefer to race. I need both arms to do my job.

Also, I used to race demolition dirt track cars and have quite a few trophies. We did not necessarily intend to hit each other, but it was legal to do so. Once my car rolled over and caught on fire. The safety crew put out the fire, rolled the car back over with a tractor, and I continued racing. I hope to resume racing in the near future.

Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax, or have fun?

My Harley is both relaxing and an adrenalin rush depending on how I ride. I enjoy doing day-long rides with family and friends. My Sunday drives are Sunday rides, be they 200 or even 400 miles. I also enjoy tinkering around with my Harley, from performance upgrades to adding more chrome. You can never add too much chrome to a Harley.

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