Technically Religious
S1E4: Failing With Style

S1E4: Failing With Style

March 26, 2019

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


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

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

Josh: 00:24 No

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

Leon: 00:29 Oh, seriously?!?

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

Leon: 00:47 Like when the SAN fails?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh: 07:42 Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 13:17 That is nightmare fuel!

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

Leon: 13:51 That's a plus.

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

Leon: 14:00 Tell everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

March 19, 2019

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


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

Leon:                                     00:24                     Look, we all know that working in it isn't all rainbows and ice cream and unicorns. There are frustrations, there are disappointments, and even times when the work is downright stressful

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

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

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

Josh:                                      01:01                     I'm Josh Biggley

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

Roddie:                                01:39                     Like, yes, what,

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     03:57                     Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     05:17                     Okay.

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

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

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

Leon:                                     05:55                     Yes.

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

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

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

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

Roddie:                                07:16                     All the time.

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

Roddie:                                07:22                     All the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


S1E2 - Yesterday I did, today I don’t

S1E2 - Yesterday I did, today I don’t

March 12, 2019

As our level of religious observance changes, explaining what we do and don't adhere to can present specific challenges within an I.T. context. 


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

Josh:                                      00:22                     Hey Leon, regardless of your level of religious observance. Now there was probably a time when it was was different. Um, it might've been more or less or you may have been part of a different denomination or even an entirely different religious practice while changing levels of observance carries with it a whole set of challenges religiously. What what we and what I want to look at today is a here on technically religious is the other side of the coin. How does it impact your life at work? Uh, in the IC trenches? Did you suddenly have to change your on call schedule? Uh, were you in the life of the Christmas party or, or maybe the perennial, no show. And then suddenly you were able to participate in things that were once verboten, but you found no real idea how to navigate them?

Leon:                                     01:08                     Right. So, yeah, that's what we want to talk about today is, you know, if your religion changed or religious observance change and uh, you know, and then you had to adapt and explain it and all of that. Um, I think the first thing is that for some of us and certainly those of us on the program, um, we do tend to frame our work identity around our religious beliefs. It's not the only thing that we talk about, but it definitely is sort of front and center. Right. Um, I know that, you know, when we were working together, there was, you know, ongoing comments. It wasn't even teasing or anything, but you know, oh, we can always depend on Josh to be the designated driver because, you know, he's Mormon, he doesn't drink, you know, and, and that was it. It wasn't a joke or a jibe. It was just like, oh yeah. Right. That's, that's a thing. Right,

Josh:                                      01:54                     right. I don't, like we discussed on the first episode, you are always the go to guy if there's a Sunday, if it needs to be covered, especially if you can change it so that someone covers your Saturday on call. You know, Leon is the super dependable, you know, hey, as long as it doesn't conflict with, you know, my sabbath observance, I'll help you with your sabbath observance.

Leon:                                     02:15                     Right? And, and I'm sure that other religious perspectives, you know, have the same thing where they get known for something, whether it's a positive or a negative. I think some of it depends on how you, how you spin it or how you present it. And some of it just depends on what that thing is. And that's, I think the meat of what we're going to get into, um, along the way. However, because this is about technically religious, right, not just religious. I think that there are other religions that are worth mentioning also. For example, you know that, that great commercial, I'm a Mac, I'm a PC, right? Our technical identity holds the same place. Everyone knows that I am a deep lover of Linux. Of all things, Linux, that is part of my persona. And, um, that also defines me. Right?

Josh:                                      03:02                     Yeah, I agree. In fact, I would say that, um, the Linux worship is really a religion unto it's own, right?

Leon:                                     03:09                     Careful. I think we're on dangerous ground there, but, okay. Yeah.

Josh:                                      03:12                     Hey, I, I'm a recent convert to a, to the love of Linux. I understand. I, I'm, I'm, you know, I'm still a still developing my skills, but I've learned to love Linux and not fear it. So that's a good thing. Um, you know, some other identities that we tend to develop, right? There's a, you know, hey, um, there's Jane, she's, she's the network engineer.

Leon:                                     03:33                     Uh Huh.

Josh:                                      03:34                     Always. Or, um, someone who we hope to, to have on shortly. Um, hey, there's Dez. Dez is the security engineer. She has the all things security all the time. You know, those are some great identities to have. But you know, I, I've been in roles before that tend to pigeonhole you into, well, you know, Leon is just the Linux admin. Knowing you, Leon, you are far more than just a Linux admin.

Leon:                                     04:01                     Well, but I think again, the role and the job, um, can be limiting factors depending on your personality, depending on the group, depending on how they want to see you. And sometimes it's not about pigeonholing. Like I, you know, they only do x, but people tend to not look any further. Right. Oh, I need to write a query. I'm going to go talk to, you know, Mary, she's the DBA. Look, there's lots of people who can write a query, right? Like you don't have to go to with the DBA, you know, you don't have to go to the Linux team because you need a shell script written. Um, necessarily. It's always nice to get a second set of eyes because they might have more experience with it. Um, but yeah,

Josh:                                      04:41                     Now, I, I will admit that if I need a perl script written, I'm coming to see you.

Leon:                                     04:45                     Yeah. Well that's because it's an ancient skill and not a lot of people, but that's a different story. Um, so, right. So before we go any further, I think it's important that we acknowledge that we're probably gonna use words like less and more, especially as it regards, um, actual religion, not Linux versus, you know, mac or PC, but real actual recognized 501c3 religion type things. And, and I think it's, you have to be careful about that, right? There's really what we're talking about is differences in religious expression, um, not more or less higher or lower. Um, but for the sake of conversation and just so that we're not tripping over ourselves and trying to define things, I think that we'll probably use that, but I, I just wanna make sure anyone who's listening to this doesn't think that we're making a value judgment, um, a value statement about anyone's particular expression of their religious, uh, behaviors.

Josh:                                      05:38                     Yeah. You know, that's a great point to make Leon in it. It's something that I'm candidly working through myself right now for the listeners. I, I am currently Mormon and I was a practicing Mormon for, for 41 years. And, uh, in 2018, I opted to leave Mormonism and figuring out what to call myself or what to refer to that change was really difficult. Am I an ex Mormon? Am I a post Mormon? Am I a Mormon and transition? And what was that experience that I had? What did it look like? Was it a faith crisis? Was it a faith transition? Um, I've landed on being a "post Mormon who is undergoing a phase transition". Uh, and for me that feels like the, the balance between that, you know, hey, Josh has less Mormon and more religious or less religious and less Mormon. I that the math just seems to work out there.

Leon:                                     06:33                     Right. And again, that's where we go. That's, that's why I want to be careful about using terms like less and more. It's not, it's, it's a different expression to, I actually had the opposite thing for 43 years I was, you might say, lightly religious. Um, we were part of the Reform Jewish movement, um, part of the, sort of the three major Jewish movements, uh, at least in America. Um, and that was fine. And what it means is that I didn't really observe any of the restrictions. I worked on Saturday and the holidays and I ate whatever I wanted and stuff like that. And then more or less overnight, I mean, very quickly my family and I, uh, stopped, we changed, uh, my clothing, uh, changed my availability, uh, for work and for different things, change my diet, you know, what I ate and what I didn't eat changed. Um, it created a very interesting dynamic at work, um, because uh, Judaism and Jews are not the majority religion, so you tend as that a minority group to tend, to keep an eye out for other people. So, you know, Jews tend to say, I have a sense of, you know, who else in the, in the group and the department in the company is or isn't. So, uh, so other coworkers who heard that I, you know, my family and I were becoming more Orthodox. Uh, we're waiting for the judgmental shoe to fall. Um, they were waiting for me to become like that ex smoker who suddenly has to, you know, complain about everyone else who's a smoker, like "Wait a minute, you know, Fred, you were, you were smoking with me last week", like, you know, but there they were waiting for that and, and I'm, I'm happy to say I don't believe that that happened. Uh, if, if you were one of my coworkers in the past, and I did do that to you, a, I apologize and be, we'd love to hear about it on the program. Um, uh, but you know, there was that, but, uh, this was another place I found where that religious synergy we talked about in the previous episode, um, came in handy. What I found was that people who were more, again, I'm going to use the word devout, but I mean more outwardly expressive of their religious observance tended to, uh, be less concerned. When I said, oh, it's, it's the sabbath. It's Shabbat. Oh, it's a holiday and I can't work that. They, they said, oh, that's wonderful. They didn't really go back and say, "but wait a minute, you know, last year, you x or y or z." Um, and what I find, because, you know, again, rolling it back into the it thing is that people who have changed groups, people who went from the network team to the sysadmin team, or from the DBA team to the monitoring team, I know that you had that, uh, where you're working now that somebody came from the DBA group and became part of the monitoring team, people who've made those transitions tend to carry with them less a tendency to stigmatize other people who came from outside. Right. At least I think that's, that's what I've seen.

Josh:                                      09:32                     Yeah. And I think that that is, that is truly on a, if you've made career changes in your life or in your career life, then you tend to be more empathetic. Um, so I was talking to someone the other day about an a my career path and how I got to where I was. And I remember, um, adamantly believing when I, when I was going to school, I want to be a network engineer. I love that very tactile, hey, plug a cable in, lights go, blinky light,

Leon:                                     10:05                     The blinky lights!

Josh:                                      10:06                     Oh yeah. Yeah. That's what I loved. I was super excited about it. And as my career progressed I realized that my true passion is not networking. It's actually data. Uh, and in spite of the fact that I'm a monitoring engineer, I love data. I love to tell stories with, with the words and numbers, I still can't quite do the visualization thing cause I'm not very artistic. But it's that pivot. And so when I see other people who are in roles and I look at them and I say, you know, you, you're in this thing, you know, you are a windows admin or you are a DBA. But I see, I see them expressing some unhappiness. Those people, I love to reach out to them and grab hold of them and say, what do you really love to do? Like what makes you whole? And when you listen to them and then you, you find a way to connect them to those opportunities that you're involved in or help build those skills, maybe some overlap. Ah, suddenly there was this like Hallelujah, whoa. They're like, oh, this joy and happiness

Leon:                                     11:13                     it's literally an epiphany that people see. And I think that having a religious sensibility of some kind, I think that the, the study of the texts and things like that and looking for deeper meanings, not just, you know, stop it. Not just taking what you learned in third grade Sunday school as like, oh well that's all there is to it. But looking at the text as an adult and saying what more is there, what facts were left out? Because I was in third grade and there were pieces of information I couldn't process. I think that that also lets us look at our it careers and say what is the deeper level of this? You know you are a, you know, just use it. Use a personal example. You said that you're in monitoring because you love the data. I'm in monitoring because I love the stories. I'm a storyteller by nature and so I love the story that monitoring tells it was this and then in the dark of night there was a flash of lightening and this thing happened and then there was this other thing happened. Like, I love the, the narrative that you can pull from the monitoring data that comes in and how it creates an entire picture of a sequence of events, which leads us to the same place, but from different directions or from a different place, which allows us to both look at the same information but derive vastly different, um, you know, meanings from it. Which again, I think as a wonderfully religious metaphor, but also a wonderfully it metaphor, but I don't... Go ahead.

Josh:                                      12:44                     I wanted to say if alerts came in with that sort of enthusiasm, I would pay way more attention.

Leon:                                     12:51                     Yeah right.

Josh:                                      12:52                     Yeah, we work on that. But, you know, maybe like voiceovers for, you know, Leon instead of like those robotic notifications that you get in the middle of the night. Right. You know,

Leon:                                     13:03                     I was stormy data center only a cable right out and, yeah. Yeah, exactly. A packet right now. That's it. Yeah. Um, so I think also though that, um, when we're talking about these transitions, talking about these religious transitions that we've gone through and what that means, at work. Um, I wonder about coworkers reactions, like, you know, when you have talked about it with your coworkers about this shift in, in your religious expression where they looking for their own private episode of like, "Breaking Mormon". Like, did they want to take you on a night on the town and like, you know, this is what scotch tastes like and this is what vodka tastes like. And like what, how did that go? What was that like?

Josh:                                      13:44                     Uh, so, uh, so far I have not had that experience. Um, uh, I did broach the topic with my manager at the time and I said, look, um, I was over to dinner at his house, um, happened to be in town, not working from home. And, um, he invited me over and his family and I sat down for dinner and afterwards, uh, he and his wife, uh, and I had a chat and I said, look, you're the first people outside of family that I've told this. And it was great to just share that experience with them. It was really positive. And I've, I've had lots of positive, um, input from my coworkers. You know, those who know that I've left also know that, um, you know, I don't swear. So it's not like Josh went from, you know, being, uh, in a clean Mormon, you know, vocabulary to making sailors blush over night. It just, it just didn't happen. It's been good. There are still a few people that I haven't yet broached it with. And one of my challenges of courses I've got, um, coworkers who are Mormon who are LDS and they don't know that I've transitioned away from Mormonism. And part of my ability to work with them I feel because hey, they tend to have some, some personalities that I struggle with, some personality traits that I struggle with. So part of the way that I've been able to connect with them is that shared experience of religion. And now I can't anymore. It's almost like I, I don't know, like, like I've shunned my vmware past, which I kind of have.

Leon:                                     15:10                     Right, right. But yet, right. And, and again, I think that, you know, if you were, if you were a dyed in the wool Linux person and then all of a sudden you're like a window sysadmin, uh, that could feel to some people like a betrayal. It could, it could definitely read like that.

Josh:                                      15:28                     I did say Linux observance is like religion. I get it. I understand it now. Right.

Leon:                                     15:31                     It really, you know, it feels, I mean, our technical choices are, I mean, we could talk about, you know, tabs versus spaces or things. I know.

Josh:                                      15:40                     No, that there's one episode we are, we are not melding religion in the tabs versus spaces. We will start a holy war, Leon.

Leon:                                     15:46                     I understand that. I understand that. Um, but there's only one true way to pronounce the word GIF I, I, this is a hill I'm willing to die on. Um, but I...

Josh:                                      15:57                     Feel free to leave us comments. I'd love to know a GIF versus JIF. I want to know.

Leon:                                     16:00                     Yeah, yeah. Uh, yeah. The the right way versus the wrong way. Exactly. So, um, yeah, but I think that that, yeah, the handling coworkers reactions to this information. I mean, you know, just to, to give you a couple of examples of the range of things that I've experienced, and again, I think there's IT analogs to these and the IT analogs helped prepare me for these. Um, I had one coworker when, uh, again, when, you know, we were Reform and then it became orthodox. I had one coworker who thought it was really cute to repeatedly, uh, engage me in discussions about, well, you know, can't you eat pork like this? You know, if I did this to it, would you then be able to eat it? But how about this? If you were on a desert island, would you be able to eat pork? Like it became this, this constant nagging itch for him to, to ask me about it. And he was relatively friendly. He wasn't out. He, it wasn't out in our baiting me, but it was, it was just a thing that he couldn't quite process for himself. Um, I also, I had a conversation with my manager at that time of my life and it was not a, at all the same experience you had. Um, I tried to rearrange my on call and, uh, he, he looked me flat and flat out and said, your religion is your problem, not mine. And just like shut it down. And that was when I learned that going to my coworkers, um, you know, especially some of my more religiously, outwardly expressive coworkers was really the thing that saved me because he said, no, no problem. We got you covered. Like, I thought I was going to have to move heaven and earth, forgive the pun, um, to make it happen. And they were like, no, no, this is awesome. What are you talking about?

Josh:                                      17:42                     No, I assume that those coworkers, they were not also Jewish, they were...

Leon:                                     17:46                     Correct

Josh:                                      17:47            a religious observance. Right? Yeah. So it wasn't, it wasn't that, you know, you had, uh, uh, same practicing, um, colleagues. You had people who just had a religious observance of their own. Right. Interesting.

Leon:                                     18:01                     Right. In fact, it was one, one gentleman was, uh, Mormon and one gentleman was Catholic and those were the two that, that really, you know, I hate to say stepped up, but they were the ones who just volunteered and made me feel very comfortable about making this work. And um, you know, they didn't really look askance at it at all. And that was sort of honestly, that was a saving point cause I wasn't sure how I was going to continue in that role if I couldn't make this work. You know, I couldn't sort of belligerently not be on call and let things crash for 24 hours and I didn't know how to manage it. Um, and what also struck me from the questions I got was how easy it is for people to take their religion and try and assume that that would be my frame of reference. For example, you know, well, but last week you had, you know, pepperoni pizza. So are you going to hell now? And I had to explain, well, that's not part of the Jewish framework. You know "What, pepperoni pizza" "no, hell isn't" "Well, well you, you have to have hell, everyone has hell" "No, actually." So again, they were, they were supportive, but they were also confused. And it ended up being some very interesting conversations that, you know, people can say, well that has no place in the workplace. But again, I think your experience, my experience is that it's part of who I am. Um, you know, and so it does. Um, and just to wrap this around to it again, you know, when you transition from the network team to the server team, you bring a wealth of experience and a wealth of perspective, but it can be, you know, a little prickly sometimes. "Oh, you were part of those active directory people who made my life miserable." Okay. Nice to meet you too, Bob. Yeah, well,

Josh:                                      19:57                     uh, and I, in our life, it's the sea, uh, the security people, um, you know, does don't hate me, but, uh, right. Uh, Hey, let's take your password and make it a ridiculously long, ridiculously complex and that you have to change it every 72 minutes. Yeah. I, you know, and I love that idea that we can change, um, and that we can, um, and uh, if we change and it enables others to change. Uh, so I'm five years in my current position, I've been an enterprise monitoring engineer. I love what I do and I'm now faced with this ask, do I change and take the skills and experiences of how does a monitoring engineer and do I pivot into another role, something that maybe isn't directly pure play IT, but takes all of the, the things that I know. And I think it's so important to understand that as we transition through our lives, whether it's our religious observance, our spiritual observance, uh, even our physical observance, I'm currently on a diet trying to, you know, transition to smaller Josh versus larger Josh, all of those things help us to be better at. I once heard a great analogy and it was a boat traveling down a road, uh, and coming to a fork. And sometimes you take the fork on the right and you get so far down that road and then you hit a dead end and you back up. And you try again going down the left fork, some people get really frustrated by having to backtrack and take that left fork. But the person who was sharing the story said that they were grateful for having traveled the fork on the right, even though it led to a dead end. And when asked why, they said, well, we, when we traveled the left fork, now we can, uh, assuredly walk that path with confidence because we know that the right fork doesn't lead to where we want to be.

Leon:                                     21:37                     That's, and again, very it thinking like, you know, Edison said, you know, I failed a thousand times, but now I know a thousand things that you know, don't work.

Josh:                                      21:47                     Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Leon:                                     21:48                     I just have to find the one that does or you find another, a one that does. Right. Um, and I think that that actually expresses an IT professional and IT engineers attitude. I mean, isn't what we do isn't one of the reasons why we are drawn to this IT life because we not only are able to, but we enjoy the eye, the act of open mindedly considering a radically new way of looking at something, whether it's ITIL or SOA or you know, devops or you know, whatever it is, like, you know, or agile programming versus the lone programer or whatever it is that we love looking at this new idea and saying, oh, that's, I've never considered that before. But you know, I, I can integrate this into my life. I can make this part of who I am and the way I do things, whether that's a religious, uh, level of religious observance or, you know, a level of IT, observance, if you want to call it that, that that's what makes us good engineers. The ones who can't adapt to that, I think are the ones who find themselves limited in certain roles or in certain jobs or, or areas. Right.

Josh:                                      22:59                     And I will say that my migration from, uh, being a predominantly windows engineer, um, through that transition of having to learn a little bit of Linux to do the VMWare thing in my life and now really starting to focus on Linux, it's been, it's been a somewhat transcendental experience. I will have to admit it. It is the closest thing to a religious, um, uh, a resurgence in my life that I've, that I've, that I think I felt, you know, I've, I've had lots of forced changes, but this one is, is by choice. And I've gone from kind of being afraid of the Linux world because, oh my goodness, command line, I remembered, DOS was great, but this feels different to really being excited about what I can and cannot do. Now that I've got this grow, I haven't left behind my Windows, my Windows world. I love it and I love my VMWare world. But all of those things had been a foundation for me to build who I am today as an engineer. And I think that that, uh, for our listeners is the, is the biggest value here. If you've transitioned from a religion A to religion B, or if you've modified your observance of your religion as you've matured, recognize that the exact same experiences will happen within our careers. We will go from being, uh, you know, that person who walks in day one has no clue what we're doing to 20 years later realizing that you still have no idea what you're doing, but you know a whole bunch more things that you have no idea what you're doing about.

Leon:                                     24:21                     You've come to be at peace with the act of not knowing date moment by moment what is going on.

Josh:                                      24:29                     Absolutely!

Leon:                                     24:29                     I love it. I wonder maybe this isn't as big a deal as, as we've made it out to be. I mean, we certainly spent an entire episode on it, but maybe it's not a big deal for us because we work in IT, you know, uh, you know, because that is a state of being, of going from not knowing, to knowing something about this and then realizing how little you know, and growing into it and transitioning from one type of role to another kind of role. So I'm going to put out to all of the listeners, um, all, you know, two of you, hi Mom. Uh, have you gone through a change either in your IT role or faith at work, you know, how did your coworkers handle it? How did you handle it, you know, how did that go for you? Let us know. Um, at at the end of the episode you're going to get our website and our social media is there and all that stuff and we really want to hear from you and let us know how that went for you. Um, and maybe we'll have you on the program and we'll get to talk about it.

Josh:                                      25:23                     That's exciting.

Leon:                                     25:24                     All right, so I think we've, I think we've hit it for today. Um, it's great to talk to you. Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh:                                      25:43                     In the mortal words of David Bowie. Don't tell them to grow up and out of it

Speaker 2:                           25:47                     (singing) ch-ch-ch-changes

Speaker 1:                           25:50                     Turn and face the strange.


S1E1 - Religious Synergy

S1E1 - Religious Synergy

March 5, 2019

A discussion of how the "challenges" presented as people with strong religious points of view working in I.T. can be supplemented by our teammates. 


Leon: [00:00:00] 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 I.T.. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as I.T. professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is technically religious.

Josh: [00:00:21] All right. Hey Leon how are you today?


Leon: [00:00:23] I'm doing good. It's happy not frozen Sunday. I know that a podcast is sort of timeless but we're talking about this during the winter and the polar vortex is not in my part of town. How about you?


Josh: [00:00:34] I feel like in Canada it is always cold during the winter. So my my wife says suck it up princess.


Leon: [00:00:46] Right. Exactly. It's like “this is why you moved to Cleveland.” I'm in Cleveland so yeah. Same thing. Yeah.


Josh: [00:00:53] If I was going to pick an island to live on I probably should not have picked one with snow, I probably should have picked one with palm trees. You know lessons learned.  You know looking back at the past is always it it allows us to hopefully make better choices. Which is interesting because making choices is where we're headed today on this podcast. At least that's where I want to head if you're willing to follow along.


Leon: [00:01:16] I'm always happy to follow you if nothing else to to watch and see what happens.


Josh: [00:01:21] That's what I love. I love to hear it. So in fact just this morning Leon I was I was reading the e-mail that I sent you before I interviewed with you and the rest of the team before you hired me.  And then abandoned me but we'll get into that story later.


Leon: [00:01:38] He's not bitter.


Josh: [00:01:38] I'm not bitter at all. It's all right.  And I realized how flippant my email was to you it was like "Hey Leon you know let me introduce myself here's who I am." And I knew you by reputation and I also knew that you were Jewish. But I have a little story to share with you. Once you hired me and once I finally met you although I knew that you were Jewish I was surprised by how Jewish you were. Does that sound weird or what?


Leon: [00:02:09] It it's it's an interesting phrase it's not one that I have not heard before. But yeah you know it's. "Oh you're very Jewish. You're really..." Yeah it's so yeah I'm for those people listening I'm Orthodox Jewish. So that's the most observant. I think that's the the probably clearest way to put it. And if you've never seen a picture of me I have a nice bushy beard and I have this funny little hat on the top of my head called I kippa or yarmulke, and I have little fringy strings hanging out of my pants and all sorts of things. It's all the things.


Josh: [00:02:44] Yeah. And I think that that's what struck me. You know my idea of Judaism was probably skewed to the polar ends. And so when I first met you I thought Wow. Leon is really Jewish.


Leon: [00:02:59] He's reallly... Wow.


Josh: [00:03:00] Yeah like it should have been something that I knew but I didn't know it. And. In the same vein in context I was born and raised a Mormon. And we'll get into that a little later so I'm used to people being a little surprised when they interact with you and they're like oh you're Mormon right.


Leon: [00:03:22] Yeah yeah. So I think that that one of the underlying ideas for this entire podcast is that we've all had that experience of "Oh oh you're really... you're REALLY this thing" like whatever this thing is like.  It's not just a word that you use or dance around like you really are into it. And how do we make our career in I.T. and our interactions. So from my side you know you had mentioned that you were Mormon and I had worked with other people who are Mormon so I had an idea but it really wasn't until we had struck up this friendship and then I abandoned you. But we can't we remained friends. Let's you know got to be in that light on that and yet and possibly you know you never know maybe because of you know it could have really that could've been what saved our friendship. So that we had a chance to dive into it and I think what I want to talk about is the first time that we realized that this relationship of you know you're you know being very Jewish and very Mormon could be synergistic not just interesting in the sense of oh we have you know we're we're co religionists we are both deeply devoted to a faith and we're working in I.T. and we can have lunch conversations not just that stuff but that it actually is symbiotic. So I think what happened. So again for those people listening I live in Cleveland. Josh lives in Canada and we were both working for a company that was in neither of those two places. So every once in a while we would travel down to the Home Office and of course to be in lots of meetings and lots of after meeting events. There'll be lots of parties and hey let's all go out and let's go whatever. And we found ourselves pretty quickly I think thrust into the middle of you know beer and wings and da da da. And you know, I keep kosher.


Josh: [00:05:20] And I don't drink.


Leon: [00:05:21] And for whatever reason possibly because we were both the two out of towners we ended up like glomming on to each other more than than usual I guess. And so we were driving there and I think in the car we had this conversation about. "Yeah it's... this is interesting isn't it?" Like what are you gonna do about it. And so we walked into the venue of whatever it was and we made it... First of all walking in was you know is this a punchline to a joke? A dude a Mormon walk into a bar right. And and we immediately announced to everybody. "Okay so here's the deal. He's gonna eat my chicken wings because they weren't kosher. I'm going to drink his beer, and he's driving home." And as we said it and as we joked about it I realized no really this is how it works. You know that my limitations in this case keeping kosher and making everybody feel very uncomfortable about all of my food habits just constantly is like is mitigated by the fact of you know, there's food and you know they'd hand us plates and I would simply hand him I didn't have to say no I didn't have to refuse it. I just handed Josh my plate. There we go. You know and they'd hand coupons you know beer coupons and Josh would hand me the beer coupon or whatever it was right.


Josh: [00:06:39] Yeah. And I think that that is a really powerful first. I think it speaks to your personality and all of water with all my own personality. And that we found some differences. We found some about Mormonism and Judaism although they are similar. Up until you know you get to the New Testament they're really different religions. Yeah I have you know I have some food restrictions or had some food restrictions as a Mormon. I had some beverage restrictions and so we both had to confront those things and we also had to learn how to not only be friends but also to cohabitate in the same technical space. And it worked so wonderfully. And that to me that's a real testament Leon of how things can and should work. You know so often we walk into a situation at work and we look for the way that we can stake out claim at work the way the way that we can differentiate ourselves and be extremely different. What you and I without even practicing it or having any concept of what we were doing we made synergy where there could have been opposition. You know I could have said well you know she's why doesn't that Leon guy like bacon I love bacon.


Leon: [00:08:01] Tom we're looking at you Tom. I've got one of my co-workers as loves but he does not he does not bacon shame me. But he there's definitely moments where you know there's like "well but how come. Can you?" "No, no I can't."


Josh: [00:08:17] I feel like with Tom that it's again one of those synergistic things because he doesn't view you as competition and getting to the bacon right.


Leon: [00:08:23] No that's true. Yes. He gets to eat my bacon. It's. Yeah. And I get to save his bacon so... It's interesting you mentioned Tom. So another one of those synergy moments and that's obviously the theme of this podcast is so Tom was at work and it was the end of the year and people were trying to figure out their their time off at work. You know there's a lot of overlap but you know you can't leave the office empty, bereft of staff. So there's a lot of chess-playing where people say "oh but I need this day", "Oh but I really need this day." But my kids are off." Well my kids are off too" "But I'm going out of town who's going to cover what. And one of our co-workers looked at Tom and was saying "Well all the rest of you folks are off. How come you're all able to take off and you're not worried about it?" And Tom looked and said, "Because we have Leon"  The other person was about to argue and then she went, "oh!" Because end of year my kids are still in school. My wife is still at work. I'm generally working. Like the end of year Christmas, New Year's is not really a thing in my house. So when people were saying I need this time off I was able to say "oh I'll cover it no problem." You know like I prefer it because I need to use those days at other times. So that's where again the the strength-weakness balance is you know this wonderful you know synergy between team members.


Josh: [00:09:57] So that's interesting thing early on that worked out really well for you and for your team. How do we how do we help other people to find that same synergy? Do you have any recommendations. Was it just something that happened naturally for you or else you have to work at it?


Leon: [00:10:14] Ok so as an Orthodox Jew there's you know there's certain things that are clear like I am you know I'm going to be working for everyone you know Christmas Easter you know those kinds of holidays they're not my holidays. So why would I take those? Even though they're company holidays why would I take those holidays off? That was sort of a no brainer. Of course there are the years that you know Christmas falls on Shabbat in which case now I'm off you know. Now that's that's a whole other thing. But as far as best practices I think that the first thing is to like we do a lot in I.T., stop framing things as is a weakness or a as a gap or whatever it is. Start to look at it as it as an opening as an opportunity. I mean I hate to say that, you know, "you think of it as an opportunity!" but think of it as a problem that you can solve creatively and you know in I.T. departments as a team. Talk about it. So just again as an example you know Shabbat is is a thing for me I'm completely off line from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. In the winter as sundown can hit at 4:30 in the afternoon. So that means that my Fridays are automatically cut short because as soon as sundown hits I can't touch anything with an on or off switch. And I do need to be at synagogue. So you know around 3 o'clock, 2:30 I'm already looking at the door I'm already like "I gotta get going here. So that means that on call is really a challenge. And for a long time I looked at it as this weakness like how am I supposed to maintain a career in I.T. if you know I can't do on call if I can't take the pager? Like what are my co-workers..? And finally I just... didn't break down emotionally, but I sort of broke down my pride and I said I said to the team. "All right what do I do about this?" And it was wonderful and it was heartwarming that the rest the team said "Are you kidding? All right! I'll take your Saturday will you take my Sunday?" "Sure I'll take two of your Sundays for every one... set like that." And all of a sudden the team was really willing to cut you... like "oh I only have to take a day?" The jobs I'm thinking of you carry the pager for one or even two weeks in a row. And people were more than willing to cover for a single day if it meant that I was going to cover one of their days in a tight spot elsewhere. So I think really the first and foremost is to have a conversation with the team. I think because I know in talking to long hear that don't talk... First of all don't talk to H.R. about it not saying H.R. is bad, but H.R. isn't going to help you at all. They don't have the tools to help you and don't even talk to your manager. Again. You don't have to leave your manager out, but the first place to stop is with your team and see if your team comes up because at that point most of the managers I've worked for and and most of the companies I've worked for. They actually don't care how it gets done as long as it gets done.


Josh: [00:13:14] Yeah absolutely. And I love that. I love that that worked out well for you.  I've been on teams where things haven't always worked out well especially when you go to the manager because their job is to just fix things and move on and they see they see religious observance interfering with the execution of a job as a nuisance not that they aren't religious themselves or that they don't have respect for your religious observation. They just, that's not on the critical path for them. And I love how this how this has worked out so well for you so many times when we walk into these situations with our teams we think we have to solve all the problems and you reached out to people that were on your team and said "hey help me solve this challenge in my career." And it turned out to be a wonderful thing that that to me it goes to the importance of having diversity on our teams. You know you're Jewish. I am Mormon. But it's beyond just you know a white Jewish guy and a white Mormon guy right.  If we add in visible minorities of any flavor I love I love having women on my team and right up until I was 18 years old I only had women for four managers. It was this odd thing that happened to work out and I think it changed the way that I approach people being on my team and how I interact with folks because I learned from women what the workplace was supposed to be like instead of having to learn that from men. So I think we should explore that in a future podcast episode where we we talk about team diversity and the value that it brings.


Leon: [00:14:55] Ok. I'm doing a Trello card for that right now.


Josh: [00:15:00] We are Trello dorks. We admit it. And though I know that you talk an awful lot Leon. And you will I understand that. That's OK. Have you got any final advice on on this podcast for our listeners about how to build that synergy.


Leon: [00:15:20] Again I think I think conversation really is the is the key. Like like we both said conversation with a team thinking of things as... Here's I guess here's another thing that it it very well may be your weakness. You know it very well may be a a flaw in some way. You know there's there's periods of time during the yearly cycle that you know I'm simply off line for almost a month at a time when you add it all up and that can really mess up the flow of projects, it can mess up the flow of work. But what it also means is it's an opportunity for other team members to show their strengths. It's a chance for other team members to to flex their muscles a little bit that you know and by the way most religious things aren't a shock or a surprise right. "Oh my gosh you mean Pentecost is coming again this year?!? Wow I didn't..." I'm pretty sure Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, they're all going to roll around. You know Ramadan is a great example of that. Ramadan comes around every year. You may not exactly know when unless you're clued into the Islamic calendar. But Ramadan is going to happen every year, and every year your Muslim coworkers are gonna have an entire month where they're not eating from sunrise to sundown. Please, please do not bake you know popcorn in the in the microwave in the office. So that that person has to sit there with this permeating smell and they know that they're not gonna be able to eat for another five hours or drink or anything like that's just you know... So you're absolutely right that. That these things are from the perspective of the of the religiously observant person sort of a challenge. But at the same time it's an opportunity for the rest of the team to show their strength, you know to be able to say actually we're going to cover your last hour at work so you can get home and be ready for sundown so that when, you know, at the end of the day during Ramadan you're right there with your family able to you know break the fast and eat.


Josh: [00:17:34] And that is so powerful when we serve other people, which in both of our religious observances is an extremely powerful thing right? Serving someone extends to them an indication that you respect them, that you love them, that you care for them, and not just care for them from a distance, but that you're willing to completely engage with them and say "hey listen I recognize what's important to you because I've listened, that your family and your faith are important, and I'm willing to sacrifice something in my life so that you can be successful with your faith and your family." That, to me, that's the definition of a of an amazing team. People who are willing to make those sacrifices for each other. It's not every man every man or woman for themselves. It is literally... I'm willing to I'm willing to fall on his sword to jump on the proverbial hand grenade.


Josh: [00:18:29] Wow. Right now OK that's a little extreme. Ok I'm going to reframe this in an I.T. context. OK you are much better at data analysis and database analytics than I am. OK? You just take a bath in data and you love that stuff. So why would I if I'm struggling with something why would I not say this is just not my thing. You know I'm not really good at it. I focus in this other area. Josh can you give me a hand and you, Josh, are like "Give you a hand? Are you joking? I love this stuff. Thank you for giving me the chance to do this!" So you know you know I've worked in offices where some people are like I hate rush hour. I just hate it. And I actually you know you just gave me a reason to stay at work until five thirty whatever I'm going to cover for Leon. This is like I'm giving back to Leon to cover for for him because he needs to get home. But at the same time I'm able to justify why I'm not going to fight and now my drive home is 15 minutes instead of 40 minutes because I missed all the traffic, and I feel good about myself and what I did. So it's not exactly falling on a grenade!


Josh: [00:19:42] Have you seen some of the data sets I've had to work with? Definitely  grenade.


Leon: [00:19:46] All right. Fair enough. Fair enough. (conversation fades out)


Leon: [00:19:49] Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious. Visit our web site:, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions, and connect us on social media.


Josh: [00:20:01] Until next time remember: I'll eat your wings...


Leon: [00:20:03] ...and I'll drink your beer.


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