Argonne National Laboratory

David Salbego

By Katherine Obmascik June 13, 2013

David Salbego is the department head for the Infrastructure and Operations group in the Computing and Information Systems division.

What is your role at Argonne?

I am the leader responsible for information technology infrastructure — servers, storage, datacenters, networking and telephones.

What do you like most about your job?

Change. There are new best practices, new ways of accomplishing tasks and new technologies. The expectation is our stuff "just works." Maintaining high levels of reliability and performance — combined with keeping up with the latest technologies — is a constant tension within our department.

Fortunately, I've had a number of different roles within Argonne which have allowed me to keep learning. From working as an application developer in science to managing managers, I've been lucky enough to see IT from many different angles. Argonne's opportunities and flexibility have allowed that to happen during my 20-year career here.

What has helped you to develop your leadership skills?

I completed the Chicago Management Institute at the University of Chicago, a powerful six-month general management program that is similar to Argonne’s Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program. Also, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a couple of great people in my career who have helped me develop my own style and methodologies.

What are some interesting projects that you lead?

We are commissioning the new Energy Sciences Building with networking, a telephone system and a cellular distributive antenna system. This is the second year of a five-year project to completely overhaul the campus-wide fiber plant, with 25 miles of new fiber to be installed. We are also exploring options for building a new datacenter.

Who do you collaborate with at the laboratory?

The Computing and Information Systems (CIS) division supports applications that support the laboratory’s overall science mission. However, the Advanced Photon Source, Mathematics and Computer Science, Leadership Computing Facility and Decision and Information Sciences — just to name a few — have significant IT departments of their own. Keeping in touch with key leaders in those organizations is critical to our success. We need to know about their major upcoming initiatives, which may correlate with our work. They need to know about major changes we may be thinking about in the future. We use the laboratory IT administrators’ group, along with an IT Strategy Council and Business Operations Council to connect on what will be needed in the next few years.

What was your first assignment at Argonne?

In 1993, I started as a co-op student in the Biology division while I was a sophomore in college. My first role was software application developer, and I eventually picked up systems and database administration. A few years later, I landed in the central IT division, now known as CIS. In 2000, I went to a consulting firm on the east coast. I learned how other companies run IT — from start-ups to huge organizations — and the power of influence over technical skill. I was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and came back to Argonne later that year. I became a manager in 2002. I quickly found it rewarding to have influence over both the strategic and the technical directions of the organization.

What sorts of mentoring experiences have you had at Argonne?

I had support to get my masters degree while working full time here. I encourage my staff to go to conferences, network with peers, take training classes, experiment with new technologies — generally, do what it takes to stay current with their skills.

What kinds of Argonne activities do you enjoy participating in?

Before my wife and I had our two sons, I played in the Argonne softball league. Now, most of my time is spent with their activities like coaching their baseball teams. My older son and I are learning to play drums.

How does your team’s work contribute to Argonne’s larger goals?

We add efficiency to everyone’s day by keeping the IT systems working. We need to keep IT as easy as possible for everyone at the lab. We don’t decide which business applications are used, but we have a passion for keeping them running. Everyone needs to have an idea of the big picture and how they fit in.

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