John Chevers - My working day
Cambridge, UK | October 2013
John is Chief Business Development Officer at DANTE, the operator of GÉANT, the pan-European internet network built for research and education.
His team works with national partner networks across Europe and international research collaborations to address the data needs of Big Science.
Here he describes a typical working day, as featured in Cambridge News
7:00am (Central European Time)
BRUSSELS. I wake blinkingly in unfamiliar surroundings – I travel abroad two or three times a month, either to meet DANTE’s national network partners, to work with international science projects or to attend conferences and events. I’ve been travelling for DANTE for 9 years and it certainly beats sitting behind a desk, but it can lead to a certain feeling of disorientation and a sore neck from hotel pillows. I’m used to both and this morning I’m happy to snatch a half hour to run to the Grand Place. Unfortunately I take a wrong turn on the way back and need to ask directions. Locals raise quizzical Belgian eyebrows at my dishevelled running garb and schoolboy French.
By 9:00 (CET) I’m drinking coffee and chatting to a Chilean colleague who I worked with years ago on a Latin American project. I’m an invited ‘Expert’ at a workshop organised by the Organisation for Economic-Cooperation (OECD) on Distributed Infrastructures (dealing with supercomputers). Usually the OECD concern themselves with advising governments on how to recover from financial crises, but they do also take an interest in science policy. Working for a major European science infrastructure, it makes sense to maintain GÉANT’s visibility to the organisations that fund us and to promote the network to important science initiatives. The aim of the workshop is to share experience and best practice between projects that combine resources from across Europe (or indeed the world). This is a very good opportunity to meet users of the GÉANT network and to present the experiences of the GÉANT consortium of 41 separate organisations – which is long-established compared with most of the collaborations represented.
EUROSTAR. DANTE is a not-for-profit company and so most of my travel is on budget airlines – which seems less fun when it’s not for a holiday….anyway, Eurostar is thus a welcome reprieve and a restful way to catch up on (virtual) paperwork.
CAMBRIDGE. DANTE’s office is close to Cambridge railway station, so I’m straight back into the melee…. That means a video conference with CERN, one of our key customers. Research networks like GÉANT really were pioneers of the web. Initially this was driven hard by the high-energy physics community and distributing the data generated by the Large Hadron Collider is still a major influence on the way the GÉANT network is specified. CERN was the first customer for a GÉANT 100Gbps wavelength service – that’s a network connection ten thousand times faster than the one that you buy from your friendly internet provider at home.
I’m still at the office as I tend to leave late, to avoid the inevitable Cambridge traffic. Today, we are putting together a proposal to provide international network connectivity for a large scientific organisation involved in deep space research. Many of the projects we are involved with are pretty mind-blowing in their scope and potential. From climate change to disease diagnosis, we are helping to accelerate science in all disciplines. DANTE is publicly funded by our partner organisations (National Research and Education Networks) and the European Commission but that doesn’t mean we can forget about costs and customer service, quite the opposite in fact. My priority is to ensure that we provide good value and remain relevant in a highly-dynamic technology space. I’m exceptionally busy at the moment and am feeling rather understaffed – please see www.dante.net/About_Us/Working_at_DANTE if you are interested in helping me!
Back home in SUFFOLK – and time for a plate of pasta with Italian fiancé Elena, a professional-chef-turned-academic, so dinner exceeds my modest capabilities… I listen carefully to a detailed exposition on the relative merits of Primo Levi and a new ‘Cooks Illustrated’ method for baking macarons.
Just time to throw on my overalls and make a few key adjustments to my vintage car. I’m running a 1926 Austin 7 and building another one. Wielding a large hammer is great to switch off from the everyday stuff, but the car has mixed feelings about such rough treatment.
Feed the ferocious cat one last pouch of Felix, and a chapter of Cormac McCarthy before SLEEP!