Get to Know...Brian Miller

Monday, August 27, 2012

IT guy at IIHR answers our questions

Brian Miller at IIHR
Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

So what do you do here?

I am a senior systems administrator for IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering. I work in a small IT shop supporting the Hydraulics Lab and six other research buildings. Since we are a “small shop,” our support covers purchasing to overall support of clients and servers for faculty, staff, and students, along with software, printers, networking, and high-performance workstations/servers.

It is difficult to describe my job, as it seems I am doing something different every day. That keeps it exciting!

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education setting?

Working at IIHR is a bit different than working on the education side of higher ed because we are almost 100 percent research. That is exciting because we have a great group of researchers here who are very successful in attracting new projects. What that means to me is we get to buy a lot of cool IT equipment: high-performance computers, 3D printers, wireless weather stations. It seems like we get to implement new ideas and equipment every day.

Take us through your most memorable day at the university.

Ah yes…the most memorable day here is when we were evicted from our building at the start of the 2008 flood. I remember on a Thursday we were given word that by the end of day Friday we would have to be out of our building. Well, at 8 a.m. Friday, they said we had an hour before they were locking the doors and putting chains around them. We had to get every computer out of the building and get them relocated out of the flood zone. We also had to clear out the server room, which had five racks of equipment that had to be disassembled and moved to a new building.

I vividly remember ripping out cables and screws and passing server after server out to the curb to be thrown into someone’s trunk to be delivered to the Seamans Center, where we would be “squatting” for the next couple months. While everyone else was unable to make it to work that next week, I sifted through boxes and boxes of hardware and cables to try to get our infrastructure back up and running before everyone returned to work. Ah yes…good times!

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken—and did it pay off?

Maybe not the biggest risk in my career, but definitely the most fun: I was entered into the 2007 Panchero’s burrito-eating contest over the Fourth of July in 2007 by a friend. I was ecstatic when I got the call telling me I was a contestant. I called my wife with the great news and her words were, “You are not doing that.” But she did relent, and I did participate in the event.

It was a very hot day and there were about 20 contestants, so I figured I would just go and eat a free burrito and have some fun. After that first burrito, I ate the second burrito. My friends noticed that I was the first to be done with the second burrito, so I went in for the third one. I gave my wife a nod that it would be my last, but as I finished the third one, I was still in the lead. So I went after the fourth and final burrito. I ended up winning the competition, eating four burritos in about six minutes. I won three free burritos a week for a year! It was awesome being able to take friends out for lunch for an entire year without having to pay anything!

If you could spend a day with anyone, from any era, who would it be and why?

As an IT guy I guess I should say something like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but I think that would be too predictable. I think I would rather spend a day with my great-grandpa on his farm back in the 1920s. I would find out what a real day’s work is and be much more appreciative of what I have and how far we have come as far as technology is concerned.

If you could have a song written about you, who would perform it, and what would it be called?

Tough question…I always tell my wife I missed my calling to be a rock star, so I guess I would have Guns N’ Roses (circa 1990) perform a song called “Sweet Android of Mine.” (Android smart phones rule!)

If you could get rid of one invention in the world, what would you choose? Why?

Twitter. Why do I need to know every thought that passes through every person’s mind? It seems to get more people in trouble than it does to enlighten us, unless your quest for knowledge involves knowing what people had for dinner the night before. Maybe I am just old school and like to keep things to myself, but if Twitter never existed I wouldn’t mind.

Name five of your favorite things.

  • Panchero’s (addiction created from above); also can’t go long without an Italian beef from Sparti’s
  • Hawkeye and Chicago (Bears, Cubs, Bulls) sports
  • Love coaching my three boys in basketball, football, and baseball
  • Technology has always intrigued me and I enjoy taking computers apart and fixing them
  • I really enjoy cooking; I think that if I become bored with technology, I would turn to cooking school