Our People - Marc Genty

Embracing the spirit of volunteering

June 23, 2016 | Marc Genty serves in multiple roles. Each is a passion.

By day, he is a software engineer in the Mass Storage Systems Group of NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory. 

Also by day and often by night, for several years he has been the coordinator of the UCAR Delphi Question and Answer Service, a volunteer position.

Delphi Coordinator Marc Genty
Delphi Coordinator Marc Genty. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

His volunteer spirit doesn't end there. He is also an ordained member of the clergy in the Episcopal Church. In this role, he has led an outdoor Friday evening service for the homeless for the past eight years.

Delphi (login with your UCAS password), which is named after the site of the ancient Greek oracle, gives employees a vehicle to ask questions of management about policies and practices. After going through a quiet period, UCAR is raising awareness about the availability of this service to employees.

As Delphi coordinator, Genty serves as a trusted intermediary, ensuring the employee's confidentiality while getting a response to the question from management. Only the coordinator knows the identity of the person asking the question 

A Colorado native, he and his wife, Heidi, live in Longmont. They have three grown daughters who also live in Colorado, and two grandchildren.

What drew you to your field?
I have a bachelor's in manufacturing engineering from Colorado State University. After I graduated, I went to work doing that at Boeing in Seattle, but within the first year I switched to computing support for manufacturing. Computing was still a fairly new field at that time. I really enjoyed the computer science classes I took at CSU — FORTRAN on punch cards! — and have always had an interest in applied sciences. I was with Boeing until 1998, except for a brief period when I worked at Microsoft as a senior technical writer for Windows NT.

How did you wind up back in Colorado?
A headhunter contacted me in 1998 and asked if I would be interested in a position at IBM in Colorado, and that was a done deal for me. It was a chance to come back home. Three years later, a friend of mine told me about a job at NCAR in supercomputing. I applied and was hired in 2001. Several years later, I moved from the Supercomputer Systems Group to the Mass Storage Systems Group.

What do you do at NCAR?
My job title is software engineer, but the position is more about systems engineering in support of the High-Performance Storage System (HPSS).

Common Cathedral leaders

Marc Genty's volunteer service extends to being a member of the clergy of an Episcopal Church, and leading a weekly service called Common Cathedral at a Longmont park with co-leader Chris Sandoval (left). (Photo courtesy Marc Genty.)

What do you consider your most significant achievement to date?
Being part of the team that transitioned the original NCAR Mass Store to HPSS in support of the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. HPSS is a single mass storage system that straddles the Cheyenne and Boulder facilities. This was a complex, multiyear process that required — and still requires — solid stewardship of the NCAR scientific data. Imagine changing the sparkplugs in your car while driving down the freeway at 60 mph in heavy traffic and you get an idea of what was involved with making the successful transition.

I noticed you've also written some technical books
I was a contributing author for the Windows NT 4.0 resource guide, and I've also worked on three different IBM Redbooks. With the IBM technical books, I was part of a team of four to six people from all over the globe. We would spend six weeks in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., taking the books from initial concept to final draft. It was very intense.

How did you get involved in Delphi?
I saw a notice for the upcoming election of the coordinator in 2006 and applied. I always enjoyed reading the Delphi questions and answers and I thought this would be a good way to get to know more about people and processes in the organization.

Why is it important?
Delphi fills a gap. Questions to the UCAR Ombuds Office are typically very specific to the individual and not of general interest, and the process is completely confidential, end-to-end. You still have confidentiality with Delphi and some of the questions are somewhat sensitive in nature, but they are of a broader interest and often published.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?
The most challenging is when the person doesn't like the response, and they kick it back. It's also often a challenge to work with the individual to make the question truly anonymous.

What's the most interesting part?
Having the opportunity to work with a person to tease out the core issue. Often the core issue is underneath the question.

Have you ever posed your own question?
I can't tell you because that would be a violation of confidentiality between the question originator and the Delphi Coordinator (laughs).

What would you ask if you could?
The question I would ask would be: What are the plans for the Fountain Plaza outside the cafeteria at the Mesa Lab? The plaza was renovated a number of years ago, then shut down again. It's looking a bit threadbare.

What are your passions outside of work?
I love to learn. I took an online class from Hebrew University in Jerusalem to learn how to build a computer from first principles — from single chip to a fully functional computer.

Common Cathedral service

A Common Cathedral service in Longmont.
(Photo courtesy Marc Genty.)

What's something that few people at NCAR know about you?
I'm ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, serve at St. Stephen’s in Longmont, and have been leading a service for people on the street for eight years. It's called Common Cathedral and meets in a Longmont park. About 40 people generally show up at the Friday service, including people who come from low-income housing in the area and people like you and me.

What was your inspiration?
I went to a memorial service for a street person once in a church and 10 minutes into the service, the majority of the street people walked out. Not because people weren’t gracious. Rather, it was obvious that they were uncomfortable in that setting. I wanted to take the service to where they are. The service includes music, ritual, an open discussion around a reading, and sharing a meal. It's open to all, and it is literally come as you are. The people on the street are just people, and they’ve taught me much more than I them.

Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer