The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Apprenticeship @ Data & Computation


From the biennial report of the Institute 2002-2003 written by Nina Schütz and Gregor Schmold who had done their proffessional training at that time.
At PIK, you can have everything: if you enjoy being deep down below the surface of earth in caves, vaults and bunkers, you will feel fine at Data & Computation (D&C); if you prefer more open sky than just the view from the window, you can rise from the dark depths and ascend towards the glistening glare of the sun—and straight on to the top, climbing PIK's peak: you can hardly imagine the magnificent panorama that opens (with good visibility) from the main building's cupola over Telegraph Hill, the city of Potsdam, and beyond.

This sounds like ... adventure holidays?  Well, by all means quite enjoyable—and agreeable as well as exciting, certainly; but actually we were here to learn. And learn we did, for sure—we just could not resist the temptations of the excellent opportunities offered here.

First of all, this is probably due to the expertise of our colleagues. Whether it is the many new interesting areas we are allowed to explore, or whether it takes them seconds to find the answer we had been seeking in vain for eternities—they always have help and advice ready, take their time to explain things in detail, and cheer us up when we are stuck; we experienced excellent cooperation and team spirit here.

Second, there is an incredibly wide range of IT-related subjects we could get our hands on and explore. It is amazing that this variety of different hard- and software platforms coexists peacefully at PIK; we did not experience any serious incidents throughout the past two years (even though the rise/drop ratio of the critical temperature in the cluster room caused some eyebrows to raise last summer). We are continually astonished that all this is managed by a crew so small, in relation to the steadily increasing number of devices and services.

Given this outstanding initial situation, there have been very interesting and challenging projects with which we were occupied (and sometimes almost absorbed). We assisted in the installation and configuration of a new high-performance parallel computer cluster, were integrated into a project cooperation with ICI in Bucharest, Romania, and made relevant contributions to the Collaboration Environment server (CE) which is also home to the DINAS-COAST project, a web portal for the Semiarid Integrated Model (SIM) that we implemented together with a student from Potsdam University, and to the (in parts internal) IT portal of D&C.

We gained skills and knowledge in system architecture and infrastructure design, planning, implementation, deployment, maintenance and expansion of resources and services, whether related to hardware, networks, software, user management, or further areas. What we noticed: the main focus here is always on our actual clients, the users.

The schooling part took place at Oberstufenzentrum Technik (OSZT) in Teltow. Facing the local circumstances, the commitment of our teachers was beyond comparison. They even tried to convince us to become teachers in Teltow after successful completion of our apprenticeship ... To be honest, school weeks sometimes were inconvenient interruptions—at PIK, there was much more to learn (and it was far more interesting).

Maybe a university entrance qualification and four terms of computer science did not really prepare us for everyday life at the vocational school ... On the other hand, our grade level was also one of the first to participate in after-school courses for the Cisco CCNA certificate.

And we had the opportunity to pass a language certificate for IT professional English. In practice, beside contacts to IT companies there were also opportunities to extend one's scope to other domains in presentations, seminars, and similar events.

For example there was the dense local concentration of earth sciences, but also other natural and social sciences.
The science campus highlights were festivities like the Long Night of Sciences in Berlin/Brandenburg, the Potsdam Night of Sciences, the Girls Day, and guided tours for visitors and school classes so we could contribute to communicating the activities of our scientific institution to the public.

After we have passed the final exam of the IHK (German Chamber of Industry and Commerce) and can hopefully refer to ourselves as “IT specialists in system integration,” we will be able to look back on lots of impressions and experiences. We shared two remarkable years with wonderful colleagues at PIK.

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