Technically Religious
S1E12: Fixing the World, One Error Message at a Time

S1E12: Fixing the World, One Error Message at a Time

May 21, 2019

Acts of hatred in our most sacred spaces. Curable diseases going untreated. War tearing countries and families apart. Global climate change threatening our very species. It’s enough to make anyone feel that this world is broken beyond repair. As people with a strong religious, moral, or ethical point of view, we are sensitized to inequality and injustice, but these problems leave many of us feeling both frustrated and hopeless. However, our work as IT professionals has conditioned us to look at problems, breakdowns, and error messages in a very particular way. In this episode of our podcast, Leon, Josh, and special guest Yechiel Kalmenson will look at ways in which our IT mindset helps us approach secular, existential, and religious challenges in ways that non-IT folks ("civilians" or "muggles") typically don’t. Listen to the episode, 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.

Josh: 00:25 Today is May 6, 2019, and while we try to keep our podcasts as timeless as possible, in this case, current events matter.

Leon: 00:35 It hasn't been a good week, and that's putting it lightly. The US political system continues to be a slow motion train wreck. Measles cases in the US are at levels unseen since the disease was eradicated in the year 2000. A report on climate change shows over 1 million species are now at risk of extinction. And just over a week ago, a gunman stormed into a synagogue in Poway, California. This is the second attack in a synagogue in the last six months. and part of a horrifically growing list of attacks in sacred spaces nationwide.

Josh: 01:03 News like that leaves most people feeling hopeless and adrift. And even folks who are part of a strong religious, ethical, or moral tradition who are sensitive to injustice and seek to repair the world - we're also left uncertain on how to proceed.

Leon: 01:18 Which is why an article in the "Torah & Tech" newsletter caught my eye. In it, the author presented the idea that we as IT professionals may be predisposed to view these kinds of problems differently, and to address them the same way we deal with blue screens of death and abend messages. I'm Leon Adato and the voices you're going to hear on this episode are the always-effervescent Josh Biggley

Josh: 01:40 Hello.

Leon: 01:42 And also our special guest and the author of Torah & Tech, Yechiel Kalmenson, who provided the inspiration for this episode. Welcome to the show Yechiel.

Yechiel: 01:49 Hi. Thanks for having me.

Leon: 01:51 So before we go any further Yechiel, I want you to have a chance to tell all of the listeners about Torah & Tech. I think it's perfect for the Technically Religious crowd because it merges those two things - tech and religion. So where can we find it? How did it start? Just give us a little bit of background.

Yechiel: 02:09 Torah & Tech was an idea of a friend of mine, Rabbi Ben Greenberg, who's also like me, an Orthodox Jew now working as a developer in Israel. We came up with the idea to merge, you know like you spoke about in the first episode to have the synergy between these two worlds, which mean a lot to both of us. So we started this weekly newsletter, which features a Torah thought every single week that relates to tech and also tech news that relate to Judaism or to Torah values in general. You can find it, you can subscribe to it in the link which will be provided in the show notes. I also cross post a few weeks - those that I write - I cross post them on my blog, which you can find at

Leon: 02:51 Fantastic. I guess we'll dive into this. What is it about IT and working in IT that makes us think differently about these types of world breaking world, you know, horrific events that that just shouldn't be?

Josh: 03:08 You know, I think what makes me think about those things, and I have an interesting story that I'll share, but it's that desire to fix things, to see them resolved and in order to do that, you have to understand where they came from. I remember quite distinctly when I had this first realization that I was a "fixer". I was in 10th grade. I was in a class and we had a presenter from the community - or who I thought was from the community - who came in, and she talked about the genocide and that had happened in East Timor. She was East Timorese and she had talked about how the Indonesian had invaded East Timor and killed off a third of the population. And I thought, "Man, I've never heard of this before. How can it possibly be that such a tragedy has happened? And no one's talked about it." And it was in that moment that I realized I wanted to do something. And it's only been with 25 or 30 years of retrospect that I realize that that was that transitional moment where I knew I wanted to be a fixer. So I dunno, I, maybe it's something that happens to us by nature, by nurture. I don't know if I want to fall down on either one of those sides, but for me it felt very natural.

Speaker 2: 04:28 Excellent. Now Yechiel in the newsletter, you actually mentioned something about the fact that, you know, we as IT professionals - and certainly as programmers and developers - error messages... We don't respond to error messages the same way that I'm going to say "normal people" (Muggles) do. Can you, can you elaborate on that?

Speaker 3: 04:46 Uh, sure. It's actually, I noticed that it's one of the first things, one of the first like switches I had to go through in order to learn development. Before I was a programmer, I did tech support and I can't tell you how many times I got a phone call where someone calls up and says, "Yeah, there's something wrong. The machine is broken." I'm like, "what's wrong?" "Like I don't know, it has an error message on it and like...", "Well what does it say?" "I don't know" And I was like, "I can't really, you know... Can we go through the transaction again and see which error we got?" "I Dunno, it's just broken and it got an error message." As, I mean, ever since I was a kid, I always had this curiosity where I would, you know, try to figure things out. We know when something broke to try to take it apart. And when I learned to program, so that was one of the first lessons I had to learn because error messages pop up all the time. You make a small typo, I make a small, you know, you add an extra semi colon or you're missing a semicolon and the whole thing blows up at you. And as a "muggle", as you put it, whenever our computer throws an error message at you, it's always this scary thing. You know, it almost feels like the computer is, like, shouting at you and you know you probably did something wrong. And now everything is broken and nothing is working. But as programmers and in general people in IT, error messages are actually, that's what we're here for. That's what we do. We fix error messages. Error messages show us where the code is broken. What has to be fixed. Some are easier and more helpful than others of course. But that's basically what we do. Our whole approach to broken systems is different. You know, I mentioned the quote from Steve Klabnik in the newsletter he said that "...programming is a moving from a broken state to a working state. That means you spend the majority of your time with things being broken. Hell, if it worked, you'd be done programming!" I mean nobody's hiring programmers to take care of working stuff. So that's what we do as, that's our job description.

Leon: 06:43 How many of us have said, as you're sort of struggling with a problem or you know, "how can you keep working on this? Hour after hour?" (and we respond) "that's why I get paid the big bucks."

Josh: 06:55 I just want to call out that the blue screen of death. I think that that was invented to BE scary. Like really, you know, suddenly everything fails and you get this dump of data like that (gasps), I don't know, when I see the blue screen of death on the server and I haven't... knock on wood, I haven't seen one in a long time. I'm always afraid,

Leon: 07:18 Right. But of course you have to remember that the blue screen of death came after a long string of operating systems that gave you nothing more than like the "sad mac". Like that was all you got. You didn't get any other error messages. So perhaps the pendulum swung a little too far in the other direction of giving more information than you wanted, versus just, you know, "I'm not happy now," but even that is, to Yechiel's point, is a way of of trying to fix things by error message, I mean, you know, this error message is actually not useful. And so I'm going to fix the error message by giving more information, but they just went perhaps a little further in that direction.

Josh: 08:01 So I learned last week, or two weeks ago about this great Easter egg in an error message. So you know when you're in chrome and there's no network connectivity and you get that pop up that says that there's no network connectivity? There's a video game in that popup message!

Leon: 08:21 Trying to make it less scary by looking for firewall things in the middle,

Yechiel: 08:25 I will not admit out loud how many hours I wasted with that dinosaur.

Leon: 08:32 But it is some number greater than zero. Good. All right. So I like this mindset. I like the fact that as IT people, we are, as Josh said "solvers" and that we approach brokenness in a very different way. We see brokenness not as simply, like a broken pot, a Ming vase on the floor that is broken and will never be the same, but more as IT folks we're, "Oh, that's just, that's how everything starts," And now, now we have the work of the work. I'm curious about whether being people from a religious, moral, ethical point of view. Are we predisposed maybe to see these errors or these patterns differently than folks who are from a more secular point of view?

Josh: 09:27 I'm pretty convinced that the answer to that question is yes. I think about the... in case you haven't been paying attention, I was raised Mormon and I'm now post Mormon or ex Mormon or no longer Mormon, whatever. You wanna do this, do you want to call it

Leon: 09:46 The artist formerly known as Mormon?

Josh: 09:48 The artist formerly known as Mormon - I think actually, that is every Mormon because the church doesn't call themselves Mormons anymore. Anyway, that's a, that's an entirely different episode. But the entire premise of Christianity at large is this realignment or uh, yes, realignment is the best way to describe it, of ourselves with God. So God being perfect, the idea of there being an atonement means that we have to, that there's something wrong with us. And so there's, you know, scripture is full of indicators when someone goes wrong. So one of the great indicators in the book of Mormon, which is the, the book of scripture that is unique from the rest of Christianity inside of Mormonism is when Jesus is crucified and when he dies on the cross, and while there's been people who've said, "Hey, you know, things are, things are not going well. You know, this is going to happen." Suddenly the, you know, the earth shakes and the ground breaks and there's darkness and there's, you know, cities fall and they burn. These are all these warning signs that something has gone wrong. And those people who are astute to that, they recognize that something has gone wrong and they're the ones who, you know, who raised their voices up and, um, you know, then there's goodness that rises. Yes. I know it's a bit of a stretch to say that in that mindset, we also become good engineers - so that when we see the warning signs, we know we're looking for them, we start to see, "Oh my goodness, there's error messages popping up. Like that's, that's kind of weird." And then when the thing ultimately fails, we're the ones who are there to say, "Okay, all right, it's failed. We got this, we can bring this back." I don't know that that's necessarily how people perceive it, but I certainly, I'm certainly a big pattern person, and in patterns, you know, whether you're talking about the book of Revelation or you're talking about Nostradamus, or whatever it is you're talking about, those patterns all exists and I think they're powerful for us. Um, both personally. Um, but also from a technical perspective.

Leon: 11:57 So I think that Judaism approaches things differently. Obviously, you know,

Josh: 12:02 yes...

Leon: 12:03 it approaches things very differently for a lot of things. That's a true statement. The brokenness of the world is sort of built into it and I don't know that it's worth going into the, the whys and wherefores, but there's this concept in Judaism of Tikun Olam, which translates to "repairing the world." And because that's a thing like the fact that that phrase exists, tells you that the world needs repair and that's built into the system. Otherwise that phrase wouldn't be a thing. Now there's two ways of looking at Tikun Olam, the, the sort of, bubblegum pop way of looking at it. And I probably just offended to thousands of people and I apologize. The first level view, or the easier view of Tikun Olam is just doing good deeds to make the world a better place. Donating money and helping people out if they need help and things like that. But there's a deeper, slightly deeper level of it, which is that there are these hidden sparks of holiness and it's almost like a scavenger hunt. And that our job is to reveal these sparks of holiness to collect them up. And the way that you do that is by doing these good deeds. Yechiel, I don't know if you have a take on that.

Yechiel: 13:18 You did pretty well. It's stressed a lot stronger and Chasidic philosophy, which, which I'm trained in. But yeah, when God created the world, He created it with His goodness, with His kindness. And that kindness is everywhere. Everywhere in the world. Even in the darkness. When we find the spark of goodness in the darkness, we're actually revealing the purpose of creation of that part of the world and bringing the world closer to its ultimate reason for creation, which was to become a place where godliness and goodness, out in the open rather than hiding in dark corners the way it is now.

Leon: 13:57 One of the parts of Judaism that I like so much is that certain... these good deeds, these acts, are labeled as Mitzvot, which, you know, a lot of people say, "Oh, that's a good deed, right?" No, no, no, no, no, that's, that's a commandment. That's an obligation. Why are you giving charity or tzedakah is what it's called in Hebrew. Why are you giving that? You know, because it makes you feel good? No. Because it's a good deed? No. Because I'm obligated to, I am commanded to. The commander in chief gave me an order and I'm just being a good soldier. I'm just doing it. And I think that that also, as somebody with a religious point of view, lets us look at these these broken moments, these broken times as, "Nope, that's part of the job." This is a hurdle that was placed here so we could try to overcome it. Moving forward just a little bit. I think that because we see these errors, do we, do we feel compelled to address them? I mean, like, do we have to?

Josh: 15:07 Something that I'm I'm told very often is "Josh, stay in your lane," and I'm not good that at all.

Leon: 15:14 "Keep your nose out of it. Just deal with your stuff!" Yeah. Yeah.

Josh: 15:17 I mean, I'm really, really bad at it, so I'm going to say that yes, I feel very compelled to fix problems, much to my own detriment though, sometimes. Solving my own problems is challenging, but solving my own problems and other people's problems? That's, that's a weighty thing. Sometimes I feel like I'm better at solving other people's problems than my own.

Yechiel: 15:42 So yeah, do we feel compelled to justice? I feel like that's part of what we spoke about our different approach error messages in tech. You know, when a nontechnical person sees an error message, yeah, he's compelled not to do anything about it. And it just shut the whole thing down and turn it on and hope for the best. But as a developer, if I see an error message and figure, "Okay, it's broken. That's it. That's how that, you know, that's how it is." Then I'll pretty much find myself without a job very soon.

Speaker 2: 16:13 Well there's one phrase that I think I've quoted on the show before, but it's so good, I can't let it go. Do we feel obligated to address these? And in one of the books of Mishnah, a section called Pirkeh Avot, there's a phrase that gets quoted a lot. "You're not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." And I think that's a big part of the mindset. Yechiel of the three of us, you are the most "a programmer". I'm more of a systems guy. Josh is more of a systems guy. And I know that when you're looking at one of these big problems, like you said, you can't walk away from it, but at the same time, I don't think you go into it thinking, "Well it's me and it's only on me and there no one else who's ever going to do this", I think, you know, going into it that there's a team behind you, there's people that you can rely on, there's people you can go to or who will pick up the work if you have to take a break or put it down.

Yechiel: 17:20 Very true. The stuff I'm working on now, you know, it's problems that were around for a lot longer than I've been on them. And they will still be problems way after I'm off the team already. And yeah, it's, you know, you're part of IT, you're part of a much bigger picture. You are not the be all and end all the project will go on without you, but at the same time, you have an awesome opportunity to improve it and to move it one step forward and another step and another step.

Leon: 17:51 And, and I, I have to put this in here because I said I'm a systems guy. Really, you know, my great love in IT is monitoring, and I consider myself to be a monitoring engineer more than anything else. And I think that I feel compelled to address things because usually I'm the one who sets up a monitor to watch for that condition - to check and, you know, is it healthy? No. Alright. Why? And once you have that, once you have that error message, that alert, "Hey, this is no longer within the boundary of what we would consider healthy or good or up or okay." At that point, if you haven't put in something to try to fix that problem, that alert that you've just triggered, then you haven't done the full job of monitoring. You know, monitor, collect the data, alert when it goes out of your specification, and then act. And if you're not acting, then you haven't done a full job. That's from a monitoring standpoint. But again, I feel that it translates into the real world. So now that we sort of identified it, I wonder as IT folks, do we have anything to offer non IT people (again, muggles) to approach these problems. Is there a mindset that that non IT folks can adopt that would make it easier when they see these big problems in their community, in the world to not feel so overwhelmed?

Josh: 19:20 Oh, me, me! I've got one. I've got one! There's this great, there's this great idea in Mormonism, about having one foot and Zion and one foot in Babylon. And I don't know if it's strictly from Mormonism, but I feel like I'm one of those people, because I was afraid of error messages in my early IT career, I was absolutely horrified. To me when they broke it felt like I had done something wrong. Like, "Did, did I, did I make it do that?" To quote Steve Urkel, "Did I do that?"

Leon: 19:56 Another great voice in Geekdom

Josh: 20:00 The great geek of all Geeks, right? Steve Urkel. So I think that I would love for people to take this: Don't be afraid of, of of error messages. When you see them, first decompress a little because you're freaking out because things just broke. But then read what the error message says. You know, this is not like the Twitter fail whale. It's not like the spinning pinwheel of death on your brand new Mac book. Like these things are generally helpful. And if not, shame on you coders for not putting in helpful error. Messages.

Leon: 20:37 Uh oh, he's throwing shade at you. Yechiel

Josh: 20:39 I maybe.. I mean a little..

Yechiel: 20:40 No, that's actually a very valid point. And our last tech conference I was by, it was a Ruby conference, but almost every talk I was at was trying to discuss how to make our error messages better. And I think in general, just teaching people that it's okay when things are broken, it's not okay when they stay broken for us, but it's okay when they are broken. And that just shows that there's room for us to get in here and help things out.

Josh: 21:12 And I love that idea of making our error messages better. Going back to Leon, your love of monitoring, my love of monitoring, the big push now in the monitoring space is that everything is telemetry. It's not just time series data, like everything, your error messages, the strings that get vomited out of your code. That's all telemetry. So, yeah, please, if you're a developer and you're listening make your error messages something that we on the monitoring and event management side, that we can take in as telemetry and use it to help people to go and do things to bring the systems back.

Leon: 21:53 Right now I'm not about to go in and approach God and say, "I'm not sure your error messages are comprehensive enough. I'd like things a little clearer." Partially because it's a little egotistical to think that I have anything to tell God about how to run the world. And second of all, when I've asked for clear messages, I've gotten them and they're usually very sort of blunt and brutal. So I don't do that. But as far as having non IT folks approach these world issues, these sort of error messages around, one of the things - and we hit on it earlier is remember that you're working in teams that very rarely in IT are you an army of one. That there's people that you can fall back on. There should be people that you can fall back on. Find your tribe. If you have... there's an area of the world that really bothers you, that you're sensitized to, then find your tribe that's addressing that. Whether it's the #metoo movement or you're fighting climate change, or you're looking for creating lasting peace in your neighborhood or anywhere else, find that group and work within it so that you can pick up your piece, but you don't have to try to pick up the whole piece. So that's one thing that I think IT folks sort of intuitively understand.

Josh: 23:16 So I love that, and I want to build on that. My son today, who's in high school, he came home and he said "Hey, just so you guys know, today's the first day of Ramadan and I'm going to be participating in Ramadan with my friends." And I thought, "Whoa, like, whoa." We're like, "Where did that come from? That so awesome." He's feeling very connected. And so I love that idea of finding your people and working in teams. I have this wonderful old lady who lives next to me. She's been around forever. And whenever her computer breaks she calls me and says "Josh, can you come fix my computer?" She knows how to do the things that she knows how to do, but she also was very willing to admit that "I can't do this. I can't fix this thing." And to me they're very rudimentary. Like, okay, yeah, I'll help you with that. But to her, it's something foreign. And don't be afraid of foreign things. Admitting that you don't know something is just as good, if not better than faking that you know something when you don't, I mean, our last episode talked about that, that fake it til you make it. You don't have to fake this and it's okay to say, I don't know.

Destiny: 24:26 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh: 24:40 To quote Five Man Electrical Band from their 1971 classic, "Thank you lord for thinking about me. I'm alive and doing fine."



S1E11 - Imposter Syndrome

S1E11 - Imposter Syndrome

May 14, 2019

Imposter Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug look at the ways in which imposter syndrome manifests in both spheres, and how our experiences combating in one area may help in the other. Listen or read the transcript below.


Imposter Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug look at the ways in which imposter syndrome manifests in both spheres, and how our experiences combating in one area may help in the other. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Kate: 00:25 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: 00:49 impostor Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode we're going to look at ways in which impostor syndrome manifests in both spheres and how our experiences combating in one area might help the other. I'm Leon Adato. And the other voices you're going to hear today are Doug Johnson.

Doug: 01:07 Hello,

Leon: 01:08 JAnd Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:09 Hello.

Leon: 01:10 All right, so I think the first thing you probably ought to do is define impostor syndrome. So who wants to take a crack at that?

Josh: 01:18 Well I would, but I'm not qualified, so...

Doug: 01:22 All right. We're there!

Leon: 01:24 We just, we hit it and we hit the ground running. Doug, that means it's you.

Doug: 01:30 All right. I'm just reading a definition-definition from good old Wikipedia." A psychological...", uh, sorry. "Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all that they have achieved. Individuals with impostor-ism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Leon: 02:09 Right. And again, this is something that IT folks, many IT folks struggle with quite a bit it is an aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect. And I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect a long time ago, and my immediate thought was, "oh my God, that's me." Meaning that, you know the report that I was reading talked about people who thought they were really good at something. And in fact they were so bad that not only did they not know they were bad, but they looked at people who were good at something and they thought they were bad at it also. So they not only misunderstood their own skill, but they would rate other people lower at it who were demonstrably good. And I thought, "oh, what if that's..." It was my first thought was, "what if that's me?"

Doug: 03:03 And of course, there's your impostor syndrome, right? But the classic example of that is, I read a study somewhere that 80% of all people think they're above average drivers.

Leon: 03:14 Okay,

Josh: 03:14 I mean, I am.

Doug: 03:17 And that's the point. 80% can't be above average.

New Speaker: 03:21 Even, even if the numbers weren't funny everyone's demonstrable experience says that that's not true. There's, there's another, so there's a Jewish aspect of this, which is a Jewish mysticism talks about a group of people called the Lamed-Vav-niks. Lamed-Vav is simply the number 33. And these 33 people are truly righteous and it is on their behalf - for their sake - that God does not destroy the world and start over again. And if even one were to cease to exist the world would immediately be destroyed. It wouldn't be good enough. And the corollary to that is that if you wonder, in the back of your mind, "I wonder, maybe, maybe I'm one of the lamed-vav-niks?" that is proof that you're not. So there's, there's just all sorts of layers to this idea of impostor syndrome and who has it and how to deal with it. So let's dive into this. When does this occur? When have you seen this in it context? When have you seen the Dunning-Kruger or the impostor syndrome really manifest.

Josh: 04:31 I mean when I first started to apply for jobs as a remote working... and I didn't know that I wanted to be remote working... but as a remote working monitoring engineer. Boy, my world got real shaky. I was, you know, I'd come out to Atlantic Canada to work for a company, but it was a small company and I was horrified at the thought that a Fortune 25 company would want to hire me - and hire me sight unseen - and oh my, you know, I just like, "I can't do it. There's, there's no way..." I think that when, when you aren't in that comfort zone of what you've always known in your career, and for me it was making that leap into being a 100% remote worker, you don't know what you're going to do. You feel like the exception to everything we'll talk about later, but I think that there's power and embracing that exception, but yeah. Starting new jobs, starting a different type of job, becoming some sort of, um, you know, change in, in your career trajectory, whether you go from being an engineer to being a manager or vice versa. Those things are, yeah. For me, huge challenges.

Leon: 05:46 Okay. So change, like when you, when you're going through major, changing in the status quo, that's when you're more liable to doubt your ability to actually do it, even if you've proven time and time again that "I do this all the time."

Josh: 05:58 Yeah. And that goes back to the art. One of our previous episodes where we talked about the consistency of change. Now I just listened to... re listen to that episode today but the only consistent thing in IT is change. Therefore, if I was successful last week, then I can't be successful this week because IT has changed so much that I can't possibly do it. So then if you know, just reinstall it, that impostor syndrome right back into everything. You do it, it's, yeah, welcome to my life.

Leon: 06:27 Oh, good. GOTO 10.

Josh: 06:28 Yes.

Doug: 06:33 Yeah. I mean, on the, on the topic of jobs, I mean, there's nothing like it. I love the IT jobs. "We're looking for a rock star contributor! We're looking for people with a passion to go ahead and change the world." And I'm like, "Really? Um, how about if I'm kind of good at what I do and when things need to be solved, I figure it out. But I don't know whether I qualify as a rockstar." I mean, I used to be a disc jockey. Rockstars bust up hotel rooms and stuff. They don't necessarily do good things. Do you want a rock start working on your IT software? I don't think so.

Leon: 07:09 Right, right. "Rockstar" used to be a pejorative, like "You don't want your child to date a rock star, do you?" That would... you don't want to bring home that!

Doug: 07:19 But now everybody wants... and you're sitting there going, "Am I a rock star? I don't think I am." I'm good at, I mean, I've been doing this for what, 30 some odd years. I can't tell you how many... I never, you know, clients never leave me. They always get upset when I need to move on to something else, you know, but I don't feel like I'm a rock star.

Leon: 07:40 Right. And one would argue that when you talk to folks who are in that business, they don't feel like it either. So, you know, that's, once again, we're right back to impostor syndrome. Okay, so that's one place. One thing that I've seen it is when you're either giving a conference talk, about to go onstage and give a conference talk; or just thinking about submitting for a conference talk, impostor syndrome hits with a vengeance. "Who am I to stand up in front of those, you know, 30, 50, a hundred, 300 more people and tell them anything? Like, what, what gives me the right to do that?" And not to mention the fact that you're painting a big old target on your back and front, but that's one of those places. And a corollary to the conference talk is working at a convention, working the booth at a convention because then not only do you wonder, like people are coming by, it's like, yeah, "I worked for..." Josh to your point, "I worked for a fortune 20 company and we have 9 million devices and I set up things with using, you know, bash scripts and, you know, can you give me a better way to do that?" "Um, no, no, I can't. I don't, I don't think so." But it turns out that I can! Now you're feeling sort of impostor ish and they're coming up with a "prove it, you know, prove it to me. I dare you" kind of attitude. So it just makes things even more complicated. And, um, and that gets even more difficult if you are any sort of minority, you know, people of color, women, women of color, etc. Destiny, who is another of voice you'll hear regularly on this podcast, I remember one of the first shows I went to with her, there was about 10 of us in the booth and somebody came up and was talking to one of my coworkers, another guy and he was pointing over at Destiny's way and he says, "Well, she's not... she's not really like... You just, you just hired her to be in the booth, right? And the guy, without missing a beat he says, "Oh, I think you absolutely should walk over to her and ask her technical questions and see what happens. I think, and I'll watch. In fact, I'm going to film it because this is going to be funny." And he didn't quite get it and sure enough he went over to Destiny and she just eviscerated him. Not, I mean, with a smile and a chuckle and just technically took him to the cleaners. Because that's Destiny. But the fact is that having to deal with that does cause you to question like, "do I really know what I'm doing?" You know, every person who walks up to the booth is another challenge too... you know, another question mark in your own mind. Like "Maybe I've been, maybe I've just gotten lucky so far. Maybe I haven't had real people ask me questions." You know, on the third day of a 27,000 person conference, you still have those doubts. It's amazing. Okay, so that's, that's the technical side of it, I think. But since this is Technically Religious, where does this occur in a religious context? Does this occur in a religious context? Do we have impostor syndrome in our religious life?

Doug: 11:07 Oh, you bet.

Leon: 11:10 Okay.

Doug: 11:11 Well, I mean, in the Christian world, we have prayer warriors. These are people who can call down fire from heaven and can get people healed and just, you know, and, and they're just, they're put up on this, uh, alter. I was gonna say pedestal, but honestly, we're in church, so, there are these wonderful people and you just sit there going, "I can't pray that good... I don't... I... You know?" And, and the reality is they are some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They don't raise themselves up that way, but other people do. And it just makes you feel like, I'll never, I do this,

Leon: 11:54 I'll never measure up to that. Wow.

Doug: 11:56 And the answer is, and it has more to do with my ADHD than anything else. I just can't sit there that long. Yeah. So TeaWithTolkien, the Twitter handle for the person TeaWithTolkien, said the other day and it caught my eye. She said, "Me: (praying one time and remaining mostly focused.) I'M A MYSTIC!" Like, just that one time. And it's like, "Oh, I see the whole world now!" Just because I can do it one time. And you watch other people who are just praying with such sincerity and wiwth such focus. Like every time you're like, "yeah, no."

Doug: 12:42 Wish I could. Doesn't happen.

Josh: 12:45 That's weird. I thought Mormons had this... well I thought we had the market cornered on really awkward prayer. So semi annually, there's a huge conference that is telecast from Salt Lake City. It's called the General Conference and it's two days, 10 hours of instruction. And the prayers that open and close these meetings, they're legendary. They, uh, we, uh, we often make fun of the people who say these prayers to open these meetings because they are so eloquent. But it's not like, "oh, that was really good and sweet." It was, "oh my goodness. That was horrible!" So I laugh, I laughed Doug because when I hear those people pray, I think, "Are you kidding me? Like, do you pray like that at home? Because I think you're just putting on a show. I think you're faking it till you make it."

Leon: 13:45 Wow. Okay. And I'm holding off on the fake it till you make it, because I have very strong feelings about that, but...

Josh: 13:51 OK, we'll put it aside.

Leon: 13:52 I was not expecting where you were going with that story. That it was bad. Although we were talking about study sessions, learning, and the number of times - whether it's IT or religion, when I go in thinking, "I don't know anything about this topic and I'm really excited because this person is going to teach me all this stuff" And I walk out and like, "I could have taught that class. I could have done that." So I think sometimes we do fool ourselves. Now in Judaism there's a couple of other aspects to this. First of all, there's the language, Hebrew. So if you're not good at reading Hebrew, and I am not, then, being asked to go up and lead the prayers... Now it's not only lead, not only have a level of eloquence or music quality to it, but also in this language, which has a lot of sounds that English never makes and never should make, and do it quickly. So there's that piece. And then also even in learning, there's, I mean, if you took the Talmud and you read one page a day, it would take you seven and a half years to get through the whole thing, start to finish. Just to give you an idea of the volume. And that's the Talmud without commentary. Then there's commentary. Then there's more and more and more and more. And there's people who have vast swathes of it memorized and, not only quoted but analyze it and dig into it and, and you can't, you just can't fake that. Like there's no, "well you gave it a good shot." Like there's just nothing you can do about that. So again, feeding into the impostor syndrome is when you see a whole community of people, where many, many people are fluent in these ways. I was like, "Yeah, I'm not. I'll just sit here and watch." You know, that's, that's another thing that I think contributes to religious impostor syndrome. Because so many people grew up with this. Now, what I will say, and this is an interesting aspect, is that the judgingness that I feel and I have seen in IT contexts, in a Jewish context is not always or often there. I've watched, you know, 10 11 year olds get up to give a lecture on a piece of scripture and, you know, very - not simplistic - but a very basic reading of it and a room full of rabbis, you know, 300 years of combined experience represented in the room, all listening, very attentively, all focused, completely asking pointed questions, not above the child's level but asking questions. "So when you read this thing, you know who said that again was that, was that this rabbi or that rabbi?" you know, just clarifying things and really giving their full attention to it. And the result of that is that the kid walks away 11 feet tall, having had that room's attention. Feeling validated and justified. Not a whiff of being patronizing or you know, just like, "Yeah kid, just say your piece and, and get outta here. Cause we have important things to do." Never that. And that has that stuck with me that Judaism has that feeling of anybody who's going up there, you know, you give respect to the person, you give respect to the Torah, that really what's being represented is Torah, and that gets our utmost respect, regardless of who's bringing it to us. You know, that's sort of, that's the counter... That's the antidote to impostor syndrome, I think.

Josh: 17:39 I do like that idea that that's the antidote. I oftentimes will hear people quote "out of the mouths of babes" as a justification for the things that children say that are insightful, as though we're somehow surprised that children are insightful. And I think more often than not, we need to embrace that idea that children are insightful. I know that we're getting to how do we solve this idea of impostor syndrome? But maybe because I regularly feel as though I'm an impostor in a vast majority of the places that I engage in. I love to instill that impostor syndrome into people. I love to bring people who, for all intents and purposes, have no business being involved in a situation because I do think it democratizes the approach to that problem. I know we've talked in the past about this idea, this challenge that we had or that I had at work, which was to figure out how to make a very large, uh, annual sum of spend go away when nobody believed that it could go away. It was "the cost of doing business." And what we did is we brought together this group of people who really, they were impostors, they weren't... some of them were not IT people. And we asked great questions. And in the end we achieved an 87% cost reduction for something that nobody thought could be done. So I love ... and I'm going to steal that, Leon. I'm going to steal that mindset of "let's get the least among us, quote-unquote, "least" (air quotes", and bring them and let's learn from them. Let them teach us, because obviously their insights aren't clouded. And I know we're solving this impostor syndrome thing, but I think it's actually something we should just be grabbing onto and embracing. It seems to have worked so well in my career.

Leon: 19:46 And Judaism emphasizes that the, the highest praise you can get in, in yeshiva, the Jewish school system is, in Yiddish is "du fregst a gutte kashe". (You ask a good question.) That's the highest praise you can get. It not, "oh, that's a really insightful answer." Answers are easy. Like there's plenty of answers, but asking good questions, that's the part that gets the highest praise. So I think that that, you know, to your point, finding people who can ask good questions regardless of what their background is or where they come from is more valuable in both an IT and in a religious context, but certainly in IT context. You mentioned a couple of times "solving it." So one of the things that people talk about solving impostor syndrome in IT contexts is "Well, just fake it till you make it." Like, just pretend you know it and soon enough you actually will know it. You'll be the expert. That bothers me because it reinforces in the mind of the person who's doing it, that they're faking it, that they don't really know. I don't know what your feelings on that are.

Doug: 20:54 I'm just not fond of the concept of faking it, period. I mean, fake to me is not a positive description of something. If you say somebody is being fake, it's never good. And the problem is an awful lot of people think that faking... It is, I understand that it's "fake it until you make it," but a lot of people just stop right at "fake it." You know, that's good enough. I don't need to put in the work to go ahead and make this happen. So I'm not fond of the expression. I understand the concept, but I think the faking it part really has a bad spin to it.

Josh: 21:45 So when, when I served as a LDS missionary in Las Vegas, this whole idea of "fake it till you make it" was something that we said to each other quite often. Whether you were a struggling emotionally or spiritually or intellectually. People who had to learn new languages (And I was not one of them) often, it was just "fake it." And now as an adult, I look back, and I realize how truly dangerous that was in a religious context. You take young men and women. When I went, it was 19, was the earliest eligibility for men and 21 for women. And you put them out into a situation where they are on their own and you tell them, "you just fake it." And you try to be successful. And if you're not, you just pretend like you are. Now, remember these missionaries are going into people's homes and they're teaching them about the fundamentals of Mormonism. And you just want them to fake it? That is, to your point, Doug, that's super disingenuous. Right? They should not be out saying, "Hey, I know that this is true." if you don't know that it's true. And I encountered friends and colleagues as a missionary who didn't know, didn't believe in the things that they were saying, and some of them did the right thing and they laughed and some of them stayed out and ultimately got assimilated by the Borg, for lack of a better term.

Leon: 23:19 And I think, in an IT context, um, it ignores the, the real power of the words., "I don't know." I think all three of us have spoken on this podcast and elsewhere about how powerful it is personally, but also how powerful it is in a team. And for a company, for people to be comfortable saying, "Yeah, I don't know that off the top of my head," or "I don't know that at all, but I'm going to go do some research" or whatever it is. I think that's powerful. What I have found though, in terms of, again, solving for the problem - solving for x where x is equal to impostor syndrome, is, the word "imagine." Now imagine is different than "fake it." Imagine is personal, it doesn't mean "go play pretend," which is similar to fake it. What I mean is that if you feel stuck and you feel like "I'm not equal to this problem, I don't know how I'm gonna deal with this." Take a minute and close your eyes and imagine that you did. Imagine that you knew how to approach this. Not "imagine you have the answer" because if you did have the answer, you'd have the answer. But imagine that you knew how to approach this and what do you see yourself doing? What do you imagine that you would do next? To find out how to proceed, how to address the problem, how to go about fixing it, whatever it is. Right? And imagination, as we know from children is a really powerful tool that we can use. And that helps people get unstuck. You know, to Doug's point, you know, you don't want to fake, you don't want to imagine outwardly. You don't want to just be somebody who pretends to know things and hopes nobody notices. That's even worse for people who suffer from impostor syndrome, but using imagination to get past that, "Oh, I couldn't possibly write that CFP for a talk." "I couldn't possibly give that Bible study class." Well close your eyes for a minute. Imagine that you could. Imagine that you were expert enough to do that. What would that look like? How would you, what would you do next?

Doug: 25:20 I've used that multiple times. I used to teach continuing education at the college level and I'd come across a topic that I knew was really, it was interesting and it looked like it was going to be a big thing. So I would write up a course description and I would submit the course description. Keeping in mind that at this point I knew nothing about it. And sometimes, because this was back in the days when it was all print stuff. So I had at least six months before this class was going to happen at the earliest. And I had at least four months from the time it got accepted or didn't get accepted because of the lead time. So I'd come up with this idea, I'd say, "if this course existed, here's what it would teach, and I bet there'd be a really good teacher for it. Oh, that might be me!" And so you would go ahead and I'd submit it and they'd approve it and then I would have to study like heck, because I knew I had to teach this thing, but it's not faking it, exactly. If somebody had said on that day that I submitted it, "Do you know this to... could you teach this tomorrow?" The answer would be no, but six months from now I can.

Leon: 26:28 And that's, and I think that's where impostor syndrome hangs a lot of people up is, you know, "hey, I'd like you to do this." "Oh, I can't do that." Well, it wasn't asking to do it now. I was asking you to do it three months from now, a year from now. Are you interested in doing it? And some people implicitly hear that and some people hear when that's actually not true. I really do need you to do this right now. And think that's how personality lays out. So that's how we address in IT. I guess the question is, flipping back to the religious side, does it translate to religious life? Now, I already mentioned that in some contexts that's not true, right? You can't pretend or imagine you know, Hebrew or that you've learned all of Talmud or whatever. If you don't know, you can't make it up. But everyone is a learner. And in fact, one of my big frustrations when I became more religious was that when we were studying text, when I would go to a class, the only verb people would use is learn. "I have a person that I'm learning with." "We're learning this piece of text." "You just have to learn it." And I finally got fed up and I said to an advisor, you know, my rabbi, I said, Why not 'memorize', not 'analyze', not 'read' - any of those other words? Why is the only word we seem to be able to use learn?" He said, "You're missing the point. Everyone is using it in the Hebrew context. In Hebrew, there's only one verb: limud. And it means "to learn", but it also means "to teach". It's the same verb. And that's not just like a cute little happenstance. That's on purpose. Because when you go in to a class, you may think you're the one who's teaching when in fact you're the one who's going to be absorbing information that the other person is giving that you didn't even know they have. That maybe they didn't realize was relevant, and vice versa. You may be going to a lesson thinking "I have nothing to offer, I'm just going to be consuming," and all of a sudden you realize, "Oh, but I do have life experiences or insights or things to bring to the table that the other person just had never considered." And so it, it's, it's intentionally a bi-directional verb. You can't fake knowing something, but at the same time you never know whether you're going to have something to contribute. You can't predict that either. And so you shouldn't hold yourself back from something simply because you just assume you have nothing.

Doug: 29:00 We've all had experiences where somebody in the group who's just sitting there, all of a sudden they get this epiphany. This light bulb goes off in their head, they get excited and they share it and then the whole group just comes alive because of this little thing that this person, they just saw it at a completely different way that all of a sudden just opens your eyes. And it can be, it's happened in Bible study. Scripture groups has happened in IT teams where we're trying to solve a problem and then it's just like, it can come from the least expected person there, but if they get that little insight, it can just energize the whole group.

Josh: 29:39 When when we see somebody who is struggling, we have two choices, whether we're talking in a religious context or within an IT context, or really within the greater part of humanity. And that is we can see that weakness and tear them down, or we can hold them up. And I love that idea of holding someone up. Now, my Old Testament knowledge is not great, but I believe that there is an instance and it... was it Moses who needed his arms held up? And I think that that is what I want to be. Moses certainly didn't feel as though he was qualified to do what God wanted him to do. And there was a time when he needed others to hold him up. And so if we see that, how do we solve impostor syndrome? We solve it by when we see it, we don't say it, but we act as though it exists and it can be eradicated. I love, I love that imagery.

Leon: 30:48 It's a really good point because the three people involved was Moses, Aaron and Joshua, and in that battle, whenever Moses had his arms up, the Israelites would win. And as he got more and more tired, his arms would start to fall down and the Israelites would lose. And he realized that that was the case. And so Aaron and Joshua would hold his arms up for him. But throughout the Torah cycle, the narrative, in different situations, Moses upheld Joshua or Aaron upheld... they would each hold each other up. So, to your point is that, maybe I'm the one who's doing the supporting today with the knowledge that my team is going to have my back, is going to support me later on and help me do that. And I think that's a wonderful image. And again, maybe I don't feel up to it, but if I know that the team has my back when I falter, they're going to be there to help in some way so that I don't fall flat on my face.

Destiny: 31:54 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions, and connect to us on social media.

Leon: 32:08 This podcast is going to be great!

Doug: 32:10 Well, it'll be pretty good.

Josh: 32:12 Uh, maybe okay?

Doug: 32:15 Well if I don't mess it up too bad.

S1E10: Religious, Parent, & Geek - A Kid’s Worst Nightmare

S1E10: Religious, Parent, & Geek - A Kid’s Worst Nightmare

May 7, 2019

Mom puts a filter on the router, and daughter Mary installs a VPN. Dad sets up cell phone monitoring software, and son Donny learns how to soft-boot Android to remove it. For households that strongly ascribe to a specific religious, moral, or ethical outlook, the standards for what is appropriate can be even more strict, and send those cat and mouse games spiraling to new levels. Unless Mom or Dad happen to work in tech. Then things get a whole lot more interesting. In this podcast, Leon, Josh, and guest Keith Townsend of CTO Advisor talk about parenting with a bible in one hand and a packet sniffer in the other. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:25 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Josh: 00:25 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. 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: 00:48 Mom puts a filter on the router, and daughter Mary installs a VPN. Dad sets up a cell phone monitoring software and Donnie learns how to soft boot android into safe mode to remove it.

Keith: 00:57 The game of parental cat and mouse seems never ending for households that strongly ascribe to specific religious, moral, or ethical outlook. The standards for what is appropriate, can be even more strict and send those cat and mouse game spiraling to new levels.

Josh: 01:15 Unless mom and dad happened to work in tech. Then things get all whole lot more interesting. In today's podcast we're going to talk about exactly that situation. IT professionals with a Bible in one hand at a packet sniffer in the other and what it means to the kids who have to live with us. Joining in the conversation today and telling us the age of the kids in their house are Leon Adato

Leon: 01:41 Hello everyone. Okay, so I have a 27 and 24 year old daughter and then I have a 19 year old and 16 year old son and we also have my 27 year old daughter's two kids, so my grandkids, who are three and two.

Josh: 01:55 All right, perfect. And Keith Townsend of CTO advisor.

Keith: 01:58 All right. I have a 31 year old daughter who has an 11 year old granddaughter that visits us every day after school. I have a 28 year old son, any 25 year old son,

Josh: 02:11 And I'm Josh Biggley, and in my house I've got kids ranging from the ages of 16 to 25 and everything in between, it feels like.

Leon: 02:19 All right. So the first thing in this podcast that I would like to clarify is that we're not talking about VPNs, or that you should have a good password manager, or any of that stuff. That that's all important, and we will definitely do a podcast episode about that later. But what we're talking about is the fact that we as religious, moral, ethical parents have already decided that there's things that we need to keep our kids away from. And that's part of our job as a parent. So this is all about how we as IT professionals keep our kids away from the "nasty stuff." So I think the first part of the conversation for the three of us is what's the nasty stuff?

Josh: 03:00 Okay, "warez"? Do we know what...? Oh, I'm old, aren't I. Warez? Pirated software? Sorry? Right? You know, I can't... "ware-ez"? Aw man, I might be only one.

Leon: 03:15 Yes. Yes. You're that old. We are all that old.

Keith: 03:17 Yeah. We're all that old that we, the seeing that we have all have grandkids.

Leon: 03:25 Yeah, exactly. Um, okay, so warez, okay, so let, let's extend that to let's see. Napster? No, no, that's still old. Uh, BitTorrent.

Josh: 03:37 Limewire?

Leon: 03:40 Fine. Okay. So we're talking about, uh, illegally acquired stuff.

Keith: 03:47 That was very controversial in my home. The other thing is a porn. So we are in the US so, you know, we really hate, as religious folks, we hate porn.

Leon: 03:59 It's challenging and I think we're going to get into why it's challenging in a minute. So how about specific types of music or a specific type? Not, not things that are flat out pornographic, but things that are in some way just the content is objectionable to us. So, whether that's music with particular lyrics or movies with particular themes or things like that, is that, does that fit into the topic?

Keith: 04:25 I think that does.

Leon: 04:26 Okay. Um, one of the things that I was talk about because it's actually not an issue for myself and especially in my kids, but what we call "metal on metal" violence. So you know, like Transformers, which we might consider that movie to be offensive artistically or in terms of the canon of the Transformers that we may have grown up with, but the idea that it's violence, but it's so clearly animated or non human violence that maybe we give that one a pass. I don't know how you folks feel about it.

Keith: 04:59 Yeah. We, we had a rule in my family that you can play first shooter if it wasn't people shooting people.

Leon: 05:06 Okay. So like doom where you're shooting zombies and stuff.

Keith: 05:10 That was a little bit too, you know, the whole demon thing was a little bit too much for me. So you could do like robot shooting similar transformers or robots shooting other robots, etc.

Leon: 05:21 Okay. Or duck hunting or hunting. Okay. Got It. All right.

Josh: 05:25 Those poor defenseless ducks!

Leon: 05:28 Right! Except the thing, some versions of the ducks were armed too. But anyway, we're off track as we do. How about like mature themes? Like what would we consider, what are we talking about when we say mature themes?

Keith: 05:42 So you don't, we're a getting in an area that, uh, you know, so, we're in the US... So the concept of a same sex marriage is obviously a right that as Americans we respect, but as Christians or religious people in general, you know what, that's, that's a gray area. And what, what age do you want expose your child to. It is a pretty interesting debate these days.

Leon: 06:09 So when do you want to have the conversation about how, you know, Sally has a girlfriend or a Bobby has a boyfriend or stuff like that, whether or not as individuals and as adults we are okay with that idea. But to explain it to our kids, we might find that it's difficult within the context, again of a religious conversation. "But wait a minute in Sunday school I just learned Xyz," you know, we want to have a consistent message. I can see that in fact our last episode was specifically about how our religions are approaching same sex relationships and things like that. So it's interesting that it comes up as a theme that we might still want to filter in the house.

Josh: 06:55 As a Canadian, right? Politics in some contexts can be touchy. Right? I'd really love to ban a certain individual from being able to be seen in my house. But you know, I think when it comes to...

Leon: 07:15 So... from the south. Government from the south is what you're talking about like American, as a Canadian having to deal with American politics...

Josh: 07:20 That's no way to talk about South America. Leon, you leave South America out of this.

Leon: 07:26 I wasn't talking about Argentinian politics. Not for a second.

Keith: 07:29 Okay. I don't know. I want to blog, but race is also a really tough conversation at a young age. And how much, you know, do you want to say, "This is the reality of what's in the world, that even at a young age you may run into, but I still want to protect your ideal of what a wholesome relationship with other humans will look like."

Leon: 07:54 So I think what we're getting at here is that we're not blocking things because necessarily we find it objectionable. It's that we're concerned that the viewer may not have the maturity to understand the context and therefore it's going to cause them more confusion or frustration, than it's going to... Than the material, whether it's a song or a movie or a comic book or whatever is going to open their eyes to.

Josh: 08:20 Yeah. And you know, I love that you just mentioned comic books because I grew up in an era in the eighties and being being formerly Mormon I remember being counseled quite explicitly, "do not watch R-rated movies." But that advice was given in the 80s. Well what was an R-rated movie in the 80s is maybe PG today, PG 13 if you really want to stretch it. So what does that mean? Does that mean that we need to - and I remember having this thought - if I'm going to sit down and watch a movie and it's PG today, do I need to consider what it would have been rated in 1984? Or is it okay that I just accept it? And then I would then I would turn around and I would look at my comic book collection as like, you know, 12 or 13 or 14 year old a kid and I'd be like, "Oh, these comic books are rather racy. And the movie I just watched looked like, you know, it was Walt Disney." So yes, today we're arguing about, "oh, you know, the Internet gives our kids access to," but now are we going to filter what they also can get from the library? I mean, I met read some racy books as a kid from the library. And my parents were like, "Yeah, go to the library, have a grand old time. It's books. What could possibly go wrong?" Oh my goodness, mom and dad.

Leon: 09:46 Right. And the interesting part there is that they expected the library to do a certain task, to fill a certain role of filtering that, you weren't going to be able to get pornographic - true pornographic - magazines from, but there was a lot of material that was at the very least titillating and certainly challenging from a political, again, Keith, to your point, racial social view. There's a lot of things like that. So you're right. It's, I think two points. One is that a parent's role hasn't changed in the sense that we still need to be communicating with our kids and talking about what they're consuming. However they're consuming the internet just adds a particular modality. It doesn't change the nature of our job. But I think also that what is objectionable really rests on our shoulders because it's based on family values, religious community values, and also what we know about our kid. Some things that I would allow my 16 year old who has a much more solid footing in terms of, you know, "this is just beyond the pale and I don't even want to deal with it", aren't things that I'm comfortable with my 19 year old seeing because his impulse control is a lot less strong. So you have to know your kid too.

Josh: 11:06 Yeah. And that's a great point, right? Because there are some things that we want to shelter our kids from and things that we would have sheltered one child from that we're not going to shelter another child from. For example I have a similar scenario. My youngest has a fairly broad scope of what we're willing to allow him to watch. Now when it comes to music, he's not allowed to listen to music on his portable speaker that has vulgar language and whatnot because I just don't want to hear it. If I'm going to sit down, also rap, you're not allowed to listen to, to filthy rap on your speaker. But if he wants to listen to what I was headphones, I'm giving him that latitude. Now. Part of that is my transition away from Mormonism over the last year, admittedly. But those views have been very much formed by having older children and watching how they struggled or didn't struggle with certain things. And realizing that sometimes when I set the boundaries too close to the, or I guess too far away from the edge of "I want to approach this mom and dad", that it really entices them to go forward. Versus, "Hey, you know what, look, this stuff is out there. I really don't think that you should look at it. I don't you should listen to it, read it, whatever. But if you do come and ask, let's have a discussion about it." And that's the way we chose to approach it. When we get to talk about the security tips, I have a funny story, and I'll bring it up later, but let's just say sometimes your very best efforts as an IT professional parent are undermined by the most wily of children.

Keith: 12:46 Yeah.

Josh: 12:47 I'm going to put the, I to put it off to the side. We'll, we'll talk about that.

Keith: 12:50 Yeah. it's a really interesting delta between my kids. Some of them, a couple of them embraced boundaries and, the oldest just... Boundaries were explicit signs to, "yes, I must go there. There's a boundary there. Then there's obviously something good behind that door!"

Leon: 13:13 Right? Sometimes the worst thing you can do is tell your child "you may never...", and the sad part is when you figure it out and you try to tell your child, "you may never eat broccoli! Never!!" They figure that out real fast. So I, I think it's worth asking why, what are we objecting to and why? I mean, we've talked about the topics, the categories, but you know, this stuff is in the world and are we doing our kids a disservice? This is, as an Orthodox Jew, I hear this a lot in conversations around the water cooler at work. "Are you really doing your kids a disservice by sheltering them from information so that when they finally get to it either it's so enticing, they can't stop themselves because they didn't learn early?" And the other part of it is, are we not serving them because we're making them so naive that they don't know how to deal with things later. That's at least those are things I've heard. So why are we objecting to this? Like what, what's going on here?

Speaker 3: 14:15 So I have an interesting view on this. We all are older so we have the benefit of experience. So one of the things I'm morphed from was trying to always protect the oldest of the kids from seeing stuff, to saying, "You know what, our house (and we've extended this to the granddaughter now) our house is a Godly home. And in our home we want to maintain a Spirit. You're going to see stuff out in the world that I can't protect you against. But our home is where we make kind of a hedge around the world and we respect our religious views." You know, kind of the whole Joshua "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" type of perspective. So the thing I can control is the spirit of my house. I can't control the spirit of the world.

Leon: 15:14 Nice.

Josh: 15:15 I like it. And I also approve of the use of Joshua. You know, a good prophet name.

Leon: 15:22 You might be a little biased.

Josh: 15:24 I may be a little biased. You know, I think that this question is, this is a tough question, right? So the people who might say to us, "Hey, you should really let your child see X because your blocking them from understanding Y scenarios," those discussions get really complicated. It's like, and this is, this is really a straw man argument, but it's like saying to somebody, "Hey, you should let your children watch child pornography because if not, they're not going to know it when they see it." Or "You should let your children watch a racially charged hate rant by somebody because you want them to have those discussions with them" or "hey you should smoke weed or do crack or..." You know, like those things are, are really challenging. And I think Keith, I love your idea of "hey, I'm going to make my house a place where people can be comfortable coming in, where they can feel the spirit of my home. They can feel the spirit of my family. That this is a sanctuary for my family. You come in, it's just the rules of the household." When my when my youngest has his friends over, we tell them like, look, I don't care what you do outside. I don't care what you do in your own, your own home. But when you come into our house and these are the rules, we expect you to abide by the rules. You're a guest in our home. You're welcome in our home anytime, but don't break the rules.

Keith: 16:59 Yeah. One quick point on that whole household thing and our friend, our kids obviously are going to have friends that don't share the same morals. So, you know, for those of you don't know, I'm Black and I grew up in the inner city and for period of time, my family lived in the inner city, but our house was a gathering point for all of the young men, all of the boys to come and play basketball and hang out. And for me to mentor, and I had this one rule for when you played basketball - no one could curse. And if anyone cursed the game's over, "We'll see you guys. Please come back tomorrow, the next day." And that was a very difficult thing for the kids to initially grasp. But over a period of a couple of weeks, they, they get it. And our home was, they came and they drank Gatorade. They cookies, they played basketball. They didn't curse even if they did it at school.

Leon: 17:56 On a completely separate point, one of my friends is Lee Unkrich. He's one of the directors, or was until just recently one of the directors at Pixar, he directed 'Toy Story 3'. He's been around since almost the very beginning. And I was talking with him one day about 'Finding Nemo'. It had been out for a while. And I said, "What do your kids think about it?" And he says, "They're actually not allowed to watch it." Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. It's Finding Nemo. I mean, like, this is the quintessential Disney G-rated perfectly wholesome... Like, why would you not let your kids watch it? He said "They get too wrapped up in it. They are at that age where they identify with the characters so much that when the shark is chasing the dad, they're terrified because they can't disassociate their emotions of what's happening to them and what's happening to the character on the screen. So I can't let them watch it until I know that they're able to watch the movie, get excited about the themes or the ideas or the scene that's going on there, but at the same time that they, they don't feel actual terror." And I thought that was an interesting perspective for a parent to have about their child. And I think it lends itself to hear that we have to understand the ability of our kids to... Keith, to your point, to understand that, "yep, my friends swear at school and, you know, but that's not something that we do in our house." And my kids knew they could code switch. They knew exactly what words were okay in the house and what words weren't okay in the house. And we knew that they used other words, other places. And I think that as parents, we have to recognize when they have that sophistication and when they don't. And that also goes into our decisions about what to filter, whether again, it's library books or Internet and what we don't

Josh: 19:55 Got down, sat on a bentch, cheese and rice, Leon!

Leon: 20:01 Shut the front door! Right?

Josh: 20:06 Yeah, those are, those are the interesting batteries that I don't think we can control. Um, I'm really interested because, and this is a perfect time for me to tell my story. So my oldest son has autism. And one of his, one of the things he loves most in all the world is to watch movies, but he doesn't like to watch movies like you and I like to watch movies. He likes to watch movies and then pause them and rewind them and then pause them and then go forward frame by frame. And of course, you know, youtube is just an awful thing for him because it allows him to indulge in those stimulations. So we tried to block it and I spent hours and hours trying to configure this blocking software without blocking the rest of my family because I wanted them to be able to use the computer. And I was like, "oh my goodness, this is, I think I've got it." And we said, okay, come and sit down. And he came, he must've been, I don't know, 14 or 15 at the time. And he came and he sat down. I thought, "okay, great clicking, wonderful..." I turned around and walked away. Came back and there he was on the internet watching Youtube. And I'm like, "Are you kidding? You just undid like hours of effort." And I still don't know what he did. I don't know where he figured out how to turn it off. So I'm interested as an IT pro parent who quite honestly, I've really struggled with the best security practices for my family and myself, aside from, "Hey, I'm just taking away your Internet access." What can I do? How do I handle this? And, you know, what are my options for "Oh my goodness I'm cutting the the cable from the house to the Internet." And I'm like literally cutting it... to "All right. You know, you can have access to some things." What can I do here guys?

Leon: 21:47 Right. So before we go into that, I think it's important that our listeners, and we, as parents, have to answer one question, which you started to get at, which is "what is it that you're trying to accomplish?" And, and that's an IT question, that's not a religious or moral or ethical or a parenting question because if you're trying to block 'oopsies' - you know, once upon a time, my daughter was eight years old and she misspelled play House Disney, she got an eyeful, and that was at the time when there were popups and pop unders and it was, it was festive and she was eight. So she didn't really know what she was seeing, but she knew it wasn't what she wanted. Are we blocking that? Are we blocking momentary weakness? You know, it's 10:30 at night and no one's looking and you're thinking, you know, and, and whoever it is at the computers, just thinking, "Why don't I just check that out?" Are we blocking? And Josh said it like, "I just don't want to hear that. I just, that does not need to be in my brain." Or are we blocking, like, like you said, "I have a determined person in my house who is, you know, going full guns to go find this thing" and so I think that's the first thing is that you need to define what you're doing. Having said that, I don't think we can answer that for all of our listeners right now, but I just want to be clear. You have to know what you're trying to accomplish or else you're going to get the wrong technology.

Keith: 23:17 So I tried a ton of things. Well my case when I was raising kids and I had this specific problem, MySpace was all the rage. So that dates me and my kids, and I tried a ton of things - going into the cache of my sons Windows XP thing. And he ended up finding a way to install shadow profiles, so I wouldn't go under his profile to look at the cash. He got really good. So what I had to basically... for it to end - and I think this is specifically for teenagers - I had to basically lay down the law. Like, "You know, I am the god of the Internet when it leaves this house." So I installed a key logger on his laptop. And I told him, "There's nothing you can do on the Internet that I don't know." He said, "That's, that's not possible." I said, "You know what? I know you're your MySpace password." He said, "no you don't." I said, "Yeah, it is. It's 'monkeybutt1234'." "What?!? How'd you know that?" And so as you know, when his peers came over, they, he like, "No, no, no, don't do anything. Because my dad, I'm telling you, I don't know what he does in that room of his, but he can tell anything. He can, he even knew my, my space password." Right. So for teenagers, you know, the fear that there's nothing you can do that I can't discover, kind of killed the cat and mouse in my house, my household.

Leon: 24:47 But that's, that's almost like security by obscurity, right? Like we've, instilled the fear of our technical prowess and until they're much more sophisticated, they don't get it. In terms of like things that people would, you know, can do today. Uh, I think one of the things that I use a lot is OpenDNS or any basically any DNS redirector. I think that's a really powerful tool in a parent's arsenal because not only does it block whole sites, but it also blocks the popups, the sidebars, the ads, you know, it may be fine the site that they're on, but that site may be repeating ads that we would really prefer don't show up both for ourselves and for others. There's actually a Raspberry Pi How-to that is not about blocking things for your kids. It's about speeding up your internet overall. Because what they do is they use an in-house DNS redirector. And so all those ads don't take time to load because they all are redirected to and that speeds up your browsing immensely. So there's a secondary benefit. SO OpenDNS is one. What else do we got?

Keith: 26:00 So I use these Arrow Mesh network Wifi routers and you could subscribe to kind of the security plus and the security plus is also that basically OpenDSN type of a DNS protections. But also, you know, one of the practical - it's not keeping my granddaughter away from bad stuff. She just won't get off her iPad at 11 o'clock at night. So being able to control, by Mac address, who can access, creating these profiles, you know, I want my wife to be able to watch Game of Thrones at 11 o'clock, but I don't want my granddaughter to be able to surf at 11 o'clock. She should be asleep.

Leon: 26:51 Right, right. Okay. So I'm same thing. I use a ubiquity. I like their gear. Now it's considered prosumer. But it gives you a really high degree of control over the same thing, the Mac addresses, and the granularity that you can control devices. You can see devices, you can also see the other wifi systems that are around you to make sure that your kids aren't hopping onto the neighbor's Wifi and just completely busting out of the system. So you can see that going on as well. And the other thing that ubiquity gives is netflow insight, which is really good because it's not just that my son's laptop or his whatever is using 277 Gig per second of bandwidth. But this is the breakdown of where it's going. So netflow by itself, however you get it. But also, again, Ubiquiti gear is the same thing as Arrow mesh. It's that pro-sumer it gives you that deck granularity.

Josh: 27:54 So I'm really curious and I hope that our listeners will weigh in and let us know how many parents out there are getting the netflow, S-flow J-flow data off of their network gear and logging it. Like, I get it, you know, we're geeks. That might be something that we're going to do, but is anyone else out there doing this? Is Leon the only one? I don't know. I think this is great. You know, hey, we can install this pro-sumer gear. Even OpenDNS for people who don't practice or live in the IT world might seem a little daunting. Is there something that they can do that is straight-forward or are they just going to have to do the Keith Townsend parenting methodology, put the fear of God into them and be like, "If you, if you don't, you know, I'm going to..."

Leon: 28:44 It's a good question. So for the Orthodox community in Cleveland, myself, and there's another association that actually will do some of this stuff for families. So, you know, I'll do it for some of the people that are in my circle is to set up OpenDNS and I'll manage their exceptions and things like that. That doesn't scale particularly well. But there are a lot of services like that, that will help you out. And I think that for the nontechnical parent, that's one of the things. One of the other things, one of the other technologies that I use is much more manageable for, I would say the mere mortal Qustodio, which is spelled with a Q - Qustodio is something that goes on both phones and also compute devices. So laptops, I think it goes on raspberry Pi, things like that. It blocks both applications and also browsing, and it has very specific controls for social media. But as a parent it's much easier to manage than some of those pro-sumer tools that that are usable. And so there's really... This market is a fantastic market right now because they really are reaching out to the less technical. The fact is you're going to have to be somewhat technical. You're going to have to be somewhat savvy in the same way that, you know, when, when rap and that really hard rap was just coming out. Parents were like, "But I don't listen to my kids' music." Well, you're going to need to start, you know, or you're going to need to throw your hands up and say, what am I supposed to do? Like listening to your kids. Music is not the biggest challenge on earth, but you can't say, "I don't like what they're listening to, but I refuse to actually listen with them in some way." And to that point, I think that going back to netflow, it isn't something that you need to have the "eye of prophecy" upon you to be able to do. There are some wonderful tools that will make netflow easy to install, easy to digest, and will even set up alerts so that you don't have any traffic going to limewire or whatever, but if something starts, you'll get an alert when that happens. You know, there's stuff like that. And so I just want, again, even the non-technical parents to know netflow is one of those technologies that can give you a high degree of control.

Keith: 31:06 And then there's some are like consumer grade, like friendly. I don't know how well they are because I don't have kids that young that I would install it. But you know, they have Disney. Disney has bought a, I think some companies or web protection companies and make it kind of disney-easy. I was trying to find the guy's name. He does, "This Week in Tech" with Leo LaPorte sometimes, Larry.. I want to say it's Magid, or... I can't pronounce, I can't remember the exact last name. I've tried to Google him and he runs something to the effect And he gives a lot of great tips on just protecting your kids online from, you know, kind of a kid friendly social media, to tools like this is, that's how I remembered the Disney tool. Because if, and when I give my granddaughter a phone, which, you know, I'm kind of, you know, this, this conversation station scares me. The fact what happened is when she just has naked LTE and I, you know, I'm trying to protect her from naked LTE. How do I do that exactly. And that name and product kind of stood up in my mind.

Leon: 32:20 Got It. Yeah. And that's a good point is when you control the Internet, it's a simpler time, but once they have that cell phone in their hand and that cell phone can act as a hotspot or whatever, that was why I discovered Custodio honestly. And, and the person who turned me onto it was actually Destiny Bertucci, one of the other Technically Religious speakers. Because that works on the device regardless of where the Internet is coming from and you have control of it. Like, I literally, when my son is two states away, I can see that he's on a site I don't want and I can push a button and that site is no longer available to him. Period. End of sentence.

Keith: 33:02 So what happens, uh, going into a little bit more technical, so if your child does a VPN somewhere, is that an automatic conversation? Like how do we protect against that?

Josh: 33:13 Oh, you know, I'm just sitting here listening because I honestly have no sweet clue. I follow, I really, I honestly follow the Keith Townsend parenting model. I tell my kids, "Look, don't do that. If you do I might have to sell you." And so far so good.

Keith: 33:32 Yeah, know, I think that's the thing. Once they get to that age, it becomes a conversation of... You guys, we have older kids, so you know, our kids have made life decisions sometimes that we don't necessarily agree with and learning to balance between, okay, I'm a father that's giving great advice, to I'm a father that's trying to nag my child to live their life the way that I want them to live. There's a balance and you know, once you get to that age that they can figure out VPN, they're actively going after this stuff. And that's a different conversation. You know, this People-Process-Technology... this is a people and process problem versus a technology problem.

Leon: 34:11 I 100% degree. That doesn't mean that we necessarily throw our hands up because you know, one of the first things that my son went on youtube to find after we put Qustodio on was "how do you disable Qustodio" and the tutorials are all over the place and he was not particularly old or sophisticated. It was just, "you told me the name of the thing and I want to get rid of the thing and so I'm going to go find the...", but it was a conversation like, "Look it, you can get rid of this, you can probably find a way to work around it. And I will know sooner or later I'm going to find out. And at that point, you know, I'm going to have to fix the problem some other way." So Keith, to your question, I think that once your kids are starting to actively work around it, you're right, you may not be Johnny on the spot. You won't know it instantaneously. They're going to say, "Well, you know, I have a window of hours or days or weeks before mom and dad are going to notice." But I think that we have to impress upon them. We're gonna notice. And at that point we're going to have a really hard conversation about what that means. And my 19 year old who's, you know, in school with younger kids, you know, and those kids have burner phones to get around these particular things and stuff like that. And he's like, "You can do that, but they're going to find out - your teacher's going to find out and they're going to tell your parents... Like, it's not going to last that long. You're not, you haven't really fooled them. You've bought yourself maybe a day or two." And then a world of hurt comes after that, not to mention loss of trust.

Keith: 35:46 And I think the key part is that world of hurt has to come. If the world of hurt doesn't come then.

Leon: 35:53 Right, and not to say that it has to be punitive. I think that when your kids are at the age where they can install a VPN, unless they're really, really sophisticated at young age, but it's not about punitive, it's about "now we're going to talk about how you've broken my trust. Now we're going to talk about the interpersonal consequences of what that means. That that was a grownup choice and there's a grownup consequences about that."

New Speaker: 36:20 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh: 36:32 Did you click on a link for Geeks gone wild last night?

Keith: 36:35 And don't lie to me because I've already checked the log files!

S1E9 - The Only Constant is Change

S1E9 - The Only Constant is Change

April 30, 2019

In IT we know that the only constant is change. And for the most part, that's OK. What is difficult is when standards or processes are framed as immutable, and THEN they change. How do we adjust when the company spends $5million on a data center expansion, and then moves everything to the cloud 2 years later? Or when Windows abandons the GUI and goes to CLI, while Cisco moves away from IOS commands and on to GUI and API-driven interfaces? Does our religious/ethical/moral background help (or hinder) us from accepting and adapting to these moments in our work as IT pros? In this episode Kate, Josh, and Leon try to unpack the question and formulate some answers. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Kate: 00:25 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: 00:49 Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints made an announcement which sent shock waves through the Mormon community and tremors throughout many other religious communities as well. We'll get into the details about that in a minute. But it caused us here at Technically Religious to think about how supposedly immutable truths, whether we're talking about replacing Latin with English during mass or Microsoft's adoption of open source, affect us and how we deal with those changes. Joining the conversation today is Kate Asaff

Kate: 01:17 Hello.

Leon: 01:18 And Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:20 Yeah, it's still cold in Canada!

Leon: 01:23 and I'm Leon Adato and it's slightly warmer here in Cleveland. So Josh, do us a favor and run us down just the main points of the announcement from last week.

Josh: 01:34 Sure. So this announcement was made in early April, and in order to understand it, we have to go all the way back to November, 2015, and maybe even a little further. So the Organization of the Mormon Church, or the LDS church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is such that it's a top down organization. So the President, or prophet, of the church, he makes a declaration, often he has to get his two counselors and the other 12 men that sit on the quorum of the 12 apostles. And then those 15 men make these proclamations. So in November of 2015, the church released a policy internally, that was leaked, and then they had to address it publicly, that said that any child who had parents who were of the same gender, so you're in a same sex-relationship or a same-gender relationship or if you are trans-gendered - first, they were now labeled apostates. And that's really heavy language within any religious community. There's one thing to have transgressed, but there's another thing to be considered an apostate. And then in addition to them being an apostate, they also said that no child whose primary residence was with those same sex couples could receive any ordinances within the church. So that spans the entire gamut of: You could not be blessed as an infant within the church; to: you couldn't be baptized; to: if you were in the church - there are certain things that you that you undertake within Mormonism, you know, if you're a boy at the age of 12 (and now the age of 11) you can receive the priesthood - just things that you can't do, many of those rites of passage. So last week, and of course we're recording this in the early days of April, so last week the church came out and said, "Hey, that policy that was put into place in November of 2015? We're going to change that policy. And we're going to make it so that now if you are the child of an LGBTQ family, you can be baptized as an infant, you can be blessed within the church, under the understanding that of course the church is going to reach out to you and, throughout your lifetime because you are now officially a member of the church, once you're, once you're blessed and in the LDS church. That's a huge change because leadership within the church and members at large - admittedly myself prior to my transition away from Mormonism - defended that policy with a couple of talking points. First and foremost that the prophet, he specifies what is the will of God. He speaks for God. He's God's mouthpiece on earth. And second that this was an act of kindness, because we didn't want to - as a church - we didn't want to have people, with their children attending the Mormon church where the Mormon church was teaching that their parents were apostates. And then having to go home to their parents and say, "Hey mom and dad...", sorry... I got... hey, look at that. "Hey Mom and mom, dad and dad." Or "Hey, mom and dad, you know, dad and dad or mom and mom. You're an apostate." Or "You know, we think that you should be excommunicated." And all those horrible things that go along with that. So yeah, that's um, that was huge. I was pretty... I'll admit I was pretty pissed off on Thursday. Not because I disagree with the change that children should be allowed to join whatever church they want to regardless of their parents. I was just pissed off because lots of people put a lot of time and effort into setting aside their personal views and trying to make it so that they align with what they were being told from the top of the church. And then the church went, "Hey, by the way, we're going to change."

Leon: 05:36 Right. And you'd actually mentioned in an earlier episode when we talked about opposing as you follow, you said that that was one of the things that caused you and your family to move away from the Mormon church for a while. And then you came back and you suffered censure and a bunch of other things for those views. So you directly experienced some of that just for expressing an opinion.

Josh: 05:58 Yeah. And that actually goes back pretty far in my marriage. That goes back probably 15 years ago when that particular experience happened. I mean, just to give some context and then, and I know that we want to talk about this as a foundation for IT. And I think there's a great parallel. And Leon, thanks for calling it out. Harold B. Lee, who was the president of the church from July of 1972 until his death in December of 1973, he said this: "You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory." So, you know, pretty powerful language from the LDS church. Fortunately in IT, apart from Mac users, right Kate? Nobody thinks that their salvation from any of their other platforms.

Leon: 07:09 I think actually, yeah, there is actually a Mac airbook that blocks the gates of hell.

Kate: 07:14 It's actually an iPad.

Leon: 07:18 Oh, of course. It would be. And that, with making a little bit of lighthearted humor is where I actually want to go, which is the IT aspects of that. But before we dig too far into that can we think - the three of us - can we think of any other analogs in religions that may have been that same kind of thing? Again, I'm not talking about the fact that things change. I'm talking about things that were supposedly immutable, or somewhat permanent, and then the group, the organization sort of pivoted away from it. And, and I brought up one which was the change from the Catholic mass from Latin to English, which you know, happened I think in the seventies, if I remember correctly? I could be wrong because I don't pay very much attention to that kind of stuff. But I remember that it caused quite a bit of a stir,

Josh: 08:13 Yeah, the ordination of women in the United Methodist Church, which happened well before I was born back in the mid fifties is an interesting one. Again, linking it to Mormonism. A woman named Kate Kelly founded an organization called Ordain Women. She's a lawyer and an activist and she was excommunicated by the LDS church in June, 2014. So everyone kind of waits for the day in which women will be ordained within the Mormon church or within the the LDS church. I don't know if it's going to happen, but we certainly see that adopted. And that's a huge thing, right? Because traditionally, you know, as far back as tradition goes religions tended to be very patriarchal. Where, you know, men were the heads, the household, they were the heads of the church. And so for the United Methodist to allow women to be ordained officially, even though it had been doing it for a long time, unofficially. That was huge.

Kate: 09:04 It kinda reminds me in the 90's when the Catholic Church decided to start allowing girls to be altar servers. I remember there was a cardinal in Boston who had saw these girls serving and before the proclamation came from the Vatican, the story I heard was that he told the congregation, "Get these girls out of here." He didn't want to see them serving and that it was something, obviously 20 years later it has stuck with me

Leon: 09:34 With religion you have things that really are dogmatic. Sometimes we throw that word around somewhat flippantly but religion actually is dogmatic. It has, you know, strictures or rules that are, at least in the eyes of it, internally immutable. And so you've got that. But pivoting to the IT piece, I want to talk a little bit about, about that. What are some of those changes? It's not going to change and then it does and you have to suddenly cope with it. What are some of the ones that we've either heard about or experienced ourselves?

Kate: 10:08 Well since you guys were poking fun of me a little bit earlier as being a devoted Apple fan girl I will bring up the 2006 when Apple changed from Motorola to Intel processors. That was a huge thing for the Apple community and you know, many of us had spent years structuring these complex arguments as to why RISC processors are better than CISC processors and you know, insisting that megahertz and gigahertz aren't true measures of processing power. And then all of a sudden, like everything for us was just blown away overnight. Now Macs were Intel based and we kind of had to let go of, you know, our are sworn allegiance to the Motorola chipset.

Leon: 10:56 That's, I'm going to say funny, not funny ha ha, but I just had, I would never have expected that to be overwhelming to a community. But I can see that the way that you describe it, I can absolutely understand that you had an emotional investment in a particular hardware standard.

Josh: 11:16 Yeah. Well, I think that functional workspace, right? You know, Kate, you talked about defending the position of you know, RISC processors. That's why it's good. That's why it's the thing that makes Apple as awesome as it is. And we all go through that. You know, I've been in the industry long enough that I remember walking into data centers and seeing literally big metal, there were mainframes sitting on the data center floor. The idea that we would virtualize? It blew people's minds and I was like, I thought that was a great idea. Let's virtualize, let's get density. I will admit to being a little slower to adopt a shift to cloud because it, it put in place some barriers to entry for me. When I started my career, I loved the idea of networking, although I'm not a networking engineer, but I loved the idea that you could plug in cables and lights would start blinking and things just work. You know, there was, there was a command line and I actually, I had a reputation for asking questions in class, like "How do you do that from the command line?" But it got beaten out of me. I was that guy. But it got beaten out of me because Windows was the thing, Windows and at the time, a Netware were the platforms for for server managers and that's where I was headed. We've made this swing to having to code, and I don't code, but everything is code now. Networking is code, storage code, servers are code, everything is code. I'm made a very firm stance early in my career that I didn't want to code because I wasn't good at it. I'm still not good at it. I feel like I'm fumbling with 14 hands tied behind my back. I don't know what the analogy is. I just feel dumb. I feel like I'm the guy smashing his face on his keyboard trying to make things work anytime I code. So I get it. Those shifts are hard, and they're not hard because we don't, I don't want to accept the shift to cloud. It's hard because it makes me address other deficiencies in myself that I don't know that I'm 100% ready to address.

Speaker 1: 13:24 And I think that that's actually a good point is that the change, the changes themselves may not be so troublesome, but they address either inadequacies or perceived inadequacies in ourselves and we don't like that. We don't always like to have a mirror held up to it. Sometimes I think it's not that though. So given a quintessential example, and I think many of us in IT have experienced this, where on Monday the business says, "Hey, you know, this event is occurring," whether it's a merger or an acquisition or whatever it is, "but don't worry, nothing's going to change for you. Everything's going to be just fine." And then Friday, metaphorically, they say, "Oh, by the way, we're shutting down the location" or "You're being let go" or you know, "We're moving this entire department to merge with this other department" or whatever it is. And, whether it happens in days or weeks or months, "You first told me nothing was going to change. And then it did." And that's the part that I think a lot of us have a hard time coping with. Don't tell me that it's not going to change when you know full well that it is. Enough times in business, things change and everyone says, oh yeah, we had no way of knowing that was going to happen. Those changes are unpredictable and so you just deal with them. But when it's clearly predictable, that's the part I think that is more difficult for us in IT to deal with. And I think that's the whole point of vendors offering what's known as LTS, Long Term Support, for something, like "We promise we're not going to pull the rug out from under you for x years."

Josh: 15:09 I want to make sure that we understand or at least that we agree that IT is not religion. Religion is not IT. There's certainly some overlap and are dogmatic beliefs on both sides of of the row. But I tweeted earlier today and I'm going to read it, "A gentle reminder that you are more than your nationality, favorite sports team, political party, or religious ideology. Be more than the sum of your parts. Be better than your weakest part. Be human." And I think that that applies to IT as well. You might have been the person who was responsible for gateway computers, probably cause you liked cows. I don't know. Just because that is what you've always done doesn't mean it's what you always need to do. You are more than capable of transitioning and learning something new. And a coworker of mine, Zach, if you're listening, shout out, he will, he will admit that I am not a great scripter, but I'm also more than capable of being taught how to be an okay scripter, you know? Under his tutelage, I've become kind of useful with powershell and I have even remotely built some shell scripts recently. So it's possible you can be something more than what you thought you always were. And that is really a beautiful thing, both in IT and in humanity.

Leon: 16:31 And I've written about that in the past. And I probably will again in response to this podcast about that's actually not what you are. You might be, you know, a Cisco IOS command line jockey. You might be, you know, you might know everything there is to know about the Apple platform, whatever it is, but that's not actually what makes you a great IT professional. What makes you a great IT professional is your sensibilities. The fact that you understand how networking works, how hardware reacts with software, how architecture and design and you know an idea converts itself and moves through the pipeline into an actual product. Those are the things that make you a great IT practitioner and those things will persist even when the foundational platform - software or hardware - change. But again, just to drive it back again, the point is that, you know, we know things change, but when we are told something is not going to change and then it does, what do we do about that? So my question does our perspective, our outlook, whether it's religious or philosophical, whether it's moral or ethical, does that make it easier or harder to deal with? Kinds of events that you know, we promise it won't change it than it does. On the one hand, I could see someone saying that if you are heavily religious, you come from a strongly dogmatic frame of view, then you carry with you baggage of what "forever" means. And when a vendor or my employer says "It's never going to change, we are standardizing on x," and then they change. That can feel like a betrayal because I brought along, "No, no wait, you said the f word, "forever", so you know that means something to me and you just broke your promise." That could be much harder than somebody who might not have, like I said, that baggage coming along with it. I don't know what, what's your take on that?

Kate: 18:36 We talked about this a little bit before, but what I found was interesting about that question was that as an atheist, I obviously have a somewhat fluid view of, you know, how the world works and how things are. I am also, technology-wise the quintessential early adopter. I'm the first day that it's available. I will consume it, upgraded, download it, in any way that I can get the new stuff. I'm on board.

Josh: 19:03 So I think that that makes you Kate an IT relativist. There's this great thing within Mormonism about moral relativism and how it's such a bad thing, which that is a whole different discussion, but I think that the very best IT practitioners are those who can balance a bit of that. Conservativis... can't say that word... Conservativism plus that moral relativism within IT that you see the changes, you're willing to bring them in, but you do it in a way that requires that you parse them through your personal and your community experience and then say, "Yes, that's something we actually want to bring in to our enterprise. We're willing to adopt it." You need to know about it so that you can also say to someone who has read a shiny brochure or seen a vendor pitch about how amazing a product is and say, "Nope actually that's not something that we want to do and here's why." And being able to speak to a multitude of points. I think makes us great IT practitioners, if you are just that sole sourced individual who only knows about one technology, you're going to find yourself in some IT challenges. I've got a great friend, who coincidentally is also ex Mormon and his name is also Josh. Interesting point. It's interesting for me to listen to him talk about his challenges within his career. He's a great DBA. He is actually not just a DBA, but he designs databases and he's worked on a bunch of different areas and he has really struggled because he thinks that he's only in that data space. And I want to say to him, "Hey Josh," which is a little weird cause I'm calling my name, "Hey Josh, you need to understand that you're better than what you think that you are because first, you're willing to look at your career and figure out the parts that are really useful for you and you know where your weaknesses are." That, for me, is the big part. Are we willing to look at what we're doing today and understand both its strengths and weaknesses and then leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses by adopting other technologies? It would be kind of like me saying, "Hey, Mormonism is still really awesome," - which I do think. There are some wonderful things about Mormonism, but I also am willing to adopt some ideologies from Judaism. Thank you Leon. And I'm also willing and very open to adopting that moral relativism that comes along with atheism and other non traditional religious beliefs."

Leon: 21:36 I definitely think, Kate, that we have a new topic idea on the horizon, which is whether or not being staunchly religious makes you more or less likely to be an early adopter of technology. I think as an IT person, I really want to solve that problem because I like new technology and I would hate to think that I'm predisposed as an Orthodox Jew to like not want to do the things. Of course I could be an outlier. I could. So Josh, to your point, I think that that IT is not like religion in the sense that no matter how strongly a vendor or an organization says that something is never going to change, it's gonna. Right? Yeah. I mean we just know that that's the nature of IT, is that things are going to change and probably sooner rather than later when you look at the long game. However, I think one of the things that makes this issue, you know - "It's not going to change," and then it does - similar in both religious and IT contexts is what we as people hope and expect from that event. Which is, I think, that whoever's making the change needs to be transparent about it. I think they need to be intellectually honest about it. And they need to be consistent about it. And what I mean by those things is that they need to say that "This change is happening. We saw it coming, even if we couldn't tell you at the time, but we're telling you now that we knew it was coming. We just had to," you know, whatever it was, the merger was coming, but we couldn't say anything because blah, blah, blah, legal, blah, blah, blah, Wall Street, whatever. Right? Um, it needs to be intellectually honest. We're doing this because it supports our brand values. It supports our corporate goals. It, you know, whatever. And it needs to be consistent. And I think most of all, if people were hurt by that first statement, this is the way it is. "This is the way it's always going to be." And then it changes. And people were hurt. You know, an example that happened a couple of jobs back for me: $5 million investment in a data center, building it out, putting tons of hardware in there, and then they moved to the cloud. What are you kidding me? Like, we just bought all this stuff and the company did say, "We know we hired a lot of you for your depth expertise in on-premises data center operations. And now we're asking, you - we're in fact demanding - that you move to a cloud based model. We know that some of you are going to be upset by this. Some of you may want to leave. We're going to support you in whatever decision you make, but this is the direction we're going. That kind of statement makes it a lot easier to accept the, "We never will... Oops. We are" kind of thing. And I think just to tie it back to our opening topic. I would hope, although I'm not in the community, but I would hope that a statement is made to the families that were hurt within the Mormon community for, you know, the years of being called, you know, apostates and all that stuff, and say "We're really sorry about this and we're going to do what we can to make it better." I would hope that that statement would be forthcoming. I guess time is going to tell.

Josh: 24:55 Time will absolutely will. Unfortunately Mormonism does not have a history of apologizing. The unfortunate reality of some of the current leadership has come out specifically and said that the church does not ask for, nor does it offer apologies.

Kate: 25:12 A long, long time ago I worked for MCI Worldcom and, if you recall, it is now Verizon business. It was sold to Verizon about 18 months after the CEO promised all of the employees that he was not looking to sell the company. MCI is also a huge company. It had definitely been in the works. So your comment about honesty really struck home with me. Nobody likes to be blindsided by change, but even more, nobody likes to be lied to about it.

Josh: 25:45 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

Kate: 25:59 To paraphrase and old Greek guy, "the only constant in IT is change."

S1E8 - The Four Questions

S1E8 - The Four Questions

April 23, 2019

When you start “doing” monitoring, there are a few questions that you get asked over and over again. Technically Religious member Leon Adato came to think of them as “The Four Questions” (of monitoring), as a kind of inside joke reference to the Four Questions that are asked during the Passover. The joke became an epiphany, and the epiphany became a book. With Passover upon us, Doug, Kate and Destiny talk with Leon about the book, the process of creating it, and how it gave him a chance to link his religious and technical experiences together in a unique way. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Destiny: 00:24 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.

Destiny: 00:48 Hey, I just got this great new ebook this week.

Doug: 00:51 No, no, no. I got this great new book.

Kate: 00:53 Wait a minute. Did Leon send you a copy of his book, too?

Leon: 00:58 Hey everyone!

Destiny: 00:59 Did you set up a whole podcast just to talk about your ebook?

Leon: 01:04 Maaaaaaaybe?

Doug: 01:06 Wow. That is both lame and kind of brilliant.

Kate: 01:09 aaaaand we're off!

Leon: 01:11 Okay. I admit it, I admit it. But it does fit, right? Technically Religious is a podcast about the merger between our religious lives and our technical lives and the book, you know, The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Going to Get Asked is kind of that right?

Destiny: 01:32 Definitely.

Doug: 01:33 Which came first, this podcast or the book cause it sounds, it's a real similar kind of a set up when you think about it.

Leon: 01:44 The answer is both. Uh, The Four Questions has been something that I've talked around and about for over two and a half years. And as a joke it's just sort of an inside joke I've been talking about since I've been doing monitoring. Um, because it is a thing, at least in my head, it's a thing. So the podcast really came out of conversations with Josh Biggley and myself about religious synergy and again about the overlap between our religious and and technical lives. And the decision to write the book probably started about two years ago. I've been working on it on and off. So they both sort of arose from the same desire to share that worldview, but they came out in slightly different ways.

Destiny: 02:32 and I think they came out because of in our work life. And you know, in general we write a lot and you've seen the questions and you've seen a lot of the user interaction and customer needs. And I feel like it's kind of a good thing because you've waited just long enough to understand those needs so that you can answer them.

Leon: 02:48 Right when I, yeah, I started to have like a full, a full story and some of the talking, honestly, some of the discussions I've had in synagogue, I'm trying to explain what do during the week to people. Um, that also sparked a lot of ideas. And so the four questions is really, like I said, this inside joke because during Passover, which is actually the holiday, we're in the middle of when this podcast is airing during the, the service or the, the meal, the youngest kid at the table asks these four questions, it starts off "why is tonight different from all other nights?" And, but there are these four sort of iconic questions. And as I was working in monitoring for questions kept coming up over and over and over again. And so I started to, you know, just jokingly refer to them as the four questions. And if the person I was talking to his Jewish or had friends who were Jewish, they were like, "oh yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it." And, but then I realized that there's a lot more parts of Jewish philosophy and the Jewish culture that fits both it and monitoring, especially around the idea of questions of skepticism of, you know, really inquiring past the pat answers, you know, really debating for the sake of making things better, not debating for the sake of winning. So those were all ideas that fed into the idea of the book.

Destiny: 04:11 It's pretty interesting. I like the idea, the skepticism because like for any religious aspect, everything is skeptical. From an outsider looking in period. And anytime we ever talk about monitoring and we'er at work / at an event is there's always skepticism. Like, "I need a solution. There's no way you can provide it." Right? Like "I know you, I know what you guys do, but you're not going to be able to help me." It's like we're... Yechh...

New Speaker: 04:37 "You sales people are all the same." And that's why I tell them there's actually no salespeople allowed to go to conventions for our company. We're actually all engineers, so you know, and they're like "whaaaaaaat???". Yeah. And so we're like, yeah, "oh, I was totally, yeah, I wouldn't have believed that either. Here, let me show it to ya."

Kate: 04:52 I was just going to say it's also, uh, we talking to customers a lot of times. Um, there's a, a skepticism of the data that they see, which I think is really the, you know, you should never just blindly trust anything, but it's definitely there as well.

Destiny: 05:07 How Paranoia. Yeah, I know all about that. Never trust the data. Right. But we run into that all the time where we'll have people that are like, hey, I need the data about this. I want the RAW data. And then there's an argument, is this the raw data? "Is this just what you're giving me? Why are you giving me the data? Why don't I have full access to the data? I don't understand." And then that creates a whole other realm, right? Because there's always a skeptic.

Kate: 05:35 Yeah. Why is it different than I expect it to be?

Leon: 05:37 Right. And that feeds back into sort of the, the conversationsq that drove the book, which was, um, you know, you need to be prepared for those questions. Again, one of the lessons, one of the lessons for Passover is that there's this story about the four children and there's the scholarly child, there's the skeptical child, there's the uh, quiet, we're stupid child. Uh, and then there's the silent child. And uh, everyone thinks like, oh, you have to decide which one you are. Are you the scholar? The one, are you the rebel? Are you the whatever? And actually when you get right down to it, it's, it has nothing to do with who you think you are. It's that if you want to try to teach people anything, you need to be ready for those four archetypes in every combination of those archetypes. You know, to you, you don't get to pick your students. You don't get to pick the people who are going to ask you questions. And if you're not ready for all of them, if you're not ready to actually just do cheerleading for the silent child, because they actually don't know what question to ask there, they're just sort of sitting back and like, "I got nothing for you." If you're not ready for that, that really rebellious, skeptical child, you know, to to put you on the spot about everything. If you're not ready, then you're not ready. And I think that is monitoring engineers especially, but IT people generally, we also need to wrap our heads around that. Like the person who comes into the meeting room and says, "I don't believe any of your data." They're actually your friend, you know? And the reason, the reason why I say that is because again, during the Passover conversation, the skeptical child, everyone says, oh, well, you know, he shouldn't be here. No, no. He chose to show up. That's the thing. The opposite of love isn't hatred. The opposite of love is apathy, you know, so the skeptical child showing up and saying, "All right, you just, what is all this to you? What? I don't, I'm, I'm on the fence. I'm not even on the fence. I'm over the fence here." But they showed up. You know, when they say, "I don't believe that this redundancy, you know, redundant design is going to work. I don't believe that this is really secure. I don't believe that. You know, you're really going to catch this problem." Whatever it is, they're actually your friend. They're actually there to make everything better. They may have social issues that don't allow them to communicate in a way that may be pleasing to you, but they're still there.

Doug: 08:02 And that's what makes The Four Questions work so well. Because in essence, what you're, you're what you're telling, whoever's reading the book, and there's a lot of people who this book is going to be good for, but basically you're just saying, you gotta be prepared for these questions and there's nothing, they always say a lawyer never asks a question they don't already know the answer to. Well, this is sort of the flip side of that. You basically need... you're going to get asked these questions so you better know the answers to them when they, when they, when they come across your bow and if you do, all of a sudden your credibility goes right through the ceiling because you're prepared. You're not blindsided. It's not a, "let me get back..." well, you might have to say, "Let me get back to you on that." But if you're at least expecting the question, you know that it's coming and you don't look like deer in the headlights.

Destiny: 08:52 I think that's important for anybody, right? Like if the employee versus the manager / CTO like yourself, Doug, it's one of those things up. If you know The Four Questions, it makes you a good interviewer, right? Like I know how to do this. It also makes you the good interviewee because you know the questions of which that are going to be asked. And you also know as the goal attendee, right? Like you're the goal guy, you're the CTO, you're needing these things to be answered by your lower level and you should be able to have the trust in the, you know, the actual confidence in them to be able to provide those when they lead up to you, they had the correct summary.

Leon: 09:25 Right? I just want to clarify one thing though, which is that it's, this is more than the four questions regardless of the book or not. Uh, you know, um, is the four questions are there not only as a CYA but also because if you think, well, how would I answer this question? You are naturally going to start designing your monitoring solution in a way that is more robust and more redundant and more comprehensive than you might otherwise. So it's really about making the solution better. Even if even if you're not worried about, you know, people putting you on the spot, even if you're not worried about, you know, maybe maybe everyone in the company loves you and loves monitoring and loves everything about it and they're all super fans and they cheer and sing for you as you walk through, you have your own theme song when you enter the office... is it getting a little deep in here?

Destiny: 10:15 Okay, we're not talking about me.

Doug: 10:19 Oh it's all rainbows and unicorns and I don't think so.

Leon: 10:22 Right. Okay.

Kate: 10:22 I really to visit this company.

Doug: 10:22 What color is the sky in your world?

Leon: 10:22 But even there's , right? Exactly. So even so the point is is that if you think about these ideas and say, well how would I answer that? You're naturally going to make a better solution because of it.

Doug: 10:37 Yeah. I was thinking less of a CYA, although CYA, it can be important sometimes, but as you were saying, when you're asking those questions, you are thinking through how does this thing need to be built and as a result you will be ready then when the questions come, cause you will have built it correctly in the first place

Destiny: 10:55 It's not even correctly. It's just more of a, you're giving thought. And I think that's something that we don't do hardly anymore. We just, we don't think about the end game. And that's like what ADHD, right? They're the ones that run up the tree and don't remember how to get down. So it's like, you know, right. It's like I would just want to go up. Yeah, I just want to go up the tree. I don't care how I get down. I just want to get down there, you know, up the tree. And so it's Kinda like the same thing. A lot of times when I've talked to people they want to do monitoring and they will go full force ahead, turn everything on, have everything going and then they're like, what did I just do? But they're not ready. They don't, they don't have the questions to ask. They don't understand the entities of which they are monitoring. They don't know what the goal is for the company by even having these metrics. And some of the times it's like, it's overwhelming. They'll turn on a freaking fire hose of events in a sim tool. And they're sitting there [and I'm] going, Well, are you gathering logs?" "Yeah." "Well, what does it look like?" "There's lot of, well, there's a lot going on here." Like, you know what I'm saying? Like that's the thing though. It's if you don't have questions like Doug was saying and you don't have a direction, you don't have a confidence of where you're heading to, you've got this huge, just abundance of data. It doesn't matter if it's Raw, it doesn't matter if it's accurate. You have no idea how to actually get to the information that you actually need and that's pertinent to you and it's just a plethora.

Kate: 12:30 You end up trying to drink from the fire hose.

Leon: 12:32 I want to be clear about that. That's not the end it feels like it's going in right when they turn on the fire hose. Drinking isn't the part... No, it's much more uncomfortable than that. Right. It's really, um, and that actually goes straight to the, one of the chapters is called a, I called it "The Prozac Moment,"q which is actually the second stage. The first stage is, you know, turn it all on and it's, you know, the turning on the fire hose of data and then they have this moment where you basically have to intravenously applied Prozac because they're like, "It can't all be this bad!!" A) Ad Populum Theorem, Doug, uh, it can all in fact be this bad. And B) you know, you did ask for that.

Destiny: 13:20 Well, and I think that's something that talk about those that it can all be that bad. And I've seen a lot of people, and I know you have to, and I'm sure Doug and Kate has, where people have turned things on and it is bad. And then you have the people that are like, "Let's just put that back under the rug." You know what I mean?

Doug: 13:38 "We did not see this. "

Destiny: 13:39 "Yeah, let's take 10% of this and evaluate it and look really good, but let's ignore the 90% of it until, I don't know, a review comes around" like, like let's just, they don't want to handle it all at once because it's overwhelming, but they don't actually implement a correct plan on how you stage, that categorize it. Is it low, medium or high? They just are like overwhelmed. "Oh my God, my review is coming up. I have things that are monetarily going to be associated with this data that's now represented. I need to control it." So what they actually do is turn off the fire hose. They only allow certain little things to come through and you're in a bigger mess honestly because you're just getting that much more behind.

Leon: 14:26 So something I'm curious about and you know, I'm, I'm too deep into it to really know. But you know, obviously this is a book that has some religious stuff in it. So my question is, what was your take on that? Like good blend or it was way too much. It was blunt force Judaic trauma or you know, how did, how do you respond? How did you respond to it as you were reading it?

Kate: 14:47 I'll tell you a little origin story of my atheism because it's kind of relevant to that question. Um, when I was much younger, uh, in college I was going to a nondenominational church, um, because I wanted to impress a guy and the pastor gave a sermon about how God wanted to get into the hard drive of your mind and reboot it. And that was the moment when I said to myself, yeah, I'm an atheist now.

Leon: 15:17 So that's perfect. I, I probably would've been right there. I would be second in line out the door with you.

Kate: 15:26 Then I'm mixing technology metaphors with religion has as sort of been like an instant "no" for me. Um, but I will say like, I really appreciated the fact that, you know, I could read the way you had everything laid out. It was really easy for me to, to sort of separate it and say "This is an interesting, like his bit of history and of fact," and I can stick to the technology part and I didn't feel like they were too, you know, meshed together, if that makes sense.

Doug: 15:56 I came at it from a sort of the other side because I'm less interested in the technical and the monitoring side. Yeah. Just the way I am. But I found the, I found the religion really fascinating because as an evangelical Christian, we are grafted onto the Jewish scion, at that's what we believe in, we won't want to go any further than that. But so knowing the basis of the, uh, of the Passover, which is, um, let's face it, a very important, um, Jewish, right. And a lot of our symbolism and Christianity comes from that whole, the whole Passover image. Um, it was, it was great both getting more detail on the actual Passover itself, but then I thought the questions were really nicely tied into the technical side without it's being, it's not beating you over the head with the Torah. It's just saying, "Here's, you know, here's this question now. How can that work from a technical standpoint without actually making your hard drive, get rewritten and rebooted?" Oh my God, I would become an atheist also.

Destiny: 17:08 I think for myself being hugely technical and hugely religious, that on my side of it, the mystery, uh, more of the Passover intertwining with the Jewish as well as the Christianity on my side. Like, I know that you, Leon have done a lot of things with my husband on the Torah and things of that nature and just that extra knowledge slash background of how we all kind of mesh together of where we all decide that we don't agree that, um, but that's like a lot of things though of, of when we go into that realm, when I'm looking at the technology I take from it from not only a Christian like type of the viewpoint of how I see things and how I view things, but also because of my knowledge of knowing you through the years as well as understanding the Torah a little bit better through my husband and your sessions of understanding from the Jewish background that goes way further than Christianity does. So I think there's a lot to be said there that marries religions together. Like there is a stint point, there is a spear of destiny per say. Ah Ha! That, um, I think that all creation period, like whether you're an atheist or anything that comes across there, there are things that we can take from history that's been noted in books, literature itself. I mean even outside of religion that we can tie in together to times to what is happening now.

Leon: 18:29 Uh, I'm going to pivot from there. The book is available both as an ebook but also there's a, you can buy a physical actual hold it in your hand and there's been some very strong opinions expressed both within the Technically Religious staff, both folks who are on the, you know, on this episode and not, and then also out in the community for people who've had pre-release copies. So I just want to get your feeling, you know, ebook physical book. Like what, what's your take on that? This is it. This is an IT question. How do you consume your words?

Kate: 19:01 I was all in for the ebook from day one, like the format in general. Um, because if you ever, you know, sort of had the college experience where you move a lot of dorms are a lot of apartments, you realize quickly how much having a lot of books can really suck unless you happen to be a power lifter. Or a body builder. Um, so I was thrilled when the notion that, you know, all of my books that I wanted to read suddenly weighed no more than an iPad.

Destiny: 19:30 Oh yeah. But that's a good ploy though. And I'd have to say like for me, because I'm constantly in college and constantly like upping myself in certs and stuff. But uh, I was for a long time buying the actual book. I just liked the feel of the paper. I like to be able to highlight and there was something about it just being on my shelf in a tangible, like I could just grab it and touch it and relate to the moment when I was reading it. But I do have to say in the past, probably year, year and a half, and I know that that's actually quick, right? Like, that's pretty quick in my time of I've started to really enjoy ebooks and audio. I can, not that I have a long commute because I work from home, but when I'm doing things that, you know, like if I'm like driving through town or if I'm having a break, I can do the audio now and I'm starting to do that. So I think there is a lot to just where you're at in life.

Kate: 20:21 I think going back to my point though, the fact that you moved within that time period has something to do with it.

Destiny: 20:26 But I brought everything with me. I brought every book with me and did not get rid of it. But I started to reevaluate and like I said, just even before I moved, just it was, uh, an easier thing probably because the increased travel, I travel a lot now, so a lot of the, it's way easier to continue my studies, continue my learning or if I'm out at an event and somebody suggests something, well I, I want to remember it. So I just like download it, read it, start doing it on kindle or something. You know, like that's just super easy and there's just a lot to it. I just think like I've finally been pushed enough I guess to where I just gradually fell into the ebook market. But I feel like I'm late to the game. Is what I'm getting at. I feel like I'm late to the game. I wish I would have converged or went towards it earlier in life.

Doug: 21:14 Yup. Well, since I'm older than dirt, I came, uh, I basically came at this from books. In fact, uh, the, the first thing I did in college was I got an account at the bookstore, which of course got me into immediate, incredible trouble financial as you might imagine, because I've loved books forever. So I had books upon books upon books, and as Kate said, I moved him everywhere. I, yeah, I used to be in better shape, but, uh, finally about three or four moves ago, I basically ended up selling everything, all the books just because I got tired of moving them. I still have... Except for my cookbooks. Of course I still have those. But about four years ago, something like that, I was going to work overseas for six months. You can't take all of those books that you're going to need to read for that period of time. Didn't have access to the library, everything. So I got myself a nook for goodness sakes. Don't ever want to have one of those again. But the thing is I was able to go ahead and borrow books from my public library back home, electronically, read through the whole game of Thrones and about 15 other books for the six months I was there. And I am now a convert. I, you know, on a kindle, I still get books because my wife wants books. Books doesn't want to read them electronically. And just last night I was, I had to take the shade off the lamp cause I realized that the lights in my bedroom or no longer set up for reading in bed because I'm used to having something that has its own little glow. I'm, I'm, I'm a convert.

Leon: 22:45 So I have to say from my side that part of it is just the nature of the Jewish beast, um, that, you know, every week for 25 hours, we're completely offline. So, uh, if all of your books and reading material are online, it makes it very difficult for at least that, that one day period. But I dunno, there's, I still, you know, there's something about holding a book in your hand and being able to flip through it and the visceral experience of it, you know, the ability to say, oh, that's on page 34 in the upper right corner, you know, next to the picture of the this or that. There's something about that for me. But at the same time, everything that you have, all of you have already said, um, that, you know, it's just so convenient to have and it doesn't matter where you are or whatever, it's, you know, tap, tap, tap, and there it is. And, okay, so you don't know what's on page 32 because you can do a search and find it in the book or whatever, but...

Destiny: 23:45 See and me and my new house, it's one of those things of, it's almost scholary like you know, it has like a, its own sense of essence to it to have books because like where I live in a resort, when people came over to my house, we do have a pretty good like library of books and things that come across there like beautiful books, Alice in Wonderland with all of the beautiful pictures of which that are within there and things of that nature and, and like Girl Genius and like little, you know, comic books and things like that. Like there's things of which that we have that just haven't an own art realm to them. Right. That is almost has its own, it's like a, a class of society in a way. It's like, you know, it's, it's like, "Oh my gosh, you have a library!" right? Like it's like things like that of which that you have to think of.

Speaker 1: 24:29 So yeah. So I think that that's, that's definitely a trend is that books have moved from being the thing that have all the words in it. And I don't really care as much about the aesthetic to something that must have both an aesthetic and a, you know, a content value to me because otherwise I can just put the words on a electronic, you know, form and just work through it. I will say that there has been a call for a, the four questions to be moved into an audio book. I could see that that is, that is in the works for those people who, uh, are thinking the same thing as you're listening to this. That is definitely gonna happen in the next, you know, few months or something. Hopefully it will already have happened depending on when you listen to this. Um, so that's definitely a thing.

Destiny: 25:15 Does everybody else like audios?

Doug: 25:17 I like it when I'm driving. I mean, otherwise I don't, I mean I, it was just funny, I was in radio for how long? And you know, you would think that I would just eat that stuff up. And the reality is I just don't, because it, for me, it only works if I'm concentrating. Um, you know, it's like if I'm working around the house or something, I can't be distracted by the book. So that's not gonna work, you know? But when I'm driving long distances, if I drive from Dallas back home to see my mother in Ohio, we go through novels. I've got a question about all the words.

Leon: 25:50 Okay.

Doug: 25:51 It's a lot of words. A book is a lot of words. I've started to write a novel like four times. Um, so I mean, you wrote a book, Dude.

Leon: 26:04 Indeed I did.

Doug: 26:05 You did. Well, I mean, it's a lot of words. You put it all together. You've finished, you sat your rear in the chair and you went ahead and wrote it. How hard is, I mean, do you have any advice for people who want to... IT people who think they want to write a book?

Leon: 26:20 Uh, okay. So for all three of them, uh, there's because, because IT people are sort of stereotypically not interested in flat out documenting their stuff, let alone, you know, writing a book. But if you have an idea for, you know, the great American novel, the hard work is, is getting those words written out. The thing not to do, is to constantly second guess yourself. "Is this good enough? Has someone said this before? Is this..." this is your take on a topic. It doesn't matter if you are writing about ping or uh, you know, this is, this is how to set up active directory or whatever it is. It's fine that there are 12, you know, or 12,000 other books on it. This is yours. Um, and there's a lot of things that you'll discover along the way that makes the whole effort worth it. So that's my, my cheerleader. You know, "You can do it, go try!" you know. Um, and sometimes you, you end up writing, starting to write one thing and then realize that there's this other thing, this other topic that was hiding behind it. That's actually way more interesting. So, uh, it is a lot of words, but they're always worth it. It is always, always worth it. And obviously, write something that you find really interesting yourself. Um, if you're writing about Active Directory because you hate it and you know, you're just a masochist, that's, that's, I guess that's a thing, but it's not gonna be easy. Those aside, because that is the work of the work. That aside, everything else is ridiculously easy these days. Um, you don't have to pitch to a publisher. You don't have to. The, the most expensive part of writing this book was the editor that I hired and I very consciously hired her on because I've worked with her before Ann Guidry. Um, she's amazing and she's edited my work in the past and she was incredible. And, and that was where most of the money, went. I'll be honest, the book cost $3,000 to produce, start to finish. Um, it was, you know, a couple hundred bucks for the cover art. Uh, Rob Masek of Masek Designs did the cover for me and he's also incredible. Um, and Ann did the editing. And then there was a little bit of incidental stuff here and there for, you know, the plugin module on the website to do sales and things like that.

Destiny: 28:43 But Ann's is really good at helping you stay who you are.

Leon: 28:46 Right. She, she like any good editor. She helps me sound more like myself.

Destiny: 28:52 Right. And when I did my first ebook and you helped me with it, my first E-book, not a book book, but when I did my first Ebook, she was the one that did the editing on that. And you're the one that helped guide me on like, Hey just make it fun and do things. And I realized real quick the difference in somebody that's editing it for their own gain, if that makes sense. Versus editing it to make sure that it's who you are. But like grammatically correct obviously, but more of your tone, right? Like it was more so like who you are and you know the [sic] related, right? Like white, this is how she wants to say it because that's how Destiny talks, right. You know, like this is, this is how this is done and this is meant to be. And I have the confidence and letting it lie. I thought that was really cool for as an editor for her that she really grasps.

Leon: 29:43 Yeah, no, she absolutely got that. And, and which made the investment worth it because I knew that the product, the end product was going to be so much better because of it. Um, in terms of the rest of it, you know, Word, you know, just type, like really no pad would be fine too. I'm a big Evernote, you know, person in terms of tools, I write a lot in that. Um, and as far as putting it together, uh, there's, there's plenty of services I happened to use Smashwords, which gets it distributed all sorts of, all over the place. And then Kindle, you know, Amazon, you have to do on your own, separate from that. And as far as the printing, I used IngramSpark and again, minimal investment. So if you're thinking, oh my gosh, you know, I can't write a book because the production part is really hard, that's not anymore. That barrier to entry is completely gone. Um, so that you can focus as a writer, you know, just doing that part. And I'll tell you a trick and Destiny, you sort of hit on it, which is, you know, if you're thinking, wow, this is too much for me to do, invite some friends, you know, talk about it. If this is a technical topic and you're talking about it at work, talk with the folks and say, "Hey, you know, do you want to do a chapter? Do you want to, you know, contribute some ideas and I'll flesh them out or vice versa?" And you know, three, four, five people. Again, Amazon doesn't care how many author names you put on there. You know, it's not like a, a real flesh and blood publisher says, "No, no, no. We wanted to have the exclusive rights and all of you must sign a contract and your first born child." like nobody cares. Really.

Destiny: 31:20 Thank God I've alread got a few!

Leon: 31:23 Right, right. You can, yeah. Children to say, yeah, it's, you can put a few up. Exactly. They must be teenagers. So, uh, you know, but you can, you can do that so you can actually spread the load. And uh, on, on this book, on The Four Questions, a friend of mine, a Rabbi Davidovich, uh, who's here in Cleveland, he also, he's got a lot of great ideas. His public speaking is incredible, but he just found that that hump of writing to be a little bit daunting. And so I'm like, yeah, "You're going to do, you're going to do a chapter for me." And so he's got, uh, you know, he's got a whole insert in there. Um, I actually had to bribe him with a pan of baklava and coffee and he was able to, he was saying... It works, man.

Doug: 32:11 Oh, well. her baklavah.. your daughter's baklava is so good, I mean really...

Kate: 32:16 I would do literally anything you asked of me for a pan of baklavah.

Destiny: 32:20 So would Tim. Tim would totally be down.

Leon: 32:23 Duly noted. Okay. See, so everyone who's listening, like you just have to know the people around. You just have to know what their bribery level. Um, so anyway, you know, so there's some other ways to go about writing it that isn't the same. And the last piece of advice that I would give is, is if you like writing, but the idea of writing a book is daunting. Don't. Write blog posts, write short essays. You'd be amazed at how quickly they bundled together into an anthology, or that you start to see themes come out. It's like, "Oh, but if I, if I wove this one into this one, if I connected that to that and I just rewrote a little bit of this" and whatever that all of a sudden the book is there. You actually already did it. You just didn't realize it. Um, so those, those are just some, some, you know, other ideas from inside.

Destiny: 33:14 So I have a question. If you're going to summarize your book how would you summarize The Four Questions for somebody who has no idea what they are? Like coming in to this podcast right now? Like if they were like, "Okay, I hear a lot about four questions. What the hell is four questions?? What is going on?" Like, what is it?

Leon: 33:32 So there's, there's two ways to answer. First of all, the book is really the combination of what Jewish philosophy and history have to say about it. And monitoring specifically. That's the overarching theme. So it's really about monitoring with the Judaic piece as spice or a through line to keep you, as Kate said, "to keep you awake." What the four questions are is a pretty simple, these are the four questions that I've gotten asked over the 20 years I've been a monitoring engineer: Why did it get an alert? Why didn't I get an alert? Uh, what are you monitoring on my systems right now? What's going to alert on my systems right now? And then there's a fifth of the fourth questions. Just like, there's five cups of wine or four, we're not sure, during Passover. There's four - or five - questions and that is "what do you monitor standard" is the last question. So those are the questions. So as far as where you can get it, um, you can find all the links to it on my website, but you can also find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and those links will lead you to everywhere else that you could possibly want to find it.

Doug: 34:39 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Leon: 34:53 It's a very engaging topic. In fact, it's so interesting and meaty that I don't think one book is enough. You're probably going to have to buy two just to make sure you get it.


S1E7 - Opposing As We Follow

S1E7 - Opposing As We Follow

April 16, 2019

In religion (and the religion of IT), we often find ourselves accepting the majority of the dogma while having to choose to reject the minority. In this episode, Josh, Doug, and Leon talk about how to support something that you disagree with because it’s just part of a larger system that is mostly good. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked," and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of it with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks.

Josh: 00:25 Welcome to Technically Religious, 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: 00:48 So tell me, what do you think the hardest part of your job is?

Josh: 00:54 You know, when I lived in Las Vegas, a retired LAPD gang squad detective that I knew, I think he said it best, he said, In order to be in leadership, you have to tell people how to go to hell and have a good time getting there."

Doug: 01:08 Wait, what does that even mean?

Josh: 01:10 Well, I think that it means that sometimes to lead, well, you have to tell people things that they don't want to hear, but you have to do it in a way where they don't hate you or hate the process.

Leon: 01:21 Okay. And that takes us into our conversation for today, which is, opposing something even as you are a part of it. Even as you follow it. What we're going to talk about is where the majority of the thing that you're in, your work, your religion, the club you're in, most of it you like, it's good, but there are certain elements that you absolutely can't stand. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. So how do we as good IT people, as good practitioners of our faith as good members of our family - How do we oppose something while still being part of it, rather than just rage quitting. So that's the topic for today.

Josh: 02:09 Well, I'm going to oppose the fact that we've started this podcast without introducing Doug.

Leon: 02:15 Oh, right, sorry, everyone, uh, sound off

Josh: 02:18 Josh Biggley

Doug: 02:20 Doug Johnson

Leon: 02:22 and I'm Leon Adato. Thank you. Okay, good. That... See? So sometimes opposition can be good, and be done respectfully. Right?

Josh: 02:28 Well, you know, I, I if you've been on the Internet lately, I think that they would disagree. I'm just going to say that Reddit and every comment on every article I've ever read says that you have to oppose by burning down the world.

Leon: 02:43 Right? Right. They would oppose the idea that you can oppose something respectfully.

Josh: 02:47 Absolutely.

Doug: 02:47 Yeah. It seems like, but it seems like what they're doing is by burning down the world, they're burning down the very thing that they want to preserve. It drives me crazy that people are just like, "Let's just go and destroy this thing cause I hate this part of it. So I'm going to ruin everything for everybody."

Leon: 03:04 Everybody. Right. And, and Doug, just a little background for the listeners that don't know you really well, you, um, the way you described yourself to me first is best, uh, Steve Martin once said that, "two years of philosophy is enough to screw up anybody." And you've had four.

Doug: 03:18 That is correct.

Leon: 03:18 So I can only imagine that some of the arguments that you see on the Internet are maddening for you.

Doug: 03:26 It can be and I've actually gotten off of all of the long form ones because I was tending to do too much real arguing. So by staying on Twitter, I've only got 140 characters to go ahead and make my point to be really succinct to tell people what idiots they ar... sorry, to tell people that they're thinking maybe not quite as tight as it should be.

Leon: 03:50 Right, exactly. Okay, good. Um, so I think we should probably talk about, um, some for instances, you know, when we talk about being part of something but opposing, um, so let's start off in IT. What are some examples in the world of it where you might oppose something but you know, again, not want to burn the entire building down.

Josh: 04:09 I was going to say a cloud versus on prem, but that feels like a burn the building down. So I avoided that one

Leon: 04:17 Well, and I'd say why not both, right? I mean, you know, hybrid IT is a thing. So you don't, you don't have to, I mean not, not that anybody ever asked for it. Uh, but you know, it's still a thing. So I don't feel like that's, I was thinking more of things like just generally speaking, design choices. There are times in our lives as IT professionals where someone makes a particular design choice. No, we're not going to have redundant switches here. We're, you know, going to go with RAID 5 not, you know, solid state storage or RAID 10 or whatever where you're like, this is wrong. This is a bad, bad idea. And yet for whatever reason we can't afford it. We're not going to do it. We don't see the reason for it. For whatever reason, the design goes ahead as planned. And you just have to sit there and say, oh, oh, okay, but this is wrong.

Doug: 05:05 And are we thinking wrong here though? Or, or like religious choices, like for instance, PHP versus python.

Leon: 05:14 So

Doug: 05:15 Well no, I mean I've just, I've seen this of arguments where teams can actually split on which way they should go with it because it becomes a religious war as a of the topic. I agree with you that, you know, I'll work in any language even if I don't know the language, I can learn the language. I'm not stupid. I've got 19 languages so far. I think I can learn another one. But I've seen teams that just get to logger heads over, you know, what languages are going to be used in different, like on the backend or something along that line.

Leon: 05:44 Right. I, and if you're making a good point, which is there's a difference between, "it's not my preference" versus "it's suboptimal" versus "this is actually not going to work."

Doug: 05:56 So we're talking about things where we actually believe it's a bad idea and it's not, it's going to affect the project negatively. Very strong.

Leon: 06:04 Yeah. Yeah. So, so to give an example, and I'll put it back in my own league, uh, I work at SolarWinds, I work with the SolarWinds tools and SolarWinds is very, very clear that their modules really need to be installed on a RAID 10 or better storage system. Do not install it on RAID 5. It's in all the documentation. It's everywhere. And yet in one particular organization who shall remain nameless, both the dbs and the storage team insisted that they were going to put it on RAID 5 because they had very, very, very fast disks and it's going to be fine. That wasn't the problem. But no matter what information I brought to them, it didn't matter they were going to do RAID 5 one way or the other. They're like, okay. And sure enough, three months into the implementation, the system wasn't running correctly. It was more than just dog slow. It was failing, it was losing data, it was not performing the job it was supposed to perform. And as the conversation began to swirl around, "well maybe SolarWinds isn't as good as it's supposed to be." It's like, "No, you have it running on this... you're running on the wrong platform. And as soon as we moved it to RAID 10, it worked the way it was supposed to. So that's an example of standing in opposition. Like this is wrong, not just philosophically in my opinion, but wrong. Wrong.

Doug: 07:25 Got It. So when a situation like that, how do you oppose and, and...

Josh: 07:29 To go to Doug's question, um, sometimes you, you have to oppose by just stating your opposition. So I had a, an instance I, in the past couple of weeks, my VP gave a recommendation to do something. Uh, and I, I sent an email back to my VP, my VP, and I don't email directly often. Um, so for me that leap over my manager, my director and go straight to my VP was a bit of a, uh, uh, a taboo. Yeah. It was a leap. I running long jump actually.

Doug: 08:02 Over crocodiles with lasers because why not, right?

Leon: 08:09 Yup.

Josh: 08:10 And so I said to him, "Hey, I recognize that you've made these recommendations and I'm just wondering why, you know, what is it that you see in these recommendations versus the recommendations that I've made that, that you think is the right thing to do?" And and my director sent me an email. He's like, "Hey, look, you know, if you're going to oppose, you shouldn't do it over email." And I was like, "Oh, I, you know, I respect that. I didn't realize that my opposition came across that way." And so I, you know, I had to send an email to my VP and tell him, "Hey, look, I wasn't being oppositional. I was really asking these questions because I wanted to know." And so there are times when we, we don't think that we're being oppositional because we're innately curious as engineers, we want to go in and find all the things and when we want to understand and wrap our heads around it. And I'm one of those people that if you tell me to go and sell a product and it sucks, my pitch is going to be, You should buy this product. It sucks. But if you don't, I'm going to starve to death."

Leon: 09:14 There's your compelling sale.

Josh: 09:15 That's it. That's all I've got. I tried to sell vacuum cleaners, once. I lasted two days. So there you go.

Leon: 09:21 Got It. Okay. So, some other, some other for instances, uh, you know, open source versus commercial software is often an IT argument. Um, and again, sometimes like Doug said, it's philosophical. I just liked this better, but sometimes it's, "No the product that you're talking about is going to be expensive and won't do the job." So there's that. So let's dovetail for a minute because we are technically religious here. Um, let's talk about some points in religion where, uh, you know, whether it's ourselves personally or things that we've seen that, that people tend to oppose or be an opposition to.

Josh: 09:58 Like religion in its entirety.

Doug: 10:01 There are those.

Leon: 10:03 So there are some people and it's too bad that some of our members of technical sure aren't here to chime in. But yeah, who just oppose the whole concept of faith based behavior in general. And that's fine.

Josh: 10:14 It is, it's totally cool.

Leon: 10:15 You know, we're, we're good with that. We do not oppose their opposition. Um, but uh,

Doug: 10:21 We will defend to the death your right to be stupid. I mean...

Leon: 10:27 Ohhh... Now I'm happy that our other members aren't here because they would kill you with their pinky. So I was thinking, so an easy one to, to call out is sexuality. I think that lots of religions have as a basic tenant of faith, an opinion about sexuality, whom it can be between and how it should be performed and things like that. And I think that that many individuals, whether they embrace the religion as a whole, find themselves challenged with those faith-based opinions about, sexuality and relationships and things like that. That's a, that's a good example I think of of one.

Doug: 11:05 Yup. And also is a really good example of places where everybody continually falls down. Even while they go ahead and say that they believe this stuff.

Leon: 11:15 Right. And that takes you back to how to oppo... I mean, is the proper thing to oppose something like that? You know, I'll be honest. You know, as, as an Orthodox Jew, you know, uh, Judaism, especially Orthodox Judaism is very, very clear about same sex relationships. It's incredibly, you know, there's no waffling about it at all. I stand in opposition to that, but I don't really find myself agreeing. I also don't find myself debating the point with my co-religionists very much because, you know, I just, again, it's, it's a fact on the ground in terms of the Orthodox Jewish religion.

Doug: 11:54 But in my case has an evangelical Christian. The same situation applies the all the tenets we pull in all the old, all the tenets from the Old Testament, and we add some more from the New Testament that says that it's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And yet we have this religion that basically says, God takes you where you are and we'll save you from anything. And, and, and if you look at all the lists, you know, Gossiping and Sodomy are actually put right next to each other.

Speaker 2: 12:27 Right.

Doug: 12:28 And yet we don't have people saying, well, we can't have any gossips in our church. I mean, yes, we say that, but honestly, we don't shun them. And so I just see, I see situations where people in leadership are literally driving people away who frankly, you know, might do well to have the love of Christ in their life and whether they would at that point then turn away from their "sin". I, you know, I, that's not for me, it's not my job to straighten that out, but I am opposed to us being so oppositional too, because we're supposed to be there for everybody.

Josh: 13:05 So, you know, being, uh, being a, a post Mormon, an ex Mormo.. nah, a post Mormon because I technically still am Mormon. Um, as I had to explain to a family member today... they haven't thrown me out yet, um, 15 years ago, um, I left Mormonism for about eight months over that very matter. Um, and when I, when we opted to return to the faith, um, we were actually disciplined for our views and the view was you cannot support gay marriage and be a member in good standing. And so we opted to just not go. Um, it's not necessarily a stance that I would recommend for people. Um, you know, uh, your dying on a hill of gif versus jif. That's one thing. Um,

Leon: 13:53 And that's a hill I will die on.

Josh: 13:56 Right. Totally worth it. Um, there are some other things in life that just aren't worth it and that's what we, we ultimately decided is we weren't willing to, uh, die the proverbial death on that hill. Um, oddly enough, you know, 15 years later I'm out anyway. So, um, I could have saved some time and money, I guess.

Leon: 14:15 Taking it back from sort of the nuclear option in religion there. I think there's other things that people stand in opposition to, whether it's a certain foods, whether they are or aren't kosher. In my case, uh, Josh, you were telling me before about the Mormon position on, you know, caffeine caffeinated beverages.

Josh: 14:33 Yeah. So, uh, and, and Mormonism, there's this concept of the word of wisdom and the word of wisdom says... It has a bunch of things that you shouldn't partake of and there's a bunch of things that you should do. And Mormons generally speaking, tend to focus on the things that you should not do - the prohibitions. And one of the prohibitions is around hot drinks. So hot drinks was later clarified to be coffee and tea. So now the question is, well if it was hot drinks and coffee and tea. What if I drink iced coffee or what if I have ice tea? And so when, when my parents were growing up, there was this whole thing that you can't drink caffeine. And how we got from, you know, hot drinks to coffee and tea to caffeine, I'm not really sure, but today, uh, in Mormonism drinking caffeine is, um, is widely accepted. In fact, many of the church leaders have said, hey, it's okay. So there were people who are super oppositional. In fact, I remember the exact moment in time when I tasted Dr Pepper for the very first time. I remember the wind, the sun felt in the school yard. I remember where I was standing. I, it was, it was almost transcendental. Um, so there are times in which opposing my parents and drinking Dr Pepper, uh, produced, uh, an, uh, a euphoric experience. It was, I still remember, and that was a long time ago.

Doug: 15:53 All hail Dr. Pepper.

Josh: 15:53 Right. All hail.

Leon: 15:55 That's incredible. Okay. So we talked about some IT stuff and uh, we talked about some religious stuff I'd like to do for those listeners who understand SQL databases, this is the INNER JOIN ALL where religion and work or IT come together. Uh, we are things that people tend to feel very oppositional both within an IT and the, the religious content.

Doug: 16:18 Little Christmas decorations everywhere. Excuse me, HOLIDAY decorations everywhere that just happen to look just like all the Christmas decorations.

Leon: 16:28 As I did say to one HR person when they told me, "No, they're not Christmas, the'yre holiday..." I said, "I do celebrate holidays around this time of year and nothing in my house looks like those!"

Doug: 16:37 Right. There's not a single dreidle or menorah here anywhere. And even then, even if there were, you wouldn't know what to do with them. So really,

Leon: 16:44 Nor was I asking, I am very much, you know, at work I'm very much like please include me out. Like I don't, I don't need your really bad attempt at trying to make this work. No, no, just I'm good.

Doug: 16:59 Well and, and I'm the same way, but I mean as a born again Christian, I'm supposed to love Christmas and frankly I hate the holiday cause it's about everything that Christianity is not. So all of the stuff that goes up, it's just like, it's celebrating all of the wrong things as far as Christianity is concerned. I mean it, yeah, love and peace for all mankind. But honestly, no, that's not what I mean. It ends up being everybody trying to

Leon: 17:29 "Get out of my parking spot I have five minutes to get..."

Doug: 17:33 Exactly and that's my Tickle Me Elmo we're both holding on to and I will kill you for it. I mean, really, come on. I've had pastors ask me why I'm so down on Christmas and then they'll always regret having asked me cause I tell them.

Leon: 17:48 Right. So the other one that comes up and I swear to God, you know, hand over my heart, this happened. They were about to push code to production and before they did, the lead programmer said, "I just liked us all to sit and have a moment of prayer before we..." Like, no, no! I just... I get it. You know, it's, it's an extension of that joke: "as long as there are tests in schools, there will be prayer in schools also." Like, it's a very funny joke. It's cute. It's pithy. I get it. And yet I don't believe that all of our code pushes should be accompanied with, you know, a quick psalm or two or whatever.

Doug: 18:29 The question is who are you praying to it? That particular one, since you're pushing code, you should probably be praying to Satan and it's going to be a better, I mean, let's face it, he's the one, he's the one that's in charge of all the IT projects, right?

Leon: 18:45 And, and we all know computers are tools of the devil. Right. Okay. So, uh, moving forward, you know, we have the our for instances. Doug I want to come back to your question one more time is that we find ourselves in opposition to this thing, whether it's the people who were chosen to be on a project, you know, a project team or the design choice or my synagogue's stance on a particular point of, of Jewish law or whatever. And I find that I am really in opposition to it. That one thing. Everything else? Basically good. So what are some healthy good ways to deal with it? Josh, you talked about, uh, sometimes just stating your opinion, but saying it in the right forum. Like what else do we got?

Josh: 19:28 Well, I, you know, I'm not sure that I have anything else other than just again reiterating that the importance of, uh, stating, stating the facts.I like to say the people at work don't mess with the enterprise monitoring team because we have data. And so if you're going to be oppositional, being oppositional because it's the way that you feel about something technical? That doesn't fly, at least not in my world. You can't say to me, "Well, I know, I feel like this thing isn't going to work because..." Give me the data. Right? Like you absolutely have to. You have to give me some data. And it can be someone else's researched it. It can be actual empirical data. And don't just pick and choose because you know, there's a great saying about, uh, statistics, right? There's three types of lives in the world, lies, damn lies and statistics. So don't just give me your stats, let me see your source data and let me touch it and feel it and that. Um, but you know, if you're going to oppose, oppose with intelligence, with intellect, um, don't oppose, you know, with feeling because feeling is a good way to ask questions. And I think that asking questions is a very different thing from outright opposing unless you're being super passive aggressive and then shame on you but you can ask questions without being confrontational, without being completely oppositional. But if you're going to oppose, hey, you know, do it with some class.

Doug: 20:59 Right. Well, and the thing is that you can use feelings are really good when you're trying to convince people. I mean, if I can get, if I can make you feel a different way, then I can go ahead and convince you to my point. But when I'm in, when I'm in opposition, I'm with you. I, I like to have facts. Um, in a religious context. I was, I was once late for teaching a Bible study. I mean, keep in mind, I was traveling 45 minutes to get to this church and the elder pulled me aside and said, "It's disrespectful for you to be late." And I thanked him very much and then went and taught the class, went home, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Came back the next week. And I said, uh, I pointed out to scripture where Saul had ah... where Samuel had arrived late and Saul had already sacrificed. And I pointed that out to him who got in trouble? Samuel, the guy who was late? Or Saul the guy who went ahead and he went "Point taken." And he apologized because I gave him the facts, right? So I was oppositional to my elder without actually being nasty about it.

Leon: 21:57 Okay. So, so key point is a level of courtesy, that you can be courteous at the same time you're being oppositional. Um, I liked the point about data. I also think that, and, and you are both going to be shocked that I'm the one saying this sometimes. Maybe just keep it to yourself. Like I, you know, you can be, you can oppose it. You can feel strongly about it, but unless it is a hill to die on, which we'll talk about in a minute, maybe sometimes it's like, yeah, I don't agree with this, but it's, it's part and parcel of this thing that we're part of, you know, it is the way the company culture runs. It is the, you know, again, there are certain things about Orthodox Judaism I can never, will never change. And so it's just, it's there. If someone asks my opinion, absolutely, I will share with them some of how I feel. But at a certain point, again, it's not going to change it, so don't, don't dwell on it either.

Josh: 22:58 I have a great story about this. So I, I grew up in small town Ontario and the town next to my town. Um, there was a great rivalry between the two high schools and there was a catholic high school and a public high school, but great rivalries between these two small towns and southern Ontario. I moved out here to Prince Edward Island. And, uh, you know, I get on Twitter and I am talking with some people and they realize that I'm, I'm from that area. And this guy says, "O, I grew up in this town." And I'm like, "Oh, that's weird. I grew up in THIS town." He's like, "Oh, I wonder if we knew each other?" Cause we're about the same age. And as we started to explore, we realize that we were different in almost every way. Of course, you know, he was from THAT town and I was from the town I was. I grew up Mormon. He grew up, reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is, you know, the, an offshoot religion and everything. Everything that we talked about on Twitter, we, uh, we opposed and we would clash all the time. But I know this is gonna sound crazy and you're gonna think I'm nuts. But we almost always would get to the point where I would say, hey "Dave, I don't think we're going to agree." Or he would say, "Hey, Josh, I don't think we're going to agree. That's cool. You know, I, I'm, I'm okay with the fact that we don't agree." And we would just leave it at that and it's, um, it's allowed us to maintain a rather friendly relationship. I wouldn't even say it's just cordial. I would say it's a friendly relationship, um, especially as I've gone through my own faith transition. So I think it's really important that we, that we learn how to have that opposition, um, while still maintaining our humanity.

Leon: 24:35 The other thing that I want to point out is understanding the context of opposition. I mean, we've been talking about it from a very personal standpoint, which is, you know, "I oppose x or y", but when you're on the other side of it, somebody is opposing you. Um, it's important to understand that sometimes they're not opposing it because they hate you or they hate this or you're wrong or you're bad. That there's a lot of reasons. I mean, Josh, you talked about, um, you know, being, you've talked before about being devil's advocate and you know, just sort of pushing on an idea. Um, and I think that that's true. Sometimes people do that, but just like some people have a very dry sense of humor and you can't tell that they're joking. Sometimes they have, for lack of a better term, a dry sense of, of opposition. And I think that sometimes when we're in that opposite heel situation, and I'll, I'll make it both personal and external, right? If someone's opposing, you just consider the fact that they may be coming from a different place than just "This sucks and I hate it." And at the same time when you're opposing, clarifying, "I am not saying that I hate this project, I hate this tool, I hate this, you know, whatever it is. I'm saying this one thing I need to challenge to make sure it's as strong and solid as it possibly can be." You know, and, and again, I've seen people respond so wonderfully when, when you tell them that's what you're doing.

Doug: 25:53 I on the other end have done this in some corporate situations where politics reigned and have found that that is less than welcome.

Leon: 26:03 I, and I think a lot of our listeners probably feel the same way. Like you do have to understand your audience, you do have to understand your situation. No doubt.

Doug: 26:12 And unfortunately with my personality, let's just say that there are jobs that I probably would still have if I were not me.

Leon: 26:21 Okay. We should, which does take us to the last thing that I wanted to hit on today, which was, um, when you can't let it pass. When, when there's something that you oppose and it's, it is basically a non negotiable. So what's that like? Do you have any examples? What do you do about that?

Josh: 26:42 You want go for it, Doug? I have a story, but it's a little long, so

Doug: 26:46 You go for yours.

Josh: 26:47 All right. All right. Um, so when I started my faith transition in the spring of 2018 one of the things that I began exploring was the position of the LDS church on blacks in the priesthood. So for, for historical context, up until 1978, no man who was of African descent was able to hold the priesthood. So that meant that they, you know, they couldn't be leaders in any congregation and they couldn't partake of any of the ordinances or administrating of the ordinances, including in their own homes. In the mid 1970s, a guy by the name of Byron Marchant lived in Salt Lake City. He was a, an active white member. He was a well respected, he was a tennis pro and he was also actually employed by the church as a custodian back when the church had custodians that they employed. He also happened to be a scout leader. And, in his particular scout troop, he had two boys that were, were black. These boys were exemplary citizens and he decided that he wanted to make them the scout leaders, troop leaders. At the time though, there was a policy in the church - and Mormonism and the Boy Scouts of America, up until just last year were almost one in the same, especially within the church, you know, they were linked. So Byron decided that he wanted these two young men to, to serve. In this capacity. And so he asked for an exemption to a rule that said that the deacons quorum - and deacons in Mormonism are ages 12 and 13 - so he said, "Look, I know that these boys aren't the deacons quorum president and the first assistant, but I want them to serve in this capacity. And they said, "Well, no, they're not the deacons quorum president." He said, "Yeah, but they're black. They can't hold the priesthood. So, um, you know, they are really the best candidates." And they say, "Yeah, but they're not the deacons quorum president." And he said, "I know, I get it. I understand how this works." Um, and it became a huge thing for, for Byron Marchant and he started to actively oppose. And by actively oppose, I mean like holding up signs outside of the church headquarters in Salt Lake. And it culminated in October of 1978. Byron Marchant... during the semiannual general conference there is a sustaining of church leaders. It's the law of common consent where if anything is going to be accepted by the entire church, it has to be put forward. Everyone has to vote. Most of the votes are unanimous. Byron voted opposed and he was the first to vote opposed, I would say, in like 80 years. It was, it was, "Oh my goodness, someone voted opposed." Byron, shortly thereafter it was ex-communicated. If you don't remember what excommunication is, he was kicked out of the church, had all of his rights privileges taken away with regards to Mormonism. In June of 1978, um, the church reversed its ban on giving black people the Priesthood, which means that these two young boys could have been the deacons quorum president and first assistant and have served in that capacity. Sometimes when we are standing in a position of opposition, we hope that people are going to acquiesce to our demands. But like Byron Marchant and many people, whether it's religious or IT, sometimes our opposition has unintended consequences. And, and just as a side note, my father is the one who taught me about being true to yourself. My father has left a number of jobs much like you and Doug because he was morally opposed to things that the company was doing. And my father is one of the most upstanding and truthful men that I know. But taking that stance caused him a lot of financial and mental anguish because it meant not being the breadwinner for our family. He lost his job and, spent time on employment. So yeah, you just, you can't pick your consequences, right. We teach our kids that, but sometimes you just have to, even though you don't know what's going to happen, you just have to say no.

Speaker 1: 31:16 So, uh, just to, to wrap it up into nice, neat little bow, I think that for everyone listening, you know, being in opposition to the larger part, again, you like the most of larger part, but there's just these pieces. I think this is an integral skill that we as a people of faith, people who are part of, you know, ball clubs, people who are a part of, you know, boating communities, people who are a part of IT, the IT world. I think this is an integral skill to, to think about and to build. Um, you know, how to be this, uh, maybe a minority opinion, a strongly held, but minority opinion without being subversive, without setting up whisper campaigns, without being, you know, maliciously compliant. Um, it's something that we all need to think about. Like how would I go about doing this in a way that I'd be comfortable looking at myself in the mirror in the morning when I did it?

Doug: 32:08 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh: 32:22 After all that, I think we can all agree...

Doug: 32:25 no, we can't!

Leon: 32:25 wait, what?

Doug: 32:27 Sorry, I just got a little carried away.



S1E6: Being “Othered”

S1E6: Being “Othered”

April 9, 2019

Identity is a complex concept. "Who we are" is comprised of a rich tapestry of experiences and relationships. We try to control which of those aspects we share and which we keep private. But there are times when the world around us - strangers, coworkers, and even friends - define us in ways that don’t match the view we have of ourselves. That experience can be merely surprising or terribly upsetting, and many of us struggle both with the fear of it happening and with how we should deal with it when it does.

Listen to this important episode or read the transcript below:


Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called, "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked" and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Kate: 00:25 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: 00:49 So back when we were recording episode three, in the middle of our conversation about something completely different, there was an interesting side conversation that happened between Josh and me and Roddie. Um, so I want to play it for you right now"

Josh: 01:02 I will point out though that as diverse as we, uh, as we think that IT is, we're three white males on a podcast, and...

Roddie: 01:13 I'm not white.

Josh: 01:13 So I mean... you look white...?

Roddie: 01:17 I know I do. I do look white. I'm undercover, but then I'm full. I'm full person of color. I'm, I'm half of the... And actually thinking about this podcast for the last few months of where Leon wanted to go with it, I knew kind of that would come up because I can identify as white, right? Most people look at me and say, "Well, he's just another white guy." I'm not, I'm full. I'm half Lebanese, half Palestinian, so I'm full Arab blood. Um, but it's, but it's, it's great that you actually mentioned that

Josh: 01:48 That I broached it, right?

New Speaker: 01:49 (dialogue fades out)

Leon: 01:50 So we ended up cutting that particular exchange out of the episode, but, uh, we here on Technically Religious wanted to circle back to the concept of being identified as somehow different or what we're calling being "othered". And that's what we're going to talk about today. Uh, I'm Leon Adato and with me today. Uh, I've got Josh Biggley.

Josh: 02:12 Hello-Hello.

Leon: 02:14 And also Kate Asaf.

Kate: 02:16 Hello.

Leon: 02:17 So those are the voices that you'll be hearing on this episode.

Josh: 02:20 Well, you know, Leon, I don't think that we can start this episode or really any episode without talking about, uh, what has gone on in New Zealand. If for some reason you have been living under a rock for the last two weeks, week and a half, you know, 50 people were killed at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand by an Australian guy whose name we're not going to mention because he's not important. What is important is that he took 50 lives. It's interesting when, when I heard the news I was, I was a little gob smacked because about 18 years ago my wife and I almost moved to Christchurch. We had the process all started and I thought, "Holy crap, that is a city that we seriously considered living in," and I... The Prime Minister of New Zealand is also a post-Mormon, an ex-Mormon. Uh, she grew up LDS as well. So, you know, one other tie I, I can't say enough about her and her response and I don't even know how, I can't process it in my mind very time I sit and think about it, it just, it, I think it really ties to what we're going to talk about today, about this being othered. Because if you viewed people, um, if you viewed people as human, you would not do the things that, that, that man did and that he's not the only one. There are many people throughout history who do it, but, and I'm not suggesting that what we're going to talk about is even remotely as weighty as what happened in Christchurch to those people, both who lost their lives unto those who are, who are, who are still left, but damn right, we, we, you know, my heart breaks for those people. Right?

Leon: 04:04 And, and in a larger context, the far too many incidents of violence that have happened just in the last 12 months and you know, you can keep going back. And just to underscore what you said, you know, this conversation about our personal experiences of being othered or the things that we've observed is in no way meant to diminish those large world shaking events. But really just personalize them and, and bring some, you know, an element of specificity to it. So, uh, I think maybe the next thing we need to do is, is define what it means to be othered. What do we mean? There's, you know, the dictionary definition, I guess which revolves around the them versus us mentality. When you are othered, you are being called out as being somehow negatively different, lesser, not on the same plane as the person doing the othering or the group doing the other thing. Um, it's not, it's not a positive thing and that's how it differs from, let's say, you know, I say that, you know, Tom LaRock, one of my coworkers, you know, he's really tall. He's in fact circus tall. Now that's a phrase he's actually used to describe himself. That's not intrinsically othering him. Uh, because first of all, it's very specific to Tom. And second of all, uh, it's also a way he describes himself. By the same token, when I talk about a former coworker, Chris Paap, and saying he has biceps the size of my head, which is true, that isn't necessarily othering, I think. And please tell me if I'm wrong, tell me if I'm, if I'm edging into dangerous territory.

Josh: 05:57 I don't, you know, I, as you were talking about being other than, and I do remember that moment when I, you know, said to Roddie, uh, and, and yourself, hey, you know, we're three white guys on the, you know, the whole debacle about me. Uh, assuming that Roddy was white and he's not a, sorry Roddy, um, you know, welcome to my white privilege. I apologize. Um, I'm wondering though, is there a, is there a time in a place where being othered, um, is not negative, you know, you use that word, um, that, uh, that made me think that maybe there's a moment where I want to be othered. I want to stand out and I want to be different. I'm, and I'm, I'm trying to think of where that might apply. So, you know, my context is, you know, I made a very conscientious decision to step away from Mormonism and, and really to turn into a, a critic of some of the things that I thought had taken Mormonism away from what I knew about it and loved about it. Um, but I don't, you know, people who are still in Mormonism, they view me as what the word is "apostate", right. So they view me as as apostate, but does that, I do, I view that as a bad thing? Because I made the choice and I, I know that Tom didn't make the choice to be, you know, circus tall. And I, I know that Chris Papp, he probably didn't intend to specifically have biceps larger than your head, although I'm sure he's glad to know that, you know, he's reached that pinnacle.

Kate: 07:26 I don't know if that's like a specific measurement he was going for.

Josh: 07:29 Right? Yeah. Right. You're like, you know, 16 inches, 17 inches, larger-than-Leon's-head. I like, I don't know if to scale it works like that. Right. Um, but I, I just wonder if there are times in which we, we specifically act in a way that, um, the in which we know that we are going to be othered. Um, but we do it anyway because that's who we have to be in order to be true to ourselves.

Kate: 07:50 I think that the point that you hit on there being true to yourself is that it's, it's okay when it's on your terms, right? Like, I, if you've never seen me, I have pink and blue hair, which is something that I choose to do and which occasionally

Leon: 08:05 Today,

Kate: 08:06 Yes, yes, for this week. Um, and that gets me some strange looks, but I know that, you know, I choose to do this and it's something that I'm proud of even being a woman in tech. Like that's not super rare anymore, but it certainly was when I started and I am very proud to be a part of that group, even though it's, it comes with some strife.

Speaker 3: 08:31 Hey, we, I've got, I've got a story here about Kate, and she's heard this story before, but a couple of years ago, uh, we had, we had done an upgrade of, of our platform and we got to a point where we were having some difficulties and literally got within five minutes of having to rebuild our entire environment. And Kate swooped and saved the day. I had no idea at the time how to rebuild our environment. Like, and I was just like, oh my goodness, if Kate does not save me, I'm so screwed. Uh, and it's, it's interesting because when they said, hey, you know, we're bringing in this, you know, we're bringing in this engineer and you jumped on, Kate, it didn't even cross my mind to think, "Oh, you know, that's a woman. How should you going to help me?" I was just like, "Okay, Kate, you know, you gotta save me!"

Leon: 09:22 "She's saving my bacon, that's all that matters!"

Kate: 09:27 I could've been a lizard person at that point and you would have been happy to see me.

Josh: 09:31 It wouldn't have mattered. Yeah. So I, I'm really interested obviously, uh, you know, White Male, uh, you know, grew up, you know, middle class, uh, lived a middle upper class life. I want to know what it's like to be a woman in tech. Could you tell me?

Kate: 09:45 Well here's the funny story that you're, your thing reminds me of which, by the way, I very clearly remember that upgrade. So glad I was able to save you. Um, I was talking to a customer once and it just so happened that his escalation path when he talked to Destiny and then he talked to me. Um, and when we were on the phone, super nice guy, he said, "Let me ask you a question: is SolarWinds a woman owned company?" And I thought that was kind of strange. And I said, "No, why?" And he said, "Well, I just think it's so great that they have two women working as these escalation tiers and you guys are the engineers. And I just think that's great." And I'm like, you were so close to paying us a really good compliment. Why would solutions have to be a woman owned company for us to be in these positions? Uh, but, but thanks for the effort."

Leon: 10:39 Yeah, right. I guess nice. So I just want to jump in here and say, and it's slightly pedantic, but I do that well, that, that Josh, to your point and Kate, your, your example illustrates it is there's a difference between being recognized and being othered. And sometimes, uh, especially the, in the, in the mind to the speaker, that difference can be really hard to detect and oftentimes in the ears of the listener, the target, the difference is really obvious. But there's a difference between, between being recognized for either an achievement or accomplishment or simply a state of being. Again, we're going back to Tom being circus tall. There's a difference between, between being recognized - "Oh, I need to get the really good scotch off the tall shelf. I'll go ask Tom." Versus being, being either othered or outed or, or identified as something like, I didn't think it was going to be that good, but it turns out that you actually did fine. "Thanks for the compliment? I guess?" You know what I mean? It, it is again, you know, being recognized for something versus being othered can seem like a very fine distinction, um, until you're on the receiving end of it. Uh, and, and that's, I think part of it. Um, and, and again, a lot of it has to do with the, the sometimes not so subtle assumptions that go along with it. And by the way, to bring this back to tech, right, I think that IT is not immune from the... pure it forget about people with strong, you know, religious or nonreligious views or whatever it is. Um, you know, like "Those network people" or, you know, "I, I don't understand why anybody would ever want to do storage" or, you know, "oh good. You've joined or you know, you were on the virtualization team, but now you're on the cloud team. Does it feel good to get out of the basement?" Or stuff like that? Like, "No, I was, I was really proud of my, you know, vmware certification. I was really excited about all the years I spent doing, you know, quote unquote boring old route and switch networking or whatever, like that was not, uh, uh, you know, a penalty in my mind and you just turned it into one

Kate: 12:57 That was actually a big thing for me, getting out of support and going to engineering because that was, everybody sort of looked down... There were, there was this perception that I escaped, you know, or that I finally have a real career and I personally loved working in support and would, you know, go back to it if the opportunity and the circumstances were right. So, but definitely, you know, support was kind of seen is that when you said the basement, that's immediately what I thought of.

Leon: 13:32 Right. And, and I think that, I think in our minds in IT, we have that IT pecking order, you know, where it's like you work the help desk until you can, like you said, escape, you know, and you work your way up and whether you're going to do the, the server application track or the network, once upon a time voice in all, you know, that track or whatever. I think there's more directions to go. You know, we believe that there are these tiers as opposed to... No, no. If you can work a help desk and take any call from any person and deal with it and resolve it and triage it, that is, you know, that at the top of the show, you know, Josh expressed basically his undying love for you. Um, and I know that's not the first, you know, proposal you might have gotten over the phone, Kate. So, you know, being able to do that for somebody is not a trivial skill. Um, that, that's so, you know, again, just keeping this tech focused. Um, I think we have that. So in fact, you know, keeping on that does, does being othered manifest differently, either better or worse in IT? Like how does, how does the, the othered-ness come out in IT in ways that are either, "Oh wow. I was othered but it was kind of interesting, or, "Oh, it's actually worse than it would be in an accounting office" or something else.

Josh: 14:57 I wonder if it, if it isn't worse. Um, and, uh, so I had, uh, an interesting, uh, situation just recently where I was, uh, I was tasked with figuring out how to reduce, um, a very large spend, a into a, a much smaller span. You know, it really is not the goal that we all have. "Hey, can you do the same thing with, uh, with less money?" Great. No problem. And so I, I took a couple of the ideas that I had and I, and I, I built these ideas not, um, with, with just myself. I built it with a, um, a multidisciplinary team that I'm working with. And I've got people that know tech. I have people that have no clue about tech, but they work in IT. And I, I'm using the air quotes. Um, they work in IT, but in a very different IT, it's, it's not a, it's not the pure play IT that we think of. And, uh, the initial response that I got from some of the engineers who worked in the space that we were trying to look at was, "No, you can't do that. Nope, sorry, that's not going to work." And fortunately, I'm stubborn. Um, and a little bullheaded. Um, so says my loved ones and we, uh, we pushed really hard and to ignore those people and we stumbled on what we think is going to be, uh, the killer solution. We're super excited about it as a team. Uh, we talked to some, uh, we call them principles in my office. So, you know, engineer, senior engineer principles, uh, you know, these are the, the few, the upper echelon of engineering. We talked to one of those principles and he was super excited about it. He thought, "Hey, that's awesome." So, you know, we still have a lot of work to do. But I thought, you know, isn't it interesting that some senior engineers looked at us as, you know, a group of engineers and not even engineers and thought, well, you can't do that because you didn't think this idea. Um, you weren't part of the design. You know, we're the senior engineers and now here we are presenting an idea that is completely out of context, uh, for what we would have thought at the beginning of the project that might not only introduce, uh, you know, better functionality but might reduce costs. And I love the idea of a things like a kaizen where you bring together multidisciplinary people, it intentionally brings together others, um, and puts them all into the same, in the same room and says, hey, solve a problem. Uh, I think that doing that intentionally doing that in our organizations is extremely important. It brings in perceptions. I know we've talked previously about, uh, education and the differences and being a, someone who has an IT degree versus someone who has, I dunno, like an acting degree. I don't know anyone like that. Or someone like myself who has no degree and no real college to speak of, you know, edit a six month training program, uh, at a technical college. But that was it. That is how I launched my IT career. I technically have a two year degree or two year diploma. Um, but I've never actually gone to school before. I've never been to a college or a university. Um, I just, I think it's really important that we, we acknowledged that othering exists, but that we let it be a good thing and we learned that that diversity makes our team stronger.

Leon: 18:14 So I think it is one of those places where the degree thing really shines that within the rank and file. I found very few, I'm going to say actual IT people who honestly give a rat's ass about like your degree or whatever it is. Now when you get through the HR machine, it's a whole different story. And I think it's a point of frustration for a lot of this in IT, that, that getting the job requires us to have to have certain things that actually don't matter at all. And I think that that's a whole other conversation about, you know, a whiteboard interview, um, for coding.

Kate: 18:56 Oh yeah. We've all seen the job listing where it's like, must know SQL, and Java, and c++, and, you know, BASIC, and COBOL, and, and you know, have a master's degree, pays $30,000 a year.

Leon: 19:09 Right? Right. And, you know, 15 years of experience with AWS and like, yeah, you know, those kinds of things. Right. We've seen, we've seen those. Um, so I think that that is a place where, uh, it's better. Quick story just where IT is kind of different. Um, for those people who are new to the podcast. Again, this is Leon. I'm an Orthodox Jew. Uh, I'm a sort of a very out and proud orthodox Jew. I have the funny little hat or, you know, kippah, or yarmulke. I have little fringy things hanging out of my pants, you know, I'm, you know, black pants, white shirt, full metal, penguin, Orthodox, right? That's how I present. And the first time I was going to speak for my company, um, and I was sort of out in front of about 300 people and I realized that this is me, but I'm, I'm representing the brand. And so I pulled the, the manager aside and I said, "Okay, we're, we're in an HR free zone. This is not about lawsuit. This is, I just want to understand. Are you comfortable with me looking like this, representing the brand or do you want me to tuck the strings in? Do you want me to put a ball cap on? Like what do ya...? And he actually turned and said, "I actually have no effing idea what those things are. I thought it was like a hippie thing." And uh, I realized that I was perhaps overthinking it a little bit. Um, and so again, in it, he had othered me, but he had othered me in a way that was honestly so ridiculous in my mind that it was like, "Oh, okay. Like moving on," like, you know, like it just didn't, it, you know, it was, it was not a problem. It was like Kate, the time that we were doing THWACKcamp and the problem with you on camera was your Wonder Woman shirt that was like, okay, all right, I understand, you know, but it, of all the things that, that - horrifically- people might have pointed out about you, it was, yeah, we're not sure if the logo was okay on camera. Like, "Oh, thank God. Like, that's so, that's so wonderful. And I'm not changing my shirt. Just to be up-front about it."

Kate: 21:24 Legal did eventually approve it.

Leon: 21:27 Right. But it was just, you know, like those kinds of, so sometimes it can be, it can be good. Um, all right. So any examples where IT tends to do the other thing like worse?

Speaker 2: 21:38 I do think that we, in IT have a, a tendency to jump to the eye. Rolling. Are you stupid? You know? Oh my God, I can't believe you don't know that. Well, you know, there's, we all had to ask the questions at one point as well. Um, I think it's important also to try and call out that sort of jerky behavior if you, if you see it and if you can, um, that's something that I've been challenging myself to do is not let things slide. If I see something wrong with it, you know, try to correct it even in a friendly sort of, "Hey, we don't, that's not helpful or productive and we don't really need to be jumping on this person." Or some of like the little micro aggressions you see as a woman in tech and meetings. Um, well my, my big pet peeve is somebody repeating what I have just said as if it was a new point. Um, I have made it a huge point to jump in and say, "Yes, thank you for repeating what I literally just said."

Josh: 22:43 Bravo, Bravo. But it's hard,

Speaker 2: 22:46 Especially when that person, I have a great relationship with my boss and my boss's boss and you know, above them. But in that moment, it's hard to, you know, sort of jump in and derail the conversation to call it out. But I think it's important

Leon: 23:01 if you're, if you are the bystander, you know, it is incredibly powerful to, to reinforce and say, "You know what, I, I actually said that word wrong for like a month before somebody corrected me and you know..." or whatever it is. Right. You know, um, you know, getting the words wrong, but knowing how to use the technology, right? Like are you really going to get in someone's face about whether they, you know, pronounce it scuzzy or they say SCSI or you know, something like that. Now I do draw the line at GIF versus Jif...

Josh: 23:36 I KNEW it was going to come up again,

Leon: 23:40 But, okay. But aside from that and, and more, more importantly, Kate, what you were about, like, you know, how much more powerful is it when you know you're about to jump up and say "Thank you for..." when somebody else says "you know, there's an echo in here," you know, or whatever that, that you're not the only one who has to be listening for that. Who has to be, um, you know, trying to, to make sure that people recognize this just happened.

Kate: 24:08 It's a huge relief when I see, you know, someone else do it. Because I think a thing that a lot of women struggle with is it's important to correct it, but you start to feel like you're the asshole if you're always interrupting the conversation or constantly calling out the behaviors and when no one else says anything, you feel like no one else has a problem with it. So it's, you know, tears of gratitude and joy and, and you know, much many props to anyone else who can sort of see that and stop it so that it doesn't always have to be me or you know, the, the victim, so to speak, uh, responsible for catching that kind of stuff.

Leon: 24:49 Right. Having to do, having to do that, that work have, you can't have any carry that load. Right.

New Speaker: 24:54 I love this idea of, um, of being an active bystander. And I guess once you're, once you've acted, you're no longer a bystander. Um, especially in the workplace. Something that, uh, that I tried to do and I'm not, I'm not perfect at it, but I, I make a really strong effort at it. And that is when someone does something that is good, I, I call it out. Um, and I try not to do it too, you know, just my female coworkers or to just my new coworkers. But when someone is truly has done something awesome, I like to call that out. And I think that goes back to the, the value of being othered, uh, for a good reason. You know, if you, if you've gone above and beyond the call of duty in, in your job or in a project or, or really in general life, cause you know, there is life outside of IT. I know that it doesn't feel like it sometimes, but I promised the entire world does not revolve around it. (Yes it does.)

Leon: 25:58 I was going to say, STOP IT! STOP IT! YOU'RE RUINING MY WORLD!

Kate: 25:58 Nobody believed you as you said it.

New Speaker: 26:05 I know. I didn't, I didn't believe myself. It's okay. It's okay. But I think it's really important that we take the time to reach out to people and say, hey, you know, thanks. And not only, hey, you know, thanks for doing that, but also going up that level and saying to their manager, "Hey, I really appreciate the work that, you know, uh, you know, Kate did or Leon did because it made my life easier in these ways." Um, and learning how to value people is it, it'll make you a better engineer. Learning how to value people will also make you a better human being. Um, and we, we just, we need to figure it out. Um, my wife and I were actually talking it oddly enough just today about this, about how to make sure that, uh, people, uh, feel valued around you. And what we distilled was when you, it doesn't matter how good a manager or an engineer you are, if people, if people feel valued around you, then they will want to work for you. And that means you don't need to know everything. So you don't need to be the person who knows storage and virtualization and Java and cobalt and knows how to do assembly language and you can solder with your eyes closed with your left arm tied behind your back. You don't have to be that person. You just need to be the person that really talented people want to work with and in some cases want to work for. Um, I know that I've actively sought out people who I want to work with and for, and when I get into a new company, I look for those people, I look for those people whose strength and who have othered themselves because they're not like, you know, the rest of the quote unquote, you know, typical engineers. And when I find those people, I love to latch on to them. Um, it makes me better. Uh, and again, I've got lots of privilege, right? I'm white, I'm Canadian. Um, you know, middle class, middle, upper class, upper class,

Leon: 27:56 (chuckles)

Josh: 27:56 Hey, don't laugh about... being a Canadian, that's a privilege, man.

Leon: 28:01 No, no, I'm laughing because it's true.

Josh: 28:07 It's only cold here for a little while, you know, months at a time.

Leon: 28:11 I'm from Cleveland and the cold never bothered me anyway.

Josh: 28:18 But, you know, I, I do think it's really... you know just to finish. I just think it's really important that we recognize that othering. Uh, we can take the othering. Uh, we've talked about being negative and we can actively switch that and make it a positive thing. Um, you know, so when you see that, and I, and I had never thought about the idea of being actively engaged as a bystander. Uh, but if we, if we are and we get involved and we say, Hey, this is, you know, this is good, that's bad. Um, how, how powerful is that? Uh, and it, I think it, it starts to dissolve the, uh, the efficacy of that negative othering. Um, and yes, we're all different, right? Uh, each one of us on this call today on this podcast, but we're different. But that's, that's what makes us so awesome and so unique to, you know, what we have here.

Leon: 29:13 Right. And that goes back to, you know, taking this idea of being othered, which is, is intrinsically sort of negative and turning it into recognition, you know, then I think that's where the, that's where the real power comes. All right. Well, I, I want to thank you both Josh, Kate for, uh, joining, uh, joining me today and, uh, look forward to having everyone back on for the next episode.

Kate: 29:37 It was great talking with both you guys.

Josh: 29:39 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

Josh: 29:52 I think this was a really good session.

New Speaker: 29:54 Yeah Leon you did really good.

Josh: 29:56 Well, for someone from Cleveland

Leon: 29:58 Oh for crying out loud!


S1E5: Jokes I Wish I Could Tell

S1E5: Jokes I Wish I Could Tell

April 2, 2019

Religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases, if someone doesn’t “get it”, it could take HOURS to explain enough for them to understand. in this episode, Leon, Josh, and special guest Doug Johnson talk about whether that is unique to IT/religious people, our own experiences with tech- and religious-based humor, and whether (as Josh asserts), Mormons just aren't that funny. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked," and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Doug: 00:24 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 the ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious,

Josh: 00:49 So we just missed a very special holiday.

Leon and Doug: 00:52 Wait, what? I...

Leon: 00:54 International women's Day?

Doug: 00:56 Ash Wednesday?

Leon: 00:57 Mardi gras?

Doug: 00:58 Pi Day!

Leon: 00:59 The opening of Captain Marvel!!

Josh: 01:00 Uh, no, no. It's that special day when we as it pros, we do important work, like changing everyone's password to "butthead" or setting everyone's email quota does zero, or setting off 500 alerts, you know, for no reason.

Leon: 01:15 Oh April Fool's day.

Josh: 01:18 Exactly. And in honor of that blessed day we're going to talk about jokes

Doug: 01:24 Religious jokes?

Leon: 01:25 Well, kind of. I think that religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases if someone doesn't get it, it could take hours to explain enough for them to understand it. And by that point it's not funny anymore. So today I think we should focus on "jokes I wish I could tell."

Josh: 01:39 So like religious jokes, you can't tell at work, not because they're bad but because it requires too much background knowledge?

Doug: 01:48 Sure. But maybe also tech jokes that you can only tell the other it people.

Josh: 01:53 Or even tech jokes you can only tell other folks who understand YOUR sub specialty? Like enterprise monitoring?

Leon: 02:01 That would be like the story of my life as a monitoring engineer. Exactly. So before we dive into the topic, I do want to do some introductions. With us today is Doug Johnson. Say, Hi Doug.

Doug: 02:11 Hey, hi.. uhey,

Leon: 02:14 You missed it.

Doug: 02:15 I know! All of a sudden I realized.. and oh no. I hate those jokes.

Leon: 02:22 "Good night Gracie" Okay. Well, and today especially, we can talk about the jokes that we don't appreciate. So that's, that's fine. That's fair. I didn't mean to set you up for a joke you didn't want to hear. Um, so like I said, I think the tech and religion have like similarities to them that they're in the, you know, if you're not in the "in" crowd, you don't get it. But the other part of is that I think as IT people and also as people with a religious background, whatever, we keep TRYING to tell these jokes to people like, "No, really, you're going to love it once you understand it." Like, we keep doing that. Um, and, and that expands, I think to nerd or geek culture overall. The number of times I've tried to explain, you know, Harry Potter or Star Wars or whatever to people who just did not want to, did not want to hear it. Right?

Doug: 03:08 Oh, I know. One of the problems that you run into is, you know, here we are, we, we've got all of these jokes that we really think are great and maybe they're jokes in our religious area or they're jokes in our technical area and there's a whole bunch of people we can't tell them to, but there are jokes. Right?

Leon: 03:23 Right. And they're our people. You know, just because I can't tell, you know, something that really funny that happened at synagogue or a, a funny Jewish joke to people at work... But they're still my friends. Right? So I want to share those aspects of my life and vice versa. I want to, you know, share a RAID array, joke with, you know, people you know, at shul and they're just, they're not going to care.

Josh: 03:46 It's funny, as you were talking Leon, I was thinking first you've just described my entire teenage life, sitting in the corner, you know, laughing about jokes that nobody else gets. And the harder you laugh because you know, you're making fun of that football player who looks like the ogre from your campaign last night and then suddenly you know you're running because you're, and you're trying to run and laugh and you know, you're dropping your "Magic, the Gathering" cards and like it's just, it's a, it's a nightmare. Um, yeah, sometimes you're, you laugh and sometimes you're laughed at.

Doug: 04:21 But then the other thing that comes out of that though is if you think, I mean, we want to share the jokes, but sometimes as you note, you're just laughing so hard. Everybody says, "No, no, no. Tell me what the joke is." I mean, they actually, they try and get it out of you and you're going, it would just take too long.

Leon: 04:35 Right. Okay. So that, that leads me to, I think the first big question that we should address, which is: is it really that specialized, you know, is religious based. You know, humor and/or geek tech humor so much different from say, sports humor or city location humor or humor that you would only understand if you were of a certain age or whatever.

Josh: 05:00 Uh, yeah, Canada jokes, ya hoser!

Leon: 05:04 Okay. But again, you know, we're not talking about jokes that make fun OF somebody. We're talking about humor that you'd only understand if you were Canadian. Right?

Josh: 05:13 I have a perfect example for you. Okay. So, uh, and this is a great extent. This is a great example of how I have to give you the backstory. So, uh, one of the former prime ministers of Canada, his name was Brian Mulroney, and he was recently in the, in the news for making a very derogatory comment horde, a young politician. He called her" little lady" a way to go. Brian. Brian is famous for bringing in something called the "goods and services tax". It's, it's one of those taxes that was supposed to be temporary and it never was. And so, um, to the tune of the Tiny Tunes theme song, we used to sing a, "...we're tiny, we're twoney, we're all a little loony, since Brian Mulrooney invented GST."

Leon: 05:58 Okay...

Josh: 05:58 And we think it's Hilarious, right? Where it, and it takes not only an understanding of Canadian politics, but you have to be someone who appreciates children's... uh.. not-children's cartoons... NOT children's cartoons. Yes.

Leon: 06:12 Right. Okay. So to my point is, is the premise of this episode not to, you know, pop poke holes in the premise the episode, but is is the stuff that we're talking about tech jokes and and religious jokes. I they is it really so specialized?

Doug: 06:27 The thing that makes things funny is the element of surprise that comes, I mean, so that's why the one, two, three for jokes worksheet thing number one, thing number two, and then thing number three comes out of left field,

New Speaker: 06:39 ba-dum-bum

Doug: 06:40 Ba-da-boom. Right? That's, that's sort of the nature of all at least verbal humor. The problem is in the case of religion or IT or Canada or sports or whatever, you have to have enough knowledge to know what is normal so the setup works, if you don't understand the normal, then there's no surprise cause it doesn't seem any different from the first two parts that were there in the first place. I mean it's, I don't know that it's necessarily that different from other very specialized areas, but the fact is it's a specialized area that requires a knowledge for there to be a normal for there to be a surprise.

Leon: 07:22 Right. And, and I would also argue that the populations that we're talking about are significantly smaller. It, it's a lot easier to find a group of people who would probably understand a, let's say a Cleveland joke or again, not to joke about Cleveland, but a joke that only Clevelanders would understand.

Josh: 07:42 Did you just insinuate that Cleveland has more people in it than Canada.

Leon: 07:45 Uh, no, I was not that at all. I was actually supporting it or it can, you know, Canadians,

Doug: 07:51 They do have more people who are willing to go ahead and laugh at themselves though.

Leon: 07:56 Canada does. Canada is very, yeah. Um, yeah. Clevelanders are just tired of it all. So, uh, anyway, um,

Josh: 08:05 So Doug, when you were counting, I feel like I was, I was, uh, almost having to hold myself back, um, about making a number two joke, you know, you're like number one and number two, I feel like there's a, there's a universal joke that every everyone gets and I feel like, you know, boys get it around the age of three or so, like as soon as those sentences start being stitched together.

Leon: 08:30 And they never lose it,

Josh: 08:32 They never lose it.

Leon: 08:33 Or as somebody said that, you know, all babies when they're first born have to be burped. Um, boys just do it on their own from that point forward. Um, and you're right, there was a study that was done and they found it two specific... Specifically two types of humor work regardless of culture, regardless of where you're from or how old you are or anything like that. And that is scatological or a fart and poop jokes and mother-in-law jokes. Uh, those are appreciated everywhere. Right?

Doug: 09:02 Makes Sense. But, and the one that the, I've also heard that it's like universal and frankly it doesn't appeal to me at all, Is physical humor, slapstick stuff. I mean, if you look at even the comedy that we got in the beginning of the, uh, the film era, that was all slapstick stuff, right? And everybody loves it. I just don't, I don't know. It's not me.

Leon: 09:25 Exactly. And I think that's another important point, right, is that whether you understand the joke is different than whether you like the joker. Appreciate the joke. Um, you know, to give an a, an a tech example, a lot of people who know even the littlest bit about networking say, you know, there's no place like one right? Okay. There's no place like home, there's nobody, you know, or I could tell you a UDP joke but you probably wouldn't get it right. Ha Ha. Okay. That's all right. I, you know, but there's, even though that is, uh, that is a joke and, and some people will laugh at it. There's a lot of networking people who are like, really? I just, that is the 1024th time I've heard it. Right.

Doug: 10:09 Oh Man.

Leon: 10:18 So, uh, yeah. And, and it, there's a group of people right now her listening to this podcast who are like, "I don't, I don't get it" so, so

Doug: 10:26 You just need to wait a bit

Leon: 10:27 So "getting it" and "liking it". Right. Uh, oooooh. So, um, so you're liking it and getting it to, okay, this is where things get interesting. Um, I, I was playing around with the idea of like worlds colliding. Like are there jokes that you have to be both? Do you have to be like you have to be a Mormon and also a network engineer, you know, FULL INNER JOIN to get, you know, certain humor, stuff like that. I didn't know if you've run across any of those.

Speaker 3: 11:01 Well, having been Mormon for 41 years, I, and as we talked about an episode two now post Mormon, I can tell you that the majority of Mormons, so that I know have, uh, no sense of humor. And it's not that they're not funny, it's just the things that they laugh at our really contextualized for Mormonism, um, like, um, pickup lines at a BYU, right? Um, you know, hey, well things like, um, uh, "Baby, I came here to feel the spirit, but I didn't know that I would see an angel." I, you know,

Doug: 11:38 Oh yeah...f

Josh: 11:40 So as I was looking for, for Mormon humor, I realized that most of it is around getting married. Uh, which I think is, that ties with the youthfulness. And you know, LDS people tend to get married younger than others. And generally, if it's not about Green Jello with carrot in it, if it's not about a, the relief society, which is the women's organization, uh, making ice sculptures, there's a whole, there's a whole trope of Mormon movies like "The R.M." Um, well "The R.M." is the one that we laugh at the most and it's, it's takes all of the sticks about Mormonism and cram them into, you know, 90 minutes of, of stories about people's lives. Um, all of those things, although we laugh at them, they're not really that funny. It's just, it's more self deprecating humor. So maybe we're really good at picking on ourselves. I don't know.

Leon: 12:35 Huh. And then again, trying to get the technology in there is probably a little tricky.

Doug: 12:39 It just doesn't happen. That's what I mean. We're just not that funny.

Leon: 12:42 Huh. So I did here. So a friend of mine, Phil Setnik, posted on Twitter a little bit ago. So just for context for those listening, even though this is the April podcast, we did record it. Uh, not yesterday. We recorded it a couple of weeks ago and Purim the Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in, one of the things about Purim is that you are commanded to drink. This is where everyone starts like, "Wait, wait, I want to convert!" Um, you know, you're commanded to drink until you don't know the difference between the sentence that the phrase, uh, "wicked is Haman" and "blessed is Mordecai". And so Phil posted that on May 4th, we're commanded to drink until we can not tell. The difference between "blessed is Obi-Wan" and "Cursed be Vader". This is the, this is none of the Mitzvah. The commandment known as "Ahd Lo Yoda".

Doug: 13:31 Yeah.

Leon: 13:33 Right, right. Okay. So requires deep knowledge of both Geek, you know, culture and also whatever. So I just wanted to get props out that, that this is a difficult brand of humor to, um, to perhaps a trade in and yet Phil managed to do it. So hat's off.

Josh: 13:52 Does this mean that we had to have watched Star Trek?

Leon: 13:54 Uh, no, no, it doesn't.

Doug: 13:59 If you come down to it though, it just comes down to audience size really. I mean, we would go back to mother-in-laws and fart and poop is relatively universal, whereas people who both have seen Star Wars and know the stuff+ behind Purim are relatively few.

Leon: 14:18 Right, right.

Doug: 14:19 So you're, I mean you'll, I'm sure you, you'll kill it, your audience, but it's not the two people.

Leon: 14:28 Exactly. It's Phil and me and maybe one other person. Yeah, exactly. Um, there's a few of us, but you know, it's, it's definitely a small group. So, so talking about that, like what are some occasions when, because it's so hard to find these populations. I want to hear about some times that you've tried to tell a joke to the group and they just, they didn't get it. Like what are those?

Doug: 14:55 I live those every day. I work out at my home, so, uh, you know, I do all of my social network stuff while I'm sitting down in the living room next to my wife and I tend to laugh out loud when I read things that I find funny and my wife will be sitting there, she'll go, "what?" And you just do a take where you sit there going, how long would it, how much do I have to explain for her to get it to make it worthwhile? And then it always comes down to, and all the, all the answer is, is "Geek joke" and we're done. It's just she, she now has, cause we tried in the, you know, years ago, she would say, "No, no, really, I'll get it." And we'd go through it and she'd just eventually realized that it's not worth it to her for me to explain it to her.

Leon: 15:50 So I had that the other day. And, and uh, again, for background context, uh, I, I work from home, so I had the same situation, you know, my wife and her sitting at the table for breakfast and we're doing, you know, reading stuff. But on top of it, my, my daughter and her children, my grandkids are living in the house with us also. So I have a three year old and a two year old and all of the things that they, they do and they listen to and their very sophisticated music that they listen to. So all of a sudden I'm laughing hysterically and my wife says, "what?" And I said "wireshark, do, do, do, do, do wireshark, do do do do", because you have to understand that that "Baby shark" is sung probably 52,000 times a day in my house. So it was just one of those things and she's like, "I don't get it." You were so close, you had everything except that one little piece. So, yeah. So Josh, how about you

Josh: 16:52 Not to feel left out, I also work from home and I'm super grateful for it. One of, uh, one of the engineers on my team who lives in Boston. So if he's listening to the podcast, you know who you are. Um, he always drops these great, uh, pop culture references. Um, he is a veritable catalog of pop culture, uh, both current and historical. And the problem is that, I mean, I have no idea the other engineers, you know, they're like doing the ROFL and the LOL and you know, emojis are flying and I'm googling like a madman trying to figure out like what is so funny about that. And then I'm like, oh yeah, right. Ha Ha, lol, lowercase. That is my life. I get it. It's hard. But you know, fortunately worked from home and Google have made me seem kind of hip, you know, like,

Leon: 17:44 right, exactly. And that's not just like IT people to non-IT people. I think it works for people who work in one area of IT and you know, versus another one. I think there are jokes that, you know, you have to be a storage engineer. You have to be like to "get it" right?

Josh: 18:02 Yeah. We actually have a, we have a saying that it's kind of an inside joke. And I think that a lot of these jokes that we tell are really inside a humor as opposed to the traditional, you know, uh, a "Jew, a Mormon, and an atheist walk into the bar." They don't start like that. But we have, um, so our, our cloud team, uh, whenever they do something that were, uh, upset about, we'll say "what the cloud?" because that's our thing, right? It's, it's almost like, you know "what the fork?" or "holy shirt!", uh, from "The Good Place." If you haven't watched that on Netflix, you should. It's hilarious. Teaches you how to swear without swearing. It's great. Uh, but I think we all have those little sh...ticks that we throw out and uh, that is the ultimate insider jokes are the ultimate exclusivity of humor, right? You have to literally have been there and done that in order to get in on it. Um, and we've got them for technology. We've got them for a situational humor. We've got them for, uh, our religious things. Like I said, you know, the, the Green Jello joke, it just goes over roaringly, uh, and, and Mormon theology, uh, discussions and everyone else is like, "What Elliot? I like Green Jello. You guys put carrot in it? That's weird man. I don't understand you Mormons"

Doug: 19:20 Thing that it does is the exact opposite? We talked about, you know, how you trying to go ahead and reach out to other groups and it's really hard. But what Josh is basically saying is we can actually use our humor to go ahead and cement the solidity of our very tight group. Oh Wow. That's so many of the jokes that are coming out of this pop culture type stuff. And you know, you are willing to go ahead and Google pop culture. And I appreciate that, uh, Josh I just, I admire your willingness to do that. I've just, uh, I've reached the point where I just don't care anymore. I was a disc jockey for like, you know, 12, 14 years. I was in pop culture. I would say celebrity, blah, blah, blah. I don't care. I haven't listened to I, it's not, we were just talking about that today. My wife and I said, I, I don't know if I've ever heard a Taylor Swift song I may have. The fact that I know that she exists is pretty much it. And so I not only am not current on pop culture, but I've also now reached the point where I don't care. I just don't care anymore.

Leon: 20:23 And I think that that's sort of like you've reached your final form, you know, not only, you know, not only do you not get the joke, you don't care to get the joke. It's not, you're not curious about the joke. You just like, you know what, you know what you think is funny and everything else is like you do you, but I'm going to stay over here

Doug: 20:43 Pretty much it, and they're perfectly willing to not explain it to me. That's one of the nice things about reaching a certain age is youngsters no longer care to even bother explaining it to you anymore.

Leon: 20:55 Right. They just assume that you don't know.

Doug: 20:57 Yeah, yeah.

Josh: 21:00 You can always get back at them Doug. I found that as my teenagers drop jokes and they will sit with their friends and banter back and forth and they're just dying laughing. So the way that I get them back is that I, I drop their vernacular. I'm like at the dinner table, you know? Um, so I'll be talking to my wife and I, and I'll be telling her a story about work and I'll say, "Yeah, today I was a real baller at work. I was, you know, totally..." And my kids, let's just look at me and say, "What are you doing?" Um, so when you get, when you get to our age, I think, isn't it? You can really, the, the joke is on them. We don't actually care and we're just going to pick at you for thinking that you're, you know, so funny and welcome to old age or middle age or I don't know what we are the, we won't talk about that.

Leon: 21:55 My kids have banned me from being jiggy with anything anymore.

New Speaker: 21:58 (conversation fades)

Josh: 22:01 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

Doug: 22:15 Hey, thanks for having me on. Until next time, I've got a funny story...

Leon: 22:19 You know what? Nevermind, you probably had to be there.


S1E4: Failing With Style

S1E4: Failing With Style

March 26, 2019

In this episode, Leon and Josh discuss failures big and small, and how our religious/moral/ethical traditions inform the "opportunities" for failure that life in IT presents us with almost daily.


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.

Josh: 00:21 Hey Leon, did I ever tell you about the time I was wrong?

Josh: 00:24 No

Josh: 00:26 It's okay. I was only mistaken.

Leon: 00:29 Oh, seriously?!?

Josh: 00:32 You know, dad jokes are a fantastic thing, Leon. And uh, sometimes my delivery is great and sometimes it's an epic fail, which is good. It's okay. Because I think today I want to talk about failures in it.

Leon: 00:47 Like when the SAN fails?

Josh: 00:50 No. How about when we fail the SAN, Not when the SAN fails us.

Leon: 00:54 Oh, you mean like the time I took the entire backup path down, but I forgot about it. And later on I did a fail over and the entire storage array went down because there was nothing to backup to.

Josh: 01:03 Uh, yeah, exactly that.

Leon: 01:05 Oh God. Okay. All right. Once again, our religious, moral, ethical outlook I think helps us with those failures. First of all, I should say that the opportunity to fail presents itself almost every nanosecond in IT. I think there's lots of things to fail at. Um, but uh, as, as some people say, failure isn't an option, it's actually built into the primary features of the product a lot of times. So I think our religious outlook helps us to either adapt to failure or fail better. What do you think?

Josh: 01:40 Well, um, so I, you know, I don't have a great answer for that yet. I'm going to flip back to my ideas of, of religion based on scripture. Okay. So, in the scripture, in the New Testament says, "be ye therefore perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect." And to me that's always been a very weighty thing because I view God as perfect. You know, he's all knowing, all loving. He's, he's the perfect father and holy cow, how do I ever live up to that? And I, I've spent a lot of time in my religious life and even my post-Mormon life thinking about this mandate we've been given of being perfect. And you know in IT I'm, I'm nowhere near perfect. I am so far from it, but man, uh, I spent a lot of time in my religious upbringing trying to look, sound, act, be perfect. And I didn't do a very good job to be frank.

Leon: 02:50 So it's interesting because, uh, at least in in Judaism, yes, God is perfect, omnipotent, you know, uh, infinite, all of those things. But, but the mandate to be perfect is... That's, that's a hard pill to swallow. Um, the, the language that I've always heard is that you should, you should try to perfect yourself. So it's more a message of constant self improvement. Knowing that, that there's always something about yourself that you can improve upon rather than say that you're trying to attain this goal of perfection. I think that that's, to be very honest, you know, impossible. But I also think that that idea pairs nicely with IT life because in IT, I think that we, the, the people who are most successful in IT typically are committed to being lifelong learners and to knowing that they're going to spend their whole life perfecting a set of skills - whether it's networking skills or their knowledge of IOS commands or, their ability to create good, useful powershell scripts or whatever it is - that nobody sits back on their laurels and says that "I'm the everything about active directory. I've got it all down." I mean, they may be comfortable with it, but there's always a recognition that you could do more with it. Um, so yeah, I think that's an easier thing to, to get to then perfection.

Josh: 04:22 Agreed. Agreed. Yeah. And you know, some may argue that you've arrived at a state of perfection when you realize that you have to be constantly learning. And it was that old adage. The more I know, the more I realized how much I don't actually know. And I think that that's very true both in life as well as an it an interesting story to share real quick. I've got younger brothers, and my youngest brother, uh, I usually introduce him to people when I'm, when I'm telling a story like this, I say "my little brother is an overachiever" and they look at me like, "oh, I see." Yeah, he dropped out of high school twice. And people that they kind of give me this odd look like, "are you just being snarky?" And then I go on to tell them about how my youngest brother is the most magnificent carpenter I've ever met. Although he is a high school dropout, twice, because he went back and decided, nope, this definitely is not for me, which is okay, right? He then went on to work for another master carpenter, worked like a dog. Fortunately he lives out here kind of near me. He is head-hunted on the regular by some of the top architects in the region. He builds the most insanely complex things. And he just SEES them. And I think to myself, "wow, he would have totally wasted away sitting in a classroom some place." In fact, I had that exact discussion with my son today who's trying to figure out where he wants to go to. And I asked him, I said, "Noah, would you be happy sitting in a classroom for the next four years?" And he said, "I would be miserable." And it's true. He would be absolutely miserable. And so, you know, this idea that, that perfection requires you to go sit in a classroom, or for my youngest brother to, you know, graduate from High School is, you know, that's, it's null and void in those cases, that is not their idea of perfection, you know. So sometimes when we talk about learning, we look and we say, "hey, you know, um, Leon, you only learned, uh, you know, these skills. And Leon is the perfect it engineer because he knows x, y, and Z."

Leon: 06:43 Okay. Getting a little deep here!

Josh: 06:46 Hold on, hold on. Okay. But then we look at other people who have a completely different skillset that is very relevant to what they need to accomplish. And for them, they are that perfect engineer, right? It's the whole idea of, you know, hey, I can script in powershell or I could script in python, but if you are an AIX admin, perl's gonna help you, but you probably need to have some other skills, and that powershell isn't going to be very useful for you. Cause I don't think AIX runs powershell.

Leon: 07:18 Right? Not, not presently, but you never know in the future, or powershell may run in AIX anyway. Um, we can dream can't we? So, um, yeah, I think, I think what are the things you're getting at is, is that self improvement and perfecting ourself is actually a process of repeated failure.

Josh: 07:42 Amen

Leon: 07:42 As, as hard as it is to sometimes accept that on a daily basis. It's hard to live that experience. I often,

Josh: 07:53 You only fail once a day?

Leon: 07:54 No, no. A constant state of failure. I like to tell people that, that working in IT sometimes feels like a huge stretches of soul crushing depression, punctuated by brief moments of insane euphoria, before returning back to the long stretch of soul crushing depression again. You know, like, I'm working on this problem. "I don't know what it is. I can't figure it out. I've tried everything. Let me try this one. Yeah. OH MY GOSH IT WORKS THIS IS BRILLIANT!! This is incredible. I love it... Okay, next problem." All right.

Josh: 08:31 That's accurate, isn't it? I, I, that's my life. I don't know how I didn't know any different.

Leon: 08:37 So the, so the idea of failure, really is just, I think framing an experience incorrectly because it's just, you know, working, you know? It's finding out all the things that don't work. And I think that our religious, moral, ethical outlook, those of us who, who feel strongly about those, I think that it allows us to embrace that experience, to be more flexible about failure. Then somebody who, who may not have that outlook. Not that people who, you know, don't, you know, who aren't religious CAN'T do that obviously. But I think that that a religious framework helps us to see it in a particular light. Um...

Josh: 09:26 Why do you think that is? What, what is it about having a view of yourself, not as isolated from the world, but having, uh, an understanding that you are relative to, you know - whether it's God, whether it's, you know, the universe, whether, you know, whether it's the... what is it about that view that allows us to embrace both failure and an evolution toward perfection?

Leon: 09:54 I think part of it is that in, in many religions, there is actually a habituation of repentance. And what I mean by that is that there is a period of time or a day or even a moment during daily prayers when you ask for forgiveness. When you recognize that you've somehow fallen short of a goal that you could have reached but didn't, and you apologize for that. Now at least in the Jewish tradition that is, you know, failures, things that you have missed between you and God. So, you know, "I'm expected to do certain things and I fell short and I'm so sorry and I'm going to work on that..." And so on and so forth. That's sort of the subtext of the prayer. But I think that asking for forgivenes, apologizing is a habit, is a technique, and you have to practice it before it feels natural. And I also think that knowing that you can apologize and be forgiven is something that you have to practice a few times before you can become comfortable with it. And because religions tend to have that built in - that repentance, apology, forgiveness cycle - that we and IT who make mistakes that do affect other people are perhaps finding an easier time saying, like, I joked earlier in this talk, you know, "I took the backup circuit down, I forgot to bring it back up again. I did a fail over a week later. I am so sorry. I know that caused an outage. I will, you know, here are the things I'm going to do to make sure that doesn't happen again." I'm not, quote-unquote "a failure" for having allowed that to happen. I failed, I made a mistake. But my, my Jewish experience with the repentance cycle allows me to admit that without feeling like I have to give up some part of my soul in order to do so. I, you know, I apologize all the time. I apologize, honestly, every day during prayers, There's a particular times of year when apology figures prominently. And the act of showing up and doing that allows me to turn to my coworkers and apologize and know that forgiveness can be given without fear. And I think, and I think that's it. I think that fear really gets in the way of a lot of people, you know, in that case, I don't know what you think about that.

Josh: 12:37 Yeah. You know what, I 100% agree. I, I saw, I can't tell you how many times in my life I've been afraid. Um, funny story growing up, we lived in a small house that had one of those dirt basements. You know the kind I'm talking about. And I was horrified of that basement. Absolutely horrified. And so when you turn the lights on in the main basement, there was a back basement that was like completely, uh, didn't have any lights. And every so often my parents would say, "hey, can you go down to the cellar and get something?" And I would just start panicking

Leon: 13:17 That is nightmare fuel!

Josh: 13:19 Right? It is totally nightmare fuel. And I can remember like just screaming up the stairs as fast as I could because I was so afraid of the thing I could not see. So yeah, I am not Kevin McCallister. I cannot stand with, you know, a triumph in front of my furnace, in my basement and you know, you know, you know, scream from my front step, you know, "I am not afraid anymore." I also don't have a next door neighbor who I think is an ax murderer. Um, that's another thing too.

Leon: 13:51 That's a plus.

Josh: 13:51 That's definitely a plus. Every tell you about my first, my very first fail? Actually, did I ever tell you about how I got started in IT? That's probably better.

Leon: 14:00 Tell everyone.

Josh: 14:01 Okay. So let me tell you and everyone who's listening. Um, thanks mom. Uh, I want it to be a lawyer. I remember the exact moment in my life when I decided I want it to be a lawyer. I was in seventh grade and we were doing a mock trial in seventh grade and the smartest girl in class, um, and I were head to head and I eviscerated her. It was hands down the... the entire class was the jury. And it was, it was, it was epic, "Of epic proportions." Wonderful. That moment I realized I actually want to be a lawyer. Yeah, no, no. I'm not a lawyer.

Leon: 14:44 As a parent, I can tell you every child is a lawyer.

Josh: 14:47 That it, that is very true. That is very true. That's all that. And so I battled for a very long time about whether or not I should embrace this whole idea of being in IT. I also remember the exact moment that my wife and I decided that I should pursue a career in IT. Um, it was mostly out of desperation. I was young, I was married, I had a family and needed to, um, you know, make money. Here I am 20 odd years in and I realized that I did not fail by not becoming a lawyer. In fact, I succeeded by recognizing that being a lawyer was not the path I should walk.

Leon: 15:21 Right. So, you know, when I was little, I wanted he marine biologist.

Josh: 15:27 You and George Constanza. By that way,

Leon: 15:28 I really, you know, Jacques Cousteau, like the whole thing I really wanted... So naturally I went into university to study theater. That makes perfect sense. Then I discovered the universe did not need another short Jewish nebbishy looking actor. Uh, and so of course I went into IT. I mean, that's true. Yeah, it was. Yeah. And now I'll do the same thing. "You know, I was young, I did it for the money." Um, so yeah, it's, you know, there, there's several inventors who said that, "I might have failed a thousand times, but you know, that taught me a thousand things that didn't work."

Josh: 16:06 Absolutely. Also also known as a week in the life of Josh.

Leon: 16:10 Right, right. That's, you know, and, and I, again, I think that IT really is... So we're talking about two different things though: When you try something and it doesn't work, that's a personal, that's, that's a failure on a very personal level. I tried this, I tried that, and I tried that. And I think that most of us who work in IT are used to that. You know, you've got to try a few things before it's going to work. But then there's the other failures, like the one we joked about at the top of the episode where I took the backup circuit down or I accidentally shut off the VAX because I thought it was a mini fridge. Um, I did that.

Josh: 16:43 I do want to know that story someday.

Leon: 16:45 Yeah. You know, or whatever. Those are failures that impact other people. Those are the ones that go back to that repentance, apology, forgiveness cycle where you have to go outside of yourself and say "I did fail. I did fall short of the mark and I need to do better." And I think that both of those experiences, those personal ones of trying things and it not working, and the big ones where you have to go in front of other people and apologize and ask for forgiveness. I think both of those things our religious lives prepare us for, because they, it inculcates in us the fact that this is part of life, this is part of the normal experience. And therefore I think our frustration level with that as a normal part of our day is lessened. Because we don't feel like "This is incredible. How do people live like this, with things breaking all the time, and things not working?!? I can't stand it!" Like, no, that's, this is life. This is the way it works.

Josh: 17:49 I often said, and I still say, and one of my maybe crowning moments was when someone quoted me saying, this is, "it doesn't matter how close or how far along number..." Sorry, let me say my famous quote one more time. "It does not matter how far along the road to perfection you are when you die. It only matters the direction you're facing." And I think that that's a very important principle. Whether you're talking about your life and your pursuit of this ideal of perfection, or you're talking about your career, we're all going to fail. But when you fail, fail forward, and we've heard that from business leaders, "Hey, if you're going to fail, fail forward, don't feel backwards." But that is, if we embrace that, we recognize that, you know, some people may fail faster and get up and move forward, but every single one of us needs to, when we fail, fail in the direction of progress. And when we do that, we, when we look up, we still realize that we're on the path. It's when we fail and we fail completely off, or, you know, maybe there's no trust and support in our lives or in our business. You know, there, there are cases where I failed and I became the immediate butt of blame. Uh, you know, people, yeah, "Josh screwed up," and that those are really hard to recover from. One of my managers, well actually our common manager for a very brief period of time... Um, yeah, it's a story for another day, right?

Leon: 19:23 Apology, forgiveness. We're back in that cycle again.

Josh: 19:27 So Andy said, "Nobody will be faulted for trying and failing, only for failing to try."

Leon: 19:35 I liked it every time he said it. Just going back to what you said about your famous quote, your, you're remarkably close to a beloved ancient rabbi, Rabbi Tarfon, who, in Pirkei Avot, said, "It's not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you're not free to desist from it either."

Josh: 19:55 Oh, I liked that one.

Leon: 19:56 Yeah. So you, you are standing on solid ground with your famous quote. So just to wrap up the episode, I think something that Andy and I both saw and you were just a little bit short before you got there to see it, was that idea of "you won't be blamed for failing" is, it also depends so much on what you do about the failure. When I was back at where you're working, where I used to work, I saw something within a period of a week: two major outages that were caused by somebody making a change outside of change control. In the first case the person immediately called folks and said, "hey, the system down. I really didn't think that what I was changing was going to have this kind of impact. I thought it was a minor configuration file. I didn't know it had this sort of wide ranging impact. What can I do to fix it?" And they were told "there's nothing you can do to fix it. It's beyond your skill set." But that person stayed on the phone for hours while the repairs, the backups and restores and everything went, you know, and said, "I just want to be here to see what I need to know for next time." And nothing more was said about it. And if I hadn't known this person, I probably wouldn't have known that much of it. A week later there was another major outage. Not with the same system, a similar system, similar magnitude. This person tried to cover their tracks. They actually tried to bury it under the rug. "What, what? It's down? I had no idea!" And as we all know, there's log files for everything. And so it came out pretty quickly that, you know, what had happened. This person had made a change without a change control. Nobody knew it was happening. This person tried to bury it under the rug and, without another comment, that person was simply escorted to the door. That was it, it was over. It wasn't about the failure, it was about how they handled it. It was about how they owned or didn't own up to it. And I think that's when we think about failure in IT. And also what does a religion, religious, moral, ethical outlook give us? I think it's, it's that it gives us the ability to recognize that failure is a normal, natural part of our experience as people moving around the world. And that, you know, it's not some sort of huge character flaw to have failed and, and how to have the moral fortitude to own up to it and to say, you know, uh, to apologize and to say, what can I do to make restitution and to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I think that's really more than anything else. What, what our outlook, our religious outlook on life gives us.

Josh 1: 22:56 Yeah. And that's really interesting. I love the the Pixar movies. My family loves to Pixar movies. My son, my oldest son, really loves the Pixar movies. And in Toy Story, Buzz attempts to fly, you remember the scene right? And so to paraphrase Buzz, "When you fail, fail with style." And of course, that's what Buzz says. He thinks he's flying and it takes him the entire story. And then, you know, uh, what he's looking up and he's like, "Oh my goodness, you know, Buzz, you're flying". And the Buzz acknowledges, "No, you know, we're, this is falling with style." And I think that, right? I think that's really the essence of it, right? If you're going to fail, fail with style, fail with purpose and intent, recognize that as you move forward, that's, that is the essence of life. That is the essence of life in IT, life at home, life as an individual, life with your relationship with God. You're going to make mistakes, as you've so wonderfully said, you're going to make mistakes. When you make those mistakes, recognize them, admit to them, and try really hard not to make them again. That that is the evolution of humanity.

Roddie: 24:15 Thank you for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious. Visit our website at where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

Leon: 24:28 So as we learned from Alfred and Christopher Nolan's "Batman begins."

Alfred: 24:31 Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.


S1E3 - Being a “Light Unto the Nations” during a Sev1 Call

S1E3 - Being a “Light Unto the Nations” during a Sev1 Call

March 19, 2019

Many religious traditions embrace the idea of being an example, a "light unto the nations". On this episode, Leon, Josh, and Roddie explore this idea for those of us who work in IT, when it's a highly stressful situation such as a system outage - the dreaded "sev1 call"? .


Josh:                                      00:00                     Welcome to technically religious 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                     Look, we all know that working in it isn't all rainbows and ice cream and unicorns. There are frustrations, there are disappointments, and even times when the work is downright stressful

Josh:                                      00:33                     and perhaps no time is more of that then during an outage when there's a lot of unwanted attention and tempers are running high.

Roddie:                                00:41                     Today we want to explore the ways that we navigate those high stress moments as an IT pro with a strong ethical, moral, or religious perspective.

Leon:                                     00:49                     To put it in scriptural terms. How might we use our perspective to be a light unto the nations in those moments? Um, this week we have a couple of new voices. So let's just do some quick introductions. I'm Leon Adato,

Josh:                                      01:01                     I'm Josh Biggley

Roddie:                                01:03                     and I'm Roddie Hasan. So diving right in. Leon, why don't you tell us where the quote comes from and kind of give us some context here. Okay. For those people who aren't familiar with it, um, it actually comes from one of the books of prophets, Isaiah, for those people who are quickly flipping through, it's chapter 42, verse six. Uh, and it, the whole context of the sentence is, "I am the Lord. I called you with righteousness and it will strengthen your hand and I formed you and I made you for a people's covenant for a light to the nations." So that's, that's what we're talking about. Um, but what does that mean, right?

Roddie:                                01:39                     Like, yes, what,

Leon:                                     01:41                     What, what's that supposed to be? Actually, before we dive into that, um, just, you know who, who among us has obviously, you know, prophets or Navi, uh, is a Jewish, you know, is part of the Jewish canon. So it's part of our context, but I do want to clarify that from a Jewish perspective, the prophets is not considered what we might call gospel. You know, thou shalt it's really considered a timeless political commentary. So, uh, you can derive life lessons from it, but it isn't a binding in the way that a commandment might be. So how about for you guys?

Josh:                                      02:19                     It's interesting. So in Mormonism, um, and as we talked about last week, Mormonism being my, uh, my previous religious belief now identifying as post-Mormon and although, you know, having spent 40 years in the religion, I know a fair bit about it. Um, in Mormonism, Isaiah is feared, uh, only because, hey, it's Isaiah and he, you know, he uses some really complex imagery in order to extract his true meetings. Um, however this particular idea is also reflected in the New Testament. Um, so certainly I think Mormons and Mormons identifying as Christians this idea that we should stand up and use our correctness are... And certainly in context of Mormonism, are our absolute belief that they're, um, that that it is the true religion. Um, we use, you know, this idea of being a light unto the nations as, Hey, we've got, we've got all the truth. Everyone else has parts of it and they should look to, uh, you know, to Mormonism to fill in the blanks.

Leon:                                     03:19                     Okay. We're going to leave that whole truth thing aside because it can get to be a very linux-y conversation. Um, but spinning right around it. Roddie, how about Islam?

Roddie:                                03:27                     Um, so, so as you know, a couple of themes probably see come up in the podcasts as we go episode to episode: there, there are a lot of similarities between Islam and Judaism. So, um, you, you know, without pulling direct quotes out of the Koran, the Muslims do believe in the Old Testament. So, so a lot of the things that are in prophets would also apply to Islam. So, you know, they, they might be taught in different language obviously because it was written in a different language or read in a different language. But um, being the word of God, it's, it's kind of taken the same way.

Leon:                                     03:57                     Okay.

Josh:                                      03:58                     All right. Leon, that fast then, have you ever quoted scripture in a Sev 1?

Speaker 2:                           04:05                     I uh, under my breath I might have used words that did include the word God.

Roddie:                                04:10                     Yeah. But, um, I certainly take taking the Lord's name in vain many times.

Leon:                                     04:16                     Yeah. Yeah. don't.. I don't think so. Now see, now I have an achievement unlocked thing to try to pursue, I guess. I don't know. Um, no, I, I'll, I'll go on record as saying I probably have never quoted Torah or any of the other, you know, other books during a Sev 1 as such, to say, well, as we see it, like, no, no, that's a bad idea. Um, I think it's worth putting on the table that, you know, do we think either for ourselves or for other people, they might take that, you know, being a light unto the nations means being better than, or, you know, quote unquote holier than thou during a Sev 1. Does that, is that what we're talking about?

Roddie:                                04:56                     I kind of see it as a more positive message and maybe it's just kind of my worldview, right? So I don't see it necessarily as changing minds. It's improving or helping to improve the world. Not, not, I, it, again, that's just the context that I see it in. I don't see it as pushing or, or trying to make somebody something they're not, it's to brighten someone's Day. .

Leon:                                     05:17                     Okay.

Josh:                                      05:18                     Yeah. Yeah. And that's 100%, you know, regardless of what our religious backgrounds may or may not be perceived as by others, I don't think that anyone who is a good IT professional, a good team player is going to come into a Sev1 and look at chaos and say, all right, how can I Loki this? Uh, I just, I really want to drop in some, in some additional a chaos, right? Yeah.

Leon:                                     05:44                     Okay. I wasn't sure. Loki was that l-o-w-k-e-y is that a function that didn't know about no, look. Do you mean Lok, Thor and Loki?

Josh:                                      05:51                     Yeah, we're... Thor, of course. Right? We are, we are geeks.

Leon:                                     05:55                     Yes.

Roddie:                                05:55                     I was going to say it. There's the word Geek. We can get that in here now.

Josh:                                      05:58                     Of course. Of course. Um, so I, you know, I, and I love that idea, Roddie. I'd love to that when we come into a Sev1 and there is chaos that, um, our light quote unquote, I that idea of coming in and saying, hey, whoa, whoa, Whoa, hold on everyone. Let's just slow down a little, you know, let's, let's divide this. We are engineer's after all. So let's split the problem in half and, you know, get down to the essence of it and then let's try to pull it apart. So often we get, we get pulled in different directions and we are looking for some, some central pill or some, some light to lead us to the right the right way.

Leon:                                     06:32                     Okay. Um, I, I also see it as simply allowing our behavior to speak for itself, but not being a proscriptive, but rather just exemplary and saying, you know, in, in the middle of this very stressful situation, I'm simply going to continue to behave in a particular way. And hopefully by being calm, everyone else can remain and focused. Other people will find it easier to be calm and remain focused also. Not to even say to say to anybody, this is what we should be doing right now. Just to like, be it. Right?

Josh:                                      07:09                     So, uh, so I'm, I'm curious then, do either of you, um, do you crack jokes are or make wise cracks during Sev1s?

Roddie:                                07:16                     All the time.

Josh:                                      07:17                     Okay, perfect. I will, I was afraid that I was the only one who made wise cracks during a Sev1

Roddie:                                07:22                     All the time.

Leon:                                     07:22                     Yeah, so I will say my problem is that because humor is one of my main go tos for uh, De de escalating a situation that it can be too much. Right? You can and some people do not appreciate that when they feel the pressure is on, they want to focus. And again, like reading people, being aware of their moods and not trampling on it. Um, because I need a particular modality is also I think informed, uh, in a little bit, in some way by it. I don't know about you guys,

Roddie:                                07:59                     so I just, again, it's, it's real easy to, and it's been a few years since I've been on a Sev1, they get very stressful and um, different groups tend to blame other groups and, and I just find that kind of bringing, bringing a little bit of humor and levity into the, in the conversation really kind of calms everybody down. And, and the, the benefit of that is when they're calm or, or at least when they're not angry, they're not, they're able to focus more and figure out what's going on. Right? It's not necessarily a matter of being the peacemaker, right? It's, it's we got to get this through and the only way we're going to get it through as if everybody's focused versus trying to blame everybody else. Right?

Leon:                                     08:37                     Right. So I think, again, being an it pro in and using my religious view in a Sev1 situation at, one of the things that I particularly love about Judaism is that the focus is often not, did it happen? Did that dude build a big boat and try to put all the animals on it? Did the water really part? Like that's not really the focus. The focus is what did everybody do about what happened? So how did people react around it? And I, I think that the, the lesson that can be derived is that things happen. The system crashed. And if you are, uh, focused on what, but did it really happen? Like, if that's your mindset, looking and, and learning, uh, religious texts help you to say, but it, it doesn't matter if the world really flooded or the water is really parted or whatever. What did people do? A guy figured out that it was happening and he did everything he could to try to save as many people as he could. Like that's the focus. What did he do about it? And I think in a Sev1, it's like there are people who are in that Kubler Ross moment, like, you know, denial, anger, whatever. And instead say, look, the system is down. It is down. We don't need to, to get stuck on that. What are we going to do about this? And later on, what can we learn from it? I think that for me, at least, that's what it, how religion informs the Sev1 experience.

Josh:                                      10:01                     Yeah. And that's, that's interesting because I come from a more academic approach to religion in a part of the dogma of Mormonism is a very structured, uh, religious, uh, study experience on it. I believe that that's the same for Judaism. But you know, correct me if I'm wrong, uh, and Roddie, you'll, you'll have to clue me in on, on, uh, you know, Muslims and their studies. You know, I remember from a very young age, you know, you get into high school and you go through four years of, of seminar, either early morning or, uh, you know, take home seminary. And then if you follow the traditional path, you end up as a, as a missionary for between 18 months and two years. And then when you go to college or university, there's four years of institute. And then there's structured learning every Sunday. Um, and then, you know, now there's a prescriptive guide. On what you should study. We are, uh, as a, as a face, we are pushed to ask why and everything is based on our, in our history, you know. Well, why did the, why did the early saints have to move from Missouri to Salt Lake? You know, why did Joseph Smith, why was he asking you a question about, you know, um, what's religions should I join? You know, why did he go into the grove to pray? And you know, why is it an important that he saw God and Jesus Christ and his vision, those things are, are very, uh, uh, very much a part of who Mormons are and how we view the world. And so I, I have to fight constantly with myself to not ask peopl, "well, tell me why that happened?" And it's sometimes it's not even in the context of a Sev1, but they always, I always feel the need to pull things apart. Uh, almost like I'm not destructive little child who looks at a, you know, something mechanical and goes, Oh, goody. Yeah. You know, I'm going to pull that apart just to see how all the parts, you know, where it fit together. And then sometimes I forget that if I'm going to pull it apart, I also have to be prepared to reconstruct it.

Leon:                                     11:47                     To put it back together. Yes.

Roddie:                                11:49                     So, so Josh, Josh and Leon, let me, let me ask this question to both y'all. So, so, uh, do you feel an, I'll put my atheist hat on for a second. Do you feel that you would still approach things? Sev1 calls in the same manner, even if you hadn't been, uh, I don't really know that the history of it or even if he hadn't been born into the religion are raised with a religion or like, do you feel like this is just part of who you are and your personality versus how you were raised?

Josh:                                      12:21                     Well, first let me compliment you on the propeller on the top of your atheist hat it is very becoming,

Leon:                                     12:28                     It's delightful. NERD! Yes. And proud of it.

Roddie:                                12:32                     Word 2. We got the, that's our second word that we had to throw in there.

Leon:                                     12:36                     We got it for, for people listening, we actually have a game of, um, you know, of Buzzword Bingo. We see if we can work these words in, in the thing. So that was 2, um, so, uh, so Josh, go ahead.

Josh:                                      12:50                     I was going to say, I, you know, I don't know, uh, you know, part of my, my faith transition. So again, if you haven't listened to episode 2 go listen to it, I talk about a little bit about my faith transition. Oh, I'm having left the Mormon church in the past 12 months. I have no idea. I don't know who I would be without that construct. That's a great question Roddie.

Leon:                                     13:10                     I can definitely tell you that this is nurture, not nature for me. I am extremely reactive, highly overly dramatic and emotional and uh, in a Sev1, in a, in a stress situation, my, I would be all over the map. I would be, you know, both frenetic and frantic and, uh, relatively ignorant of other people's emotional states. And I would just be running rough shod over everything and having, you know, having done some of the study work and some of the, you know, but wait, what's the question of the question and why was that the question and why, you know, look at analyzing it more has helped me to foster that more analytical approach and that more other-focused approach so that hopefully, and, uh, folks who've been on a Sev1 with me are welcome to write in, in the comments and say, yes, no, whatever. But I, hopefully I'm a better partner, a better team mate because of it. How about you Roddy?

Roddie:                                14:11                     So, uh, I fall more on or on the, uh, on the nature side of that, that question. Right. So again, just looking at experiences in IT and the number of Sev1 calls I've been on, I've been on Sev1 calls with many other Muslims, right? I work in it. It's, you know, it's a global, global profession. Um, not everybody, uh, that I would say identify as Muslim just based on their name or where they're from, kinda approaches things the same way. I would, I think, again, this is just kind of a result of 15, 20 years of introspection. I think a lot for me at least, a lot of his nature is just how I am. Um, I, I do approach things analytically now. I wasn't so, so Islamism as structured as say, Mormonism is with the seminary in the higher education and, and uh, and the missions and all that kind of stuff. Right? So, so while I was raised Muslim, I don't know that it's shaped how I would approach a Sev1. Again, that's just speaking for myself.

Leon:                                     15:08                     Interesting. All right. So I want to put a question out there because you, Roddie, you brought something up, which is that, you know, IT is a global profession. We, we interact with people all over the place. So there's an IT community, clearly an it culture that's out there and there's obviously a culture and a community with any faith-based, uh, ethically moral-based, a community also. So how does being part of, or having been part of a community of faith inform the way that you interact with the community in IT? Because I think that some people in it come at it without that sense of community. They're just like IT is where I work and it's a thing and that always causes me. "But wait, wait, wait. We're, we're more than just people who work together, aren't we?" You know, I keep on trying to build or, or tap into that thing. And for those people who aren't aware, I work at a company called SolarWinds. I'm not promoting the company at all. SolarWinds, however, has a forum. This is like 150,000 members. I'm called and that's a community. I mean, yes, we talk about, "hey, I can't install your software" or "Blah-blah was broken", but we also have people who jump on there and say, "I've never configured a router before. Can someone help me out?" Um, and SolarWinds doesn't sell routers. So it's, it's just a conversation. And we also have, you know, strong, passionate debates about religious things like "who is the greatest star ship captain of all time?", which is Mal of course if you were wondering, I mean, there is no other truth, I will claim that as the single truth. Is it Malcolm Reynolds is the greatest star ship captain. But um, so how about you folks? How do you approach community having been part of this, you know, faith based community?

Josh:                                      16:54                     Then I think I, I follow in that same line, uh, Leon, I, I don't understand how you could approach IT as a profession without trying to build community. Um, you know, I get the idea of, you know, putting your headphones on and doing your solo work. I, I work from home. I've been doing it for five years now, but I am a social creature. I need to interact with people. I need to have. Um, I need to have others around me to not only emboldened me, but also sometimes to tether me a little because I, I can be a little, uh, I'll use the word frivolous. I'm a little flippant about my approach to things. So, you know, the, the idea that you could be a, an island in an ocean of IT is just obscure to me. Certainly a in foreign by the, the whole idea of, of a, of Mormonism. You know, the concepts within Mormonism is it, you not only go to church every Sunday, but there youth groups for the youth and the men get together. Um, the, you know, the women gets together, um, you know, there's Temple to go to there's all sorts of things that are intended to, to draw together. Um, the body of saints and in fact we're encouraged to, you know, meet together often. I think that IT, I just, I have no other way to approach it other than what's been informed by my religious upbringing.

Leon:                                     18:13                     Okay. So Roddie is the, is the morning call to worship anything like that? Morning standup meeting?

New Speaker:                    18:21                     So (pause, laughter)... Oh Leon... so we, uh, you know, I, it just kind of listening to what Josh just said, Eh, I'm wondering, and I'm coming back to nature and I'm going to keep coming back to it because I think a lot of how you approach it depends on your personality and we don't want to get into too big of an introvert versus extrovert personality discussion. But I think that's a lot of it, right? So, uh, in my case, I would call myself an extreme introvert. I can, I can get on a call with the two of you and be fine. If there were five or six people here, I probably wouldn't be saying a whole lot. Um, and I, it's the same when I'm on a call, when I'm in a meeting, when I'm, especially when I'm in person or presenting, right? There are things that have to do because it's what I get paid to do, but at the end of the day, I need to go shut, shut the door, sit in the dark for a few hours and kind of just to recharge. So, uh, I've always been that way. It doesn't matter whether it's work related or community related in inside of Islam or you know, at work. So, um, I, I get, uh, so I get the kind of need, uh, Leon or Josh that you have and Leon yourself as well. The, uh, the one, the one thing I appreciate about our industry uh, versus, um, so communities within our religions is the diversity, right? So I, and, and both you guys will probably recognize this when you are in your community, when you're in your religious community, you are kind of in a bubble, right? It's everybody's there for the same reason. Preaching the same things, preaching with a small P, um, talking about the same things, whether it's cultural, whether it's religious, uh, in IT, there's a lot more diversity, right? You're going to, it wouldn't have been hard for you to find four people with four religious backgrounds to do this podcast right there. It's a very diverse community. So not, you know, the primary, um, primary topic of every discussion isn't going to be around around religion. We kind of take it more towards, I know you mentioned starship, I haven't seen Lords of the Rings, so I don't really understand that reference, but it, you know, it's all, you're

Leon:                                     20:30                     I hear a sudden disturbance in the force. It's thousands of Geeks are crying out in pain and agony.

Roddie:                                20:36                     And what's something about her Maya or she's riding a broom to the Harry Potter land or something. I don't understand any of those references, Leon.

Leon:                                     20:44                     Now you're just trolling the audience. Okay.

Speaker 2:                           20:48                     I like it. Um, we're probably at about time, unfortunately. I think there's a lot more to talk about here. Um, but, uh, I think, you know, final, final thoughts. So, uh, religious, bringing your religious outlook to a Sev1. Are you pro or you con, are you neutral? Like how do you feel about it? Um, so this is lightening round, Josh, you go first

Josh:                                      21:10                     100% a pro, you know, as much as I don't necessarily agree with the doctrines and dogmas of Mormonism anymore, I am extremely grateful for Mormonism teaching me how to not be an introvert. Uh, when you've got to knock on people's doors for two years and stop them on the side of the street and you know, talk to them on buses and streetcars and whatever about your religion, then that forces you to be a, to be more open. So I, you know, I think that taking my religious perspective, um, having that religious perspective put in check by those people around me and using it in a Sev1 to improve the situation 100%, I think it's made me a better person.

Leon:                                     21:47                     Great. Roddie, how about you?

Roddie:                                21:48                     So, uh, I would qualify, I would say a qualified pro, right? So using some of the more positive aspects of, of any of the teachings and the idea of peace and calm and bringing people together. 100%. Absolutely.

Speaker 2:                           22:03                     So, and I'm, uh, I'm going to stay in the middle on this one personally, that I think that my, my religious outlook informs my behavior. So in one respect, I can't help but bring it because it's part of who I am. But in terms of purposely trying to think about leveraging something from my religious, uh, you know, tradition into a Sev1, I don't, I don't know that that comes naturally. It just informs who I am and therefore it's there. But I don't take it any further than that.

Leon:                                     22:34                     Okay. So, uh, during a Sev one, regardless of your religion,

Roddie:                                22:38                     It's never the network,

Josh:                                      22:40                     uh, except when it is.

Leon:                                     22:42                     Thank you for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website at where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.