Technically Religious
S2E12: Torah && Tech

S2E12: Torah && Tech

July 7, 2020

What do you do when you’ve spent over a year posting a weekly commentary on how tech ideas and concepts relate to Jewish thought, and specifically the Torah reading for that week? You make a book, of course. That’s exactly how Torah && Tech came to be, and on this episode, I'll talk to the two authors, Rabbi/Programmers Ben Greenberg and Yechiel Kalmenson. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:32):

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

Leon (00:53):

What do you do when you've spent over a year posting a weekly commentary on how tech ideas and concepts relate to Jewish thought and specifically the Torah reading for that week? You make a book of course! And that's exactly how "Torah and Tech" came to be. And today on our podcast, we're going to talk about it. I'm Leon Adato. And the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime and the focus of today's episode. We've got Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel (01:18):


Leon (01:19):

and Ben Greenberg.

Ben (01:20):

Hello there.

Leon (01:21):

And you've both been on Technically Religious before. So you know how this works. We begin with shameless self promotion. So Ben kick it off. Tell us a little bit about you and where people can find out more of your glorious, good thinking and work.

Ben (01:34):

Okay. Shamelessly. So I'm Ben Greenberg and I'm a developer advocate at Vonage. And you can find me on twitter @rabbigreenberg and/or on my website at that's Greenberg with an E not a U and find me in general on the internet bank, Greenberg dev, dev dot two all over the place.

Leon (01:54):

And how do you identify religiously?

Ben (01:55):

Mostly identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Leon (01:57):

Yechiel you're next.

Yechiel (01:58):

Well, I'm a Yechiel Kalmenson again, um, I'm usually a software engineer at VMware currently taking family leave to be a full time dad. You can find me on Twitter @yehielk. You can find my blog and like Ben, I identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Leon (02:15):

Great. And just to circle around I'm Leon Adato, I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes. That's my actual job title and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's a software vendor that makes monitoring stuff because naming things is apparently hard. You can find me on the Twitters as I like to say, because it horrifies my children @leonadato. You can also hear me pontificate about things, both technical and religious, on my blog And I also, for the trifecta, identify as an Orthodox Jew. And if you're scribbling any of this down, stop it, put your hands back on the steering wheel, pay attention to the road. Listen, because we're going to have these things in our show notes, along with all the other links and ideas that we're going to mention in the next little bit. So you don't have to write it down. We've done the writing for you. Um, now normally we dive into our topic, but because the topic is a book I'd like to go from shameless self promotion to shameless book promotion can one of you please tell me where people can get their hands on a copy of Torah && Tech.

Yechiel (03:15):

For sure. Well, you can buy the book at most retailers and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, nah Goodreads isn't a retailer. Um, pretty much anywhere where you can buy books. You can also read more about the book and about our newsletter on our website at that's

Leon (03:35):

So diving in, I think one of the first questions, a lot of folks who were working in tech or religion have is what does it take to make a book? Like, just talk about the process of getting this book together, getting it online, selling it, editing it all the, you know, how was that process for you?

Ben (03:53):

It takes a lot of sleepless nights right now,

Yechiel (03:55):

For sure. So in all fairness, unlike other books where you sit and write it, like this book is a little different, it's sort of, it's a compilation of the year's worth of weekly newsletters. So the sleepless nights were spread out over a year of Thursday nights. When you realize a 10 o'clock "gosh, I didn't do the newsletter yet."

Ben (04:14):

So there, there was two things that we did when we took, we decided, okay, we have this year of newsletter content. We want to turn into a book. There were two things that we did almost the exact same time. We took all the content of the year's newsletters and put into one big Google doc, which you can imagine, Leon, it's like a bit of a messy document. And then we did the second thing, which was, we direct messaged you on Twitter and said, "how do we make a book?!" Those are the two things that we did once we had those.

Yechiel (04:41):

Yeah, because while we're on this subject, I do want to give a shout out the idea to actually put this in the book, came to me when I was helping Leon work on his book. Uh, "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer Asks", or I did a bunch of that. Um, yeah. So over a year ago, Leon asked me to help him edit a book, which turned out to be just reading and telling Leon how awesome it was.

Leon (05:02):

You are my rabbinic sensitivity reader, which I know it sounds like I'm making a joke, but it really was. I am not a rabbi. Um, I've never been to Yeshiva and I was writing a book that was at least 50% Judaic content. And I wanted to make sure that I wasn't talking out of my rearend sometimes. So I needed somebody who was like, yeah, no, see that idea there? No, that's not a thing. Yeah.

Yechiel (05:23):

But like I said, I ended up just rubber stamping it because it was pretty good as, as it was you know, I forced myself to put comments just to justify the money you actually paid me for it, but it was good. Anyway,

Ben (05:36):

You sound like a city rabbinic kosher supervisor in Israel.

Leon (05:40):

Oh gosh. Wow. And some of you will get that joke.

Yechiel (05:47):

With the exception that this book was actually kosher, but yeah, but working on that book and also hearing the Technically Religious episode where you spoke about that book gave me the idea that, Hey, should maybe put this into a book. And I, I reached out to Ben about the idea and he was all for it too. So when it was time to actually do it, when we got through a year, um, we reached out to Leon. And if anyone is thinking of writing a book, I think Leon might be able to squeeze you into his busy schedule.

Ben (06:12):

Not through volunteering your time.

Leon (06:13):

Yeah. Right. No, no. I am. I mean, people who have been listening to this podcast know that, um, we are here for you, whoever, whoever the we is and whoever the, you are, we are here for you. So if that is something you want to know, I'm happy to talk to you about the process. Um, but I'm curious, did you, did you get an editor involved?

Ben (06:31):

I had a little bit experience putting together a book before I, when I was in, uh, working in the congregational Jewish world, both on campus in the synagogue. I put together a book when I was on campus and a particular book in the congregational world. And they were both again self published. And, uh, and I did everything. I edited my own, uh, texts. I made my own graphic design. I put together the manuscript I, I did from A to Z and this time around, I didn't want to do that again because I know that I'm not a good editor of my own content. And I know from experience the mistakes that I find and unlike something in the digital space, it is much harder to edit a mistake once it's printed and in people's bookshelves. And it's much harder to put out a version 1.01, exactly bug fixes are harder in hardcover or paperback copies.

Leon (07:26):

Really difficult.

Ben (07:27):

It's very difficult.

Leon (07:28):

So patching becomes a very literal process.

Ben (07:31):

Very little process, like print it out, another piece of paper and tape it onto the book. Uh, so this time around, I really want to make sure that we had people with us who could help us, who were not so, uh, I wanna say privileged to the text or who read it at such privilege readers as the ones who write it, the people who look at it with a more critical eye. And so we did hire, uh, people, uh, to both edit all the texts, uh, spelling, grammar, flow, style. And we actually work with somebody who specifically was not our rabbinic supervisor, Leon, somebody who didn't have extensive Jewish background or experience. Coz one of the goals of the book for us is to be accessible to those without that background. And so every time she raised a question, "what is that? What is this? How do I understand that." It was a great moment to inflect and think about, well, how do we make that better? And how do we make that more accessible? And how do we make that more understandable? So that was a critical part of the work she brought to it as well. Um, yeah, so we, and then we hired somebody to help us with graphic design and somebody to help us with the type scripting, uh, type scripting type scripting? The manuscript type setting type scripting. My mind has been too much in typescripts recently. Type setting. Like type of this book,

Leon (08:51):

It's a strongly typed book.

Ben (08:53):

It's a very strongly typed. Yes, indeed. It's got a method signature for every chapter. Uh, that is a, that was a bit of the process. And then of course they, every one of them, I mean, were offered invaluable help. Right? I think that that's true. Right? Yechiel. They all, they've made the book turn from a big, huge Google doc with a year's worth of newsletter content into something that actually could be printed and made sense and looked and looks presentable.

Leon (09:23):

So again, for people listening, thinking, Oh wait, no, you know, I haven't thought about making a book, but maybe that's a thing. So we're talking about, um, first of all, doing the work of the work, right? Writing the book in this case, you divided the work into 52, easy to digest pieces. Um, and just wrote a little bit of the book every week. Um, I want to remind everybody that if you write 10,000 words a day, you'll have a book. And if you write 2000 words a day, you'll have a book. And you write 50 words a day, you will have a book. Please do not think that there is some minimum requirement of word generation before you can have a book. Um, I, I'm a big believer that people who, who do writing should understand how powerful it is and share it. So that's the first piece. The second piece though, is that once you've done the work of the work and you have the book, um, you got an outside editor in this case, you got a fresh set of eyes to look at this and say, this makes no sense to me whatsoever. Um, can you clean that up? And that was your Canary in the coal mine, so to speak and also graphic design, which, um, is I think again for a lot of us, it's like, well, what do you mean? I just want words on a page and there's a cover, there's, you know, you know, art inside the book always helps to illustrate a point. You know, how, how involved was the graphic designer for all that?

Yechiel (10:43):

Yeah. In our case, there's no graphics in the inside the book, there's no pictures or anything or diagrams. Um, so it was just for the cover, I think, no, unless you're referring to the type setting,

Ben (10:51):

It was just the cover. The type setting was separate. That was a separate person to help us with that. But that also, by the way, people often don't think about those sorts of things. Like what style do you want the words to come out as? What are the, each font choice reflects a different sort of, it's almost like an interior designer for a book, you know, like you're trying to think of what kind of vibe you want to send with the fonts you choose. And then double for us on top of that was while the book is entirely, mostly in English, there are a few snippets in, in Hebrew, which are translated on the spot. So if you don't understand Hebrew. You don't have to be stumped by that. But then at the same time, the what about font and type for a non-English characters. And how do you present that in a primarily English book. These sorts of questions, which I don't think I definitely, I didn't think about before we started engaging in it and ends up being really a crucial part of it. Because if the presentation, the book isn't worthwhile, if someone doesn't enjoy holding the book and wants to read the book, they're not going to read the book and then all your efforts are essentially for naught.

Leon (12:04):

Right? And, and I'll underscore another point is that, first of all, just the types need consistency that chapter headings have to look the same all throughout the book and they can't look the same as subheadings and they can't look the same as whatever they should be similar. Like you said, you know, good interior design means that, uh, you know, there's a theme that I know when I go from one room to another room, it doesn't feel jarring, but at the same time, I know I'm in a different place. I'm looking at different things, but also something that people don't think about is, uh, electronic publishing, that it's not just about the printed book. It's also when you're, when you're doing an E publishing, those font choices are critically important to the conversion, into an ebook that if you get it wrong things, things don't lay out correctly anymore because the epub generator, whether you're talking about, um, Amazon's Kindle, uh, or, uh, Smashwords meat grinder or whatever it is really needs those font choices to be the same all the way through the book to know what it's doing. So having a typesetter who's aware of that and who can catch those little mistakes, say, I will tell you, it saves hours because I did it myself for the book. And it was probably the most labor intensive part of the entire book that I did because I didn't know what I was doing.

Ben (13:24):

You would you say it's more labor intensive than the work of the work of actually writing the book?

Leon (13:28):

Yeah, it was, it was, it was more, it was more error prone. I had to go back and redo the conversion to the ebook probably almost a hundred times before I finally was able to find my butt with both hands and, and get it done. So yeah, it's, it's really a big deal. Okay. So what else about the book creating process, um, was interesting to you or exciting to you or frustrating to you or whatever? You know, what stands out?

Yechiel (13:57):

I guess I will say don't come in with the expectation of like making a million dollars off of it. Um,

Leon (14:05):

Only half a million.

Yechiel (14:07):

Okay. Especially if you're self publishing, it's not an expensive process at all. Um, I think we got it under about $500. If we make that back, that'll be nice if we make a little more, um, that'll be even nicer, but yeah, I don't see this. Uh, I don't see us quitting our day jobs anytime soon over this.

Leon (14:27):

Uh, and I will second that, uh, yeah, The Four Questions has not, in fact, uh, supplemented my income to the point where it can cover my mortgage or even Starbucks and a year and a half later, uh, yeah, a year and a half later, it still hasn't paid for itself. So I it's a labor of love. The next question I have for you though, is we've talked about right, because you really have something you have to say. So what was that you had to say, what is the thing that you couldn't live without having this book around to put it into the world?

Ben (14:59):

I think it, for me, it's the same thing that the driving force behind the weekly newsletter, which is really the impetus for the book and the foundation of the book, which actually Leon, if I can be as audacious is also a bit of what your podcast is about, which is that the world of technology, the industry that we're in, despite what many might think is not a value neutral conversation is not a value neutral industry at that, that there is a need to have value driven conversations and ethics driven conversations in the work that we do day in and day out. And the newsletter, which really was, as I said, the foundation of the book and the book itself is our attempt to really put out that message through the authentic voices for us, which is through our traditions, through the tradition of Torah, their tradition of Judaism, but it could be in anyone's authentic voice, the same kind of idea, which is to engage in that value driven conversation.

Yechiel (16:01):

And the corollary to that. I think in the other direction, you know, there are some, you know, some voices in the religious side that view technology as a threat or, you know, something to be avoided or at least, you know, severely limited. Um, I think it's important for people to realize that technology just like anything else in the world is a tool, a tool that can be used for bad, but can be used for good. And it can be used to, you know, some people may feel threatened a bit, but on the other hand, it can be used to promote values of goodness and kindness and justice. And that's another point that, uh, that and the Torah && Tech, the double ampersand, which implies that both are needed Torah, you know, tech without Torah or values in general, um, can go very dangerously. But also Torah without tech is missing a way of expression.

Leon (16:53):

Right? I think that that one of the most powerful lessons that's come out of this podcast and also as I've been reading the book is, is that two way street that if you can accept, so let's say you're coming from a religious point of view. If you can accept that, um, Torah has relevance to technology, you then must accept that technology has relevance to Torah. And if on the other hand, you're coming at this from a technical point of view, and you're just kind of curious about, you know, how could you make that relevant to, you know, religion? Like what is that all about? If you accept that that technology has incredible relevance to religion, it helps not only as a message spreading technology, but also as a, you know, this is how you collect data and this is how you validate things. And this is how you, you know, all of those wonderful things that we as IT people do. And you say, this is valid toward, uh, a religious tradition. Then you must accept that the religious tradition can reflect back.

Ben (17:50):

You know, I often think about the moment of the printing press and what the printing press did as a technology to traditional communities like our community, like the Jewish community, what it did to it was not only just a print books, it radicalized the availability and accessibility of knowledge across communities and people, regardless of station life, regardless of, uh, you know, where they started from had with effort could have the ability to find a book and get the education to open that book and have access to storehouse of knowledge. And of course it began as a trickle when the printing press began, right? Because the amount of books were small, but then as years went by and the, the availability of books can greater and greater, I'll give you a great example of this is if you go to a lot of, uh, older synagogues from several hundred years ago in medieval Europe, and they're still around in Poland and Ukraine and Russia, you often find that their, the walls are covered with the prayers. And the reason why they're covered with the prayers because no one had initially had access to books. And so they would come into synagogue and they would need to know the words of the liturgy to say. And the only way they knew what words to say was by like literally going into three 60, turning around in the synagogue to follow the walls of the, of the prayers that were covered in them. And then the printing press happens. And suddenly over a period of time, a revolution occurred in, uh, in a democratic visitation of knowledge. And you could say a similar thing is happening and it's happened and is currently still happening in technology of today and what it's doing and how can we not have that double ampersand conversation of how it's impacting both Torah and how Torah is being impacted by it and how the two of them are in conversation with each other.

Leon (19:47):

And I can't help but think about, uh, so it's, uh, what is it now? Is it still June? I dunno. It's like the 327th day of March, as far as I can tell it's, uh, it's yeah. It's June, um, June, 2020. And, uh, so, you know, COVID is a thing that's still happening. And the joke is that in January, every yeshiva in America, every yeshiva across the world would be tell families if you have a television it's, you know, if you have technology, it's really not okay. You need to keep technology completely out of the hands of your, our students. We don't want their, their minds sullied by this technology. And by the end of February, every yeshiva on the planet was like, okay, so you just jump on your internet and go to Chrome and go to Google meet so that you can have your chevroota. The pivot to technology was like instantaneous. It was just

Ben (20:38):

Wish it was instantaneous. So, and I'll give you an example from our, our own lives. Uh, when our kids were in Israel, we're doing a remote learning in their schools, which was neither remote nor learning, but an attempt at doing remote learning, uh, initially was very chaotic. And the reason why it was so chaotic was a while our kids go to a state, uh, religious, uh, public school. So it's in the more modern end of the religious spectrum. It's not an ultra Orthodox public school. It's a, what might call a modern Orthodox public school. All of the educators in the public school that teach Judaic subjects come from the other side of the road for us, literally in where we live. And the other side of the road is an it's a beautiful city with wonderful people called Modi'in Illit and or Kiryat Sefer, and Kiryat Sefer doesn't have WhatsApp, doesn't have zoom, doesn't have Google meets. And so suddenly they're being told by the misrad hachinuch by the ministry of education, that they must do these classes over a technology. They don't even know they don't have computers in their, in their homes. How are they supposed to do this yet? They did. And they learned how, and suddenly after a very chaotic period of time, we have, you know, essentially charidi, uh, morot, charidi... Ultra Orthodox educators going and conducting, with professionalism, with like suave and knowing how to run a Zoom meeting with 40 Israeli kids and not be chaotic. But how do you get from A to Z? That was a bit of a tumultuous period, but to watch that happen in real time was quite amazing.

Leon (22:22):

I think we're at the point where people hopefully are interested in, but I want to identify who is this book for? Like, I could see that as I was sketching out the notes for this conversation, I thought, well, maybe it's for programmers. You know, who happened to be Jewish? Who are Judaism curious? Uh, maybe it's just for credit, you know, you needed credibility on Twitter. So you could say author in your Twitter profile. On the other hand, I could also see you writing this book for religious people who happen to be in technology, or are tech curious, or maybe it's just for your spouse to say, look, honey, this is what I've been doing with my evenings. Like what, who is this book for specifically? Who's your target audience?

Yechiel (23:00):

I just want to start off off the bat because it probably has to be said, this book is not intended to try to convert anyone to try to proselytize. Judaism specifically does not have a tradition of trying to proselytize people. And we're pretty adamant about that. We do not, not only are we not trying to proselytize you, we do not want you. We believe that, you know, God accepts everyone. God puts everyone in the world for a reason. If everyone was the same, it would be boring.

Ben (23:27):

Except my next door neighbor.

Yechiel (23:28):

Your next door neighbor might have to change. Um, but, but yeah, so this book is not trying to convert anyone. It was just, uh, presenting one point of view of many. Um, who did we write a for? Uh, I'll admit we started off for ourselves. Um, like the project are in tech. The weekly newsletter started as just like a small project for me and Ben to keep in touch, then ran off from like we used to, we used to be coworkers. We worked together at our first job and then Ben ran off to Israel, but that was one friendship I wasn't willing to let go so quickly. So, um, we started this project as a small collaboration to help us keep in touch, which solidly grew. And as it grew organically, we discovered on our own who our audience was. And it seems like the answer is - there's no one single answer. I mean, obviously like you said, you know, programmers with their religion, with an interest in religion or ethical conversations and religious people with an interest in tech, but also people who are completely not religious. Um, people from all ends of the spectrum, people are not technical. People are not religious. We've gotten feedback from all of them. And it seems like pretty much anyone who's interested and who believes, like Ben said that tech is not a value neutral, uh, space. And who believes that values, that these conversations around values have to take place, is the intended audience for this book and for the newsletter.

Ben (24:58):

Yeah. You know, it's, it's interesting how this we're finding well, the newsletter cause the newsletter's been around for a lot longer. Right. So how are finding the newsletter has impacted people. And then, and then as a addition to that, or an addendum to that as the book has been published and people are now getting a chance to sort of read the book, how it's impacting people. And just this evening, a few minutes before we had our engaged in this wonderful conversation together, I had one of my regular chats with one of my sets of aunts and uncles who live out in the great Northwest of America, the great Pacific Northwest. And they are not, uh, the most engaged couple in traditional religious Jewish life. And by not the most engaged, I mean, not engaged at all. And, uh, they bought the book, uh, and I think, and I asked them and I was correct. It was the first time they ever bought a book on Amazon and the Torah category in their entire adult lives, or, you know, lives in general from Amazon or any bookstore before the world of Amazon. And, uh, you know, I told, I told my uncle, you know, the next step is you have to actually open the book after you buy the book. He said, okay, fine. I'll get there eventually. But you know, the, you know, the idea that, that people are thinking, this is an interesting subject. And so he's, you know, he's far from this field as one can be he's in the medical profession, but the, but this such technology, right, it's pervasive and it's something a lot of people think about and they get, they get hit with it from media sources, from the news, whether it's talking about facial recognition or about, uh, tracking, uh, contact tracing of coronavirus patients, our government's authorizing tracking patients through smartphones. It was just a lot of that conversation happening, particularly in this moment and this time. So this book is piquing that curiosity, I think of folks who are just kind of like, even if they're not in tech, but are curious about, you know, some of those larger questions that circulate that are integrated in the, in the world of technology.

Leon (27:05):

Right? And, and I think that we've gotten to a point where every new technology that comes in, a lot of people are having an automatic reaction of, "am I okay with this?" Not just, can I use this? Do I understand this? Because I think for most people they've gotten past, or they never were at a point where technology threatened them or made them feel uncomfortable. It was just a state of being it's on their phone, it's on their, whatever it is, it's a tech, right. And whether we're talking about Tik Tok or contact tracing or password management or whatever, um, or Facebook, the question isn't, how do I use this? The question is, am I okay with this? Right. And how do I use this? There are lots and lots and lots of guides out there for how do I do this, but am I okay with this? There's not a lot of guides that speak to, should I be okay with this? And it's not an, it's not an automatic yes or no for all of humanity. Right? You have to know who you are. You have to know where your, where you set your boundaries and that helps you identify, are you going to be the kind of person who's okay with it?

Yechiel (28:17):

For sure. And this conversation is actually what Torah && Tech is about. I like saying that we don't offer a lot of answers in Torah && Tech but we hope to start to start having you question, or we hope to start these conversations. I have had people asking these questions and discussing them and seeing for themselves, what are they okay with? What are they, you know, what values do they bring to their work? And you know, what type of people do they want to bring? What type of personalities do they want to bring to their, to their work, to their technology.

Ben (28:47):

Our chapters typically end with questioning back to the reader, asking the reader what they think. And we don't do that. Just rhetorically. We are also interested in what they actually genuinely think. And we want this to be a conversation. And it's actually, I think, part and parcel to our style and to the tradition that we come from, which is to answer a question with a question and to try and engage the person in. I'm not going to tell you what to think, because a there's a multiplicity of possibilities of how one could think about this, but I want you to come to what your approach to it. I want to come your answer. And I'm curious what you think. You know, just speaking personally, I'm really grateful that I work in a place where I have a manager who tolerates me answering every one of his questions with another question, and he never gets annoyed and he is not Jewish in any way, shape or form an amazing guy from England. And I think I'm the first person he's had to work with, who nonstop, only answers his questions with questions. And I'm grateful that he loves it. And we engage in this great discourse together. But we do the same thing in our book. We always leave readers with questions more than answers. Cause it's the, what was the, I forget exactly who, but there was a scientist who credited his,

Speaker 3 (30:03):

It yeah. Isador [Isaac] Rabi. He was a Nobel prize winning physicist.

Ben (30:08):

Leon you're just the font of knowledge.

Leon (30:10):

I've quoted him before. And he said, he said, I use this in a talk. I gave actually in Tel Aviv.

Yechiel (30:15):

In fact, you use it in your book as well.

Leon (30:18):

Uh Oh, it is in my book. That's right. He says, you know, um, more than anything, my mother made me, made me a scientist. Uh, he said that, you know, every other kid in Brooklyn would come home and their parents would say so, did you learn anything? My mother, no, not my mother not my mother. What did you ask any good questions today?

Ben (30:34):

I, I I've heard that quote so many times, and yet I still say to my kids, every time they get home, what'd you learn today? It's like, I can't absorb it.

Leon (30:42):

Right. You'll get there.

Ben (30:44):

They'll get there a Nobel prize because of me, because I didn't ask that question,

Yechiel (30:47):

They'll get it in their own rights.

Leon (30:49):

Right. They'll earn their own way. So, but that does lead me to an interesting question, which is, um, what are some of the comments that you've gotten back if you, if you end every post weekly post, and now every chapter in the book with a question, what are some of the interesting feedbacks that you pieces of feedback you've gotten over time? Anything that stands out in your mind?

Yechiel (31:09):

Actually, one conversation that was pretty interesting started in, uh, uh, in response to one of the issues of the newsletter that was put out. Um, this was actually like most newsletters. Like there's I know there are, Torah like we choose like a thought from the Parasha related to tech or current events or whatever it is. This one I decided to have just like a stream of thought, the stream of consciousness, um, about, about the culpability of AI, artificial intelligence, and specifically people who write it. Um, so let's say if I program and an artificial intelligence and it goes ahead and does some damage, how responsible am I for the actions of this program that I wrote? And I did it in the, like starting the style of a Talmudic discussion. Um, there wasn't much in the way of answers, just like raise different possibilities, um, look at, you know, why, why it would apply, why it wouldn't apply. Um, it was more of a stream of consciousness. I really hoped it made sense when I fired it off. Um, but actually that one was the one who got the most comments back. People like actually engaged in that conversation. And they're like, you know, people raised different possibilities, different analogies that I had missed. Um, it was a really enjoyable conversation,

Leon (32:26):

Probably about a year and a half ago. I had a conversation on a different podcast, um, the on-premise podcast, uh, which is part of gestalt IT, and there, again, there'll be links in the show notes. And, uh, the conversation was about bringing your whole self to work, whether or not it's okay. Whether there are certain things about ourselves that we should just leave at home, you know, as, as some people say, you know, you know, if you've, if you've got this thing going on, leave it on the door, leave it at the door. And we talked about whether that was even possible. Um, and for me being part of that conversation, the, you know, the elephant, the kippah wearing tsitsus draped elephant in the room was my Judaism. Like, can I leave my religion at the door? And what does that even look like? And at what point does, does keeping a lid on it means suppressing essential, important parts of myself, Ben, to your point, you know, it's part of our tradition to answer questions with questions that is part of the way that we analyze ideas. It's part of the way that we debate concepts. And of course in it, we do that. How much of that can I leave to the side before I stopped being me at all and become either offended or suppressed, not depressed, but although it could be that too. So I guess this is a two part question one, are you able to bring your whole selves to your job right now? Have you always been able to do that? And what was it like working on a project where that was so fully true that doing Torah && Tech allowed you to be every ounce of the programmers that you are, and also every ounce of the Jews that you are. So, you know, again, have you always been able to do that and what was it like working on this book?

Ben (34:12):

So I I'll start, I guess. And I think that, uh, to answer that question, it's kind of, to me, it feels like a bit of walking on a tightrope and, uh, I do make an effort to bring my whole self to my work. And in some ways I'm grateful for the unique circumstances that I'm in, which is that I happen to work in an international company with a very large R&D office in Israel. And so everyone in all the other offices across the company have become, acculturated to, uh, well, Israel and Jews are not one and the same. That is true. That's a very important statement to make. And Israeli Jews are not the same as Jews from other parts of the world. That's also true and there's a great diversity, but nonetheless, it is people who live in places where there are no Jews at all. So who become acculturated to working with Jews. And so that's helpful. And, you know, and not only just Jews, right, Leon, but also kippah wearing Jews, you know, observant Jews in the Tel Aviv office. And so they get to interact with them and they come and visit here in the pre pre days before the crurrent days, they would spend time with that and, and be attuned to the sensitivity of kosher restaurants, things like that. So that's part a and part B is yes, that's all true, but you also don't want to be harping on it all the time and you don't want it, You have to always be sensitive a little bit of being mixed up SIM like a little bit of like, uh, yes. Being there, but also pulling back a little bit and, and making sure you don't take up all the space in the room and it's all about you and your uniquenesses and sort of your, your unique needs and sort of your, your, your unique perspectives, because it might come as a surprise, you know, especially, you know, somethings depending on how great your feeling about yourself, other people are also unique and they also have unique perspectives and they also have unique place that they're coming from, and they also want to contribute those unique things. Right. And so like leaving some space, leaving some oxygen in the room and, you know, and again, not to stereotype, definitely not to stereotype or to generalize, but sometimes we, as a people can take up a lot of the air in the room and to, and to let others have some of the air to breathe and to speak as important.

Leon (36:35):

My coworkers who are listening to this podcast are probably nodding. So, so ferociously that they're going to get, put a Crick in their neck. They require a neck brace after they're done

Yechiel (36:46):

I'm in a different situation. Of course, I work in the States and New York, um, and having been on the receiving end of workplace proselytization. And like I said, Jews specifically do not like proselytizing. I try not to have specific religious conversations at work other than with the few other religious Jewish coworkers I have. Um, of course when it comes to like things that will affect my work, I'll have those conversations up front, you know, things like Shabbat or kosher lunches or things like that. So, you know, I'll definitely speak up. And actually there's a whole chapter in the book. Um, your guide to working with your observant coworker, which I had a lot of fun writing. I wrote it when I switched teams and had to have all those conversations over again and decided that it would be helpful for others. Um, but conversations around that go beyond that. It's like the kind of conversations that we have in Torah and tech that I try not to bring up at work as much as possible. And in that sense, like you said, the newsletter and then the book we're away for me to express that part of myself, which I really enjoyed,

Ben (37:49):

You know, there's a larger conversation to be had here as well, that sort of transcends the workplace. So I just recall a couple of incidents where, uh, on the speaking circuit in conferences, and you would get some guidelines about what to say what not to say, how to, how to speak in the most successful ways. And all the advice overwhelmingly was incredibly on point was incredibly helpful and I think was, uh, necessary to make sure the space was maximally, welcoming, and accessible to a diversity of people from all backgrounds... Except when it comes to people with religious sensibilities. And I would actually add to that religious slash cultural sensibilities because, you know, coming again, uh, from Israel, uh, there's things like, so one of the guidelines to concretize, what I'm saying, uh, from one conference in particular was trying if you make a mistake or you're trying to say something that you should avoid something, don't use the oft-repeated term of like, God forbid, God forbid you should do that because there might people in the room who don't believe in God, and that could offend them to say, God forbid. And so whether one is a religious or not in Israel, that is one of most common expressions amongst everyone in the country. Even if the die hard, most ardent atheists will say, God forbid, it just it's part of the lexicon. It's just part of the cultural sort of dichotomy. So you're trying to get maximum welcoming as possible, but in doing so, you're not thinking about, or you're not at all elevating as part of the consideration, those people who come from either religious backgrounds or come from countries that are not Western European countries and, and how to think about that, how to actually make space. And, you know, I heard this by the way, from a colleague of mine, a previous former colleague of mine who comes from very different backgrounds, you know, from a Muslim background and she's an amazing person. And she often talks about that as well, about how, yes, maximally diverse places means there's maximum diverse or Western Europeans and, and, and, you know, Northeastern Americans. And what about everyone else in the world? Like from North Africa or from the middle East, or from Asia who are not Western Europeans or North Eastern Americans and, you know, what do you, what do you do about that and how do you, and how do you, uh, raise up the diversity and the ability for all people to come to this space, even if they're not, um, German or French or British.

Leon (40:16):

So this has been an amazing conversation. There's a lot more, I think we can go into with everything hope. Uh, hopefully I'll have a chance to have you back and talk about specific chapters, but before we wrap up, uh, one more opportunity for shameless book promotion, where again, now that we've heard about it and we are champing at the bit, and we can't live another minute without this book in our lives, where can we find it?

Yechiel (40:37):

Um, so yeah, so, like I said, in the beginning, um, you can buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, uh, on your Kindle, on your Nook, on any, on most other retailers. Um, what I forgot the first time around was that if you do not live in North America or in a primarily English speaking country, a Book Repository, I'm told by Ben, is the go-to and it's on there too. Uh, we will have all those links in the show notes. Um, and of course you can also go to TorahandTech.Dev to order the book and also to sign up for the newsletter. So you can get a sneak preview of volume two, which will be coming out in about a half a year.

Ben (41:13):


Leon (41:14):

Not only can you, you ought to, you should,

Ben (41:17):

You're encouraged to, and you get a You can find, uh, the table of contents. So you get a sense what's in the book and on Amazon and the other retailers you'll find sample chapters as well. So you can really get a fuller idea of what it's like. And that website as Yechiel mentioned his Book Depository, which if you're living anywhere in the world where English books are harder to come by, it's a great place to go to get your English books. You might not get them for a few months, but you can order them. And eventually they get shipped to you.

Josh (41:50):

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.

Leon (42:04):

Ugh! We still need a tagline for this episode.

Ben (42:06):

Can we just go with "Buy our Book?

Yechiel (42:08):

I guess that works for me.

S2E10: Technically Modest

S2E10: Technically Modest

May 26, 2020

Religion has a lot to say about modesty - from clothing to behavior to even thoughts. Much of it is misunderstood from the outside perspective. The concept central to the idea of "modesty" is one of boundaries. In tech, we also have to set boundaries: from who has access to certain types of data to what "work hours" mean to which deliverables are in or out of scope to the tasks are considered part of our regular job. 

In this episode, we'll hear from an entirely new set of voices: Alex Navarro, Faria Akram, and Yum Darling - who will explore the nature of those limitations and how our religious/moral/ethical POV can inform our tech life - and vice versa. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:32):
welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our careers it professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Alex (00:53):
Religion has a lot to say about modesty from clothing to behavior to even thoughts. Much of it is misunderstood from the outside perspective. The concept central to the idea of modesty is one of boundaries. In tech, we also have to set boundaries; from who has access to certain types of data, to what work hours mean, to which deliverables are in or out of scope to the tasks are considered part of our regular job. In this episode we'll explore the nature of those limitations and how our religious, moral, ethical point of view can inform our tech life and vice versa. I'm Alex Navarro and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my guests. Faria Akram.
Faria (01:38):
Alex (01:39):
and Yum Darling.
Yum (01:40):
Alex (01:41):
Thank you ladies.
Alex (01:43):
All right. So if you are new to the podcast, we start each episode with a moment for everyone to be able to introduce themselves, have a shameless plug, or basically engage with you in some other form. Uh, so Faria why don't you go first?
Faria (01:57):
Hi, I'm Faria. I'm a mental health advocate, storyteller, dancer, and cohost of a podcast called vulnerable views. You can keep up with what I'm doing in all those areas on my instagram @followingfaria and my website in terms of religion, I was raised as a Muslim and still identify as such.
Alex (02:15):
and Yum.
Yum (02:16):
Okay. Uh, my name is Yum Darling. I am a community manager by day and by night, which is very long. I am a mom to two children. Um, which is why I'm hiding today at my parents' house so that you don't have to hear it. My dog, my cats, my children, and my husband yelled at me all at the same time. I don't really do as much on social media, so don't bother following me. I was born in Israel. So culturally I'm Jewish and I have gone to Jewish schools pretty much my entire life. So that is where the bulk of my, um, religious education is. But, um, spiritually and religiously, you know, I just like learning about religions. So I have a little bit of Buddhist knowledge, which isn't really religion if you're but whatever. And Judaism paganism. So ask why I will be happy to, you know, answer your questions.
Alex (03:06):
And just to round out today's podcast, my name is Alex Nevaro. Again, I am the founder of a creative agency called running their production house. You can find us on Instagram at that same handle. You can also find us on our website, which is that same name or any of your production And I was actually raised as a Catholic by a Catholic mother and a father who was a Jehovah's witness at the time. I didn't stay that way. We'll probably get into that later on in podcasts, but now I identify as a nondenominational Christian. So if you were not able to keep up with those amazingly, uh, short introductions, relax. It's okay. We're going to have everything posted in the show notes for you so you can just sit back and enjoy the conversation and let the amazing ideas flow over you. So, moving on to our first topic of discussion, when you hear the word modesty, what ideas or reactions does that conjure up for you in a religious context?
Faria (04:08):
So when I heard the word modesty, one thing that comes to mind in a religious context is a story of the prophet Muhammad. Peace be upon him. Um, and to those who know the story better than I do, I might mess up some details, I apologize. Uh, but there's a story that he was traveling with another man and they saw a woman who was quote unquote immodestly dressed in some sort of way, right? Um, but the prophet, instead of telling the woman, you know, Oh, you shouldn't be wearing that, or you need to change or whatever. Um, because his friend was just staring at the woman, he, I think took his hand and like moved his friend's face or covered his eyes, um, or averted his gaze in some sort of way. And that's always struck me as really powerful. Cause I think a lot of times when I hear the word modesty, even absent from religion, it's talked a lot about women and what they should or should not be doing. Um, so that story when I heard it as a kid always really, uh, struck a chord with me because it just reminded me that it's modesty is so much more than clothing, right? Which I think we'll talk about as well, but it's also on men to be modest and to do their part on all people.
Yum (05:16):
It's pretty much the same in Judaism. Um, modesty is, uh, how, how did an old friend put it? Uh, it's about women being a team player. And the whole, the whole interaction between men and women and modesty is that modesty equals privacy. Snoot or modesty and Hebrew is about how much you respect herself and how private you would like to be. So it really is the woman, the woman's decision. Now, of course, there are guidelines, if you will, if you would like to, how you could, you could dress modestly. Um, and everyone will have a different opinion on that. I'm sure we'll get into that later. But um, yes, pretty much, pretty much the same story there as Faria. You know, we, we tell our our men, if you don't want to pray in front of this woman who is distracting you, um, go somewhere else.
Alex (06:10):
Well, it's, it's interesting that when we hear the word modesty, it seems like the first thing that comes to mind is, is how we dress or how others are dressed. And that's definitely something that was drilled into my mentality when I was growing up as a Catholic because there are definitely certain rules that you had to abide by when you were entering into the house of God. And so that I feel like what people can relate to whether they were brought up in that religion or not. But um, it's an interesting concept also when we're talking about the workplace because we're talking about modesty. A lot of people sometimes associate that with not being braggadocious. But if you're a woman in the workplace, particularly in the tech industry and the workplace, could it sometimes be a disadvantage for you because you are quote unquote being too modest and you're not speaking up for yourself. Whether it be something like a good idea that you have in a large group meeting or speaking up about a great accomplishment that you've done for the organization.
Yum (07:12):
Sometimes modesty is um, equated with humility and submission and women that are um, more covered up or more modest or even just more quiet are seen as more submissive at home in the workplace, in their religion. And yeah, it can definitely work against you. Women that are that way sometimes get put in that bucket at work, whether people don't listen to them as much or don't take their voices seriously or um, don't give them the opportunity to say something. Sometimes you have to pause and let someone who might not be as loud as you are, come forth and say something meaningful from their perspective. And a lot of time we tend to take people who are more modest, a step next to us and just put them in that bucket of silence and submission and oppression and, and their views kind of go away. And that's sad in religion and in life and in the workplace,
Alex (08:10):
I think it's really easy for people to get an impression of you before you open your mouth. Right? So what are they going to go off of? They're going to go off of how we look and a lot of times for women, how we're dressed, how much we're covered up, how much makeup we have on, you know, if we decided to do our hair that day or night. I mean there's just, there's so many ways for people to sort of misinterpret who we are as a person. And I feel like if we're not mindful of how quote unquote modest we are in the workplace, then are we sort of doing that to ourselves. And then I also think there's a very fine line of that level of modesty because very easily, like you mentioned, young, if we're just naturally loud and we naturally just have this sort of emphatic tone, all too often it can be misinterpreted in a negative way. And I feel like that is something that is very specific to women. So what do we do? Do we need to be less modest?
Faria (09:20):
Heck no.
Yum (09:23):
Um, I do think there's this, there's a place for women to stand up for other women in this context. Um, I definitely think men allies are awesome, but sometimes that permission from a man to speak is just really patronizing. Um, so what, what I would say is if you work with a woman who is more modest or even a woman who is on the opposite and is loud and vivacious and does not dress modestly, um, perhaps bringing their voice into a conversation or just pausing and letting them speak. Um, and as a woman, of course, definitely inviting those women to the conversation and into outside life as well, especially in the tech industry. I find you make really close friendships and you, you do things outside of work and sometimes the women who are seen as more religious, I am doing air quotes, uh, are, aren't invited because they're seen as, they would not enjoy this simply because of the way they dress and what we think their religion is.
Alex (10:22):
That's a very good point. I completely agree with that and I feel like that's something that probably both men and women are, are guilty of. Take the time, I guess take the time to get to know someone instead of sort of making an assumption based on how they look or how they appear. So. Okay. Do you, do either of you kind of find yourselves being mindful of this in your own workplace? You know, especially when we're talking about, you know, in the world of it, is there a balance that you try to find for yourself that you're trying to create when it comes to being modest, whether it's, you know, how you're dressed or just, you know, how you are being interpreted by others in the workplace.
Faria (10:59):
I don't think I really take that into consideration to be honest. Yes. I had a great conversation this week where someone told me I should enter every room with the confidence of a white man. And so that's something I'm working on that thing.
Alex (11:16):
Oh my g... that is gold. that needs to be on bumper stickers. I want a tshirt that says that.
Faria (11:31):
Yeah, no, it was very eyeopening. Right. And I think, and we can have probably a whole nother podcast episode on just confidence in itself. Um, you know, right. But I think it relates to modesty, to your point of how you carry yourself. Right. Um, and going back to actually Yum when you were talking about, you know, someone who's loud and vivacious and who, uh, dresses less modesty though modestly, that was interesting to, because I think I know a lot in a lot of loud and vivacious people. So I come, I come from a more conservative Muslim background. My family is pretty conservative Muslims. And I was raised in a small town in a small Muslim community that was pretty conservative. Uh, but I know a lot of loud, vivacious Muslim women who are like that with their personality. But then in terms of dress, they wear the hijab, which is the head covering or the niqab, which covers everything but your eyes. So it's funny cause it's like there. What would you be defining Montessori as, right. So as someone who is more of a voracious, who is more loud and more outgoing, I try to be more quiet and listen to other people I'm working on not interrupting others has been something I've been really trying, actively trying to work on. Because by nature I love talking and I will talk over other people. Um, which is not the right thing to do. So giving others a space to converse and also active listening. So not, I'll admit it, I did the listening where it's like, okay, I'm listening to you because I'm waiting for you to finish. So I can say what I have to say. Cause I have three thoughts in my head right now, but active listening, of holding a space for this person to communicate with my full attention because that is what they deserve.
Alex (13:07):
So, okay. What about,you know, this kind of is making me thinking about just kind of how I was supposed to or not supposed to, I guess maybe how it was expected to behave when I was, you know, at Sunday school or when I was at mass or you know, when I was even, let's say around a certain group of people that maybe only interacted with me when we were at, you know, church gatherings. Um, I feel like for me personally, it was a certain Alex that people interacted with when I was at Catholic functions and at Catholic mass and so on and so forth versus the openness I guess that I found when I started going to Bible groups and Bible studies and, um, functions for the nondenominational church, which for me, that journey started happening when I was in college. And I don't know if you know, that is a Testament to those two religions or if it was just my experience personally, but I definitely would say that I felt like I had to be a certain level of modest when I was being brought up in the Catholic faith versus when I switched over to being nondenominational. Christian. Did either of you have some kind of experience similar to that?
Faria (14:28):
I feel like I kind of did. Um, so yeah, I grew up coming from a more conservative Muslim background I think. And I know not only am I less modest when it comes to talking a lot, but also in, um, kind of my habits of dress. So I was the first woman in my immediate family who did not wear the hijab, the head covering, um, every, almost everyone I knew more for at least some period of time. Some took it off. Um, so from just the very get go, um, it wasn't something I wanted to partake in. And I'm more the type of person who it's hot outside, like I'm gonna wear short sleeves instead of committing to something like that. Um, that's not saying anything about me as a person, good or bad. That's not saying anything about people who choose to dress that way. It's just, I noticed very early on I was different in a sense. So yeah, the Faria that went to the mosque, uh, obviously I wore a hijab there. I covered my hair cause it was a place of God. Uh, I interacted a little differently because, uh, it, it was, it just was a little bit more of a conservative setting and toned down my mannerisms. You know, a lot of it was for Sunday school, so you can't get all my monks just there. I mean you can, but that's how you get Sunday school detention. Your parents aren't happy. Um, so yeah, it was in college actually because I was in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, which I didn't. I thought that was everyone's normal. And then I realized it wasn't, I went to a bigger university with more people and um, not just more people and more Muslims, but a more diverse group of Muslims too. So my family is Pakistani. Um, so I met Muslims from all different kinds of countries and who, you know, different, um, sects too. My family is Sunni Muslim. Um, and I didn't even know about some of the sex cause there wasn't that, uh, open-mindedness I feel like taught to me and my faith journey growing up. And that's where I really kind of started to see how there are so many different levels and how you can be modest in so many different ways. And that's something I started gravitating to. I started to lean more towards, I don't have to cover every inch of my skin to be modest. And that became my personal choice.
Yum (16:34):
Confession time, baby. I'm only went to shool slash synagogue, slash tempo, whatever you wanna call it. Um, for school purposes. My parents lived and I obviously, um, our family lived on a little Hilltop in Israel, in the North of Israel, just South of Lebanon, surrounded by other little Hilltop villages, um, surrounded by, um, hilltops of Arab villages. And I went to school with, um, most of the people in the surrounding areas. And the schools in Israel are Jewish. It's a Jewish state. And we do, you know, celebrate every, every, uh, Friday. I almost said Yoshi, but that would not make sense to most of your listeners. So every Friday we would have a couple of Shabbat at school where you would welcome a Shabbat. We welcome, um, the day of rest Saturday for Jews. Um, and that was my normal at school, at home. Never ever, ever. My mom, I don't, I love my mom dearly and if you're listening, I'm sorry, but she, um, she doesn't cook much or at all. She is a grandma now, but not your stereotypical Jewish grandma because I make all the chicken soup. So we, I had a very different upbringing, what you would call a religious Jew. I would, I was more of a, of a secular Jew with a lot of Jewish history. But my understanding of modesty, um, came so much later, like way into college. You guys like were into college. I went to NC state, go Wolfpack and um, we had this NC state is made up of red bricks. They signed this, I don't know if actually this is a rumor, maybe someone out there can validate, but uh, apparently they signed a contract and got a lot of their bricks for super cheap because they bought so friggin many. Um, so the entire campus is RedBrick including the well known brick yard, which is, you know, made a brick and very slippery in the winter or when it's raining, which is, you know, full time in North Carolina and you can't walk without slipping. So you have to be real careful what you wear because when you slip on brick, it's not just going down, you're going down, legs up. And we had the lovely Brickyard preacher who used to stand on his little, I don't know what it's called, a box. Um, I'm sure there's another name for it. It was, it's, it's just a little, it's a cute little box with a little, um, podium. And he used to yell at people walking by about, um, the, how much they are sitting and where he thinks they should go and isn't it lovely? Great. I feel like I feel like they're pretty universal. And I was walking by wearing my normal young clothes, um, which at the time was probably like gym shorts and a tee shirt on my way to biology class, thinking about what I'm going to dissect today. And he like yells at me when I walked past whore and I'm just like, I'm 18, I don't know what you're talking about. Oh no, you guys, that was, it was hurtful. I don't, I w you know, totally not what I was expecting. Of course it was raining that day and I slipped and fell legs up right in front of him. Luckily there were, there were some very burly, um, football players that were walking right behind me who like pulled me up and started walking me away. And there's two things you should probably know about me. One is I can control my temper and two is I have no filter. So, um, something like this could be really bad for all parties. So thank you. Burly football man that I never met again for, um, you know, probably rescuing me from being arrested. Um, but yeah, Brickyard preacher dude taught me about modesty and taught me about how modesty sometimes is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes it's in the eye of the be the bearer, if you will. Yeah. So, so that was really an eye opener for me.
Alex (20:40):
That's really interesting. I think maybe you bring up about, you know, when, when we're talking about modesty in terms of our appearance and more specifically what we're wearing or not wearing. You know, that's an interesting question is it's the person's responsibility who is wearing the clothing or is it the person's responsibility? Who is Ewing the clothing? And then, you know, to take that a step further, if we're going back to the story that Aria shared earlier about, you know, sort of averting your eyes, if you will. Um, and I'm going to attempt to say this correctly, so young helped me if I, if I bought this, but when it comes to the ha ha that says, thank you that says don't pray in front of an in, modestly dressed woman and we have to divine define those terms. Right? So is it, are those terms in the IBD holder or the terms in, you know, the person who's wearing the clothing and then to take that even further, maybe go cry somewhere else?
Faria (21:38):
Um, yeah, so I think I'll go, I don't know too much about Judaism, so not speaking to these specific rules or trying to offend anyone. But when you say that Alex actually reminds me of my favorite Bollywood movie or one of my favorite Bollywood movies, there's a line where, um, the, the lead actress or whatever is talking to her sister and she's like, why did you wear that to the tumble? Everyone at the temple was staring at you and her sister's like, well, if everybody in the temple was staring at me instead of God, that's their problem, not mine. Um, and I was just like, yes, cause I love that scene. Um, and I recognize that not everybody has an opinion. Uh, but I do, I, you know, with that, I think it opened up that I lean more towards, it's, uh, on the responsibility of not the person who is dressing her appearing that way. But the other, because I think yes, modesty is, is very, can be very physical, right, in terms of dress, in terms of makeup, things like that. But my take is you don't know that person's intention behind it. Right? Like I, my mother, I think the first time Yama was really bonding with your story because, um, I mean, I love my mother a lot more than I'm sure you'd like that preacher, but she called me like a whore once I was 16 and I wore red lipstick for the first time and she said, uh, she said I looked like a streetwalker. Uh, but she said it in ODU, so to add some color to this podcast, her exact words were [inaudible], which means you look like a woman of the night, which meant hooker. And I was like, thanks mom. I'm 16 and you and dad said I could wear this and now that I've worn it, you're mad. I'm so sorry.
Alex (23:09):
Faria (23:10):
Yeah, I know. Yeah. She was like, why do you look at woman on the street? I was like, I didn't even know what meant like hooker. Like that part came later. By the way, I was like, I am a woman and we're about to start one of the night. Yeah. I was like, I am a woman and it's night and we are about to go somewhere. Like it didn't click till later bless my baby Faria heart. Um, cause I was like, where are you mad? Yeah, man. I'm just like, it's fine. It's fine. I was like, wait, but she seems upset. So I lean more to the side. That is, it's the responsibility of the person who is seeing or witnessing any other type of dress or the person who is dressing quote unquote modestly or modestly. Because I think intention plays a big role in that. And we don't know people's intentions, right? We don't know what's going on in their head, but what we do know is ours, our thoughts and feelings and what we can control is our actions and how we choose to react or handle a situation that we feel is in modest or too modest or however you'd put it.
Yum (24:05):
I'm just going to say that once I was the, the on the side of the be-wearer, it is in the eye of the bearer. What he or she thinks is modest. Um, but I think I've switched to the camp of both.
Alex (24:18):
Oh, interesting.
Yum (24:19):
Yes. And it's been a very recent switch you guys because of this very last 2020 Superbowl that I have switched.
Alex (24:29):
Are you referencing J-Lo and Shakira?
Yum (24:32):
I am. In fact, yes. First of all, let me preface this by saying that I have a huge amount of respect for them and for Adam Levine who was, you know, the year before shirtless, the energy that my Facebook stream had that night and probably for a week afterwards commenting on what they were wearing, how they were dancing, what they were doing, what they were saying really kind of struck me as, you know, it doesn't really matter what they were thinking they were wearing. Everybody else is hating on them except for not because those women are in their forties and fifties and they look better than I do right now. So really I wasn't hitting on you, Shakira and J-Lo. I love you and just going to share a little tidbit with you. Part of my fitness routine is pole fitness. So seeing J-Lo up on that pole is like my life's goal. Really? Yeah. Do you see her in hustlers? I did. In fact here in hustlers, I've done one of my classes before. It is not easy girl. It is what got me in shape after two babies. Um, the core strength that it takes and the arm strength and the back strength don't even get me started. This is way, way, way, not what we were talking about before this podcast. I asked, um, my mom's group who are very varied in their beliefs and in their personalities and I respect all of them a whole lot. What they thought about modesty in general because we did have a thread talking about whether we covered our children's eyes during the halftime show and kind of what we landed on was, you know, what was really to blame was camera angles. And I'm going to bet that the person behind the camera who's deciding where the camera's going to go and what it's going to look like was not a woman. So at the end of the day, at the end of the day when they're saying, well she shouldn't have jello, shouldn't have done that. Like widespread slide. Excuse me, how are you going to slide without whites, without like widespread legs? People who have never tried to slide are saying this, but people who are saying that because, Oh my gosh, the camera was right there. Who put the camera right there? Ladies and gentlemen, not the ladies. So I think, I think there is a something to be said for the people who are watching to bring it back to Israel. There was a situation in the military where um, Israel wanted religious men to serve in the military and Israel. Everyone at 18 serves and religious men often get exempt to go study. And Israel said, nah, actually you're going to go in and be part of part of the military. You're going to serve as well for your three years. And they said, we can't serve or we can't. So they have their, they have, um, the more religious men have their own little, um, segment in the Israeli military. So we do try to accommodate. But they said they couldn't come to a, uh, event because there was a choir at the beginning and that had women in it who were wearing skirts that did not reach their knees and that would, that would give them inappropriate thoughts and they therefore they could not go and then they wanted to get out of the military altogether. Pretty much what I'm saying here is I do think that it, I think sometimes it gets mangled, but it is both who is wearing it and what we feel about it and whether we feel modest in what we're wearing versus what, um, Faria you can look at me when, you know, when we're together in a room and be like, Holy crap, that shirt is a low cut and that's, you know, your prerogative and I can't stop you from thinking that. And it's fine if you think that I'm still gonna wear the shirt.
Alex (27:51):
So taking, taking this concept back into the workplace, if we're talking about let's say the it version of modesty, is that really just boundary setting and then, you know, is it, are we sort of setting these boundaries to sort of protect people from themselves, whether that be, you know, security risks or whether it be potentially preventing you from getting eyed for a promotion because your direct supervisor is getting the wrong impression from either your low cut shirt or maybe the fact that you wear ripped up tee shirts and jeans to work every day. When is it okay to have boundaries setting in the workplace when it comes to modesty?
Yum (28:35):
So I think IT is a really interesting, um, subsection of people. Uh, especially. So I come from a, um, small business SaaS background and the people I worked with came to work in leggings and ripped up jeans. And, um, every time the company wanted to give us a gift, it was a hoodie. Like this is the kind of people that I worked with. And they were, they were expecting the same for me. There was never an expectation that I get very, very dressed up to come to work. In fact, some of the women who did come to work more dressed up, and I'm not talking like more modestly because those t-shirts come up to your neck. So it's not, it's not that kind of a problem. I'm just talking about like, you know, sharper. I'm more sharply dressed. They were seen as the ones that were trying too hard. Yes, they were most of the time busy, uh, sales women and they needed to feel the part in order to speak the part. You know, nobody sees them, um, where we do most of our sales by phone, but it was important for them to feel that way. And I do think that more and more we are coming to a place, work and life are intersecting in a way that it hasn't before. And I think boundary setting is probably one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves. Um, I don't know about you too, but I'm a millennial and what we, what we kind of grew up on was a work life balance. But I heard on a radio talk show that gen Z is actually talking about work life blending where they want, um, they want businesses to be more okay with their life and their work really being one thing. If you expect me to answer an email at 7:00 PM, it's okay for me to go to the doctor at 10:00 AM and for you not to know about it. See what I'm saying? Like it's, it's more of a blending than it is a separation, which is what, which is what we were taught to want. Right. They were like, you're going to find a nine to five and then you're going to leave your work at work and go home and do your thing. Um, as a community manager, that's impossible. I answer emails all the time. I answer emails on PTO. Not that I should, but I do. Am I inviting people to treat me a certain way? Probably and I should probably stop. That's kind of, it's kind of expected of me at this point. At what point do I say I have this amount of self-respect, which is related to modesty, because modesty is having enough self-respect to dress in a way that shows that you are not trying to be overtly sexual or overtly whatever, or maybe you are good for you.
Alex (30:58):
So is it maybe because your boundaries are, have become less modest that now this is sort of what's expected of you because this is the impression that you've given to people and that's what they've perceived in terms of your availability, in terms of, you know, your work life blend or balance or lack thereof. You know, is it sort of we're setting these boundaries by determining how modest we are with our time, with our words, with our actions, with our dress. So kind of like what you were saying earlier, I think that it does fall back on us a little bit, but it's still also in the eye of the beholder. So I would agree actually. I think it's both
Yum (31:49):
Welcome to my "both" camp. Population 2: you and me.
Alex (31:52):
but when it comes to it, you know, there are definitely certain scenarios where being more modest is without a doubt. A plus. Right? Like if we're talking about security measures, if we're talking about, um, just really kind of helping people to protect them from themselves, cause you may not be a malicious user, but you may just be a user who's too busy and trying to do too many things at one time and then you become a security risk to the organization and you should have been a little bit more modest about your passwords.
Yum (32:21):
Yeah, I think you're right Alex. I think, um, companies need to be very modest with the access they're giving their users. And I think users need to be, um, respectful of the boundaries that they're setting and the boundaries that their work is setting. I know a lot of times we get, um, for laptops from the companies that we, that we work for. Um, and perhaps, um, being respectful to yourself and being respectful to the company and not using that laptop as your personal machine and inviting in, um, security risks that way. Or even just, you know, at the end of the day it can go in and take a look, see and see everything you've Googled for the past. You know, however long you've been working for the company and do you really want that? Cause I don't,
Alex (33:05):
right, right. In case in case anyone was unaware that that is going on at their workplace, it's definitely happening. And you should, uh, adjust accordingly.
Faria (33:16):
Okay. I'm going to be honest, I have a lot of Buzzfeed articles, the ones that are like incentivizing you to buy this thing under $15 because you need it in your life and it's because they pop up and I'm like, bookmark, save, go look and buy all the things later. So yes, sorry. Office people
Yum (33:32):
Faria that is, that is the least of their worries. Um, as a, as a side gig, I am a writer slash, editor and um, my biggest issue is I'm Googling how to murder people, but we can talk about this some other day.
Alex (33:47):
So would you say that, just to kind of bring this back and kind of round it out, is there something from your faith or your religion that maybe I think IT could learn from or maybe even that you've taken that principle or that idea and it's carried over into your professional life?
Faria (34:11):
Yeah, I would, I would say don't be afraid to be open-minded and challenge what you've been taught because I feel like this is like, you know, take a dog or take a drink every time she says she came from a conservative background. But yeah, like I didn't question things for 18 years. Right. Um, and just kind of accepted what I heard and believed, which was all great and wonderful. Uh, then maybe not the best fit for me. Right. So I think also as someone in her early career, um, I'm at just my second company right now out of college. So, uh, being new, kind of in that early career stage, there was a lot of, uh, maybe X, Y, Z is exactly what I need to do to advance or to meet the goals or to do the things. And I get afraid to challenge or to speak my mind or to say something different because that's not the way it's always been done. Um, and so yeah, just kind of learning to be open and to trust myself I think is something that resonates with me in modesty or in faith. And also in the workplace.
Yum (35:13):
I'm actually going to draw from my, um, educational experience about theology in general. Um, and, and across many, um, the many religions that I've learned about both pretty in depth and just surface level, almost every single religion way of life. Um, anything, whatever you want to call it, spirituality has, um, some sort of need either privacy or or sneeze or modesty or whatever you can call it. And I think, um, companies can learn from that as well, especially in it. Every company should have their proper use of computer bylaws and rules of engagement within their company and an understanding that people come from different backgrounds and it's not always easy and it's not always comfortable. Um, and sometimes it gets real awkward if you meet, for example, uh, a Jewish man who will not high five or will not shake hands or a Jewish woman who won't, um, give you a hug, which is apparently, you know, accepted or expected of, of women. Nowadays, I think that's, that's this generation's you should smile more. But I do think that, uh, every company should understand modesty, understand self-respect, understand boundaries. Um, we'll see when we get there.
Destiny (36:33):
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.


S2E09: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Jesse Nowlin

S2E09: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Jesse Nowlin

May 5, 2020

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

Leon (00:32):

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

Leon (00:53):

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

Leon (01:39):

My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you're going to hear on this episode is Jesse Nowlin.

Jesse (01:45):

Hi everyone.

Leon (01:45):

As is there a want on Technically Religious. We don't make the uh, audience wait to hear all the good stuff the juice news about our guests. So Jesse, you've got a moment here for shameless self promotion. Tell us who you are, where you work, what's going on in your life, and just remember to tell us, uh, what your religious or ethical and moral point of view is somewhere in there.

Jesse (02:06):

Yes. So first off, I'd like to say start by saying, thank you for having me. It's an honor to be on your podcast and on the other side of the mic so to speak, I've got my own podcast as well. Just finished recording an episode. So it's fun to be on the other end now, or on the receiving end of this, I am the founder and head geek at a company called Tab Geeks, which is a conference for a small to mid-size IT support professionals. We focus on a sponsor free show that is focused on the content and not a pitch session, which many of the largest shows are, or only on a particular type of product line. Whereas most people in small to midsize companies, you've got everything from working on the printer to the coffee machine is under your purview. And there really isn't very much in the way of other conferences out there that are addressing all of those in a show.

Jesse (02:59):

So we've built a community in the conference, uh, focused on training on those particular topics. Again, it's sponsor free. Our stage is kind of like, uh, the Holy ground. You can't go up there if you're a sponsor. We don't even have sponsors on, uh, on our, uh, we don't even have sponsors at the conference at all or in our Slack channel, which is a, another safe space for IT to be able to just come ask for for help and uh, and even vent sometimes and my day job because that's not enough to keep me busy on top of being a father of two kids under three, I also am, I am also the CTO of a 500 employee real estate company that has about 75 offices across three States and I manage all of that with a team of five IT professionals. And I as you go into this, in the beginning of the podcast you asked me to mention the religious affiliation. Obviously that's the point of this podcast. I am an Orthodox Jew and I have found that for me, being able to take that break every week is one of the things that has helped me to avoid burnout and has helped keep me sane in this industry.

Leon (04:07):

Awesome. Okay. We're going to get, definitely get into that more. Um, any, how can people find you on social media if they wanted to find you someplace, where would they go?

Jesse (04:16):

Yeah, so I'm on all the major platforms. I am @MrJNowlin on Twitter or @TabGeeks. If you want to check out the uh, the tech community that we've got on LinkedIn, I'm just Jesse Nowlin, Facebook, I'm just Jesse Nowlin and uh, I'm active on all of them posting all kinds of content. We've also got our Tab Geeks website is And our Slack is

Leon (04:46):

Fantastic. All right, so I'm going to round this out. Uh, I am Leon Adato. I am my actual title, my official title is head geek. Uh, I took the job sight unseen when they told me that was going to be able to be on my business card. I work for a company called SolarWinds, which is another solar nor wind. It's a monitoring software vendor because naming things is hard. You can find me on the Twitters @leonadato. I pontificate about things both technical and religious at and I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. And if you are frantically scribbling that stuff down, trying to figure out whether it was two W's or three or whatever, uh, stop. There's going to be show notes with all the links to everything that we're talking about today. Uh, so you don't have to do that.

Leon (05:31):

Just sit back, relax and let the awesome wash over you. Um, okay. So I want to dive into the structure of this now. This is the tales from the TAMO cloud. You know, where we talk about our journeys both through the world of tech and religion. And I want to start off with the technical stuff. So tell me a little bit more, you sort of gave us a sketch, but tell me more about what your work is on a day-to-day basis, whether that's with Tab Geeks or as part of the real estate firm, you know, what is, what is your daily job look like today?

Jesse (06:01):

So day to day, uh, during the day I'm at the real estate gig as I mentioned before, and that is managing a team of five people, uh, which is a challenge of handling the amount of employees that we have to support with that amount of people. That's not the greatest of ratios from what I've been able to see in my research. Um, I've recently been doing a lot of research into this area because we, over the last couple of years, the real estate company grew, uh, pretty much tripled in size in the last three years. And I came on about four and a half years ago and when I started, it was just me and one other guy and he had been shipping computers in from Vegas to California when they would break. And it was literally like a 10 day turnaround time for a computer that had, that had gone down. But if you're not, not counting, of course the costs that it would take to ship it, the downtime costs and the fact that the people didn't have anything to work on in the meantime.

Leon (06:55):

I'm sure the end users were delighted with that. I'm sure they loved every part of that.

Jesse (06:59):

To be honest. They didn't really know anything better. They were using Pentium 4 computers on a, um, Exchange 2003 mail server. And this was four years ago. This is, we're now in 2020 is, you know, in terms of, uh, the, the forever evergreen content of podcast world. We're now in 2020. And this was only a couple of years ago. I've only just, uh, recently managed to get rid of the Windows 2000 domain that's been running for a long time because there was just so much other stuff that needed to be done. Uh, the first thing I did when I came on was up the internet from a 80 meg shared cable coax internet line to a 200 meg synchronous, you know, proper internet connection and get everybody off that exchange server and onto G suite. So I'm a, I'm a big G suite fan and um, you know, so that's, that's pretty much what's going on in the day job. We um, have been working, in why I mentioned that I do a lot of that research or have been doing a lot of that research is because, we scaled so much, we haven't really had time to catch up. We were just duct taping things almost literally just to get them working. And so now we've been taking time to pull back and reorganize and create policies and procedures and actually get this stuff standardized. And uh, I hope to actually write a book on this one day. Managing a small to mid size IT department.

Leon (08:19):

That's fantastic. Okay. So that's where, where you are today,

Jesse (08:22):

right. So that's the day job and that I come home, eat dinner, well come home and put my kids to bed, eat dinner and then work for two or three hours a night on Tab Geeks doing podcasts and content and stuff like that. And you asked, um, you know how I got into it and you know, where, where all this came from. I've been into tech, uh, since I was a kid. I've told the story before on my podcast that I was, uh, my earliest memory is as a three year old, I had a toy truck that I absolutely loved that broke down and what else was I to do other than to take it apart and try and fix it and sure enough, and I don't know how I did it, but I took it apart and mess around with some wires, put it back together and it turned on and it worked.

Jesse (09:03):

And that was, you know, that set my brain on fire. I was like, Hey, there's really something here. And then throughout my formative years, so to speak, I was one of the kids that would just pick up computers off to the side of the road when people would throw them away. Of course, back then people didn't really have in mind data privacy. So there was all kinds of stuff on their computers, which made it very entertaining to look through as a teenager or pre teenager. Um, and I would basically just take these home and build my own home lab and then, uh, build environments that would get viruses on the computers and I'd work on destroying them and then try and figure out ways to figure my way out of the holes I was putting myself in. And then in high school I started my own company fixing computers and the rest is history, self-taught all the way.

Leon (09:49):

Wow. Okay. So that, uh, that explains both where you started and how you pretty much how you got from here to there. So, cause I know that a lot of people who listen especially to the TAMO series, uh, are interested to map their own career, whether they're at the beginning or the middle or, or even, you know, near the end where they're just passing along knowledge themselves, um, to hear how other people got through it. So let's turn, let's turn things around a little bit and let's talk about the religious side. You mentioned the top of the show that you are an Orthodox Jew. And I would like to clarify that labels are really challenging that when you ask somebody, so, so what are you, more often than not, you're going to get an answer of something like, well I, it's a little complicated, I'm sort of this or sort of that. So understanding that any, you know, two or three word label is not going to be able to capture the full complexity and nuance of your religious life. Um, how do you define your expression of Orthodox Judaism today?

Jesse (10:48):

Well, it's kind of the same way that I describe my title as IT manager. Despite being CTO and highest ranking a it professional in the business is that, you know, it depends what you're doing. Titles are, especially in this industry, in the tech world, titles are all over the map. It depends the size of the company you're at. It depends what you are tasked with or what you've picked up over the years. And you know, religion is the same way. At least for me, it's, there's a lot of things that we're told to do. Some of it it makes sense. Some of it doesn't make sense. Some would, some people would say none of it makes sense. And uh, you know, it's, it's kinda just figuring out really what works for you. And what works for me is having that time every week where I have the Sabbath and from sundown Friday night to sundown on Saturday night, I'm totally disconnected and I will read, you know, uh, secular books.

Jesse (11:39):

I've been an avid fiction reader my whole life, but a couple of years ago when I realized that IT management was really a direction I wanted to go in, uh, and coinciding with a book reading challenge that my sister-in-law and some family members and I set upon to do a book a week because we're all crazy.

Leon (11:57):

cause you have nothing else to do. Right. You needed a hobby.

Jesse (11:58):

Nothing better to do. Yeah, exactly. So it turns out when I read a nonfiction, I don't read it nearly as fast as I read fiction. So I did not succeed at that challenge. But I, I challenged myself further by saying, Hey, I want to see if I can actually learn something this year instead of just reading, you know, 52 books, which is easy. I could do that. And um, it really broadened my knowledge and accelerated a lot of the things that I was working on in my career because I was taking the time to do that.

Jesse (12:24):

And a lot of that time where I was able to do that was because of the Sabbath. Because I'm not using electronics. I'm not on Facebook, I'm not on Twitter, I'm not, you know, reading some article that that is sitting in my queue of things to read or one of the 8,500 tabs that are open on my browser at all times. And you know, things like that have really been both a strength for me. And also sometimes frustrating because we've got a lot of holidays where you're also not allowed to do the whole technology thing. No work, no driving, no computers, no internet. And uh, there's one story that comes to mind since we are talking about being religious and tech, is a couple of years ago it was one of the high holidays I believe. And there was something going on at the office and they just, they couldn't crack it and they couldn't figure it out.

Jesse (13:14):

And they were working with the service provider trying to get an internet back and going and something and like they refuse to talk to anybody because they weren't the authority on the account. And they actually ended up saying to the tech who was on site, let's go for a ride. And they drove to my house and said, can you tell this guy that he can talk to us please and what he's supposed to do. And I was like, all right, fine. No problem. Because it didn't break the rules. Technically I wasn't, you know, getting on my computer and doing it. I was just saying, okay, here's how this and this is connected and yes, you are authorized to do whatever they need you to do.

Leon (13:45):

Wow. Okay. So we'll, yeah, we'll, we'll, we'll dive into some of that in a little bit, but okay. So that's, that's where you are now. That gives us a good sense of where you are now. The question is, is that the environment that you grow up in? Because when we start out, we were sort of, you know, we, we are in the environment that we're born into usually. And for most of us, we don't start to question it until, you know, our teens or maybe a little bit earlier, maybe a little bit later, maybe never. So the question is, where did you start out religiously? Does it, you know, uh, did it look like what it looks like today?

Jesse (14:20):

So until age seven or eight, I was a practicing religious Christian going to church every week. And that's because my father's not Jewish. My mother left the faith when she went off to college. And, um, you know, that's just, that's where we were at that point in life. And I remember being a five year old when my mother told me that we're Jewish. And I was like, okay, whatever. You know what that means? Cool. And then, um, a couple of years later, uh, she was looking for some more meaning and with some of her family and kind of getting back to her roots and realized that she had a lot of questions that were really related back to her roots in Judaism. And the questions that she was asking was based on the stuff that she had learned when she was a kid in Jewish school. And, uh, we were paired up with a rabbi in, in, uh, somewhat near to our house at the time.

Jesse (15:11):

And they started, you know, the process of, not necessarily the process, but just kind of talking and, and learning, learning together. And, um, at some point it became clear that we were learning a whole lot about being Jewish and what that meant. And then we started doing those things. And a couple of years later we moved to a more religious area, which was back where my mom had grown up in the New Jersey, New York area. And then I, that was when I was 10, we entered into a major Jewish community and a, a proper Jewish school, which had like, I don't know, 600 kids in it, which for me coming from rural New England at the time with a school that had, I dunno, a hundred kids in it total was quite a culture shock. And I knew none of the language. I knew no Hebrew and not that everything was taught in Hebrew, but it's still the, you know, they teach the texts and stuff like that that you're, you're trying to translate.

Jesse (16:02):

And I had a serious handicap in that. And what ended up happening to me is interesting and it's probably something that that helped me a little bit later on is that the school I had entered into, uh, for the grade I was in at that time for Judaic studies, they actually held me back two grades. And then because I'd moved around so much getting there, I had to repeat fifth grade on the secular side, but advanced on the Judaic side. So now I had three years of friends and people that I knew in those grades, which then translated into a very wide network as we grew older and went off to school or when it's college, went off to study and you know, abroad we do a gap year in Israel. So I knew just a ton of people and you know, networking is really everything or almost everything in this business. And that really gave me a great foundation.

Leon (16:53):

So that definitely, uh, tells us your whole progression from, from there to here. So that's interesting. So now being in the world of tech and having the strong religious point of view, um, a lot of times we find that we're, those two things are brought into conflict that are IT life. And, and you were mentioned one case already where our IT life sort of encroaches on a religious life and sometimes vice versa, sometimes our religious life encroaches our IT life and it makes it challenging. So I'm curious if you have any other stories. Cause you did tell the one about having to drive the technician. Somebody had to drive the technician to your house, just so you could give approval, but, uh, were there any other situations you can think of that, uh, where the two things were brought into conflict and how you resolve them?

Jesse (17:34):

Well, as I was saying before about the high holidays, um, for anybody who knows anything about Judaism and the high holidays, the entire month of October or September, wherever they fall is basically nonexistent for me. I'm like, nothing can happen during October is dead during the month of October. Don't try anything new, don't want, don't look for any new projects. We're going to make zero progress. And that is okay. Um, I recently had several, uh, religious Jewish people on my team and, um, for various circumstances they were reassigned or left to, uh, to move or, um, to look for a new position. And I diversified my team a little bit because, um, you know, not that I was trying not to hire Jewish people, we actually didn't have really any of them, um, apply, which isn't surprising we're at a small Jewish community in long beach, California. But it was helpful that I actually did not hire Jewish people for my entire team because now I have some of that coverage where they are there and I don't feel uncomfortable telling or asking somebody on my team who is Jewish but isn't religious.

Jesse (18:43):

Hey, can you do this thing over the weekend that I can't do because somebody has to do it when I really shouldn't be telling you to do that. Right? So now I don't have that conflict internally. Um, you know, it's, it's things like that that crop up over time that you really wouldn't think is an issue and then all of a sudden you're on vacation for Passover in a different country and there's nobody to do tech except the one older IT guy who's been there from the beginning who is just completely overwhelmed now and has do everything himself.

Leon (19:15):

Right. And, and that was a point that we covered. Um, in our very first episode we called religious synergy where you realize that having that mix of people from different, um, you know, faith experiences allows you to see the world from multiple perspectives but also lets you get things done in a way that you couldn't if it was all homogenous. So, yeah, that's, that's definitely, that's interesting. I like it.

Jesse (19:36):

Yeah. I like to joke around that the time between Christmas and New Years is my most productive time of the year. Yes. Everybody goes on vacation and I get some work done.

Leon (19:45):

Right. It gets real quiet for everyone, but you and you can finally get that flow time, that mythical flow time that people talk about all the time.

Jesse (19:52):

Yeah. Well that's when I catch up from October.

Leon (19:54):

Yes. Well, there, yeah, there you go. Yeah. And you start the year sort of on an, on an even playing field, um, at least until it gets to Passover and then, you know, everything goes out the window again. Um, which is what we're facing now. We're actually recording this just the beginning of March. And, uh, I think for a lot of us Orthodox Jews, we see Purim is just a week away. Passover is just peeking over the horizon and we're like, Oh, I don't know that I'm ready for all of this yet. Um, in any case. So the flip side of those challenges is that sometimes unexpected benefits pop up that, that either our perspective or our training or something about our religious or ethical or moral point of view offers us an insight or a capability in our tech work that we wouldn't have otherwise had and certainly wouldn't expect it. I was wondering if you had any situations that were like that.

Jesse (20:46):

As I was talking about in my intro, uh, I've been, I have moved around a lot as a kid. I've been in different cultures and I, as many Orthodox Jewish people do, at least from the Tristate area, they go and study abroad in a Yeshiva or a religious school in Israel for a year. And that can give you some wonderful experiences. For me, it was a particularly difficult experience because I'm not the scholastic type. I actually didn't go to college. I've just been in it in my whole life and I'm, you know, community taught, self-taught and have managed to, to make a career out of it. And um, going and traveling around different parts of the world gave me an appreciation for what is now our reality in cloud computing and always on, always available access to different, um, solutions because I was in Israel where, and it's funny to think about it, but because they don't have work on Fridays because you know, Saturday, Friday night to Saturday night as the Sabbath.

Jesse (21:47):

Thursday night is the party night. And so if you're trying to work, which I used to do remote work for an American company, if you're trying to work on Thursday night, the entire country goes on the internet. And then again, Saturday night the entire country goes online and now Israel, I mean over the years they've increased their, their bandwidth, but they have one pipe that goes over the ocean that comes over to all of the wonderful servers providing these services in the US or in the other direction to Europe. And it gets abysmally slow and things are not necessarily available over there as readily as they are over here in the States. And so having to come up with creative solutions, even five, six years ago, have given me insights to kind of how to build out a distributed team here because I was forced to think about, okay, well if I connect this service to that one, my Google voice calls my Skype number and Skype will work in Israel, then I'm able to combine these services and I can have an American phone number or if I want to stream the Superbowl or if I want to, you know, be able to use a different services over there, whatever.

Jesse (22:54):

I'm able to do that by stringing these things together. And it's that kind of mentality that, and we're sort of raised with this, you know, when we're learning some of the Judaic stuff that the discussions that they have is kind of the logical mindset. A little bit of a Spock thing going on there to borrow from Star Trek a bit because we are a bunch of geeks, you know, is, is thinking things through and kinda, you know, massaging the system to get what you want out of it. And it's those experiences and you know, I'm sure that other people from other religions have similar stories or different things that have given them those inspirations. But because I've dealt with so many people from all over the planet and so many different types of systems, and I even did a stint doing a networking for the Israeli Defense Forces for the Israeli army, uh, working on some archaic systems in some state of the art systems. It's all given me the opportunity to have a lot of experience with a lot of different things, um, in my relatively short career.

Leon (23:52):

Fantastic. All right, so any final thoughts? Anything you want to share with the audience? Anything you want them to remember about you? How can they find you? You can remind them of that, you know, any, anything you want to leave us with, words of wisdom?

Jesse (24:03):

Yeah. So you know, religion is community and um, you know, community in IT is difficult especially because a lot of IT people are introverted and are not necessarily able to relate with a lot of other people. And oftentimes just being able to have that time with your family where you get together or as I like to joke, we have Thanksgiving every Friday night. Gives you the opportunity and the ability to unplug and unwind. And you know, one of the big topics that is tearing through the industry right now, and we actually have a session on it at our Tab Geeks conference coming up is burnout. Burnout is an enormous issue for IT professionals because if it weren't for things like the Sabbath where I am forced to disconnect, I would literally be on my phone, on my computer seven days a week. And you know, there's some something pulling at my, my brain.

Jesse (24:57):

It's a puzzle. I'm trying to figure it out. That is our nature as IT professionals, that's how we work. We want to solve these things and oftentimes won't be able to sleep until we do. And having that time, whether it's time with family time, where you set those boundaries or in our case where you know, God, so to speak, said that we're not allowed to do things. Or at least, you know, we extrapolate from what God actually said, that we're not allowed to do those things. Gives us the opportunity to, you know, have that back to earth connection and to, and to really take that break that is necessary. I think that for me as I'm becoming more of a manager that focus on family and the focus on the importance of taking time off to be with family and the fact that we're forced to, and it gives me the insight, not just in tech but also in management, that those are the things that are important and help keep me sane.

Jesse (25:50):

And so as I'm managing my team, it's important to remember those things and that other people need those things as well. And you will have people that will try to just work all the time. And um, there was a company, uh, Buffer actually, which is a very transparent company. They're a social media scheduling tool. They've been very famous about having total transparency and everything that they do and they talk about all of their internal operations, which would be nerve wracking as hell for me, but Hey, why not? Um, they, they said that they give everybody unlimited vacation and nobody took it. They had to turn around and tell people, here's $1,000, I think it was even per family member, you must take a week or two weeks, whatever it was off per year and we're going to pay you $1,000 per family member to go and get away because that's important, and I think that's what's really been able to help me stay so focused and still and so engaged in IT over the years.

Jesse (26:48):

If you want to hit me up on social media, I am always very active and always happy to to meet new people, talk to people. I think that networking is very important. We have a, in Judaism for Jewish people out there, we've got that game, Jewish geography, which is basically our version of how many degrees of separation. And in the Jewish world, especially because everybody's related to everybody else who has lived all over the world or went to school in Israel with, you know, somebody else, it's been a huge benefit to be able to reach in and tap into some of that network. And, uh, you know, networking is, is really something that helps everybody, uh, get ahead and just learn together, which I think in today's day and age where it's so hard to keep up with cybersecurity and all of the vastness that is the, the tech industry.

Jesse (27:33):

The only way we can do it as if we work together. And so, you know, networking is important. And the reason why I'm saying that is because I want you to come and say hi. And on Twitter. I'm @MrJNowlin once again, and Tab Geeks is @TabGeeks. That's T. A. B. G. E. E. K. S, which, I'll let you in on a little secret actually stands for tech and business geeks, because we exist at the intersection of both.

Speaker 7 (28:10):

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

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

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

March 24, 2020

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

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

S2E07: Rockstar

S2E07: Rockstar

March 10, 2020

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

Leon (00:06):

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

Doug (00:53):

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

Yechiel (01:08):

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

Ben (01:19):

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

Leon (01:30):

I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime, Doug Johnson.

Doug (01:36):


Leon (01:37):

And also Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel (01:39):

Hello again.

Leon (01:40):

And newcomer Ben Keen. Welcome to the show.

Ben (01:42):

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

Leon (01:45):

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

Ben (02:09):

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

Leon (02:39):

Um, okay. Doug, tell us about yourself.

Doug (02:41):

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

Leon (03:01):

Practically a technical Luddite.

Doug (03:03):

But on purpose!

Leon (03:04):

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

New Speaker (03:14):

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

New Speaker (03:23):

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

Doug (04:24):

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

Leon (04:34):

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

Doug (04:46):

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

Leon (05:46):

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

Yechiel (06:15):

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

Ben (07:06):

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

Yechiel (07:52):

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

Doug (08:20):

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

Yechiel (08:24):

Oh well thank you.

Leon (08:27):

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

Yechiel (08:32):

but the good ones,

Leon (08:33):

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

Doug (09:32):

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

Leon (09:41):

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

Yechiel (09:45):

Yeah, it's job security.

Doug (09:46):

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

Leon (10:07):

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

Doug (11:26):

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

Leon (12:40):

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

Doug (13:13):

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

Ben (13:36):

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

Leon (14:33):

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

Ben (15:01):

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

Leon (15:10):

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

Yechiel (16:46):

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

Leon (17:09):

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

Yechiel (17:14):

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

Leon (17:34):

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

Doug (18:30):

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

Leon (19:54):

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

Doug (20:02):

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

New Speaker (20:07):

I wonder if they're still around?

New Speaker (20:07):

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

Ben (20:15):

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

Yechiel (21:26):

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

Leon (21:41):

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

Yechiel (22:03):

Yeah, the syntax is all rock lyrics.

Doug (22:05):

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

Everyone (22:26):


Doug (22:26):

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

Leon (22:31):

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

Yechiel (22:54):

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

Leon (22:59):

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

Doug (23:21):

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

Ben (24:32):

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

Leon (26:04):

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

Doug (26:21):

You tie them up and throw them in the closet?

Leon (26:22):

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

Yechiel (29:05):

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

Leon (29:45):

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

Yechiel (29:58):

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

Leon (30:23):

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

Yechiel (31:57):

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

Leon (32:24):

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

Doug (32:47):

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

Leon (33:40):

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

Yechiel (34:19):

I just roll my eyes and move on.

Leon (34:21):

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

Doug (34:39):

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

Leon (36:09):

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

Ben (37:24):

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

Leon (39:19):

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

Doug (39:22):

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

Everyone (39:27):

Ooh! Ouch!

Doug (39:27):

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

Ben (39:42):

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

Speaker 7 (40:28):

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

Doug (40:40):

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

Yechiel (40:43):

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

S2E06: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Jez Marsh

S2E06: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Jez Marsh

February 11, 2020

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

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

Leon: 00:53 Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside. That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred." It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output for it pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. Our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. My name is Leon Adato and the other voice you're going to hear on this episode is Jez Marsh.

Jez: 01:44 Hello.

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

Jez: 01:47 No problem.

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

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

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

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

Leon: 02:57 Got it. Okay. So I'll wrap it up just to make sure that we have like bookends, uh, with the social, with the shameless self promotion. My name is Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes, that's actually my job title and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's a monitoring vendor. And we'll probably end up talking about that a little bit on the podcast. You can find me on the Twitters, as the younguns like to say, @LeonAdato. I also blog at HTTP:// And I identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you are scribbling all these things down, madly stop it. Just listen, relax and enjoy the ride because we're going to have show notes that'll have every link and everything that we talk about in there including a transcript. So you don't have to do that. So let's dive right in. I want to start with the technical. Um, and I want to start off with today. So what are you doing technically today? Describe the kind of work that you're doing and what a typical day looks like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


S2E05: Home (in)Security, part 2

S2E05: Home (in)Security, part 2

February 4, 2020

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

Leon: 00:06 Wlcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Leon: 00:53 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.
Leon: 00:59 Okay, so I'll, I'll run down, uh, my setup, I'm using what, what I officially call pro-sumer. It's not really consumer. It's, it's in between professional and consumer equipment. Qustodio uh, sorry, Ubiquity, uh, network year, which, um, the, the security gateway that they provide, which you don't have to buy if you don't want to, you can actually run it - okay. really geeky - on a container. You can run it in a container or you can run it on a raspberry pi. Uh, that's what I'm doing. Or you can run it in a virtual machine or you can buy the security key and put it on your network. And that gives you actually NetFlow data. So you can not only tell how much bandwidth you're using, but you can tell by, uh, by source and destination. And so you can tell which device was accessing which targets at any given moment and see a breakdown, and see a breakdown by categories. You can see how much social media traffic, how much video, you know, YouTube or Netflix or Hulu traffic, et cetera. So that lets me see that. Um, it has allows me to create multiple networks so I can segregate my IOT devices. Again, Destiny, going back to the whole Ring and Wise camera thing, I can put those on a completely separate network, which doesn't fix the problems we were talking about, about them being hacked. But it does allow me to lock down those devices a lot more than I would my cell phones or the tablets in the house. I can have separate, you know, lockdowns and controls. Um, and unless you create filters, uh, whether they are access control lists or other kinds of filtering that you can do. Uh, I also have Qustodio on every device in the house. So every Tuesday.
Destiny: 02:44 I used to use that.
Leon: 02:44 Well you're the one that told me about it. Uh, so that's the one I'm using. Yeah. Qustodio on every cell phone, every tablet, every laptop. It even runs on Linux. Yay Linux! So I run that on everything. And that allows you to have per-user controls. It also lets you have really granular settings. Like I can say that my son is able to watch YouTube videos from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. And that's it. But he can watch, you know, Netflix or Hulu at different times. And the overall device usage is up to four hours a day and after four hours it shuts down. And you know, on Saturdays there's absolutely no usage until after sundown because obviously he shouldn't be using it. But Keith, to your point, temptation is temptation. You never know. So it lets you have really granular controls about the who, the what and the where that devices and that follows my kids everywhere they go that use the device. So it doesn't matter if they're inside my house or outside my house. Qustodio goes with them. And it does give you some other really nice benefits, like Destiny you told me about, uh, your daughter was in, uh, an accident and you knew immediately she couldn't tell you where she was, but her phone was able to tell you where it was and you were able to get there really quickly because you know, your daughter who was already sort of in crisis and not able to process the information, wasn't able to give over that information. So it has a lot of,
Destiny: 04:16 Yeah, I got an alert immediately that something had happened and I had a kid see her GPS location, knew everything that was going on and I was already on my way to get her before she even found her phone.
Leon: 04:27 So yeah, it's really, really good stuff. So Qustodio goes on every device. Ubiquity is the network gear. I have a little app called pi-hole, which will, uh, run on a Linux machine or you can run it again on a raspberry pi. It was meant for raspberry pi, hence the name pie hole. And what that does, it's, it's security, but it's also almost an internet speed up. It filters out, uh, spam ads that come into your house. They just never come into your house. The pie hole captures them. So you'll see a page and there's gonna be three ads you can see. And two, you can't because the two, you can't were span ads. So that speeds up the webpage. But it also means that there's a whole bunch of garbage that me and my kids are not even seeing. And that's on a element by element basis on every website.
Destiny: 05:16 Which also protects you from the cyber attack. So...
Leon: 05:19 okay, there you go. And, and finally, uh, OpenDNS or a Cisco Umbrella, depending what you would call it. And the benefit of Cisco umbrella. It's not just that it's a DNS protector, it's crowdsourced everybody who's using it. Every corporation, when, when the Umbrella system sees a bunch of attacks coming in from a particular IP address, Umbrella blacklists, it automatically, and nobody who is using Umbrella can get to that site. So if an enterprise is suddenly seeing a new cyber attack, you're not going to even get it because that IP address, that destination is automatically puts, you know, black holed, so you're never going to get there. So...
Destiny: 06:01 And the cool thing about that, if you remember right when I was talking about this in Australia was the main thing that I loved about Cisco Umbrella is like SD-Wan, especially like the way that they're running their network and the way that they're testing and getting things done. Like you were saying on the blacklist and everything, you are getting that enterprise level new technology and new hacks that are coming to SD-Wan that you are getting prevented from as well.
Leon: 06:25 And I will say that for the basic level it's free.
Destiny: 06:28 Yup. And then you can get, you know, a little crazy with it, with your little cloud access, security blockers and everything.
Leon: 06:33 I will say for those people who are interested in it, um, and again, you know, thinking about the Orthodox Jewish community which tends to go with whitelist only. So I can't get to any site that I haven't purposely white listed that, um, you're only, you can only have a certain number of white list items before you have to pay for it. But anyway, that's my setup. Um, what does everyone else have?
Al: 06:52 I actually have something similar to what you just described. I'm just getting into Ubiquity, so I'm curious to learn more about it. Everybody speaks very highly of their products and their services, but I want to filter the content that's coming in or trying to go out. I want to be able to see what, uh, is being viewed online. And this way this can provide me with something to go back to whoever the guilty party is and say, look, this is why I'm here. This is why we implement this and this is why we're going to prevent it moving forward.
Destiny: 07:23 So some of the things that I've also implemented, because obviously you know the Qustodio and everything in which that that I've set up before, but I've helped a lot of people use the Mobisip as well. But it also depends on what devices you like. Right? Like like if you have Kindles versus you know, iOS updates or if you have Android versus... There's different things that you can grab. But mobi, sip is one of the ones that I like for like a Windows / Apple kind of a household that you have. And I like setting that up, especially for teenagers because they can request like when they're like trying to do homework, like for health and it has to do with sex or something like that, it'll automatically go to my phone and I can look at the link, bring it up, see if I approve it and approve it from my phone. And it automatically allows them to start engaging with that content. So it's not like, you know something that's not very like quick, if that makes sense. Cause if they're in school using their laptop, cause here they get to use their own laptop or iPads or Kindles or things like that at school then it's something that I can easily like switch on and off. So much so to where even the school now is trying to implement that on their tablets because they were like "how did you do that?" But um, same thing is another product is Net Nanny. I don't know if you guys have heard of that, but net nanny as well. Those are some of the things that I've helped a lot of families set up on with those. A NetGear, they also have NetGear Armor. So here around in New Mexico, a lot of the free wear of which they give people. So a lot of the times, you know a lot of the people that are going to be on the internet will have NetGear. Right? It's usually a Nighthawk in this area and like you can get extenders and things of that nature. But it comes with something called NetArmor that can help you visually like be able to, to track and to do things and to block things at the actual router itself. Something that I do like about that product in the way that they have it set up though is that it's very user driven, if that makes sense. So like if you are new to it, as we were talking about earlier, protect your networks. It'll say "guest network: enable or not?", You just click the box and it'll disable it, right? So disabled that guest network if you're not using it and it'll ha so you can set up reminders, you can do dynamic QoS, like you can block people, you can do scheduling when you can shut down your network, shut it down per device, you know, things like that. But it's very user, um, uh, has a lot of user accessibility to it that I like because it's one of those things where if you're new to it and you're going to be given a router and you're going to be giving everything out of the box and "Here, welcome to the internet." Right? It's very step-by-step on how do I protect myself. And that's something that they've actually started doing in the past six months when they engage that NetArmor. So I think that NetGear is coming around and understanding that Hey there's people out there that don't know what they're doing per se to secure themselves in their home network. So let's see if we could make it wizard driven. Right? Cause anytime it's wizard driven it's fun. So those are some of the things and it comes with the device, right? So I think that it's one of those things that if you are listening and you have NetGear or if you have something that your provider, your ISP has given you to connect to the internet, make the phone call the tech support. Right? Like ask them "What's my username and password ?"if you don't already know it. Cause I know several people who have no idea and ask them, what did you set this up for? How do I log in? Okay cool. Let me turn off my guest network. Let me change my password, let me see what I have going on here. And they will walk you through those, but you can also Google it and figure it out just as much. But you, you have to be the proactive one to protect your fort, right? Like you have to want to protect yourself, which means you're going to have to understand and use the GUI, use the actual website, like dial into it, see what it's doing, look at those logs, set up your alerts, update it, right? Like set it to automatic updates so you get those security updates. So just so that you're implementing that basic cyber hygiene.
Leon: 11:28 Right. And there's a few other points of, of that basic cyber hygiene I think that are worth talking about. Um, Al, you hinted at it earlier, but I want to hit it again. Uh, password managers: Period. End of sentence. Whether regardless of what device, regardless of what environment we're talking about, use a password manager for two reasons. First of all, that way you don't have to have everything set to the same password because your password manager will remember it. And two, closely to related. It will generate strong, secure passwords that you don't have to remember. And it will automatically input those passwords into all of your apps. And that is the number one attack vector for people who are trying to get your information is they'll just, you know... When you see in the news, Oh, there was a Amazon S3 bucket that had 2 million usernames and password hashes that were in there. What that means is they now have a library of 2 million people and their password that they say, "Oh, this person uses this password. They probably use it in a few places. Let me try it against this site, this site, this site." And suddenly they have their bank or they have your Facebook or they have your Instagram. And from there they can get into your this and your that and your other thing. And that's how people build an a, you know, an attack against a particular individual. And by the way, these things can all be automated. I think sometimes we think of hackers as "Well, who's really gonna worry about little old me." Nobody's going to worry about little old you. There's a bot for that. There's a, there's a machine that is automatically walking through those 2 million accounts and just running a whole set of predefined processes. And when it finally gets a hit and goes through every other possibility, it sends a report back to somebody and then they start digging.
Al: 13:12 Right. And if I could add to it, a lot of people underestimate two factor authentication. It literally takes two minutes to set up and it saves you hours upon hours moving forward.
Leon: 13:24 Yes. Everything. They can have two factor authentication, turn it on.
Destiny: 13:29 And here's the thing, you have more information and this is statistically shown on your phone than you do in your home. Think about that. Used to, we used to keep files or mortgages or information or bank accounts or statements and everything in our house. You're all accessible from your phone and an application or a website. So if you have stored passwords, things like that and you're not changing them, you're kind of at a disadvantage anyway. And some of the things that me and you have talked about, Leon, especially, ESPECIALLY at conferences, is securing your line, encrypt your phone. I was like, we literally... me in Leon. We're in a conversation one day when the lady was like, "Oh, I don't care if they get my phone, who cares?" I was like, "Oh, I don't know. But if you pay attention over there, they're like literally going through everybody's photos and putting them on display because they can. And they're displaying your bank account that's overdrawn. So I don't know what to tell you right now. Feel like you should probably secure that." And it's those little things like, I mean, I use Avast Secure Line. I mean, it's like cheap for a year to use it. I can constantly connect it and it's encrypted the whole time. It constantly keeps me protected. My kids are that way as well because they're going to school and I'm sorry, but their school does not even have an IT person and like they're in an open network. I'm like, "no." This just isn't gonna work for me. So I, but it's one of those things where it's like you teach them to protect themselves and now they do it on their own. Like my kids will tell you if they see something that doesn't make sense, right? Cause you see something, you say something. And like if they get sent something from their teachers or like, cause now they're using third party applications are using Google drives, they're using all this stuff and people are sharing passwords and my daughter's like "you really shouldn't do that." Well then they found out that one of their friends got all their homework deleted, right? Like it's like they're seeing it in their daily transactions of school to where they are more ahead of changing passwords, not giving your information. Make sure you have more than a four digit code on your phone because they're have friends who break into them like they are figuring out the cyber waters way faster than most parents are right now. And that's, that's okay. But if you have that open forum or if you're having those conversations, you can actually help each other.
Roddie: 15:47 Thank you for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website at where you can find our other episodes. Leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

S02E04: Home (in)Security

S02E04: Home (in)Security

January 28, 2020

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


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

Leon: 00:53 Last year we started to dig into the idea of what it's like to be an it professional with a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, who's also a parent. And that episode we discussed some of the concerns that we have with technology and how we get around them. But like most topics in tech, there's a lot more to say. So today we're revisiting this topic to extend and deepen the information that we shared. I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are some of my best friends and cherished colleagues, including Destiny Bertucci.

Destiny: 01:22 Hello.

Leon: 01:24 Keith Townsend.

Keith: 01:26 Hey!

Leon: 01:26 And Al Rasheed.

Al: 01:27 Hello.

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

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

Leon: 01:54 Keith, how about you?

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

Leon: 02:09 Al.

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 03:52 At home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 29:07 OpenDNS?

Keith: 29:07 Yes! OpenDNS...

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

Destiny: 29:13 of course it is.

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

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

Leon: 31:14 We know you can't listen to our podcast all day. So out of respect for your time, we've broken this particular conversation up. Come back next week and we'll continue our conversation.

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


S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

January 21, 2020

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

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

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

Ari:                                         01:11                     Hi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

January 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug:                                    04:54                     All right.

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

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

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

Doug:                                    07:03                     participation award!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug:                                    16:49                     It's true,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     21:20                     right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     26:17                     Okay. Context,

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

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

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

Josh:                                      30:06                     Call me, not surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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