Technically Religious
S2E08: Faith and Tech in the Days of COVID-19

S2E08: Faith and Tech in the Days of COVID-19

March 24, 2020

It goes without saying that COVID-19 is having an enormous (and terrible) impact on our communities and lives at every level, from the broadly inter-national to the intensely personal. We wanted to take a moment and explore how our work in tech, combined with our religious point of view, might have lessons and coping strategies for us in the days and weeks ahead. Please listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:06):
(Intro Music) 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 careers as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Leon (00:54):
Before we begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that a lot of folks are truly struggling, whether it's because of impacts to their health or fear from the uncertainty around us. I want to let everyone know that our hearts and prayers are with you all and if you need to talk, or vent, or share, you should definitely reach out. This is the time when we need each other more than ever.
Leon (01:15):
It is March 18th, 2020 and while most of the episodes on Technically Religious are relatively timeless, this topic comes at a point in history where it might be obsolete before it even posts. That said, here at Technically Religious, we had to take a moment to recognize the impact that COVID-19 is having on our communities and the world and discuss how our work in tech and our religious point of view may have lessons or at least coping strategies to help us out in this unique time. I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime, Ben Keen
Ben (01:50):
Hello!
Leon (01:51):
and Keith Townsend.
Keith (01:53):
Hello.
Leon (01:54):
and Yechiel Kalmanson.
Yechiel (01:56):
Hello again.
Leon (01:57):
All right. Before we dive in, even though it's a weighty topic, I still want to make sure everyone has a chance to engage in some shameless self promotion. So, uh, Ben, why don't you kick it off for us?
Ben (02:07):
Hello, my name is Ben keen. I'm a senior systems administrator slash monitoring engineer for a large retailer known as American Eagle Outfitters, headquartered here in Pittsburgh. You can find me on the Twitters, as Leon says, at the underscore Ben underscore keen and I identify as a collective Christian.
Keith (02:27):
Hey, I'm Keith Townsend, principal of The CTO Advisor. You can find me on the web at The CTO advisor. Register for the conference coming up next month. CTO advisor virtual conference. Uh, I am nondenominational Christian.
Leon (02:41):
Okay. Yechiel,
Yechiel (02:42):
and I'm Yechiel Kalmenson, I'm a software engineer at VM Ware. My Twitter handle is @YechielK. Um, my blog is RabbiOnRails.io. I also have a weekly newsletter with my friend Ben Greenberg called Torah and Tech and I'm an Orthodox Jew.
Leon (02:58):
Okay. And just things out. I'm
Leon (03:00):
Leon Adato. I am a Head Geek. Yes. That's actually my job title at SolarWinds, which is neither solar nor wind. It's a software vendor, but naming things is apparently hard. And that's why my title is Head Geek in the company name is SolarWinds. You can find me on the Twitters, which I delight in saying because I know it annoys Keith's daughter so much. That's why we say it. I'm on the Twitters @LeonAdato. Uh, my, uh, website is, adatosystems.com, where I pontificate about things both technical and religious. And I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. And if you're scribbling those things down, please don't. It's all okay. There's going to be show notes posted the day after this episode drops both on the website and also on anywhere that you find the finer podcasts on the internet so you can get all of those links and more. So diving into this topic. I think the first thing is how can we keep calm and carry on as the UK like to say during world war II and it has brought that back out now. What can we do to remain focused on the fact that it is going to be generally speaking? Okay.
Yechiel (04:12):
Um, yeah, so I think just one thing to keep in mind is that overall, at least for those of us in tech where most of what we do is pretty easy to do remotely. Uh, most of all we're doing what we're doing just with adjustments for the new reality.
Ben (04:30):
Yeah. And I think tools such as WebEx, Google Meet, uh, FaceTime, uh, whatever conferencing tool you or your company leverages are keeping some of that sanity and sane alive. Uh, I think from a tech aspect, it's really important for us to maintain our collective cool. Um, you know, things are gonna be stressful. Things are stressful right now. A lot of our systems are being pushed to the upper max of what we designed them to do. So yeah things are going to break. Things are gonna run slow users are going to be overwhelmed. Um, but I think ultimately the biggest thing that we as technology professionals can do is to relay that calm by maintaining our calm. Don't get mad at the end user who has never called in via WebEx for it. Doesn't know the first thing about it, doesn't understand how VPNing works or any of that. Keep in mind, for a lot of these people, work from home has never been an option. We're blessed in the fact that for most of us in technology, we have wifi, we have laptops, we have power, we're good. A lot of other companies, a lot of other people in our own companies cannot and have not worked like that. So maintain your calm, deep breath deep breaths.
Leon (05:53):
Right. I think, and I also think that our religious point of view speaks to that in the sense that you want to judge others favorably. You want to be empathetic. You want to, you know, to use the phrase, walk a mile in their shoes to remember that that salesperson is used to going out and pounding the pavement, you know, eight or nine or 10 hours a day and meeting with people and suddenly they're being asked to not do that and to find an entirely different way of interacting and still make quota, and still, you know, do their job. And that can be really disorienting, forget about off putting or it's different or it's change and people don't like change. It's disorienting. Um, and I think that again, our faith gives us a chance to really exercise that muscle and, um, and, and be kind.
Ben (06:47):
Yeah. And the piggyback on that real quick, uh, when it comes to meeting quotas and meeting sales expectations, uh, you know, we're hitting this right at the crucial points of some people's fiscal calendars. Um, you know, so performance targets and sales targets and things like that are very critical to everybody for our businesses. Uh, you know, yeah. American Eagle sells jeans. We're not saving lives. We're not in the hospital industry, but at the same time, selling those genes is what gives me the ability to have a house.
Leon (07:28):
Yeah, right.
Ben (07:29):
You know, and so I got to maintain my calm so that my, the designers in New York city came to get these designs out. We gotta maintain our comps or our website stays up so people can still buy our jeans. Even though right now our stores are currently closed on the brick and border side,
Leon (07:47):
going back to the people who are used to, uh, you know, a lot, a high level of interaction. I just think that speaks to the concept of community. Um, as, as people of faith, I believe that we have a, a line on what defines a community. If you asked somebody who was more secular, what's your community? Well, it's, you know, the neighborhood where I live. Well, maybe, maybe not, you know, is your community, well, I have a, a homeowners association. That's my community. No, Nope. That's not it. So even defining what is community, it's not about tribe. It's not about your sports team. It's not about an affinity group, necessarily. There's something more to it. And I think that our religious sensibility helps us understand what that is. And it allows us to leverage the technology to build that community, to allow avenues for folks to continue to experience that sense of connectedness that we crave.
Ben (08:47):
Yeah. I think a lot of churches have gotten, uh, and when I say churches, I'm talking to all religious, uh, places of congregation. Uh, but churches, synagogues, mosques, whatever, have really gotten a crash course in the last 72 hours on what it means to be a hub of the community. How can, how can a church, uh, uh, find example? Uh, so my dad's a retired minister. He preached for 43 years. Um, but he was always in smaller churches. He'd never gotten to these, you know, mega churches with thousands of congregants. He would preach the 30, 40, maybe a hundred. Uh, but a lot of these small churches are having to get a crash course on FaceTime live. Uh, zoom, WebEx. What is, how can they get the message out? How can they still deliver their service, their product, much like how can American Eagle deliver our jeans? How can that religious venue still deliver its product in giving people a place to go? Now, personally, my religious view is I don't necessarily have to, I feel I don't need to go to a building to worship my God. Uh, I can go outside and I can spend time with my wife and my service dog and or my kids and we can commune like that. But for a lot of people, having that point of focus, whether it's a church or synagogue or mosque, uh, is crucial to them and how they are going to get through this. So that's where the crash course is coming in the heavy.
Leon (10:23):
Well, and, and it's interesting you say that because the Jewish community is really struggling because of the point of view. So just for, for context in Judaism, we are commanded, not encouraged, not you know, lauded but commanded to pray three times a day, to come together in a group and pray. And um, at this point all the synagogues are shut down. Like everything is shut down, but it's not just the prayer. There's also lectures and um, learning that goes on. There's one on one learning that goes on. And to just give a sense of the underlying aspect of that, there is a belief that this world exists purely for the purpose of learning Torah, of learning scripture. And that if that isn't happening, there is no reason for the world to exist. That if there isn't someone, somewhere in the world learning Torah, then the world will cease because the whole purpose of it no longer is there. And to be honest, as these synagogues are closing down, you can see real, almost terror in people's faces. How can this be happening?
Yechiel (11:36):
And just add context into what Leon has said. Um, throughout the darkest periods of Jewish history, and Jewish history have seen some real dark periods. Like even during world war II or in Soviet Russia, where going to synagogue was punishable by death, pretty much, Jews risked their lives to go to, to go to synagogue and pray. The rabbi I met in the initial rye pray, he was born in Moscow in the 70s. His dad used to walk two and a half hours every Shabbat, not to the synagogue even coz that was too dangerous. They would walk two and half hours to someone's house where people would gather together and pray. And I heard him like last Shabbat, our shul was still open and there were discussing official close and, and really paint the prospect that the shul might close really pained him. It was traumatic for him. And the fact that eventually he finally did decide to close just shows how seriously how serious and unprecedented this situation is.
Ben (12:36):
And that really goes back to speak to why we have empathy for our fellow human here. You know, think about this. If when you go to the store and right now as of March 18th that we're recording this toilet papers still want a hot commodity. People are literally pulling it off of the pallet before the stock person can even take it off the pallet and put it on the shelves. So there are people getting in physical altercations at the stores. But maybe we should pause and think about it, is, yes, toilet paper is necessary in life. I get it, I got it. Good. But why not pause for a second and think about what these people are going through and you know, please thank you. Excuse me. Your general manners go a long way. It's just like, you know, we keep hearing about washing your hands, 20 seconds, sing happy birthday twice, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Basic stuff. You think you would know. However, um, we need to be reminded sometimes of how far a please and a thank you can go and to empathize with other people may be going through.
Leon (13:42):
Yeah. Now I want to, I want to say, so, uh, I picked up my son from school, from Yeshiva on Sunday. They closed down. And, uh, when I picked him up, uh, the boys all have flip phones. That is the most technologically advanced thing that they have for, to their name. And, and the rabbis were saying, no, no, no, we're gonna, we're going to keep these classes going. We're just gonna all dial into a phone number and we're all gonna have our class together, you know, 10, 20, 30 boys in a class all on their flip phones for four or five hours a day. And I'm thinking no. That is not what is going to be happening. Yeah. So the, the thing that's amazing to me is how quickly back to Ben, to your point, how quickly, uh, communities are coming up to speed on their technological options.
Leon (14:28):
So again, Sunday I picked him up. Monday morning, 30 boys tried to dial in with their flip phones to make this work. And within two hours they had a Google meet channel. And this isn't just the boys, this isn't a story about, you know, wow, kids are so hip and with it technologically and everything like that. This is, that. They were, you know, the school had figured out that, okay, this isn't working - pivot. And they had pivoted over to uh, you know, using Google neat. And by the afternoon all the boys had, you know, headsets on and they had microphones and they were, you know, they were figuring it out. And uh, Tuesday, uh, my son had, you know, three different classes and he had one on one learning with a couple of friends and then today, this afternoon, the English teachers finally got the assignments out. So I mean there's a, you know, there's a relative value of what gets the most attention in a Yeshiva and English classes are not it, but okay.
Leon (15:26):
But again, on Sunday they had flip phones and they thought, well, we're just going to do the best we can. And here we are three days in, you know, 72 hours. And they're already, you know, light years ahead of where they expected to be and they're able to keep that learning going. They're able to keep that sense of community in class. Now, my son said something interesting. He said it was a class. It was, it was our normal, the, the word is a sheur, you know, it was a normal sheur. Now, if we hadn't done it together, we wouldn't have been able to do it this way. It's only because we knew each other and we knew how the class was going to run, that we were able to do it remote, but we were able to do it.
Ben (16:10):
I just hope, now as a technologist it kinda hurts me to say, but I really hope that some of this tech, the technology that we're leveraging for this whole practice, social distancing doesn't necessarily cause a rip. You know, we're on a very fine line between what we can do right now and what can be done the future. Uh, you know, a lot of companies, as Keith said at the beginning of, during his intro, he's doing a virtual conference. There's a lot of financial savings in doing those conferences virtually. But what does it take away from the experience? Uh, you know it. And with churches, what does it, yeah, a church can livestream and it's great and we can worship, but what does it take away from the experience? So my hope is that while some of this is really, really good and it's really awesome and yes, it helps pay my bills. What's the prolonged, you know, when we're sitting here on March 18th, 2021 where are we sitting?
Leon (17:10):
all right. And that's, that's a great pivot. So the next topic I want to talk about is what do we think the longterm effect of this is going to be? And to answer your question, Ben, my feeling is that for work, I hope it does stick. I hope a lot more companies that have simply closed the door or never opened the door on the concept of work, remote telework, work from home are going to open up and say, you know what? It really did work. There is a place for it. Maybe not for everybody, but it is work. On the other hand, for religion, I hope it won't. I hope that there's a, an absolute return. I know, especially for, you know, uh, people who are Jewish, I know that being remote doesn't work. Literally, it does not work in the structure of prayer to do it this way. So there's not going to be any desire on people's part to continue to pray in their own homes and not come together.
Yechiel (18:02):
Yeah. And especially for Orthodox Jews, um, like, so, okay. So during the week you can probably have study groups together over zoom or whatever. But for Shabbat, at least for Orthodox observant Jews, we, we don't use electricity. We don't use, uh, computers or anything. So we're not, Shabbat services are not going to be moving over to zoom anytime soon. Even during, even during this crisis, it's still not, we will be Shabbat, we will be praying at home alone without our communities.
Leon (18:35):
Right.
Yechiel (18:35):
And as soon as, as soon as the synagogues are able to open, they will open.
Keith (18:40):
So, you know, that reminds me of last week, we had tech field day, which was fully remote. And if you've ever done tech field, day, tech field days, this event where Stephen Foskett in the, uh, Gestalt IT folks get together with 12 influencers, we fly to Silicon Valley or, or some similar area and we go from vendor to vendor, and presenter to presenter, they present to us, uh, their technology stack. And it's a really great, you know, interaction with the product teams. We, we, last week we did VMware and we did it for the first time virtually last week because we had no choice. And while it worked, it was missing certain elements. You know, the, it's really interesting, someone on Twitter said, you know what, I hope companies realize that you don't have to meet in person to be productive, true, but there's a huge difference. And I think energy when you're missing touch, smell, taste, all these human senses that we have when we commune together, uh, I think the, the requirement that three people be together physically and, uh, in Christianity we have this, uh, this commandment that we shouldn't, you know, the apostle Paul talked about not getting out of the habit of meeting regularly. I think those things are there because the thing that we kind of talk about energy in the room it's all, I think it's more of a spiritual, uh, experience when humans get together and do the human thing.
Ben (20:24):
Yeah. And I think the one thing that this social distancing is doing for, for some, uh, is the deepening of our faith. You know, in, in a prior life I served eight and a half years in the military. Uh, I got combat deployments and lots of, I've been shot at all that fun stuff. And during that tiMe, which before the last week was some of the worst time in my life, uh, when it comes to not knowing what the, what tomorrow is going to bring, I found myself turning to religion. Uh, I think now here we are, um, again, we're finding ourselves, granted there's a huge difference between combat and a virus. I get that, but it's almost the same that we don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. Um, so a lot of people are turning to their scriptures, are turning to find this time where they can't go to their normal places. Then they're just sitting and, or find themselves either meditating, praying, reading the scriptures or having conversation with a friend, again over FaceTime, Duo, whatever. But they're having more faith-based discussions of what their religion can do to help them get through this uncertain time.
Leon (21:41):
So it's an interesting question. I mean, there's two sides of that coin, right? There's how, uh, social distancing maybe, um, both detracting from and adding to religious observations. So I wanna I want to start off with the negative and we'll pivot to the positive and end on the positive. So is his social distancing disturbing religious observations? We've already talked about a few things. You know that in Judaism you need to have 10 adult men together in what's called a minyan or else you're really, you know, you're just, you're just praying alone so that obviously there's some, some structural, uh, organizational things that are in there. Is there other, any other things about distancing that are making it harder to be religious in some way?
Yechiel (22:27):
Um, yeah, so like you said, on the face of it, it's, it would seem that way, um, and definitely feels that way. Uh, but it's also important to remember that a big tenant of definitely Judaism I'm sure Christianity as well and all other religions is preserving life. And that is also part of, you're part of a big central part of the religion. And it actually reminds me of a story I just shared on Twitter this week. Um, I told it to my son this morning when he was really disappointed to find out that he won't be going to shul Chavez. Um, there were two brothers lived in the 17 hundreds and Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusha, Rabbi Elimelech actually, just yesterday was the anniversary of his passing. Um, so yeah, so they, they were from the founders of the Hasidic movement. It's a movement within Orthodox Judaism and part of their service of God, occasionally they would, uh, dress up as simple people, uh, as peasants, and they would travel from town to town incognito. So no one recognizing them and whatnot. One night they came to town, they found it in to put their bag down. Um, and overnight some silver, some cutlery went missing. Uh, the innkeeper obviously suspected, his first suspicion fell on the two strangers. Uh, and he called the police. The police obviously took the innkeeper's word over these two strangers. Um, and they ended up in jail in a cell surrounded by criminals, thieves, murderers, the lowest elements of Ukrainian society, uh, in the morning. Rabbi Elimelech One of the two brothers wanted to start the morning prayers, but then he know, he realized there's a problem. He turned to his brother as a shy. He says, you know, there's a problem, we can't pray this morning. And those Ukrainian jails weren't really high tech. And instead of bathrooms, they, every cell had a bucket in the corner where prisoners where, the inmates would relieve themselves. And Jewish law says that you're not allowed to pray in a room with dirt, with filth, including stuff you'd find in such a bucket. So Rabbi Elimelech told his brother, you know, we're not gonna be able to pray today. I'm like, who said this? The idea that he wouldn't pray for one day was so inconceivable to him. He started crying and Rabbi Zusha turned to his brother. He says, why are you crying? He says, every day we serve God by praying to him today, God, God commanded us not to pray in this situation that we are in now. Today we can serve God by not praying. That is how we will serve God. And even more than that, when we serve God, there's a commandment to serve God with joy. So everyday we would pray joyfully, we would sing, we would dance, we would be involved in, you know, pray with, with great joy. Now we are serving God by not praying. We have to serve God with joy. We should be happy. And Rabbi Elimelech realized his brother was right. And the two brothers started reveling in this new service of God that they just discovered. And they started singing and dancing right there in the cell with surrounded by all these inmates. And these people obviously thought, you know, they never saw, you know, they were still convinced that Jews have horns. So to see two Jews just singing and dancing in a Ukrainian jail cell that was like the, you know, it seemed like it was the strangest thing they've ever seen. But uh, you know, it's a jail cell. There's only so many knock, knock jokes you can say and so many card games you can play. They figured, you know, why not break them out? Autonomy, they all join. It all just started singing and started dancing and before along the whole cell was, you know, the whole dance party going on and the commotion was so loud that the guard outside heard it and he knew that his job was to make these inmates life miserable. If they're singing and dancing, he's not doing his job right. So he runs in, he grabs one of the prisoners, says, what's going on here? Why is everyone seeing and dancing? And he says, I don't know. You see those two crazy Jews in the corner, they, they were talking to each other, they were pointing at the bucket and they started singing and dancing. So we joined them. We started singing and dancing as well. This guy said, really? That bucket's them sing and dance. I'll show those Jews.
Yechiel (26:45):
He runs the corner, grabs the bucket and takes it out of the room. As soon as he does that Rabbi Zusha throw him out. He says, Elimelech, my brother. Now we can pray. So I see the point of the story is that yeah, it's tough. You know, we are used to worshiping in a certain way. We're used to serving God in a certain way, but right now God wants us to serve him by protecting our health, by protecting the health of our community. And by staying home, we survived. You know, someone said on Twitter that, you know, and the, you know, and the third is in the forties you are a hero by going across the, going across the ocean and dying on some Pacific Island. Nowadays you can be a hero by sitting on your couch and being binging Netflix. So, right. Go for it. Right. So, yeah, be, be heroic
Leon (27:37):
in our, in our time. Oh, that's wonderful. Great story. Okay. So, so yeah, I think we've outlined the ways in which I think it's easy to see the ways in which the, the distancing is is bothering or religious observations. But Ben, you were talking about the way it's, it's deepening your faith, it's giving you an opportunity to, you know, to maybe find it a nuance or an aspect that you hadn't before.
Ben (28:03):
I, you know, I think it comes, it permeates at a lot of things. This whole idea of social distancing has a lot of negative connotation. But if you also look at its social slowing, you know, our lives are so go, go, go. We get up at a certain time, we'd be at work and we do our work and it's go, go, go. We get home and we gotta run the kids to softball, practice soccer, practice football, practice, dance, get home. Now I've got gotta make dinner. Now we've got to get the kids cleaned up and get them to bed and then, Oh, now I can sit for 10 minutes. Now it's midnight. Now I'm asleep with this whole idea of social distancing. You know, our kids don't have those sporting events. We can't go out to those happy hours after work. Uh, so we're back home. You know, right now American Eagle, uh, we're on a work from home basis, 100%. So I wake up, I get online, I do my work. At five o'clock, I log off and I'm home already. So I find myself being able to sit and kind of be in my thoughts and take into account the blessings that, you know, right now my parents, um, are in the high severity group of possibly contracting this COVID 19 stuff. Um, my dad's a diabetic. He's in his seventies. My mom's in her late sixties. Um, you know, and they're also in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, which is one of the hardest hit areas right now in Pennsylvania. But I'm thankful that they both have their health. I'm thankful that my, myself and my wife and my kids, and yes, even our animals have our health, you know, it's so, you know, I'm not necessarily deep in the Bible. I never really have, but I'm thankful for those things. Just like in combat, you know, I was thankful to get through that day. That's how I am now. I got through Wednesday, March 18th I'm ready to get through March 19th I'm ready to get through March 20th and just keep going through. And eventually, yes, there is a light at the tunnel. It could be the train coming towards us or exit point, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Leon (30:12):
yeah. Yeah. And I, I really do believe that it's, it's not a train coming at us that there is, you know, 14 days and then, you know, you know, pretty solidly that you're clear. One of the things that, that the social distancing has done for me, and this is something that I've talked about a number of times on this podcast, is that, um, when I'm, when I'm praying in a group, I'm sort of caught up at the speed that the group is going at and I personally feel a lot of pressure because of that. I can't take my time the way that I'd like to, and being permitted, being, uh, having the opportunity to pray at home means I can take all the time I want or don't want, you know, in any given moment, uh, for those prayers. And I also am not distracted by other people around me. I mean, you know, people are there and they have bodies and they sniff or they cough or they, whatever. And if you really focused in one moment and then somebody made a noise or you just happened to notice of the corner of your eye, either scrolling their phone or they're done in you're not or whatever it is, none of those things are, you know, intruding on my focus. Now, do I use every moment to focus with laser light clarity? No, I don't, but I have the opportunity to, and I'm recognizing that. And so, um, you know, Yechiel, to your point, you know, I'm taking that as a positive that this is an opportunity I've got for as long as I've got it to try to, to really, um, deepen my attention and also, uh, enjoy the slowness of the ride.
Yechiel (31:51):
Yeah, I'll definitely say that. The last few days of praying at home while they were missing the communal aspect of prayer, my prayers were definitely a lot more focused and thoughtful than they otherwise usually are. Yeah.
Leon (32:05):
So I want to pivot that thought or that idea over to the, the work and the technical side. I, you know, there was a song back in the 30s. How are you going to keep them mowed down on the farm once they've seen Paris? So how are you going to keep the office, you know, down in the, in the cubicle once they've seen the work from home, you know, Paris, the, the, the joy of it. Will companies be able to get their employees to come back?
Yechiel (32:30):
I'm not so worried about that. Um, I mean, yeah, a lot of us are introverts and we're loving it. We're loving every minute of it, or at least I loved it last week, this week with the schools closed and my kids and my wife home and we're back into an office, open office plan again.
Leon (32:46):
Right. And you don't even have cube walls, even half cube walls. It's just the whole office, an open office plan
Yechiel (32:55):
if your coworkers were jumping all over the place and fighting at the top of their lungs. But, um, but yeah, but okay. Obviously once schools are open and you know, the kids are out. I love to stay back at home, but I also realize that I'm not the only type of person around. And I know many of my friends who are not introverts or some of them are introverts, but they still do need that human interaction that you get at an office with other people. So I'm not so worried that physical brick and mortar offices will be going out of business anytime soon.
Ben (33:31):
No. And, and I think, uh, two points, one, when it comes to this whole introvert extrovert thing, at least in my experience, a lot of people in tech, uh, lean more towards the introverted side of the fence. I'm kind of more extroverted. I can walk into a room of 10 people and I co I can walk out with 20 friends. Um, but also on the flip side were, we were just talking about earlier about having virtual conferences. You know, companies might see the savings that they're having by not producing these large in-person shows and think, Oh, maybe we can do that again. But hopefully they see the power that comes from having people there. Same thing as we're for home. Yeah, it's great for a few days. Uh, but sometimes you can hash things out with a whiteboard and having all the key players, all your key stakeholders in that physical room. You know, there's no audio interference. There's no lag of webcams. There's none of that. Oh, can you see my screen now?
Yechiel (34:38):
Can you hear me.
Ben (34:39):
exactly
Leon (34:41):
No, what, why, but, Oh, sorry. No, you go ahead.
Ben (34:51):
Having that opportunity to meet in person I think will, will stay, uh, in place now, hopefully some employees that are, you know, companies that are more butt in seat compared to allowing remote work. Hopefully they can see some of the benefit of allowing some of their employees one, two days a week from work in home. But personally, I work from home two days a week and I look forward to the office three days a week.
Leon (35:16):
Yeah. I think, my hope is that, uh, offices realize that work from home, telework, is a both and not an either or decision that, um, maybe instead of this, this lockdown one way or the other, there's some more flexibility that people can, can find in it. Um, and also I just wanted to comment that, that it's not necessarily been that there's a lot of people in it who are introvert in, you know, really sort of defined introverts. But I think a lot of the work that we do, and it tends to be somewhat solitary, tends to require a level of being, you know, in the zone to have that flow time. Uh, and so our work lends itself to not being in an office environment, not having the walk-by interruptions and distractions as much. But again, what we're talking about is flexibility to say, I've got some, I got to bang on some really difficult code. I'm going to go away, you know, or in my case I have to write a whole bunch of words. I have to, you know, crank out a couple of essays. I'm going to go away. I'm going to put myself in a quiet place where I can just focus on that versus I need to brainstorm. I need to bounce ideas off of people I need. Even if the people I'm talking to aren't the ones who I'm going to build something with, I just need the interaction to get the neurons firing and I want that option as well.
Ben (36:47):
Yeah. And I think that's interesting too. Uh, you know, I, I have a friend who sells who's a liquor sales person. They sell alcohol to clubs and stuff like that. So their job is very much out in the community making those sales again to our earlier point of supporting our sales staff. You know, they are having a much harder time right now than I am, because for me, I'm not getting pulled by the shoulder. The, Hey, come look at this real quick. Or Hey, I need you to do this real quick. Uh, IMs are a lot easier to ignore than somebody tapping on your cube wall., But for my friend, they are seriously, I mean it is not even stir crazy. They are just besides themselves, not knowing which way is up because their job is to get out in the community, sell their product, and they can't do that right now. Right?
Leon (37:35):
So that takes us, I think into the next and in the last major talking point that I want to hit tonight, which is what we hope for in the future. What we expect in the future. Um, you know, what we, what we wish and believe is coming. Um, and I'm gonna start this off with a thought that that sort of takes a, a sharp left turn. Last week there was a fairly large outcry in the Orthodox community, at least here in Cleveland. Why haven't the rabbis made a statement? Um, and it's more of a cultural thing, but the really great rabbis, the smart ones, the ones who are really on top of all, you know, all the information. Frequently wll come out with a statement, a direction that says, this is how we're going to approach this. And the statement can be very brief and say, do this. Or the statement could be very detailed and say, based on all these scriptural and commentaries and all these references, here's how I've come to this decision. So it can be any one or both of those. And so there's this outcry last week, why haven't the rabbis made a statement about what we should be doing? And the answer I heard was that from, from one of my rabbis, he said, I've been on the phone for a few hours this morning with several people and we talked over topics and concepts and we made some tentative plans. And by the time we hung up the phone, the situation had changed so much that nothing we decided on was valid anymore. Not a single thing that we discussed was relevant. So we can't. And what I got out of that was this absolute awareness of the power of their words that these great rabbis were very careful with their words because it wasn't just the, well, they could make a half statement that could say, well, we're still looking at it and we're thinking about it. Anything they said was going to cause a reaction of some kind. And so they were extremely stingy with their words to make sure that no one got the wrong impression and, and that left an impact. And I'm hoping, I really hope that people see this and they take it forwarded and have a, a recognition of it.
Keith (39:55):
Well that's definitely another podcast topic. But one of the things that I've noticed, just not in the religious world, but religious world in tech and business as well, words have power. As I'm expanding my little mini empire here at my business and I'm bringing on more people are starting to get frontline employees who, you know, their job is to do a thing. Keith, you hired me to be the DNS administrator and when I comment, And I say, man, wouldn't it be a wild idea that we, uh, be a secure DNS or some fancy new thing? They take that as gospel and start to run with it. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, no, no. That was just a big idea. And once you put words out there, it's really hard to pull them back in.
Ben (40:47):
Yeah, absolutely. I think, uh, the one hope I have that comes out of all this is that we as people, uh, put more emphasis on the sensitivity that words can have the power of our words and the choices of our words. You know, um, I have a service dog. I have a medical alert service dog is with me 24, seven, 365. Um, we've been together since September 20th at 1:30 PM is when I got her. Um, last week I went to the grocery store. Something that has always been sort of difficult for me to do with my anxiety and own, uh, spacial issues I have. Um, but I'm walking to the grocery store, um, and this was before all the real craziness set foot here in Pennsylvania. And this woman starts yelling at me and when I say yelling, I mean straight red face screaming at me.
Ben (41:42):
Why are you taking your dog into the store? Why you taking your dog into the store? And we've had some negative contact before with people that don't understand that my service dog is a highly trained dog. Um, it's not a pet, it's not an emotional support animal. She is physically here to help me with some physical elements I have, but she's yelling at me that my dog can carry the coronavirus. That is false. Dogs cannot carry the virus. Yes, the virus can live on their fur, on their leash, on their collar, but you deal with that, you wipe that stuff down, you clean it. Uh, dogs themselves cannot carry it. But this woman was just so hell bent that she saw this on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social outlet she was on, that she, that it's gospel to her, you know. And so the power of our words, you know, and also here in Pennsylvania, governor Tom Wolf, uh, on Monday, asked, not mandated, asked businesses that are not essential to close. It wasn't like the governor was said, Hey, you're closing down. Here comes martial law. And people took it as that. And the next day he had to go back on the record and say, look, that's not what I said. Here's what I said. Uh, because people just are, are not grasping what these words truly mean. So hopefully in a future when, when the next big thing comes down because let's face it, there is going to be the next big thing, whether it's a virus, uh, uh, natural disaster, whatever. It's,
Leon (43:17):
it's always something, it's always going to be something.
Ben (43:19):
Hopefully when that time comes, people are a little slower to choose their words.
Leon (43:25):
Yeah. And I think also actions, you know, people who choose to stay open when they've been told to stay closed or people who choose to go out and congregate when they've been told to, to shelter at home. And you know, also even just our consumption. I mean, you know, we, we've talked about it, we mentioned it early on, but the the whole toilet paper thing, like what, I just, I, I just wonder like where did that even start? Like why are people worried about the toilet of all the things, toilet paper? Like, I can see water, I can see food, I can see, you know, all that. So I can see, you know, corn chips or salsa. I can see a run on those things. Yeah. You know, and uh, but, but toilet paper, what's that about?
Keith (44:15):
Yeah, well it's, you know, it's human nature. We want to control the things we can't control. And one of the things that I've read is that for whatever reason, people have this sense of control when they say, you know what? Uh, and I've gotten into arguments with some good friends, like, you know, we live in Chicago and we have pretty great clean me water and you never bought bottled water, but yet you have cases in cases of bottled water. And it was that, that, you know, their response was, I'm prepared. And while it was completely irrational, it was just emotionally just something that they could do because they, you feel just a lack of complete control, which is really interesting cause we were on a religious podcast and that's, you know, we're, we're, we accept the fact that we're completely not in control in theory.
Leon (45:07):
Right. It's like it's a, yeah, it's all, it's, it's not in our hands, but I'm going to buy this toilet paper on it. Right.
Yechiel (45:15):
Yeah. Very good. And regarding toilet paper in particular, actually, uh, interestingly, and don't quote me on this because I don't remember where I saw it and I remember if, I think I remember seeing that in a previous, uh, emergency, I think in Hong Kong they did run out of toilet paper. So, and sort of that got ingrained in people's lizard brains. So the first, as soon as, as soon as like, you know, the pandemic hit, so it's like people's lizard brains automatically, their first response was got to get toilet paper.
Leon (45:48):
Well, I also wonder if it's just that that mob mentality, that scarcity syndrome that sets in and you see somebody grabbing a whole bunch of toilet paper and you think, Oh my gosh, that's, that's what everyone needs. And you know, there's a domino effect.
Yechiel (46:01):
Yeah, of course. I mean, you know, even if people's rush on toilet paper is irrational, the fact is that if they're rushing on toilet paper and next week I'm going to run out of toilet paper and there's not going to be any of the stores, I'm going to have a problem.
Leon (46:15):
Yeah, exactly. And I think that speaks to the larger concept of, again, like we should be careful with our words. We should be careful with our consumption. You know, that, that our consumption can affect other people in ways that we're not necessarily predicting.
Ben (46:30):
Yeah. And putting it back on the tech side, you know, bandwidth is such a, I mean, that's almost as valuable as toilet paper is right now. And when it come to tech, I would say bandwidth is the toilet paper of tech right now.
Leon (46:44):
Right.
Ben (46:44):
When you're looking at having your entire business.
Yechiel (46:48):
Didn't someone say that the internet was a series of tubes?
Leon (46:52):
I am absolutely quoting that. That's going to be one of the quotes with the podcast: "bandwidth is the toilet paper of the internet."
Ben (47:01):
But think about this, um, you know, having bandwidth is so critical right now because when your business, which could be as small as a few hundred or tens of thousands are now leveraging all the VPNs and all the WebEx, all the team chat spaces that they have, your bandwidth pipe shrinks considerably. So maybe consider when you have that WebEx meeting. You know what, turn off your cameras. I mean, let's face it, we're all working home. We're not getting dressed like we normally get dressed. Heck, you may not even be dressed.
Leon (47:34):
Okay. If that's the case, please do not turn your camera on. Yes, this goes back to common courtesy.
Ben (47:41):
So you know, bandwidth is very much at a premium right now. So keep that in mind when you're, if you're, if you're new to this whole business continuity thing and you're trying to figure out what your plans are. Think bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.
Leon (47:57):
Well and I'll say, um, you know, we we're in tech, we say bandwidth and we think, you know, you know, physical, you know, internet, how many packets do I have? But there's also mental bandwidth. There's emotional bandwidth. There's, you know, there's a lot of people spinning a lot of plates in our office and sometimes the place that they're spinning are not only the things that, that they have to do for work, but also that they have their whole family around them. Yechiel, to your point, again, open office plan where your coworkers are, you know, sitting right next to you saying, "Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy." You know, there's, that has an impact. And being sensitive about not chewing up other people's psychological bandwidth, emotional bandwidth, um, their, their physical meaning time, bandwidth. You know, "I just want to check in. I just want to see how you're doing." "You know what, thanks so much. I really trying to deal right now." You know, that's fine. Some people do need to check in and I think that that's important to do. Back to our comment about community is say, "Hey, just want to make sure you're okay," but don't demand their time. Don't demand that conversation. Just make sure that they know that you're available if they need it. This has been a fantastic conversation, guys. Thank you so much for joining me tonight. I know it was sort of last minute, but we all had some things that we wanted to, to share and comment on with the current situation. Um, we hope that uh, this conversation has given the folks listening, a modicum of comfort and once again, if you need something, if you just need to talk or share, uh, feel free to reach out to us on any of the social media connections that we've listed above or wherever you find us.
Speaker 5 (49:41):
Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, technicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.
Keith (49:54):
Hey, you guys want to get together tomorrow?
Ben (49:56):
Sure. Let me send my WebEx link and then I gotta go wash my hands.

S2E07: Rockstar

S2E07: Rockstar

March 10, 2020

Prima Donnas. Attention-Seekers. RockStars. 10x Engineers. These are people who are driven to be (or at least be seen as) the best of the best, the cream of the crop. And maybe they are (and maybe they aren't). But the challenge is their NEED to be SEEN in that light. Whether we encounter them in the NOC or among the congregational flock, their behaviors can be distracting, disruptive, or downright toxic. Are there lessons we've learned from our IT tenures, our religious experiences, or even our sacred texts which might shine a light on how to handle (and even help) these folks to be better members of our community? 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.

Doug (00:53):

Prima donnas, attention seekers, rock stars, 10 X engineers. These are people who are driven to be, or at least to be seen as the best of the best, the cream of the crop. And maybe they are...

Yechiel (01:08):

And maybe they aren't, but the challenge is there need to be seen in that light, whether we encounter them in the NOC or among the congregational flock, their behaviors can be distracting, disruptive, or downright toxic.

Ben (01:19):

Are there lessons we've learned from our IT tenures, our religious experiences, or even our sacred texts, which might shine a light on how to handle - or even help - these folks to be members of our community?

Leon (01:30):

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 (01:36):

Hey!

Leon (01:37):

And also Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel (01:39):

Hello again.

Leon (01:40):

And newcomer Ben Keen. Welcome to the show.

Ben (01:42):

Hey, thanks for having me guys. Appreciate it. Looking forward to this.

Leon (01:45):

No problem. We're looking forward to it too. I think it's a good topic. I think it's one that, um, a lot of folks in IT are sort of thinking about struggling with, but before we dive into it, we have a tradition here on Technically Religious of shameless self promotion of guests before anything else. So Ben being the newest member of, uh, of the speaker pool, why don't you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and how you identify religiously and all that stuff.

Ben (02:09):

Sure. Uh, my name is Ben Keen. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'm a senior system administrator, uh, self deemed monitoring engineer for one of the largest retailers in denim, American Eagle Outfitters. Uh, you can find me on Instagram and um, as Leon says, "the Twitters", uh, @the_Ben_keen. I am a United Methodist. I'm a son of a preacher and I identify myself more of a collective Christian, whereas I take things from all different kinds of religions and kind of bring into my own self.

Leon (02:39):

Um, okay. Doug, tell us about yourself.

Doug (02:41):

I'm Doug Johnson and the CTO for a startup called WaveRFID. We do inventory using RFID cooled tags and things like that. I'm actually not on social media. I got off of it. I'm on LinkedIn a little bit, but not very much. I don't even have a website or a blog that I want to promote. So that's just the way it, uh, I'm a born again, evangelical Christian.

Leon (03:01):

Practically a technical Luddite.

Doug (03:03):

But on purpose!

Leon (03:04):

On purpose, right. A purposeful Luddite. I don't know anybody who's an accidental Luddite. Actually. It takes effort these days. Um, okay. Yechiel, what about you?

New Speaker (03:14):

Yes, so, uh, I'm Yechiel Kalmenson. You can find me on the Twitters @YechielK. Um, I have a blog at http://www.RabbiOnRails.io and I'm an Orthodox Jew.

New Speaker (03:23):

Okay. And I'll square the circle here. Uh, I'm Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek. Yes, that's my actual job title at SolarWinds, uh, which is neither solar nor wind because naming things is hard. You can find me on the Twitters, which we all say to annoy Keith Townsend's daughter. Um, you can find me there @LeonAdato. I blog and pontificate on things both technical and religious at https://www.AdatoSystems.com. And I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And I wanna remind everyone who's listening that if you are scribbling those Twitter handles and websites down, madly, stop it. Just relax. Put your hands back on the wheel of the car or wherever you are listening to this because we're going to have show notes out the day after this podcast drops. So we have all the links of everything that we're talking about. You don't need to write things down. Um, as good IT folk. I think the first thing we want to do on this topic is define our terms. What do we mean when we say 'rockstar'?

Doug (04:24):

Well, Let's start with what's a real rockstar. I was a rock disc jockey, a celebrity, if you will, uh, for 11 years. And I met a lot of rock stars.

Leon (04:34):

I want to point out only because Doug and I grew up in the same city that Doug was the number one top rated drive time disc jockey at a particular point in time here in Cleveland. So when he says he's a celebrity, he really is.

Doug (04:46):

I also found out how much fun it is to be a celebrity. Not. Okay, but just the way it goes. But in any case, I met a lot of people and uh, met a lot of rock stars. And there are people, rock stars who are total jerks. They would, I mean come into the studio and they'd bounce all over the place and they'd scream and they'd throw stuff and you know, just make total jerks of themselves. And then there were other people who were real rock stars. I mean, they take somebody like Ainsley Dunbar. Ainsley Dunbar, so drummer for Jefferson Starship and Journey and John Mayall blues... And just tons of people. If you look on his Wikipedia page, he's played with everybody. I had lunch with him. Nicest guy we've ever, I mean, we just had a great time. Talked about everything and he was, but he's a real rock star. So you know, a rock star is basically somebody who can do their job on stage and take, take care of business.

Leon (05:46):

Okay. And I think that's definitely the, the good definition of it. But we also have that again, that negative definition, which is somebody who's, you know, attention seeking behavior, looking to push social limits in ways that often doesn't need to be pushed, you know, those kinds of things. So I think that's another part of it. Um, all right, so that's generally speaking, but what do we mean when we say a rock star in the world of tech and IT like what, what is, what does that typically mean?

Yechiel (06:15):

So I think in general, when people speak about rock stars, rock star developers, rock star engineers, um, it's all referred to in the business as the "genius asshole." This'll be like the person who can code in 20 languages who can solve lead code puzzles in their sleep. You know, you can spin up, you know, in 2000 line of lines of code application and over the weekend. But at the expense of not really being part of the team, um, to put it mildly, like their code will be extremely unreadable. They'll follow their own conventions, won't follow best practices. They'll solve things in brilliant ways, but very unconventional ways, like using really esoteric parts of whatever language they're using, um, which makes it really unreadable for people coming after them trying to maintain their code.

Ben (07:06):

Yeah. Or you've got the example of that new hire and it kind of comes in and joins the company and thinks that they are better, or know more than everybody else and comes to your desk, uh, where you are the subject matter expert, uh, not trying to glorify yourself, but you know your role. And they come into your cube trying to tell you how they would do your job better. Uh, and not really giving any good fruit to bear from that interaction. But on the flip side of that, you also have those people that joined a team, bring their skill sets to the, to the table to teach people how to fish. You know, like you could sit down with that Linux engineer, that windows engineer and they can show you what their experience has brought, brought them to this floor and teach it to others.

Yechiel (07:52):

Yeah, I mean, rock star is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some rock stars who are really humble and personable. Um, I like saying a lot. I don't remember who I heard this from and I really feel bad because I use it a lot. And they really want to give credit. Um, but I heard someone say that "a 10x engineer is not someone who can produce 10 times more code than other people, rather 10 X engineers. Someone who brings up 10 other engineers to their level."

Doug (08:20):

Eric Elliott, JavaScript guy. He's, he said that, I don't know if he's the first one to say it, but,

Yechiel (08:24):

Oh well thank you.

Leon (08:27):

There we go. So credit where credit is due because you are both wrong and you know when to give credit,

Yechiel (08:32):

but the good ones,

Leon (08:33):

Right! The good kind. Exactly. Um, so on the, on the bad side, I remember, so this is tech, but it's not IT tech. Um, way back in the day when I was working in theater, one of the people that I knew got a job building the, a chandelier for "Phantom of the Opera" when it opened on Broadway. Okay. So those people who know the show, the chandelier comes crashing down and has to be rebuilt after every show. And he built it in such a way that he was the only one who could figure out how to put it back together. And he basically got himself, you know, 'forever work' on that show because he built it in a way that no one else, you know, could, could manage. And that's, that's not okay. It's one thing when you say, "This is so complicated that most people just can't figure it out because it's so hard." But it's another thing when you purposely build something, whether it's code or a chandelier, in a way that no one's just ever going to figure it out because it's a special puzzle that only, I know.

Doug (09:32):

It almost feels like the bad rock stars in tech want a bus factor of one. Right. I mean think about it. I mean the whole thing is. ...

Leon (09:41):

(laughing) I just love that: "bus factor of one." Okay. Yeah.

Yechiel (09:45):

Yeah, it's job security.

Doug (09:46):

It is, but I mean, it's just wrong. It's bad for the team. It's bad for everybody. I mean, when you reach my age, you realize that you don't want me to be your bus factor of one. Bad things could happen to me tomorrow. Who knows? It's just, you know, it. But I bet I get the impression that there are rock stars that they considered themselves the, the bus factor. If it wasn't for them, it would all fall apart.

Leon (10:07):

Right. Well, and I've, I've always told people who are in that position, right? Like, Oh no, I'm the only who can do this. This is just remember "Irreplaceable is unpromotable," you know, so if you want to be, if you want to be the one person, like, okay, but you ain't never go into her and right. You know, if you win the lottery, because that's the only, you know, I, I don't like the other examples, you know, look, if I win a lottery, I love you guys. I mean it, I'm going to go buy an island, like I'm done. Right? So, you know, if you make it so that your leaving, you know, completely destroys an environment that's just not okay. Um, and I think that that idea of, you know, if you leave, it all falls apart. I think that takes us to a different aspect of it. You know, this being Technically Religious, we've talked about the technical, but I want to talk about the religious also that, that there are rock stars in the religious world. Now there's something that I say a lot and then yechiel you came up with a corollary. You know, I've said a couple of times on the show that no religion has found the cure for the common asshole. The flip side of that is that, um, nor has any religion taken out an exclusive patent for assholes. So you're going to find 'em everywhere. But I'm curious about what a rock star looks like in our religious life, like in the pews and the, you know, in our church or synagogue or place of worship. What, how does that manifest?

Doug (11:26):

Well in, in Christianity there's, um, there are people who essentially set themselves up to go ahead and be the whole ministry. I mean, they are, the central chore, it all hangs on them and, and because this Christianity of course they, uh, you know, they come across as very humble. They, they, they of course, you know, you, you need to be humble. But they are so that they're more humble than you'll ever think of being. Um, and so of course they're rock stars and you know, that they can build a whole, the whole ministry ends up, uh, being built around them. In fact, there are ministries that are named after people that you realize that they haven't done anything to, uh, effectively take care of that bus factor. If something happened to them, their ministry is gone. Whereas there are other ministries that are continuing on. Billy Graham ministries is still doing work even though his name is on it, but he's dead and it's still, he built an organization in such a way that it could continue on after he was no longer able to do the work.

Leon (12:40):

Warren buffet this week came out with a message they did their annual message, you know, for Berkshire Hathaway. And one of the things like nine words that caught everyone's attention was "we are already well positioned for our departure." Meaning that Warren Buffett and his partner, his partner is 96 year old one. Warren Buffett is like 86, 87 something like that. Like they know that eventually they're not going to be in that company and they've already, you know, they've dealt with it. They just haven't made a big deal about it. But yeah, that kind of thing.

Doug (13:13):

There are rock stars in Christianity. Worship leaders have to be up front. I mean it just, that's the whole concept of being a worship leaders. You're getting everybody to come along, but not everybody who is a worship leader, uh, is leading the congregation. They're basic. They're, they're actually looking more to have the spotlight on themselves. It can, it can go either way.

Ben (13:36):

And on top of that, you take away from the leader, whether it's the pastor, the lay leader, whoever's leading the worship, and then you flip the camera over to the pews and you see those people who... And no judgment of how you worship. If you're, if you're motive, which means raising your hands and waving of them around and stuff like that. If that's your way of communicating with your, with who you call God, all the power to you. But when you take those actions and you just start making it a show to bring the light upon yourself, you're, you're really missing the message. You know? Uh, we're supposed to be bringing message in light upon who we refer to as our God, not ourselves. And there's a lot of same people that not, but five minutes later or in the parking lot honking their horns, flipping you off, calling you all sorts names for cutting them off, but they didn't spend an hour talking about how great Jesus, how in tune they are with their religion. And then five minutes later it's gone.

Leon (14:33):

Yeah. I've, I've seen that. So Yom Kippur is one of the most intense holidays in the Jewish calendar. Um, it's a day where you fast for 25 hours. It's uh, it, it again, it's really intense and at the end of it, uh, people want to go home, they want to get a bite to eat and I've watched people cut other people off and scream words and stuff like that. Like you just had, it was the high point of the entire year and here you go. Like this is not our finest moment,

Ben (15:01):

That one hour. You know, you got to carry that forward if you want to, if you want to be seen as the rock star, that carries with you.

Leon (15:10):

So just as an interesting point of sort of cultural comparison in Judaism, the, the leader of the congregation, the rabbi is often not doing anything. That the job of running the service often falls to just people in the room. And it is fairly participatory in the sense that in many congregations someone will look around the room and say, "do you want to do the next part?" Do you want to do the next part? And in some places it goes around paragraph by paragraph in some parts of the service, um, you know, throwing things around. Certain people have certain jobs simply for consistency sake or because it requires a little bit extra preparation. Um, but that's, you know, th Doug, your point of having a worship leader doesn't always exist there. However, I've seen that in the smaller congregations, in the startup congregations, in Judaism, it usually revolves around one or two people who have a key collection of skills because it is... You've got to be fluent in Hebrew. If you got to be fluent with the music, you've got to be fluent with the different variations of weekday, morning, afternoon, evening services versus, you know, the Sabbath war and versus a holiday of which there are 9,362 I think Yechiel, you can correct me if I'm off by one or two on that one. Um, you know, there's a lot and every single time there's a variation, there's something extra that you say or don't say. And so the person who has the, you know, again, it's a unique collection of skills. So there's not always a group of people. There might be one person who's, "no, no, no, I've got this one!"

Yechiel (16:46):

Even in larger congregations, I don't think we are completely rock star immune. Um, you will have those people who are more, you know, to Ben's point, it's more about the show and appearing more religious than everyone else and more devout than everyone else. You know, I've been to congregations where the prayer is basically a contest of who could finish last and it goes to ridiculous lengths.

Leon (17:09):

I'm in really fast car creations where it's like, you know, "can we get it done in 20 minutes?" And it makes me nuts.

Yechiel (17:14):

It's like the 6:20 minyan. Uh, yeah. The one like the first where people actually have jobs, pray at. So yeah, they're trying to finish as quick as possible, but you have those where, um, you know, they're just closing their eyes and waving their fists and you know, going, yeah, like Ben said, you know, it's not exclusive to Christianity.

Leon (17:34):

Yeah. I've also seen people, um, I love this where they are trying to lead from the rear. Where the person who is leading the prayers, again, it goes, you know, around the room, somebody is invited up to lead this part and somebody in the room thinks that they're not doing the job that ought to be done and so going to do it for them from their position, seven rows back. They're going to sing louder, they're going to pray louder. They're going to let you know that they're done with this part of the, you know, of the prayer and you should be now too, kind of thing. And it's just not the most gracious moments when you're trying to have a prayerful experience when trying to connect with the divine. Those are some examples of, of what we mean when we say rock star, what do "they" mean? Like this is what we mean. These are our examples. But there's, there's a different collection of "they". So we have to do, as we talked about the "they" and then and say, what is it that they mean when they say rock star, when you encounter the word rockstar in the wild, what are they talking to?

Doug (18:30):

One of the first places that I have seen it and seen it repeatedly is in, uh, in tech ads. Uh, I mean those of us who do dev work, you know, we move around a little bit. Sometimes you're doing consulting you're doing or, or you'll come onto a project for a while, just you move a lot. So you read a lot of dev ads and just a lot of people who are running these job postings are looking for "rock star programmers." And, and, and as a matter of fact these days, if I see that I'm out, I mean, if they're looking for a rock star, I, I just know I'm not going to want to go ahead and have anything to do with them. Because either they don't know what they're talking about or, um, they have really unrealistic expectations of what somebody is going to be able to do. But it just comes down to there's, there's, you know, they're, they're the, the, the big companies that think they need to ask for rockstar programmers so they can get the cool kids to go ahead and apply to their job. Um, and then there are the, the startups, the young bro startups that actually, you know, they believe that. They, they think being a rock star is a cool thing and, and, and they're going to go ahead and they want to have other rock stars to be working with them so they can all just be a bunch of rock stars. And have a rock band or something. I have no idea. It just makes no sense to me at all.

Leon (19:54):

Acer was founded on the idea that everybody they hired got straight A's in college. Like that was their shtick for a little while.

Doug (20:02):

I was going to say it probably didn't last very long. Did it?

New Speaker (20:07):

I wonder if they're still around?

New Speaker (20:07):

My favorite quote for that is the, the A students are managed by the B students, uh, who are work for the company owned by the C students.

Ben (20:15):

Well, I think, and going back to who "they" are, uh, you know, you have those people that make their resume or their, their social media profile on LinkedIn or whatever, where they labeled themselves rock star. And this isn't about your, you selling yourself. Obviously when you're looking for a job, you need to sell yourself to your possible, to the employer as a, as a candidate because you're going up against five, 10, 15 other people. So you want to make yourself stand out. But it's those people that are just so about them. Um, you know, I know personally when I interview, uh, one of the hardest things, so I served eight and half years in the military, right. And, um, so one of the things I found hard to do was really to justify myself because in the military, it's team, you know, as a team, we did this, we did that, you know, so when I first got out and I was talking to a possible, you know, possible places of employment, they're like, "Well, what did you do?" I was like, well, "we..." You know, and they're like, "no, no. What did you do?" And you know, you got to kind of learn how to promote yourself without overdoing it and becoming that rock star.

Yechiel (21:26):

Although when someone does write rock star in their profile, it's worth paying attention to what they actually mean with that because, and this is true, someone actually wrote a language called "rockstar" just so that they can call themselves a "rockstar engineer." It's an actual programming language that compiles.

Leon (21:41):

If you want to find it. We were all laughing about it before we started the show http://codewithrockstar.com. Um, so if you, too, want to be a rock star programmer, uh, you can do that in all humility. You can be humble while saying that you're a rockstar programmer. Um, and Yechiel, you were saying that, uh, some of the programming terms where they use like lyrics of songs.

Yechiel (22:03):

Yeah, the syntax is all rock lyrics.

Doug (22:05):

I do have to say that I, the best title I was ever given, and it's not quite as good as Leon's "Head Geek", but an a year before I left this job, I was also, I was a sales engineer forever. And when they could tell I was starting to get somewhat dissatisfied, a new box of cards showed up and my new title was "solution visionary."

Everyone (22:26):

OOOOOOOhhhhhhhh!!!

Doug (22:26):

So that's on my LinkedIn page now even, but I didn't do it for myself.

Leon (22:31):

Um, yeah, it's like nicknames. I don't know that you can give yourself those nicknames. If somebody else gives it to you, then you could sort of wear it with pride but also like nicknames. It only works for a particular group of friends. You know that with this group of friends, you're "stinky" and this other group of friends, maybe your, you know, "home run" or whatever, but, but you, you can't introduce yourself and just decide that that's what you're...

Yechiel (22:54):

And someone out of the group of friends can't just go over." Hey stinky."

Leon (22:59):

Okay. So having talked about, you know, again defined our terms. I think the bigger question is, um, you know, how do we deal with people who either see themselves as rock stars or, or are in that position? Like what are some things, some actual strategies that we can have to work with, deal with, interact with? Like, what can we do there?

Doug (23:21):

Going back to what Ben said about the military all being about team, you actually can go ahead and, uh, build up the team that you're on, um, in such a way to, uh, give you strength in numbers against the rock star if they really are being a jerk type rock star. I mean, in essence I've come into, I've come into situations where there was a rock star architect, whoever it was that just, you know, was making everybody miserable. And everybody on the team was so cowed that they just, nobody would stand up that nobody wanted to, you know, put their head up and get nailed by this guy. Um, I've been at this long enough that, and I've got enough people that don't like me in the world. I have no trouble with people now. So I would go ahead and, you know, start building up the team so that they, they kind of see that it was all right if everybody on the team thinks this is a bad idea, even if the rock star doesn't, if everybody on the team and you sort of build the whole idea of team, you can sort of mute the, uh, the, the, uh, power of the rock star by the numbers of everybody trying to accomplish things together as a team.

Ben (24:32):

Well, in my case, you know, dealing with, um, uh, you know, you have those people you're in your work face that are like, "I fixed it" person or "that's my fix" or uh, the ones that say, "Oh, I'm sure you were thankful that I was around today." Um, but you know, as a Christian growing up, I was always taught the importance of group over self. Uh, the aspect that where you are only as strong as the weakest link. Um, and that permeated through my eight and a half years of being in the military, whether it was being deployed to Iraq or, uh, sitting stateside, wherever it was. You know, a story about Iraq, you might remember the story of Geraldo Rivera, uh, who literally, uh, destroyed a mission by drawing stuff in the sand because he wanted to be the rock star. Um, people in the military can relate to the term PT stud. That's someone that can continuously do a 300 PT score in the army. Uh, that's the old PT tests. I'm not familiar with the new ones, so don't hold me to that. Uh, or the weapons guy that the pers, the person that can go out and just knock down 40 out of 40 targets every single time. Some of these people are very humble about it, you know, they put in the work to hit those scores. Uh, so you deal with them one way, but dealing with a person that kinda comes in and is arrogant about it, you really need to kind of either mentor them down or leave them to their own devices and eventually, you know, Darwinism takes effect almost. It just works itself out.

Leon (26:04):

Right. And that's one of the things that, that I've, I've done, you know, not as not in a management role but as a, somebody on a team is that I think that rope can be a really, um, interesting correction corrective service to apply. And what I mean by that.

Doug (26:21):

You tie them up and throw them in the closet?

Leon (26:22):

Yeah, no, that's exactly not it. No, blanket party. None of those things. Um, but what you do is you find, you know, as you're talking about things as a team, you find those projects that are perfect for lone wolf. You know, that, that one person can go off and you say this would be great for Alfred to do. (No offense to anyone who was named Alfred.) Um, you know, this would be, this would be fantastic for this to do. Why don't they do that? Because then they can go off and be the rock star and one of two things are gonna happen. Either it's going to be amazing and they're going to get all the attention that they need and crave and it's going to be good for the company and reflect well on the team. But it hasn't pulled anybody away from what they were doing. It gets that person completely out of your hair. Or if the person is that self inflated but doesn't actually have the skills that they think they do, kind of rockstar, then it's going to expose it in a way that doesn't put anyone else on the team at risk. So as a team, when you see those, those project opportunities, those, you know, whether it's a subcomponent of what you're working on or whatever and say, "Oh, this is something that, you know, again, Alford can do all on his own." You know, those are the things that you keep on offering up, um, to get them out of the way or to, you know, either temporarily or, or longterm. Um, I also think it's interesting in the Jewish tradition, there's a story about we should, how we should always walk around with two slips of paper, one in each pocket. And on one sip of paper it says, um, you know, "for me the world was created." And on the other slip of paper it says, "I am nothing but dust and ashes." And that we stand in the mid point between those and that in any given moment, we might need to pull out one slip of paper or the other. And that's, you know, obviously that's to keep ourselves humble. That's to keep ourselves, uh, in check. But I also think that there's a way to have that kind of conversation with the people who see themselves as rock stars is, is to continue to inject that, um, that thinking or that, that frame of reference, uh, along the way. So that's tech. However, I think that in our religious life, there's, you know, we encounter those rock stars. We've talked about it before. But I also think it's interesting because in our religious texts we run into rock stars. So I wonder if you have any thoughts about, you know, and as you are wandering through the pages of your faith and you hit a rock star, like what, what do you do? What does your religion do? How do you, how do you react with that? Cause we might find lessons that we can carry over into our daily life there.

Yechiel (29:05):

So yeah, and a sense we said they were like good rock stars and bad rock stars. And we definitely find both. And religious texts, for example, um, I would say like the number one rock star in the Jewish religion is Moses who led the Jewish people. And yet we, the one point that keeps coming over and over is his humility. Like from the beginning where he's arguing with God, like he does not want to do it. He's really reluctant to take on the, the, the leadership and all through the end where he's constantly putting himself out, you know, putting himself between God and the Jewish people to protect them and shield them from their own mistakes.

Leon (29:45):

Right. And, and, and the, the Torah ends saying, no human will ever walk the face of the earth that is as humble as Moses. Like it, that point just keeps getting driven home. So yeah, that's a pretty strong point.

Yechiel (29:58):

But then of course you have the other end. Uh, you have people like Pharaoh or like Cicera. Um, in fact, the Pharaoh is described in Ezekiel. As someone who says, "לִ֥י יְאֹרִ֖י וַאֲנִ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽנִי" Li y'ori va'ani asisani" Te Nile is mine. And I have created myself." Meaning someone who feels like he doesn't need anyone. He's self-made. He's created himself essentially. And he doesn't need, you know, to hell with anyone else.

Leon (30:23):

Right. And, and we all know how Pharaoh worked out in the end. So that's again, a good cautionary tale. I also think that as we're reading, as we're reading our religious text, one of the things that, that strikes me is how in some cases incapable and in some cases unqualified, the people who are doing these amazing things are. I mean, um, you've got, you know, Jacob, who's, who's considered, you know, the, the, the Prince of Truth. And yet he was, it was kind of a liar. A lot. Or you've got Joseph, uh, who's considered, you know, a tzadik, a righteous man, but he was kind of narcissistic for a lot of the narrative. Um, and that's even if you ignore the Broadway play and the technicolor dream coat and all that stuff that, you know, he's, he really wasn't, he was probably kind of a little bit much to have to, you know, have dinner with sometimes. And I feel like a lot of times the underlying message is that God isn't picking people because they are super competent. God is picking people who are the least likely to have been able to achieve this on their own. Just to drive the point home. Again, Yechiel your point. You know, Moshe... Moses didn't want that job. He fought against it. And you know, I think that at the time people are like, "Who's going to lead us?" "Moses." "What?!? What are you talking about? that's like... Could you have picked anybody worse for this job than that?" No, I actually couldn't have picked anybody worse. That's why I did it.

Yechiel (31:57):

Yeah. And specifically about Moshe, um, I read one of the commentaries, I forgot which one right at the moment. Um, he had, like a very heavy stutter, um, to the point where, where he didn't actually speak to Pharaoh. He would speak to Aaron and Aaron would talk to Pharaoh and the reason why God chose someone with such a stutter was so that it would be sort of obvious that it wasn't Moses' doing it was God working through him.

Leon (32:24):

Yeah, and I think that you know, again in our religious life when you meet that that rock star, you know in in church, in the pews that the, the interesting thing is if you think, if you hold even an inkling, that God has somehow smiled down upon you to achieve or accomplish some particular thing, that's probably a really good indication that you suck.

Doug (32:47):

I mean we'll see. I mean in an on on the other side of the Testament divide, we've got the same thing. I mean most of, most of the people who are the leaders in early Christianity were not the ones that you would think of... Peter is the number one guy and he was a total jerk and he was like really impulsive and flip flopped all the time. I mean, it's just the worst to deal with. And nine times out of 10, Jesus is having to turn them in and just say, go "chill dude." You know what I mean? He went in in like two verses. He went from a, you know, God told me, "God told you that Peter", to "get you behind me. Satan." I mean really that, and that's two verses we go from God's talking to you and Oh yeah, apparently so Satan. So honestly Peter, just if it, if it hadn't been God, it wouldn't have happened.

Leon (33:40):

Um, okay. So those are, those are some ways to frame as you're reading scripture, as you're reading your religious text to remember that there's probably an underlying message that these people, for as great as the things that they achieved themselves, we're still flawed human beings. Were still, you know, walking around with their own struggles, which they sometimes overcame and sometimes didn't. Um, but bringing it back to real life again, you know, we've got people, we've got personalities in our religious communities and I wonder what are some things that we can do to interact with them, to deal with them, to, to, you know, how do you respond?

Yechiel (34:19):

I just roll my eyes and move on.

Leon (34:21):

Right, right, right. Exactly. And I think frequently that works. You know, the joke I always give is "Well, that's, that's when, you know, it's time to start a breakaway minyan..." You know, start your own congregation, which is going to be for, you know, guys 35 to 37 who drive Ford focuses because, you know, you have a, you have a congregation for every possible...

Doug (34:39):

Well, I've, I've found combinations of humor and um, scripture can be really helpful. I, um, I was... There, there was a number of years ago I was teaching a, a Bible study, uh, before church started. Um, and I was traveling 45 minutes to this church. It was a small church. I was supporting it and that kind of stuff. And one Sunday morning just everything went wrong. And I arrived, ten minutes late, teach my class and the elder - the main elder, the guy who kept everything going, the main guy - pulled me aside and basically reamed me a new one. Uh, and I said, okay, I've got a class to go teach. We'll talk about this later. Um, and went and taught my class and afterwards, afterwards I said, I'm going to take, take what you said, I'm going to go ahead and, uh, pray about it and I'm going to think about it and look at scripture and you know, we'll talk next week." And so as I was doing all that, I get down and I went back the next week. I said, "I went through all the scripture that I could find in. The only time I've found where somebody was arrived late was when there was this battle. And Saul was all set to go and Samuel arrive late. And Saul had gone ahead and done the, uh, had gone ahead and done the sacrifice. And the thing that I found interesting, my elder friend, is that Samuel, the guy who arrived late is not the one who got in trouble." And he apologized. And we moved forward and we became great friends as a result.

Leon (36:09):

There's a couple of things going on there. I mean, obviously there's the humor aspect, but I think also just asking, you know, if, if you have the ability to do that, to say, "What is it? That's, why do you feel like you have to carry this entire load?" I've been places where the people just thought that they were the only one who cared that much about it, that, you know, they didn't think that anybody else, you know, felt that strongly. And when you said, "No, actually several of us do." And so if they're, you know, let's, how about I take this part and you take that part or you know, you, you can sit back. I've had people who, who literally ran the entire service, but when we asked them, said, "I really wish I could do nothing. I'd like to just show up and be a participant." And they meant it. They weren't being, it wasn't false humility. They really meant that they wanted to just be in the back, but they felt like if they didn't do it, no one was going to. And as soon as we were able to show them, no, so-and-so has got this and so and so has this and everyone has this and we certainly when you feel like it, we'd love you to participate but please do not feel like you have to. And that that was regulatory for everyone.

Ben (37:24):

And I think that speaks volumes too to taking it back to the workplace, pulling it up, you know, getting away from religion and going back to tech when you have a new hire comes to the company and kind of explain to them the culture of the company. You know, I've held a few different jobs as a contractor before landing my full time job now. Uh, so I worked for law firms, I worked for banks, I worked for small startup companies. I've worked for software development companies, uh, and now in retail. And the one thing I always found interesting going from company to company assignment to assignment was the different cultures. you know, the law firm was very black and white, very yes-no, very binary. Um, but here at American Eagle, it's a little more lax, you know? Um, so when you get that person that comes from that atmosphere where the rock star ism, if that is, that's not a word, if not I'll coin it. It, um, you know that rock star ism is almost bred into the culture. You know, when you look at a law firm that's a very intense, very go at it. Get what you get when you can get it type world. Compared to the world I live in now where it's very more a collective good, you know, you think when you see our jeans, you don't think it takes that much to sell them. But let me tell you behind every pair of jeans are the few hundred people you know. And if you have someone that comes in with that rockstar mentality that I am it and without me, the company fails, you're only going to see yourself a failure. But if you split, pull them aside very tactfully, very nice. Hey, look, this is our culture here. If they get the message and they change their ways, awesome. But if they're a complete jerk and don't change their way, well then there's other ways to sort that out through HR or just Darwinism at its finest and let it work itself out.

Leon (39:19):

Anybody have any final thoughts? They want to leave with everyone who's listening.

Doug (39:22):

If you're at a place with no rock stars, look around. It might be you.

Everyone (39:27):

Ooh! Ouch!

Doug (39:27):

Hey listen, I have to admit the place where I was also "solution visionary." We were at a show and they, the team brought me a bottle of "Arrogant Bastard Ale." Cause sometimes being right comes across as being arrogant. So, you know, it's,

Ben (39:42):

and I think that's the key takeaway. Uh, knowing the difference between being arrogant and being right. You know, having that ability to say, "yes, I know what I'm talking about." But having the ability to listen to key points from other people. What are the things I enjoy about being a monitor engineer is we leverage a product called SolarWinds, the exact same SolarWinds that Leon, uh, works on. Um, but we have a community online and there we can share ideas back and forth. My idea may not be the one that always goes forward as the best idea, but at least my idea went forward and it's a collective learning experience. So when you have that type of atmosphere, you'd... we pull each other up, you know, and that weekly becomes stronger and you can move on to the next.

Speaker 7 (40:28):

Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, https://www.TechnicallyReligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

Doug (40:40):

Hey guys, this was fun. You want to hang out tomorrow?

Yechiel (40:43):

What, with you nerds? I'm way too cool for that!

S2E06: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Jez Marsh

S2E06: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Jez Marsh

February 11, 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 and fellow SolarWinds aficionado Jez Marsh. 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 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 Jez Marsh.

Jez: 01:44 Hello.

Leon: 01:45 Hi there. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Jez: 01:47 No problem.

Leon: 01:48 Before we dive into the actual conversation here on technically religious, we'd like to do a little bit of shameless self promotion. So Jez, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jez: 01:57 All right. Well I'm the founder and principal consultant for Silverback Systems, which is a UK based, um, enterprise monitoring, professional service, uh, consultancy service, but specializing in the SolarWinds mindset. Yeah. Well, you know, uh, and that's basically how we got here, but we'll talk about that later. Um, my website is a http://silverback.systems either with an S or not. It'll work. Oh, sorry. HTTPS or HTTP. Either one will work. Um, and I suppose if I had to say for this podcast perspective how people would describe me. Ah, well I would describe myself as an agnostic.

Leon: 02:35 Okay. And if people wanted to find you on social media, do you have a presence or have you completely issued that and just stayed away?

Jez: 02:42 No, I uh, I burnt my Facebook account over two years ago cause I could see where that was going. But you can get me on Twitter. I'm @JezMarsh on Twitter. Um, and I'm also on LinkedIn if, uh, if you've got a business persuasion.

Leon: 02:57 Got it. Okay. So I'll wrap it up just to make sure that we have like bookends, uh, with the social, with the shameless self promotion. 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 a monitoring vendor. And we'll probably end up talking about that a little bit on the podcast. You can find me on the Twitters, as the younguns like to say, @LeonAdato. I also blog at HTTP://www.AdatoSystems.com. And I identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you are scribbling all these things down, madly stop it. Just listen, relax and enjoy the ride because we're going to have show notes that'll have every link and everything that we talk about in there including a transcript. So you don't have to do that. So let's dive right in. I want to start with the technical. Um, and I want to start off with today. So what are you doing technically today? Describe the kind of work that you're doing and what a typical day looks like.

Jez: 03:54 Well, as mentioned in the introduction, um, my business specializes in providing professional services to customers, either new or old of, uh, the SolarWinds platform. Uh, I look, I do a bit of dabbling and others, but SolarWinds is pretty much where I live. If you cut me, I bleed orange. A typical day for me really would be, um, dialing into a customer environment. Most of my work is remote these days because the is there, why not? And dealing with whatever I've got on my plate or whatever. Uh, part of the particular scope of work I have to do on that day. Uh, it's pretty frenetic. Uh, I mean my, uh, contract is with a specific customer right now until, until the summer. Uh, but there's always people asking me questions and I do like to be helpful.

Leon: 04:46 Got it. And uh, for those people who aren't familiar with the SolarWinds ecosystem, Jez is very helpful over on THWACK.com. Yes, that's actually the name of the website. What can I tell ya? Naming things is hard. Okay? SolarWinds, THWACK, it's just, it can be very difficult. So over on THWACK.com, Jez is part of the crowd of MVPs: Most Valuable Persons, who, uh, answer questions when he's not, uh, working with clients. And I presume that you were born again, bleeding orange, that you, uh, came out of your mother's womb already knowing all things about SolarWinds, uh, back in... No, probably. That's probably how it work. So where did you start off in tech? How did you get into it?

Jez: 05:26 I guess there's a lot of, it started when I was very young, probably around about 10 or 11, my father brought me a, a Zenex Spectrum, 48K with the rubber keyboard back in the day. Um, and I saw, I learned very much at the beginning literally by going through the Input magazine. I don't know if you're familiar with that, but uh, it would over months and months and months it would give you all of the code to type in to get this program running. And back then there was no colorization there was underlining of the code to say if you've made a mistake. So yes, I did spend weeks typing things in and need to find, I had a typo somewhere and then having to try and find out where it is. It was a nightmare. But that's where it all started. So a hobbyist I suppose you could say.

Speaker 6: 06:12 Um, at 10 years old it's, there's no like, it's not like you're a professional at 10, so we were ALL hobbyists with everything at 10, but okay, fine. You were not thinking of doing this professionally when you first started. Okay.

Jez: 06:26 Like most people, I didn't really know what I was going to do. Um, funny story really. I went through school, got into secondary education, which is around about 16, 17 years old. Did well in the, what they call GCSEs over here, which is the, um, high school education, I guess, uh, in the States. Um, and then went to the next level, which is college, I guess for you guys. Um, and sat down on day one and the teacher said, "Okay, we're going to do, we're going to learn BASIC." And uh, and I put my hand up and I said, "We did that for GCSE. When are we going to learn something useful?" Right. I know that. Well, yeah, I know, I know. Right. And um, the teacher stood firm and said, "No, this is, this is the curriculum I decided to go with. So you either do this or you get out. "And they actually kicked me off the course. Right. So that, that was a huge, huge thing. But I was, even then, I was adamant that I wanted to learn. I didn't want to repeat what I needed to do. What I had done previously, I wanted to learn something new and keep going. And that's something that stayed with me. But anyway, coming back to where I started in IT...

Leon: 07:32 I just want to clarify, the thing that stayed with you was, um, was standing firm and being useful, not speaking up and getting kicked out of places.

Jez: 07:40 No, no, no. Yeah, I don't like getting kicked out of places. I, I tend to uh, stop there, you know? Okay.

Leon: 07:47 Just making sure, you know. I like to say the biggest barrier to my employment is my personality.

Jez: 07:53 But who could ever not employ you? Leon? Come on.

Leon: 07:58 A few. Demonstrably a few people, but this is about you, not about me. So moving on.

Jez: 08:05 Okay. So my first job was, um, working for a very small, um, it support type mom and pop store, but it was lifted just run by one guy. Um, so it was building PCs, um, changing toners, that sort of thing. Really basic stuff. So in the trenches, like most people start. Um, and then from there I went to other companies and did more advanced versions of the same thing. And then it went through a mat work for a managed service provider and so on and so on until, um, I made the decision back in 2015 to start my own business. Um, it was basically the, the, the managed service provider I was working with, they'd been bought out by another company. They had a slightly different direction for the operations side of it to, uh, how we were running things before we were bought out. And the effect of he made my role as the, uh, monitoring engineer redundant. Um, so they said you can go back and do third layer Microsoft support or, um, you can take the money in, roll the dice. And that's what I did. And it was a good decision cause you know, uh, this worked out for me and uh, uh, it was obviously the right decision, but it was brave man. I was, uh, I was really, really not sure what was going to happen.

Leon: 09:21 It, you know, I know that a lot of the folks who listen either are running their own business or are thinking of it and In IT I think that that's a pretty common thought is, you know, "Why am I working for this other person when I could go out and hang up my own shingle?" And yet the intestinal fortitude that it requires to actually take that leap is PRETTY challenging. So a full full props for, for doing that. And like you said, it's worked out for you so far.

Jez: 09:47 Yeah. So far touch wood.

Leon: 09:50 Exactly. So, uh, so that's how you got from there to here is really just that steady IT tech progression. I want to turn things around now and talk about religiously at the top of the show you mentioned that you were agnostic and I'm going to guess that you weren't born into an agnostic family, that you probably started someplace else. So, uh, first I want to hear what does your religious ethical point of view look like today?

Jez: 10:18 Well, I think it's more a case of believing in more than just the flesh and blood on the ground... procreating,. But having read and spent time with people of various religious beliefs, um, I can't hang my hat on any one. So I believe there's something and I respect everybody for their views, but I'm not ready to, uh, hang my colors on a particular one. Um, so definitely not an atheist. It's more a case of there's something, but I'll find out when I do, when I need to or if something makes itself known, shall we say.

Leon: 11:00 Okay. And is that a, is that the prevailing attitude in the household? I know that, um, you have kids and uh, so I wasn't, is that the whole household? Was that your personal philosophy?

Jez: 11:13 Personal philosophy? I would say. I would say the children, um, were, did spend some time with, uh, in a Baptist church because we have relatives that is, um, that, uh, I don't even know what's the right word. A, a lay preacher I suppose for, for the, for the church there. And um, yeah, we used to go there quite a bit. Sleep were very involving. They had a "messy church" thing where you could take the kids and they can have fun and you could also spend time talking to the people who actually go on a regular basis.

Leon: 11:40 A messy church. I like, I like that terminology. We have, we have a messy church and the families are like, "Okay, we can be here. Like you don't have to worry about knocking things over." That's wonderful. I that that's a terminology that needs to get picked up by a lot of other places. I think.

Jez: 11:56 Yeah. I mean, I think the idea behind it was that the children can go, um, and then they have, they have these, um, activities for them. So you paint something, uh, make a Christmas card or make whatever at that particular time. They have a number throughout the year. Um, and uh, my wife, again, Baptist orientated, uh, I know her grandmother on her father's side was, uh, very much, uh, a church goer on a regular basis. Um, but it didn't, didn't, uh, didn't stick with her. So I think the whole household, I believe, uh, are believers, but not specifically in any one thing. And I'm being very, um, open minded for my children's sake. They can do whatever they want. I'm not gonna make them follow me into one thing or the other, but that's not why I'm an agnostic. It's more a case of they make their own mind up is their own. It's their own journey.

Leon: 12:54 Okay. Oh, so going back to something I said earlier, you probably were not born into an agnostic house. So how, how were you raised, you know, what was the house when you were growing up?

Jez: 13:04 Okay. Um, my father's family are not religious really. They are, um, arms length Church of England, I would say. Uh, so, um, Protestants rather than Catholics and my mother, um, well, you know, may she rest in peace. Uh, she's no longer with us, but um, she had a difficult upbringing. She did spend some time living in a nunnery. Uh, but that was mainly because her parents walked out on her when she was very small. Um, so she was, she had a Bible, she had a, a prayer book. I've still actually got that somewhere that I made sure I had when she passed on because I can always remember her leafing through. It's got lots of paper, uh, newspaper clippings and stuff in it. And um, but you know, she always went to midnight mass and then the local in the local Protestant churches. And uh, I would sometimes go with her to support her, but my father never did. Um, so I suppose the growing up the family weren't really practicing any particular religion, but they were, I suppose if you had to say they were Christian.

Leon: 14:13 Okay. And then the question, similar to the technical conversation we had earlier, so how, how exactly was your progression or your journey from, you know, "there" in that, you know, generally Christian identifying family into where you are today. Were there any, were there any, you know, specific moments or milestones that you said, "Okay, this is, this is what I am now?"

Jez: 14:37 Well, I suppose I've always had a bit of a liberal bent, um, myself and some of the, some of the decisions of the Catholic church or sorry, the, the Protestant church where there, no, at the time anyway, when I was growing up, no, uh, no, no female priests and so on and so forth and their ideas of, you know, like, uh, 'LGBT is wrong' or that sort of stuff. So back then I thought, well, you know, at the end of the day, if there is one God and He supports everybody no matter what color you are, what creed, no matter what, then why are you kind of saying no to that? That doesn't make any sense. So I think it started there when I realized that there are some people who were effectively excluded. And from there I just thought, well, there's definitely something, but I'm not happy with that label. So I'm just gonna bump along on my own.

Leon: 15:25 Okay. Nope, fair enough. Okay, good. So, given that fairly, you know, I'm going to say wide open worldview of religion, um, and your long time career in tech. I'm curious if there were ever any points where the two came into conflict where you found that the technical work that you were doing and your particular ethical, moral point of view were somehow um, you know, creating a challenge for you?

Jez: 15:52 Uh, it's when I was working with the MSP, um, or managed service provider for those who aren't a technical bent listening to this, um, there were a number of customers that we were supporting who were uh, aggressive investment bankers, uh, to the point where they would - there's nothing wrong with that per se - but it was more a case of the way in which their businesses bought other businesses, pare them down to the nth degree and then sold them at a profit. And I didn't like supporting that sort of behavior cause there are people who are going to suffer. And I found out a few years down the line that does actually exactly what happens! But yeah, I mean, but ultimately my job is to put, to support the customer. Um, and whether I don't agree with it morally, um, I couldn't afford not to support them. So that was the, my job, you know, my team had that customer and we had to support them.

Leon: 16:45 So on the flip side of that, were there ever any moments where, you know, your, again, your moral, ethical point of view created a benefit or a positive that you weren't expecting but sort of, you know, came up and you realized with some surprise that "Hey, wow, this really worked out well"?

Jez: 17:00 Well, I suppose putting myself out before the children were born. Um, we had a number of people who on the 24 hour rotation that we had at the MSP weren't able to work for whatever reason. And you know, and I stepped up and covered the shifts for them. And it meant that those people could have their time with their family cause they needed it. Because there was one occasion where somebody whose parents weren't very well in other occasions where the children weren't well. And whilst, you know, I knew that effectively I was missing out time with my family. I wasn't married at the time. Uh, it was my, my, uh, my parents and my sister. Um, I felt it was important that I could give something to them and help them in a time of need. So ultimately it's more a case of being flexible and I suppose being agnostic means you can afford to be flexible because...

Leon: 17:47 Right. You don't have quite as much of a dog in the, when it comes to, uh, you know, specific holidays and things like that.

Jez: 17:54 Yeah. I mean, obviously now I have children, it's a little bit different. Um, but, uh, you know, I still have respect. Like for example, my, uh, my eldest daughter has a friend who is from an Indian family and they celebrate Diwali and all the rest of it, and they include a, include her in that and I'm completely happy with that. Whereas potentially I may not have been if I had actually hang my colors somewhere else.

Leon: 18:17 All right. So any final thoughts? Anything you want people to think about or, or ponder as we finish up this episode?

Jez: 18:24 I suppose in this time of potential problems in the Middle East, um, ultimately everybody deserves to have a life. Um, and don't look down on those simply because they don't have the same outlook or religion as yourself. Everybody needs to have food and water for their children.

Speaker 3: 18:44 Jez, thank you so much for taking a few moments out of your, uh, this is actually the end of your holiday, so thanks for carving out some time in and talking to us.

Jez: 18:53 Not a problem. Anytime. Leon, happy to be here.

Leon: 18:56 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, https://wwwtechnicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

 

S2E05: Home (in)Security, part 2

S2E05: Home (in)Security, part 2

February 4, 2020

Last year we started to dig into the idea of what it’s like to be an IT professional with a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, who is also a parent. In that episode we discussed some of the concerns we have with technology, and how we get around those concerns. But like most topics in tech, there is a lot more to say. So today we’re revisiting this topic to extend and deepen the information we shared. In this podcast, Leon Adato, Keith Townsend, Al Rasheed, and Destiny Bertucci about parenting with a bible in one hand and a packet sniffer in the other. Listen or read the transcript for part 2, below.

Leon: 00:06 Wlcome 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 Okay, so I'll, I'll run down, uh, my setup, I'm using what, what I officially call pro-sumer. It's not really consumer. It's, it's in between professional and consumer equipment. Qustodio uh, sorry, Ubiquity, uh, network year, which, um, the, the security gateway that they provide, which you don't have to buy if you don't want to, you can actually run it - okay. really geeky - on a container. You can run it in a container or you can run it on a raspberry pi. Uh, that's what I'm doing. Or you can run it in a virtual machine or you can buy the security key and put it on your network. And that gives you actually NetFlow data. So you can not only tell how much bandwidth you're using, but you can tell by, uh, by source and destination. And so you can tell which device was accessing which targets at any given moment and see a breakdown, and see a breakdown by categories. You can see how much social media traffic, how much video, you know, YouTube or Netflix or Hulu traffic, et cetera. So that lets me see that. Um, it has allows me to create multiple networks so I can segregate my IOT devices. Again, Destiny, going back to the whole Ring and Wise camera thing, I can put those on a completely separate network, which doesn't fix the problems we were talking about, about them being hacked. But it does allow me to lock down those devices a lot more than I would my cell phones or the tablets in the house. I can have separate, you know, lockdowns and controls. Um, and unless you create filters, uh, whether they are access control lists or other kinds of filtering that you can do. Uh, I also have Qustodio on every device in the house. So every Tuesday.
Destiny: 02:44 I used to use that.
Leon: 02:44 Well you're the one that told me about it. Uh, so that's the one I'm using. Yeah. Qustodio on every cell phone, every tablet, every laptop. It even runs on Linux. Yay Linux! So I run that on everything. And that allows you to have per-user controls. It also lets you have really granular settings. Like I can say that my son is able to watch YouTube videos from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. And that's it. But he can watch, you know, Netflix or Hulu at different times. And the overall device usage is up to four hours a day and after four hours it shuts down. And you know, on Saturdays there's absolutely no usage until after sundown because obviously he shouldn't be using it. But Keith, to your point, temptation is temptation. You never know. So it lets you have really granular controls about the who, the what and the where that devices and that follows my kids everywhere they go that use the device. So it doesn't matter if they're inside my house or outside my house. Qustodio goes with them. And it does give you some other really nice benefits, like Destiny you told me about, uh, your daughter was in, uh, an accident and you knew immediately she couldn't tell you where she was, but her phone was able to tell you where it was and you were able to get there really quickly because you know, your daughter who was already sort of in crisis and not able to process the information, wasn't able to give over that information. So it has a lot of,
Destiny: 04:16 Yeah, I got an alert immediately that something had happened and I had a kid see her GPS location, knew everything that was going on and I was already on my way to get her before she even found her phone.
Leon: 04:27 So yeah, it's really, really good stuff. So Qustodio goes on every device. Ubiquity is the network gear. I have a little app called pi-hole, which will, uh, run on a Linux machine or you can run it again on a raspberry pi. It was meant for raspberry pi, hence the name pie hole. And what that does, it's, it's security, but it's also almost an internet speed up. It filters out, uh, spam ads that come into your house. They just never come into your house. The pie hole captures them. So you'll see a page and there's gonna be three ads you can see. And two, you can't because the two, you can't were span ads. So that speeds up the webpage. But it also means that there's a whole bunch of garbage that me and my kids are not even seeing. And that's on a element by element basis on every website.
Destiny: 05:16 Which also protects you from the cyber attack. So...
Leon: 05:19 okay, there you go. And, and finally, uh, OpenDNS or a Cisco Umbrella, depending what you would call it. And the benefit of Cisco umbrella. It's not just that it's a DNS protector, it's crowdsourced everybody who's using it. Every corporation, when, when the Umbrella system sees a bunch of attacks coming in from a particular IP address, Umbrella blacklists, it automatically, and nobody who is using Umbrella can get to that site. So if an enterprise is suddenly seeing a new cyber attack, you're not going to even get it because that IP address, that destination is automatically puts, you know, black holed, so you're never going to get there. So...
Destiny: 06:01 And the cool thing about that, if you remember right when I was talking about this in Australia was the main thing that I loved about Cisco Umbrella is like SD-Wan, especially like the way that they're running their network and the way that they're testing and getting things done. Like you were saying on the blacklist and everything, you are getting that enterprise level new technology and new hacks that are coming to SD-Wan that you are getting prevented from as well.
Leon: 06:25 And I will say that for the basic level it's free.
Destiny: 06:28 Yup. And then you can get, you know, a little crazy with it, with your little cloud access, security blockers and everything.
Leon: 06:33 I will say for those people who are interested in it, um, and again, you know, thinking about the Orthodox Jewish community which tends to go with whitelist only. So I can't get to any site that I haven't purposely white listed that, um, you're only, you can only have a certain number of white list items before you have to pay for it. But anyway, that's my setup. Um, what does everyone else have?
Al: 06:52 I actually have something similar to what you just described. I'm just getting into Ubiquity, so I'm curious to learn more about it. Everybody speaks very highly of their products and their services, but I want to filter the content that's coming in or trying to go out. I want to be able to see what, uh, is being viewed online. And this way this can provide me with something to go back to whoever the guilty party is and say, look, this is why I'm here. This is why we implement this and this is why we're going to prevent it moving forward.
Destiny: 07:23 So some of the things that I've also implemented, because obviously you know the Qustodio and everything in which that that I've set up before, but I've helped a lot of people use the Mobisip as well. But it also depends on what devices you like. Right? Like like if you have Kindles versus you know, iOS updates or if you have Android versus... There's different things that you can grab. But mobi, sip is one of the ones that I like for like a Windows / Apple kind of a household that you have. And I like setting that up, especially for teenagers because they can request like when they're like trying to do homework, like for health and it has to do with sex or something like that, it'll automatically go to my phone and I can look at the link, bring it up, see if I approve it and approve it from my phone. And it automatically allows them to start engaging with that content. So it's not like, you know something that's not very like quick, if that makes sense. Cause if they're in school using their laptop, cause here they get to use their own laptop or iPads or Kindles or things like that at school then it's something that I can easily like switch on and off. So much so to where even the school now is trying to implement that on their tablets because they were like "how did you do that?" But um, same thing is another product is Net Nanny. I don't know if you guys have heard of that, but net nanny as well. Those are some of the things that I've helped a lot of families set up on with those. A NetGear, they also have NetGear Armor. So here around in New Mexico, a lot of the free wear of which they give people. So a lot of the times, you know a lot of the people that are going to be on the internet will have NetGear. Right? It's usually a Nighthawk in this area and like you can get extenders and things of that nature. But it comes with something called NetArmor that can help you visually like be able to, to track and to do things and to block things at the actual router itself. Something that I do like about that product in the way that they have it set up though is that it's very user driven, if that makes sense. So like if you are new to it, as we were talking about earlier, protect your networks. It'll say "guest network: enable or not?", You just click the box and it'll disable it, right? So disabled that guest network if you're not using it and it'll ha so you can set up reminders, you can do dynamic QoS, like you can block people, you can do scheduling when you can shut down your network, shut it down per device, you know, things like that. But it's very user, um, uh, has a lot of user accessibility to it that I like because it's one of those things where if you're new to it and you're going to be given a router and you're going to be giving everything out of the box and "Here, welcome to the internet." Right? It's very step-by-step on how do I protect myself. And that's something that they've actually started doing in the past six months when they engage that NetArmor. So I think that NetGear is coming around and understanding that Hey there's people out there that don't know what they're doing per se to secure themselves in their home network. So let's see if we could make it wizard driven. Right? Cause anytime it's wizard driven it's fun. So those are some of the things and it comes with the device, right? So I think that it's one of those things that if you are listening and you have NetGear or if you have something that your provider, your ISP has given you to connect to the internet, make the phone call the tech support. Right? Like ask them "What's my username and password ?"if you don't already know it. Cause I know several people who have no idea and ask them, what did you set this up for? How do I log in? Okay cool. Let me turn off my guest network. Let me change my password, let me see what I have going on here. And they will walk you through those, but you can also Google it and figure it out just as much. But you, you have to be the proactive one to protect your fort, right? Like you have to want to protect yourself, which means you're going to have to understand and use the GUI, use the actual website, like dial into it, see what it's doing, look at those logs, set up your alerts, update it, right? Like set it to automatic updates so you get those security updates. So just so that you're implementing that basic cyber hygiene.
Leon: 11:28 Right. And there's a few other points of, of that basic cyber hygiene I think that are worth talking about. Um, Al, you hinted at it earlier, but I want to hit it again. Uh, password managers: Period. End of sentence. Whether regardless of what device, regardless of what environment we're talking about, use a password manager for two reasons. First of all, that way you don't have to have everything set to the same password because your password manager will remember it. And two, closely to related. It will generate strong, secure passwords that you don't have to remember. And it will automatically input those passwords into all of your apps. And that is the number one attack vector for people who are trying to get your information is they'll just, you know... When you see in the news, Oh, there was a Amazon S3 bucket that had 2 million usernames and password hashes that were in there. What that means is they now have a library of 2 million people and their password that they say, "Oh, this person uses this password. They probably use it in a few places. Let me try it against this site, this site, this site." And suddenly they have their bank or they have your Facebook or they have your Instagram. And from there they can get into your this and your that and your other thing. And that's how people build an a, you know, an attack against a particular individual. And by the way, these things can all be automated. I think sometimes we think of hackers as "Well, who's really gonna worry about little old me." Nobody's going to worry about little old you. There's a bot for that. There's a, there's a machine that is automatically walking through those 2 million accounts and just running a whole set of predefined processes. And when it finally gets a hit and goes through every other possibility, it sends a report back to somebody and then they start digging.
Al: 13:12 Right. And if I could add to it, a lot of people underestimate two factor authentication. It literally takes two minutes to set up and it saves you hours upon hours moving forward.
Leon: 13:24 Yes. Everything. They can have two factor authentication, turn it on.
Destiny: 13:29 And here's the thing, you have more information and this is statistically shown on your phone than you do in your home. Think about that. Used to, we used to keep files or mortgages or information or bank accounts or statements and everything in our house. You're all accessible from your phone and an application or a website. So if you have stored passwords, things like that and you're not changing them, you're kind of at a disadvantage anyway. And some of the things that me and you have talked about, Leon, especially, ESPECIALLY at conferences, is securing your line, encrypt your phone. I was like, we literally... me in Leon. We're in a conversation one day when the lady was like, "Oh, I don't care if they get my phone, who cares?" I was like, "Oh, I don't know. But if you pay attention over there, they're like literally going through everybody's photos and putting them on display because they can. And they're displaying your bank account that's overdrawn. So I don't know what to tell you right now. Feel like you should probably secure that." And it's those little things like, I mean, I use Avast Secure Line. I mean, it's like cheap for a year to use it. I can constantly connect it and it's encrypted the whole time. It constantly keeps me protected. My kids are that way as well because they're going to school and I'm sorry, but their school does not even have an IT person and like they're in an open network. I'm like, "no." This just isn't gonna work for me. So I, but it's one of those things where it's like you teach them to protect themselves and now they do it on their own. Like my kids will tell you if they see something that doesn't make sense, right? Cause you see something, you say something. And like if they get sent something from their teachers or like, cause now they're using third party applications are using Google drives, they're using all this stuff and people are sharing passwords and my daughter's like "you really shouldn't do that." Well then they found out that one of their friends got all their homework deleted, right? Like it's like they're seeing it in their daily transactions of school to where they are more ahead of changing passwords, not giving your information. Make sure you have more than a four digit code on your phone because they're have friends who break into them like they are figuring out the cyber waters way faster than most parents are right now. And that's, that's okay. But if you have that open forum or if you're having those conversations, you can actually help each other.
Roddie: 15:47 Thank you for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website at http://technicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes. Leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

S02E04: Home (in)Security

S02E04: Home (in)Security

January 28, 2020

Last year we started to dig into the idea of what it’s like to be an IT professional with a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, who is also a parent. In that episode we discussed some of the concerns we have with technology, and how we get around those concerns. But like most topics in tech, there is a lot more to say. So today we’re revisiting this topic to extend and deepen the information we shared. In this podcast, Leon Adato, Keith Townsend, Al Rasheed, and Destiny Bertucci about parenting with a bible in one hand and a packet sniffer in the other. 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 Last year we started to dig into the idea of what it's like to be an it professional with a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, who's also a parent. And that episode we discussed some of the concerns that we have with technology and how we get around them. But like most topics in tech, there's a lot more to say. So today we're revisiting this topic to extend and deepen the information that we shared. I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are some of my best friends and cherished colleagues, including Destiny Bertucci.

Destiny: 01:22 Hello.

Leon: 01:24 Keith Townsend.

Keith: 01:26 Hey!

Leon: 01:26 And Al Rasheed.

Al: 01:27 Hello.

Leon: 01:29 Before we dive into this, very important and also a big topic. I want to give everyone a chance for some shameless self promotion. So Destiny, why don't you kick off and tell us a little bit about yourself and where people can find you and how you identify religiously.

Destiny: 01:44 I'm Destiny Bertucci. I'm one of the product managers for SolarWinds and you can find me on Twitter @Dez_Sayz with a Z, and I'm an evangelistic Christian.

Leon: 01:54 Keith, how about you?

Keith: 01:55 Hey, I'm Keith Townsend. I'm the cofounder of the CTO Advisor. You can find me on the Twitters @CTOAdvisor, and I am a nondenominational Christian.

Leon: 02:09 Al.

Al: 02:09 Hello. I am Al Rasheed. I am a federal contractor in the DC area. You could find me on Twitter @Al_rasheed. Also my blog is https://alarasheedblog.wordpress.com/. And I am a practicing Muslim.

Leon: 02:22 Great. And just rounding things out. I'm Leon Adato, I'm one of the head geeks at SolarWinds. Yes. That's actually my job title. Head Geek and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's actually a monitoring software vendor because naming things apparently is hard. You can find me on the Twitters, which we all say because it annoys Keith's daughter to no end. @LeonAdato. I pontificate about things technical and religious at http://www.adatosystems.com, and I identify as Orthodox Jewish. So we have a range of both religious and technical opinions on the episode today. And before we dive into the "how", because I know a lot of people listening are really hoping for the, you know, "how do I build my home network and how do I secure it? What software should I buy?" And we're going to get there. But first I think it's important, like any good IT project to define the scope, what is in and out of scope. So what are some things that we're not going to be talking about on the episode here?

Keith: 03:21 So if you are, uh, you've gone to the airport, you've seen these, uh, amazing billboard ads for firewalls, we're not going to tell you how to configure a set of golden firewall rules for protecting your, your, the egress VPNs. And all of that...

Leon: 03:40 Right? We're not going to tell you how to do your Palo Alto firewall, you know, uh, profiles and things like that.

Keith: 03:47 I know a couple of the hardcore fans out there have a enterprise class firewall but that's not gonna...

Leon: 03:52 At home?

Destiny: 03:53 I may have a couple. Just a few.

Leon: 03:56 Okay. But it's beyond scope again, beyond scope. If you have a Nexus in your basement, we're not going to talk about that. Uh, anything else that is that we're not discussing here?

Keith: 04:07 So I think the other thing is if you have an active teenager who was, you know, going out and uh, you know, kind of, uh, defeating your, your, your, your protections, we'll talk about kind of repercussions to that, but not necessarily how to outpace your, uh, your, your geeky teen.

Leon: 04:26 Yeah. If you are in a arms race, uh, and they're constantly finding ways to get around your firewall or get around the protections you've put in place, then that's sort of out of scope. And as I am fond of saying, there is no force on earth that is going to stop a horny teenage boy from searching for boobies on the internet. It's just, it's a losing proposition. What we're really gonna deal with are more the oopsies and also some other protective measures that you may not even be considering, but, but yeah, horny teens, we're not gonna stop them. That's out of scope.

Keith: 05:00 Where was the internet when I was a teenager?

Destiny: 05:01 Right? Yeah. I feel, I feel like the honeypots are still fun though for those. I always always like to tell them there's a great collection of old Playboy in the back. So as long as they can... as long as they can break in.

Leon: 05:16 Yeah. Yeah. There you go. Um, but what we are going to talk about are things like, let's see, um, we're going to talk about filters, right? How to set up a filter on your house, uh, on your home internet. Right? What are some other things that we're going to talk about?

Al: 05:27 Passwords, um, securing your passwords you discussed, um, you know, resetting them every so often. Um, not having an open network. I believe you all seen that discussed as well.

Destiny: 05:40 Basically like cyber hygiene, right? Like, you know, let's, let's get rid of them guest networks. Let's go ahead and like kind of do our due diligence on protecting ourselves and realizing that the brick and the mortar house does not protect our internet, right? We gotta, we gotta get to take it to the ones and zeros and be able to put up those little blocks and we know that that can sometimes be a little intimidating, but we're going to try to make that a little bit easier. Plus we'll discuss some of the software, right? That is available as applications for your phones as well as your kids' laptops and things like that so that you can actually filter that out and see what they're doing,

Leon: 06:13 Right. Um, aluminum siding is not, in fact a faraday cage. It's not going to keep the signal from leaving.

Destiny: 06:18 I'm going to remove my foil hat right now.

Keith: 06:22 I did just spend $1,000 on a fancy security door, so that, that HAS to help.

Leon: 06:27 I don't know that that security door is doing. Uh, the security that you're implying here, but, okay, fair enough. All right. So, uh, so again, now that we've talked about what's in and out of scope, what, what are the problems that we're trying to solve? Um, so I'm going to start off and say that we're not talking about internet jail. Um, we're really talking about creating a, a healthy family environment and a healthy technical environment, uh, in your house as it relates to technology, the internet, cell phones and things like that. But that's what we're doing is, and we are going to talk about gear. I don't want to give you the impression, we're not going to talk about geek toys. We are gonna talk about hardware. Absolutely. But we're doing it with the intention of creating a positive environment where the internet can be seen as a useful and safe, uh, tool within the family structure. Whatever your, your moral, ethical or religious outlook is. Um, what are some other problems that we're going to address here?

Destiny: 07:34 Think were going to be talking about like, you know, the effects of technology in today's world. A lot of the times the parents are trying to play catch up to what the kids are understanding and knowing and their social aspects and a lot of times parents don't understand why social media is such an integral part right of their life. And so we're going to try to see if we can bridge that gap while making them safe as you are talking about. So that's like self body image, right? That's like just basic things that we should do as cyber hygiene of our social media accounts. Let's not give out things that are so private that people could use against us. Let's not use things like that that are out there. So we just need to kind of like get those out there and put those into the mindset of parents and other people who may not have the knowledge so that they can actually relate that and understand with their kids a little bit better.

Keith: 08:22 Yeah, and, uh, to piggyback on that. A lot of times we're focused on, especially as as religious people, we're focused on kind of the, the, the sexual parts of internet and making sure that we're protecting our kids from porn. You know, my 11 year old granddaughter came in, uh, this morning around this recording the, there's an awful lot going on in the middle East and my 11 year old granddaughter's teachers told her something very inaccurate around politically what can happen here in the U S if we're at war. And I'm like, "That's not true at all!" So while, you know, 11 year olds are at that point where they're very impressionable. They find people that they admire, such as teachers or people on YouTube that they, that looks fancy and well put together. And the next thing you know, they're coming in and arguing. "I know I've been to Australia, but the earth is flat for sure. Grandpa."

Al: 09:24 I was just going to add, we're going to remind them that common sense most times I'm not prevails. And I think, and I know Keith has mentioned this as, as everybody else, what they see online is not always good. It's not positive, it's not the path that they should follow. And um, you know, when we reflect back on our times when we didn't have all these, all this technology, we didn't have the internet at our hands at all times. We, we just used, again, I can't say it enough common sense because we always knew what decision we made was going to have an action right behind it.

Leon: 09:54 Great. And I also think that Destiny to your point, um, when we talk about the, the safety of the internet, you know, cyber hygiene, um, recently there were some really high profile moments that uh, parents who are geeks may be more familiar with, but if you're not in, you know, it feel, don't feel like you're part of the geeky spectrum. The Ring doorbells recently was a big deal where there was a $6 app that you could download from uh, the internet, a couple of different places and install and it would just tell you all of the open, unprotected. "Nobody changed their password" Ring doorbells and in the home devices and you could just hack right into them. And a wife came home, she heard a man's voice inside the house and thought that the house had been broken into. And after doing some, some investigation realized there was nobody in the house, but somebody was on there, uh, in indoor Ring speaker and it was making fun of the dog, which they could see. So there was a camera and a speaker that was talking to their own dog and the husband who happened to be two states away was having, was justifiably worried because he had no idea where that person was. They might be in the next driveway over on the actual home wifi, but they might not have been. And I think that there's, there's a lot of cases like that. Um, Destiny, you had a couple of stories recently in your neck of the woods.

Destiny: 11:22 Yeah. So especially around the holiday times, birthdays, things of that nature. A lot of people get, you know, new technology that they're just not used to. And they assume that when they apply it into their application because their phone has a password - and I've heard this from several people - that they assume that that transfers over, right? Like, "okay, well I opened it up with my face ID. So obviously somebody has to have my face to be able to get into my Ring" or "they have to have my face to get into my Wise." And that's not true because they did not change the password when they were logging this in and getting things done. It's still an open password, right? Like it's one that you can Google today. It's just like if you have a Netgear or LinkSys anything of which that you want to do, you can Google what the standards are. You know, your, your standard capital P password one, you know, things like that. And that's fine and dandy and I get it that people don't quite translate that technology. But here's where it gets you in a bind. They start putting their cameras up in their playrooms. They start putting their cameras up, kind of like a monitoring system. Right? And we all know that monitoring systems for babies and things like that used to be hackable by a telephone, right? There's things like, just think about it. I always tell everybody if it has an operating system, it's hackable. I don't care what it is. All you need is time and motivation. So what people do with these is they can actually use your Ring door camera and they can see when you left, they can see if you're home and then you start adding them inside of your house and you don't change the password. Well now they can see where you're at located in the house, what your routine is in the house. They can see and gather, what's your daughter's name, what's her pet name, what's your pet's name, right? Like what are all these little things of which that you're doing that you generally use to protect your data online. So it's one of those things where when they start to actually talk to you through the device, right, they're done. And I'm just throwing that out there. If they are talking to you through the device, they're done with you. They've already gathered what they need, they've already done what they needed to do, right? So how long have they had it open? How long have they monitored you? How long have they, if they were a pedophile, watched your kids in their bedrooms undress and dress, and I know that sounds mean, but we deal with it every day. There's people who are still putting cameras and doing things in their children's bedrooms that are on a live feed, that it can be accessible all over the world that is being hacked. You have to start thinking that you have to protect yourselves. I know you're trying to protect yourself as a parent to say, "Hey, I'm monitoring the situation. Right?" Well you're not. If you're not doing your due diligence to protect your network indoors, and that's something that I think that people have to focus on. You should never ever leave the out of the box password. You should create a reminder in your phone. We all have, I'm the one that they do the face ID to connect to it to change your passwords. You should be able to actually look into your network and have just basic concepts of: is there external transactions that are coming through? How do you read the log file? It's all in your user manual. Like there's things that are in there that you can do due diligence. And it's almost a disservice by saying, "well I just didn't know", right? Because the law tells you all the time. The ignorance to the law is no reason that you wouldn't be punishable. Right? So if you're putting things of technology within your home, in your safe dwelling, you should protect it like it's your family. So you should look into that device. You should Google the reviews, you should make sure that there's security measures in place that's going to help protect you cause you want to be able to protect yourself and your family. That's why you probably have it. And that's probably why you were putting it in those rooms, is for a protection base. And you just didn't understand that there's a whole global world out there that can use that against you. So you have to stand up to it.

Leon: 15:09 And for those people who are thinking, "Oh, but it's gotta be really, really hard to get into." I just want to offer one website, http://shodan.io. And by the way, all the websites and all... everything that we talk about in this episode is going to be in our show notes. So don't feel like you have to scribble things down or worry about spelling. It's all gonna be there. You can pull it from http://www.technicallyreligious.com but Shodan.io is a clearing house for IOT, internet of things, devices. You can search by manufacturer, by brand, by country, by company name, by any, anything that's associated with the devices. And there are prebuilt searches. So you can look for webcams that still have the password admin admin. So there's just a list built in there on shodan.io to find those things. Now on the one hand you can look for yourself and you can make sure that you are not on it. But on the other hand, that's how easy it is to find these things. If, uh, you know, somebody wants to, you know, go looking for trouble. So there's that. All right, so having talked about what we think is a problem... Some of the things we think are problems. I do want to take a minute and talk about why we see it as a problem to be solved and, and we've started to really get to this, but there's a lot of people who look at some of this stuff "Well, I don't, I don't want to put a filter on my kid's phone or their internet or whatever because this stuff is in the world and if I shelter them, they'll never know how to deal with it." And things like that. That's the sort of the argument about it. And I'm going to kick off this section by saying that my community, my Orthodox Jewish community has incredibly (compared to many other communities), strict standards about outside influences. For example, in my city for a very long time, if there was a TV in the house, the kids couldn't attend certain schools. They, the schools felt that the television was such a negative influence that they didn't want those kids coming to the Jewish day school in question. So that's, that's the level. And the internet is really an extension of that set of values. The Orthodox community here in Cleveland understands that parents need to work. The internet is part of that. It needs to be there. But to leave it unfiltered and unmonitored is like leaving a fire burning in the middle of your living room. Yeah, it is going to keep your warm and yeah, you can cook your food, but it is also going to burn your house down. So, you know, not, not the way that we want that to happen. That's uh, you know, that's the attitude. That's one of the reasons why some people see this as a problem to be solved: it just doesn't fit into their, uh, ethical, moral or religious values. The other piece I'll bring in is actually a piece of Talmud, which, uh, discusses that there are three things that a parent is responsible, obligated, commanded to teach their children. And the first one is Torah. Meaning they have to teach their children how to pray and how to understand what their religion means, how to think critically about their religion and understand it in their application of life. That's an interesting perspective. The second thing is they have to teach them a skill, a trade, something that they can, uh, be worthwhile. And the third one is how to swim. And that's the one that stands out for a lot of people. It's like, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. The first two makes sense. That's like life skills. What about swimming?" Well, back in the old times, back in the old days, medieval times or before that, water was really dangerous. People didn't know how to swim, there was no such thing as a public pool. And if there was a flood or a river overflowed its banks or whatever you're talking about, dying simply from not being able to tread water. So a parent was responsible for teaching a child basic survival in the, in the wilderness. It is understood in many, uh, synagogues, many Jewish communities that the internet is equivalent to the way water was treated. "Yet we have to have water, we have irrigation, we have to live near waterways because it's travel, all that stuff. But it'll kill you. You know, if you're not careful, one false move, you slip in and you're going to drown in it." And I think that the internet has those, some of those same properties. So those are some reasons why building a safe, secure, um, and mindful internet space in your home is important and necessary. So that's, that's my side of it. Well, what are your folks thing

Keith: 19:37 in the Townsend household? We have this philosophy. We let our children go over other people's homes. Uh, we commune with, you know, we're, we're part of the community. However, this is a fortress, not when it comes necessarily somebody breaking my door down. But this is a place of refuge. This is not quote unquote the world. You can come here and let your hair down. That's what happened to mine.

Leon: 20:09 You let it all the way down!

Keith: 20:11 I let it down a little bit too much. You can come here and let your hair down and you can as a place of safety. So, you know, uh, when, when for the longest time, my sons, when they were kids, we'd be that home that the neighborhood kids come and play basketball. Some kid would curse and I say, "You know what, that's it. Everyone has to go." And they'd be very disappointed. But it taught them that this, the, when you come to the Townsend's home, there was an expectation. So extending that no matter what your faith is, whether you're, you're to, you're to the point that you made, that you're of a faith that this is a river or to someone's extreme point that, you know what, this is the world. I just don't let the world in my home. Period and, and there and the internet is part of that. It's part and parcel. So, uh, it may not be to the same level of your, your strictness, Leon, but there it is stricter than most and it, it's, I'm going to protect my family, uh, regardless of what medium that is.

Destiny: 21:15 I have to second that because that's kind of the same thing with us is a lot of the kids come to our house and like, just like they'll show up at on Friday and they leave on Sunday. Right? And it's one of those just normal things. But one thing that they all know is that they bring Sunday clothes because they know they're going to church on Sunday. They know that they're eating dinner every night together. It's not just on a Sunday thing and to where now they like start to do things to where like Leon, you know, like we do like little contests and stuff on like 'who makes the best cookie arrangement for the holiday' or whatever. You know, we put it out there and the reason why we cook and we bake and we do stuff like that is because my Christian values and the things that I come from is, you know, we are supposed to be able to feed into nurture, into, you know, to bring people up within the world, right? Like it's all about love and I feel like if I can have these kids here and where they're learning how to make, even if it's a chocolate chip cookie, right? Like they're learning a skill and they're surrounded by love and they love it. Like they have so much fun. But it's one of those things where it's like they're protected. Like kind of like what Keith was talking about, you know, like there's a zone, like our house has like a dome or something on it where we've had kids show up at two o'clock in the morning because bad things were happening. Right. And they didn't know where else to go. A: it should've been the cops, not gonna lie, but we took them to the cops. But it was one of those things of we were still a safe haven. They got in a bad situation and they didn't know what to do. And they knew that we would probably guide them in the right location. And we did. And it's one of those things where it's like, no matter where we've lived, we've tried to make sure it's an open door. It's "Please come in." We don't force anything upon anybody by any means. But they know and they have a sense when they leave that there's love that's in that household. And I think that that's, that's all I ever wanted, to be honest. Like, you know, I just want the kids to feel safe and I want people to feel they're loved, but they also know like kind of what Keith was saying, it is a protected zone and you know my husband very well, like he's "the protector." So it's one of those things where we take it very wholeheartedly.

Leon: 23:35 Yeah. I mean the idea of a safe space, you know, making our home a safe space from an emotional standpoint, making it a safe space from a physical standpoint and extending that, making it a safe space, from an internet or Keith, I like it, you know "the world", you know the world, the internet trolls are not going to intrude in this space. They exist. They're out there but they're not coming here.

Al: 23:56 Yeah. If I could add to it also when we have kids come over, we try to, you know, or when we're together as a family more so recently, try to have some bonding without the electronics. Board games or you know, "how, what, what was your day like?" "Is there something you want to talk about?" Or "what do you have on the horizon? What are your plans?" So on and so forth. And um, you know, there's a, we want to get off of this reliance of technology to function. We all got, we all got by fine without it years ago. It should be the same moving forward. Uh, but there's no way really around it. But we've tried to limit it as much as possible.

Destiny: 24:35 We have "the basket policy." I love the basket policy. We have a friend basket for the friends come over and each, cause we have four daughters. Sorry guys. I know it's crazy. But we have, we have four baskets for the girls and the parents have their baskets too. And trust me, they will call you out on that if your phone is not in the basket when it's supposed to be because they're like, "Excuse me, where's your phone?" And it's like "I'm working." And they're like, "Nope, it's dinner." And that's like you said Al, that's 100%. Like you have to have those boundaries of a technology gap. And if you look at Steve Jobs and even Bill Gates, they monitored and completely limited their children and their family because they knew and understood what they were creating and doing. And I think that's something that people may not realize. That a lot of the, the applications that we have on our phones, a lot of the software, a lot of the gaming things that we do is created by neurologists as well as gaming commissions with the machines, right? So they know what's going to make you want to come back for more. They also know if you're young and you're playing a young game, that they can show you an intermediate ad while you're playing it to prepare you for your next level. So as me and Leon has talked about this, the parent is behind the ball because you literally have a force of scientists that are backing your kids to keep them in technology. And you're one person, right? They have teams and teams and billions of dollars invested on hooking your child from a young age.

Al: 26:12 Right? And it's very hard to manage all the security or try to enforce everything at all times because they can literally just go right across the street to their friend's house, piggyback on their wifi and you've lost all control.

Leon: 26:25 Well, and we're going to talk about ways to avoid that because that is, um, that is definitely a concern. Is that you can lock down your fortress and as soon as somebody leaves through the, you know, through the, um, portcullis across the moat, you know, they're going to get attacked by the ravaging hoard. Just to, just to beat the metaphor, the ground here. But there's some ways to, to still protect our families, not just kids. I mean, I think in some cases for some families, the people you're trying to protect the most are your parents. You know, or you know, or your spouse. You know, again, we're talking to the whole episode is talking about being a, you know, somebody who's religious and a parent and a geek. But we may not be married to geeks. We may be the one who has to, uh, help our, our non-geek spouses to avoid those same risks. So we'll talk about that also. Uh, good stuff. Okay. So having, having talked about why these are problems and those are some compelling reasons - but I don't think that that's, you know, surprising - what are some, we're going to talk about some technical approaches and then we'll talk about some non technical approaches for how to, uh, how, how to really build a secure, safe, comfortable environment without, again, Keith, to your point, without having to buy Palo Alto firewalls and you know, stuff like that. Like how, what, what's a, uh, reasonable home environment or home setup.

Keith: 27:50 So I'll start with my, my configuration. So I'm in a pretty interesting situation versus I think everyone else on the line, I have a 11 year old granddaughter. We're empty nesters, so my granddaughter's coming over. So we have to co-parent. And my daughter and, and, and my wife's perspective on some of these topics are wildly different. However, the Townsend family, uh, traditions are in place when family and friends come to our house. That's just the way it is. So we use, uh, for my own protection because I'm an adult and I still have eyes and I still want to protect my own purity. That's just my approach to making sure that, uh, when I run into women on and the community that I have the proper perspective of those women. I'm not, my eyes are not seeing things that, that uh, that will harm my reputation of being "Keith" in the community. So I use Eero plus and the natural filters on that. And then I think everyone uses, what's the DNS service that you can just set your DNS to? Uh,

Leon: 29:07 OpenDNS?

Keith: 29:07 Yes! OpenDNS...

Leon: 29:09 Which is now Cisco... Part of Cisco umbrella.

Destiny: 29:13 of course it is.

Leon: 29:18 Well, okay, I'm going to talk a little bit more about, about Cisco umbrella in a minute cause I'm really impressed with, uh, what they're, what they're doing with that. But okay. So you've got Eero and you've got OpenDNS or Cisco Umbrella

Keith: 29:28 And then I can use, you're there. I can set, um, uh, I can turn the knob as to what I want to be able to search myself and what family and friends when they over because I've had the challenge, believe it or not, where I've had friends come over and abuse. Uh, the internet here when it was open. This was some years ago and I had to have, have a difficult conversation with a, uh, with a good friend. The other thing that we do is... Mobile is put a big challenge, especially in the days of unlimited data that, uh, you know, simple controls that Apple allows on, I think for me, the iOS is probably the better platform for parental controls. You can just go in and, uh, as you can even set if you want Safari, uh, turned on or not. So, you know, the scariest thing about iOS and mobile devices is a mobile web browser because you're, now you're outside of the boundaries of open DNS, et cetera, et cetera. You'd have to go in and manually set, uh, DNS if you want it to do that. That's, that's a easy fix for some people. If you're not battling, you know, a teen that wants to, you know, bypass open DNS, you can set your DNS server, uh, even on your mobile device to the open DNS servers. And then we control the knob as far as applications. Obviously my 11 year old doesn't have a job to be able to, uh, buy applications on her, on her own. So we, uh, approve every application that's installed, uh, monitor her overall usage, et cetera.

Leon: 31:14 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.

Destiny: 31:23 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, http://technicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

 

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 https://www.adatosystems.com. 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 microsoft.net 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, http://www.technicallyreligious.com 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, https://www.technicallyreligious.com, 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 http://waverfid.net.

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 https://www.adatosystems.com 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, https://www.technicallyreligious.com 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 https://www.Adatosystems.com. 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,technicallyreligious.com.
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 http://trica.st. 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 http://technicallyreligious.com 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 http://technicallyreligious.com 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, "...so 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 "...by 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, http://technicallyreligious.com, 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 ...you 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 Religious.com, 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?