uc davis computer science staff jim ken it

Ken Gribble (left) and Jim Moersfelder, senior system administrators. Photo: Josh Moy/UC Davis.

February 7, 2020

By Rachel Steere, originally posted by the College of Engineering.

Before coming to UC Davis, Ken Gribble worked in Sacramento for a legislative database that tracked all state and federal regulations and legislation. When Jim Moersfelder was in college, he worked as a student assistant for the Department of Water Resources and then got hired where Ken was working. Now, Ken and Jim both work for the college’s computer science department as senior system administrators.

In this edition of the College of Engineering’s Staff Scoop, we get to know more about long-time friends and co-workers Ken and Jim.

What are your major job functions?

Ken and Jim: Our duties include physical and computer security, problem debugging and solving, system programming, responding to requests and consultations, account management, instructional lab desktop computer configuration and maintenance, server configuration and maintenance, network maintenance and many other responsibilities within a growing computer science department.

We also work together in a computer science information technology (IT) management committee and are active members in planning the direction of services, general computing and IT support. We do a lot of the creation of IT policy and the IT documentation needed for IT support and technical documentation for our staff, faculty and students.

What skill is most important in your job?

Ken and Jim: There isn’t one important skill as an IT person. It’s a fine mix of detailed communications, being a quick study in all things IT, documentation skills, organizational skills and having a Black Belt in Google searches. IT people often burn out because of the workload from rapid change coupled with the growing number of faculty, staff and students we support.

What are some of the challenges that you face with your work?

The constantly changing landscape of IT and computing science provides a unique set of challenges for support. Everything is rapidly changing and sometimes we don’t notice. For instance, system administrators used to have dozens of manuals in bookcases in our offices. Now we have Google and the ability to reach out to other IT colleagues for near instant answers to our questions.  We hope to get out of the business before having to do firmware updates for automated bicycles, but not before getting to commute to work by jet pack.

What is your favorite thing about working at UC Davis?

Ken: I’m grateful to be working with the brilliant staff, students and faculty in computer science and other departments. It’s always great to be surrounded by people smarter than you! I also enjoy taking walks on campus. Often if the IT group has a particular problem, we go for coffee and have a walking meeting about how to solve issues, or do some project planning. Sitting is a serious health issue for many IT folks and others who work at desks. It’s good to get some air, see a bit of nature and clear your mind.

Jim: The people at UC Davis are my favorite, whether it be my team, my management or the users we support. Everyone has a true passion to improve our environment and the ability to discuss things logically with an open mind.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

Ken: People everywhere always ask me, “Why are you wearing a kilt?” The short answer is I hate pants. The long answer is after studying the punk subculture and realizing their respect for authenticity and originality, I decided everyone should wear what they want and express themselves through their appearance. It seems that people I meet remember me easily when I’m wearing a kilt. It gives anyone a reasonable excuse to come talk about how they like kilts, or ask a question about my heritage and I like meeting new people.

Jim: I have a twin brother that is very different than I am but opens my eyes to seeing the world in a much different way.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

Ken: Full-time Beach Chair Testing Administrator for NASA. There’s no place I’d rather work than the computer science department, they’re like family to me. This imaginary job is the only one I’d rather do.

Jim:  Maybe a sports coach of some kind. I also like encouraging others to follow their passions and assisting them in overcoming some of their hurdles. I like to use technology to express strategies or tactics my teams can use to work better together.