Staff Spotlight:
Jason Williams

Picture of Jason Williams

We continue our Staff Spotlight highlighting the amazing work of  Jason Williams, a Sr. System Engineer at ARCH. Working at Johns Hopkins for sixteen years, Williams has been involved in the design of the MARCC site as well as the Blue Crab cluster. 

Q. What is your role at ARCH?

JW: “Currently, I am a Sr. Systems Engineer and resident “grey beard” Linux Guru.  This is my second round working for ARCH. I briefly left to work with the IT Team in the library, where I had the great pleasure of being part of the team that supported the JHU COVID-19 map.  In my first round at ARCH/MARCC, I was part of a great committee that helped design, approve, and eventually build the MARCC site.  Under Jaime Combariza’s management, a small team of individuals and I built and maintained the Blue Crab HPC cluster.”

Q. How long have you been with the company?

JW: “I have worked at Johns Hopkins University for 16 years.  My first year was spent as a Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department.  I transitioned to the Physics and Astronomy department where I worked for Jan Vandenberg and helped to build the Homewood High Performance Cluster (HHPC). Realizing the great success of the HHPC and working directly for Professor Mark Robbins, I participated in building the Bloomberg 156 Datacenter Conversion. I built two early GPU HPC systems and eventually participated in the MARCC construction project and subsequent HPC systems.”

Q. What inspired you to pursue the career you have today?

JW: “I have a great interest in all things technology.  I love to figure out how things work, and more passionately, I love to build things. The constant challenges that come with building and running such complex systems have always had a great intellectual pull for me.”

Q. What is your favorite aspect of your job?

JW: “In a single word: learning.  Someone once said, “The day you stop learning is the day you die”. The quest for knowledge is an ingrained human trait. I love the challenges. I love learning about how researchers use the systems we build.  I love hearing how the systems we build are invaluable to the science that researchers do.  And most importantly, I love being a part of the process of learning and discovery.”

Q. What is the most interesting project you've worked on here?

JW: “It would be hard to pick just one project.  I love being involved in construction and renovation projects. I love all the challenges that come with the different IT projects.  Currently, my greatest enjoyment comes from founding and developing the cluster provisioner mProv

Q. What is a skill that’s important to have in your role?

JW: “The gamut of skills required for an HPC Systems Engineer is tall and wide: It’s hard to pick just one.  Patience is key, as some complex issues take a lot of thinking to fully understand.  Being able to troubleshoot something no one has ever seen before is also a huge plus. And being able to absorb new information like a sponge is also a must.”

Q. What are your goals for the next few months/years?

JW: “I can see a bright future for ARCH and HPC at JHU.  I can’t wait to see what we do in the next few years.  I also plan to keep working on and improving mProv.  I hope to get as many people as possible using and working on it so that an Open-Source community builds around it.”

Q. What do you like to do outside of work?

JW: “When I am not working, I am usually doing something around the house, spending time with my family, or playing around with some sort of electronics project.  Yes, even when I am not at work I still tinker with electronics.  I hope to start doing some very minor woodworking soon too.”