Technically Religious
S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

January 21, 2020

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with friend, co-religionist, programmer, and recurring Technically Religious guest Ari Adler.

Leon:                                     00:00                     Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as it professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon:                                     00:21                     Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for Then A Miracle Occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. My name is Leon Adatto, and with me today is Ari Adler.

Ari:                                         01:11                     Hi.

Leon:                                     01:13                     All right. Before we dive into the topic, uh, let's do a little bit of shameless self promotion. Ari, tell us a little bit about who you are, where you work, where we can find you, all that stuff.

Ari:                                         01:23                     Currently I'm working helping to make applications at Rockwell Automation here in Cleveland, Ohio. I have really in my career up to this point, been mostly focused on the front end, specifically working with the angular framework that's Google. And right now I am working in the research and development department in Rockwell for a really important application of theirs. Um, and yeah, it's really great rewarding work and I'm part of an amazing team.

Leon:                                     01:51                     Fantastic. Okay. And if people wanted to find you online, can they do that? Are you anywhere or are you just invisible?

Ari:                                         01:56                     I am visible. I have a LinkedIn, um, account. So that would, that would definitely work. Um, AriAdlerJSProgrammer, JS doesn't stand for Jewish Stud but rather Java script.

Leon:                                     02:10                     Okay. Uh, but now it does from now on, I will never be able to unthink that. So, uh, for those people who might be scribbling madly, "J S does not stand for...", Uh, we'll have the links in the show notes, so don't worry about that. And finally, how do you... Religiously, how do you identify it?

Ari:                                         02:28                     So, um, I'm definitely part of the Orthodox community.

Leon:                                     02:32                     Okay. And we'll get into more about that in a, in a minute. And just to round things out, a little bit of promotion for myself, I'm Leon Adato, I'm a Head Geek. Yes. That's actually my title at SolarWinds, which is neither solar nor wind. It's a software vendor based in Austin that makes monitoring software. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I write and pontificate about things both technical and religious at And I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. So let's dive right into it. Tell us a little bit more about the kind of work that you're doing today. Nothing specific. Cause I know you're working on a very top secret project that can't... Actually, it's not top secret but you know, we don't try, we try not to talk about those kinds of things here on the show. Just in case there are nondisclosure issues. But tell us what kind of work you're doing today.

Ari:                                         03:21                     The project I'm involved with is using a lot of newer types of frameworks, mainly using node.js, which is a very, very powerful, um, way of setting up servers and running the back end. Um, and the language is mainly with TypeScript and my particular role has always basically been with my career working with the front end, with the, with the creating UIs. Uh, the user interfaces. Generally been done using a framework called angular, which is a very robust, full, involved framework. It's quite complex and I've used a new, a lot of different capacities, whether it be dealing with splitting large amounts of data, or getting user input. And without going into any more detail about the project I'm doing, it is definitely a very, very important and highly recommended framework. If you do have to make a web application. It's, you know, it's well known and there's very good documentation and tutorials that are easily defined. But that is mainly the tech that I'm, I've been using.

Leon:                                     04:35                     So I, I presume that you were born knowing how to work with angular, that you came out of the womb, in fact with a keyboard in your hands and you know, all that's up is that, no, that's not how he's, he's looking at me and just like staring. Okay. So where did you, if you didn't start off, you know, coding from, from birth and how did you start out, you know, what was your starting point?

Ari:                                         04:57                     Well, there was, there was, there was a little "A", on my diapers...

Leon:                                     05:01                     Right. So that was a for angular or...? I think it was for "Ari"

Ari:                                         05:04                     Well, it had the little symbol there for angular in it. Yeah. Yeah.

Leon:                                     05:08                     No, he was the chosen one.

Ari:                                         05:10                     I wasn't born with it. Angular is actually, a lot of people don't realize this. Like, if you ever have to write a job description and you want somebody to work for angular, don't ask for 10 years of experience or the framework that only you know, came out with the, uh, with the production version and May, 2016.

Leon:                                     05:30                     So that's, that's a pro tip to anybody in HR who's listening to this, who's, you know, writing job descriptions is find out how long the technology has been out for before you say, "must have, you know, 16 years experience with, you know, windows 2016.

Ari:                                         05:45                     A framework, which has only been out for six months. Right.

Leon:                                     05:48                     Okay. So where did you start at?

Ari:                                         05:50                     I did not start out in tech. Um, I actually taught for a few years in middle school and an elementary school. I taught in Queens and Brooklyn before we relocated to Overland park, Kansas. I taught at the Hebrew Academy there. Um, and um, from there we moved to Cleveland and I met, um, inspiring young man named Leon Adato and I, um, joined the a a course to learn, um, the, the tech world. And, you know, I'm hoping at some point in my, as I continued in my career I might find a way to go and I do have a master's degree in education. I'm hoping that at some point maybe a cross paths a little bit, I know that there is a lot of it has been done and I'm sure there's plenty that can still still be done in this field without getting into too much detail cause I haven't really thought it out so fully yet. Right now I'm kind of busy with work and, and family life. But I, you know, as soon when I get to a certain stage where it's things quiet down a little bit, education and technology I think are two things that very much can go hand in hand. Um, I view tech as a tool and it's something that obviously can be very distracting and very harmful if done in the wrong ways, but if used correctly can really help solve a lot of problems. And I know educationally speaking, there's a lot of challenges that, that kids have in their... There are, there is a lot of things. I know that Math Blaster, I had to even that when I was a kid, there's really no end to what it could do to help. Just even writing algorithms that can help figure out for a particular child what, what they're missing and what pieces would help them improve. You know, there's, you know, whatever the future is, is exciting and uh, I hope to be, to be part of it.

Leon:                                     07:41                     Okay. So you didn't... you started out in education and you mentioned a little bit about the, there was the program that has been mentioned on Technically Religious before. What I affectionately refer to is "Frum Guys Who Code", but it was really, um, Gesher. Uh, it was uh, the Gesher Upper Level prefers a short program to get, uh, get some folks started on technology.

Ari:                                         08:05                     It was a bootcamp. You can call it a bootcamp.

Leon:                                     08:05                     Yeah, yeah, that's a, that's uh, probably the best way to describe it. But getting from there to here. So you, you did a bootcamp, you took some online courses. Um, but how did you get from there, from, "Hey, I just learned how to program in JavaScript!" Or whatever to where you are now in Rockwell. What was, what did that path look like

Ari:                                         08:27                     From the program. So I met people, you know, who had different companies that were looking for help. Um, and I met, uh, I w I worked in a small software development company here in Beachwood, Ohio. They, they really used the, um, the, um, JavaScript stack there. Um, they was called the MEAN stack, um, stands for mango DB express, JS, angular and node.js. And um, that's kind of, even though Cleveland overalls tends to be much more of a town, you know, this company was very much invested with the MEAN stack. He, they, they felt like it was, you know, a lot of promise and a lot of it could excitement. Um, and it was at least then it was pretty new. Now it's become a lot more mainstream, but you know, you're not going back that many years. But it's ancient history as far as the tech world is concerned.

Leon:                                     09:20                     Right, it's been 15 minutes. So that epoch is over now, right?

Ari:                                         09:27                     Um, I learned a lot of the ropes from there. And then, um, from that, I, I, I've moved on, I'm working for or worked for Park Place Tech, um, for stint. And then after that I got, um, I got my placement at Rockwell. So I've been at Rockwell really since March. I'm in a different division than it was when I started. Um, yeah, it's really been an amazing ride and I'm still learning tons. Um, you know, one thing that I've needed to do recently, which I was never asked to do and I know a lot of developers, you know, really either dread this or just avoid completely is learning to write them unit tests, which is something that I'm Angular itself. If you read the documentation, they think it's very important. Um, and I, it's really something that I wanted to improve at. And um, I think I have, um,

Leon:                                     10:15                     Well you do, you do a couple dozen of them or 20 or 30, and you start to get good at it.

Ari:                                         10:19                     Yeah. But there, there's all different, yeah. Things. And you know, it's, it's a, it really is a complex area, you know, to a certain degree, in order to really do it well, you have to almost be developer, not just a tester, cause you have to really know how the code works. Um, and the company definitely recognize that and they wanted, um, to get developers in the testing a role also. So that's actually what I'm trying to really be the most current, uh, you know, area. But you know, it's, I, you kind of have to wear all hats and which is, you know, brings you back to education. A big part of what I love about tech and I, I feel like almost any job really, if someone has this mindset and it's not just professional, but really how you live your life is solving problems. Right. You know, don't get, when I was in the classroom and you know, there, there was, I needed to accomplish a certain thing. I didn't view that. You know, any child would be like, uh, you know, was anything, was, was beyond their capabilities. As long as they had the right encouragement. And you could connect with them in the right way. And I was very successful in the classroom. Um, and tech is basically the same thing. I'm definitely blessed with the team now that, that definitely has that, that viewpoint. But anybody who is focused on "Why I can't do something" versus "How can I accomplish, uh, what it is that has to get done" is really, um, they're really looking at it the wrong way. And this is true, in almost any aspects of like, I know we're going to get into the religious aspect, but, you know, it's, uh, it's just, it's, it's really that, uh, that there is a focus on solving, solving problems and making things better and always improving and never, you know, getting caught up in the, uh, in the problems. But rather, how can I make this better? How can I get this to work?

Leon:                                     12:08                     All right. So that is actually a perfect dovetail. So you said at the top of the episode that you identify as an Orthodox Jew. Tell me a little bit about, more about what that looks like. Um, as I've said before, uh, especially on these TAMO cloud segments, labels are imprecise. They're difficult. A lot of people sort of bristle at the idea of being pinned in to one particular kind of thing. When you say that you identify as an Orthodox Jew, what does that mean for you? How does that look?

Ari:                                         12:33                     So it's funny you asked me this. Honestly, I haven't had that much exposure to a lot of elements of the Orthodox Jewish world a little bit before I came to Cleveland. No, I, I always defined myself as like a, uh, individual thinker. I feel, and this is very much downplayed, at least I feel like in my own circles, I'm assuming it's true and for many other communities that, um, I feel like people, you know, th the main job that anybody has as a religious person, my feeling is that like, you know, obviously that comes with believing in a higher power, right? Believing in God and therefore what that comes with and what scientists don't constantly have to struggle with this idea is that we have free will, right? We, we, we have the right to be able to go into choose right from wrong. Um, and society at large obviously feels that we otherwise you couldn't have a justice system and so forth. So as much as people want to, to, um, deny the kinds of a higher being, if it doesn't, uh, suit them, we, we, you know, most people definitely believe in freewill. I don't know how that can work if you don't think that, you know, there's a guy who ever came from monkeys or whatnot, like, you know, everything just happened on its own. For sure as a society overall, we believe in and free will and people have to really, therefore by definition come to their own decisions for themselves. That means that we constantly have to be choosing, right? Free will lends to choosing and, and if a person is choosing without knowing anything, they're going to be making a lot of mistakes. Therefore, people always have to be learning in order to be able to, and it's very different. It's very difficult. It's very challenge cause we're always faced with new things and new problems. But if you have that solid foundation of education and always learning... And the problem is that if somebody doesn't know how to learn, if they don't understand for their own, because you can't always just rely on asking somebody else that's, that's not really possible. Right. You know, we're constantly faced with decisions and choices the same way that free will is a constant factor in our lives from when we wake up to when we go to sleep. It's really something that really has to be to, you know, I, I feel like that that getting people to be independent thinkers and independent learners is really, really critical. And I think this is something that's is, it's downplayed to a large degree. I'm not going to get into why. Therefore, I kind of view myself as, I don't want to call like independently Orthodox, but very much from the mainstream that to a certain degree, being part of a of a larger group is good, but it should be really understood what limitations that that can bring that if people feel like, well, as long as I, I stick with the Joneses, I'm, I'm going to be pleasing God. I think that they're making a major fallacy with that viewpoint because I think that the, a person always has to be looking at themselves and, and thinking that I'm really the only person who can improve me if they're hiding behind society a large, I think that that is something that is, um, is a real, real danger.

Leon:                                     15:49                     So you're saying that herd, herd immunity does not work when it comes to perhaps heaven?

Ari:                                         15:54                     Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I, I don't know if that like fully answered the question of how, how I define myself religiously, but someone who, I guess I call myself a learning Jew.

Leon:                                     16:05                     Okay, fine. That's fine. So, uh, the question then moves into, is that how you grew up? Is that the Judaism that you were used to or is that the experience that you were used to in your younger life? And again, I've said this before on other episodes that when we're growing up in our parents house or wherever we were growing up, whatever was happening in the house where we grew up, that's what we did because that was what was around us. So we then left and came to a point where we realized to your, to your point that there's a moment where you can choose and that's when you start to formulate your own experience. So what did your, what did, what did your growing up world look like?

Ari:                                         16:50                     So both of my parents were not raised Orthodox. They kind of, they kind of needed to become more religious at a later stage in life and they didn't get, um, in as much as of or nearly as much as the formal education that I was blessed with. So, obviously it wasn't really possible to be, you know, to have been, been raised in a way - As often happens when people don't get the education in their youth - it's hard to catch up. I lost my father at a young age, so like it was very much, I was kind of to a certain degree, I mean my, my mother is, you know, she should live in, be well is, you know, really an amazing person. Um, but you know, she'd be the first to tell her she's no Rabbi. Right. And she's, she's always learning and going to classes, but you know, obviously, you know, with her background is coming from quite as a secular place. Um, so, you know, she's, she's who's also seeking and learning and, but she, she doesn't have the same kind of background, not having any kind of like formal education in, in her younger years. So, you know, my house is very different than the house I, I grew up in as a child, therefore. Um, so I definitely grew up in a, in an Orthodox home. Um, but there's, there's lots of different levels to what that could mean.

Leon:                                     18:14                     When I talked to other people about this, what's called Baal Teshuva, you know, people who came to Orthodox Judaism later in life, and my wife, my family and I are, are in that community. It's very much, it's very similar to the immigrant experience. Where you come to this foreign country called the "Orthodox community" and now at whatever age you arrive there, you have to learn a whole set of rules and expectations and language and behavior and jargon and things like that. And you do the best you can and you learn to code switch and you learn to adopt that, but you're never quite natively fluent the way that a child who's born into that country or community is. So that for, in a lot of ways that that experience you're describing is similar to growing up when your parents are immigrants and you were born in that country. So you have a level of a perception and a level of fluency that they're not going to have because again, they, to your point, they weren't, they weren't born with it. How did you get from there to here? You know, when you were, so you were grown, you were born into a Baal Teshuva family and now your house looks very different. What was the formative element, aspects of that from point there to point here?

Ari:                                         19:25                     Because I went to, um, a Jewish school, so I was able to get much stronger education and I carried that with me post high school, going on to a Yeshiva. I studied for many years. So that was able to give me a much stronger background and a much stronger foundation in understanding the religion and what, you know, what we believe God expects of us. Um, and so in a nutshell that that really is the, uh, you know, the reason. Just through education, through, through the more understanding I was able to, um, hopefully be able to make some, let's call it better choices. Some, uh, you know, some, uh, have a little little more control over from a religious standpoint what my home should look like, what, what I should value, what I want to give over to my children. Like, like I was saying before, and you know, knowledge is power and no matter what stage somebody comes in to the game, you know, it's, it's, it's not really important about, again, like being socially, you know, accepted by the peers. Because like, like I was saying before, it's, it's, so... The main thing is really individual and you know, sometimes people get like a little bit caught up in, "Well, you know, do I fit in with this, with society at large?" But again, that's not, that's not the point of the every religion to in with society. It's about making the right choices and recognizing our, our free will, the best way that we know how to, um, and ultimately anyone you know, is going to believe that, that it's up to God to kind of judge us as to where we wound up. And now, honestly, we were with ourselves, why we did what we did. And that's really very important foundation, I'm assuming, to any religion for sure. For mine.

Leon:                                     21:10                     Okay. So we've talked about the technical and we've talked about the religious. So now I want to blend the two. I'm curious about any situations where in taking your strong religious point of view along with this technical career which you've moved into in the last couple of years, if there's been any conflicts or any challenges that have come up between those two things. Any points of friction?

Ari:                                         21:33                     So that's a very interesting question. Inherently I don't see any conflict at all between the religious world and the technical world, but I find a lot of conflicted people in, in it. On both ends of the spectrum. You have a lot of people in the religious world who shun, or are very, are very anti, a lot of aspects of the technical world. And I found a lot of people in the, in the, in the technical world tend to be pretty anti-religious. Um, you know, my first day at one job I, I am overheard a fellow person on my team. They were having a conversation, I think I had mentioned something, whatever, but you know, we were talking about, you know, being, being bored or whatnot. And one of the person just blurted out, "I haven't, I haven't been bored since the last time I stepped into a church." And I think he said after that, that was when he was like eight years old or whatnot. So, you know, he, he obviously probably didn't consider himself to be too, too religious. I didn't, you know, follow up in the conversation. But I, I, I've certainly met a good deal of people who kind of, let's say to a certain degree, substitute their religious life with, with the tech. I think that that's, although I kind of understand that a certain level, why they mentally would be able to do that. I think that they're gonna leave a huge vacancy just in, in their own souls. I mean, in, in, in, in their own completeness as a human being. Cause I, you know, I mean, I, I, you know, assuming that we were all created by God, so there's this idea that the whole reason why there is concept of religion is, is not just, no, it's not, not a scam. People have the, this, this natural yearning for, for, for spirituality to be part of a higher purpose and to have a real meaning in life. Um, which is something that, which with a technology can kind of like give somebody maybe to sort of be a sense of purpose. Not really, but it could give someone the facade of that. I like, to use the example you could have, you know, I, I have a, a young baby at home and you know, from a young age, human nature gives us a... Really, from birth or even in the woman shown the this natural desire to, to suck, which is obviously it's a necessary thing for a baby to be able to nurse or bottle feed or whatnot. If, if the baby can't get access to food when it's hungry, it's gonna suck on what's ever there or there be a rock nearby or a sticker, a, you know, a teething toy. Right? It's just gonna because it, that natural, it's got a suck on something. So if it can't suck on something that's going to help it gonna suck on something that can't help it. But I think it's kind of like the same idea over here. That like people do feel like they have to be part of something bigger and they want to have a meaning and, and a sense of purpose. And that's not the idea of, you know, when, when the, the original Turing machines, and you go through the history of computer, it was not meant to be sucked on. It was not meant to nourish the spiritual side and the fact that you get so many people that I think to a certain degree are using it in that way I think is a real, I mean, it's a real shame and it's, you know, really something that is, um, I had never really heard or spoken about, but I think it very much exists for my own personal, uh, you know, meetings, people from all different spectrums and so forth. Like, um, what I was saying before. The two really have, you know, can, can very much augment one another. No, no question. They really are two separate things, but to a certain degree you have, you know, I, I don't know if like religions can sometimes feel, feel threatened by tech and you know, I, I certainly know people who definitely feel that way. And you definitely have the reverse that people like wind up going the other way that they feel like "Iif I have tech I don't really need religion." Um, and again, like neither one of those things make too much sense to me. Technology is a tool to just, you know, help us and you know, become better at what we, you know, at who we are and what we do.

Leon:                                     25:55                     So that's the, the, again, the friction points or the challenges that you found between your religious life and the technical, but how about the happy surprises? Were there any benefits or anything about your religious life that brought almost like a superpower or a secret trick that you didn't think was going to be useful but in your technical life, it turns out it was really, really helpful.

Speaker 2:                           26:17                     Um, yeah, sure. Most of the way I, I, I analyze and think comes from my religious studies. So it's really, it's given me a tremendous advantage coming into the, the technical world. I think there's certainly a lot of people with a lot of just raw intelligence. Brain power, which is really, really great. But, you know, I think to a certain degree I have the ability to kind of look at things sometimes from a little bit of a different perspective and being able to analyze things a little bit of a different way. Being the fact that I've been able to intensively learn things at a high level from both a religious aspect and a technical aspect. So I think that they can really, um, aid and abet my critical thinking skills and my analyzing skills in my, um, creative thinking skills, which is something that, you know, it was really a lot of, of overlap in both, both areas.

Leon:                                     27:19                     This has been a great conversation. I'm just curious, any final thoughts, anything that you want to leave the listeners with?

Ari:                                         27:24                     Yeah. Well. Um, I think that the, the, this idea of the, um, anyone who's listening to this podcast, obviously you're probably very much, um, care very much about these two topics of religion and technical, uh, this, you know, field. IT. Um, you know, I, I think that it's, um, it's, it's really great to kind of put the two together and like a whole in a wholesome way to, to go, you know. Because some, like, like I was talking about before, since sometimes those things are viewed as being mutually exclusive to a certain certain degree or at least not friendly. You know, I, I don't, I don't know if that is necessarily true. And I'm, this, this is really, this is really, you know, it's, uh... Religion means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and the importance and what the capabilities are with the technical world also means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So, you know, a podcast like this, putting the two together and get, getting people's thoughts, thoughts, and either ideas. It's really, it's truly, uh, it's, it's a wonderful accomplishment and I think a very worthwhile endeavor.

Leon:                                     28:32                     Thank you. All right. All right. It's been fantastic having you here.

Ari:                                         28:35                     Thank you. It's been great talking to you, Leon.

Leon:                                     28:39                     Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

January 15, 2020

Working in IT can often feel like long periods of soul-crushing depression and frustration as we work through a technical issue, punctuated by brief moments of insane euphoria when we find a solution, followed by yet another period of soul crushing depression and frustration when we move on to the next problem. In this light, learning to take time to celebrate and express gratitude is essential. In this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug explore the habits we've developed as IT pros to get us through the hard parts of the job; and the lessons from our religious, moral, or ethical tradition can we bring to bear. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon:                                     00:06                     Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon:                                     00:53                     This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Leon:                                     00:59                     Another area that I think, um, we can in it build a sense of gratitude is in the amount of work that we do, um, that we need to recognize in IT the difference between hours and accomplishments. How much time we spend, and how much we accomplish. Um, and I'm gonna have a really radical idea and anybody who's listening to this, who, who manages people or runs or owns a business is probably not gonna like me saying this, but salaried employee employment cuts both ways. Do not try this at home. Do not push this at work if you are in a shaky situation or whatever. But I am telling you right now that if it is okay for work to say, "Well you know there was an emergency or you have to get this done and if it takes you 50 hours to get to do it, then I guess that's what it takes." Then equally so is if you get your work done today in four hours you can go home because you have got it done. And I think sometimes we need to recognize that "I got it done, I did it, yay me." I don't need to spend more hours sitting here pretending or looking like or looking for trouble again or picking that next thing off the pile because this is what I intended to get done today.

Doug:                                    02:09                     Absolutely. And I mean even on the flip side of that, I've had days where things just weren't going well and all of a sudden I realized if I keep going, I'm going to break something way worse than it is. And it is much better for me to just walk, get up and walk away and come back tomorrow. Now, by the same token, I'm not currently a salary employee, so that should indicate that it hasn't always worked well.

Speaker 4:                           02:30                     Right. When you're in trouble. I think that that's a technique, but I just, I want to hit this again for just a moment and say that when we're talking about gratitude and talking about appreciating something, how amazing would it be if at two o'clock in the afternoon you realized "I got it done. I fixed the problem, I, I did it. I'm going home." You show up at home to your family, your dog, your TV, whatever it is, your, your Halo, your Quake cooperative. Whenever you know, World of Warcraft team, whatever it is, they're like, "Why are you here?" "I got my work done. I had, I get extra time. I'm finished. Free recess for the rest of the day. Yay me." That is powerful.

Josh:                                      03:11                     I recently had to go through an experience just like that where for 20 years I have been the person who has always been present. I learned from my parents that showing up to work is, is even more important than doing well at work. And not that my parents did a poor job, but they were there. They taught me that always being at work showed value. And so I fell into the trap, Leon, that you talked about. I routinely would work 50, 60, 70, and 80 hours a week, uh, during my 20 year career because that's what I thought I had to do. And in my new job, I am very much have the autonomy to decide when I've had enough, and that I'm expected to not be at work all day when I don't need to be at work all day. And this is, it's a really weird dichotomy for me because I've had to reprogram my mind to work around that. I mean, I think again, another podcast episode another date, another time, but we need to, we need to realize that again, Doug's sins aren't my sins, right?

Doug:                                    04:24                     I hope not for your sake.

Josh:                                      04:28                     So quote a famous Mormon, um, whose name was J. Golden Kimball. Uh, he was also known as "the swearing apostle". Um, he, he used to say... in fact he used to swear over the pulpit at the conference center in Salt Lake. Um, but he used to say famously, "I'm not going to hell. I repent too damn fast!" Don't worry, Doug. We're, we're fine.

Doug:                                    04:54                     All right.

Leon:                                     04:55                     Another habit I think that can lead to a better sense of gratitude is, um, actually just thankfulness, which I know is kind of buzzwordy these days. Saying thank you a lot. Just say thank you to other folks for the things that they do a lot. It has an incredible effect on you. It has an incredible effect on people around you, but just get into the habit of saying thank you.

Doug:                                    05:25                     And it's important to be able to do that, to actually be aware of the people that are doing stuff for you. I mean, I, I actually went to an exercise program today. I know, hard to believe. Um, but it was our first time going and I didn't know how it worked. And I got my wife there and she's settled and I was looking around. I could tell that we were supposed to get some equipment, but I couldn't tell what, you know, how some people had it and some people didn't. So this lady came up and she said, "Let me show you where to get this stuff." And she took me over there and I got all my equipment. We did the exercise and... But I made sure that when I went back I said, "I really appreciate you finding me wandering around and putting me in the right direction. And because people don't do that, you could have just let me..." There were 50 people in the room, one person came up to help me. And so, but I made sure that I went, I noticed that she had helped me, of course, but then I made sure I went back and thanked her. So it just, it's so you're grateful when people do stuff for you, but you have to, people do things for you all the time. And you may not even notice.

Josh:                                      06:30                     And I think this ties back to the authentic comment that I made earlier. You were appreciative for a very specific thing and you went and found someone and you didn't just say, "Hey, thanks for your help." You said, "Hey, thank you for helping me to do this thing you saw me in need. I'm grateful for that." That is way better than getting the traditional hallmark "Hey, thank you for being a great person." 'Cause, why? Like what, what did I do as a great person? I mean for me,

Doug:                                    07:03                     participation award!

Josh:                                      07:07                     In Canada, we used to call them the "partici-paction". It was an exercise program. So very... And I..., Anyway, Canada's weird and you used to get a participation. It was, you know, gold, silver, bronze, these little, um, knitted, uh, medallions and did, yeah, well kind of knitted. And then if you didn't get a gold, silver or bronze, then you got a participation award? Uh, anyway, it was growing up in the 80s was weird, man. It was really weird. But I wanna I'm curious for, for both of you, how do you show your true, authentic nature when you're expressing gratitude to others? In Doug, you gave us a great example, uh, an evidence of how you do it. Are there any other ways that we can pull that off? Because I want to be more authentic in 2020.

Leon:                                     08:01                     I think that that some of your comments hit on it. First of all, recognizing what the person did and that it was, and also understanding that it was exceptional. I mean, it's always important to say thank you to your wait staff. It's always important to say thank you to the people who are, who are, there being paid to help you because you know, yes, they're being paid. You don't go, you know, you don't fall on your knees for that, but you still thank them. Like "I recognize that you just did something for me." But when somebody is not there in that capacity or role to say, "Hey, I know you took time out of your exercise routine just to put me on the right track. I saw that. I see you. You are not invisible to me." I think that that in itself is powerful and then also expressing how it helped you or how it made you feel. And Doug, I know feelings are not always things that you are, you know, thrilled about talking about or sharing or anything like that. Um, again, we've known each other a really long time but, but saying you know, it really, you know, "I was, I was really uncomfortable. It's our first day here. I didn't know what to do and you made it a lot easier for me." Tells that person how they impacted your life and you want to call it positive reinforcement. Fine. You want to call it paying it forward, fine. But it, you know, in the same way that you would probably want to be thanked and recognized by a stranger on the street.

Doug:                                    09:31                     Yeah. It's just being appreciated for what you're doing. I mean when, when I go through checkout on a holiday when I can just tell that they are just being slammed. I tell generally tell the cashout guy, I said, I really appreciate you being here cause I needed to get this food today. And the fact that you're here just made my life so I could do this. I mean if you think of that, think of none of the cashiers showed up. You'd have to steal all the food. I mean, excuse me. No, you, they wouldn't open the store.

Josh:                                      09:59                     I was surprised. I recently took a trip and I went into the airport lounge. First time in my entire life that I've ever gone into an airport lounge. Um, had to look at the, the podcast episode we did where we talked about, uh, you know, the travel hacks, right? So that, that was good. So I went into the lounge and I, one of the times I spent seven hours in this lounge on a layover. I always surprised how many people in the lounge did not say thank you when the staff in the lounge came by and picked up your, your plates and your cups and stuff. Come on, people! Say thank you to the, the people who are like, you don't tip these folks that they, they, they're only thing that they're there for is to make your life in the lounge more pleasant. The least you can do is look up, smile at them and say thank you.

Leon:                                     11:01                     Right. Again, I see you, I see what you did. He appreciated what you did exactly. Doug, before we started recording. You talked about, um, something else about hearing the 'thank you' when it's not said, and I want to give you a chance to tell that story over.

Doug:                                    11:15                     It's really, it may be big because this is the flip side. This is, yeah, we were talking about we should be grateful. We should be thanking other people, but we're also looking at ways that we can go ahead and find gratitude and in our own lives. And sometimes the reality is we are not thanked for the wonderful things that we do for other people. I know this comes as a shock to everybody, but it's true. And when I had my own consultancy, uh, for the longest time I would base it, you know, I would be doing work for clients and doing work for clients and doing work for clients and clients never thank you. I mean, yeah, they pay, but they never actually thank you. But then all of a sudden I realized every time they said, "Okay, now that's done. Now what I want is..." They were essentially "Thank you for the thing that you just did." Because they wouldn't ask me to do the next thing if they weren't grateful for the fact that I had accomplished the first thing. So every time from then on that I heard now what I want is in my head. I just flipped it to, "Thank you Doug," and we were off and rolling.

Leon:                                     12:09                     That's why I wanted you to tell it over it because that's really powerful. If you think about all the times at work that people say, "Okay, next I want you to do blah, blah," and just realize that there is an implicit, not explicit, but an implicit, Thank you. Great job. Because if you screwed it up, believe me, I would have told ya."

Doug:                                    12:31                     Right and they wouldn't be asking you to do work on anything else ever again. That there's a, there's a very strong thank you every time they give you something new and if it's bigger, it's a big thank you.

Josh:                                      12:41                     I want to point out to our listeners because I'm sure a number of them have had these moments, the weekly team meeting where we all start off by the usually the managers saying, "I just want to point out that Josh showed up to work today." Or or something really mundane. Those co, those scenarios where you as a manager or a team lead are compelled to call out the things that your team does well, completely backfire on your team. Don't do them. If you're going to do them, make sure that it's for things that are exceptional to the norm. For example, me showing up at work today is not normally exceptional. May showing up to work today after I worked all weekend. That might be exceptional. "Hey Josh we really appreciate the fact that you worked all weekend and that you're here on Monday morning and that you have pants on." So those are exceptional things, but don't, don't force that gratitude because that just hurts your team. I don't know.

Leon:                                     13:48                     This goes back to the authenticity, but I had a very different experience. I had a manager who was himself exceptional in this regard that he would first look for, and then began to solicit and curate recognition... Points of recognition for the team. And, um, I'll post an example of it in the show notes. So if you're listening to this on a Tuesday, it'll be posted on Wednesday. But, um, it was really remarkable the effect it had. Because to your point, Josh, he was recognizing the exceptional mostly. Mostly he would say, "Okay, we saw that, you know, we, I noticed that you were online at two o'clock in the morning. It wasn't your on-call, but you just noticed it and that's really incredible. Please don't feel obligated to do that. But I know that you did and we appreciate it." But there was one thank you in the example I'm thinking of where he said, uh, you know, "George or whatever his name was. Um, there was nothing really noticeable about you this week. Um, you're fired. No joking." He said, "Really what was interesting was that everything that you accomplished was remarkably normal and under the wire it was consistent and it was typical. And it's what everyone has come to expect from you because you do it all the time. And I just want you to understand that that consistency is also appreciated." So here is a way to take a person who had had a normal week. Nothing to your point, Josh. Nothing exceptional. No 2:00 AM Sev1 calls, no working the weekend and say, but that's valuable too.

Doug:                                    15:24                     That's managerially brilliant. Because the problem is when the only thing that you ever reward is people putting out fires. You get a lot of people who put out fires, and so they let fires happen so that they can then put them out. As opposed to the person that goes ahead and does their job day in and day out so that there are no fires. They never get recognition.

Leon:                                     15:45                     Charity majors, uh, about a year ago talked about this, that one of her techniques was to recognize people who, um, first of all, people who pay down technical debt, that that was one of the things and that got higher praise than, uh, either fixing a bug or you know, resolving a crisis because that was valuable. But also she made sure that she recognized people who submitted things to, you know, submitted their code and there were no defects. That submitting with zero defects was more valuable than bug fixes. Because it meant there weren't, you know, cause it meant everything that it meant. And I think that that was really good.

Josh:                                      16:28                     I would suggest that being consistently good at your job and our job is to either build things, fix problems, whatever it might be. That individual who did everything that they were asked to do and the things that they weren't asked to do without being asked. That is unfortunately, truly exceptional.

Doug:                                    16:49                     It's true,

New Speaker:                    16:50                     I hate to, I hate to be that type of person, but I tell my kids all the time, "It is not hard to be exceptional. You just need to be consistent and transparent. That makes you exceptional because so many people are not both consistent and transparent in the things that they're doing." So my name, maybe for us, we're like, Oh that, that's cool that they're, my boss recognized somebody who wasn't exceptional. But what's your boss was really saying was, "Hey Sally, that was really awesome that you did those things." And you know, the backhand was "All the rest of y'all need to look at what Sally's doing and say, Hey, this is what's valued, not you off saving the world, you know, from a calamity that you created."

Leon:                                     17:41                     Another point just bringing in, um, a Jewish habit. So there's a Jewish tradition that you're supposed to say at least a hundred blessings a day, which is actually not hard in the Jewish tradition because there is a blessing for just about everything from the moment you wake up, before you even get out of bed, there's a blessing for, 'thank you for letting me wake up this morning' to a blessing for going to the bathroom. Yes, there's a blessing for it to go to the bathroom. There's a blessing for every bite of food in your mouth... Every bite of food you put in your mouth, there's a blessing for everything. And so that's the first thing. And, and uh, we can recognize, I think regardless of your religious tradition that when you say a blessing, you're saying 'thank you'. But there's a deeper level that I think is worth pointing out, which is that in, in the phrasing of a blessing, it's not. "Thank you for this thing." "Thank you for this apple." Thank you for... You're saying 'thank you for this moment.' "Thank you for this moment where I get to have this apple; where I get to get out of bed; where I get to go to work." I get to, you know, all these things. "Thank you for bringing me to this moment in time because that wasn't a guarantee." And the result of that for many people being that thankful, being thankful for every moment and saying, did I get my hundred blessings in today? Because that's, that's the goal. Okay, fine. That you become more grateful for things because you're looking for the things to say thank you for.

Josh:                                      19:13                     I'm disappointed Leon. I thought when you were going to talk about Jewish traditions, you were going to invoke the holiday where we all get drunk.

Leon:                                     19:21                     There is one of those, there's the get drunk holiday. There's also the eat cheesecake holiday was also, yes, there's also the eat fried foods holiday. This is an entirely other podcast episode. Um,

Josh:                                      19:34                     Holy crap. I should have been Jewish.

Doug:                                    19:38                     Well now that you're an ex-Mormon you still have an option.

Leon:                                     19:40                     There's... Okay. There's no, okay... Yes, I'd like to point out Judaism does not have a tradition of proselytizing. Uh, everyone, everyone goes to heaven. You don't need to be on the team. And everyone can, can participate in some of these holidays even if you're not on the team. Uh, and, and my house is always, we have an open door policy. So you're welcome to come for the cheesecake holiday or the fried foods holiday or the get drunk holiday.

Josh:                                      20:02                     I was going to say, who needs to proselytize when you've got holidays, like get drunk, eat cheese cake and eat fried foods. Like, Oh my goodness.

Leon:                                     20:10                     Okay. Not all at the same time. There are separate days, separate days,

Josh:                                      20:14                     But I thought you had like Christmas every day as a...

Leon:                                     20:18                     Okay. Alright. And I think what we're doing is we're a.tually demonstrating another idea, which is really to experience joy and laugh, laugh at things, laugh at moments, try to bring more laughter in. If you feel like you're work in IT is becoming really hard to take, finding ways to bring some laughter in, whether that's listening to a really good funny podcast or I know some people who watch, you know, slapstick, they watch, um, old, you know, 1930s, um, like the Marx brothers movies or whatever. Whatever tickles your funny bone, you know. Three Stooges or um, Monte Python or whatever it is that that does it for you. But bringing more laughter into your life makes a difference. That just laughing helps.

Josh:                                      21:08                     I agree. I also recommend laughing at yourself.

Leon:                                     21:12                     For some of us it's easier than others.

Doug:                                    21:14                     I have no problem with that. I'm about the funniest thing. I, uh,

Leon:                                     21:20                     right.

Doug:                                    21:20                     I don't have to wait too long to see me screw up.

Josh:                                      21:22                     I mean, being self-deprecating is something that I do really well and I don't know if it's a me being Canadian or me being British or me being Canadian and British, but self-deprecation is a way for me to laugh at myself. I I, for a long time I took myself pretty darn seriously and to be blunt, it nearly killed me. So now I take myself seriously when I need to be serious, but I also know that there's an awful lot in life that is not nearly as serious as we make it.

Leon:                                     21:53                     Yes, exactly. Now I will say that laughing at yourself, especially as a way to diffuse a tense situation, even if a tense situation is in your own head, is wonderful. Sharing that at work is sometimes not safe. And I want to recognize on this podcast that not everyone is in a situation where they feel like they can highlight and laugh publicly. "HAH I just screwed that up, that was pretty funny, wasn't it?!?" Because not only will the answer be no, the answer will be "and it's going to get you, you know, everything you say can and will be held against you in a court of public opinion."

Doug:                                    22:27                     I did. I did that. I, I've, I've rarely worked for a large corporation because I always thought I wouldn't do very well there and I have now proved it because, well no, there, there was a situation where we just, we didn't meet something and it didn't, it didn't work and everybody was like really down and there was nothing we could have done to, to have actually accomplished what was supposed to been accomplished, so I made a joke. Cause really what are you going to do? And it was not taken well at all. It's like I was, I was accused of not taking the problem seriously. And the answer is yeah, no I knew the pro... And I also knew that it wasn't our fault. There was nothing we could have done. We were torpedoed by another department intentionally (because big corporations do that) and everybody was down about it. It's like why should the, why should this team be depressed? Because of what happened. But the humor was not taken well in that situation. I no longer work for that company. That's not the only reason. But enough episodes like that pretty much made it easy for me to be in the 10% that get chopped. You know, any place that automatically chops 10% of their, their people every year? You can get, I'm going to be in that. I'll eventually be in that 10% for some reason.

Josh:                                      23:34                     Oh, that two letter company that we love to hate, hate to love. I don't know.

Leon:                                     23:40                     Yeah, yeah. No, that's a, that's a challenging one. But I think also, Doug, what you're talking about that, um, again, contextualizing what you're doing. You know, putting it into context, put, you know, framing it in a way that says, Hey, you know, let's just be clear about this. Whether again, for the good or the bad, especially when something doesn't go well, the ability to be grateful, the ability to be thankful, the ability to see the humor in it also means recognizing that really, what are we doing here? Like at the end of the day, we're writing software. And just one story about that. Um, one of my really good friends that I grew up with is Lee Unkrich, who for many years was a director at Pixar and just retired from there not too long ago. And he was on the team working on "Monsters, Inc." And they were in a, they were in a meeting room. It was day one and a half of what ended up being a three day effort to come up with one particular sequence in the movie, which is where they got thrown out of a door and they're in the, you know, the Arctic or something. And they meet up with the abominable snowman. And they're trying to work one gag and they couldn't quite get it. And in again, at day one and a half, Lee stopped everything and he said, "I just need us all to recognize that we are here being paid a not-insignificant-amount of money to come up with the perfect pee in the snow joke. That's what we're being paid to do right now. And we just need to recognize how incredibly awesome our jobs are."

Josh:                                      25:17                     I want that job so badly. Oh my God.

Leon:                                     25:20                     Right? Because there was a lot of pressure in the room. Like we've got to get this right.

Josh:                                      25:25                     I used to work for a major automotive manufacturer, one of the big three. And when the line shut down, it was, it was an awful lot of money a minute that was not being realized because they weren't working. And I used to say to people, I worked in support, uh, in, in one of the, in a couple of their facilities for a period of time. "We're not curing cancer here folks..." Cause people, I, I, I have never been, I've never been in the military, but I have been torn up one side and down the other because of the line going down and some shift manager freaking out. And I'm just like, we are literally not curing cancer. I switched companies and a few years later I was working for a company that was helping cure cancer.

Leon:                                     26:17                     Okay. Context,

Josh:                                      26:19                     Jokes on me, right? Uh, but I, I think we need to remember that even when we're trying to cure cancer or... There's only so much that you can do, you can only move mountains so far and then that's it. I mean, don't it. Yes. It's not a laughing matter. When you, when you fail to deliver in spite of your best efforts and someone dies. Not a laughing matter. But we can be grateful. The effort that we put in, I could never be a first responder because I would want to save everybody. And that just is not what happens as a first responder. Uh, uh, an, uh, a friend of mine, uh, is a doctor and I, I remember listening to stories from him being an intern and the people dying on the gurney as he was doing his ER rotation. And I thought 'there was no way,' just no way I can do that. But on one hand, I'm very grateful that I, I'm not a doctor. On the other hand, I'm also very grateful that he had the wherewithal to understand that he couldn't save everyone, but he was going to give 100%. and every day he was like, I give it, I give him my all. I can't save that person who came in with, you know, shot seven times. And being grateful that you put in the effort. That is really okay.

Doug:                                    27:41                     I was going to say, even though we're looking for ways to be grateful, when you know that you've done the best job that you can do, that's the time to be great. That's the time to be thankful. Even if nobody else knows that you did the best you could and that's assuming that you bring your, you know, the best you got at any given day, sometimes the best you've got is not all that great.

Leon:                                     27:59                     A number of decades ago, Doug and I were working at the same company and I had a situation where in the evening I was working on a, a co, a client's computer and the hard drive completely and utterly crashed. And this person lost all of their data and I really kind of lost it, uh, because I was working on the computer at the time and the hard drive crashed and I, it was early enough in my career that I did not know what to do and I did not know how to take it. And I spent some fairly emotional minutes in your office. Like, "I don't know how to face this person. I don't know how to deal with this. What am I going to do?" And you said, "You know, the system died on you, but you didn't take a hammer to it. It just died. Hardware does that. And you did everything you could. They didn't have backups. That's not your fault." And put, you know, both putting it in context and basically saying everything you just said about you did the best you could, you don't need to carry this. And I did anyway. Because, right. And it was a sleepless, you know, sleepless night until, uh, the angry words were said and the client recovered their composure. And you know, we moved on from that and a week later I was able to look back with a little bit more perspective. But, um, a, I was grateful to have somebody who had a little bit, you know, a little bit better perspective on it. But also, um, I was eventually able to have that point of view that I had done everything I could and this happened anyway and you know, I, and I was there. And in one respect I was there to at least be able to say "It was a blah... It was at this and a this and this and then this happened. "And explain to the client coherently the sequence of events so they could at least be prepared for it next time and wouldn't, you know, at that client took religious backups after that. So, you know, lessons learned,

Josh:                                      30:06                     Call me, not surprised.

Leon:                                     30:08                     Um, any final words, any, any last thoughts before we wrap this up?

Josh:                                      30:12                     You know, I, I do. And because I know Leon how much you love when I quote songs. And because I think in this particular case we missed talking about something that we uh, that we should be grateful for. I am going to quote James Taylor from his song. "You've Got A Friend." The first verse says, "When you're down and troubled; and you need a helping hand; and nothing, nothing is going right." I mean it sounds like every day in IT, right? "Close your eyes and think of me; and soon I will be there; to brighten up even your darkest night..." (When you're on call.) No... That's not what James Taylor said, but I mean you just shared a story about how Doug was there for you. Having friends and IT having friends when you work in IT that aren't in IT is really powerful. But I think that having friends who also have been there, they've gone through the experiences that they, you can commiserate with them, you can laugh and have joy with them. You can cry and probably string together a fairly long sentence filled exclusively with curse words. That is also very powerful. So my final words have, have friends and listen to James Taylor. You've got a friend.

Doug:                                    31:31                     My final word is you can't be grateful enough. I mean, if you think you've done it all yourself, you're wrong. If you think you've screwed it all up yourself, you're wrong. Just be grateful for what you've managed to accomplish and that just makes everything goes so much better.

Leon:                                     31:45                     All right. And with that thought, I'm going to close it out with a quote from Mr. Rogers. Um, there's now a movie out that highlights this, but it's something that I have, uh, kept up on the wall here in my office and talk about from time to time. Mr. Rogers, when he received a lifetime achievement award, uh, he said something that just has stuck with me forever.

New Speaker:                    32:05                     "All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take along with me 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life? 10 seconds. I'll watch the time."

Destiny:                               32:22                     Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions, and connect to us on social media.

Josh:                           32:36                     To quote Jacques Maritain, "Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy."


S2E1: Raise Your Glass

S2E1: Raise Your Glass

January 7, 2020

Working in IT can often feel like long periods of soul-crushing depression and frustration as we work through a technical issue, punctuated by brief moments of insane euphoria when we find a solution, followed by yet another period of soul crushing depression and frustration when we move on to the next problem. In this light, learning to take time to celebrate and express gratitude is essential. In this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug explore the habits we've developed as IT pros to get us through the hard parts of the job; and the lessons from our religious, moral, or ethical tradition can we bring to bear. Listen or read the transcript below.

Doug: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh - or at least not conflict - with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:24 I've often described working in IT like this: It's long periods of soul crushing depression and frustration as we work through a technical issue, punctuated by brief moments of insane euphoria when we find the solution followed by yet another period of soul crushing depression and frustration when we move on to the next problem. In this light, learning to take time to celebrate and express gratitude is essential. What happens have we developed as IT pros to get us through the hard parts of the job? What lessons from our religious, moral, or ethical tradition can we bring to bear? I'm Leon Adato, and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime, Doug Johnson.

Doug: 01:01 Hello,

Leon: 01:02 and Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:04 Hello.

Leon: 01:05 All right. As has become our habit. Let's go ahead and just dive into a moment of shameless self promotion. Doug, kick it off.

Doug: 01:12 I'm Doug Johnson. I'm the chief technical officer of WaveRFID. We do really cool stuff with inventory and RFID and weird things like that.

Leon: 01:23 He's waving his hands.

Doug: 01:25 Wavy hand-waving. I'm an evangelical Christian and you can find information about what we do

Leon: 01:33 Great. Josh?

Josh: 01:35 Uh, I'm Josh Biggley. I am a tech ops strategy consultant at NewRelic. Yay. You can find me on the Twitters @Jbiggley. You can also find me on LinkedIn @jbiggley. I don't have any other social media. Also Yay. Um, I am a post Mormon and as of a few weeks ago officially ex-Mormon

Leon: 01:55 I still am not sure whether I'm supposed to say congratulations about that or not.

Josh: 01:59 In my case. Yes. Congratulations.

Leon: 02:01 Okay, great. Uh, and I'm Leon Adato. I'm a head geek at SolarWinds. SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's a monitoring vendor. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I pontificate on all things technical and sometimes religious at and I identify as an Orthodox Jew. So before we dive into the solution, meaning how do we find ways to be more grateful or experience more gratitude in our technical lives? I want to elaborate on the problem that we're trying to solve a little bit because we're in IT and that's what we do best.

Doug: 02:37 Start with the problem.

New Speaker: 02:39 Yeah, let's, let's get our scope and then we'll go to the rest. So what is it about working in IT that causes that kind of frustration that I described or causes those moments of frustration to so frequently? Like what are the things that that keep dragging us down?

Josh: 02:54 Scope creep. I mean you just talked about scope, right? Oh yeah.

Doug: 02:58 Before we go ahead and I want to actually add something to this topic. Okay. I'm just kidding. (laughter) It's just like that, that scope creep people. Again, partial solutions, that's where we think we've got it. We have 80% of it done. It turns out we don't have the 20% that's important, but we've got the 80% done.

Leon: 03:21 Right. The 80% that was really easy. And we got done on the first couple of days and then we've been slogging through the rest of it to get the 20th yeah, exactly. Um, I also want to talk about technical debt. It's just a concept that I, I love, I don't love technical debt. I just love the concept of it. It's a great way of describing it. But as it professionals, I think we are the ones who uncover it and then frequently are asked to just ignore it or cover it back up again. But we know it's going to bite us. We know that we've got to deal with it. And I think that that can become frustrating either knowing I have to deal with this and it wasn't on my list of things to do or knowing that it's still lurking out there waiting to rear its ugly head.

Doug: 04:00 Right. Or even worse when you're developer doing that, I've got to get this thing done. I've got to get it in this amount of time. And I'm going to create new technical debt cause I can't, I don't have time to actually do this right. Because there may not be time to do it over. Oh, there's never time to do it. Right. But there's always time to do it over. Gee, that never seems to happen.

Leon: 04:16 Yeah. You never do it over and there's always times you do it wrong though.

Doug: 04:19 Exactly. Well there is, I mean, you know, sometimes you just know in any case I did. It's frustrating. There was, it's what we're talking about here. Right? Frustration. Right. So there you are.

Josh: 04:31 I think one of the most soul crushing parts about technical debt, whether you've uncovered it or whether you are the one who is unfortunately having to put it in place is when you know that you have found or you're building technical debt, you take it out to your team or to the larger organization and nobody gives a damn. Yeah, okay. Technical debt's a reality. It's, there are scenarios where you're building something and you have to build an implement today even though you know, six months from now, something's going to change. That's going to make the thing you're doing obsolete. But the fact that nobody cares to talk about it again in six months, that that will open up your, your heart, it will reach in and pull your soul out and squish it and,

Leon: 05:21 What a visceral example.

Doug: 05:23 I was going to say. I wish I thought you were exaggerating, but I know you're not. You know, as the CTO, my team... And I work with my team on this all the time. It's like we go through the process without, you know, make it work, make it right, make it fast. And we do it in that order. I mean, we did, it's like we just tried to get it to work and we know we're probably, we do our best not to create a technical that while we're making it work, but sometimes you just got to get that sucker out there and then we, we always try to come back to the, "make it right" part and, and, and so I'm not your CTO, Josh, but trust me, if I, we would be, we would care about that technical debt.

Josh: 06:01 Aw, I feel so loved.

Leon: 06:02 I will say that the dev ops culture, if, if there's anything that, that, uh, can be lauded about the DevOps culture, it's raising the awareness of technical debt and also, um, raising new ways to approach and address it, you know, that the business will understand. But, okay. So another point that I think frustrates us is, you know, when, when you're working on something and especially in a hardware and operating system realm, this seems to come up, but something that goes wrong that according to the vendor or the owner, "well that's never happened before. "

Doug: 06:38 Right? Right. Yeah, "it works on my machine.

Leon: 06:42 "Works for me." Right. There's a great episode recently, this past week, um, at least as we record this from "Screaming in the Cloud," Corey Quinn, one of Corey Quinn's podcasts where he's talking about... Talking with the founders of Oxide, (which is a great name for a company by the way.) And they, they build sort of a prebuilt, um, rack based solutions. And they said one of their biggest frustrations is working with, with server vendors and being the only one who is having this problem with a GBIC or with memory modules dying too quickly or whatever it was. And they were at a conference talking about their solution and they brought that idea up and they said, you know, "nobody's had this problem" where or whatever, and 17 hands went up and it wasn't the 17 hands that went up of people who all had the problem that the vendors swore up and down the wall no one's ever had. It was as the hands were going up and 17 people were becoming simultaneously infuriated that they realized they weren't the only one having the problem. This was the first moment that they knew it. So that was, you know, again, that's, that's really just, it just again, sucks, sucks your soul right out.

Josh: 07:56 I mean, I'll say the worst thing you can do and probably want to this, this same idea, the worst thing that you can do as a service provider is bullshit the people that are paying you for their service. Don't do it. Just don't do it cause they're gonna. They're going to have that moment where they stand in a crowd with 17 other people that are like, "Oh my goodness, I am not the only one." And they're going to, they're going to get really pissed off.

Doug: 08:22 All right. And they're going to be at a conference where they can go talk to your competitors. Some of my worst moments were a fat fingering on a production server. I've only done it. I know, I know. I know. But sometimes there you are. I mean, one case, you know, I thought I wason one server, I was on a different server. I wiped out a database. What fun. You know, I don't do these things. Another time I thought it was not on the production server and I was cleaning things up while I was on the production server and the thing that I cleaned up made it stop working and that'll, that's an instant depression.

Leon: 08:57 Been there, done that.

Josh: 08:58 Yup. Yeah. Copy paste from the internet bad. Uh, don't, don't do it.

Leon: 09:04 I will say right now, quotes are never your friend. When you copy paste it, there's, there's one, there's just one that's a smart quote and it's going to screw up everything.

Josh: 09:13 Yeah. I'll also say that the reality is every engineer makes mistakes and the absolute worst thing you can do as an engineer is shame. Other engineers, I don't care if you, if you knew how to solve this problem, the moment you know, you sprung forth from your parents' loins. It doesn't matter. You don't shame other engineers. Nobody learns by being shamed.

Leon: 09:41 One of the best things that I saw come out of, um, last year, 2019 with, uh, one of the Facebook crashes was in the middle of the crash. It was the, the 24 hour crash or, or whatever it was. It went on for a while and somebody said, "Can we all just understand that right now the Facebook SRS are going through hell and that when we are, when we are armchair quarterbacking, what might be wrong or whatever. We can hold off on the, 'I can't believe they didn't do blah, blah,' like we have all been there and it sucks. And although we have our own feelings about Facebook as a company, these engineers right now are not having a good time and let's just be a little supportive of them."

Josh: 10:26 I am nodding emphatically.

Doug: 10:28 Yep. The best thing that I ever learned as a senior engineer was basically how to go ahead and make my juniors feel better about the screw ups because... No, I'm serious. I mean the, the whole job of a senior engineer other than being good at what you do is to go ahead and make juniors into seniors and the only way to get a junior to be a senior is to make him not be so afraid to fail that he can't succeed. It's something that I'm good at. I mean, that's one of the few things that I've learned how to do over the years. I used to, used to be terrible at being good to other people, but over the years I've screwed up enough to be able to say to anybody now, "Hi, I've screwed up so much. You have no idea how many years you're going to have to work to even come close to screwing up as bad as I have." And as a result, you can make them feel better about what they're doing and become better engineers.

Leon: 11:14 So Yechiel Kalmenson, another voice that that we've had on a few times, took a run at the concept of a 10x engineer. He said, the only valid version of a 10x engineer is an engineer who builds up the engineers around him until they are 10 other people who are just as good as he is.

Doug: 11:31 Yup. That's a 10 X.

Leon: 11:33 So what we've started to do is roll into the ways that we can create a habit of gratitude and thankfulness and positivity because we recognize as we just went over it. There's a lot of reasons to, you know, walk home, you know, walk to our car at the end of the day just feeling like garbage. Let's talk ways that, that from our professional point of view, I mean we've got, you know, we've got close to a hundred years of experience, sorry, but we have almost a hundred years of experience on this podcast right now.

Josh: 12:05 You guys are old!

Leon: 12:05 ...but right, exactly. It's just me and Doug. That's where we're carrying the load on that one. So what are some ways from both our professional and also our religious point of view that allow people to build a sense of gratitude about what they do? Because really, at the end of the day, I know that for 30 years I love working in IT. I really enjoy it. You know, I am excited to go to work every day (Most days.) I enjoy the things that I'm able to accomplish. And part of it is that I have a really cool job and all that stuff. But part of it is that I think you have to build the habit of finding those moments that you enjoy because that's what you hold onto. Um, and some of that, just, just to kick it off, is recognizing a success for what it is. I think in it, going back to my intro to this episode, that if you look at it as vast stretches of depression and frustration punctuated by very brief moments of excitement, and then going back to the salt mines, you're not going to be able to maintain a career - a happy career because the, the joy is so brief and the, the non joy is so long lived. I think we have to recognize successes whenever they occur and take a moment and, and appreciate those. You know, when we were little kids it was really clear. Like I spelled my name right, I tied my shoes, I put my pants on, not backward. I, you know, like whatever. Now, the bar's raised a slightly for some of us, uh, before the show started we were talking about why pants might or might not be necessary, you know, at work. Beyond coming to work dressed appropriately. I think there are moments when we need to recognize that that was really a success. You know, sometimes just getting the config change and not breaking that router, that is a success.

Doug: 13:56 There's a whole way of doing dev now that actually gives you that the whole test driven development. Basically you, you, you go ahead and build a test that fails, and then you write code to make that test succeed. And so you actually are giving yourself a whole series of successes during the day. And when you get that little green light that's, you know, that's actually building successes in your days. Now you can't get up and go home after every green bar. But the reality is you can, you can at least get us, you can get smiles throughout the day that you wouldn't get otherwise.

Leon: 14:28 Right? And, and my point is to take a longer moment to bask in that, just to appreciate that green dot. Just to take a moment and appreciate. Don't just like, "All right, finally, that one's done. Next!" No, take a second. Joss Whedon talked about his process as a writer and he said, I am. I'm like a little monkey. Like I am very reward driven. I wrote one good line of dialogue, have a cookie. Like he says, I do my best writing in a cafe for particularly a dessert cafe because I will go get another slice of chocolate cake. It's not good for my waist, but it is very good for, you know, like I am happy. Yay. I wrote another paragraph. So however you do it, take a longer moment to recognize that success.

Josh: 15:15 I like to think to our success is that we enjoy the things that, that we need to spend time, um, pondering on. They don't have to be the same for everyone. Look for Joss Whedon. Maybe writing that paragraph is, that's a moment of joy for him. Leon, I happened to know that you can churn out a ridiculous amount of, uh, writing in a very short period of time. And so for you, a paragraph is like, "Okay, I just exercise my keyboard for 30 seconds, you know, let's crank this bad boy up to Mach speed." The reality is sometimes, and we talked a couple of episodes ago and then we talked in our wrap up episode last week about, you know, my admission that I suffer from depression sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning and I work from home like, like both of you. So pants are often optional, but just getting out of bed in the morning and sitting down in front of, um, my, my laptop, that can be a win and we need, we need to recognize how powerful that is. And when we look around the world and we're, and we say to ourselves, "Well, I haven't accomplished X, Y, or Z," or "I haven't done the things that, you know, my brother, my sister, my father, my best friend, some random person on Instagram," (which is why I'm not an Instagram or Facebook) that will sap us of the gratitude that, as a friend of mine who is, uh, in his eighties says, "I sat up and took nourishment today. It's a good day." And he's been saying that for decades. It's not because he's in his eighties, he's remarkably spry for being in his eighties. But for him it's, "I sat up, I put food in my mouth. It's a good day."

Leon: 17:03 So again, just to circle back, I think that having that childlike, not childish sense of accomplishment, uh, Josh, to your point that you need to know where you are. You know, accomplishment for me is not the accomplishment for my siblings. Especially when you have different aged kids. You know, some can reach the top of the shelf and some, you know, need to get a step stool or whatever it is. But, uh, I think our accomplishments are the same way. Um, my, one of my bosses, Tiffany Nels is a famous around the office for saying "compare and despair". There's a video that was one of the inspiration pieces for this episode and it said that that social media is a big driver for people's sense of dissatisfaction. Uh, there's been studies that demonstrate that after 15 minutes of being on social media, people are measurably less happy about their lives. Now, I'm not saying everyone bail on Facebook, (although there's a lot of IT security reasons to bail on Facebook), but maybe remember that. And again, in the sense of having gratitude, maybe control limit, uh, put into context the amount of social media you consume and how you allow it to influence your life. Um, and also when other people at the office are getting things done, remember that their to do list is not your to do list. Your to do list, maybe get up, get to the keyboard, right? A couple of good emails and that that was your list for the day. That's, that's an accomplishment.

Josh: 18:40 I have also really grateful when my coworkers are accomplishing really awesome things when, when, when they've hit their stride, I'm grateful we work together. There is not a competition. It's not about, you know, whether dog or Leon, whether you're doing more than I am. We're on this team together and if you're killing it and I'm having a really rough day executing it, that's okay. It's why we're not independent contractors. It's why we don't work as long walls. And even, I mean, the reality is even if you are an independent contractor, you're working with a team that's not you. Uh, this whole idea that there, and we've talked about this before on this, on this podcast, there is no rock star individual. There is no individual who you can hire and bring into your environment that is going to save your company. If you're looking for that person, your company was probably in trouble already.

Doug: 19:43 You're done.

Leon: 19:43 Yeah. Yeah. There's other bigger problems to to fix.

Josh: 19:46 I just, I want to call out as well that Doug and I, we had this, we have a shared history here since we both come from a Christian backgrounds in Matthew 18 and the Bible, and I'm going to quote the King James version because that's the version I grew up with. It says, "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." And Leon, that ties back to your very first comments when we're trying to figure out how to be grateful, how to be thankful is kids are, they are just overjoyed with the little things in life. You know how many times as a kid, and I remember doing this, you're laying on the grass on a warm summer day and you're like, this is good, and you'll look up and you'd like see clouds. You're like, Oh my goodness. That one looks like a rhinoceros. Like you're like, Oh, I saw a cloud. Or you find a four leaf clover, or you manage to ride your bike and not crash it. There's so many things as a kid you're just grateful for and take that for what it is. We really need to be like little children in our gratitude, have it be abundant.

Doug: 20:53 The thing is, you can go ahead and get some gratitude by, by comparing yourself, because I have people all the time. They'll complain about their life and I'll go, okay, let's go to Wikipedia and let's look at the annual income, uh, of most countries. And half of them are below $1,000 a year. And I'm going, okay, so how bad is your life? Again, look at what you've got here in most of the first world and just stop complaining.

Leon: 21:16 So again, in the video that that was the inspiration. They talked about people who have gone through some kind of trauma in the illness or an accident or whatever it is, and whose lives have returned to some form of normalcy after that event. And they're having the exact same experiences. They're eating breakfast and they're reading a book, whatever. But the, that experience has completely transformed for them into one of gratitude because they know how tenuous it is. They know what it's like to not have had that or not have been able to do it. And maybe even to think that they were never going to have that experience again and now they're having it. So again, same coffee, same cereal in the bowl, but a completely different thing. How much better would it be if we could contextualize that and say, wow, you know, it doesn't have to be like this. That, that for many of us, uh, the experiences that we're having are largely based on the zip code to which we were born. And you know, that's, that's why I'm here and just be, be grateful for it. I, I also think so there's a fairly famous story that goes around and, and I've heard the Jewish version of it, um, the story goes quickly like this.

Leon: 22:34 "There was a queen who went to her counselors asking for a piece of wisdom. She said that she needed something, a phrase or an idea that was short, so short, that could be inscribed on a ring that would keep her humble in times of success, but also that same phrase would, uh, give her hope in times of trouble or, or sorrow. And so the scholars who worked for her came back after some thought and they gave her the phrase 'gam ze yaavo', which is Hebrew for 'This, too, shall pass.' "

Leon: 23:10 Now, when you hear that story frequently, your first dot goes to the bat, right? Oh, something's really, really bad. But this too shall pass. It's only a minute. The hard drive crash. But trust me, next week this will be a distant memory. You're going to laugh about it, Leon. It's going to be okay. But I want to point out that equally true is that if something is going well, this phrase, this too shall pass not to, not to rain on your parade as a, well, you know, you think it's good now, but tomorrow is going to be crap again. No. Is that appreciate it while it's here, it's not going to be here forever. This is going to pass, so appreciate every moment of it that you have it.

Doug: 23:50 There is so much that's a femoral in all of the highs or the lows. I mean a lot of it's kind of right in the middle and the, there's all kinds of studies that show that if things go really great after a little while they won't seem that great. Even if they're just as great as they were, they won't even seem that great anymore. So you need to go ahead and appreciate those moments when they happen both behind the low for that matter. I mean it did it even at the lows, you're feeling something.

Leon: 24:16 Working in it in, in enterprises and really any business we can get caught up in the business mantra of, you know, "higher, better, faster, stronger. Next quarter has to be better than this one..."And I think that that's an unhealthy thing. It's healthy for the company. Obviously the company should always be on a growth, you know, a growth plan. But for IT, I think doing just as well today as you did yesterday is fan freaking tastic. And that if you do just as well tomorrow as you did today as you did yesterday as you did last week, still a win. Still totally 100% in the win column.

Doug: 24:59 We're keeping the joint running.

Leon: 25:01 Yes, exactly.

Josh: 25:02 I am going to call out the, within religion there is a potentially toxic idea that you must always be progressing and that that continuous progression is the only thing that separates you from falling behind everybody else. It's that idea that everyone else around you is improving. If you're not improving, if you're not getting better every single day, then you're actually falling behind. You cannot stand stand still, and I've heard this many times, "if you are standing still, you are actually falling behind." Let's be honest, that in the game of life you are not competing against anybody else. It is you against you. It's who you are now versus who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow. That's it. And have it doesn't matter how many toys do you have? It doesn't matter how many friends do you have. It doesn't matter. Okay. Maybe if they're really cool toys.. (laughter) No, no, it does not matter how many toys you have. It doesn't matter how much money you have, it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is your competition against yourself. And once we set all of this ridiculous competition, and I am not a competitive person, I really, I make a great socialist. I really do. I yay Canada. Um, because I, I'm just, I'm not competitive. Once we set all of that aside, then we can get into some of the things that I think are really important around our authenticity to each other in the engagements that we have. And then we start doing things not because we're getting some sort of intrinsic reward or maybe we are getting an intrinsic reward, but we don't recognize it. We're, we're doing things because it makes other people feel better. And making other people feel better, helps us feel better. And that to me is how we show that, that real gratitude. So just want to call out that some people in religious context really take this whole, "I have to be better. Um, because if I'm not, if I'm not better, if I'm not making greater sacrifices, if I'm not doing whatever thing it is that your religion says you should do, then somehow I'm a bad person." That's just toxic.

Leon: 27:11 Trying to take the concept of sins, which is a, uh, it can be very weird depending on your religious or ethical background, but saying, "well, I sinned. I failed on this and therefore I am points down" treating observance as a zero sum game. I'm 50 points up. I'm 25 points behind is really unhealthy. The Jewish idea is that your experience of that, your free will, your struggle is at a point, a particular point. And that's where your struggle is. And the comment from one of the really great rabbis of, of our time, Akiva Tatz where he talks about, you know, "do you remember this morning where you woke up and you really struggled with yourself not to go out on the street and mug an old lady and steal her purse?"

Josh: 28:00 I do.

Leon: 28:01 Yeah. No, you're Canadian. I know for many of us that doesn't even enter into our mind. So did we exercise free will in choosing not to mug an old lady and steal their purse? Of course we didn't. It's that, it's not even on the table. It's not even the list of things. That our point of like if you want to say the word sin or, or observance or whatever is wherever we're struggling. And that's a very personal thing. And it's again, not points up points behind. It's "how am I doing in that one area, in that area that I struggle with today?" Hopefully you are moving the bar up, but in the same way that I don't count my exercise regimen against Lance Armstrong (because I would be dead if I tried to keep up), I can't count myself against anyone else. Again, back to, you know, Tiffany Nels compare and despair.

Doug: 28:54 Evangelical Christianity does the same thing when it, when it does it right in that there are sins and you acknowledge your sin and then you're forgiving of it and you move on and improve. Now, unfortunately in the toxic area of evangelical Christianity, as Josh notes, uh, we point out YOUR sins. And your sins are worse than my sin. So therefore you're really, really bad. And I'm just saying it's, it's, it's like when Christianity, real Christianity and I'm, you know, says it they're your sins and you deal with them and, and it gives you a way to go ahead and work, work through and become a better person. But boy it's your, it gets turned backwards an awful, awful lot of the times.

Josh: 29:37 I was, I was worried Doug, I thought you were reading my emails cause I just emailing Leon about your sins. I was a weird, there you go.

Doug: 29:47 And you accused Leon of writing too much stuff.

Leon: 29:51 We know you can't listen to our podcast all day. So out of respect for your time, we've broken this particular conversation up. Come back next week and we'll continue our conversation.

Josh: 30:01 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions, and connect with us on social media.

Speaker 1: 30:15 To quote Jacques Maritain "Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy."


S1E38: End of Season Wrap-Up

S1E38: End of Season Wrap-Up

December 31, 2019

In our last episode of the season Josh and Leon look back at the stories that most stood out and the data that shows how we performed; and then look ahead to what next year will bring. Stick with us as we highlight some of the greatest moments of season one, and chart a course into season 2. Listen or read the transcript below.

Josh: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh - or at least not conflict - with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Leon: 00:23 It's our last episode of the year. And so we're going to do what every major Hollywood production does.
Josh: 00:27 Take a vacation to Hawaii and bring the film crew so we can expense it?
Leon: 00:31 Uh, no.
Josh: 00:32 And then do a retrospective episode so that we don't have to actually create that much!
Leon: 00:36 Okay, so you're half right. Actually, maybe a third, right? Because we're still going to do a full episode.
Josh: 00:40 And no Hawaii?
Leon: 00:42 No Hawaii. So let's dive right in. I'm Leon Adato.
Josh: 00:47 And I'm Josh Biggley. And while we normally start the show with a shameless self promotion today we're going to do an end of the year economy size version. Like we shopped at Costco,
Leon: 00:57 Right, exactly. For all this stuff that we need for the end of year, all our parties and everything like that. Right. So instead of introducing just the two of us, we're going to introduce everyone who's been on the podcast this year. So here we go! Um, Josh, kick it off.
Josh: 01:11 All right, so, uh, Josh Biggley, Tech Ops Strategy Consultant. Now with New Relic. You can find me on the Twitters @jbiggley. I am officially as of this last week officially. ex-Mormon.
Leon: 01:20 Do I say congratulations?
Josh: 01:22 I think so. Maybe there's a hallmark card for it. I don't know, but yeah, no, we officially resigned this week. It came through a Thursday, Wednesday. I don't remember. Uh, yeah, so that's it. We're done.
Leon: 01:33 Okay. All right. And, uh, I'm Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I also pontificate on technical and religious things at I am still Orthodox Jewish. I am not ex anything. Uh, and in the show notes, just so you know, we're going to list out everybody that we talk about in the next few minutes along with all of their social media connections and the episodes they appear in so you can look them up. We're just going to go back and forth on this one. So I'm going to kick it off. Doug Johnson was on our show. He's the CTO of WaveRFID.
Josh: 02:08 Destiny Bertucci is the product manager at SolarWinds... uh, "A" product manager. They have lots of them. You can find her on the Twitters @Dez_sayz,
Leon: 02:17 And also a program manager at Solarwinds, Kate Asaff.
Josh: 02:21 All right. And Roddie Hasan, Technical Solutions Architect at Cisco.
Leon: 02:25 Al Rasheed, who's contractor and virtualization admin. Extra-ordinaire.
Josh: 02:28 Indeed. Xtrordinair, a Mike Wise president of blockchain wisdom. I see. I see what he did there.
Leon: 02:35 Yeah, yeah. Blockchain wisdom, Wise-dom, right, whatever. Okay. Keith Townsend, who is CEO of CTO Advisor
Josh: 02:43 Yechiel Kalmenson is a software engineer at Pivotal. Yay.
Leon: 02:47 Yay. I'm so glad that you got to say his name again. Cory Adler, who's lead developer at park place.
Josh: 02:53 Rabbi. Ben Greenberg is developer advocate at Vonage.
Leon: 02:57 Steven Hunt or "Phteven" as we like to call him, Steven Hunt, who is senior director of product management at DataCore software.
Josh: 03:04 All right. Leon, you're going to have to help me here because I know I'm going to mis-pronounce this name.
Leon: 03:08 Go for it. It's a hard "H". It's a hard H.
Josh: 03:11 Hame? Chame?
Leon: 03:11 Chaim (Cha-yim).
Josh: 03:11 Okay. Chaim Weiss a front end angular developer at DecisionLink there. I feel like we probably should have done that a little different and not made the guy who does not, um, you know, speak,
Leon: 03:25 No, I think we did it exactly right.
Josh: 03:29 You are a scoundrel.
Leon: 03:30 I am. So, Hey, you can have me say all the hard, uh, Mormon names.
Josh: 03:37 Definitely. Oh, we need to insert some of those. All right, let's talk about numbers cause I mean, I, I, I'm a number geek. I love numbers. You called me out today on Twitter, uh, because I was complaining about a certain hundred billion dollar investment account that has certain former, uh, church that I have or a church that I formerly belonged to, might have. And I was comparing it to the bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Um, our numbers don't have nearly as many zeros.
Leon: 04:02 No, not nearly as much. Um, and the numbers we're talking about are not financial. The numbers that we're going to talk about is just, uh, who's been listening to the episode. So, uh, I think I mentioned the top of the show. This is our last episode. It's number 38 for the year. We got a late start in the year, but we've been almost every week. So 38 episodes, uh, and yay. And you can find us on a variety of platforms you can find us on. I'm just going to do this in one breath. iTunes, Spotify, Google play, Stitcher pocket cast, Podbean, YouTube, PlayerFM , iHeartRadio. And of course you can listen directly from the website at https://www,
Josh: 04:37 Wow, congratulations. That was well done.
Leon: 04:39 Thank you.
Josh: 04:41 All right, so, um, let's talk about who's listening. I mean, or maybe how many people are listening. So as of this recording or prior to this recording, um, we've had 2100... Over 2100 listens and downloads. OVER 21... Does that mean like 2101 or we.
Leon: 04:57 It's anything between 2101 and a billion.
Josh: 05:00 Sweet.
Leon: 05:01 But you have to figure that if it was anything close to say 3000, we probably would have said it.
Josh: 05:05 That that is true. So over 2100 listens and because we like math, that's about 50 listeners per episode. Thanks mom. Appreciate.
Leon: 05:14 Right. It's yeah, it's not necessarily listened nerves, it's just people who've listened. So yes, it could have been both of our moms clicking the podcast repeatedly. Hopefully that's not the case. And in those 2100 listens, the results are that the top five episodes for the year based on the listen count. Uh, our number one episode is also our number one episode, "Religious Synergy". Podcast episode number one is first with 89 listeners.
Josh: 05:42 That's going way back, way back. Tied actually for number one, but not the first episode was episode 12"Ffixing the World One Error Message at a Time." That was a good episode.
Leon: 05:55 It really was. There were some amazing aha moments for me in that one. Uh, number three is episode 17, "Pivoting Our Career on the Tip of a Torah Scroll," which is where I was talking with Cory Adler, Rabbi Ben Greenberg, and Yechiel Kalmenson about their respective transitions from the rabbinate from rabbinic life or just Yeshiva life into becoming programmers, which was kind of a weird, interesting pivot in and of itself. And that had 76 listeners.
Josh: 06:25 Following up to... I mean, that really riveting discussion. I mean, honestly, it, it, it was very interesting to me is this whole idea of a possible imposter syndrome, which apparently I'm imposing on you by making you listen to this episode? I don't know. Um, episode 11 was "Imposter Syndrome" with 71 listeners. Um, I would encourage others to listen to it because it's still very, very relevant.
Leon: 06:51 Yeah. Yeah, there was, again, that was another one where I think we had a few aha moments both in, in ourselves. Like, "Oh, that's right. That's it. You know, that's a good way to look at it. That's an interesting way to..." You know, some and some ways to deal with imposter syndrome, which I think in IT is definitely a thing. Um, and the last of the top five is episode three. So going again, way back, "Being a Light Unto the Nations During a Sev One Call," I think the "sev one call" was what got people's attention. Um, and that had 68 listeners.
Josh: 07:20 I want to point out that this is the first time in my entire career that I have not been on call.
Leon: 07:26 Wow.
Leon: 07:27 Right. I realized that my very first, I mean maybe my second week at new Relic, I was like, Oh my goodness, I'm not on call anymore. I, no one's going to call me when there's a Sev One. It was weird.
Leon: 07:38 Yeah. That's a, that's a, and that's something we're going to talk about in the coming year. One of the episodes is how we have to, uh, almost rewire our brain for different, um, positive feedback loops when we change, when we significantly change our role. And that was something that actually, uh, Charity Majors talked about on Twitter about a month ago is going from developer to CEO / CTO, and then back to developer and how it's just a completely different positive reinforcement model and what that's like, what that does and we'll talk about that. But yeah, it's, it's really weird when you make the transition. Um, as far as numbers, I also want to talk about where people are listening from. Uh, I will say "obviously:... Obviously the, the largest number of our listeners, uh, come from the United States about, uh, 1,586 or 82% of our listeners from the U S but that's not everything. It's, you know, it's not all about the U S as many people not in the U S remind us.
Josh: 08:33 I mean, Canada's pretty far down the list. I mean, the UK came in at number two at 104. So thanks Jez (Marsh) for listening to all of our episodes. Three times. Is that the way it works?
Leon: 08:44 Yeah, something like that. That was the numbers, right? Three again, you know, a couple of our UK listeners just kept on clicking. Um, interestingly, number three position is Israel with 73 listens. So I can think of a few people, Ben Greenberg being one of them, but Sharone Zeitzman and a few other and Aaron Wolf, uh, are people I know there, but who knows where those are. The, you know, 70 clicks came from.
Josh: 09:06 Are you asking your son to click every week as well?
Leon: 09:09 He actually is in Yeshiva. He doesn't have access.
Josh: 09:11 Oh, interesting. So you're not, you're not gaming. All right. I get you're not gaming the system. I appreciate that. Um, so number four, Germany, um, I don't know anyone on German. Well... Nope, no.
Leon: 09:22 Well Sasha Giese, another Head Geek. He's in Germany. Well, actually he's in Cork, but I don't know what kind of, how he VPNs things. So he's either the United, the UK folks or he's the Germany folks. Who knows. Um, let's see. Number five position is Finland with 38 listeners. And then we get to...
Josh: 09:39 Canada!!
Leon: 09:39 Oh, Canada,
Josh: 09:42 28. Um, yeah. Yay. VPN. I'll tell him and I say, okay, so Canadians need to up your game.
Leon: 09:50 Puerto Rico comes in next with 8 listens or 8 listeners. It's hard to tell.
Josh: 09:55 Austria?
Leon: 09:55 Austria.
Josh: 09:55 People listen from Austria?
Leon: 09:59 They listened to us from Australia.
Josh: 10:00 Five people in Austria. Yay. Austria.
Leon: 10:02 Right? And Australia, not to be confused with Austria. Uh, also five listens and number 10:
Josh: 10:07 Uh, Czech Republic number four. All right, with four. I don't know what about in the Czech Republic either.
Leon: 10:13 So I know a lot of, uh, SolarWinds, developers are in the Czech Republic. So that could be, that could be it. So thank you. There's, there's more stats than that. I mean, you know, it, it goes down all the way to Vietnam and the Philippines, and they are the ones with one listen each, I don't know who it is, whoever the person is from Belgium. Thank you for listening. Same thing for France in Japan. But, uh, we appreciate all the people who are listening.
Josh: 10:36 Our Bahamas listeners, all two of you, if you'd like us to come and visit, we've been more than happy to do that, especially during the cold winter months. So I mean, just get ahold of us. We'll arrange, we'll arrange flights.
Leon: 10:47 And, and uh, the two listeners from Switzerland, um, I apologize for everything I might say about Switzerland. I didn't have a delightful time when I was there in 2000. Uh, and I'm kind of take it out on you sometimes, so thank you for listening. Anyway. All right, so where are people, is this, that's weird geographically, but how are people listening? I know I listed out the type, the platforms that we, uh, promote on, but actually people are listening in a variety of different ways. What are, some of them aren't?
Josh: 11:15 So browser, uh, 370, that's almost 20% of you are listening in the browser, which means, Hey, you're listening to us at work. Great. And I'll get back to work and do your job, right?
Leon: 11:23 Well, they can, they can listen while they work. It's okay. All right.
Josh: 11:26 Whistle while they work?
Leon: 11:27 No, listen, listen.
Josh: 11:30 Oh. I thought we were promoting Disney+ all of a sudden.
Leon: 11:31 No we are not promoting Disney+. We are not going to do that. Um, the next, uh, platform or agent that's being used is Overcast, which is interesting. Uh, 235 listens, came from, um, over the overcast platform,
Josh: 11:44 uh, Apple podcasts coming in at 168.
Leon: 11:47 So I'm willing to bet that that's destiny and Kate who are both Apple fanatics and they are just clicking repeatedly.
Josh: 11:53 That's nice. Yay. Thank you. Thank you for clicking repeatedly. We appreciate that. OKhttp. I don't even know what that is.
Leon: 12:00 It's an interesting little platform that some people are using and it's number four on the list. So 165 listens. PocketCasts is 133 listens. M.
Josh: 12:10 My preferred platform, actually a Podcast Addict, a 124.
Leon: 12:14 Spotify, which actually is how I like to listen to a lot of stuff. Spotify has 96 listens,
Josh: 12:19 The PodBean app, 94 listens.
Leon: 12:22 Right. And that's actually how we're hosting. We'll talk about that in a minute. iTunes. So, I'm not sure exactly the differentiation between the Apple podcast in iTunes, but iTunes is at 72 listens. And in the number 10 spot:
Josh: 12:33 Google podcasts where I started listening to a lot of podcasts, 70 listens, and then, I mean the list is pretty long after that, but there's a lot of diversity out there.
Leon: 12:42 Yeah. It's not just like one, one, one, one, one, you know, all the way down after that. I, you know, there's, there's a bunch of them, PlayerFM and Bullhorn and, and CFnetwork and things like that. So...
Josh: 12:51 WatchOS?
Leon: 12:52 Yeah, watchOS people listening to it on their watch, now. It's, you know, I mean, you know, and you've got, you know, iHeartRadio, Facebook app, um, you know, Twitter app. People are listening to us in a lot of different ways, which is kind of issues. So, so what do these numbers tell us? Okay, so those are the numbers, but what are we getting from this?
Josh: 13:08 Um, people in the US like the listen to us on their watches. That would be a connection that you could possibly draw, but probably not accurate. I, the first thing is, you know, we have a long way to go. I think that 2000 listens in the better part of a year, 50 listens per episode. If you just divide it mathematically, um, there's, there's a lot more growth that we can do. So if you're listening and you think, "Oh, you know, it'd be so much easier to listen to this if you just..." Blah, blah, please let us know. Um, you know, we want to make this interesting and listen-able, whether you are listening to it live or meaning, you know, from a podcast platform or you're reading it through a transcript or what have you, please let us know what we can do to make the podcast more consumable for you or your friends or family or coworkers.
Josh: 13:56 If that suggestion is that I don't participate anymore as well to make up more or listen-able, I mean, let Leon know and he'll let me down gently.
Leon: 14:05 Right? And vice versa, vice versa. I could see it going either way.
Josh: 14:09 Definitely.
Leon: 14:11 So, so, right. And I think also the numbers are interesting in terms of the ways that people are listening. And I think that tells us something a little bit about where we might want to advertise or promote. Along the way that, you know, that Overcast was really a surprise for me. I did not expect that. It's not on the list of things that I had targeted. Um, and yet there it is. You know, people were listening to it, so that might tell us where we want to reach out to people.
Josh: 14:33 And it's funny too because both you and I participate a fair bit on Twitter and LinkedIn and we've been known to, I mean both retweet and post about our podcast on those two platforms. I mean, I'm, I surprised because I would've expected more people to be listening, via one of those platforms like Twitter, you know, in tweet listening. So...
Leon: 14:56 Yeah, it is interesting. And maybe that's something we need to find a way to enable more of. I dunno. I dunno. Um, you know, that's, so we're going to, we're going to dig through those numbers, um, and see what else we can find. Again, if you see something in those numbers that we didn't let us know. The next thing I want to do is go relatively quickly through some behind the scenes we've had. I've had some folks ask, "Well, how exactly do you make the podcast?" Um, either because they're interested in doing one of their own or because they just, you know, are interested in that stuff. So, uh, the behind the scenes stuff, first of all, we use a variety of microphones because we have guests from all over the place. So since Josh and I are, are the two primary voices you're going to hear, I use a blue Yeti microphone, um, which I love.
Josh: 15:37 Yeah. And I use a job for pro nine 30, which I use both for work and for the podcast. I think the takeaway here is you don't have to go and drop a hundred or 200 or more on a specialized a microphone if you're just going to be doing a podcast from home. And if you're going to have more than one guest, it gets really awkward when people want to hug up against my face to talk into my mic.
Leon: 16:02 Yeah. At least to some awkward questions, you know, in the house,
Josh: 16:05 right? Yeah. So you know why, why do you have Leon's whiskers on your sweater?
Leon: 16:13 Right, exactly. So yeah, you don't need a lot. Now again, I, I'm really enjoying the blue Yeti. Um, Destiny turned me on to it. Uh, when we first started doing, you know, talk about podcasts and doing them and it was really a worthwhile investment for me, but I wholly support what Josh was saying is you can get good quality sound out of a, a variety of low end low cost microphones. To record the podcast we use cast, which you can...
Josh: 16:40 OK. Hold on a second, can I just, can I point out how awesome it is that a bunch of D&D geeks use a platform called "Cast" to record this show?
Leon: 16:49 Yes. Okay. It is kind of cool and yes, I do. I do have a little bit of nerdery in my head. And I say, "Okay, I'm going to cask now... HOYYYY!" Oh, you'll find cast at Um, so you can find that there and it's really economical. It's 10 bucks a month for, I think it's 20 hours of recording. So for a home podcast you can fit the time that you... And you can export individual tracks or you can export a premixed version or whatever. It gives you a lot of nice granular controls and they even serve as a hosting platform, but we're not using it. And speaking of exporting, I export individual tracks for each voice and then I'll do the audio editing in Audacity, a free tool. It does everything that I need it to do. And if the sound is horrible, it's my fault because I'm, it's me using Audacity. If the sound is amazing and you love it, it's purely because Sudacity is an amazing tool to use.
Josh: 17:50 Wait... we edit this show?
Leon: 17:51 We do. I tried to take out a lot of the ums and ahs and every once in a while we really mess up and we have to go back or something like that. I edit that out. Most of the time. I think episode 11 ended up the unedited version ended up getting posted, but we didn't say anything terribly embarrassing in that one.
Josh: 18:07 We usually say all sorts of terribly embarrassing things that we publish well,
Leon: 18:11 Right, right. The embarrasing stuff is the best part.
Josh: 18:16 Um, so we, uh, we as an ep, as a podcast, we try to be very inclusive and accessible. And, uh, for our listeners who don't actually listen, who are hearing impaired, we use Temi, uh, for doing transcription. And I mean, that's, that's something that I picked up from you, uh, about halfway through this year. And I've really enjoyed that experience. And today as we were prepping for the show, I realized that doing the transcription isn't just for people who are hearing impaired. It's also very much for us. Because we post all of those transcriptions and I was looking for a particular episode, something that we had said in those these past 37 episodes and I was able to go and search on and just find it, boom. Just like that.
Leon: 19:03 Right. So that, that is a, a secondary benefit that I like. Of course I said that we needed to do transcribing because I have a lot of friends who are Deaf or hard of hearing. I also have a lot of friends for whom English is not their first language. And so having the transcript works really well. Uh, and yes, it makes it very searchable. We can go back and find where we said something really easily. You don't have to listen to hours and hours of, uh, of recordings just to see "now, where was it that Doug talked about being the worst person to invite to a Christmas party..." Or whatever, which was hysterical by the way. Um, so yeah, it, it's, it comes in really handy and a little bit of extra work. Um, we host on PodBean, I mentioned that earlier. So that's where the episode gets uploaded to when it's finally done. And PodBean pushes things out to just about everything else. It pushes out to iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, um, a whole mess of platforms. And then I manually repost it to and uh, that does the promotion, the actual promotion of the episode out to Twitter, Facebook, um, and LinkedIn.
Josh: 20:06 Interesting. And then I think that it's important that our listeners know that we invest between three and five hours per episode. Well, we've certainly gone longer. Some of our episodes and the prep, the recording and then the dissecting, I mean we're probably up around 8, sometimes 10 hours for a particular set of episodes. You know, those two-part-ers that we've done, you know, they've run really long, but yeah, three to five hours a week, uh, on top of our full time gigs as uh, husbands and fathers, uh, and jobs. Apparently we have to have jobs in order to make money and feed ourselves. So yeah, it's a labor of love.
Leon: 20:43 Yeah. My family is much, they're much more uh, solicitous of my saying "I want to go record a podcast"
Josh: 20:48 when they've eaten, you know, regular. Yes. Yeah. They're totally accepting of that. Right?
Leon: 20:53 Yeah. It makes things easier. And you know, the, I think the message there is that if, if you feel the itch to do a podcast, it's accessible. It's relatively easy to do. It requires more or less some free or cheap software. I told you the cast is $10 a month. Um, Tammy, one of the reasons why I like it is that it is 10 cents a minute for the transcribing. So, you know, a 30 minute episode is $3. Nice. It's really, really affordable to do so, you know, the costs are relatively low. Um, between that and hosting and um, Podbean. So it's really accessible to do. You know, don't think that there's a barrier to entry that that money or even level of effort is a very true entry. And that means also that you can take a shot at it, make some mistakes, figure it out. I fully ascribed to IRA Glass' story that he did about, uh, the gap that when you first start to do something, there's this gap between what you see in your head in terms of quality and how it comes out initially that it's not, it may not be what you envision it can be, but you have to keep at it. You have to keep trying because ultimately you'll get there because it's your, your sensibility of, and your vision. That really is what's carrying you through. Not necessarily your technical acumen at the start. That comes later. So that just, you know, it just a little encouragement. If you think you want to do this, absolutely try reach out to us on the side, either on social media or email or whatever and say, "Hey, I just need some help getting started." Or "Can you walk me through the basics of this or that," you know, we would love to help see another fledgling podcast get off the ground.
Josh: 22:28 This is why I had four children. The first three. I'm like, all right, that's uh, uh, obviously I've really messed up. And the fourth one, or maybe I should have a fifth. I dunno,
Leon: 22:38 Who knows? Well, okay. So I, I routinely and publicly refer to my oldest daughter as my 'pancake kid'. You know, when you're making pancakes and, uh, you make the first one and it's like overdone on one side and kind of squishy on the other and misshapen and kind of, you know, that's, and the rest of them come out perfectly circular and golden Brown and cooked all the way through because the griddle's finally up to the right temperature and everything. But the first pancake that first pancake comes out and it's just a little weird. And my daughter is the pancake kid. So, uh, moving on from pancake children and how the sausage gets made, having made the sausage, I think we both have some moments in some episodes that were our favorites. And I'd like to start off, uh, I got a little bit nostalgic, um, about this. So my top favorite moment was actually when we had Al Rasheed on and you and Al ended up getting into this 80's music nostalgia showdown where every other comment was, you know, an oblique reference to some song that was, you know, top 40 radio at some point during the decade. It was by end of the episode. It was just. It was wonderful and awful and cringe-worthy and delightful all at the same time. And I just sat there with my jaw hanging open, laughing constantly. I had to mute myself. It was amazing.
Josh: 23:59 Wow. I mean, Cher would say, if we, "if I could turn back time..."
Leon: 24:05 See? See? It was like this, it was like this for 35 minutes straight. It was nothing but this. Okay. So that was one. The second one was, and we talked about this, uh, earlier with the top episodes Fixing the World One Error Message at a Time. There were just some amazing overlaps that came out during that episode. You know, where we saw that, you know, the pair programming may have had its roots, whether it knows it or not in the idea of chevruta, or partner style learning in Yeshiva that, you know, that was just a total like, Oh my goodness. Like again, an aha moment for me. So that was a really interesting one as we were talking about it and finally, not a specific episode, but just every episode that, that we were together and that's most of them, the time that I got to spend with you, Josh, you know, as we planned out the show, sort of 30, 40 minutes of prep time before we record and we just had a chance to catch up on our lives and our families and things like that and really share it. And that's something that the audience is never going to necessarily hear. We weren't recording and it's just, you know, it was just personal banter between us. But you know, uh, we worked together for a very brief time, you know, at the same company, but then we worked together, you know, on the same tools and the same projects far longer than that. And this was, this really just gave us a chance to deepen that friendship. And I really value that. And to that end, the episode that is, that is titled failure to launch, for me, was really a very personal moment. It was a really hard moment for me where my son was going through a hard time. And as a parent, when you see your kid struggling, it just tears you apart. And both the prep and actually the execution of that episode I think was for me, a Testament to our friendship, you know, in audio like in a podcast. That was, that was you being really supportive of me and helping me think through and talk through those moments. And um, you shared a lot of yourself in that episode also. And, and I think that was sort of emblematic of the, again, the secondary benefit of the podcast. The first benefit is just being able to share these ideas and stories with the public. But the secondary benefit for me was just how much friendship we were able to build and share throughout the, this last year.
Josh: 26:22 And I, I have to remind the audience that your son, he stayed in Israel, right. And he's doing absolutely fantastic. So that time for you and I to commiserate for, to be a virtual shoulder, um, to, you know, snuggle your head on and yeah, t.
Leon: 26:40 That's how the whiskers got there! Angela, if you're listening, that's, that's how it happened.
Josh: 26:45 That is absolutely how it happened.
Leon: 26:47 Don't think anything else.
Josh: 26:49 No, I agree that those, those are the things that you don't really, you don't really value until suddenly they happen. And you realize that for the past year we've spent more time together than probably most of my friends. It's just weird. I mean life is busy and you squeezed friendships in between other things, but this was something that we carved out every week. So, I mean, I got to spend 90 minutes to 120 minutes a week just chatting with you on top of the chatting we did in social media and whatnot. So a 100% super powerful. Um, I often say, uh, you know, my best friend in the world, um, doesn't live anywhere near me. Uh, he lives in Cleveland, so that's great. So I,
Leon: 27:34 And that's the amazing part about the internet in general. But yeah, this podcast has helped. Okay. So those were, those were my favorites. Josh, you know what are yours? I've got the tissues out.
Josh: 27:41 Yeah, you got em? All right. So my first one was recently outing. Um, I'm making you out yourself and your ongoing feud with Adam Sandler.
Leon: 27:52 Sorry Adam. It goes all the way back to college. Uh, couldn't stand you. You are, I'm sure you're a much better person now, but you were impossible to deal with back then.
Josh: 28:01 I mean, we were all, we were all impossible to deal with at that age. I'm just going to point that out. There's a reason that we send our kids to college. Just saying. There's also a reason that some animals eat their young also saying that,
Leon: 28:13 Oh, right. Media was merely misunderstood. She was just having a bad day that many mothers can commiserate with .
Josh: 28:22 Uh, also I enjoy at least once an episode, sometimes more reminding you that, um, you did abandon me after four days to take a role as a Head Geek at Solarwinds,
Leon: 28:37 Mea Culpa, mea culpa, marxima culpa! I'm so sorry. Yes, I know. I know.
Josh: 28:42 I, and I think that that will probably go on my tombstone. Um, "do you remember when Leon left me?" Or something.
Leon: 28:52 Again, hard to explain to your family why that's on your tombstone.
Josh: 28:55 It's going to be a big tombstone door and don't, don't worry. Um, and I think to your failure to launch episode, um, one of the moments that, not when it happened, but in retrospect was sharing with the world that I suffer from depression and uh, and that it's OK, um, that we, and we talked about that later on, we talked about the power of reaching out to people, um, who say, "Look, I, I suffer from depression and it's okay to suffer from depression." And people who know me, uh, and who know me well will know that sometimes it's very situational, but to tell the entire world or at least 2100 people or 2100 listens, um, that I suffered from depression. It, that's fine. It really was.
Leon: 29:41 Yeah, it really, it came out okay. And that actually arose from a previous episode. So the episode we're talking about is "Fight the Stigma" and the previous episode, it just, it was like in passing and it was very to the listener, it was very, you know, noncommittal. It was just, "...and I suffered from depression" and et cetera, et cetera. Actually that was the "Failure to Launch" episode that you mentioned it. And afterward, after we'd stopped recording I said, "Wow, that, that seems so easy for you. Was it, was it a big deal?" And you said, "Yeah, it was a huge deal. Like my heart was beating in my chest!" And, and every like, it really wasn't, it didn't seem like it, but it was a big admission. We said, "we need to explore this a little bit more. We need to go into it." And it was really brave. I know that that's terrible. Like, Oh wow, you're such an inspiration, like don't turn you into that. But it made hopefully made a difference in other people who are listening. But it was really a, a big thing for, for us who are doing the recording.
Josh: 30:35 Yeah. And I will say that, uh, in addition to that depression at admission, this podcast has really been a part of my transition away from Mormonism. I mean, we started talking about this podcast a year before we actually started the podcast. So I was, you know, I was kind of in the throws of it, but I mean 30 to 60 minutes a week of being able to hear other people's perspectives who, um, may or may not, um, share our religious views or former religious views in my case, was really powerful for me and helped me process through my transition away from Mormonism a lot faster than most people. I've, you know, I, in the community, I've seen people that are going on decades of trying to transition away from Mormonism. And I did it in under two years.
Leon: 31:28 Right. And I think, I think part of that, and this is one of the foundational ideas behind the, the "Tales from the TAMO Cloud" series that we've started to do is to talk about people's journeys. Um, you know, both their technical journeys and also their religious journeys. Uh, and to make sure that the listeners understand that life is a journey. I know that's really cliche, that there's a place where you are today that is different from where you stood before at the beginning when you were, when you were growing up that the house that you grew up in, in the traditions in that house are valid and they are a thing. But that may not be what you do now. You may be doing what you may think of as more or less or different. And that's normal that we have multiple voices on here who say, "I started off like this and then I was this and then, and now I am this and this is how I got from here to there." And the, this is in that conversation could be, I started off on help desk and then I was a storage engineer and now I'm working as a, you know, customer advocate or it could be that I started off as, you know, Protestant and then I was disillusioned and I was nothing. And now I'm, you know, born again, evangelical Christian or whatever and people, you know,...that, that those transitions are normal and healthy and not an admission of failure. It's an admission of life.
Josh: 32:50 You forgot to include my transition from working in technology and despising sales to now working in presales and being part of the sales cycle. I mean, I've literally gone to the dark side. It's,
Leon: 33:04 You really have, and you probably going to have to talk about that at some point. Yeah. After Star Wars is out for a while. So we're not spoiling anything for anyone.
Josh: 33:11 Exactly. Right. Uh, I will also point out that it is moments like this that are so powerful for me. I quote you, Leon, in real life. Um, so often that I'm pretty sure people are convinced. I am considering converting to Judaism.
Leon: 33:28 I know that you got that comment, especially when you were still involved in the church and you were running a Sunday teaching programs and you'd, you'd say, and you know, and I think the group, the class would say, "and what is your friend Leon think about that?"
Josh: 33:42 It really was hilarious. It would be like, " I have a friend" and they'd be like, "...and his name is Leon."
Leon: 33:48 Right.
Josh: 33:49 It, it, it was fantastic. Um, and then I think, no, I know that my all time favorite tagline of this past season came from, uh, episode 30, uh, when good people make bad choices and an evolved, um, melons,
Leon: 34:06 I'll play the clip.
Josh: 34:07 That's of wonderful. I think that's better than me reading it because yes, play the clip.
Josh: 34:13 In the Bible. Matthew records " their fruits, you shall know them."
Doug: 34:17 So ironically, we're not supposed to be judges, but we're supposed to be fruit inspectors.
Josh: 34:23 Doug, are you looking at my melons?
Leon: 34:26 I cannot be having this conversation.
Josh: 34:28 I don't know why we played that clip
Leon: 34:32 Because we have no shame. Um, yeah, it was... Just talking about that clip took up a good solid five to 10 minutes of, of solid laughter of us just trying to do that. And that represents some of the joy. So those were some of our favorite moments. If you have some of your favorite moments, uh, please share it with us on social media. We're on Twitter, Facebook, uh, there's, you know, posts again on LinkedIn. You can share it in the comments area on the website, anywhere that you want to. Um, all right, so I want to transition over to looking ahead. We looked back a little bit, um, in the coming year, what are we thinking? Uh, Technically Religious is going to move into and that idea of constantly improving and I'll start off by saying that we're really gonna work on improving the production quality. I think we have some room to grow. That we can get better. I'm, I'm getting better at, again, editing the audio and getting better sound levels and things like that. And that's going to continue. I also want to make sure that we make the time that we're talking as clear as possible. So getting the ums and AHS and those vocal tics out of the way. I think that transcripts are getting better and faster and so they're getting easier to do and we're going to keep on doing that and especially to our deaf and hard of hearing listeners. But anybody who's consuming the transcripts, please let us know if there's something we can do to make it easier for you. And the last piece I'm going to unveil is that we are going to have intro and outro music along with the intro text, so stay tuned for that. We'll have a big unveiling of that.
Josh: 36:03 Does it involve kazoos?
Leon: 36:04 It probably does not actually involve kazoos.
Josh: 36:06 That's disappointing.
Leon: 36:06 I, okay, so we're still working on it. Maybe we can work some kazoos. It's going to have a lot of sound. It's gonna have a lot of sounds,
Josh: 36:13 A lot of sounds. Okay. good. I'm okay with that. Are we also going to leverage Elon Musk's Starlink satellite system in order to broadcast?
Leon: 36:23 If you can make that happen. I'm fully on board with that, but that, that's news to me. But I, yeah, I'm all for it. Slightly less ambitious than Elon Musk's Starlink system would be getting some other guests in and maybe some higher profile guests. Uh, somebody mentioned earlier that Larry Wall has a very interesting religious point of view and also he is the progenitor of the Perl programming language, which I have an undying love for. This is a hill I'm willing to die on that Pearl is still valid and and useful. So someone said, "Hey, you should get him on the show." So I am actively pursuing that and a few other guests whose names you might recognize even if you don't know me or Josh or the circles that we run in.
Josh: 37:04 I just want to say that Charity Majors is high on my list this year. Unfortunately I missed having a chance to chat with charity last week while I was in San Francisco. A charity. I'm so sorry. I realized as I was wrapping up my week that I didn't reach out cause I'm a terrible person.
Leon: 37:21 That's right because you were terrible. That's what it was. Not that you were busy learning the ropes of a completely new job and juggling several responsibilities and things like that. No, no. Just because you're a bad person.
Josh: 37:33 Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So to make it up for you to you, I, we will invite you onto the show. We'd love to talk about this journey and then to make it, make it up to you for inviting you onto the show. Uh, we will also get together next time I'm in San Francisco.
Leon: 37:50 Same, same. Since you took time to get... So I met Charity when she was at, we were both at DevOps days, Tel Aviv. So Charity, we do not all, both have to fly literally around the globe to see each other and get to hang out next time. So, so there's that. Um, we're going to have some more TAMO interviews. If you are interested in being part of the show, either you want to do a tales from the Tamar cloud interview or just part of any conversation. We would love to speak to you. If you want to be a guest. If you think that you want to try your hand at editing, I will be happy to give up the reins to either the audio or transcription editing responsibilities. Um, let me know, again, reach out in social media and also promotion. Uh, I want this year to be more about getting, uh, Technically Religious promoted better and more so that we can have more readers, more input, more fun, more more goodness. And that leads to something that sorta speaks up your alley Josh.
Josh: 38:48 Well, I was gonna say if someone happens to have $100 billion laying around and would like to sponsor the show, we would be,
Leon: 38:58 yeah, we wouldn't use all 100 billion, would we?.
Josh: 39:00 No. I mean at least at least a billion or so we would leave.
Leon: 39:04 Oh, okay. Yeah. I mean cause we're not greedy.
Josh: 39:07 99 billion? We can totally make this happen on nine, 99 billion. In all honesty. If you are interested in sponsoring the show and we've dropped a number of names of, uh, vendors, uh, during this episode... And not intentionally, we really do appreciate the technology that allows us to deliver the show. But if you're interested in a sponsorship, please reach out to us. We'd be more than happy to talk about you, your products, um, and to also accept your money.
Leon: 39:32 So that's, I think that's a good wrap up. I think there's a good look back at, at 2019 season one. Uh, the next episode you hear will be the official start of season two of technically religious. Do we have a cliffhanger? Is there some sort of, are you going to poise over me with a knife or,
Leon: 39:48 Right. Is this so... Josh, I have to tell you something really important. I'm...
Josh: 39:54 And we fade to black. No, no, no. We're not going to do that. I was waiting with bated breath. I was, I was going to put it in my ANYDo so that I can remember to listen to the next episode.
Leon: 40:03 Yes. Uh, so just to wrap up to everyone who's listening, uh, both Josh and I and everyone else who's been part of the show, uh, thank you deeply. We hope that you're going to keep listening as we kick off season two, and that you will share Technically Religious podcast with your friends, your family, and your coworkers. And while as you listen to this episode is probably somewhat belated, we'd like to wish you:
Josh: 40:25 A Merry Christmas.
Leon: 40:26 or happy Christmas if you're in Britain. Also a Chag Chanukah Sameach.
Josh: 40:30 A happy Kwanzaa.
Leon: 40:31 A joyful winter solstice.
Josh: 40:33 Festivus... For the rest of us!
Leon: 40:37 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.
Leon: 40:49 You really want to end the year with a Festivus joke?
Josh: 40:51 Well, since we can't be in Hawaii.

S1E37: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party, Part 2

S1E37: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party, Part 2

December 24, 2019

The dreaded office holiday party: For many of us, for MANY reasons, this is a situation fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go. To eat or not to eat. To discuss or not to discuss our religious/holiday/personal lives and plans. As IT folks with a strong religious/moral/ethical POV, navigating this ONE (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode we’ll unpack the what and why, and - like the IT pros we are, offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. Listen or read the transcript below.

Kate: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experience we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion (or lack thereof). We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:24 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Josh: 00:31 So up until a few years ago, I was one of those people where if you said "happy holidays" to me, I would say "Merry Christmas" back because you know, it's Christmas time and you got to put the Christ in Christmas, right?

Leon: 00:45 Sure.

Josh: 00:46 And my wife and I were talking about this just the other day yesterday, I think. And we have decided that regardless of what holiday someone wishes us, our response is going to be, "Thank you. You too." I mean, Holy crap, right? It's like mind blowing.

Yechiel: 01:08 Radical.

Leon: 01:10 What a crazy idea. Just saying thank you.

Josh: 01:15 Ah, and she, she said, "Oh, I posted this to Facebook that I'm going to do this." And she's like, "I wonder how many people are going to be offended?" And I thought, Who in the world's going to be offended by saying thank you?You too.

Leon: 01:27 Okay. And, and the answer is?

Yechiel: 01:29 Well, it's is Facebook, so...

Josh: 01:30 Right. Everybody.

Leon: 01:34 I was going to say, how many hundreds of, of responses about "this is part of the war on Christmas!!" Have you gotten so far?

New Speaker: 01:40 Um, I don't know. I don't go on Facebook, so I have no idea. Uh, I don't, I don't have an account anymore. Um, so I don't know. I get it right. I, I'm with Doug. Um, if, if you, if for you, Christmas is about the birth of the savior. Um, I mean, pro-tip: Jesus was born where there were shepherds who had their flock in the fields. It was not December, just saying. Um, anyway, so if, if that's the time of year in which you get aligned to your faith in Christ, go for it. But don't rob other people of the reason that they like to celebrate. For me and for people that I like to associate with Christmas is a time where we get together with friends and family, where we bring, you know, we, we bring in this idea of being, uh, increasingly generous with, um, those around us where we're reminded that we need to be generous. So it's, for me, it's not really this dueling religion thing at Christmas or, you know, whatever holidays happen to fall around this time of year. It's, Hey, you know, there's this spirit of generosity and camraderie. Let's just get together and hang out. Um, and we don't have to call it a Christmas party. Uh, yeah. All Christmas party planners, you know, corporate offices need to probably hear that message. It doesn't need to be a Christmas party. It can just be a party,

Leon: 03:10 ...a party, right a part... End of year party and stuff like that. But w'ell, again, we're, we're gonna, we're gonna offer some, some insights based on this. Um, so as a non Christian, I think one of the challenges about this time of year also again - that comparative, uh, religion conversation in the worst possible setting ever - is the, the need of some folks to say, "But, but your holiday is just the same as ours!" Like to find equivalence where there isn't necessarily equivalence. Um, you know, Hanukkah isn't, you know, the Jewish Christmas, there's no such thing as a Hanukkah Bush. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah Charlie. That... And it doesn't need to exist. You know, it, it goes into, um, this homogenization of, "Well, everyone can celebrate Christmas in their heart." There's... No, no, there doesn't, no, we don't need to do that. I don't need to be included because that becomes a, unfortunately for me... And I apologize, I'm gonna get a little bit prickly here. It becomes a little threatening for me because that leads, you know, that dovetails into being proselytized to or at, in a very uncomfortable situation. Again, we're talking about an office party and to have a coworker or a boss suddenly raising this, you know, "But, but everyone believes in Jesus." No, everyone doesn't. And, and insisting that I do puts me in a very difficult position where, you know, my desire to be authentic as a Jew and my desire to be employed as a human are suddenly possibly in conflict.

Josh: 05:05 I mean, I, I, uh, I don't know, maybe I'm a bit of a crap disturber but I would definitely recommend brushing up on, um, what historians are now calling the authentic Jesus. Um, and he was a real crap disturber so I mean, you could be like, "Oh yeah, let's talk about Jesus. Let's talk about how he did this and this and..." You know, you know, kicked over these tables and you know, made a mockery of, Oh wait, no, let's not talk about that because that's not really, yeah,

Yechiel: 05:34 Something tells me that wouldn't go towards making the party more of a festive occasion.

Josh: 05:40 I think it would make it very festive, actually.

Leon: 05:42 I was going to say... "festive" in a very completely different way. Yeah.

Josh: 05:47 Josh is never being invited to a party ever again. Right.

Leon: 05:52 There's also an, and unfortunately this has happened to me, this desire again, this does that, you know, "everyone, everyone likes Christmas. Even in their heart, even if they don't know it" there's this insistence of, you know, you just, you just haven't tried it. You haven't tried the right one yet or whatever. And you know, "come take a look at this beautiful Christmas tree. Wouldn't you love to have a Christmas tree? Like this isn't this great?" You know, and right behind it is this wall full of crucifixes and then they take a picture and all of a sudden it becomes a picture of the Orthodox Jew. You looking up at an admiring, you know, a Christmas tree and a wall of crucifixes and it becomes this, you know, 'caption this photo contest'. You know, I'm not interested in being in your picture like that.

Josh: 06:34 "Leon wonders why people put pine trees in their houses." That's, that would be my caption.

Leon: 06:40 You know, it can get really prickly. It can, it can, you know, people, again, people get caught up in the holiday and in their love of the holiday, their enjoyment of holiday. When you discover spin class, which Joshua and I have said, you know, CrossFit is a cult,

Josh: 06:54 It is.

Leon: 06:54 know, and but the desire to have everyone else involved in CrossFit or you know, veganism or whatever it is, like you love it so much, you need other people to love it. Just as much.

Josh: 07:09 I will have, I will say, and maybe this is completely counter to what we've been talking about, but I have received a Christmas card from a Muslim friend this year already. Very first one I received. Um, and I have neighbors that are Muslim and they will without fail bring us a Christmas gift. We even have, we have a, uh, some Muslim friends, um, who were neighbors that are now friends cause they've moved a few blocks away, but they will make the Trek over to our house every year to bring us. Um, uh, and I authentic. Um, I, I believe they're from uh, Iran. So they will bring us an authentic Iranian festive dish to share at Christmas because they know that it's important to us. I, I don't know how to take that whole corporate thing though and make it like human beings act so good to one. Another one on one is when we get into these large groups that suddenly things get real awkward. Right?

Yechiel: 08:14 Actually that's, that's an interesting point that I think like that people don't understand that the so called war on Christmas, um, like Jews, Muslims, we don't care that Christians celebrate Christmas, you know, good for you. Uh, it's fun. It looks nice and everything. Just don't make it the default and assume that everyone celebrates Christmas. Don't tell. Like when you tell me Merry Christmas, I'm not going to get offended. Of course, I know you mean well, but that's not my holiday. That's not what I celebrate. But on the other hand, I don't mind wishing you a Merry Christmas if I know you celebrate it and I don't mind sending you a Christmas card.

Leon: 08:49 The example that's used a lot and I like it is, is the concept of happy birthday. That if you know, if it's birthday, we all show up. We tell Josh happy birthday, but we don't feel the need for everybody to say happy birthday to everybody else. It's not everyone else's birthday. So you know, it's your holiday. So Merry Christmas. Absolutely. You have a great time on your birthday, on your holiday. Um, but don'tto Yechiel's point. Don't insist that everybody celebrate, you know, their birthday on your birthday because that's not how things work.

Josh: 09:23 I think after this episode we're going to have to start a business where we hire ourselves out as event planners for corporations that want to be both unoffensive or I mean reasonably unoff.... Nevermind. It would never work.

Yechiel: 09:40 It's still 2019, you know.

Leon: 09:43 Okay. So something that we hit on earlier that I just... Is interesting to me is again, trying to be unoffensive. One technique that especially HR departments try to do is again, to create this false reciprocality of things. So, you know, "We're going to put up, you know, trees, they're holiday trees, they're holiday wreaths, they're holiday baubles, you know, hanging from the ceiling and everything. But in order to be inclusive, we're also going to put a menorah next to the tree. I am here to tell you that at no time is a menorah next to a Christmas tree, an image that makes any sense to anybody except perhaps the people working in HR. It's not a thing. It does not make me feel more included. You know, again, Hanukkah was three weeks ago. Chad don't need to have them menorah there. You're not, you know, it's, it's your holiday. And, and I've actually gotten into conversations with HR, not in my current job. It was a while ago when I was a little bit more loud mouth about things and perhaps had less impulse control. You know, they... right! Less than I have now. I know it's a shock. And I actually got into it with the folks in HR and they said, but they're not Christmas decorations, they're holiday decorations. This is, there is no holiday that I celebrated anytime of the year that has decorations like this. Please, you know, let's be intellectually honest about this.

Josh: 11:09 Even an authentic question. What would be your preference? So my heritage or my beliefs trend toward Christianity. Um, would you prefer for Christmas to just be, "Hey, like this work going to have Christmas stuff?" Um, but then how do, how do we handle it on the other side? Like, do we need to have a celebration for every holiday? Because I have noticed some companies doing that, right? They will, um, celebrate, you know, Diwali, they will celebrate, um, you know, Hanukkah, they will celebrate, uh, Kwanzaa. They will, they will have every single holiday represented. Is that the right route to go

Leon: 11:57 To have an ofrenda for Dia de Los Muertos? Like yeah, I mean, so again, we're going to have, you know, we're going to have a section where we try to solve this, but I think that that what you're getting at is there seems to be, I'm not saying there is, but there seems to be two options. Do nothing or do everything. And I think there's some other options there. But my preference, and this is my personal preference, this is independent of a religious outlook or whatever, is that if the company feels it's important to make a display around the December time frame, great. You're talking about Christmas, go do it,

Josh: 12:38 I like that.

Leon: 12:38 Don't, don't pretend. That that would be my thing. And I am very much from a Jewish standpoint, I am very much a please include me out. Like I am actually more comfortable, personally, not having a company that isn't intrinsically a, a Jewish knowledgeable, uh, group of folks try to put something together, which is always back to the food conversation. You're going to work really, really hard trying to buy kosher food and you're not going to do it. And I'm going to tell you you missed and you're going to be offended because you tried so hard and I'm just ungrateful. So in the same way, like you're going to try really, really hard to decorate for my holiday and something is going to not match up somewhere you're going to. "But, but they were Hanukkah tree decorations. Doesn't that work?" You know, like no, that the tree was the problem, you know, and someone's going to feel frustrated that they had put this effort and I'm still being ungrateful.

Josh: 13:36 I think if we were to look at this from the reciprocal, right. And so last week, Leon, we talked about your trip to Israel. Um, if, if we weren't in North America, if we were in Israel, would I, should I make the choice, um, to be offended by Jewish celebrations or celebrations of my Muslim coworkers because Christianity is not the predominant religion, right? Like, I, I, I think I, I think we need to think about things in that way, stops, you know, I need to stop saying, well, you know, because Christianity is the predominant religion in North America, blah, blah, blah, and say, well, what if it wasn't, how would I want to be treated? And then just act like that. I mean, there I go, trying to solve a thing. I know.

Leon: 14:30 Okay. And it sounds like we're in the problem solving section, which is, which is great. And I think it's, it's about time, but actually I haven't lived in Israel enough during the holidays to even know what offices look like during any of the normative Jewish holidays Yechiel, I don't know if you have any experience with that.

Yechiel: 14:48 Following Ben Greenberg's Twitter account. Um, it seems companies will have a Hanukkah party. Um, I don't think they have Christmas parties. They probably have a new year's party cause that's just universal. I mean, obviously everyone celebrates Hanukkah in Israel or at least the 80% of the country that's Jewish. So yeah, I would say Hanukkah and Israel is sort of like Christmas in America where it's just everywhere.

Leon: 15:08 It's just a different times, different times of the calendar.

Yechiel: 15:12 in terms of how pervasive it is.

Leon: 15:14 All right. So Josh, I want to circle back to the question you asked before. You know what, now we're speaking directly to the company, what, you know, what are the correct options, what can we do to fix this? And again, we said there's the do nothing, which I think is an option. Right? You know, we're talking about the dreaded office holiday party, so we can say don't have them.

Yechiel: 15:33 I'm definitely on that team. I mean, but that's due to not just a religious reason. Just you know, all the reasons you mentioned like also at the beginning of this stage, like I don't know, I feel like they're more trouble than they're worth. I mean before I got into programming, I worked at a Jewish company in Williamsburg and they didn't have a holiday party. Instead they gave a present around the, they would give everyone a pretty nice, decent, decently priced present around the holiday time. In addition, they also give like a holiday bonus around Passover and Sukkot, which was totally not tied to your performance bonus, which was a completely different thing. Like everyone would get, it was small. I think it was like $250 maybe, but it was just a nice extra, something special. I just think employees would be happier if instead of spending all that money on a party that no one wants to go to anyway, it would find some more creative way to use that money. But yeah, we're not talking about our work. Let's talk to companies who are having a party.

Leon: 16:28 Well. Okay, but again, not doing it and you've just offered some alternatives of, okay, so if we're not doing that, like what, what are we doing? Do we just say it's a regular set of work days and you know, tough luck because that feels, to use a Christian concept, it feels free. Scrooge ish. 'Bah humbug.' You know, so, but you just said you recognize...

Yechiel: 16:48 Well, correct me if I'm wrong, most holiday parties aren't on Christmas, are they? I mean, at least not on the companies. I've been to.

Leon: 16:54 Correct. No, no, no. They're there. Usually the lead up to...

Yechiel: 16:57 I mean, Christmas is a day off and new year's is they off. And sometimes the week in between is also off. So it's not like a regular work to, anyway.

Josh: 17:03 So I'm completely on board with you heal on this one. I think that companies should really ask themselves, "Do we need to hold a a holiday party or Christmas party?" So I, you know, I work for new Relic. New Relic is a global company. I have colleagues that are in Europe and you know, me and Canada. Colleagues stretched across the United States. How do you get people together when a significant portion of your workforce works remote from their home offices? I mean, I can have a party, but it's going to be a party of one.

Leon: 17:41 Oh, right. which may be the best party of all.

New Speaker: 17:44 Right? So instead, um, I like the of saying to, um, to your employees, like "look in lieu of a party because it just doesn't work logistically, here's what we're going to do. We're going to give you some money you can do with it. What, what ever you want. If you want to use it to, you know, um, augment your, your own earnings, great. If you want to go out and donate it to charity, great. If you want to shred it, you, you do whatever you want with it." I mean, that allows people who want to amplify their, you know, their Christmas celebrations to do that or if they time it, right, their Hanukkah celebrations or their no celebrations at all.

Leon: 18:33 Right. Okay. I'm just going to go in and I'm going to, I'm going to strongly correct you in this one. If you as a company decide, you know, if you as an individual who's received cash, your immediate urge is to shred that money. Please consider sponsoring an episode of Technically Religious. We will... Just send it to us. We will dispose of that money for you appropriately.

Yechiel: 18:57 Alternatively, you can just sign it to me. I have a professional shredding service on the side. It'll be shredded completely. Nothing will be left within a few minutes.

Leon: 19:05 How many kids do you have?

Yechiel: 19:07 Five.

Leon: 19:08 Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So that is, that is effectively shredding your money. Yeah. Right. It's, you know, diapers and tuition. Yeah. The whole thing. It's, it's gone. It doesn't, don't worry about how it got gone. Okay. Sorry, I just need to jump in. Like shredding money. No. Sponsoring Technically Religious. Absolutely. Or sent it to Yechiel and you know, you can find his information in the show notes.

Josh: 19:28 Did you just equate giving, uh, giving us money to sponsor an episode with shredding your money?

New Speaker: 19:34 No, I'm saying it's a BETTER option.

New Speaker: 19:36 Oh, okay. I just wanted to make sure that you weren't insinuating the sponsoring an episode of Technically Religious was as worthless as, shredding your money.

Leon: 19:44 No, not, I would never say something like that! Um, also as we were preparing for the episode, um, we also talked about again, part of the challenge with the holiday party is all the emotions and all the um, sort of expectations that come with it. And those are layered on top of the emotions and expectations that we have at this holiday time of year overall. And I think that someone brought up the idea of not having... Having a party just don't have it now have it, you know, at another time of year you can have a, you know, I'm not a big fan of Christmas in July, but having a summer kickoff holiday party, a pre-vacation pre, you know, to use the European term pre-holiday holiday party might be an interesting idea. Or you could do it at the company's fiscal end of year. If it doesn't match up with the calendar end of year. You could do that. So I think it would make the accounting department even more excited that their, that the, the rhythm that they hold to is something the company now acknowledging in a meaningful way.

Josh: 20:49 I had friends that would celebrate the summer solstice and the winter solstice. Now granted the winter solstice happens to fall very close to, you know, the Christian Christmas. Uh, but you know, Hey, celebrate with them both. That's two parties, right?

Leon: 21:09 Right at the, at both of them. And you can do the standing the egg up and you can do all those different things. Um, right. That would be, yeah, that's it. It's as meaningful or as exciting as some of the holiday traditions that we've developed over the last 50 years in America as well. So any other solutions that we have to offer organizations or HR departments that are trying to figure out this problem called the office holiday party.

Yechiel: 21:34 So I would say assuming the holiday party is not going away, I think the one single thing that can go the furthest towards making parties feel more inclusive to everyone is cutting out the alcohol and not just for Muslims or people or Mormons or people who won't drink alcohol for religious reasons. I think just like so many of the problems that can come up at parties are either caused or exasperated by the presence of alcohol and people having a little bit too much. I think just that one little step can just go to a huge way towards making so many people feel much more comfortable.

Leon: 22:12 Right. About attending at all. But yeah, absolutely.

Josh: 22:15 Yeah. That, uh, T to that point, we're not just, it's not just a religious thing. You've got recovering alcoholics who maybe don't want to out themselves as recovering alcoholics at this holiday party, to all of their coworkers who maybe aren't friends, they're just coworkers. Um, you've got people who maybe have lost someone to drunk driving or have a spouse who's an alcholic. It's just the, the things that you on, um, that you uncap by having a, and again, this is a mandatory attendance right? There's, you must attend this holiday party cause you're part of the team, right? Josh, you like you're, you're going to show up and then we're also going to make this a alcohol-laden event. It just really problematic. Uh, you know, back when I didn't drink, I would attend events and then would always leave early. Always leave early because I was just like, okay, everyone's had enough alcohol that they're not going to remember that we left. And then you just leave and then just, it becomes a, an abbreviated evening for you. You know, you don't get to enjoy. I'm one of those people who I will go to a party. Yes, they are. I am an introvert. Mostly. They are rather exhausting for me. But I will go because I do enjoy getting out of the house every so often. Um, and just, yeah, I, I'm, I'm with you Yechiel. I, let's, let's either really curtail the alcohol or just not serve it at all.

Leon: 23:50 Yeah. I'm, I'm a big fan of don't serve it at all. Just don't, okay. Any final words before we wrap up?

Josh: 23:57 Um, did Adam Sandler's a song, um, about the Hanukkah song, uh, offensive, offensive or not?

Leon: 24:06 I, it is not part of my, uh, Hanukkah playlist. It's, it's probably right up there with, uh, what is it? Uh, the, the Christmas donkey...

Josh: 24:15 Dominic the Italian Christmas donkey. Yeah.

Leon: 24:18 Yeah. No. Yeah. It's still also a no.

Josh: 24:20 Okay. Yeah. I, I just, I was asking, I was curious. Yechiel, do you listen to it? Is Leon the only curmudgeon here?

Yechiel: 24:28 Um, I would say it was entertaining, but yeah, I wouldn't say it's part of my Hanukkah celebrations.

Josh: 24:37 Perfect.

Leon: 24:40 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, http://Technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Leon: 24:52 Hey, Josh, how was the last Christmas party you attended?

Josh: 24:55 I passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln tunnel.

Yechiel: 25:03 Wait, is there sugar in gumdrops?


S1E36: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party

S1E36: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party

December 17, 2019

The dreaded office holiday party: For many of us, for MANY reasons, this is a situation fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go. To eat or not to eat. To discuss or not to discuss our religious/holiday/personal lives and plans. As IT folks with a strong religious/moral/ethical POV, navigating this ONE (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode we’ll unpack the what and why, and - like the IT pros we are, offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. Listen or read the transcript below.

Dez: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh - or at least not conflict - with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:24 The dreaded office holiday party. For many of us, For many reasons. This situation is fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go? To eat or not to eat? To discuss or not to discuss our religious, holiday, or personal lives and plans? As IT folks with a strong religious, moral and ethical point of view, navigating this one (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode, we'll unpack the what and the why, and - like the IT pros we are - offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. I'm Leon Adato, and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime. Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:05 Hello, hello.

Leon: 01:06 And perennial guest voice. Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel: 01:09 Always a pleasure.

Leon: 01:10 All right. As has become our habit, let's go ahead and do some shameless self promotion. Um, Yechiel as, as still the nominal guest, you know, you've been on this, I think this is your fourth episode, but we'll still call you a guest. We'll treat you with respect like a guest. Go ahead and start off and tell us about yourself.

Yechiel: 01:28 All right. Uh, so I'm Yechiel Kalmenson. I'm a software engineer at Pivotal though by the time this episode drops, we'll probably be VMWare already, um, you can find me on Twitter @YechielK, my blog is RabbiOnRails.IO and I identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Josh: 01:43 Great. Josh, how about you? All right. I'm Josh Biggley. I'm a tech op strategy consultant with New Relic. You can find me on the Twitters at, @Jbiggley. I have no blog or really no presence on, on any sort of a non social media platform. I am also not on Facebook, so I'll look for me. I'm, you can find me. I'm hanging out with the post-Mormons and with the ex-Mormons nowadays and that's my religious identification.

Leon: 02:09 All right. And I'll finish off this section. I'm Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek for SolarWinds. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I pontificate about things technical and religious at And I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. So before we dig into, uh, the things that we are talking about, I wanna clarify what we're not talking about because there are things that everyone kind of dreads about the office holiday party, um, that are not gonna be part of this conversation. And you know what I mean is, for example, this mentality of 'what happens at the office party stays at the office party', you know, you know, party it up. We're just gonna forget about it tomorrow. We're not going to talk about it. Like, I think a lot of us dread that, but that's not specific to us. What are some other things that are just sort of common to any office party or anybody's dread of that?

Yechiel: 02:59 Well, for me, as an introvert, parties in general are a drag. Um, I can't stand them. If I can spend the night at home, why would I spend it with a bunch of people I don't want to spend time with anyway? So, but that's all introverts are like me, so....

Leon: 03:14 Right. Okay. So yeah, definitely if you are of the quiet, quieter type ramping up for this is um, a challenge. Okay. What else?

Josh: 03:22 I mean, I really struggle with the, 'you have to show up' mentality for really for any corporate event. If I don't want to be there or I choose not to be there because I have other priorities, don't make me attend. So Christmas parties, holiday parties, you know, new year's parties, just if I want to be there, I'll be there. If not, don't take offense that I don't, that I don't want to be there. I mean, I didn't marry you. I'm married, my wife.

Leon: 03:50 And, and I think closely related to that is that that this time of year, you know, the holidays, Christmas, whatever, you know, new year's is a challenge for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It stirs up a lot of emotions and not all of them are positive. And I think that an office holiday party where you feel like there's an expectation to put on a particular kind of attitude or face is also challenging for a lot of folks. Um, and also I think that, uh, having to constantly explain yourself about why not drinking or not eating or not whatever, again, this time of year is challenging for a lot of folks on, on that physical level of how they interact with, you know, food and drink and things like that. And that can also create a lot of stress. But that's not what we're focusing on here. We're looking at the things that are specific to having a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. Um, so I wanna I wanna dovetail into that and I want to say that those strong emotions that I just mentioned. You know, that this time of year can have very strong positive emotions for people about family, about memories, about their religion, and you layer onto that the expectations of a party because it's being hosted, it's being organized, it's being, it's meant to be "bigger and better than last years or ever before!" And all that stuff that creates a scenario where people can take offense to things in a lot of different ways. And those of us who have religious boundaries can unexpectedly encounter those, you know, those offense triggers in ways that don't happen on a normal day. So again, let's, let's talk about what are those things, what are things that we've either tripped over, we know exist about the holiday party for us.

Yechiel: 05:44 So food is obviously a big one. Um, and you know, there's a different kosher, halal, whether you are a vegetarian, whatever you are. Um, and I think it's even worse when, when someone will, will go through the effort to try to make you feel comfortable and they'll order or something which they think is acceptable to you. So they'll Google and find the nearest kosher restaurant. But just because the restaurant identifies as kosher online doesn't mean it's actually kosher. And then it's not just, you know, if they didn't order anything and I didn't eat nobody would notice. But here "I ordered this, especially for you here, you know, have some, it's just for you." And then I have to explain that kosher is not always kosher.

Leon: 06:25 Right? The one I hear a lot is, but "it said it was a kosher deli." I know kosher was in the name. Kosher style is a thing.

Yechiel: 06:33 It's bagels and lox. How much more kosher can you get than that?

Josh: 06:36 Right? Well, yeah, I was going to say that, um, you know, growing up Mormon, the awkward part was, were really, it was the alcohol thing. Festivities and alcohol go hand in hand together. Um, so I remember, especially as a teenager going to parties and people being like, Oh look, I bought you a near beer. Or there's this great debate in the Mormon community,

Leon: 07:03 What are they think... Do they hate you?

Josh: 07:08 Uh, may, maybe. Uh, but then there's this whole, this whole debate going on in the Mormon community around a sparkling Apple cider, uh, for your new year's Eve celebrations. Like, do you want to have champagne or do you just want to look like you're having champagne? And then if you're looking like you're having a champagne, are you giving the very appearance of evil? And I'm like, Oh my goodness, it's just so complex. Uh, and, and then you have, that's within your own family. You take those same conversations and have them at an office party, aaarrrrggghhhh. So much harder.

Leon: 07:46 The other thing that, that we're hitting on is also there's a level of trust or mistrust and there's sort of, you know, as a religious person, there's a healthy level of skepticism I have to have about the food around me and about the people presenting it. Not because I think that they are inherently untrustworthy, but they are inherently not, not necessarily knowledgeable. So for example, a few episodes ago we talked about at conventions and, um, Al Rasheed talked about how, you know, people will say, "Oh yeah, there's, there's nothing in here. There's no, you know, there's no wine." And then you find out that it was sauteed in wine. But because the wine was burned off, that person felt that there was no alcohol in it. And so it was fine. And so there's no way to ask in a way that isn't either an FBI interrogation or really offensively skeptical to find out about, uh, even the vegetables. Like, okay, so did you cut these with a completely new knife or were you cutting bacon right before you cut, you know, the celery, because that would be a prob.... Like I can't, I can't trust that and nor can I ask enough questions to get to the heart of it kind of thing.

Josh: 08:57 Who does that? That's just unsanitary.

Yechiel: 08:59 But the vegetables are always on a cheese platter, so that pretty much cuts it.

Leon: 09:04 Right. That's a, that's a, yeah, there's a problem right there. Um, I was at a, uh, office...] At an office party at a manager's house and they were doing some sort of game, icebreaker, whatever. And the prize that they would hand out is this, you know, little holiday chocolates and, they handed it, to me, and you know, I was just being a good sport and I, you know, took, and I said, "Oh wow." You know, I'm looking for the hechsher. I'm looking for the symbol that would tell me if it was kosher. And I actually said, "...which would be ironic since it's, you know, in the shape of a Santa Claus." If it was. There are, by the way, chocolate that is in the shape of a Santa Claus that is completely kosher. It's fine. So I was just sort of amused by it, but immediately the wife of the manager was so earnest, she says, "Oh, well take this one isn't the shape of a snowman. That must be kosher!" Like that. That's not how that works. But now I'm in a position where I have to, you can't laugh at the boss's wife. I know that. But she said something that was kind of ignorant and now I either have to laugh along with it, just go along with it. Or you know, there's, there's almost no winning in that one.

Josh: 10:10 I mean, from on the other side of that, as, as someone who for many years has hosted a Christmas party in my home. Um, last year we didn't host one. And this year there's, we've had people ask, "Hey, are you having, you know, your Christmas get together?" Cause that's a, that's a big deal, right? It's an open house. We invite all our friends and uh, you know, people from our, our former congregation, uh, and our neighbors. And so this year we're, we're not, uh, we've decided we're not, we're going to have a few select people over small gathering. But as someone who hosts, you also have to realize that you're going to do things that are awkward at whatever gathering you have. Um, and you just have to learn to not take offense. I don't know. Ah, th and this is why office parties are so different than parties in someone's home with people you don't work with because your friends, You can, you can say things like, "Hey, Josh, um, no, a snowman isn't kosher. And let me explain why..." And I'm going to be, I'm going to be paying rapt attention. "Oh really? Oh, I get it. Oh, that's cool." Whereas your boss's wife may not be so interested in getting the, you know, the religious lecture or lesson or however they interpret it.

Leon: 11:32 There's other things that I think aren't necessarily on people's radar. Like, you know, music is another one. You know the number of times where people like, Oh, I just love this. Don't you just love this song? It's like, "Swear to God, I've never heard this song. Never. You know, and no, I don't want to sing along to it." And you know, even trying to, so in Judaism there's a thing about men not supposed to listen to the live voices of a woman singing in the same room kind of thing. Like there's just, you know, it's one of those things that's considered, you know, for modesty and for, you know, just keeping things a little bit separate. But how are you gonna explain that again to the boss's wife? Like, please don't sing the song that you love that I've never heard.

Yechiel: 12:16 Any event that includes karaoke is an automatic "Nope." for me.

Leon: 12:21 There we go. Okay.

Josh: 12:22 Stay out of the Philippines, Yechiel. Stay out of the Philippines. Yeah, they love karaoke. Uh, so I guess that means that, uh, me singing "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey" is completely out.

Leon: 12:35 Okay. That song is horrible on so many levels that, uh, I just, yeah, don't ever that, that one's not okay. Um, for reasons that are not religious or it's just, it's just bad. It's just offensive. So last... One of our previous episodes recently, um, Cory Adler was talking about, uh, a coworker who started at the company and they were sort of delighted... He was... the coworker was Muslim. Corey is also Orthodox Jewish and they were so delighted to find all the similarities. And one of the similarities they hit upon was at the Christmas party. This coworker brought his wife who was wearing a hijab and you know, the full Pakistani clothing and everything and everybody wanted to say hi and shake her hand and give her a hug and all these things. And she was just sort of shrinking through the evening. And Cory just came up and said hi to his coworker and just said hi to his wife. And afterward, his coworker said, "It was so nice to have you there. You were the only one who got it. You're the only one who knew." And, but you know, that story aside again, you know, these office parties where you're meeting people's significant others and there's an expectation, and people are feeling festive and feeling friendly and perhaps feeling drunk and whatever. And you're trying to manage boundaries. You know, for a whole lot of reasons. It makes the party a challenge.

Josh: 14:03 Can we talk about the, the, the Mormon, um, idea. And this is not just a holiday thing, but it's, you know, so praying over meals is a thing. Uh, in, I think, most religions, um, but pre Mormons have this, this, uh, funny thing of, um, praying that food will, um, give us strength and nourishment regardless if you're praying over, um, you know, a, a nice, uh, meal of, you know, quinoa and vegetables or if it happens to be, you know, jelly donuts and root beer, it's always, you know, praying for, uh, strength and nourishment from this food. So for some people, whether you're not religious out and just like prayers or you know, don't like, uh, any sort of grace being said or if you are like me and you know, your, your ex-Mormon and it, it just makes you laugh when people are praying for this food to somehow be magically transformed to be nourishing for your body. It's donuts. The only thing it's good for is eating and enjoying.

Leon: 15:19 (laughing hysterically) I'm, I'm laughing because my, my daughter who runs a bakery out of my house is preparing to make something on the order of like 800 donuts in the next couple of weeks. And so the idea that my house will be filled with basically non,

Yechiel: 15:34 it'll definitely nourish your gut, that's for sure.

Leon: 15:36 It's gonna. It's, yeah.

Josh: 15:38 You just tell her to just pray over them that they will be for strength and nourishment and then they, there'll be no calories left in them.

Leon: 15:46 Yeah. Yeah. The, the mythical and the mystical, uh, no calorie donut. Yeah, I don't think so.

Josh: 15:54 Prayers are just weird. Just awkward. I mean, and then the reciprocal is also true. If you go to a meal and you have a religious belief where you want to pray over your food, but nobody else is what do you do?

Leon: 16:08 And there's a piece of that which is, and I think we'll get into it more, but Christmas is a time when a lot of Christians feel like this is when their Christianity should be the most on display. Like this is the time when they can really turn it, you know, turn it up to 11. And so getting everyone involved in a, in a prayer, a prayer which invokes imagery or names or concepts which are not only foreign to other religious cultures, but in some cases antithetical to other cultures. You know, so now do, do I stand quietly in the corner? Do I leave the room? Do I... No matter what I do, anything short of participating could be seen as offensive because this person has so much invested in this moment.

Josh: 16:57 Not that history has, uh, will support me on this. But I feel like the easiest way to do this is don't be so invested in your religious beliefs that you, that you're going to take offense when no offense is intended. Um, and I, that goes both ways. I grew up, my, my very best friend when I was a young, quite young, up until about fifth grade, and when I moved away, uh, he was, um, uh, Jehovah's witness and you know, and I, this was back at least in Canada where you sang the national anthem and you said the Lord's prayer every Sunday morning in school, right? Uh, so they, they look, we're all adults here. If you need, if you want to step out because something is happening that you don't want to partake in, step out. Just like if I show up at a holiday party and someone starts doing something that I find offensive, whether it's you've, you've, uh, you know, you've drunk too much and now you are a drunk, um, or you know, uh, someone is doing something that I find inappropriate, I am going to leave. That's I, and if I can come back, I will. But if not, I'm not going to come back and you're just going to have to deal with that because you made your choices. I make mine. I mean, we're all adults like that.

Leon: 18:18 Yeah. And, and the, the point I think of, of this particular conversation is navigating the heightened expectations and emotions around the holidays and around, you know, the, the party. I think that these moments, these particular moments become imbued with a heightened sense that, you know, isn't there for a lot of other things or can be imbued with a heightened sense. And I think that's the challenge.

Yechiel: 18:45 And then you have the corollary to that where, um, where people will try to be inclusive and they'll be like, "Oh, okay. So, um, Yechiel, why didn't you lead us with a Jewish prayer?" And I'm like, "no, I, that's not what I want to do right now. I do not want to lead this room full of people on a Jewish prayer. I'll say, my Jewish prayer myself, thank you very much."

Leon: 19:08 Right? Right. Or, or my personal favorite. "Hey, can you bring them, can you bring, you know, that candelabra thing, can you bring a menorah? And, and light it at our party. And that way you'll have something here too." It's like, um, "Hanukkah was three weeks ago. Chad," You know, uh, no, we're not doing it. But again, there's, I'm not saying you can't say no. Josh, to your point no is a perfectly fine answer. You know, Hanukkah was three weeks ago is also perfectly fine answer. The challenge is navigating other people's expectations and again, I think, uh, the holidays just sort of amp things up.

Josh: 19:49 I, I definitely agree. I th I hope that... No, before we end this, we definitely have to come, we have to come up with that list of things that we need to do, like the ground rules we need to set. Right. And one of them definitely needs to be, "I am not going to take a fence unless you intend to offend me."

Leon: 20:07 Right? If you say, "Yeah, I meant for you to be offended, then then all bets are off, right?

Josh: 20:12 Yeah. All bets are off.

Yechiel: 20:12 And when in doubt, just ask, you know, "Did you mean to offend me?

New Speaker: 20:15 Yeah. That's, you know, I'm having a hard time with it, right? Oh, there's all sorts of mature, you know, careful communication that we could do every day in the office, in fact, that would be very helpful. Um, and this is just another opportunity to practice that, but, well, okay, we'll get to that because as good IT professionals, we are into solving things. We'll do it. The last piece, and I'm just gonna echo something. So Doug Johnson - who's another frequent voice that we hear on Technically Religious - and I have known each other for probably close to 30 years now. And Doug has been on this program saying as an evangelical Christian how much he hates Christmas. He is, he is like the worst representative of Christmas. And he, and a lot of it boils down to everything we've been talking about, but the flip side of it. Christmas isn't Christmasy enough for him. Meaning what the holiday party, what the office holiday party is, this watered down, commercialized hallmark version. And he wants nothing to do with it. He really, you know, his point, and he said this before, is, is "You want to have Christmas? Let's talk Jesus. Like let's just do that!" That's, you know, let's get rid of the guy in the red suit. Let's forget about all that stuff. He really wants to have the, the adult version of the holiday, which also makes people very uncomfortable. And so he finds himself not invited to Christmas parties frequently as well.

Josh: 21:38 I think that this ties very nicely into, um, an idea that we wanted to talk around that this, uh, my religion, uh, on your holiday or you know, your holiday on my religion.

Leon: 21:49 Yeah.

Josh: 21:50 So up until a few years ago, I was one of those people where if you said "Happy holidays" to me, I would say "Merry Christmas" back because you know, it's Christmas time and you got to put the Christ in Christmas. Right? And my wife and I were talking about this just the other day. Yesterday, I think. And we have decided that regardless of what holiday, someone wishes us, our response is going to be, "Thank you. You too." I mean, Holy crap, right? It's like mind blowing!

Yechiel: 22:27 Radical.

Leon: 22:29 What a crazy idea. Just saying thank you.

Speaker 4: 22:33 It. Ah, and she, she said, "I posted this to Facebook, that I'm going to do this." And she's like, "I wonder how many people are going to be offended." And I thought, "Who in the world's going to be offended by saying thank you. You too."?

Leon: 22:46 Okay. And, and the answer is??

Yechiel: 22:49 Well, it's this Facebook, so...

: 22:50 (conversation fades out)

Leon: 22:52 We know you can't listen to our podcast all day. So out of respect for your time, we've broken this particular conversation up. Come back next week and we'll continue our conversation.

Roddie: 23:02 Thank you for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website at where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

Leon: 23:15 Hey, Josh, how was the last Christmas party you attended?

Josh: 23:17 I passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops, and then I walked through the Lincoln tunnel!

Yechiel: 23:26 Wait, is there sugar in gumdrops?

S1E35: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Chaim Weiss

S1E35: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Chaim Weiss

December 10, 2019

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with Programmer Chaim Weiss. Listen or read the transcript below.

Doug: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:24 Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for Then A Miracle Occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. My name is Leon Adato and the other voice you're going to hear on this episode is Chaim Weiss.

Chaim: 01:15 Hi.

Leon: 01:16 Hey there. So thank you so much for joining on this particular episode of Technically Religious. Before we dive into things, I want to, uh, do a little bit of shameless self promotion. Chaim, tell us a little bit about who are you and where you work and where people can find you.

Chaim: 01:30 Yeah. Hi everybody. Hi, I'm Chaim Weiss. Here right now I am a front end angular developer working at Decision Link. We're doing some front end work. If you want to get a hold of me, I'm, I'm on LinkedIn. Get messaged me. Say hi.

Leon: 01:43 And how do you identify? Like are you Buddhist? Are you Hindu? Like what's your religious point of view?

Chaim: 01:48 Yes. Oh yes. And I am a, I consider myself an Orthodox Jew.

Leon: 01:52 There we go. Okay. Boring because I am too. Can we get some variety here? That's all right. But at least birds of a feather. And I should do, I should do the same intros. Uh, my name is Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes, that's actually my job title and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's all geek. Uh, you can find me on Twitter @LeonAdato. Uh, you can also hear my musings and ponderings that I write about, uh, on the website As I said, I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you're a scribbling madly trying to write down all those websites, don't bother, just sit back, relax, enjoy the conversation that's about to occur because, uh, we'll have some show notes and all the links to everything we've talked about is going to be in there so you can just relax and leave the driving to us. So I want to start off with the technical side of things. Um, tell me a little bit more about what kind of work you're doing today in technology.

Chaim: 02:48 So right now today I'm doing some front end work building a website. We have this app, awesome app, and it's actually kind of a startup really started doing really well, but they need a website, everyone needs a website. Everyone needs an app. We're doing the front end work. I'm in the JavaScript world of programming. It's programming. Programming is awesome. There's front, then there's backend, done it all. It's all awesome. I recommend it to everybody, I think. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do it.

Leon: 03:14 Right. Everyone should be a programmer. Everybody. You! You're a plumber. You should still be a programmer. Yeah. Yeah. And did you start out as a programmer when you first thought about a career or you know, you just start someplace else?

Chaim: 03:29 Actually, I'm funny you ask, I started, I started my career. I started teaching. I was here in local and Cleveland. I was teaching in one of the, one of the religious institutions in the Beachwood Kollel. I was there for a number of years and throughout those years I knew nothing of tech. Everyone said, "You needed something in tech? Don't, don't ask. Chaim. Oh, he doesn't know what he's doing." Uh, last time, how often was I on a computer? Almost never. Microsoft word. Maybe. I knew nothing of nothing. I, I w I mean, I was, I was, had a great time. I was doing my teaching all my teaching I wanted to do, but had very little attack. Very little. No computers. I wasn't um. I had a flip phone, a flip phone! Nothing. Imagine I didn't even have an email address, can you imagine?

Leon: 04:22 Ya. Luddite!

Chaim: 04:24 Yeah. Yes. I had nothing but after a few years, there was an amazing, incredible course that I took. It was of course, the, the amazing Head Geek of SolarWinds, the, the handsome, famous Leon Adato decided he was going to open up a computer course and say, "Hey, I know you guys." It was a few friends of mine. He said, "I know you guys know nothing about computers, but it's easy. It's not hard. You just need a little direction. "So he sat with us for quite a few weeks and taught us the ropes. And slowly but surely we were like, "Yeah, this is easy and big sense. Oh this, Oh, of course. And this is more than easy. This is fun. This is exciting." As we went on, as the weeks went on, we got more and more learned more and more until eventually I got, um, basically an internship out here in Cleveland and, uh, another fantastic place at FireCoding also here in Cleveland. Great place. He was mentoring and teaching. He had awesome clients. So I really learned to work ropes, real world programs and there are a lot of great programming and, and it really took off and I'm super happy. I did. Uh, I really enjoy what I do and I have fun doing it.

Leon: 05:34 Nice. And thank you for the kind words. I appreciate. I'm, I'm, I'm over here blushing.

Chaim: 05:38 I, I'm, I'm totally serious. It was fantastic. It was really great.

Leon: 05:42 Yeah, well it was a, it was a really unique group of, of guys and that's the topic of a completely different podcast episode. I'll, I'll, what we need to do is get everybody back on and talk about those days. But, um, everybody worked really, really hard and they had, um, some really good brain power behind them because that's the only thing that that was gonna... That was the only thing that was going to get you from, from there to here. So you, you started off, like you said, with nothing much more than a flip phone, not even an email address. And now you're programming front end, back end, angular, javascript, .net. You know, the whole, the whole stack.

Chaim: 06:20 The works!

Leon: 06:20 That's, you know, that's fantastic. Um, so I wanna take the same set of questions and turn it around and talk about religion. Starting off with where you are now. Labels are hard and a lot of times when you ask somebody, "So, so what are you?" You know, somebody says, you know, "I'm, I'm Hindu or I'm Muslim" or whatever. It's like, well, what does that mean? Like what kind are you? And that's where a lot of the, "Well, I do this, but I don't do that. But there's this, but there's that." It's, it's more nuanced than a single title or label. So tell everyone a little bit about what Orthodox Judaism means for you. Like how, how that comes out for you.

Chaim: 07:02 Yeah. So Orthodox Judaism, it's, it's, I've been doing it forever and before I was born.

Leon: 07:09 (laughs) Infinitely I've been infinitely doing it?

Chaim: 07:12 Yes. Yes. I, I, yeah, I was born doing it. I grew up doing it, went to school, doing it. For the first part. I, I don't, I don't even know of anything else until, until I got to see the other big part of the world. I thought that's all there was. Um, I, I went to school that was religious. I went to high school, Orthodox, religious, and that's what I'm doing. Everything was doing, it was just all about the rules, the laws, and following it all. So as I went on, um, I learned more. I, "Hey, there's, there's more to the world". And it was in the beginning as I was going out into the world, seeing things from other people's perspective, I have to understand, Hey, I know I'm Orthodox. They're not, they don't understand what I'm doing. They don't understand my customs. They don't even, they don't even, they even think they think I'm, I'm Amish.

Leon: 08:00 This is a common, it's a common mistake.

Chaim: 08:06 Yeah. Well it's really happened.

Leon: 08:08 So that's an interesting point that your religious experience has been fairly consistent from, from birth forward. But I'm curious even within that, you know, did you find yourself, you know, when we grew up in our parents house, we take on their level of observance regardless of whether we were talking about, again, Islam or Judaism or Christianity or whatever, you know, our parents' houses, our parents' house, and that's what happens. But when you go out on your own, did you find that there was your own particular spin? Maybe, you know, you were doing some things more strictly or less strictly or not even on a spectrum of, of more or less, but just different. Did you find that that changed as you grew, as you started a family, those kinds of things?

Chaim: 08:50 Um, interesting question because really, um, in religion, in, in anything specifically religious for anything that means something, you have to make it your own. Um, so if you, you want to be genuine, you want to be genuine. If you're just doing somethings out of rote because you always did it, it's not going to have as much meaning yet. You have to understand things and you ha you have to, you have to understand thing and do, do it for what you want. Right. So that'll automatically, sometimes you'll be different. On the other hand, I'll always understand that things are just out for me. People that are older, you are smarter than you. They know better. So yeah, no you don't. We don't just say, "I'm, I'm, I'm going to start this myself." But yes, I try everything. I go out of my way to try and do things different to, to understand, yeah. I go out of my way now that I was on my own. And married, had a family. Yeah. I'm doing things like... I don't want to do things just like before. I want to do it my own because I want to understand, I want it to be real. I want it to be genuine.

Leon: 09:48 So we talked about the technical, we talked about the religious and I'm curious about now you've, you've been in tech for how long now?

Chaim: 09:57 Close to three years.

Leon: 09:58 Three years. Okay. So fairly early in your career, you know, um, we have some people on here, uh, on the podcast who've been doing it for you know, decades. Um, you know, some, uh, you know, moving on in some cases to half a century, um, in time. So, which is, you know, kind of mind boggling, but those people are around. So even this early in your career, has there been any situation that you found with the overlap between your, you know, religious life, which is a strongly held point of view. It's not just a nice to have, it's off on the side. It's sort of central to your life. So has there been a point where that created a conflict or a challenge or a hurdle that you had to get past to make it mesh with your technical career?

Chaim: 10:45 Yeah, definitely. Until, until my career until three years ago. Right. Everything I did, I was teaching that was religious. When I jumped into, into the tech world. So that's, they care about deadlines. They don't care about religious.

Leon: 10:58 (laughs) That IS the religion. The religion is "get it done"

Chaim: 11:02 Yeah, exactly. So yeah, th th there were definitely things... There are definitely conflicts. And besides the conflicts, the people who are working with, they didn't even know about my conflicts. They said, "well, of course we're working late into the night Friday. Why wouldn't you?" They just don't understand. Now I know, Hey, I'm really just like, I can't work late late Friday, Friday and Friday night. We have, the sabbath, we can't... We can't do that. There's your conflict. But what I did notice, at least in up until now in my short career, people are great. Um, so for, in my situations, everyone's totally understanding. Everyone's, everyone's out to be, to be nice. I mean, you don't walk over anybody. You say, "Hey, I'd love to work it out. I have to make sacrifices. I'm going to work Saturday night to finish what I need to do for Friday." And everyone's okay with that. They're just, people just don't know. People love to hear. People love to listen to. People love to learn. They say, "Oh, you're Jewish. Oh, what does that mean? What does that mean to you? What do you have to do? What are the rules? Oh, you can't work Friday, Friday night. Oh wow. Really? The whole day, like, like no cheating. Oh my."

Leon: 12:06 (laughs) I love it. No cheating. Yeah. My other favorite was "Every week?". Yeah. Sabbath comes every week. It's amazing like that.

Chaim: 12:14 But, but people are accommodating. It's super nice how people who are, who don't share my views, don't, don't observe what I observed there. They're out there. Ultimately, you just ha if you're out, if you're open, everyone can get along. Everyone can be accommodating. You just have to be open and be clear and be straight, and then it's just, it's really great to have people work together.

Leon: 12:35 That's wonderful. Okay, so that was, those were some of the challenges and how you, how you overcame them. I'm curious if they were any... That almost sounds like this, the second part of the question, which is, you know, were there any unexpected benefits or surprises where your religion actually ended up being a, a benefit that you didn't expect it to be? I think sometimes when we come into the technical workplace we think that our religious life and you know those restrictions are always going to be negatives, are going to be challenges or hurdles that we have to get over. But every once in a while there's something that just pops up and it's like, "Oh wow, this is like, this is like a secret super power. This is, this is a skill I didn't expect was going to be usable or leverageable in the workplace." I was curious if you've had anything like that.

Chaim: 13:19 Um, so actually well there's the obvious one that since I do, I do religious holidays, so non religious holidays, I'm free to work on. Awesome. Beside for that and the Beachwood, Kollel, one of the things we did was we constantly, we were constantly learning, constantly studying, analyzing, going back and forth. The, the fighting, the, the figuring out to getting to the, uh, to the bottom of things that totally... That. Well, at least programming and I'm sure he played an all tech. Basically it's analyzing problems, coming up with solutions, figuring things out that that's what it is. And I knew that I could do that. That was great. Oh yeah. Figure out this problem. It's super exciting. I could do that. There was, it was totally fun and I, I've done this before, so that was pretty cool.

Speaker 2: 14:03 yeah, you've, you've never done, you've never done this before, but you've done this before.

Chaim: 14:06 Exactly

Leon: 14:07 That's, that's the, it's a wonderful discovery when you realize that this, this whole set of skills that you'd honed for a completely different reason are applicable in this different context. That's wonderful. Do you have any final thoughts? Anything that you want to leave everybody who's listening, you know, with a little nugget of wisdom or just your experience or anything like that?

Chaim: 14:28 The only thing I'd like to say is that I know I could tell you 15 years ago I did not think of, I did not think I would be here today. The world of tech was, was out of my horizons. I do not think it was possible to me. I was in a totally different world, but here I am. Really? You can do anything. It's but specifically the tech is. It's, it's there. It's out there for the taking and go for it.

Leon: 14:48 Wonderful. All right. Hi, I'm thank you so much for joining me.

Chaim: 14:52 Thank you so much for having me.

Josh: 14:54 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

S1E34: The Frisco Kid Rides Again

S1E34: The Frisco Kid Rides Again

December 3, 2019

In the fall of 2019 a series of fortunate events led Technically Religious contributor Leon Adato to take a journey of a lifetime. He transformed an unexpected convention trip to Barcelona into a mission to bring a Torah back to the US from Israel. Like the movie that this episode is named for, along the way he experienced unexpected challenges and met larger-than-life characters who helped him on his way. Listen now, or read the transcript below.

Kate:                                     00:00                     Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experience we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion or lack thereof. We're here to explore ways we make our career. Is IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Josh:                                      00:24                     In the fall of 2019 a series of fortunate events led Technically Religious contributor, Leon Adato, to take a journey of a lifetime. He transformed an unexpected convention trip to Barcelona into a mission to bring a Torah back to the U S from Israel. Like the movie that this episode is named for, along the way, he experienced unexpected challenges and met larger than life characters who helped him on his way. I'm Josh Biggley and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partner in crime, Leon, Adato.

Leon:                                     00:57                     Hello.

Josh:                                      00:59                     Alright, Leon. You know how this goes, time for some shameless self promotion. So tell us who you are and where we can find you.

Leon:                                     01:06                     Fantastic. I am Leon Adato, as we've said, probably three times already. I am a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Uh, you can find me on the twitters @leonadato and you can also read my pontificating about monitoring and other things at and I identify religiously as an Orthodox Jew.

Josh:                                      01:26                     Wonderful! And I'm Josh Biggley. Uh, this is the first time I think we've officially announced that I am a TechOps Strategy Consultant with New Relic. Uh, super excited about that. Started two weeks ago and I feel like I'm living the dream.

Leon:                                     01:40                     Mazal Tov, mazel tov!

Josh:                                      01:41                     Mazal Tov indeed. Uh, you can find me on the Twitters, uh, @Jbiggley. Uh, I've actually shut down all of my, all of my um, non-work related discussions maybe I'm just tired of social media. I don't know. Um, but I do identify as post-Mormon. Um, so Leon, you, you had a trip.

Leon:                                     02:02                     I did. I did. And, but before we dive into the particulars of the trip, which is sort of the central part of this episode, I want to talk about something that I think is near and dear to a lot of it practitioners, which is travel hacking.

Josh:                                      02:16                     Oh yes, yes, please.

Leon:                                     02:18                     Because a lot of the, a lot of the parts of the trip that I took were predicated on or were built on my ability to, um, travel both comfortably and also efficiently. Um, you know, not being independently wealthy as I think all of our listeners are. And if you are a listener and you're independently wealthy, please consider taking a sponsorship. Um, we would love to, we'd love to have your support. Um, in any case, uh, I wanted to take a minute and talk about some things that I've learned over the last five and a half, almost six years as a head geek doing a lot of traveling. And Josh, I know that you have stuff to contribute.

Josh:                                      02:57                     I'm actually going to do a lot of listening here because, uh, as part and parcel of my new job, I'm going to be doing a fair bit of traveling. So, uh, I mean I'm going to take some notes. Uh, wait, no, hold on. We're going to put the details in the show notes. I'm not taking notes.

Leon:                                     03:11                     Very good. Okay, good. I, you know, and we forgot to mention that earlier, so that was a nice way to slide it in there. The first point, especially when we're talking about non US/Canada travel is all you need to do is get to Europe. Everything else is cheap. Once you do that, just get to Europe. I think a lot of Americans, and I'm assuming also Canadians, um, think, well, I'm going to go from, you know, France to Italy to this and they feel like they have to book it all out from the American perspective and you can, it's going to cost a lot of money. The reality is that just land anywhere in Europe, it doesn't have to be your final destination. It doesn't even have to be on your itinerary. Wherever it's cheapest to land get there because once you're on the continent at that point, getting around is ridiculously cheap. You live, for example, uh, you can get a one week pass on the train system for about a hundred dollars US and that allows you to get on and off the train as much as you want. So you can go from city to city and if you get someplace and it's like, wow, I didn't even expect to be here and it's beautiful here and I want to spend more time, fine, stay here and get on the train tomorrow or the day after or whatever. Also, there's a lot of cheap airlines, um, easy jets, one of them, but there's others. So again, just get into the region and from there you can build your trip off of that. Another thing is airline travel points are your friend and therefore, um, you want to work those points. And just to give you an example, a round trip ticket from the U S to Israel on United. I happened to be a United flyer. That's my airline of choice a is 80,000 points. Round trip from Barcelona is 30,000 points. You know, I was already, as we'll get into, I was already going to be in Barcelona, so I was able to build off of that to go do something else. Credit cards are a great tool for travel if they make sense for you. I'm not insisting that people get involved in credit cards. You get into credit card debt. I know that it's a slippery slope for a lot of folks, but the reality is that there are a lot of cards you can get that come with a signing bonus and you get 50, 60, 100,000 points. That's a European trip right there. Just that, you know, especially if it's a credit card that you know you're not going to use after that and you've got the, the willpower to do it.

Josh:                                      05:25                     I liked that actually. I did. I didn't use that piece of advice. Um, when I started my new job, I, I, I am an Air Canada flyer because I'm in Canada and there's really two airlines, so yay. Star Alliance partner. Um, right. Got out, went out and got myself a credit card. They gave me, uh, a bonus for signing up and then a bonus if I spent more than X number of dollars, which wasn't a problem because it's also their credit card, I used to reimburse all my expenses.

Leon:                                     05:50                     So as an IT pro, as long as your company doesn't have a thing against it, use that credit card. First of all, you get all of your perks if you use that card rather than the corporate card. And yeah, you get, even if even if the dollars are going to be reimbursed, you get the points for the miles. And to your point, especially if you know you're going to do a lot of travel, take a look at, you know, a lot of credit cards and a lot of airlines have a card that gives you club access. It costs. For example, the..., I have the chase United card. It is I think $400 a year for a fee. Now, $200 of that are refunded to me if they're travel related. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about taking a taxi or an Uber or Lyft or a hotel room or an extra bag that I'm checking in or whatever, whatever it is, those $200 get reimbursed right off the top second. If I need to get something like nexus or global entry or TSA pre that's covered, you're automatically covered with that, but on top of it, it gets you automatic access to the airline club and the reason why you want that there's, there's the living, the high life aspect, right? You walk in there, they treat you nice, you free drinks, there's food, there's even showers and stuff like that. That's nice. However, that's not the perk. The perk is that there's a different category of travel agent who works inside the club and I really believe that those agents are exclusively graduates of Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry because they will make things happen that can't happen anywhere else. I have gotten can't, you know, flights canceled, bumped off my flight, missed my flight, whatever. And I walk into the club and I tell them, Hey, this happened and type, type, type, type, type, Mr Adato, I've got you on the very next flight. There wasn't a very next flight. There is now. Oh wow. I mean like they literally conjure a new airplane. I don't know. They're magic people. That is worth the price of the card right there is having that, that fallback. So that's another thing. You had something about your status.

Josh:                                      07:57                     I mean, I don't do a lot of traveling, but I am, I got silver status, um, uh, on Air Canada this year and I am five segments away from getting to gold status when traveling first, getting on the plane before, um, you know, zones three, four and five is pretty awesome because everyone wants to take their non-checked bags with them. So everyone's trying to cram their carry-ons. So you get in early, you always are gonna find some carry on space second, um, you, you're going to get your pick of seats. I mean, not first class. Sometimes you get a first class upgrade, but you're going to get that premium economy. Um, so you actually have leg room. Um, and I mean third, you just want the ability to access some of the perks that come along with it. Like, Hey, if you rent at the Marriott hotels, you automatically get, um, 250 or 500 points. Little things like that. And I think that's another hack. Let's make sure we're stacking our, um, our rewards. You know, if Air Canada and Marriott have a, an agreement which they do, um, Hey, um, fly air Canada and stay at a Marriott hotel. Fortunately without even planning it, I always fly Air Canada, uh, or star Alliance partner. And I also, um, usually stay at a Marriott hotel, uh, when it makes sense, uh, only because it was really close to, um, you know, our, our previous employer, um, and made just perfect sense and there was, it was a great rate. So yeah, I mean, find those, find those synergies and uh, and work them.

Leon:                                     09:33                     I will also say don't get sort of psychologically locked in. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes you can't fly your preferred airline, you can't do that. But you know, have an eye for that. And then the last thing, and this is something I think as Americans were less, I don't know, less comfortable with, is the whole cell phone thing. You know, because America is so just geographically big and the carriers cover such a large range. I think once we get into the European theater, uh, the idea of what do we do with my cell phone comes up now, I will tell you I solved this this year by moving to Google Fi which rides on top of networks in almost every country. And so I didn't have to think about it. I landed and literally got a message. "Hey, good to know that you're in Switzerland right now and we've got you covered." Like literally a pop up on my phone came up and said, but as a non-American, you know, what advice do you have?

Josh:                                      10:27                     The advice that I've always been given and that I know that a few friends of mine who travel extensively always say is, um, don't roam Europe. Yes. All the cell phone companies. And including, you know, bell who I'm now with so that I can call the U S without unlimited calling. Um, they will tell you that you can roam for like $12 or $15 a day. The reality is don't roam. If you're going to be in Europe for any period of time, buy a SIM card. Um, I mean there's, they're like $25 for unlimited calling, uh, uh, a very generous helping of data. Uh, if you're going to use all of that, you should probably get out and see the sites a little more.

Leon:                                     11:09                     So my son, this is going to factor into the longer story, but my son is, uh, in Israel in a hundred gig data SIM card is effectively $12.

Leon:                                     11:19                     Oh, come on!

Leon:                                     11:19                     If you're going to be there for a week or two or whatever it is, and you're going to use a hundred gig of cell data yet, like you said, you're doing your traveling wrong.

Josh:                                      11:28                     You are definitely travel or you're, or you're traveling all sorts of, right. I don't know. Maybe you're live streaming.

Leon:                                     11:34                     Yeah, maybe a live streaming. Sure. Okay.

Josh:                                      11:36                     Streaming your entire trip. I mean, not, maybe that's a thing.

Leon:                                     11:38                     Okay. So that's, that's, you know, part one, travel hacking, just general travel hacking ideas. And some of that will factor into the story. But I, I think we want to pivot now into the story of me bringing back the Torah. Um, again, the Frisco kid for those people who aren't familiar is a wonderful movie with Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford story of a sort of a naive rabbi from Poland who travels across America to deliver a Torah to, uh, San Francisco. Uh, I felt very much like that along the way. Where it started was that I was set up to go to VMworld Europe this year, which is in Barcelona. And when I realized that that was a thing, I immediately decided I was going to take a cheap flight to Israel to visit my son who's there at Yeshiva.

Josh:                                      12:22                     No, wait, hold on, Leon. Yeah. Um, I think last time we talked your son was struggling with Yeshiva.

Leon:                                     12:29                     Yeah, he was. And in fact, um, when we talked about it, he was coming home. Like that night there was a flurry of activity. There were some correct course corrections made and some assurances made. And in fact he was able to feel comfortable staying with 15 minutes to spare.

Josh:                                      12:46                     Wow. Fantastic.

Leon:                                     12:47                     Yeah. So he was there and you know, he's doing, he is doing much better and growing and learning and doing the things that you want to do. But I was going to be there and I thought this is a wonderful chance for me to check up on him and see what he gets to see. And so I did that. And like I said before, the flight from Barcelona to Israel is significantly cheaper than the flight from the U S so it made a lot of sense. You know, I found the cheapest code partners that I could find and I got those flights booked. And so I mentioned to my, to my rabbi, just in passing, I said, Hey, I'm going to visit my son and he's, you know, in Israel. And he said, Oh, if you're going to be in Israel while you're there, can you bring a Torah back with you? And I said, well, yeah, sure, I guess. Sure. And he immediately, his entire tone changed. Like he was surprised like, well you mean it like will you ask me to, sure. Is that, are you sure? He must have asked me if I was sure five times until finally I said, what are you not telling me about this? You know, because I thought I'm bringing a Torah back. Is there something else I should know? Is there some major risks that I'm unaware of? What's what's going on

Josh:                                      13:47                     Now, to be clear, we are talking about the first five books of the old Testament. Right?

Leon:                                     13:53                     Right. So, so in this context, when I say bringing back a Torah, it is the scroll and we'll have pictures of it in the show notes, but it's just, it is, it is a, you know, scroll of parchment may, it can range in size from let's say, you know, two feet long and you know, kind of like, you know, eight inches wide and maybe 10 pounds and it can get, they can be larger than that, but,

Josh:                                      14:14                     okay. Well I just wanted to make sure that Torah wasn't code for, I don't know. An alligator. But apparently you can't bring on the airlines. I, I,

Leon:                                     14:24                     They really don't allow emotional support alligators anymore.

Josh:                                      14:28                     Oh, weird.

Leon:                                     14:29                     I know. I know. Um, so yeah, it's, it's a fairly specific object and, and non-dangerous it doesn't bite or anything like that from an it perspective because we want to talk about the technically part as well as the religiously parked. I was immediately struck by what happens when you volunteer for a project that nobody expects you to say yes to. My rabbi had made a comment sort of as a, and I took it seriously and all of a sudden he was sort of stuck like, what do well, but nobody would say yes to that. And, um, you know, we, I think many of us have been in that situation with projects where it's like, Hey, who wants to do X? You know, who wants to write that ebook? Or who wants to, yes, please. May I? And I was like, no, you don't. You don't really want to do that. I'm like, Oh yeah, I totally wanted to.

Josh:                                      15:16                     Uh, I think we all definitely need a Leon Adato on our teams to, uh, write all the documentation, uh, in fun ebook style.

Leon:                                     15:24                     Yes, absolutely. Um, I think that, you know, for any tech writers who are here, you can men, you can talk in the comments to this post on and say I'm available and I will volunteer to write eBooks also, you know, uh, volunteer meaning pay me. But, um, so I think from an it perspective though, there's some lessons that we can pull from this just even at this point in the story, you know, volunteering for things that other people consider to be a hard job is a really good career idea.

Josh:                                      15:53                     Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Over the last five and a half years. Um, well, I mean, let's bring up the story, right? Hey Josh, it'd be really awesome if, you know, you joined, you know, Cardinal Health and you know, came to work for Leon Adato and then four days later someone quit on me.

Leon:                                     16:15                     Okay. It was to become head gig and SolarWinds. Like, I couldn't not take that opportunity, but yes, I,

Josh:                                      16:22                     Yeah, but yeah, it's saying yes to opportunities even when they're hard, like, Hey, will you fill Leon shoes? I'll try it. It works out really well. And that really set me up for, for my entire career at a, at Cardinal Health, right. I as a non-cloud engineer, I was the co lead of the cloud community of practice as a just an engineer, uh, air quote, just an engineer, not a senior engineer. Um, I was the enterprise monitoring representative on the smash committee. It's not a whole idea of always be learning and you don't know that you can or cannot do something until you volunteer to do it and Hey, why not do it in a, what should be a safe space, um, of work. Yes. It means putting yourself out there. Yes. It means being risky. Yes. It means you have to trust your colleagues, but Oh my goodness. If you're going to try something, try it with the tactical support of a really strong team.

Leon:                                     17:19                     I also want to say that, you know, I got a lot of pushback from, from my Rabbi. Are you sure? Are you really sure? Do you mean it? Sometimes that's a warning sign. Sometimes when people say, you know, when nobody else is volunteering and the person in charge is, is really looking for that confirmation, it's a clue that this is not, you might've missed something. So ask questions. Not just the people in charge, but ask other folks, you know? But at a certain point, you also recognize that what appears to impossible or odious or frustrating kind of work that may not be how you see it. And that means that that's your superpower. So again, I love writing. I really do. And so while we're, a lot of other people in it will say, you know, write something. Are you joking? I'd rather take a fork through the eyeball. I'm like, I really wish I had more time to do this. That just happens to be the thing that I like. Recognize when that's the case and run with it.

Josh:                                      18:19                     My super power is apparently financial models. Right? Which is totally weird. Since I failed math in ninth grade. So Zack Mutchler and I who were colleagues up until two weeks ago, despises financial models. He never wants to do that. And I'm like, Oh my goodness, please. Yes, let me, it's, it's my grounding place. If I can figure out how it works financially, then I'll go and figure out how the technology works. So, um, yeah, I, I will volunteer to do financial models any day of the week. Yeah.

Leon:                                     18:50                     And that's something I would never do. Right. Okay. All right. So, so fast forward, um, you know, VMworld Barcelona is wonderful and I wrote some blog posts about it and then I, you know, went from there to Israel and had a great week with my son and had a great time. And I even got a chance to speak at cloud native day in Israel. Um, so I had called a friend of mine, Sharone Zitzman and said, "Hey, I'm..." She has kids. and she's Israeli, " I'm going to be there with myself. What's really fun things to do?" And she said, "Oh, you're going to be there. I'm running a convention. Can you speak?" Like Sharon, that's not why I, that's not what I called you for is to do another convention talk. But here I am. So I did that. Now, what's interesting about this, and this is relevant to this story, is that, um, the morning of the convention, it happens to be a Tuesday, uh, Israel executed an airstrike that killed, uh, uh, Palestinian Islamic jihad commander. And, uh, I know that it gets political. It gets into, you know, the whole middle East politics and things. So a trigger warning up front about that for people who feel strongly about it. But there was a, uh, an airstrike that killed this Islamic jihad commander and that triggered a retaliatory strike of 160 rockets that were fired from Gaza into Israel. And six of those reached Tel Aviv, which meant that the talk I was giving in Tel Aviv, you know, might not happen. And we were on our way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and I was getting emails that, you know, despite the fact that businesses and schools had been ordered to shut down, the convention was permitted to continue. Um, and then I got a call from the organizer who said, "You know, if you don't want to come in, if you're not comfortable, if it makes you nervous, I completely understand." Nope, we're on our way. It's fine. You know, 160 rockets, just another day in Israel. Here we go. So I went in and, and gave the talk and that was fine. So the next day, Wednesday I'm set to fly home. It's me, my luggage and the Torah. Um, so I need to describe in a little bit more detailed what this is. So the Torah is a scroll, it's on two wooden dowels. And um, like I said, it can be anywhere from say a foot and a half to three feet tall or long and you know, six, eight inches a foot wide when you roll it up and everything. So that's wrapped up, you know, packed up nice and tight and bubble wrap and wrapped in plastic and put into a a duffle bag that I can take with me. Then there's a box that goes in because, uh, some Torahs are just the scroll, but some come in their own sort of self contained container and this is called an Aron. So when I use that word from now on in the Aron is the box that comes in and this is a circular box. It's about two and a half, three feet high, about a foot in diameter. It's usually made out of plywood and covered in silver and has all sorts of literally bells hanging off of it. Uh, so that's, that's also there. Now the, the Torah itself cannot be checked as luggage. You treat it with respect and you know, I wouldn't check my grandmother is luggage. I'm not going to check the Torah, his luggage either. Um, so that has to come with me on the plane. Uh, you don't have to buy it its own seat, but you do have to bring it with you on the plane. It can't be checked as luggage. The Aron, the box can be checked as luggage. So that was all packed up. Also, it was wrapped nice and tight and foam and bubble wrap. And you know, a layer of plastic just to keep it all self contained. And that was in another duffle bag. And the Torah itself, uh, it turns out was about 25-30 pounds and the, our own was probably closer to 40 pounds.

Josh:                                      22:24                     Oh wow. Okay.

Leon:                                     22:25                     Along with my overloaded suitcase cause it had all the convention crap I had collected and a couple of things my son wanted to send home with me and a pita maker that I bought while I was in Israel for my wife, like one does. Right, right. All right. I just need to remind you at this point in the story that I had booked my flight, uh, my flights back and forth before I knew I was bringing the Torah. And it was also predicated on this convention trip. So my flights were Barcelona, Israel, and then Israel, Barcelona and work was paying for the Cleveland, Barcelona, Barcelona, Cleveland leg. So I had these two separate trips that, that dovetailed, that I booked before I knew I was bringing a Torah. And the second thing I wanna remind you is that there were 160 rockets fired from, you know, Gaza into Israel the day before I flew. And the reason I mentioned this is because of the flight home was on Turkish airlines.

Josh:                                      23:13                     I mean... what???

Leon:                                     23:13                     It was on Turkish airlines. Yeah.

Josh:                                      23:16                     So a Jewish dude.

Leon:                                     23:18                     Yeah. Orthodox Jewish dude flying on Turkish airlines. Okay, I'm going to give this spoiler Turkish airlines rocks. They are amazing people. Uh, they, everybody was delightful and lovely. So I'm just going to, I'm going to put that out up front. Okay. However, I didn't know what to expect. I also want to point out that, um, it, Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, the, the airport in Israel, all of the check areas, uh, are on the same level when you walk in the door, except for Turkish airlines, which is two floors down and off to the right in its own little section. And that section is predominantly a Palestinian Arabic travelers going back and forth. So I'm traveling as, as incognito as I possibly can. For those people who've seen me. I have little fringy things hanging out of my, uh, you know, out of my shirt, the tzitzit, those were tucked in a, I wear a kippah, but I was wearing a ball cap over it. I just wanted to be like as nonchalantly American as I possibly could be. Just again, didn't want to be in people's face, especially given what was happening, you know, that day and the day before. I get up to the checkout counter and delightful, a Palestinian young lady is checking me in and I give her the our own first because if there's gonna be a problem with my tickets, because I have three, I have three bags. I was only supposed to be traveling with one, they're overweight. There's a lot of extra charges on me. I want to make sure the, our own gets on before, you know, before anything else happens. So she asked me "Mah zeh?", what is that? My Hebrew is very, very bad. So in English I, I said "it's, um, it's a box that a Torah goes in?" I'm not sure if any of these words are going to have any meaning to anybody. And she looks at the duffle hanging off my shoulder and she says, "Zeh sefer Torah?" that bag over there, that's a safer tour. That's a, that's a Holy Torah? "Ken". I said, yes. "Ah, very good." She puts a fragile sticker on the bag that has the our own on it and she says, please take this off. We will use special handling for this. And then she takes my other bag, which is overweight and she puts a heavy sticker on it and off it goes. And then she takes my other bag and off it goes and I have my credit card out. I said, "I know this is going to cost." And she says, "There is no charge."

Josh:                                      25:34                     Waaaaaat???

Leon:                                     25:34                     I know. I literally said, "no, no, I just gave you three bags like I have to pay for these " She says "No, no, no, it is all good." Okay. And then she hands me a card, she says, this is a pass for the VIP lounge. Please enjoy.

Josh:                                      25:49                     Wow.

Leon:                                     25:50                     Okay. So now I have to take the Aron to special handling. So I take it around the corner to the special handling air. It's where it just right there and these two Palestinian guys are, you know, you know Israeli Palestinian, Israeli guys are there and uh, they open the bag and it's of course wrapped in bubble wrap, wrapped in plastic wrap and whatever, and they put it through the x-ray. Now I just want to remind you, it is a, a wooden box wrapped in silver wrapped in bubble wrap, et cetera. What's that gonna look like on the X Ray? It's gonna look like a big metal tube. So these guys, these guys like we're going to have to open this up. It had been so carefully, professionally packed and look, you're going to do what you're going to do, right? You've got to do it. So they open it up and they're like, yup, that's exactly what we thought we were gonna say there. And then immediately pull out their own roll of bubble wrap and they wrap it up just as good as it had been before. Just boom, boom, boom, wrap it up, put it back in the bag and off it goes. Like no problem. No. You can also say that, you know, tourists coming back from Israel is something that is seen a lot at Ben Gurion airport. That's a pretty normal thing. So, okay, so I get through the rest of security. I get to the lounge, I have a delightful time in the lounge. Um, get on my plane. My flight is going on Turkish airlines from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. Of course, that's the, the, you know, hub for that. Change. planes, go from Istanbul to Barcelona and that's where I have to change flights again. So I'm stay overnight in Barcelona, get up the next morning, come back to Barcelona airport, and I'm basically doing the same thing all over again. I get into check in this time it's United and, uh, this time everything's going to happen except it's going to happen in Spanish. Now my Spanish is better than my Hebrew. Uh, it's not great, but it's better than than that. And so I get to the line and uh, you know, get through the line and I get up to the guy at the counter and he once again, you know, I hand him the Aron and I put it up on the conveyor and he says, "well, what's that?" All right, I'm talking to you in a predominantly Christian country. How am I gonna explain this? "Uh, it's a box that, that a Torah scroll, a Holy scroll goes into," I'm, I'm trying to figure out how to say this. And he spoke English, but I'm still, and he says, "Oh," like recognition dawned and his face, he hands me a sticker that's his fragile, he says, would you like to put that on here? Okay, fine. So I put the sticker on, he says, "okay, please take it off and we'll special handle it in the moment." And he takes my bag, the overweight one, and he takes the other bag and I pull up my credit card cause I'm going to pay. And he's like, "no charge." Like what is this? No, no, no charge. And again, he hands me a pass. He says, "here's a pass to the VIP lounge, please enjoy."

Josh:                                      28:32                     Oh my goodness.

Leon:                                     28:33                     Okay. He gets up. Now there's a line of people behind me. He says, please follow me. So I follow him. There's, there's other people, you know, it's not like he left the line waiting, but you know, I follow him around to where the special handling area is. And he says, please "put this up on the conveyor." Like he's standing, he's standing right there, but please put on me. So I put on the conveyor and I put it, apparently the wrong direction, "would you please turn it?" And I realized at that moment, he's not touching this thing. So I turn it and it goes and it goes on and he comes down and as we're walking back, he says, "We see this sometimes Shalom."

Josh:                                      29:06                     Oh my goodness, I've got chills. Leon chills.

Leon:                                     29:09                     So I go through Barcelona airport security and, and here I get stuck again because the Torah again is wrapped in bubble wrap, whatever. It's just this big blob on the x-ray. "Que es esto?"Kay the guy says, uh, "Halbas Ingles?". No. Okay. Here we go. There's, there's a phrase that you have that I try to say it's really bad. So for those native Spanish speakers, please feel free to mock me. "Una objeto religioso" it's a religious object. "Yo no comprendo." "Una scrol de Bible?" Like now I'm running out of words here to describe what a Torah is to the security dude in Barcelona airport. And so he calls the supervisor over and they have a quick conversation and she looks at me and she says a word, which if you're ever in Spain is the most important word you can possibly know in Spain. It's Vale. Vale means okay. In the same way that we would use it, it's a question. It's an answer. It's a statement. It's everything. Vale. So I say "Vale??" and she says, "Tu puedas va. Vale", You can go. Okay. So I go, I go to the, I go to the lounge, have another delightful time. I get on, uh, the airplane. I should mention one of the other things, one of the other issues. Remember I said the Torah can't be checked as baggage. So each time I'm getting on the plane, I'm worried that they're going to gate check this extra piece of luggage, this Torah, because it can't go. Never happened. Each time I would go to the flight attendants say, "I'm really sorry. I know this is sort of oversized. It's, it's a few inches larger than normal carry on, you know, but it's, it's a religious object." Again, I'm, I'm describing it in, in non-Jewish terms and it really, and they're like, "no problem. Put it right up there. It's fine." Like it was not a problem at all. Um, but back to your point about being able to check on early, it really helped to know that I was one of the first people boarding, so there was going to be overhead space. It made a difference in this case. So we're flying in and uh, you know, Barcelona, New Jersey, I land in New Jersey at Newark airport and that's when I realize I have this incredibly valuable object. How do you claim a Torah at immigration? Like how do you,

Josh:                                      31:21                     how do you claim?...

Leon:                                     31:23                     ...What is it worth? So I'm real quick texting a bunch of people like people do this, how do you do whatever they say? It's not worth anything to anybody else. Yes, you're right. We would pay a lot of money for it, but it's not actually on the street worth anything, so just don't claim it. It turns out however that something else happened. I have global entry. Back to the travel hacking. I have TSA pre. I also have global entry, which means that I can go through the really fast lane when I come in through the country, but I also on my phone have the TSA app, which allows you to do the claim form on the plane four hours ahead of landing and put everything in there and then the record's already in there. However, don't do both. It turns out that if you do both, it creates a conflicting record in immigration systems that if you're, if you have Global Entry, you simply use global entry, use the paper form and go through. I didn't know that, so I did both. So I get through personal immigration and they say, Oh yeah, if you're going to do, you know, so I scan my phone app and I show them my Global Entry and they're like, the Global Entry doesn't count because you did the phone app, it's going to create a conflict. Don't do that. So okay, fine. So then when I'm pick up my bags and I'm going to go through the check, I go through global entry and the guy sees the phone app and he spends a good solid like two minutes. "Why did you do that? You already have Global Entry. Why did you do the TSA App?" "I didn't know it was going to create a problem." This is... "Just please next time don't do that." And he waves me through an off I go. He didn't ever look at the fact that I had four pieces of luggage, you know, I'm a single guy going through, didn't even pay attention to that. He was more concerned about the fact that I had made an IT error.

Josh:                                      33:06                     Lovely, yes, you had done the steps out of order. Incorrect. The problem exists between the keyboard and the chair, obviously.

Leon:                                     33:17                     Right? So, right. PEBKAC rules. I am clearly the ID10T error of the day. That was the problem, not the toy, the ancient Torah scroll and the silver case and that, that wasn't okay. So I get through and uh, I get home and uh, one of the lessons to, to spin this back around again to the more technical is that I had, I knew the entire flight plan. I knew each of the steps along the way. I knew that I was gonna have personal security at these places and I was gonna have luggage security at these places. I knew I was going to have all these things. I had my steps in a row, but I, I took each step as it came. I didn't take a hiccup or an issue at one moment as a sign of things to come. Good or bad. I really, and I think that as IT professionals, we also need to think about that. That, you know, we have a project, we know what the project plan is. Things are going to work, other things aren't going to work. That doesn't mean it's a sign of how the whole project is going to go. That each moment is its own moment and doesn't necessarily have bearing on the next moment to come.

Josh:                                      34:28                     Yeah. I, when we think about how, how do you build a resilient system, there are two things that you factor in. One is a system that is resistant to failure and a system that can quickly recover from failure because there is no such thing as no downtime. It does not exist. There will always be failures, right? And as IT professionals, we need to figure that out, not just in the technology but also in the way that we execute projects in the way that we execute our careers. I mean, it's all about that personal, professional resilience. Failure is going to happen. Roll with the punches

Leon:                                     35:12                     And you know, don't, yeah, don't imagine the punches aren't going to come, but just because one step along the way knocked you down doesn't mean every step is going to knock you down. It's not. Um, so we got it back to America. Um, in the show notes, I will link to the live tweeting I did of the entire process and a picture of the Torah itself so you can see it in its, in its new home. But after I, I got back, I went over to the rabbi's house and the rabbi's wife and I were, and she said something very interesting and I have to give you a little bit of history. So as I mentioned before, um, the kind of Jewish we are or the culture that we come from is the Spanish Jewish culture. So that means that, uh, after the expulsion of the Jews from Israel in 72 CE, after the second destruction, they settled in Spain and they lived in Spain until about 1492 during, you know, the Inquisition. And then our family, my Rabbi's family and my family settled from Spain into Istanbul and they lived in Istanbul, in a little town outside of his temple until about 1920. And that's when they came to America. So when I got everything back and I was sitting at the house and I was talking to her, she said, you know that Torah stopped every place our family lived. And I got chills. It went from Israel to Istanbul to Spain to America. And if I had said to you, Hey Josh, you know, I just want bring a Torah back but I want to do this really, really cool thing. I'm going to stop every place or a, you would tell me, Leon, you are way overthinking this and just bring the thing back and be done with it. But it just happened. It just, you know, it just worked out that way.

Leon:                                     36:49                     And again, from an it perspective, I think it speaks to that serendipity of life, whether that's religious or it or otherwise. Sometimes you know and have this in caps, you know, things happen for a reason. Trademark, copyright, all rights reserved. Things do happen for a reason. And it's okay to know that that happens. And sometimes you say, I'm just going to see how this works out. I'm going to let things happen. I'm not going to try to control the outcome. I'm not gonna try to make it be something, I'm going to let things go and, and just let it be. I didn't intend for that to be, my travel path, but it did. And, and the experience was that much richer because of it.

Josh:                                      37:33                     You know, I, I had an interesting, uh, moment over the past month or so going through the interview process with new Relic and talking to a number of my current team members who were on that interview panel and explaining the journey that I had toward being someone who is, uh, an enterprise monitoring practitioner. And I realized in recounting the journey over the past 20 years that my very first job than IT laid the, the framework for me becoming a, a monitoring practitioner. I worked for a small company, uh, in Michigan that focused on call center software and they designed software that would connect to your PBX, uh, for your call center and would allow you to monitor the phone status of all of your agents and then would correlate all of that data up onto a big screen. That would allow you to run reports. It did call center monitoring my very first job and then my next job had an HP OpenView workstation and then my next job had an HP OpenView work station that I replaced with SolarWinds. It's a wonderful journey. Uh, I, that's, it's, it's weird. I think like you and your Torah story, uh, your Torah journey, you didn't realize the importance of that journey until you paused for a moment to reflect on the journey that you took. And I, I think we have to do IT as well. Sometimes we're so focused on where we want to get to that we forget where we've come from and the power that comes to us. I think that's important, right? Right. What we value in our IT lives. We have to take time to look back what we value in our personal lives and our religious lives. Yeah. You know, I think I'd like to end Leon with a quote from, uh, Ralph Waldo Emerson. So he, you know, prolific writer, um, wrote a series of essays and a second series and an essay entitled experience. He said "To finish the moment, to find the journey's end and every step of the road to live. The greatest number of good hours is wisdom."

Destiny:                               39:46                     Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh:                                      40:00                     So you brought a Torah back from Israel?

Leon:                                     40:03                     And all I got was this t-shirt...I mean, this podcast story.


S1E33: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Corey Adler

S1E33: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Corey Adler

November 26, 2019

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with friend, co-religionist, programmer, and recurring Technically Religious guest Corey Adler. Listen or read the transcript below.

Josh: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:22 Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred." It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological, and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future.

Leon: 01:09 My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you'll hear on this episode is Cory Adler.

Corey: 01:14 Alon-zee, Mr. Adato.

Leon: 01:16 Very well done. Uh, Alonzo. So, uh, before we dig into the actual topic, uh, let's take a moment for shameless self promotion. Corey, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Corey: 01:27 Hi, my name is Corey Adler. I am a lead engineer at Autosoft who currently makes software for car dealerships. You can find me on Twitter @CoryAdler. Uh, you can find me on stack overflow as Ironman84 and I am an Orthodox Jew or as sometimes or sometimes cultist in the church of Jon Skeet.

Leon: 01:47 There we go. You pray at the altar of Jon Skeet.

Corey: 01:50 (whispering) Jon Kate is the whistleblower.

Leon: 01:52 Okay, good. You heard it here first. Anyway, uh, just to keep things, uh, evened out. My name is Leon Adato. I am a head Geek at Solarwinds. You can hear, uh, my ponderings and read some of the stuff I've done at, You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato and I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you're scribbling this down madly trying to catch those, uh, websites and stuff, stop and just listen. Enjoy the show. There will be show notes after this and you can have all of that and anything that we mentioned along the way. So...

Corey: 02:26 dat da-da da!

Leon: 02:27 Right, exactly. Just enjoy. Take a moment, smell the flowers, bask in the sunshine. All right, so the tales from the TAMO cloud has a very specific structure as you know. Um, so I want to start off with the technical side of the conversation. Tell me a little bit about what work, like what is the work that you're doing today? I know you said lead engineer, but what does that mean on a day to day basis?

Corey: 02:50 So we are currently redoing our entire dealer management system from, uh, our existing product, which is about 20 years old. I am currently lead for the accounting team. We're reworking, uh, the accounting module, various transactions, maintaining your journal, cashier, all kinds of various items that inherently in a dealership needs. But very few people end up thinking, "Oh yeah, the dealership is going to actually need software for all of that." So currently we're working in a .Net tech stack with an angular front end, um, SQL server, uh, for a database and hibernate that as our ORM of choice. Um, well except data teams trying to remove that because they want stored procedures and other things that are more efficient with our time as if, as if developers are efficient know.

Leon: 03:48 (laughs) Right. I see. If you take that as a personal insult, so, okay. So it's a little bit of what you do. So you're coding, I mean, you know, for, for those people who, who aren't quite as in the weeds, you're, you're a programmer and you work mostly in the .net stack as far as that goes, which is cool. Um, where... Think back now, think back to those early days. Where did you start out in tech?

Corey: 04:11 Professionally I've been developer my entire career. Uh, it's funny actually because I didn't start out and done that. Actually college and grad school both were in Java actually. Um, and the only .net class I took was for half a semester. My senior year in college, the one, the one semester of senior year that I had before I graduated, which was a computer games class and first half was, you know, still in Java. And the professor basically just had this thing of every week you're making a game. The way he phrased it was, "If I tell you to make a game in two weeks, you'll spend two weeks to make a game. If I tell you to do it in one week, you'll spend one week and you'll make a game." So one week he switched over to, um, halfway through because that, uh, Microsoft has this X and a framework that for people to make games that you can download to your X-Box. So he had us doing that and I ended up, uh, programming in a team doing, uh, this site's girl shooter game where you were enemies could do drop bonus weapons. Then you could and had this little animation for, you know, attaching it. And I wrote most of the most of the code for this game and I brought that code actually with me to my first job interview and they were like, the interviewers, like these guys are senior developers. They were actually like, you could, I could actually tell on their faces, they were rather impressed with some of the stuff.

Leon: 05:53 You realize that you were going to have to post your game in the show notes, like you're going to have to have that someplace where people can download it and play it.

Corey: 06:02 The professor himself actually, I believe, does not delete his course pages. So it probably is still up there.

Leon: 06:09 Awesome. Okay, fine, fine. Fair enough. Um, all right. So that's where we started was with, you know, like basically the equivalent of the XKCD cartoon, "That one weekend I spent playing around with Perl" was how you built your career, which, you know, fine. Okay. It's not Perl, but whatever. Um, so then the question is, where did you go from there? You know, you're, you're a, you're, you know, you're a full stack .net dev. Now you started off programming in your C, you know, comps, eyeglasses. But how did you get from there to here? What was your progression? What was the journey?

Corey: 06:42 So I graduated college and I knew I wanted to get a masters and I knew because we were expecting our first kid at the time.

Leon: 06:53 You're, I should clarify your wife and you were expecting not the development team, right? I just told them to, but, well, they were expecting your first company and have a completely different way.

Corey: 07:02 I mean, this was after college. I hadn't worked professionally yet.

Leon: 07:06 Oh, okay.

Corey: 07:07 Yeah. So, so we were moving out of New York. Yeah. Thank God. And the choices were either too near where my family lived in Chicago or near to where her family lived in Cleveland. And I ended up getting into case Western here. Um, but then they, so they said to me, "You know, we don't really give financial aid for master's students, but if you'd be willing to enter the PhD program, we would be happy to make you a TA and tuition would then be free and we would pay you a stipend for being a TA in a couple of classes." As well as full time taking classes. I said, sure, I'll do that. Um, so I ended up, you know, TA-ing and getting a reputation for being strict, which has helped throughout my career because you know, especially as being a team lead, all those little strict things that I asked those students to do that long ago is stuff that I'm still correcting people on doing. You know, please sort you're using, please write some comments, please document your code,

Leon: 08:25 (laughing) Comment your damn code! You hear that everyone?

Corey: 08:29 Sort your damn usings or your imports if you're in Java for the love of God, have some professional pride in your work.

Leon: 08:40 Perfect. I should point out before we go much further that you wrote a whole series of posts on the SolarWinds user forum. Yes, that's... Naming things is hard apparently. So the SolarWinds user form is called THWACK dot com... And Corey wrote a series of I think four or five posts on just how to be a basically good programmer. Jjust you know, fundamentals and we'll link to that in the show notes.

Corey: 09:05 Fundamentals are fun,

Leon: 09:07 Right. We put the fun fundamentals, yes, I got it. Okay. So you've got to case Western. You were a TA in the an a P in the PhD program...

Corey: 09:15 In the PhD program. And then so through various occurrences, I ended up in a situation where there was no money for me to work for the university over the summer, over a summer. And they said to me, "Well we can have you back at the TA the second year, you know, with same salary and everything, but we don't have anything over the summer. You don't have to do something else over the summer." And what, so what I ended up doing was, because I wasn't, I always wanted to just do masters anyway, was I just said, okay, well I'm going to switch out now to the master's program and I'm just going to go flat out and get a job. And I ended up getting a job at a company called MRI software that does, um, property real estate management software. So both commercial and residential property management. Um, I worked for them for awhile and I was taking, I took a night class at Cleveland state, uh, to continue on. And then two things happened. Number one was I got promoted very quickly at MRI from being from being a associated, you know, junior level basically to being, you know, mid level. And the second thing was was that, um, I had an advisor who, you know, was an awesome guy but didn't really give me such great direction in the final project. To the point where I just realized there was no added benefit... I was already in mid level. I was already doing really well. There was very little point in me, you know, basically killing myself to get a master's that may not have actually helped at that point. You know, people tend to get masters to help fast track their careers and I'd already done that through my own hard work at the company. So did it re would it really have helped me on future jobs to get an added degree there? Yeah. Versus say like a certification which probably would have. So I ended up, uh, dropping grad school, uh, worked for MRI for a little while, uh, then switched to a company called Rosetta. They, I think they still exist, but they're entirely Java now. They had two departments. They had a Java and a .net. wing And I was part of the .net wing working on a project for this big huge project. That - like many big, huge projects ended up getting canceled. Um,

Leon: 11:58 (laughs) okay!

Corey: 11:59 Uh, for a company called Safeguard properties, but so worked on this pro on that project for awhile and that's, I mean I started out learning at MRI, but Rosetta was a lot of like where a lot of my foundations really took hold. I had a couple of, because there's a difference that I noticed, especially for me, this doesn't apply to everybody, but there was, there was an especially big difference for me in somebody showing me directly, "Hey, this is how you do it and this is why it works." Versus I had a couple of guys and um, shout out to, uh, Sean and Ed if you guys happened to be listening to this, I don't know if you are, but shout out to you guys for this, which was me saying, "I don't understand why this, why this isn't working." And one of them saying, "Go look up this feature or this class." Not saying, here's "how you do it." This is just, okay, well write something down, hand it to me and say, "Go look this up. Go look at why this works." I said, I'd spend, you know, an hour or so researching it and I come back to my, I said, "Oh, okay, so if I do this and this, that should solve this problem." It's like, yeah, yeah. And that was just like, Oh, okay. Like the, the direction of you go that way.

Leon: 13:17 Right. It's not, it's not, "Well figure it out on your own. Good luck." It's, "I'm going to point you in generally the right direction and let you take it from there." You know, that way, you know, you're not completely going off on a wild goose chase, but I haven't just spoonfed it to you either.

Corey: 13:34 Yeah, exactly. So that provided a lot of, you know, the my bedrock, basically during my time there. I ended up then going back to MRI, in a completely different department - internal applications was there working on, because the company had bought a couple of, not exactly competitors, but also you know, software companies that were also in the same market doing different things in the same markets. So they wanted to integrate those systems into their own product. But now they have four different companies of billing and needed one package to the, to your bill in bill, their customers in. So start was writing on that. They ended up switching platforms. I ended up getting let go because the platform they were switching it into, I was not well first and um, apparently product development said "no" when it came time when they asked if they wanted to take me back. So... Which was fine because um, and I've told this story to people many times about... And usually in the context of how wonderful of a market there is for .net developers everywhere. But especially in Cleveland. Which was I got let go on a Friday by the following Friday, even with having laryngitis that week, I had about 10 phone interviews. I had two in-person interviews at a job offer by the following Monday I had a second job offer and I was at work the following Friday for at a job that paid more than the last one.

Leon: 15:16 Know your strengths and know the market where your strengths are valued.

Corey: 15:19 Absolutely.

Leon: 15:20 You know, a lot of people in Cleveland, uh, you know, you and I both know folks who are coming up through the ranks of IT and you know, learning programming and they're learning, you know, "I want to learn Python and I want to learn Ruby and I want to learn... You know, you know, it's like those are great languages. They're very useful.

Corey: 15:38 Ruby is a four letter word.

Leon: 15:39 Okay. But there's no market for those skills in Cleveland. It's a very small market. We really are very much a production, you know, you know, get it done. .net tradition. I'll say traditional market. That's, that's not a slam on Cleveland. It's just a recognition of this is what this it market is. It's not Austin or Seattle or you know, whatever. You know, New York,

Corey: 16:05 Chicago I've heard has got a lot of Ruby shops, which is, which is disappointing cause I'm from Chicago and that's just sad.

Leon: 16:12 I understand. Okay. So that's how you got from here, more or less, how you got from here to there? Did I did

Corey: 16:16 So, so then I, um, so I've got a job at Paragon consulting, which does websites for companies that don't want to hire full time developers. So using content management system and worked there for awhile and then got a hankering for, uh, working with not with, not working in content management systems anymore. And uh, so moved over to AutoSoft just as a regular mid level. And um, I think it's been working out pretty well. They've, yeah. you know. Now I'm the team lead and you know, things are, things are soaring.

Leon: 17:01 Nice. Okay. So that, so that's the journey as far as the technical side go, but we are ]Technically Religious here. So, uh, let's talk about the religious side. You identify, as you said at the top of the show, um, as a Orthodox Jew. Did, you always start off at that level of observance, you know, where, where did you, sorry, let me, let me step back. What does Orthodox Judaism look like for you today? Because, as I like to say, especially on these kinds of shows, labels are hard and they're often imprecise. And a lot of times when you ask somebody, "What are you?" The first thing people says, "Well... I'm sort of, you know..." And then they give this sort of very qualified answer. So in, in the long form, how do you identify your religious observance today?

Corey: 17:48 I remember one website that would give you a list of choices for which label really worked for you. And the funny part was you would click on like the, on the overall Orthodox part and then there would be eight different choices within that label. And included in that, you know, we have this term "modern Orthodox", they had it listed twice. First one was with MODERN in caps, the second one was with ORTHODOX in caps. So I'm kind of in between on those.

Leon: 18:28 So you're camel case,

Corey: 18:29 I'm camel case.

Leon: 18:32 All right, fair enough.

Corey: 18:33 So to me, I live in a very modern world while juggling the responsibilities of an Orthodox... Of a strictly Orthodox Jew. So for those who know that, I know Shulchan Aurch, i know Gemarrah, all those things, you know, I follow and I try to learn and I try to teach my children and whatnot and which, which means I'm carefully selecting the beer I'm getting. You know, when, when the fun car comes around at work.

Leon: 19:05 You know, no, you're keeping kosher, you're keeping Shabbat, you're, you know, doing all that stuff. And for those people who don't know Corey, he's also what's called the Gabbi at our synagogue. He's the person in charge of making sure that people are running the parts of the service that need to get run and they're going as fast as they need to go and no faster. And that they stand up when they need to stand up and sit down when they need to sit down. And he also reads Torah at least twice a week to make sure that that happened, you know, so he, he is the glue that keeps things moving. So: knowledgeable and also taking responsibility for things.

Corey: 19:40 I'm the Orthodox Jewish version of a bartender. Nobody notices me unless I've screwed up.

Leon: 19:46 Right, exactly. And everyone has an opinion about how to mix the drink regardless. So, okay, good. So, so that's how you identify today. So then back to the question I started asking, is that where you, obviously you didn't start off as Gabbi, but did you start off in this type of, or this flavor of Orthodox Judaism or was there a progression?

Corey: 20:06 I was born and bred in the gabbai tanks.

Leon: 20:11 Next to the Kwisatz Haderach on Dune. Yes. I understand.

Corey: 20:16 Uh, no, actually I did not start out religious. Uh, originally growing up I went to a Solomon Schechter school, which is a more conservative, uh, Judaism school. Uh, my family went to an Orthodox shul, uh, the local Chabad. Classically, there are two versions that you'll find in the wild of Chabad Shuls. One is the, you have all these Chassidic Jews who are all meeting together. In most other locations though they are, where like the handful of Orthodox Jews will be, but where they will get some of the, of the more non-affiliated or nondenominational people to come in and celebrate being Jewish and have some kind of connection that way so that.

Leon: 21:09 It's the outpost.

Corey: 21:10 It's the outpost, which was what we were. Um, but we would still drive to shul on Shabbos. We would easily eat out non-kosher and when not. But that all changed, uh, from two major events. Number one was my brother William going to Yeshiva in Israel after high school. Which got me more thinking about being religious. And the second thing was, uh, I ended up leaving Solomon Schechter because of a couple of bullies basically. Uh, and so the only other option as far as Jewish school was wa was, um, uh, an Orthodox one, which is what I went to. And called Hillel Torah in Chicago. I went there and then through osmosis, you know, and through seeing my brother becoming more religious, I ended up following suit there and then ended up going to a more religious high school than he had gone to. Uh, and then when also followed him to into having a Israeli yeshiva for two years, um, afterwards. And then, you know, unlike my brother though who went to Yeshiva University in New York, I ended up going to New York University and more, more secular school.

Leon: 22:42 That solidified your sort of observance as it looks today. And I know that you talk about being Gabbi even at NYU that you were in charge of making sure that the, the congregational responsibilities within the, you know, NYU within the college crowd happened efficiently and effectively also.

Corey: 23:01 Which basically consisted of me in the kosher cafeteria every day yelling out MICHA!!!!

Leon: 23:07 So we've talked about your, your progress, your starting and ending point, um, in, uh, technical terms in religious terms. So now I want to focus on the overlap between the two. As a person with a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. In this case, the Orthodox Judaism, who has a long career in tech, how have those two things, um, what challenges have you found along the way with those, with those two parts of your life?

Corey: 23:36 I've been very lucky, lucky in that most places that I've gone to, they've been very accepting of my religious beliefs, especially in agile environments. When I say, "Hey, I'm going to have to take off early on Fridays, but I'm going to spend more time the rest of the week to make up for that. I'm still going to get my work done." My sprint work, I'm still going to get, you know, my at least 40 hours. And is that okay? And for, you know, everybody said, "Yeah, yeah, sure. That's cool." The only struggle that I had with that was, uh, at one company where the raises and bonuses and promotions were dependent on you're competing with your fellow developers. So if you had a number of developers who were working 60 hours a week and you were only working 50 hours a week, well they were more in line to get raises and bonuses and promotions, then you were. So for someone who's, you know, got 24 hours where 25 hours where they're not on the computer at all. That takes away a lot of times from being able to potentially join those ranks. So that was kind of frustrating and it ended up leading to me eventually leaving that company. Cause I, I'm competitive when I play board games. I don't want to be competitive in the office. I want to be, I want to be in a situation where I can be recognized for my own work and you can be recognized for your own good work. And I feel like, I feel like morale is better when you have that in a company versus that versus the pressure of "I've gotta be better than you."

Leon: 25:31 Yeah. When it, when it's the accounting team versus the IT team and they're up six to four, everybody's losing. Yeah. But, but yeah, collaborations is far more effective in the workplace then than competition in that way.

Corey: 25:45 There was one other thing, which is minor, very minor, but it's the fact that people sometimes have a need to apologize for things that I'm so used to for a long time that I don't even notice it. But yet people feel like they have to apologize to me for those things. The biggest example being kosher food. So your company has a lunch and learn, we're all going to be learning about this topic and they bring in pizza and of course the pizza has got, you know, pepperoni and sausage and they'll have a regular vegetarian one, but it's not kosher anyway. Yeah.

Leon: 26:32 So people are apologizing...

Corey: 26:33 So the people, Oh my God, you know, I'm so sorry. None of the kosher places deliver nearby. And I'm really sorry. I'm like ever since college, and we're talking now about, you know, 15 years, there's never been kosher food except maybe a couple of times. And even then it was sponsored by the Judaic studies department. So computer science, I had computer science talks in college. I had colloquium in grad school, I've had 10 years of being a professional developer. I don't expect kosher food. It's a slight irritation. It's a minor irritation, but it's still an irritation. When people apologize to me for not having kosher food or stuff like that, it's like I don't, I don't need it.

Leon: 27:21 Right. It wasn't even on the table. Like it was never on the table. I appreciate, yeah, I appreciate the sensitivity and you demonstrating that you are sensitive to it, but really wasn't ever on the... like let's just have our meeting and keep on going and I'm going to eat the sandwich I brought anyway.

Corey: 27:36 Although there was one company Paragon shout outs to Mark for, for doing this for me who said, uh, "If you want, when we have those lunch and learns, if you're willing to spend the time to drive over to one of these places, pick up food and come back, I'll give you the company credit card and you can go out and buy it." And I was like, "Hey, deal!" And then I ended up, uh, creating a series of lightning talks at the company. So I could not, not just so I could get free food, but...

Leon: 28:07 Okay. I will say though that that especially when you're dealing with, um, team members who have specific dietary needs, whether it is vegan or gluten free or Halal or kosher or whatever, um, I think sometimes companies they err by saying, uh, "So we'll, we'll buy this thing that's kosher, we'll buy this thing that's Halal." And yet there are nuances to those dietary needs that the person who needs that food understands, but the rest of the company doesn't. And so you end up in a very awkward situation of somebody said, BUT BUT YOU SAID it was kosher." "Yes. But it's not a hecksher. It's not a standard that I hold by," you know, or "Yes, you got, you know, gluten free but it wasn't nut free" or whatever. And you end up with, you know, sometimes for feelings and things like that where as saying to somebody, Hey, we really want you to feel included. Will you go buy, will you go get well, you make sure is sometimes not the burden that it might sound like to the outside person. It's actually, you know, much more inclusive because now I know the food is going to meet my personal standards. I'm not saying higher or lower. I'm just saying that's my personal standards and it's gonna be what I wanted and it's, you know, I'm not going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation about you just went through literally hell and high water to get this and I'm still not eating it. So I like that. That was really smart. Good work Mark! Okay. So those are some of the, you know, again, nothing major but um, you know, some of the, the challenges between your religious and technical life and I want to spin it around now. Were there any benefits, were there any surprises, positive surprises that you had where you showed up into your technical world and realize that your religious point of view was actually an unexpected benefit?

Leon: 29:59 Uh, I was working at Paragon and at the time we were working in this medical office building, which was kind of weird cause we were all in these offices instead of, you know, being in a room together. Cause it's just like these tiny offices. And there was one seat open in the room I was in. And Mark says to me, "Hey, we've got a guy who's coming in who's going to be taking over that seat. It's a man named Kamran and he's going to be starting on Monday. And yeah, just make sure he feels welcome." And I said, "Oh," me thinking, you know, because we had at Paragon we had, and I think they still do have a fair amount of people from Indian descent who worked there. And I said, "Oh, that sounds vaguely like an Indian name." And he goes, "No, actually Kamran is originally from Pakistan." And you know, the, the alarm bells almost went off in my head as it were because okay, now I'm going to be in this situation where I'm working with somebody who's obviously Muslim and I'm very openly Jewish. I wonder how this is going to work out. You know, not, not being pessimistic, but just like, okay, this is going to be something new for me. Working with somebody who is Muslim. And I am, uh, I was, I had a very positive experience at NYU with, um, uh, Jews and Muslims, uh, being very friendly together. Um, there was, as an example, there was a trip shortly after Katrina hit where they had Jewish and Muslim students going together and rebuilding some houses in new Orleans. And those kids ended up getting along so well with each other that you would see them frequently at the kosher cafeteria eating lunch and dinner together. You know, so very positive experience there. And so I was like, you know, I'm going to, this is going to be new for me because now I'm in that situation and I'm going to, I took it upon myself. I said, I'm going to, I'm going to really try and do exactly like what those kids did. I'm going to. And so, um, Kamran and I ended up becoming very good friends actually of working together and to the point, and of course we would have discussions and discuss. Of course the conflict in Israel in the middle East came up and we had our discussions and there were always respectful discussions. And I remember one time we were talking about something that was in common between Judaism and Islam. At one point I was just looking at me at all, "Why are we fighting? Like so many things that you have in common, why are we fighting?" He goes, "I don't know man. I don't know." Yeah. And the second story, I would come run his holiday party. And those are two very loaded words everybody,

Leon: 33:11 We're going to have an episode on that coming up soon on technically religious about the dreaded holiday party in the office. Yeah.

Corey: 33:18 But I, I still remember he brought his wife to the holiday party and she was in, uh, she was in full, uh, attire. Um, not, not a burka, but I, I'm blanking on the term off the top of my head...

Leon: 33:31 Hijab?

Corey: 33:31 Yes. On top. And then long skirt or dress or, I don't know that the technical term for it, but [and I'm like, Oh, I get to meet Kamran's wife. Cool. And there were a few people ahead of me who were truffle, wanted to meet her also, and she was shaking hands with these people, with these guys. And I'm just thinking in my head, you know, Judaism, we have an idea that the sexes don't really shake each, you know, make physical contact unless you're a family member. I wonder if Muslims have that too. And so I specifically did not shake her hand, but then I worried about it for like the rest of the weekend. I'm like second guessing myself. I'm like, did I God, I hope I didn't insult her. I went in and insult him and I come in on Monday and I said to come on by the way, I didn't shake your wife's hand. And he looks at me and goes, "You guys have something like that too, don't you?" I said, "Where we don't shake women's hands?" Yeah. He goes, "Yeah, we've got that. Also. You were the only one who knew about that." And just like, that's just so cool. So yeah, that's we, I mean we had a... Mark arranged when we moved to a new new building. Your range for us to have a closet basically that was designated as our prayer space. Which Kamran and I would always joke that if we got another religious person in, we'd have to have a signup sheet. Right. Because especially there was the afternoon prayers were so closely timed where I would go to the closet, and it would be locked. I'm like, Oh, Kamran's daven... Kamran's praying right now. I almost said Kamran was davening right now, which is the Jewish term for it. And so that was, that was an instance where it was so, it was so nice being religious and sharing, being religious in tech with this person and becoming good friends even with our differences. So there, that was both. Yeah. Benefit and to surprise. The other, the other benefits have been, I mean there's, you see really so many amazing people who you really get to see just how respectful people can be about it. Where if you weren't religious, you mean maybe they'd still be respectful, but there are so many times you find people willing to go out of their way to be accepting of you. I mean, there've been plenty of times where I've said to my team like, "Hey guys, I got to get out of here. I've got prayer services that I have to go to and then.

Leon: 36:11 Sundown is coming fast. It's winter or whatever it is.

Corey: 36:14 And especially Friday. I mean, so many times we've since changed it to a Wednesday to Wednesday a sprint. Right? But there were times where Friday's last day of the sprint, and I say, "Guys, I've checked in some code. It doesn't work. It's not, it's not finished. But I got to go." And somebody saying, I've got it, I'm going to, I'll take it. You know? And that's, that's been a wonderful sight to see, has been, has been those, that kind of reaction.

Doug: 36:45 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes. Leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

S1E32: Fight the Stigma, part 2

S1E32: Fight the Stigma, part 2

November 19, 2019

"Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you're part of a team!" - so goes the impossibly catchy song from the Lego Movie. In IT, we are often expected to be caught up in that same spirit - hyped up on the adrenaline of fixing systems, catching hackers, and inventing new stuff. These expectations - which come from external sources like our boss or company or IT culture at large, or internally from assumptions we've taken on as personal truths - can fly in the face of how we're actually feeling. When our feelings turn from just being "a little tired", "a little frustrated", or "a little sad" to serious challenges like burn out, rage, or depression, it can be hard to admit, let alone seek help or ask our coworkers for support and understanding. And yet religious, moral, and ethical traditions are rich with stories of people coping with the exact same challenges. In this episode, we're going to get brutally honest about the mental health challenges we've faced and are facing today as well as what lessons from our faiths we can carry with us to provide insight, comfort, and even strength. Listen or read the transcript below.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have is people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon: 00:24 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Leon: 00:30 I want to pivot back around though, just talking about the leaders in our faith community and the behaviors or the examples that they show. I read something last year from Rabbi Sacks who is the former chief Rabbi of London. It really surprised me because it was a take on a part of the Torah of the Bible that I wouldn't have expected it and I didn't see it when I was reading it myself. Um, Rabbi Sacks was talking about when he himself feels depressed and overwhelmed and anxious. And he said that whenever he felt that way, he would recall a point when Moses himself reached his lowest point. And this is for those people who want to find it in the book of Numbers, chapter 11, verse 10 or thereabouts. Cause I know the numbering is not always the same between different, uh, versions of the Bible. Um, so the Israelites were engaged in their all time favorite activity: complaining about the food. Uh, in this case, they were recalling fondly the cuisine that they got to have in Egypt, completely forgetting about the fact that they were slaves at the time, that was completely ignored. God is, uh, because of this, understandably angry, but Moses was more than angry. Uh, as Rabbi Sacks describes it, he suffers a complete emotional breakdown. And one of the things he says is, it says to God is, "I cannot carry this whole people on my own. It's too heavy for me." And rabbi sacks continues by saying "...somehow the knowledge that the greatest Jewish leader of all time had experienced this depth of darkness was empowering.." That he, he took comfort in knowing that everybody sometimes gets there. Everybody experiences this. Even the man who the Bible itself says was the most humble human ever to walk... Who will, who did ever or will ever walk the face of the earth. The one human who was righteous enough to speak face to face with God, still had crushing depression that he didn't know how to get past himself. And by the way, um, in this plea to God, "I can't do this." God has an answer. God's, you know, by saying I can't, this God says, okay, here's how I'm going to help. And that also is empowering. Um, so I just, you know, when we talk about the things that we value in our leaders, I think we, we'd be remiss to not mention Moses.

Josh: 03:17 Yeah. To not mention God, right. Because when we're talking about the ultimate leader, I mean, even Moses at his lowest point turn to God and said, I can't do this. And God's like, okay, let me help you. I think that for those who have a religious belief, um, that is, that is ultimately where they turn to, uh, is just to God.

Yechiel: 03:41 And if I recall correctly, the way God helped him was by telling him to get help to you, told him to gather 70 elders and have them help out with his duties. So having spoken about the stigma behind talking about mental health and it was sort of what the, how we expect our community around us to react, the values that we expect them to have. Um, how do we actually go around treating, uh, non mental, uh, mental health issues? Is there something that we can take from our religious traditions or religious communities? Is there something that we can learn from that?

Josh: 04:13 I mean, mental health within Mormonism is something that very recently has, has started to, uh, to peak. In fact, Mormonism, has a bi-annual conference. It happens in April and October every single year. They call it the general conference and it's broadcast live from Salt Lake city. In the one that just happened in October, there were a number of addresses from leaders of the church around mental health. Um, the church has, and we'll put this in the show notes. He actually has a website that's dedicated to mental health and it outlines a few things that we can do. It talks about, you know, watching what you say. So if, if you're in a position where someone comes to you and says, "Hey, Yechiel, this is the, the challenge I'm having, be careful the things that you, that you respond with, right? Sometimes we just need to listen and we don't need to fix, which as engineers is really hard because we want to fix everything because everything can be fixed, right? Um, we also need to be authentic friends. Um, everyone needs a friend and when you are suffering from depression, the world feels like a very lonely place. Um, it's, you know, talks about things like practice, self care, and it goes into details and what to think. Self care is, um, it talks about, you know, this, uh, the "be still", you know, sometimes it's for me, when I'm in a depressive episode, I do the opposite of, um, be still, I get really busy. The more busy I am, probably the, the more unstable my mental health is. Um, so, you know, if I'm working 12, 13, 15 hours a day, um, I'm, I'm probably trying to run away from something, um, you know, talks about, you know, finding joy and taking care of our physical cells, which is really important. Um, yeah, those are all things. Now I will also point out that the reality of Mormonism is this. The state of Utah has the highest percentage of Mormons anywhere in the world. Um, and in a study, um, done I believe in 2017 at found that LDS women are almost twice as common to have mental health issues than LDS men and 20%, 27% of a Mormon women and 14 and a half percent of Mormon men were dealing with a significantly a significant depression. And Utah again, which is predominantly Mormon, also has the highest incidents of adult mental illness and adults with serious thoughts of suicide in the, in the entire United States. And those are some pretty heavy things when you have such a high population that is focused on mental health. So yes, you know, Mormonism itself is doing a lot of things to say to start this narrative. And as we talked about before the show started, Canada, um, among other nations in the world has done a wonderful thing where there's a company here, uh, it's kinda like your Ma Bell down there in the States, uh, Bell Canada and they, every year, um, they run a campaign called "Let's Talk." And that campaign has been super powerful in, um, addressing the stigma around mental health and seeing others who have not only experienced mental health but have been able to navigate the complexities of it. So, I mean, religious communities, as I talked before, very complex narrative, a very complex system. Some are so much better in dealing with it than others. Um, I think Mormonism is getting better. It still has a ton of work to do.

Yechiel: 07:44 Speaking from the Jewish community perspective, there's um, the stigma is still there like Leon spoke about earlier. But I do believe it's getting better. It's becoming more OK to speak about it. It's becoming more okay to seek help. I mentioned earlier that, you know, some people can see it as a sort of a religious failing, but on the other hand, Judaism also tells you that when you're sick you should go to the doctor. There's um, there's the verse in the Torah that specifically gives permission to doctors to heal. And so realizing that your mental health is just like any other health issue, there is actually a mitzvah. There's a commandment to take care of of that. You can't serve God when you're not, when you're sick and bad. You also can't serve God when you're depressed. So dealing with it is important.

Leon: 08:31 Right. And, and that versus, I think it's important to point out that that versus in direct contradiction to the idea that going to a doctor would deny faith in God, that that seeking another human to help fix you would say, "Well, I believe this human is more powerful than, or has somehow more ability or skill than God does." And so this verse comes to say, "No, that's not how, that's how not how this world works. Uh, you know, this world works on certain, you know, principals and doctors have an understanding of, you know, the biology and all those things and that's okay. I put it there for that reason." Um, yes, you're right. You know, God is the one who is ultimately going to heal you. But in the same way that God is the one who ultimately is going to feed you and ultimately gonna make sure you're okay. And yet we still have to do the work of planting seeds and harvesting and all those things because we still have to take part in this world. The same thing with seeing, uh, you know, professionals who can, who can help us out. They are part of the process. Um, I also want to add that this way, this is where we get into the true role of what a rabbi does in Orthodox Jewish synagogue communal life. Um, I think from the outside people think the rabbi is the, you know, either the smartest Jew in the room, or the one who leads all the religious things, you know, they lead the service and the, they read all the important parts. In fact, when you go to an Orthodox service, the rabbi is probably the one who is sitting there doing the least. Um, in the service. They're not leading. They're not, you know, any of those things. The rest of the congregation handles that piece. The rabbi is the one who understands, uh, each of the congregants on the most personal level. That's, that's what they're there for. They're there to know what somebody is struggling with, uh, religiously and to know if they're struggling with something emotionally or in their health. Because Judaism is so private about things, people don't necessarily broadcast their troubles. The rabbi is the single point of contact in a lot of cases where someone says, yeah, I just got fired from my job and I'm really embarrassed about it. And the rabbi can reach out to somebody else and say, Hey, I, you know, I heard that in your company. You're, you're looking for somebody. I happen to know someone who is looking for work, you know, and can be that switchboard operator who can put people in touch at the same time, the rabbi is the touchstone. Who, who says, "Oh, that thing that you're, you know, you're questioning about your faith. That's normal. Lots of people do that." Um, or to say, "Wow, that's really kind of exceptional. Let's work on that. Let's talk about that. Let, let you know. Let's see who else we can, we can bring in for that." Whether that is spiritual or emotional or, you know, uh, mental slash psychological or just physical health. Um, they're the ones who are there to be the reality check and the sanity check and that trusted advisor. So, uh, I, I think Josh speaking to your point about what are you look for in religious leaders. Again, someone who's can be vulnerable, can also open themselves up to other people being vulnerable to them, but also that's, that's their role, uh, in the community. And the other point I wanted to make is that, uh, to your point about being still, uh, in, in Judaism, we pray three times a day, you know, morning, afternoon, and in the evening. The prayers are not, uh, they're not trivial. You know, they can take anywhere from 45 minutes to, you know, at the very least, 15 minutes, depending on what time of day it is. And I think that that's, they can be extremely meditative. You know, they offer an opportunity to check in with yourself, you know, whether you want to talk, you know, call it talking to God or checking in with the boss. Uh, I don't mean Springsteen. Or, uh, you know, checking in, you know, with yourself, whatever it is. If you take the opportunity, prayer can be more than just a litany of, "I really need this. And I really like that. And can you buy me a pony and you know...", Or, you know, "thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You're wonderful. You're wonderful. You're wonderful." It can be a moment to say, how am I doing and what feels missing? And Josh, to your point, you know, am I running away from something? Is there something I'm avoiding? What's that all about? Um, so I think that that in a Jewish context, there are these opportunities. Not that everyone takes them, not that everyone looks at them that way, but I believe that they're there.

Josh: 13:19 Yeah. Honestly, one of the hardest transitions, one of the hardest things that I had to do when I transitioned away from Mormonism was a rediscover prayer. Uh, you know, once, once the deity that you knew when I couldn't define God for me anymore. And that was really hard. So I'm a little curious. I want to go about to your, just your description of the rabbi because there appears to be such a, a broad difference between your experience, both of your experiences, um, with Orthodox Judaism and the, um, the role of the rabbi. And that of Mormonism. Um, so tell me, tell, tell me, tell the listeners a little bit about rabbis. How long do they go to school? What training do they have that allows them to have that role where you could go to them and say, "Hey, a rabbi, I'm struggling with this. I'm struggling with my mental health. How do I work through it?"

Leon: 14:17 Yechiel, this one's for you.

Yechiel: 14:18 Yeah. It's interesting because there is nothing in the formal training of a rabbi that actually prepares them for that. The actual formal training is like purely the legal aspects of it. Like knowing how to, you know, is a kosher or not, you know, it was a, you know, what am I allowed to do on Shabbat? What am I not allowed to do? You know, the sort of the, the, the legal aspects of the questions that they might ask you. But then like I said, you know, every rabbi of a congregation has to deal with all these other issues that come up and that pretty much comes, you know, that there is no formal training for that, that they, that you have to pick up. You know, most rabbis will spend time, uh, under, you know, sort of as assistant grab buys, helping out other communities and picking up and you know, the, those are things... These are things you can quantify. You can't teach them in a classroom, have empathy and relating to people on communication skills. These aren't things that you can teach. You have them or you don't. Obviously you can perfect them, you can make them better. And someone who will struggle with that, we'll just realize early on that being a rabbi is not for them. So it's sort of a self selecting role where the most successful rabbis are the ones who are most respected for the reasons that Leon mentioned because they have this empathy because they have these people skills because they have these connecting abilities to bring people together and to really get down to what people are.

Josh: 15:56 So our rabbi is, uh, the role of a rabbi is not assigned? It is something you pursue.

Yechiel: 16:02 Yes.

Leon: 16:03 Right. I also before it, before people recoil from, from their ear, you know, their earbuds and they go, "Oh my gosh, they were completely untrained and to do this", the rabbi isn't necessarily one who is going to try to fix these, these issues, these mental health issues or whatever, but they're in a position where as you feel said, they can listen, uh, empathetically and they can be a sounding board to say, "This is not, you know, this isn't typical." This isn't a a... I hate to say normal response, but this isn't a common response to these situations and let's help find someone to talk to. And rabbis regularly do, you know, uh, recommend people to therapists and psych, you know, psychologists and psychiatrists, to marriage counselors and to, uh, you know, personal counselors as well and say, let's, you know, they, they don't try to tackle... In the same way they wouldn't try to tackle a myocardial infarction, you know, a heart attack and say, "okay, I can Torah this!" Like, no, that's not, you know, they're going to say this is not good physical health. We're going to call an ambulance now. They also, but, but people are often more comfortable sharing their mental state with them and therefore they can be the point to say, you know, as another human listening, "You know what, I think we need to get someone else involved. Let's, let's do that."

Josh: 17:35 So. again, we're trying to, to interweave our religion and our IT communities. And so this role of a rabbi is very interesting to me. I'm wondering if there is an equivalent when we're with mental health and our IT communities, like is there like, do we have those that, that rabbinical role or do we have, you know, in the context of Mormonism, do we have that, that role of Bishop or stake president, which if you're Catholic, a stake president is like a, uh, an Archbishop. Uh, I don't know what the, the Jewish equivalent of that is, but like, uh, you don't have one.

Leon: 18:10 There ain't none. There's no organizational structure. That's another misconception is that there's some, you know, pan galactic, Jewish organism. Forget about the conspiracy theories. You know, there, there's really, I mean, you've never seen anything quite so disorganized until you get into Orthodox Judaism. It's...

Yechiel: 18:29 uh, but to answer your question about, um, what would be started the equivalent role in it, uh, I think a, a good manager would recognize if one of their teammates, you know, is taking on too much, seems to be burning out or it seems to just be stretched too thin or just in general it seems to be down and will call them out on it and tell them, you know, take a sick day, take a mental health day, you know, if they see other problems, persistent, talk to someone. Um, obviously the workplace has, you know, I'm lucky to work at a company that values mental health and you know, and it shows both like in the benefits that they offer and the health insurance that they offer and you know, they offer counseling and things like that. Um, so I think definitely workplaces have a lot to... Have a big role to play in here. And started and a direct equivalent to the rabbi job, the mat, you know, a manager has direct responsibility for their reports.

Leon: 19:25 So I also think that, um, it, you know, we, I think we all know that that manager, you can have good managers. I think that, um, a whole other podcast or entire podcast series on the types of managers we've had. And yes, Josh, I'm in the middle of reading the manager's path. So based on, from your recommendations. So, uh, you know, the good and bad managers all around. But I also think that, um, mentors, which is much more self-selective have the opportunity to, to be that sounding board. Um, someone who knows you, who understands what you're going through, who understands that in a professional context, but is able to say, um, as we said at the top of the show, it's one thing to be a little tired or a little upset or a little frustrated, but when that turns into, you know, longterm exhaustion or rage or anxiety, that's, you know, sort of a tipping point and a mentor, maybe the person who is able to say, "No, no, no, I've, I've, I've seen this, or I'd had this and I can tell you right now, this is, you know, let's, let's do something about it."

Josh: 20:32 I've been pretty fortunate to have really good managers, um, for the past five years. I mean, that's not to say that my managers and the previous 15, uh, weren't, weren't, uh, good. Uh, or in some cases even, you know, Leon, you and I, uh, shared a manager. Uh, Andy was an outstanding individual. Still is. He's not changed a bit. I mean, he's still outstanding. Um, I've had, uh, two other managers since Andy transitioned away from our team into another team. Uh, both of whom I've been able to talk openly about my mental health and my depression. And to the point of mentors. I recently picked up a mentor. I reached out to somebody that I'd worked with, a director. And in our first conversation I was able to say to, you know, to this individual, Rob, look, I want to tell you that I, you know, I struggle with depression. I've, I've got some mental health challenges that that is part of who I am and it, it helps me to be who I am, but sometimes it also inhibits me. And I think to the point of this, this whole podcast, if we can fight the stigma of so many other things, uh, right. My oldest son has autism. When he was diagnosed, uh, more than 20 years ago. Um, the stigma around autism was, O"h, they are cold, um, isolationist individuals. They have, you know, there's nothing going on. Um, you know, all you can do is either medicate or give them intense therapy and that's the only way to save them". Um, w we bucked the system on all of those and now we're having discussions around, well, look, the autism is a spectrum and there are some people on the autistic spectrum that if we just removed the things that they struggle with, they can do exemplary work. Um, and I think that, I think that we'll mature, um, as a society where we look at mental health and we say, look, there are some things that we can remove and that when we remove those barriers that we have more people that can contribute to the well being of society. Um, I mean, I, I, I guess I'm very fortunate. Yechiel used a term, uh, earlier where you said, um, from a position of privilege, and I think that I have often operated from that position of privilege when it comes to the, the immediate managers I've had.

Leon: 23:12 So I just, uh, offering, um, a point of perspective is that I, I still think that in it mental health, talking about mental health is a challenge. I don't want to diminish that or be Pollyanna about it. It's, you know, there's a lot of people walking around in a lot of different companies or teams who know, not just suspect, but know that there is nothing, there's no way they can talk about it. Um, and I think that especially in parts of the it community, that are already struggling with toxic masculinity and brogrammer culture that's just not gonna happen. Um, however, I have seen enough discussions about burnout, um, about dealing with poor workplace habits or teams or processes. I've seen social media discussions tagged with the #FightTheStigma hashtag, you know, I've seen enough of that to know that there is a shift taking place, this podcast, you know, not the least among those things that this is a conversation that more people are insisting that we have. Um, to put it out in the open to say this is a thing that happens. Again, Josh just, you know, in the same way that once upon a time people didn't dare talk about a child with autism. Now it's, you know, I was talking to somebody the other day who was on a flight and they were sitting next to... She, she works with, uh, exclusively with, with, uh, adults and kids with autism. And she was sitting on a flight next to somebody who was just coming with their child from having gotten a diagnosis and without thinking, she says, "Oh my gosh, that's wonderful! That's so exciting!" Because in her perspective, working with these folks all day long, every day, they are joyful and fun and creative and interesting in ways that neuro-typical people just aren't. And you know, she just, and she said, "I actually had to check myself for a minute because I realized that they had just gotten this diagnosis. They were just wrapping their head around it. And my unabashed enthusiasm was probably not taken the way that I meant it." Um, so in that same way that they're, you know, that, that reaction to families who have individual with autism in it, I think that, you know, the more we talk about it, the more that we bring it out there and talk about our individual experiences. Um, I, I do also want to bring up something that I had seen a friend say earlier, which is that as much as we encourage people who may be, uh, dealing with depression or are struggling with, um, you know, just emotions that they can't even quantify, um, and saying, you know, "if you're not sure what to do, get help...", We acknowledge, or at least I acknowledge that I may be adding fuel to the fire because in those moments, movement, emotional or even physical movement, maybe the hardest thing to do and not being able to do that may feed into that depressive cycle that you're experiencing. So, um, you know, get the help that you can. Be kind to yourself in the same way that you would be kind to anybody else in your world. Uh, again, from our religious tradition, I think that we are taught, we are, we are told, we are commanded to give the benefit of the doubt, to be kind to both our neighbors and the the strangers, in our community. And yet that is the thing that we are most reluctant sometimes to give ourselves. So if it helps at all, treat yourself like a stranger. To, you know, if you say, "I don't even know who I am." Okay, fair enough. Then then get to know whoever that weirdo is looking at you in the mirror and treat them with the kindness that you would treat anybody else who showed up at your doorstep in need.

Josh: 27:05 My wife, uh, she was a great example to me today. We, we have, uh, some, some, uh, friends who recently lost a child, um, in a very traumatic way and child, but he was an adult, a young adult and it was difficult for my wife to, to talk with this other woman. She was obviously struggling with the scenario of, you know, life without this child who had this wonderfully infectious smile. Um, he was just a joy to be around. He was very hyper, very, very hyper. Uh, but he always made people smile and always made people laugh. And as I watched my wife, um, you know, the, the, the thing you don't want to say to somebody, and this is to your point, is well, what can I do for you? Because the answer is I don't know. I don't know how to help. And so my wife said, "Look, if you need someone to talk to, please call me. Or if you need someone to listen, please call me. Just know that I'm here." And I thought, wow, that is such a powerful thing. It's so simple. But you, as you said, Leon, we often are not willing to give of ourselves in that way. Um, so to all of our listeners, you know, be present for those among your coworkers and your community, whether it's IT or religious, I think that's powerful, right? I, I hope that our IT communities get better, uh, get more authentic and maybe less competitive. I think that'll do a lot for our mental health. Here's what I'll say. Um, when I started my religious community, which I have, uh, which I wrapped up now that, that I'm in a different place. Um, the tagline was, "You are not alone." Um, so if nothing else today, I hope that our listeners, well, we'll take that and remember, you are not alone. Um, life is a journey. Sometimes we pull off at a rest top and we can rest. Other times we press on even when we should have pulled off to rest. Um, do not walk the journey alone. Your path looks different than my path. Looks different than Yechiel's path or Leon's path. But we're all on this journey together. Um, if you are struggling, if you need someone to, to or reach out, reach out to us via email, our Twitter DMs are open. LinkedIn. Heck, you can even look me up on the phone book because Prince Edward Island still has a phone book. It's crazy. I know, but um, just remember that you're not alone. You're not alone and uh, people, people will be there for you.

Leon: 30:06 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visited our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

Josh: 30:18 At Technically religious. We usually have something funny to say at this point in the show, but mental health is nothing to take lightly. If you are struggling, please reach out to a family member, friend or a healthcare professional. If you are in crisis, please seek immediate medical attention. You are not alone. Fight the stigma.