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Inside NCEI: Meet Database Administrator John LaRocque

Photo of John LaRocque
Courtesy of NOAA NCEI, Katie Palubicki

John LaRocque is not your stereotypical IT guy. With his cutting wit and personality to spare, it’s easy to understand why his coworkers at NCEI enjoy working with him.

What is a database administrator?

If you refer solely to his job title, John is a database administrator, but he introduces himself mainly as a “doer of things.” And rightly so, since database administrators can do everything from designing, implementing, and maintaining a database system to establishing policies and procedures related to its management, maintaining security protocols, and training employees in database management and use.

NCEI holds over 30 petabytes of environmental data, so setting up and maintaining a database to store all of that information is no small task.

“I primarily focus on database technology, system architecture, and software development,” John says. “I work with a couple other people to manage architectural baselines, which is really more about trying to communicate and collaborate with those around the organization.”

His role isn’t solely technology focused. Most of John’s job revolves around working with people.

“All of the work that I do revolves around communicating with people and trying to understand what people are trying to do. Helping others achieve the goals they’re trying to achieve, while at the same time trying to maintain a standardized set of systems and trying to keep everyone on the same page is a huge part of my job,” explains John.

How did you end up working with NCEI?

John’s humble roots started as a teen delivering newspapers, then transitioned into working at a restaurant. He jumped from job to job until he started college, where he began working with computers at the software firm where his mother worked.

Inspired by role models like Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, John took his interests in science and engineering and dove into the software world.

“I’ve been doing this [database administration] for about 30 years, so a lot of experience is really what is needed in this role. I’ve really jumped around in terms of the technology I’ve worked with. I’ve worked all the way from old-school mainframes to now the cloud-based architectures,” John says. “It [database administration] was one of those things that I started doing and never really looked back.”

John LaRocque at whiteboard

John LaRocque has a complex set of tasks necessary to keep the NCEI database up and running. Courtesy of NOAA NCEI, Katie Palubicki

Who are you outside of your career?

Outside of his work at NCEI, John is the father of three children. His oldest son plays hockey at the Air Force Academy, his middle daughter is in high school and is pursuing a future in modeling, and his youngest (at 5 years old) is lovingly referred to as the “fountain of youth” in their daily lives.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Inside NCEI to learn more about our dedicated staff.

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