Technically Religious
S02E04: Home (in)Security

S02E04: Home (in)Security

January 28, 2020

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


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

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

Destiny: 01:22 Hello.

Leon: 01:24 Keith Townsend.

Keith: 01:26 Hey!

Leon: 01:26 And Al Rasheed.

Al: 01:27 Hello.

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

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

Leon: 01:54 Keith, how about you?

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

Leon: 02:09 Al.

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 03:52 At home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 29:07 OpenDNS?

Keith: 29:07 Yes! OpenDNS...

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

Destiny: 29:13 of course it is.

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

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

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

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


S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

S2E03: Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Ari Adler

January 21, 2020

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

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

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

Ari:                                         01:11                     Hi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

S2E2: Raise Your Glass, part 2

January 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug:                                    04:54                     All right.

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

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

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

Doug:                                    07:03                     participation award!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug:                                    16:49                     It's true,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     21:20                     right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     26:17                     Okay. Context,

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

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

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

Josh:                                      30:06                     Call me, not surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


S2E1: Raise Your Glass

S2E1: Raise Your Glass

January 7, 2020

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

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

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

Doug: 01:01 Hello,

Leon: 01:02 and Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:04 Hello.

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

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

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

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

Leon: 01:33 Great. Josh?

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

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

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

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

Doug: 02:37 Start with the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 05:21 What a visceral example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 08:57 Been there, done that.

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

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

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

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

Josh: 10:26 I am nodding emphatically.

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

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

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

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

Josh: 12:05 You guys are old!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug: 19:43 You're done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon: 25:01 Yes, exactly.

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

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

Josh: 28:00 I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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