Technically Religious

S1E35: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Chaim Weiss

December 10, 2019

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

Chaim: 01:15 Hi.

Leon: 01:16 Hey there. So thank you so much for joining on this particular episode of Technically Religious. Before we dive into things, I want to, uh, do a little bit of shameless self promotion. Chaim, tell us a little bit about who are you and where you work and where people can find you.

Chaim: 01:30 Yeah. Hi everybody. Hi, I'm Chaim Weiss. Here right now I am a front end angular developer working at Decision Link. We're doing some front end work. If you want to get a hold of me, I'm, I'm on LinkedIn. Get messaged me. Say hi.

Leon: 01:43 And how do you identify? Like are you Buddhist? Are you Hindu? Like what's your religious point of view?

Chaim: 01:48 Yes. Oh yes. And I am a, I consider myself an Orthodox Jew.

Leon: 01:52 There we go. Okay. Boring because I am too. Can we get some variety here? That's all right. But at least birds of a feather. And I should do, I should do the same intros. Uh, my name is Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes, that's actually my job title and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's all geek. Uh, you can find me on Twitter @LeonAdato. Uh, you can also hear my musings and ponderings that I write about, uh, on the website AdatoSystems.com. As I said, I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you're a scribbling madly trying to write down all those websites, don't bother, just sit back, relax, enjoy the conversation that's about to occur because, uh, we'll have some show notes and all the links to everything we've talked about is going to be in there so you can just relax and leave the driving to us. So I want to start off with the technical side of things. Um, tell me a little bit more about what kind of work you're doing today in technology.

Chaim: 02:48 So right now today I'm doing some front end work building a website. We have this app, awesome app, and it's actually kind of a startup really started doing really well, but they need a website, everyone needs a website. Everyone needs an app. We're doing the front end work. I'm in the JavaScript world of programming. It's programming. Programming is awesome. There's front, then there's backend, done it all. It's all awesome. I recommend it to everybody, I think. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do it.

Leon: 03:14 Right. Everyone should be a programmer. Everybody. You! You're a plumber. You should still be a programmer. Yeah. Yeah. And did you start out as a programmer when you first thought about a career or you know, you just start someplace else?

Chaim: 03:29 Actually, I'm funny you ask, I started, I started my career. I started teaching. I was here in local and Cleveland. I was teaching in one of the, one of the religious institutions in the Beachwood Kollel. I was there for a number of years and throughout those years I knew nothing of tech. Everyone said, "You needed something in tech? Don't, don't ask. Chaim. Oh, he doesn't know what he's doing." Uh, last time, how often was I on a computer? Almost never. Microsoft word. Maybe. I knew nothing of nothing. I, I w I mean, I was, I was, had a great time. I was doing my teaching all my teaching I wanted to do, but had very little attack. Very little. No computers. I wasn't um. I had a flip phone, a flip phone! Nothing. Imagine I didn't even have an email address, can you imagine?

Leon: 04:22 Ya. Luddite!

Chaim: 04:24 Yeah. Yes. I had nothing but after a few years, there was an amazing, incredible course that I took. It was of course, the, the amazing Head Geek of SolarWinds, the, the handsome, famous Leon Adato decided he was going to open up a computer course and say, "Hey, I know you guys." It was a few friends of mine. He said, "I know you guys know nothing about computers, but it's easy. It's not hard. You just need a little direction. "So he sat with us for quite a few weeks and taught us the ropes. And slowly but surely we were like, "Yeah, this is easy and big sense. Oh this, Oh, of course. And this is more than easy. This is fun. This is exciting." As we went on, as the weeks went on, we got more and more learned more and more until eventually I got, um, basically an internship out here in Cleveland and, uh, another fantastic place at FireCoding also here in Cleveland. Great place. He was mentoring and teaching. He had awesome clients. So I really learned to work ropes, real world programs and there are a lot of great programming and, and it really took off and I'm super happy. I did. Uh, I really enjoy what I do and I have fun doing it.

Leon: 05:34 Nice. And thank you for the kind words. I appreciate. I'm, I'm, I'm over here blushing.

Chaim: 05:38 I, I'm, I'm totally serious. It was fantastic. It was really great.

Leon: 05:42 Yeah, well it was a, it was a really unique group of, of guys and that's the topic of a completely different podcast episode. I'll, I'll, what we need to do is get everybody back on and talk about those days. But, um, everybody worked really, really hard and they had, um, some really good brain power behind them because that's the only thing that that was gonna... That was the only thing that was going to get you from, from there to here. So you, you started off, like you said, with nothing much more than a flip phone, not even an email address. And now you're programming front end, back end, angular, javascript, .net. You know, the whole, the whole stack.

Chaim: 06:20 The works!

Leon: 06:20 That's, you know, that's fantastic. Um, so I wanna take the same set of questions and turn it around and talk about religion. Starting off with where you are now. Labels are hard and a lot of times when you ask somebody, "So, so what are you?" You know, somebody says, you know, "I'm, I'm Hindu or I'm Muslim" or whatever. It's like, well, what does that mean? Like what kind are you? And that's where a lot of the, "Well, I do this, but I don't do that. But there's this, but there's that." It's, it's more nuanced than a single title or label. So tell everyone a little bit about what Orthodox Judaism means for you. Like how, how that comes out for you.

Chaim: 07:02 Yeah. So Orthodox Judaism, it's, it's, I've been doing it forever and before I was born.

Leon: 07:09 (laughs) Infinitely I've been infinitely doing it?

Chaim: 07:12 Yes. Yes. I, I, yeah, I was born doing it. I grew up doing it, went to school, doing it. For the first part. I, I don't, I don't even know of anything else until, until I got to see the other big part of the world. I thought that's all there was. Um, I, I went to school that was religious. I went to high school, Orthodox, religious, and that's what I'm doing. Everything was doing, it was just all about the rules, the laws, and following it all. So as I went on, um, I learned more. I, "Hey, there's, there's more to the world". And it was in the beginning as I was going out into the world, seeing things from other people's perspective, I have to understand, Hey, I know I'm Orthodox. They're not, they don't understand what I'm doing. They don't understand my customs. They don't even, they don't even, they even think they think I'm, I'm Amish.

Leon: 08:00 This is a common, it's a common mistake.

Chaim: 08:06 Yeah. Well it's really happened.

Leon: 08:08 So that's an interesting point that your religious experience has been fairly consistent from, from birth forward. But I'm curious even within that, you know, did you find yourself, you know, when we grew up in our parents house, we take on their level of observance regardless of whether we were talking about, again, Islam or Judaism or Christianity or whatever, you know, our parents' houses, our parents' house, and that's what happens. But when you go out on your own, did you find that there was your own particular spin? Maybe, you know, you were doing some things more strictly or less strictly or not even on a spectrum of, of more or less, but just different. Did you find that that changed as you grew, as you started a family, those kinds of things?

Chaim: 08:50 Um, interesting question because really, um, in religion, in, in anything specifically religious for anything that means something, you have to make it your own. Um, so if you, you want to be genuine, you want to be genuine. If you're just doing somethings out of rote because you always did it, it's not going to have as much meaning yet. You have to understand things and you ha you have to, you have to understand thing and do, do it for what you want. Right. So that'll automatically, sometimes you'll be different. On the other hand, I'll always understand that things are just out for me. People that are older, you are smarter than you. They know better. So yeah, no you don't. We don't just say, "I'm, I'm, I'm going to start this myself." But yes, I try everything. I go out of my way to try and do things different to, to understand, yeah. I go out of my way now that I was on my own. And married, had a family. Yeah. I'm doing things like... I don't want to do things just like before. I want to do it my own because I want to understand, I want it to be real. I want it to be genuine.

Leon: 09:48 So we talked about the technical, we talked about the religious and I'm curious about now you've, you've been in tech for how long now?

Chaim: 09:57 Close to three years.

Leon: 09:58 Three years. Okay. So fairly early in your career, you know, um, we have some people on here, uh, on the podcast who've been doing it for you know, decades. Um, you know, some, uh, you know, moving on in some cases to half a century, um, in time. So, which is, you know, kind of mind boggling, but those people are around. So even this early in your career, has there been any situation that you found with the overlap between your, you know, religious life, which is a strongly held point of view. It's not just a nice to have, it's off on the side. It's sort of central to your life. So has there been a point where that created a conflict or a challenge or a hurdle that you had to get past to make it mesh with your technical career?

Chaim: 10:45 Yeah, definitely. Until, until my career until three years ago. Right. Everything I did, I was teaching that was religious. When I jumped into, into the tech world. So that's, they care about deadlines. They don't care about religious.

Leon: 10:58 (laughs) That IS the religion. The religion is "get it done"

Chaim: 11:02 Yeah, exactly. So yeah, th th there were definitely things... There are definitely conflicts. And besides the conflicts, the people who are working with, they didn't even know about my conflicts. They said, "well, of course we're working late into the night Friday. Why wouldn't you?" They just don't understand. Now I know, Hey, I'm really just like, I can't work late late Friday, Friday and Friday night. We have, the sabbath, we can't... We can't do that. There's your conflict. But what I did notice, at least in up until now in my short career, people are great. Um, so for, in my situations, everyone's totally understanding. Everyone's, everyone's out to be, to be nice. I mean, you don't walk over anybody. You say, "Hey, I'd love to work it out. I have to make sacrifices. I'm going to work Saturday night to finish what I need to do for Friday." And everyone's okay with that. They're just, people just don't know. People love to hear. People love to listen to. People love to learn. They say, "Oh, you're Jewish. Oh, what does that mean? What does that mean to you? What do you have to do? What are the rules? Oh, you can't work Friday, Friday night. Oh wow. Really? The whole day, like, like no cheating. Oh my."

Leon: 12:06 (laughs) I love it. No cheating. Yeah. My other favorite was "Every week?". Yeah. Sabbath comes every week. It's amazing like that.

Chaim: 12:14 But, but people are accommodating. It's super nice how people who are, who don't share my views, don't, don't observe what I observed there. They're out there. Ultimately, you just ha if you're out, if you're open, everyone can get along. Everyone can be accommodating. You just have to be open and be clear and be straight, and then it's just, it's really great to have people work together.

Leon: 12:35 That's wonderful. Okay, so that was, those were some of the challenges and how you, how you overcame them. I'm curious if they were any... That almost sounds like this, the second part of the question, which is, you know, were there any unexpected benefits or surprises where your religion actually ended up being a, a benefit that you didn't expect it to be? I think sometimes when we come into the technical workplace we think that our religious life and you know those restrictions are always going to be negatives, are going to be challenges or hurdles that we have to get over. But every once in a while there's something that just pops up and it's like, "Oh wow, this is like, this is like a secret super power. This is, this is a skill I didn't expect was going to be usable or leverageable in the workplace." I was curious if you've had anything like that.

Chaim: 13:19 Um, so actually well there's the obvious one that since I do, I do religious holidays, so non religious holidays, I'm free to work on. Awesome. Beside for that and the Beachwood, Kollel, one of the things we did was we constantly, we were constantly learning, constantly studying, analyzing, going back and forth. The, the fighting, the, the figuring out to getting to the, uh, to the bottom of things that totally... That. Well, at least programming and I'm sure he played an all tech. Basically it's analyzing problems, coming up with solutions, figuring things out that that's what it is. And I knew that I could do that. That was great. Oh yeah. Figure out this problem. It's super exciting. I could do that. There was, it was totally fun and I, I've done this before, so that was pretty cool.

Speaker 2: 14:03 yeah, you've, you've never done, you've never done this before, but you've done this before.

Chaim: 14:06 Exactly

Leon: 14:07 That's, that's the, it's a wonderful discovery when you realize that this, this whole set of skills that you'd honed for a completely different reason are applicable in this different context. That's wonderful. Do you have any final thoughts? Anything that you want to leave everybody who's listening, you know, with a little nugget of wisdom or just your experience or anything like that?

Chaim: 14:28 The only thing I'd like to say is that I know I could tell you 15 years ago I did not think of, I did not think I would be here today. The world of tech was, was out of my horizons. I do not think it was possible to me. I was in a totally different world, but here I am. Really? You can do anything. It's but specifically the tech is. It's, it's there. It's out there for the taking and go for it.

Leon: 14:48 Wonderful. All right. Hi, I'm thank you so much for joining me.

Chaim: 14:52 Thank you so much for having me.

Josh: 14:54 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, TechnicallyReligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.