One minute with Keith Coiley, data center specialist

Among other tasks, Computing’s Keith Coiley has task-managed the installation of the tape robot system at the Feynman Computing Center. Photo: Reidar Hahn

How long have you been at Fermilab?
I started as a part-time employee the summer of 1969 on my 17th birthday. You had to be 17 to work out here at the time. It was the end of my junior year of high school.

I worked here again the following summer and then found out there were openings at receiving. So I went to work in that department full-time. That was May 1971, and I’ve been here ever since.

What do you do as a data center specialist in computing?
I’m kind of a one-stop shop where computing folks can call with whatever need they have. It’s a pretty broad range: tape robot system installation, fire suppression systems, deliveries, small construction jobs.

I also organize staff moves that are tied to the computing sector. All someone has to do is pack their stuff, and I have everything else taken care of: set up where they’re going, move phones, take care of furniture needs. I’m a people person, and I try to bring a calming effect to different folks who are stressed by having to move offices. I’m here to make this as easy as possible for them.

When do you use your people skills?
One time Lisa Carrigan [who works in Wilson Hall building management] told me they were going to get rid a lot of their steel case panels on the 12th floor. Well, on the eighth floor, which was staffed with computing folks, all we had were cabinets that separated the offices. I took those panels and made arrangements to have everything in a nice cubicle setup.

One hitch: The day we were going to do the install, the Italian prime minister was coming to the lab. There was no way we were going to be able to use the elevators. Brian Niesman [who works in transportation] said, “I think I have way we can take care of this.” He had a couple of guys stay that night to get all these panels to the eighth floor, so we were able to get it done.

That’s what I mean about having relationships with other areas outside our divisions. We help each other.

What do you enjoy about working at Fermilab?
When I first came out here, I had no idea what the lab was going to be. It was a job. But Fermilab became such an education. It was like working at a little UN in the middle of nowhere. To meet people from all over the world, learn about different cultures, make friendships ā€” it’s been really amazing.

What do you do outside the lab?
I fish. Some of the best fishing around is out here at the lab.

I spend a lot of my time with my grandkids ā€” three of them, and one on the way. My youngest one was a Gerber baby.

What’s something that people may not know about you?

The second summer I worked here, my plan was to just make some money and go to New York for the theater. And as you can see, 46 years later, Iā€™m still here. I have fun acting in my church’s theater group. The plays are really some very nice productions.

Two years ago, my wife took a business trip to Zurich, and I tagged along. We found our way to the LHC and saw the CMS detector, thanks to [Fermilab CIO] Rob Roser. That was great to see.