Technically Religious
S1E37: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party, Part 2

S1E37: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party, Part 2

December 24, 2019

The dreaded office holiday party: For many of us, for MANY reasons, this is a situation fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go. To eat or not to eat. To discuss or not to discuss our religious/holiday/personal lives and plans. As IT folks with a strong religious/moral/ethical POV, navigating this ONE (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode we’ll unpack the what and why, and - like the IT pros we are, offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. Listen or read the transcript below.

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

Leon: 00:24 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Josh: 00:31 So up until a few years ago, I was one of those people where if you said "happy holidays" to me, I would say "Merry Christmas" back because you know, it's Christmas time and you got to put the Christ in Christmas, right?

Leon: 00:45 Sure.

Josh: 00:46 And my wife and I were talking about this just the other day yesterday, I think. And we have decided that regardless of what holiday someone wishes us, our response is going to be, "Thank you. You too." I mean, Holy crap, right? It's like mind blowing.

Yechiel: 01:08 Radical.

Leon: 01:10 What a crazy idea. Just saying thank you.

Josh: 01:15 Ah, and she, she said, "Oh, I posted this to Facebook that I'm going to do this." And she's like, "I wonder how many people are going to be offended?" And I thought, Who in the world's going to be offended by saying thank you?You too.

Leon: 01:27 Okay. And, and the answer is?

Yechiel: 01:29 Well, it's is Facebook, so...

Josh: 01:30 Right. Everybody.

Leon: 01:34 I was going to say, how many hundreds of, of responses about "this is part of the war on Christmas!!" Have you gotten so far?

New Speaker: 01:40 Um, I don't know. I don't go on Facebook, so I have no idea. Uh, I don't, I don't have an account anymore. Um, so I don't know. I get it right. I, I'm with Doug. Um, if, if you, if for you, Christmas is about the birth of the savior. Um, I mean, pro-tip: Jesus was born where there were shepherds who had their flock in the fields. It was not December, just saying. Um, anyway, so if, if that's the time of year in which you get aligned to your faith in Christ, go for it. But don't rob other people of the reason that they like to celebrate. For me and for people that I like to associate with Christmas is a time where we get together with friends and family, where we bring, you know, we, we bring in this idea of being, uh, increasingly generous with, um, those around us where we're reminded that we need to be generous. So it's, for me, it's not really this dueling religion thing at Christmas or, you know, whatever holidays happen to fall around this time of year. It's, Hey, you know, there's this spirit of generosity and camraderie. Let's just get together and hang out. Um, and we don't have to call it a Christmas party. Uh, yeah. All Christmas party planners, you know, corporate offices need to probably hear that message. It doesn't need to be a Christmas party. It can just be a party,

Leon: 03:10 ...a party, right a part... End of year party and stuff like that. But w'ell, again, we're, we're gonna, we're gonna offer some, some insights based on this. Um, so as a non Christian, I think one of the challenges about this time of year also again - that comparative, uh, religion conversation in the worst possible setting ever - is the, the need of some folks to say, "But, but your holiday is just the same as ours!" Like to find equivalence where there isn't necessarily equivalence. Um, you know, Hanukkah isn't, you know, the Jewish Christmas, there's no such thing as a Hanukkah Bush. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah Charlie. That... And it doesn't need to exist. You know, it, it goes into, um, this homogenization of, "Well, everyone can celebrate Christmas in their heart." There's... No, no, there doesn't, no, we don't need to do that. I don't need to be included because that becomes a, unfortunately for me... And I apologize, I'm gonna get a little bit prickly here. It becomes a little threatening for me because that leads, you know, that dovetails into being proselytized to or at, in a very uncomfortable situation. Again, we're talking about an office party and to have a coworker or a boss suddenly raising this, you know, "But, but everyone believes in Jesus." No, everyone doesn't. And, and insisting that I do puts me in a very difficult position where, you know, my desire to be authentic as a Jew and my desire to be employed as a human are suddenly possibly in conflict.

Josh: 05:05 I mean, I, I, uh, I don't know, maybe I'm a bit of a crap disturber but I would definitely recommend brushing up on, um, what historians are now calling the authentic Jesus. Um, and he was a real crap disturber so I mean, you could be like, "Oh yeah, let's talk about Jesus. Let's talk about how he did this and this and..." You know, you know, kicked over these tables and you know, made a mockery of, Oh wait, no, let's not talk about that because that's not really, yeah,

Yechiel: 05:34 Something tells me that wouldn't go towards making the party more of a festive occasion.

Josh: 05:40 I think it would make it very festive, actually.

Leon: 05:42 I was going to say... "festive" in a very completely different way. Yeah.

Josh: 05:47 Josh is never being invited to a party ever again. Right.

Leon: 05:52 There's also an, and unfortunately this has happened to me, this desire again, this does that, you know, "everyone, everyone likes Christmas. Even in their heart, even if they don't know it" there's this insistence of, you know, you just, you just haven't tried it. You haven't tried the right one yet or whatever. And you know, "come take a look at this beautiful Christmas tree. Wouldn't you love to have a Christmas tree? Like this isn't this great?" You know, and right behind it is this wall full of crucifixes and then they take a picture and all of a sudden it becomes a picture of the Orthodox Jew. You looking up at an admiring, you know, a Christmas tree and a wall of crucifixes and it becomes this, you know, 'caption this photo contest'. You know, I'm not interested in being in your picture like that.

Josh: 06:34 "Leon wonders why people put pine trees in their houses." That's, that would be my caption.

Leon: 06:40 You know, it can get really prickly. It can, it can, you know, people, again, people get caught up in the holiday and in their love of the holiday, their enjoyment of holiday. When you discover spin class, which Joshua and I have said, you know, CrossFit is a cult,

Josh: 06:54 It is.

Leon: 06:54 know, and but the desire to have everyone else involved in CrossFit or you know, veganism or whatever it is, like you love it so much, you need other people to love it. Just as much.

Josh: 07:09 I will have, I will say, and maybe this is completely counter to what we've been talking about, but I have received a Christmas card from a Muslim friend this year already. Very first one I received. Um, and I have neighbors that are Muslim and they will without fail bring us a Christmas gift. We even have, we have a, uh, some Muslim friends, um, who were neighbors that are now friends cause they've moved a few blocks away, but they will make the Trek over to our house every year to bring us. Um, uh, and I authentic. Um, I, I believe they're from uh, Iran. So they will bring us an authentic Iranian festive dish to share at Christmas because they know that it's important to us. I, I don't know how to take that whole corporate thing though and make it like human beings act so good to one. Another one on one is when we get into these large groups that suddenly things get real awkward. Right?

Yechiel: 08:14 Actually that's, that's an interesting point that I think like that people don't understand that the so called war on Christmas, um, like Jews, Muslims, we don't care that Christians celebrate Christmas, you know, good for you. Uh, it's fun. It looks nice and everything. Just don't make it the default and assume that everyone celebrates Christmas. Don't tell. Like when you tell me Merry Christmas, I'm not going to get offended. Of course, I know you mean well, but that's not my holiday. That's not what I celebrate. But on the other hand, I don't mind wishing you a Merry Christmas if I know you celebrate it and I don't mind sending you a Christmas card.

Leon: 08:49 The example that's used a lot and I like it is, is the concept of happy birthday. That if you know, if it's birthday, we all show up. We tell Josh happy birthday, but we don't feel the need for everybody to say happy birthday to everybody else. It's not everyone else's birthday. So you know, it's your holiday. So Merry Christmas. Absolutely. You have a great time on your birthday, on your holiday. Um, but don'tto Yechiel's point. Don't insist that everybody celebrate, you know, their birthday on your birthday because that's not how things work.

Josh: 09:23 I think after this episode we're going to have to start a business where we hire ourselves out as event planners for corporations that want to be both unoffensive or I mean reasonably unoff.... Nevermind. It would never work.

Yechiel: 09:40 It's still 2019, you know.

Leon: 09:43 Okay. So something that we hit on earlier that I just... Is interesting to me is again, trying to be unoffensive. One technique that especially HR departments try to do is again, to create this false reciprocality of things. So, you know, "We're going to put up, you know, trees, they're holiday trees, they're holiday wreaths, they're holiday baubles, you know, hanging from the ceiling and everything. But in order to be inclusive, we're also going to put a menorah next to the tree. I am here to tell you that at no time is a menorah next to a Christmas tree, an image that makes any sense to anybody except perhaps the people working in HR. It's not a thing. It does not make me feel more included. You know, again, Hanukkah was three weeks ago. Chad don't need to have them menorah there. You're not, you know, it's, it's your holiday. And, and I've actually gotten into conversations with HR, not in my current job. It was a while ago when I was a little bit more loud mouth about things and perhaps had less impulse control. You know, they... right! Less than I have now. I know it's a shock. And I actually got into it with the folks in HR and they said, but they're not Christmas decorations, they're holiday decorations. This is, there is no holiday that I celebrated anytime of the year that has decorations like this. Please, you know, let's be intellectually honest about this.

Josh: 11:09 Even an authentic question. What would be your preference? So my heritage or my beliefs trend toward Christianity. Um, would you prefer for Christmas to just be, "Hey, like this work going to have Christmas stuff?" Um, but then how do, how do we handle it on the other side? Like, do we need to have a celebration for every holiday? Because I have noticed some companies doing that, right? They will, um, celebrate, you know, Diwali, they will celebrate, um, you know, Hanukkah, they will celebrate, uh, Kwanzaa. They will, they will have every single holiday represented. Is that the right route to go

Leon: 11:57 To have an ofrenda for Dia de Los Muertos? Like yeah, I mean, so again, we're going to have, you know, we're going to have a section where we try to solve this, but I think that that what you're getting at is there seems to be, I'm not saying there is, but there seems to be two options. Do nothing or do everything. And I think there's some other options there. But my preference, and this is my personal preference, this is independent of a religious outlook or whatever, is that if the company feels it's important to make a display around the December time frame, great. You're talking about Christmas, go do it,

Josh: 12:38 I like that.

Leon: 12:38 Don't, don't pretend. That that would be my thing. And I am very much from a Jewish standpoint, I am very much a please include me out. Like I am actually more comfortable, personally, not having a company that isn't intrinsically a, a Jewish knowledgeable, uh, group of folks try to put something together, which is always back to the food conversation. You're going to work really, really hard trying to buy kosher food and you're not going to do it. And I'm going to tell you you missed and you're going to be offended because you tried so hard and I'm just ungrateful. So in the same way, like you're going to try really, really hard to decorate for my holiday and something is going to not match up somewhere you're going to. "But, but they were Hanukkah tree decorations. Doesn't that work?" You know, like no, that the tree was the problem, you know, and someone's going to feel frustrated that they had put this effort and I'm still being ungrateful.

Josh: 13:36 I think if we were to look at this from the reciprocal, right. And so last week, Leon, we talked about your trip to Israel. Um, if, if we weren't in North America, if we were in Israel, would I, should I make the choice, um, to be offended by Jewish celebrations or celebrations of my Muslim coworkers because Christianity is not the predominant religion, right? Like, I, I, I think I, I think we need to think about things in that way, stops, you know, I need to stop saying, well, you know, because Christianity is the predominant religion in North America, blah, blah, blah, and say, well, what if it wasn't, how would I want to be treated? And then just act like that. I mean, there I go, trying to solve a thing. I know.

Leon: 14:30 Okay. And it sounds like we're in the problem solving section, which is, which is great. And I think it's, it's about time, but actually I haven't lived in Israel enough during the holidays to even know what offices look like during any of the normative Jewish holidays Yechiel, I don't know if you have any experience with that.

Yechiel: 14:48 Following Ben Greenberg's Twitter account. Um, it seems companies will have a Hanukkah party. Um, I don't think they have Christmas parties. They probably have a new year's party cause that's just universal. I mean, obviously everyone celebrates Hanukkah in Israel or at least the 80% of the country that's Jewish. So yeah, I would say Hanukkah and Israel is sort of like Christmas in America where it's just everywhere.

Leon: 15:08 It's just a different times, different times of the calendar.

Yechiel: 15:12 in terms of how pervasive it is.

Leon: 15:14 All right. So Josh, I want to circle back to the question you asked before. You know what, now we're speaking directly to the company, what, you know, what are the correct options, what can we do to fix this? And again, we said there's the do nothing, which I think is an option. Right? You know, we're talking about the dreaded office holiday party, so we can say don't have them.

Yechiel: 15:33 I'm definitely on that team. I mean, but that's due to not just a religious reason. Just you know, all the reasons you mentioned like also at the beginning of this stage, like I don't know, I feel like they're more trouble than they're worth. I mean before I got into programming, I worked at a Jewish company in Williamsburg and they didn't have a holiday party. Instead they gave a present around the, they would give everyone a pretty nice, decent, decently priced present around the holiday time. In addition, they also give like a holiday bonus around Passover and Sukkot, which was totally not tied to your performance bonus, which was a completely different thing. Like everyone would get, it was small. I think it was like $250 maybe, but it was just a nice extra, something special. I just think employees would be happier if instead of spending all that money on a party that no one wants to go to anyway, it would find some more creative way to use that money. But yeah, we're not talking about our work. Let's talk to companies who are having a party.

Leon: 16:28 Well. Okay, but again, not doing it and you've just offered some alternatives of, okay, so if we're not doing that, like what, what are we doing? Do we just say it's a regular set of work days and you know, tough luck because that feels, to use a Christian concept, it feels free. Scrooge ish. 'Bah humbug.' You know, so, but you just said you recognize...

Yechiel: 16:48 Well, correct me if I'm wrong, most holiday parties aren't on Christmas, are they? I mean, at least not on the companies. I've been to.

Leon: 16:54 Correct. No, no, no. They're there. Usually the lead up to...

Yechiel: 16:57 I mean, Christmas is a day off and new year's is they off. And sometimes the week in between is also off. So it's not like a regular work to, anyway.

Josh: 17:03 So I'm completely on board with you heal on this one. I think that companies should really ask themselves, "Do we need to hold a a holiday party or Christmas party?" So I, you know, I work for new Relic. New Relic is a global company. I have colleagues that are in Europe and you know, me and Canada. Colleagues stretched across the United States. How do you get people together when a significant portion of your workforce works remote from their home offices? I mean, I can have a party, but it's going to be a party of one.

Leon: 17:41 Oh, right. which may be the best party of all.

New Speaker: 17:44 Right? So instead, um, I like the of saying to, um, to your employees, like "look in lieu of a party because it just doesn't work logistically, here's what we're going to do. We're going to give you some money you can do with it. What, what ever you want. If you want to use it to, you know, um, augment your, your own earnings, great. If you want to go out and donate it to charity, great. If you want to shred it, you, you do whatever you want with it." I mean, that allows people who want to amplify their, you know, their Christmas celebrations to do that or if they time it, right, their Hanukkah celebrations or their no celebrations at all.

Leon: 18:33 Right. Okay. I'm just going to go in and I'm going to, I'm going to strongly correct you in this one. If you as a company decide, you know, if you as an individual who's received cash, your immediate urge is to shred that money. Please consider sponsoring an episode of Technically Religious. We will... Just send it to us. We will dispose of that money for you appropriately.

Yechiel: 18:57 Alternatively, you can just sign it to me. I have a professional shredding service on the side. It'll be shredded completely. Nothing will be left within a few minutes.

Leon: 19:05 How many kids do you have?

Yechiel: 19:07 Five.

Leon: 19:08 Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So that is, that is effectively shredding your money. Yeah. Right. It's, you know, diapers and tuition. Yeah. The whole thing. It's, it's gone. It doesn't, don't worry about how it got gone. Okay. Sorry, I just need to jump in. Like shredding money. No. Sponsoring Technically Religious. Absolutely. Or sent it to Yechiel and you know, you can find his information in the show notes.

Josh: 19:28 Did you just equate giving, uh, giving us money to sponsor an episode with shredding your money?

New Speaker: 19:34 No, I'm saying it's a BETTER option.

New Speaker: 19:36 Oh, okay. I just wanted to make sure that you weren't insinuating the sponsoring an episode of Technically Religious was as worthless as, shredding your money.

Leon: 19:44 No, not, I would never say something like that! Um, also as we were preparing for the episode, um, we also talked about again, part of the challenge with the holiday party is all the emotions and all the um, sort of expectations that come with it. And those are layered on top of the emotions and expectations that we have at this holiday time of year overall. And I think that someone brought up the idea of not having... Having a party just don't have it now have it, you know, at another time of year you can have a, you know, I'm not a big fan of Christmas in July, but having a summer kickoff holiday party, a pre-vacation pre, you know, to use the European term pre-holiday holiday party might be an interesting idea. Or you could do it at the company's fiscal end of year. If it doesn't match up with the calendar end of year. You could do that. So I think it would make the accounting department even more excited that their, that the, the rhythm that they hold to is something the company now acknowledging in a meaningful way.

Josh: 20:49 I had friends that would celebrate the summer solstice and the winter solstice. Now granted the winter solstice happens to fall very close to, you know, the Christian Christmas. Uh, but you know, Hey, celebrate with them both. That's two parties, right?

Leon: 21:09 Right at the, at both of them. And you can do the standing the egg up and you can do all those different things. Um, right. That would be, yeah, that's it. It's as meaningful or as exciting as some of the holiday traditions that we've developed over the last 50 years in America as well. So any other solutions that we have to offer organizations or HR departments that are trying to figure out this problem called the office holiday party.

Yechiel: 21:34 So I would say assuming the holiday party is not going away, I think the one single thing that can go the furthest towards making parties feel more inclusive to everyone is cutting out the alcohol and not just for Muslims or people or Mormons or people who won't drink alcohol for religious reasons. I think just like so many of the problems that can come up at parties are either caused or exasperated by the presence of alcohol and people having a little bit too much. I think just that one little step can just go to a huge way towards making so many people feel much more comfortable.

Leon: 22:12 Right. About attending at all. But yeah, absolutely.

Josh: 22:15 Yeah. That, uh, T to that point, we're not just, it's not just a religious thing. You've got recovering alcoholics who maybe don't want to out themselves as recovering alcoholics at this holiday party, to all of their coworkers who maybe aren't friends, they're just coworkers. Um, you've got people who maybe have lost someone to drunk driving or have a spouse who's an alcholic. It's just the, the things that you on, um, that you uncap by having a, and again, this is a mandatory attendance right? There's, you must attend this holiday party cause you're part of the team, right? Josh, you like you're, you're going to show up and then we're also going to make this a alcohol-laden event. It just really problematic. Uh, you know, back when I didn't drink, I would attend events and then would always leave early. Always leave early because I was just like, okay, everyone's had enough alcohol that they're not going to remember that we left. And then you just leave and then just, it becomes a, an abbreviated evening for you. You know, you don't get to enjoy. I'm one of those people who I will go to a party. Yes, they are. I am an introvert. Mostly. They are rather exhausting for me. But I will go because I do enjoy getting out of the house every so often. Um, and just, yeah, I, I'm, I'm with you Yechiel. I, let's, let's either really curtail the alcohol or just not serve it at all.

Leon: 23:50 Yeah. I'm, I'm a big fan of don't serve it at all. Just don't, okay. Any final words before we wrap up?

Josh: 23:57 Um, did Adam Sandler's a song, um, about the Hanukkah song, uh, offensive, offensive or not?

Leon: 24:06 I, it is not part of my, uh, Hanukkah playlist. It's, it's probably right up there with, uh, what is it? Uh, the, the Christmas donkey...

Josh: 24:15 Dominic the Italian Christmas donkey. Yeah.

Leon: 24:18 Yeah. No. Yeah. It's still also a no.

Josh: 24:20 Okay. Yeah. I, I just, I was asking, I was curious. Yechiel, do you listen to it? Is Leon the only curmudgeon here?

Yechiel: 24:28 Um, I would say it was entertaining, but yeah, I wouldn't say it's part of my Hanukkah celebrations.

Josh: 24:37 Perfect.

Leon: 24:40 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, http://Technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Leon: 24:52 Hey, Josh, how was the last Christmas party you attended?

Josh: 24:55 I passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln tunnel.

Yechiel: 25:03 Wait, is there sugar in gumdrops?


S1E36: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party

S1E36: The Dreaded Office Holiday Party

December 17, 2019

The dreaded office holiday party: For many of us, for MANY reasons, this is a situation fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go. To eat or not to eat. To discuss or not to discuss our religious/holiday/personal lives and plans. As IT folks with a strong religious/moral/ethical POV, navigating this ONE (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode we’ll unpack the what and why, and - like the IT pros we are, offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. Listen or read the transcript below.

Dez: 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 The dreaded office holiday party. For many of us, For many reasons. This situation is fraught with difficulties. To go or not to go? To eat or not to eat? To discuss or not to discuss our religious, holiday, or personal lives and plans? As IT folks with a strong religious, moral and ethical point of view, navigating this one (supposedly optional) yearly occurrence can be the cause of more stress than any other event. In this episode, we'll unpack the what and the why, and - like the IT pros we are - offer advice on how to navigate through this seasonal obstacle course. I'm Leon Adato, and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime. Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:05 Hello, hello.

Leon: 01:06 And perennial guest voice. Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel: 01:09 Always a pleasure.

Leon: 01:10 All right. As has become our habit, let's go ahead and do some shameless self promotion. Um, Yechiel as, as still the nominal guest, you know, you've been on this, I think this is your fourth episode, but we'll still call you a guest. We'll treat you with respect like a guest. Go ahead and start off and tell us about yourself.

Yechiel: 01:28 All right. Uh, so I'm Yechiel Kalmenson. I'm a software engineer at Pivotal though by the time this episode drops, we'll probably be VMWare already, um, you can find me on Twitter @YechielK, my blog is RabbiOnRails.IO and I identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Josh: 01:43 Great. Josh, how about you? All right. I'm Josh Biggley. I'm a tech op strategy consultant with New Relic. You can find me on the Twitters at, @Jbiggley. I have no blog or really no presence on, on any sort of a non social media platform. I am also not on Facebook, so I'll look for me. I'm, you can find me. I'm hanging out with the post-Mormons and with the ex-Mormons nowadays and that's my religious identification.

Leon: 02:09 All right. And I'll finish off this section. I'm Leon Adato. I'm a Head Geek for SolarWinds. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I pontificate about things technical and religious at And I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. So before we dig into, uh, the things that we are talking about, I wanna clarify what we're not talking about because there are things that everyone kind of dreads about the office holiday party, um, that are not gonna be part of this conversation. And you know what I mean is, for example, this mentality of 'what happens at the office party stays at the office party', you know, you know, party it up. We're just gonna forget about it tomorrow. We're not going to talk about it. Like, I think a lot of us dread that, but that's not specific to us. What are some other things that are just sort of common to any office party or anybody's dread of that?

Yechiel: 02:59 Well, for me, as an introvert, parties in general are a drag. Um, I can't stand them. If I can spend the night at home, why would I spend it with a bunch of people I don't want to spend time with anyway? So, but that's all introverts are like me, so....

Leon: 03:14 Right. Okay. So yeah, definitely if you are of the quiet, quieter type ramping up for this is um, a challenge. Okay. What else?

Josh: 03:22 I mean, I really struggle with the, 'you have to show up' mentality for really for any corporate event. If I don't want to be there or I choose not to be there because I have other priorities, don't make me attend. So Christmas parties, holiday parties, you know, new year's parties, just if I want to be there, I'll be there. If not, don't take offense that I don't, that I don't want to be there. I mean, I didn't marry you. I'm married, my wife.

Leon: 03:50 And, and I think closely related to that is that that this time of year, you know, the holidays, Christmas, whatever, you know, new year's is a challenge for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It stirs up a lot of emotions and not all of them are positive. And I think that an office holiday party where you feel like there's an expectation to put on a particular kind of attitude or face is also challenging for a lot of folks. Um, and also I think that, uh, having to constantly explain yourself about why not drinking or not eating or not whatever, again, this time of year is challenging for a lot of folks on, on that physical level of how they interact with, you know, food and drink and things like that. And that can also create a lot of stress. But that's not what we're focusing on here. We're looking at the things that are specific to having a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. Um, so I wanna I wanna dovetail into that and I want to say that those strong emotions that I just mentioned. You know, that this time of year can have very strong positive emotions for people about family, about memories, about their religion, and you layer onto that the expectations of a party because it's being hosted, it's being organized, it's being, it's meant to be "bigger and better than last years or ever before!" And all that stuff that creates a scenario where people can take offense to things in a lot of different ways. And those of us who have religious boundaries can unexpectedly encounter those, you know, those offense triggers in ways that don't happen on a normal day. So again, let's, let's talk about what are those things, what are things that we've either tripped over, we know exist about the holiday party for us.

Yechiel: 05:44 So food is obviously a big one. Um, and you know, there's a different kosher, halal, whether you are a vegetarian, whatever you are. Um, and I think it's even worse when, when someone will, will go through the effort to try to make you feel comfortable and they'll order or something which they think is acceptable to you. So they'll Google and find the nearest kosher restaurant. But just because the restaurant identifies as kosher online doesn't mean it's actually kosher. And then it's not just, you know, if they didn't order anything and I didn't eat nobody would notice. But here "I ordered this, especially for you here, you know, have some, it's just for you." And then I have to explain that kosher is not always kosher.

Leon: 06:25 Right? The one I hear a lot is, but "it said it was a kosher deli." I know kosher was in the name. Kosher style is a thing.

Yechiel: 06:33 It's bagels and lox. How much more kosher can you get than that?

Josh: 06:36 Right? Well, yeah, I was going to say that, um, you know, growing up Mormon, the awkward part was, were really, it was the alcohol thing. Festivities and alcohol go hand in hand together. Um, so I remember, especially as a teenager going to parties and people being like, Oh look, I bought you a near beer. Or there's this great debate in the Mormon community,

Leon: 07:03 What are they think... Do they hate you?

Josh: 07:08 Uh, may, maybe. Uh, but then there's this whole, this whole debate going on in the Mormon community around a sparkling Apple cider, uh, for your new year's Eve celebrations. Like, do you want to have champagne or do you just want to look like you're having champagne? And then if you're looking like you're having a champagne, are you giving the very appearance of evil? And I'm like, Oh my goodness, it's just so complex. Uh, and, and then you have, that's within your own family. You take those same conversations and have them at an office party, aaarrrrggghhhh. So much harder.

Leon: 07:46 The other thing that, that we're hitting on is also there's a level of trust or mistrust and there's sort of, you know, as a religious person, there's a healthy level of skepticism I have to have about the food around me and about the people presenting it. Not because I think that they are inherently untrustworthy, but they are inherently not, not necessarily knowledgeable. So for example, a few episodes ago we talked about at conventions and, um, Al Rasheed talked about how, you know, people will say, "Oh yeah, there's, there's nothing in here. There's no, you know, there's no wine." And then you find out that it was sauteed in wine. But because the wine was burned off, that person felt that there was no alcohol in it. And so it was fine. And so there's no way to ask in a way that isn't either an FBI interrogation or really offensively skeptical to find out about, uh, even the vegetables. Like, okay, so did you cut these with a completely new knife or were you cutting bacon right before you cut, you know, the celery, because that would be a prob.... Like I can't, I can't trust that and nor can I ask enough questions to get to the heart of it kind of thing.

Josh: 08:57 Who does that? That's just unsanitary.

Yechiel: 08:59 But the vegetables are always on a cheese platter, so that pretty much cuts it.

Leon: 09:04 Right. That's a, that's a, yeah, there's a problem right there. Um, I was at a, uh, office...] At an office party at a manager's house and they were doing some sort of game, icebreaker, whatever. And the prize that they would hand out is this, you know, little holiday chocolates and, they handed it, to me, and you know, I was just being a good sport and I, you know, took, and I said, "Oh wow." You know, I'm looking for the hechsher. I'm looking for the symbol that would tell me if it was kosher. And I actually said, "...which would be ironic since it's, you know, in the shape of a Santa Claus." If it was. There are, by the way, chocolate that is in the shape of a Santa Claus that is completely kosher. It's fine. So I was just sort of amused by it, but immediately the wife of the manager was so earnest, she says, "Oh, well take this one isn't the shape of a snowman. That must be kosher!" Like that. That's not how that works. But now I'm in a position where I have to, you can't laugh at the boss's wife. I know that. But she said something that was kind of ignorant and now I either have to laugh along with it, just go along with it. Or you know, there's, there's almost no winning in that one.

Josh: 10:10 I mean, from on the other side of that, as, as someone who for many years has hosted a Christmas party in my home. Um, last year we didn't host one. And this year there's, we've had people ask, "Hey, are you having, you know, your Christmas get together?" Cause that's a, that's a big deal, right? It's an open house. We invite all our friends and uh, you know, people from our, our former congregation, uh, and our neighbors. And so this year we're, we're not, uh, we've decided we're not, we're going to have a few select people over small gathering. But as someone who hosts, you also have to realize that you're going to do things that are awkward at whatever gathering you have. Um, and you just have to learn to not take offense. I don't know. Ah, th and this is why office parties are so different than parties in someone's home with people you don't work with because your friends, You can, you can say things like, "Hey, Josh, um, no, a snowman isn't kosher. And let me explain why..." And I'm going to be, I'm going to be paying rapt attention. "Oh really? Oh, I get it. Oh, that's cool." Whereas your boss's wife may not be so interested in getting the, you know, the religious lecture or lesson or however they interpret it.

Leon: 11:32 There's other things that I think aren't necessarily on people's radar. Like, you know, music is another one. You know the number of times where people like, Oh, I just love this. Don't you just love this song? It's like, "Swear to God, I've never heard this song. Never. You know, and no, I don't want to sing along to it." And you know, even trying to, so in Judaism there's a thing about men not supposed to listen to the live voices of a woman singing in the same room kind of thing. Like there's just, you know, it's one of those things that's considered, you know, for modesty and for, you know, just keeping things a little bit separate. But how are you gonna explain that again to the boss's wife? Like, please don't sing the song that you love that I've never heard.

Yechiel: 12:16 Any event that includes karaoke is an automatic "Nope." for me.

Leon: 12:21 There we go. Okay.

Josh: 12:22 Stay out of the Philippines, Yechiel. Stay out of the Philippines. Yeah, they love karaoke. Uh, so I guess that means that, uh, me singing "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey" is completely out.

Leon: 12:35 Okay. That song is horrible on so many levels that, uh, I just, yeah, don't ever that, that one's not okay. Um, for reasons that are not religious or it's just, it's just bad. It's just offensive. So last... One of our previous episodes recently, um, Cory Adler was talking about, uh, a coworker who started at the company and they were sort of delighted... He was... the coworker was Muslim. Corey is also Orthodox Jewish and they were so delighted to find all the similarities. And one of the similarities they hit upon was at the Christmas party. This coworker brought his wife who was wearing a hijab and you know, the full Pakistani clothing and everything and everybody wanted to say hi and shake her hand and give her a hug and all these things. And she was just sort of shrinking through the evening. And Cory just came up and said hi to his coworker and just said hi to his wife. And afterward, his coworker said, "It was so nice to have you there. You were the only one who got it. You're the only one who knew." And, but you know, that story aside again, you know, these office parties where you're meeting people's significant others and there's an expectation, and people are feeling festive and feeling friendly and perhaps feeling drunk and whatever. And you're trying to manage boundaries. You know, for a whole lot of reasons. It makes the party a challenge.

Josh: 14:03 Can we talk about the, the, the Mormon, um, idea. And this is not just a holiday thing, but it's, you know, so praying over meals is a thing. Uh, in, I think, most religions, um, but pre Mormons have this, this, uh, funny thing of, um, praying that food will, um, give us strength and nourishment regardless if you're praying over, um, you know, a, a nice, uh, meal of, you know, quinoa and vegetables or if it happens to be, you know, jelly donuts and root beer, it's always, you know, praying for, uh, strength and nourishment from this food. So for some people, whether you're not religious out and just like prayers or you know, don't like, uh, any sort of grace being said or if you are like me and you know, your, your ex-Mormon and it, it just makes you laugh when people are praying for this food to somehow be magically transformed to be nourishing for your body. It's donuts. The only thing it's good for is eating and enjoying.

Leon: 15:19 (laughing hysterically) I'm, I'm laughing because my, my daughter who runs a bakery out of my house is preparing to make something on the order of like 800 donuts in the next couple of weeks. And so the idea that my house will be filled with basically non,

Yechiel: 15:34 it'll definitely nourish your gut, that's for sure.

Leon: 15:36 It's gonna. It's, yeah.

Josh: 15:38 You just tell her to just pray over them that they will be for strength and nourishment and then they, there'll be no calories left in them.

Leon: 15:46 Yeah. Yeah. The, the mythical and the mystical, uh, no calorie donut. Yeah, I don't think so.

Josh: 15:54 Prayers are just weird. Just awkward. I mean, and then the reciprocal is also true. If you go to a meal and you have a religious belief where you want to pray over your food, but nobody else is what do you do?

Leon: 16:08 And there's a piece of that which is, and I think we'll get into it more, but Christmas is a time when a lot of Christians feel like this is when their Christianity should be the most on display. Like this is the time when they can really turn it, you know, turn it up to 11. And so getting everyone involved in a, in a prayer, a prayer which invokes imagery or names or concepts which are not only foreign to other religious cultures, but in some cases antithetical to other cultures. You know, so now do, do I stand quietly in the corner? Do I leave the room? Do I... No matter what I do, anything short of participating could be seen as offensive because this person has so much invested in this moment.

Josh: 16:57 Not that history has, uh, will support me on this. But I feel like the easiest way to do this is don't be so invested in your religious beliefs that you, that you're going to take offense when no offense is intended. Um, and I, that goes both ways. I grew up, my, my very best friend when I was a young, quite young, up until about fifth grade, and when I moved away, uh, he was, um, uh, Jehovah's witness and you know, and I, this was back at least in Canada where you sang the national anthem and you said the Lord's prayer every Sunday morning in school, right? Uh, so they, they look, we're all adults here. If you need, if you want to step out because something is happening that you don't want to partake in, step out. Just like if I show up at a holiday party and someone starts doing something that I find offensive, whether it's you've, you've, uh, you know, you've drunk too much and now you are a drunk, um, or you know, uh, someone is doing something that I find inappropriate, I am going to leave. That's I, and if I can come back, I will. But if not, I'm not going to come back and you're just going to have to deal with that because you made your choices. I make mine. I mean, we're all adults like that.

Leon: 18:18 Yeah. And, and the, the point I think of, of this particular conversation is navigating the heightened expectations and emotions around the holidays and around, you know, the, the party. I think that these moments, these particular moments become imbued with a heightened sense that, you know, isn't there for a lot of other things or can be imbued with a heightened sense. And I think that's the challenge.

Yechiel: 18:45 And then you have the corollary to that where, um, where people will try to be inclusive and they'll be like, "Oh, okay. So, um, Yechiel, why didn't you lead us with a Jewish prayer?" And I'm like, "no, I, that's not what I want to do right now. I do not want to lead this room full of people on a Jewish prayer. I'll say, my Jewish prayer myself, thank you very much."

Leon: 19:08 Right? Right. Or, or my personal favorite. "Hey, can you bring them, can you bring, you know, that candelabra thing, can you bring a menorah? And, and light it at our party. And that way you'll have something here too." It's like, um, "Hanukkah was three weeks ago. Chad," You know, uh, no, we're not doing it. But again, there's, I'm not saying you can't say no. Josh, to your point no is a perfectly fine answer. You know, Hanukkah was three weeks ago is also perfectly fine answer. The challenge is navigating other people's expectations and again, I think, uh, the holidays just sort of amp things up.

Josh: 19:49 I, I definitely agree. I th I hope that... No, before we end this, we definitely have to come, we have to come up with that list of things that we need to do, like the ground rules we need to set. Right. And one of them definitely needs to be, "I am not going to take a fence unless you intend to offend me."

Leon: 20:07 Right? If you say, "Yeah, I meant for you to be offended, then then all bets are off, right?

Josh: 20:12 Yeah. All bets are off.

Yechiel: 20:12 And when in doubt, just ask, you know, "Did you mean to offend me?

New Speaker: 20:15 Yeah. That's, you know, I'm having a hard time with it, right? Oh, there's all sorts of mature, you know, careful communication that we could do every day in the office, in fact, that would be very helpful. Um, and this is just another opportunity to practice that, but, well, okay, we'll get to that because as good IT professionals, we are into solving things. We'll do it. The last piece, and I'm just gonna echo something. So Doug Johnson - who's another frequent voice that we hear on Technically Religious - and I have known each other for probably close to 30 years now. And Doug has been on this program saying as an evangelical Christian how much he hates Christmas. He is, he is like the worst representative of Christmas. And he, and a lot of it boils down to everything we've been talking about, but the flip side of it. Christmas isn't Christmasy enough for him. Meaning what the holiday party, what the office holiday party is, this watered down, commercialized hallmark version. And he wants nothing to do with it. He really, you know, his point, and he said this before, is, is "You want to have Christmas? Let's talk Jesus. Like let's just do that!" That's, you know, let's get rid of the guy in the red suit. Let's forget about all that stuff. He really wants to have the, the adult version of the holiday, which also makes people very uncomfortable. And so he finds himself not invited to Christmas parties frequently as well.

Josh: 21:38 I think that this ties very nicely into, um, an idea that we wanted to talk around that this, uh, my religion, uh, on your holiday or you know, your holiday on my religion.

Leon: 21:49 Yeah.

Josh: 21:50 So up until a few years ago, I was one of those people where if you said "Happy holidays" to me, I would say "Merry Christmas" back because you know, it's Christmas time and you got to put the Christ in Christmas. Right? And my wife and I were talking about this just the other day. Yesterday, I think. And we have decided that regardless of what holiday, someone wishes us, our response is going to be, "Thank you. You too." I mean, Holy crap, right? It's like mind blowing!

Yechiel: 22:27 Radical.

Leon: 22:29 What a crazy idea. Just saying thank you.

Speaker 4: 22:33 It. Ah, and she, she said, "I posted this to Facebook, that I'm going to do this." And she's like, "I wonder how many people are going to be offended." And I thought, "Who in the world's going to be offended by saying thank you. You too."?

Leon: 22:46 Okay. And, and the answer is??

Yechiel: 22:49 Well, it's this Facebook, so...

: 22:50 (conversation fades out)

Leon: 22:52 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.

Roddie: 23:02 Thank you for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website at where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

Leon: 23:15 Hey, Josh, how was the last Christmas party you attended?

Josh: 23:17 I passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops, and then I walked through the Lincoln tunnel!

Yechiel: 23:26 Wait, is there sugar in gumdrops?

S1E35: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Chaim Weiss

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 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, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

S1E34: The Frisco Kid Rides Again

S1E34: The Frisco Kid Rides Again

December 3, 2019

In the fall of 2019 a series of fortunate events led Technically Religious contributor Leon Adato to take a journey of a lifetime. He transformed an unexpected convention trip to Barcelona into a mission to bring a Torah back to the US from Israel. Like the movie that this episode is named for, along the way he experienced unexpected challenges and met larger-than-life characters who helped him on his way. Listen now, or read the transcript below.

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

Josh:                                      00:24                     In the fall of 2019 a series of fortunate events led Technically Religious contributor, Leon Adato, to take a journey of a lifetime. He transformed an unexpected convention trip to Barcelona into a mission to bring a Torah back to the U S from Israel. Like the movie that this episode is named for, along the way, he experienced unexpected challenges and met larger than life characters who helped him on his way. I'm Josh Biggley and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partner in crime, Leon, Adato.

Leon:                                     00:57                     Hello.

Josh:                                      00:59                     Alright, Leon. You know how this goes, time for some shameless self promotion. So tell us who you are and where we can find you.

Leon:                                     01:06                     Fantastic. I am Leon Adato, as we've said, probably three times already. I am a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Uh, you can find me on the twitters @leonadato and you can also read my pontificating about monitoring and other things at and I identify religiously as an Orthodox Jew.

Josh:                                      01:26                     Wonderful! And I'm Josh Biggley. Uh, this is the first time I think we've officially announced that I am a TechOps Strategy Consultant with New Relic. Uh, super excited about that. Started two weeks ago and I feel like I'm living the dream.

Leon:                                     01:40                     Mazal Tov, mazel tov!

Josh:                                      01:41                     Mazal Tov indeed. Uh, you can find me on the Twitters, uh, @Jbiggley. Uh, I've actually shut down all of my, all of my um, non-work related discussions maybe I'm just tired of social media. I don't know. Um, but I do identify as post-Mormon. Um, so Leon, you, you had a trip.

Leon:                                     02:02                     I did. I did. And, but before we dive into the particulars of the trip, which is sort of the central part of this episode, I want to talk about something that I think is near and dear to a lot of it practitioners, which is travel hacking.

Josh:                                      02:16                     Oh yes, yes, please.

Leon:                                     02:18                     Because a lot of the, a lot of the parts of the trip that I took were predicated on or were built on my ability to, um, travel both comfortably and also efficiently. Um, you know, not being independently wealthy as I think all of our listeners are. And if you are a listener and you're independently wealthy, please consider taking a sponsorship. Um, we would love to, we'd love to have your support. Um, in any case, uh, I wanted to take a minute and talk about some things that I've learned over the last five and a half, almost six years as a head geek doing a lot of traveling. And Josh, I know that you have stuff to contribute.

Josh:                                      02:57                     I'm actually going to do a lot of listening here because, uh, as part and parcel of my new job, I'm going to be doing a fair bit of traveling. So, uh, I mean I'm going to take some notes. Uh, wait, no, hold on. We're going to put the details in the show notes. I'm not taking notes.

Leon:                                     03:11                     Very good. Okay, good. I, you know, and we forgot to mention that earlier, so that was a nice way to slide it in there. The first point, especially when we're talking about non US/Canada travel is all you need to do is get to Europe. Everything else is cheap. Once you do that, just get to Europe. I think a lot of Americans, and I'm assuming also Canadians, um, think, well, I'm going to go from, you know, France to Italy to this and they feel like they have to book it all out from the American perspective and you can, it's going to cost a lot of money. The reality is that just land anywhere in Europe, it doesn't have to be your final destination. It doesn't even have to be on your itinerary. Wherever it's cheapest to land get there because once you're on the continent at that point, getting around is ridiculously cheap. You live, for example, uh, you can get a one week pass on the train system for about a hundred dollars US and that allows you to get on and off the train as much as you want. So you can go from city to city and if you get someplace and it's like, wow, I didn't even expect to be here and it's beautiful here and I want to spend more time, fine, stay here and get on the train tomorrow or the day after or whatever. Also, there's a lot of cheap airlines, um, easy jets, one of them, but there's others. So again, just get into the region and from there you can build your trip off of that. Another thing is airline travel points are your friend and therefore, um, you want to work those points. And just to give you an example, a round trip ticket from the U S to Israel on United. I happened to be a United flyer. That's my airline of choice a is 80,000 points. Round trip from Barcelona is 30,000 points. You know, I was already, as we'll get into, I was already going to be in Barcelona, so I was able to build off of that to go do something else. Credit cards are a great tool for travel if they make sense for you. I'm not insisting that people get involved in credit cards. You get into credit card debt. I know that it's a slippery slope for a lot of folks, but the reality is that there are a lot of cards you can get that come with a signing bonus and you get 50, 60, 100,000 points. That's a European trip right there. Just that, you know, especially if it's a credit card that you know you're not going to use after that and you've got the, the willpower to do it.

Josh:                                      05:25                     I liked that actually. I did. I didn't use that piece of advice. Um, when I started my new job, I, I, I am an Air Canada flyer because I'm in Canada and there's really two airlines, so yay. Star Alliance partner. Um, right. Got out, went out and got myself a credit card. They gave me, uh, a bonus for signing up and then a bonus if I spent more than X number of dollars, which wasn't a problem because it's also their credit card, I used to reimburse all my expenses.

Leon:                                     05:50                     So as an IT pro, as long as your company doesn't have a thing against it, use that credit card. First of all, you get all of your perks if you use that card rather than the corporate card. And yeah, you get, even if even if the dollars are going to be reimbursed, you get the points for the miles. And to your point, especially if you know you're going to do a lot of travel, take a look at, you know, a lot of credit cards and a lot of airlines have a card that gives you club access. It costs. For example, the..., I have the chase United card. It is I think $400 a year for a fee. Now, $200 of that are refunded to me if they're travel related. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about taking a taxi or an Uber or Lyft or a hotel room or an extra bag that I'm checking in or whatever, whatever it is, those $200 get reimbursed right off the top second. If I need to get something like nexus or global entry or TSA pre that's covered, you're automatically covered with that, but on top of it, it gets you automatic access to the airline club and the reason why you want that there's, there's the living, the high life aspect, right? You walk in there, they treat you nice, you free drinks, there's food, there's even showers and stuff like that. That's nice. However, that's not the perk. The perk is that there's a different category of travel agent who works inside the club and I really believe that those agents are exclusively graduates of Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry because they will make things happen that can't happen anywhere else. I have gotten can't, you know, flights canceled, bumped off my flight, missed my flight, whatever. And I walk into the club and I tell them, Hey, this happened and type, type, type, type, type, Mr Adato, I've got you on the very next flight. There wasn't a very next flight. There is now. Oh wow. I mean like they literally conjure a new airplane. I don't know. They're magic people. That is worth the price of the card right there is having that, that fallback. So that's another thing. You had something about your status.

Josh:                                      07:57                     I mean, I don't do a lot of traveling, but I am, I got silver status, um, uh, on Air Canada this year and I am five segments away from getting to gold status when traveling first, getting on the plane before, um, you know, zones three, four and five is pretty awesome because everyone wants to take their non-checked bags with them. So everyone's trying to cram their carry-ons. So you get in early, you always are gonna find some carry on space second, um, you, you're going to get your pick of seats. I mean, not first class. Sometimes you get a first class upgrade, but you're going to get that premium economy. Um, so you actually have leg room. Um, and I mean third, you just want the ability to access some of the perks that come along with it. Like, Hey, if you rent at the Marriott hotels, you automatically get, um, 250 or 500 points. Little things like that. And I think that's another hack. Let's make sure we're stacking our, um, our rewards. You know, if Air Canada and Marriott have a, an agreement which they do, um, Hey, um, fly air Canada and stay at a Marriott hotel. Fortunately without even planning it, I always fly Air Canada, uh, or star Alliance partner. And I also, um, usually stay at a Marriott hotel, uh, when it makes sense, uh, only because it was really close to, um, you know, our, our previous employer, um, and made just perfect sense and there was, it was a great rate. So yeah, I mean, find those, find those synergies and uh, and work them.

Leon:                                     09:33                     I will also say don't get sort of psychologically locked in. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes you can't fly your preferred airline, you can't do that. But you know, have an eye for that. And then the last thing, and this is something I think as Americans were less, I don't know, less comfortable with, is the whole cell phone thing. You know, because America is so just geographically big and the carriers cover such a large range. I think once we get into the European theater, uh, the idea of what do we do with my cell phone comes up now, I will tell you I solved this this year by moving to Google Fi which rides on top of networks in almost every country. And so I didn't have to think about it. I landed and literally got a message. "Hey, good to know that you're in Switzerland right now and we've got you covered." Like literally a pop up on my phone came up and said, but as a non-American, you know, what advice do you have?

Josh:                                      10:27                     The advice that I've always been given and that I know that a few friends of mine who travel extensively always say is, um, don't roam Europe. Yes. All the cell phone companies. And including, you know, bell who I'm now with so that I can call the U S without unlimited calling. Um, they will tell you that you can roam for like $12 or $15 a day. The reality is don't roam. If you're going to be in Europe for any period of time, buy a SIM card. Um, I mean there's, they're like $25 for unlimited calling, uh, uh, a very generous helping of data. Uh, if you're going to use all of that, you should probably get out and see the sites a little more.

Leon:                                     11:09                     So my son, this is going to factor into the longer story, but my son is, uh, in Israel in a hundred gig data SIM card is effectively $12.

Leon:                                     11:19                     Oh, come on!

Leon:                                     11:19                     If you're going to be there for a week or two or whatever it is, and you're going to use a hundred gig of cell data yet, like you said, you're doing your traveling wrong.

Josh:                                      11:28                     You are definitely travel or you're, or you're traveling all sorts of, right. I don't know. Maybe you're live streaming.

Leon:                                     11:34                     Yeah, maybe a live streaming. Sure. Okay.

Josh:                                      11:36                     Streaming your entire trip. I mean, not, maybe that's a thing.

Leon:                                     11:38                     Okay. So that's, that's, you know, part one, travel hacking, just general travel hacking ideas. And some of that will factor into the story. But I, I think we want to pivot now into the story of me bringing back the Torah. Um, again, the Frisco kid for those people who aren't familiar is a wonderful movie with Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford story of a sort of a naive rabbi from Poland who travels across America to deliver a Torah to, uh, San Francisco. Uh, I felt very much like that along the way. Where it started was that I was set up to go to VMworld Europe this year, which is in Barcelona. And when I realized that that was a thing, I immediately decided I was going to take a cheap flight to Israel to visit my son who's there at Yeshiva.

Josh:                                      12:22                     No, wait, hold on, Leon. Yeah. Um, I think last time we talked your son was struggling with Yeshiva.

Leon:                                     12:29                     Yeah, he was. And in fact, um, when we talked about it, he was coming home. Like that night there was a flurry of activity. There were some correct course corrections made and some assurances made. And in fact he was able to feel comfortable staying with 15 minutes to spare.

Josh:                                      12:46                     Wow. Fantastic.

Leon:                                     12:47                     Yeah. So he was there and you know, he's doing, he is doing much better and growing and learning and doing the things that you want to do. But I was going to be there and I thought this is a wonderful chance for me to check up on him and see what he gets to see. And so I did that. And like I said before, the flight from Barcelona to Israel is significantly cheaper than the flight from the U S so it made a lot of sense. You know, I found the cheapest code partners that I could find and I got those flights booked. And so I mentioned to my, to my rabbi, just in passing, I said, Hey, I'm going to visit my son and he's, you know, in Israel. And he said, Oh, if you're going to be in Israel while you're there, can you bring a Torah back with you? And I said, well, yeah, sure, I guess. Sure. And he immediately, his entire tone changed. Like he was surprised like, well you mean it like will you ask me to, sure. Is that, are you sure? He must have asked me if I was sure five times until finally I said, what are you not telling me about this? You know, because I thought I'm bringing a Torah back. Is there something else I should know? Is there some major risks that I'm unaware of? What's what's going on

Josh:                                      13:47                     Now, to be clear, we are talking about the first five books of the old Testament. Right?

Leon:                                     13:53                     Right. So, so in this context, when I say bringing back a Torah, it is the scroll and we'll have pictures of it in the show notes, but it's just, it is, it is a, you know, scroll of parchment may, it can range in size from let's say, you know, two feet long and you know, kind of like, you know, eight inches wide and maybe 10 pounds and it can get, they can be larger than that, but,

Josh:                                      14:14                     okay. Well I just wanted to make sure that Torah wasn't code for, I don't know. An alligator. But apparently you can't bring on the airlines. I, I,

Leon:                                     14:24                     They really don't allow emotional support alligators anymore.

Josh:                                      14:28                     Oh, weird.

Leon:                                     14:29                     I know. I know. Um, so yeah, it's, it's a fairly specific object and, and non-dangerous it doesn't bite or anything like that from an it perspective because we want to talk about the technically part as well as the religiously parked. I was immediately struck by what happens when you volunteer for a project that nobody expects you to say yes to. My rabbi had made a comment sort of as a, and I took it seriously and all of a sudden he was sort of stuck like, what do well, but nobody would say yes to that. And, um, you know, we, I think many of us have been in that situation with projects where it's like, Hey, who wants to do X? You know, who wants to write that ebook? Or who wants to, yes, please. May I? And I was like, no, you don't. You don't really want to do that. I'm like, Oh yeah, I totally wanted to.

Josh:                                      15:16                     Uh, I think we all definitely need a Leon Adato on our teams to, uh, write all the documentation, uh, in fun ebook style.

Leon:                                     15:24                     Yes, absolutely. Um, I think that, you know, for any tech writers who are here, you can men, you can talk in the comments to this post on and say I'm available and I will volunteer to write eBooks also, you know, uh, volunteer meaning pay me. But, um, so I think from an it perspective though, there's some lessons that we can pull from this just even at this point in the story, you know, volunteering for things that other people consider to be a hard job is a really good career idea.

Josh:                                      15:53                     Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Over the last five and a half years. Um, well, I mean, let's bring up the story, right? Hey Josh, it'd be really awesome if, you know, you joined, you know, Cardinal Health and you know, came to work for Leon Adato and then four days later someone quit on me.

Leon:                                     16:15                     Okay. It was to become head gig and SolarWinds. Like, I couldn't not take that opportunity, but yes, I,

Josh:                                      16:22                     Yeah, but yeah, it's saying yes to opportunities even when they're hard, like, Hey, will you fill Leon shoes? I'll try it. It works out really well. And that really set me up for, for my entire career at a, at Cardinal Health, right. I as a non-cloud engineer, I was the co lead of the cloud community of practice as a just an engineer, uh, air quote, just an engineer, not a senior engineer. Um, I was the enterprise monitoring representative on the smash committee. It's not a whole idea of always be learning and you don't know that you can or cannot do something until you volunteer to do it and Hey, why not do it in a, what should be a safe space, um, of work. Yes. It means putting yourself out there. Yes. It means being risky. Yes. It means you have to trust your colleagues, but Oh my goodness. If you're going to try something, try it with the tactical support of a really strong team.

Leon:                                     17:19                     I also want to say that, you know, I got a lot of pushback from, from my Rabbi. Are you sure? Are you really sure? Do you mean it? Sometimes that's a warning sign. Sometimes when people say, you know, when nobody else is volunteering and the person in charge is, is really looking for that confirmation, it's a clue that this is not, you might've missed something. So ask questions. Not just the people in charge, but ask other folks, you know? But at a certain point, you also recognize that what appears to impossible or odious or frustrating kind of work that may not be how you see it. And that means that that's your superpower. So again, I love writing. I really do. And so while we're, a lot of other people in it will say, you know, write something. Are you joking? I'd rather take a fork through the eyeball. I'm like, I really wish I had more time to do this. That just happens to be the thing that I like. Recognize when that's the case and run with it.

Josh:                                      18:19                     My super power is apparently financial models. Right? Which is totally weird. Since I failed math in ninth grade. So Zack Mutchler and I who were colleagues up until two weeks ago, despises financial models. He never wants to do that. And I'm like, Oh my goodness, please. Yes, let me, it's, it's my grounding place. If I can figure out how it works financially, then I'll go and figure out how the technology works. So, um, yeah, I, I will volunteer to do financial models any day of the week. Yeah.

Leon:                                     18:50                     And that's something I would never do. Right. Okay. All right. So, so fast forward, um, you know, VMworld Barcelona is wonderful and I wrote some blog posts about it and then I, you know, went from there to Israel and had a great week with my son and had a great time. And I even got a chance to speak at cloud native day in Israel. Um, so I had called a friend of mine, Sharone Zitzman and said, "Hey, I'm..." She has kids. and she's Israeli, " I'm going to be there with myself. What's really fun things to do?" And she said, "Oh, you're going to be there. I'm running a convention. Can you speak?" Like Sharon, that's not why I, that's not what I called you for is to do another convention talk. But here I am. So I did that. Now, what's interesting about this, and this is relevant to this story, is that, um, the morning of the convention, it happens to be a Tuesday, uh, Israel executed an airstrike that killed, uh, uh, Palestinian Islamic jihad commander. And, uh, I know that it gets political. It gets into, you know, the whole middle East politics and things. So a trigger warning up front about that for people who feel strongly about it. But there was a, uh, an airstrike that killed this Islamic jihad commander and that triggered a retaliatory strike of 160 rockets that were fired from Gaza into Israel. And six of those reached Tel Aviv, which meant that the talk I was giving in Tel Aviv, you know, might not happen. And we were on our way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and I was getting emails that, you know, despite the fact that businesses and schools had been ordered to shut down, the convention was permitted to continue. Um, and then I got a call from the organizer who said, "You know, if you don't want to come in, if you're not comfortable, if it makes you nervous, I completely understand." Nope, we're on our way. It's fine. You know, 160 rockets, just another day in Israel. Here we go. So I went in and, and gave the talk and that was fine. So the next day, Wednesday I'm set to fly home. It's me, my luggage and the Torah. Um, so I need to describe in a little bit more detailed what this is. So the Torah is a scroll, it's on two wooden dowels. And um, like I said, it can be anywhere from say a foot and a half to three feet tall or long and you know, six, eight inches a foot wide when you roll it up and everything. So that's wrapped up, you know, packed up nice and tight and bubble wrap and wrapped in plastic and put into a a duffle bag that I can take with me. Then there's a box that goes in because, uh, some Torahs are just the scroll, but some come in their own sort of self contained container and this is called an Aron. So when I use that word from now on in the Aron is the box that comes in and this is a circular box. It's about two and a half, three feet high, about a foot in diameter. It's usually made out of plywood and covered in silver and has all sorts of literally bells hanging off of it. Uh, so that's, that's also there. Now the, the Torah itself cannot be checked as luggage. You treat it with respect and you know, I wouldn't check my grandmother is luggage. I'm not going to check the Torah, his luggage either. Um, so that has to come with me on the plane. Uh, you don't have to buy it its own seat, but you do have to bring it with you on the plane. It can't be checked as luggage. The Aron, the box can be checked as luggage. So that was all packed up. Also, it was wrapped nice and tight and foam and bubble wrap. And you know, a layer of plastic just to keep it all self contained. And that was in another duffle bag. And the Torah itself, uh, it turns out was about 25-30 pounds and the, our own was probably closer to 40 pounds.

Josh:                                      22:24                     Oh wow. Okay.

Leon:                                     22:25                     Along with my overloaded suitcase cause it had all the convention crap I had collected and a couple of things my son wanted to send home with me and a pita maker that I bought while I was in Israel for my wife, like one does. Right, right. All right. I just need to remind you at this point in the story that I had booked my flight, uh, my flights back and forth before I knew I was bringing the Torah. And it was also predicated on this convention trip. So my flights were Barcelona, Israel, and then Israel, Barcelona and work was paying for the Cleveland, Barcelona, Barcelona, Cleveland leg. So I had these two separate trips that, that dovetailed, that I booked before I knew I was bringing a Torah. And the second thing I wanna remind you is that there were 160 rockets fired from, you know, Gaza into Israel the day before I flew. And the reason I mentioned this is because of the flight home was on Turkish airlines.

Josh:                                      23:13                     I mean... what???

Leon:                                     23:13                     It was on Turkish airlines. Yeah.

Josh:                                      23:16                     So a Jewish dude.

Leon:                                     23:18                     Yeah. Orthodox Jewish dude flying on Turkish airlines. Okay, I'm going to give this spoiler Turkish airlines rocks. They are amazing people. Uh, they, everybody was delightful and lovely. So I'm just going to, I'm going to put that out up front. Okay. However, I didn't know what to expect. I also want to point out that, um, it, Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, the, the airport in Israel, all of the check areas, uh, are on the same level when you walk in the door, except for Turkish airlines, which is two floors down and off to the right in its own little section. And that section is predominantly a Palestinian Arabic travelers going back and forth. So I'm traveling as, as incognito as I possibly can. For those people who've seen me. I have little fringy things hanging out of my, uh, you know, out of my shirt, the tzitzit, those were tucked in a, I wear a kippah, but I was wearing a ball cap over it. I just wanted to be like as nonchalantly American as I possibly could be. Just again, didn't want to be in people's face, especially given what was happening, you know, that day and the day before. I get up to the checkout counter and delightful, a Palestinian young lady is checking me in and I give her the our own first because if there's gonna be a problem with my tickets, because I have three, I have three bags. I was only supposed to be traveling with one, they're overweight. There's a lot of extra charges on me. I want to make sure the, our own gets on before, you know, before anything else happens. So she asked me "Mah zeh?", what is that? My Hebrew is very, very bad. So in English I, I said "it's, um, it's a box that a Torah goes in?" I'm not sure if any of these words are going to have any meaning to anybody. And she looks at the duffle hanging off my shoulder and she says, "Zeh sefer Torah?" that bag over there, that's a safer tour. That's a, that's a Holy Torah? "Ken". I said, yes. "Ah, very good." She puts a fragile sticker on the bag that has the our own on it and she says, please take this off. We will use special handling for this. And then she takes my other bag, which is overweight and she puts a heavy sticker on it and off it goes. And then she takes my other bag and off it goes and I have my credit card out. I said, "I know this is going to cost." And she says, "There is no charge."

Josh:                                      25:34                     Waaaaaat???

Leon:                                     25:34                     I know. I literally said, "no, no, I just gave you three bags like I have to pay for these " She says "No, no, no, it is all good." Okay. And then she hands me a card, she says, this is a pass for the VIP lounge. Please enjoy.

Josh:                                      25:49                     Wow.

Leon:                                     25:50                     Okay. So now I have to take the Aron to special handling. So I take it around the corner to the special handling air. It's where it just right there and these two Palestinian guys are, you know, you know Israeli Palestinian, Israeli guys are there and uh, they open the bag and it's of course wrapped in bubble wrap, wrapped in plastic wrap and whatever, and they put it through the x-ray. Now I just want to remind you, it is a, a wooden box wrapped in silver wrapped in bubble wrap, et cetera. What's that gonna look like on the X Ray? It's gonna look like a big metal tube. So these guys, these guys like we're going to have to open this up. It had been so carefully, professionally packed and look, you're going to do what you're going to do, right? You've got to do it. So they open it up and they're like, yup, that's exactly what we thought we were gonna say there. And then immediately pull out their own roll of bubble wrap and they wrap it up just as good as it had been before. Just boom, boom, boom, wrap it up, put it back in the bag and off it goes. Like no problem. No. You can also say that, you know, tourists coming back from Israel is something that is seen a lot at Ben Gurion airport. That's a pretty normal thing. So, okay, so I get through the rest of security. I get to the lounge, I have a delightful time in the lounge. Um, get on my plane. My flight is going on Turkish airlines from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. Of course, that's the, the, you know, hub for that. Change. planes, go from Istanbul to Barcelona and that's where I have to change flights again. So I'm stay overnight in Barcelona, get up the next morning, come back to Barcelona airport, and I'm basically doing the same thing all over again. I get into check in this time it's United and, uh, this time everything's going to happen except it's going to happen in Spanish. Now my Spanish is better than my Hebrew. Uh, it's not great, but it's better than than that. And so I get to the line and uh, you know, get through the line and I get up to the guy at the counter and he once again, you know, I hand him the Aron and I put it up on the conveyor and he says, "well, what's that?" All right, I'm talking to you in a predominantly Christian country. How am I gonna explain this? "Uh, it's a box that, that a Torah scroll, a Holy scroll goes into," I'm, I'm trying to figure out how to say this. And he spoke English, but I'm still, and he says, "Oh," like recognition dawned and his face, he hands me a sticker that's his fragile, he says, would you like to put that on here? Okay, fine. So I put the sticker on, he says, "okay, please take it off and we'll special handle it in the moment." And he takes my bag, the overweight one, and he takes the other bag and I pull up my credit card cause I'm going to pay. And he's like, "no charge." Like what is this? No, no, no charge. And again, he hands me a pass. He says, "here's a pass to the VIP lounge, please enjoy."

Josh:                                      28:32                     Oh my goodness.

Leon:                                     28:33                     Okay. He gets up. Now there's a line of people behind me. He says, please follow me. So I follow him. There's, there's other people, you know, it's not like he left the line waiting, but you know, I follow him around to where the special handling area is. And he says, please "put this up on the conveyor." Like he's standing, he's standing right there, but please put on me. So I put on the conveyor and I put it, apparently the wrong direction, "would you please turn it?" And I realized at that moment, he's not touching this thing. So I turn it and it goes and it goes on and he comes down and as we're walking back, he says, "We see this sometimes Shalom."

Josh:                                      29:06                     Oh my goodness, I've got chills. Leon chills.

Leon:                                     29:09                     So I go through Barcelona airport security and, and here I get stuck again because the Torah again is wrapped in bubble wrap, whatever. It's just this big blob on the x-ray. "Que es esto?"Kay the guy says, uh, "Halbas Ingles?". No. Okay. Here we go. There's, there's a phrase that you have that I try to say it's really bad. So for those native Spanish speakers, please feel free to mock me. "Una objeto religioso" it's a religious object. "Yo no comprendo." "Una scrol de Bible?" Like now I'm running out of words here to describe what a Torah is to the security dude in Barcelona airport. And so he calls the supervisor over and they have a quick conversation and she looks at me and she says a word, which if you're ever in Spain is the most important word you can possibly know in Spain. It's Vale. Vale means okay. In the same way that we would use it, it's a question. It's an answer. It's a statement. It's everything. Vale. So I say "Vale??" and she says, "Tu puedas va. Vale", You can go. Okay. So I go, I go to the, I go to the lounge, have another delightful time. I get on, uh, the airplane. I should mention one of the other things, one of the other issues. Remember I said the Torah can't be checked as baggage. So each time I'm getting on the plane, I'm worried that they're going to gate check this extra piece of luggage, this Torah, because it can't go. Never happened. Each time I would go to the flight attendants say, "I'm really sorry. I know this is sort of oversized. It's, it's a few inches larger than normal carry on, you know, but it's, it's a religious object." Again, I'm, I'm describing it in, in non-Jewish terms and it really, and they're like, "no problem. Put it right up there. It's fine." Like it was not a problem at all. Um, but back to your point about being able to check on early, it really helped to know that I was one of the first people boarding, so there was going to be overhead space. It made a difference in this case. So we're flying in and uh, you know, Barcelona, New Jersey, I land in New Jersey at Newark airport and that's when I realize I have this incredibly valuable object. How do you claim a Torah at immigration? Like how do you,

Josh:                                      31:21                     how do you claim?...

Leon:                                     31:23                     ...What is it worth? So I'm real quick texting a bunch of people like people do this, how do you do whatever they say? It's not worth anything to anybody else. Yes, you're right. We would pay a lot of money for it, but it's not actually on the street worth anything, so just don't claim it. It turns out however that something else happened. I have global entry. Back to the travel hacking. I have TSA pre. I also have global entry, which means that I can go through the really fast lane when I come in through the country, but I also on my phone have the TSA app, which allows you to do the claim form on the plane four hours ahead of landing and put everything in there and then the record's already in there. However, don't do both. It turns out that if you do both, it creates a conflicting record in immigration systems that if you're, if you have Global Entry, you simply use global entry, use the paper form and go through. I didn't know that, so I did both. So I get through personal immigration and they say, Oh yeah, if you're going to do, you know, so I scan my phone app and I show them my Global Entry and they're like, the Global Entry doesn't count because you did the phone app, it's going to create a conflict. Don't do that. So okay, fine. So then when I'm pick up my bags and I'm going to go through the check, I go through global entry and the guy sees the phone app and he spends a good solid like two minutes. "Why did you do that? You already have Global Entry. Why did you do the TSA App?" "I didn't know it was going to create a problem." This is... "Just please next time don't do that." And he waves me through an off I go. He didn't ever look at the fact that I had four pieces of luggage, you know, I'm a single guy going through, didn't even pay attention to that. He was more concerned about the fact that I had made an IT error.

Josh:                                      33:06                     Lovely, yes, you had done the steps out of order. Incorrect. The problem exists between the keyboard and the chair, obviously.

Leon:                                     33:17                     Right? So, right. PEBKAC rules. I am clearly the ID10T error of the day. That was the problem, not the toy, the ancient Torah scroll and the silver case and that, that wasn't okay. So I get through and uh, I get home and uh, one of the lessons to, to spin this back around again to the more technical is that I had, I knew the entire flight plan. I knew each of the steps along the way. I knew that I was gonna have personal security at these places and I was gonna have luggage security at these places. I knew I was going to have all these things. I had my steps in a row, but I, I took each step as it came. I didn't take a hiccup or an issue at one moment as a sign of things to come. Good or bad. I really, and I think that as IT professionals, we also need to think about that. That, you know, we have a project, we know what the project plan is. Things are going to work, other things aren't going to work. That doesn't mean it's a sign of how the whole project is going to go. That each moment is its own moment and doesn't necessarily have bearing on the next moment to come.

Josh:                                      34:28                     Yeah. I, when we think about how, how do you build a resilient system, there are two things that you factor in. One is a system that is resistant to failure and a system that can quickly recover from failure because there is no such thing as no downtime. It does not exist. There will always be failures, right? And as IT professionals, we need to figure that out, not just in the technology but also in the way that we execute projects in the way that we execute our careers. I mean, it's all about that personal, professional resilience. Failure is going to happen. Roll with the punches

Leon:                                     35:12                     And you know, don't, yeah, don't imagine the punches aren't going to come, but just because one step along the way knocked you down doesn't mean every step is going to knock you down. It's not. Um, so we got it back to America. Um, in the show notes, I will link to the live tweeting I did of the entire process and a picture of the Torah itself so you can see it in its, in its new home. But after I, I got back, I went over to the rabbi's house and the rabbi's wife and I were, and she said something very interesting and I have to give you a little bit of history. So as I mentioned before, um, the kind of Jewish we are or the culture that we come from is the Spanish Jewish culture. So that means that, uh, after the expulsion of the Jews from Israel in 72 CE, after the second destruction, they settled in Spain and they lived in Spain until about 1492 during, you know, the Inquisition. And then our family, my Rabbi's family and my family settled from Spain into Istanbul and they lived in Istanbul, in a little town outside of his temple until about 1920. And that's when they came to America. So when I got everything back and I was sitting at the house and I was talking to her, she said, you know that Torah stopped every place our family lived. And I got chills. It went from Israel to Istanbul to Spain to America. And if I had said to you, Hey Josh, you know, I just want bring a Torah back but I want to do this really, really cool thing. I'm going to stop every place or a, you would tell me, Leon, you are way overthinking this and just bring the thing back and be done with it. But it just happened. It just, you know, it just worked out that way.

Leon:                                     36:49                     And again, from an it perspective, I think it speaks to that serendipity of life, whether that's religious or it or otherwise. Sometimes you know and have this in caps, you know, things happen for a reason. Trademark, copyright, all rights reserved. Things do happen for a reason. And it's okay to know that that happens. And sometimes you say, I'm just going to see how this works out. I'm going to let things happen. I'm not going to try to control the outcome. I'm not gonna try to make it be something, I'm going to let things go and, and just let it be. I didn't intend for that to be, my travel path, but it did. And, and the experience was that much richer because of it.

Josh:                                      37:33                     You know, I, I had an interesting, uh, moment over the past month or so going through the interview process with new Relic and talking to a number of my current team members who were on that interview panel and explaining the journey that I had toward being someone who is, uh, an enterprise monitoring practitioner. And I realized in recounting the journey over the past 20 years that my very first job than IT laid the, the framework for me becoming a, a monitoring practitioner. I worked for a small company, uh, in Michigan that focused on call center software and they designed software that would connect to your PBX, uh, for your call center and would allow you to monitor the phone status of all of your agents and then would correlate all of that data up onto a big screen. That would allow you to run reports. It did call center monitoring my very first job and then my next job had an HP OpenView workstation and then my next job had an HP OpenView work station that I replaced with SolarWinds. It's a wonderful journey. Uh, I, that's, it's, it's weird. I think like you and your Torah story, uh, your Torah journey, you didn't realize the importance of that journey until you paused for a moment to reflect on the journey that you took. And I, I think we have to do IT as well. Sometimes we're so focused on where we want to get to that we forget where we've come from and the power that comes to us. I think that's important, right? Right. What we value in our IT lives. We have to take time to look back what we value in our personal lives and our religious lives. Yeah. You know, I think I'd like to end Leon with a quote from, uh, Ralph Waldo Emerson. So he, you know, prolific writer, um, wrote a series of essays and a second series and an essay entitled experience. He said "To finish the moment, to find the journey's end and every step of the road to live. The greatest number of good hours is wisdom."

Destiny:                               39:46                     Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

Josh:                                      40:00                     So you brought a Torah back from Israel?

Leon:                                     40:03                     And all I got was this t-shirt...I mean, this podcast story.


S1E33: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Corey Adler

S1E33: Tales from the TAMO Cloud with Corey Adler

November 26, 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 friend, co-religionist, programmer, and recurring Technically Religious guest Corey Adler. Listen or read the transcript below.

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

Leon: 00:22 Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred." It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological, and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future.

Leon: 01:09 My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you'll hear on this episode is Cory Adler.

Corey: 01:14 Alon-zee, Mr. Adato.

Leon: 01:16 Very well done. Uh, Alonzo. So, uh, before we dig into the actual topic, uh, let's take a moment for shameless self promotion. Corey, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Corey: 01:27 Hi, my name is Corey Adler. I am a lead engineer at Autosoft who currently makes software for car dealerships. You can find me on Twitter @CoryAdler. Uh, you can find me on stack overflow as Ironman84 and I am an Orthodox Jew or as sometimes or sometimes cultist in the church of Jon Skeet.

Leon: 01:47 There we go. You pray at the altar of Jon Skeet.

Corey: 01:50 (whispering) Jon Kate is the whistleblower.

Leon: 01:52 Okay, good. You heard it here first. Anyway, uh, just to keep things, uh, evened out. My name is Leon Adato. I am a head Geek at Solarwinds. You can hear, uh, my ponderings and read some of the stuff I've done at, You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato and I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you're scribbling this down madly trying to catch those, uh, websites and stuff, stop and just listen. Enjoy the show. There will be show notes after this and you can have all of that and anything that we mentioned along the way. So...

Corey: 02:26 dat da-da da!

Leon: 02:27 Right, exactly. Just enjoy. Take a moment, smell the flowers, bask in the sunshine. All right, so the tales from the TAMO cloud has a very specific structure as you know. Um, so I want to start off with the technical side of the conversation. Tell me a little bit about what work, like what is the work that you're doing today? I know you said lead engineer, but what does that mean on a day to day basis?

Corey: 02:50 So we are currently redoing our entire dealer management system from, uh, our existing product, which is about 20 years old. I am currently lead for the accounting team. We're reworking, uh, the accounting module, various transactions, maintaining your journal, cashier, all kinds of various items that inherently in a dealership needs. But very few people end up thinking, "Oh yeah, the dealership is going to actually need software for all of that." So currently we're working in a .Net tech stack with an angular front end, um, SQL server, uh, for a database and hibernate that as our ORM of choice. Um, well except data teams trying to remove that because they want stored procedures and other things that are more efficient with our time as if, as if developers are efficient know.

Leon: 03:48 (laughs) Right. I see. If you take that as a personal insult, so, okay. So it's a little bit of what you do. So you're coding, I mean, you know, for, for those people who, who aren't quite as in the weeds, you're, you're a programmer and you work mostly in the .net stack as far as that goes, which is cool. Um, where... Think back now, think back to those early days. Where did you start out in tech?

Corey: 04:11 Professionally I've been developer my entire career. Uh, it's funny actually because I didn't start out and done that. Actually college and grad school both were in Java actually. Um, and the only .net class I took was for half a semester. My senior year in college, the one, the one semester of senior year that I had before I graduated, which was a computer games class and first half was, you know, still in Java. And the professor basically just had this thing of every week you're making a game. The way he phrased it was, "If I tell you to make a game in two weeks, you'll spend two weeks to make a game. If I tell you to do it in one week, you'll spend one week and you'll make a game." So one week he switched over to, um, halfway through because that, uh, Microsoft has this X and a framework that for people to make games that you can download to your X-Box. So he had us doing that and I ended up, uh, programming in a team doing, uh, this site's girl shooter game where you were enemies could do drop bonus weapons. Then you could and had this little animation for, you know, attaching it. And I wrote most of the most of the code for this game and I brought that code actually with me to my first job interview and they were like, the interviewers, like these guys are senior developers. They were actually like, you could, I could actually tell on their faces, they were rather impressed with some of the stuff.

Leon: 05:53 You realize that you were going to have to post your game in the show notes, like you're going to have to have that someplace where people can download it and play it.

Corey: 06:02 The professor himself actually, I believe, does not delete his course pages. So it probably is still up there.

Leon: 06:09 Awesome. Okay, fine, fine. Fair enough. Um, all right. So that's where we started was with, you know, like basically the equivalent of the XKCD cartoon, "That one weekend I spent playing around with Perl" was how you built your career, which, you know, fine. Okay. It's not Perl, but whatever. Um, so then the question is, where did you go from there? You know, you're, you're a, you're, you know, you're a full stack .net dev. Now you started off programming in your C, you know, comps, eyeglasses. But how did you get from there to here? What was your progression? What was the journey?

Corey: 06:42 So I graduated college and I knew I wanted to get a masters and I knew because we were expecting our first kid at the time.

Leon: 06:53 You're, I should clarify your wife and you were expecting not the development team, right? I just told them to, but, well, they were expecting your first company and have a completely different way.

Corey: 07:02 I mean, this was after college. I hadn't worked professionally yet.

Leon: 07:06 Oh, okay.

Corey: 07:07 Yeah. So, so we were moving out of New York. Yeah. Thank God. And the choices were either too near where my family lived in Chicago or near to where her family lived in Cleveland. And I ended up getting into case Western here. Um, but then they, so they said to me, "You know, we don't really give financial aid for master's students, but if you'd be willing to enter the PhD program, we would be happy to make you a TA and tuition would then be free and we would pay you a stipend for being a TA in a couple of classes." As well as full time taking classes. I said, sure, I'll do that. Um, so I ended up, you know, TA-ing and getting a reputation for being strict, which has helped throughout my career because you know, especially as being a team lead, all those little strict things that I asked those students to do that long ago is stuff that I'm still correcting people on doing. You know, please sort you're using, please write some comments, please document your code,

Leon: 08:25 (laughing) Comment your damn code! You hear that everyone?

Corey: 08:29 Sort your damn usings or your imports if you're in Java for the love of God, have some professional pride in your work.

Leon: 08:40 Perfect. I should point out before we go much further that you wrote a whole series of posts on the SolarWinds user forum. Yes, that's... Naming things is hard apparently. So the SolarWinds user form is called THWACK dot com... And Corey wrote a series of I think four or five posts on just how to be a basically good programmer. Jjust you know, fundamentals and we'll link to that in the show notes.

Corey: 09:05 Fundamentals are fun,

Leon: 09:07 Right. We put the fun fundamentals, yes, I got it. Okay. So you've got to case Western. You were a TA in the an a P in the PhD program...

Corey: 09:15 In the PhD program. And then so through various occurrences, I ended up in a situation where there was no money for me to work for the university over the summer, over a summer. And they said to me, "Well we can have you back at the TA the second year, you know, with same salary and everything, but we don't have anything over the summer. You don't have to do something else over the summer." And what, so what I ended up doing was, because I wasn't, I always wanted to just do masters anyway, was I just said, okay, well I'm going to switch out now to the master's program and I'm just going to go flat out and get a job. And I ended up getting a job at a company called MRI software that does, um, property real estate management software. So both commercial and residential property management. Um, I worked for them for awhile and I was taking, I took a night class at Cleveland state, uh, to continue on. And then two things happened. Number one was I got promoted very quickly at MRI from being from being a associated, you know, junior level basically to being, you know, mid level. And the second thing was was that, um, I had an advisor who, you know, was an awesome guy but didn't really give me such great direction in the final project. To the point where I just realized there was no added benefit... I was already in mid level. I was already doing really well. There was very little point in me, you know, basically killing myself to get a master's that may not have actually helped at that point. You know, people tend to get masters to help fast track their careers and I'd already done that through my own hard work at the company. So did it re would it really have helped me on future jobs to get an added degree there? Yeah. Versus say like a certification which probably would have. So I ended up, uh, dropping grad school, uh, worked for MRI for a little while, uh, then switched to a company called Rosetta. They, I think they still exist, but they're entirely Java now. They had two departments. They had a Java and a .net. wing And I was part of the .net wing working on a project for this big huge project. That - like many big, huge projects ended up getting canceled. Um,

Leon: 11:58 (laughs) okay!

Corey: 11:59 Uh, for a company called Safeguard properties, but so worked on this pro on that project for awhile and that's, I mean I started out learning at MRI, but Rosetta was a lot of like where a lot of my foundations really took hold. I had a couple of, because there's a difference that I noticed, especially for me, this doesn't apply to everybody, but there was, there was an especially big difference for me in somebody showing me directly, "Hey, this is how you do it and this is why it works." Versus I had a couple of guys and um, shout out to, uh, Sean and Ed if you guys happened to be listening to this, I don't know if you are, but shout out to you guys for this, which was me saying, "I don't understand why this, why this isn't working." And one of them saying, "Go look up this feature or this class." Not saying, here's "how you do it." This is just, okay, well write something down, hand it to me and say, "Go look this up. Go look at why this works." I said, I'd spend, you know, an hour or so researching it and I come back to my, I said, "Oh, okay, so if I do this and this, that should solve this problem." It's like, yeah, yeah. And that was just like, Oh, okay. Like the, the direction of you go that way.

Leon: 13:17 Right. It's not, it's not, "Well figure it out on your own. Good luck." It's, "I'm going to point you in generally the right direction and let you take it from there." You know, that way, you know, you're not completely going off on a wild goose chase, but I haven't just spoonfed it to you either.

Corey: 13:34 Yeah, exactly. So that provided a lot of, you know, the my bedrock, basically during my time there. I ended up then going back to MRI, in a completely different department - internal applications was there working on, because the company had bought a couple of, not exactly competitors, but also you know, software companies that were also in the same market doing different things in the same markets. So they wanted to integrate those systems into their own product. But now they have four different companies of billing and needed one package to the, to your bill in bill, their customers in. So start was writing on that. They ended up switching platforms. I ended up getting let go because the platform they were switching it into, I was not well first and um, apparently product development said "no" when it came time when they asked if they wanted to take me back. So... Which was fine because um, and I've told this story to people many times about... And usually in the context of how wonderful of a market there is for .net developers everywhere. But especially in Cleveland. Which was I got let go on a Friday by the following Friday, even with having laryngitis that week, I had about 10 phone interviews. I had two in-person interviews at a job offer by the following Monday I had a second job offer and I was at work the following Friday for at a job that paid more than the last one.

Leon: 15:16 Know your strengths and know the market where your strengths are valued.

Corey: 15:19 Absolutely.

Leon: 15:20 You know, a lot of people in Cleveland, uh, you know, you and I both know folks who are coming up through the ranks of IT and you know, learning programming and they're learning, you know, "I want to learn Python and I want to learn Ruby and I want to learn... You know, you know, it's like those are great languages. They're very useful.

Corey: 15:38 Ruby is a four letter word.

Leon: 15:39 Okay. But there's no market for those skills in Cleveland. It's a very small market. We really are very much a production, you know, you know, get it done. .net tradition. I'll say traditional market. That's, that's not a slam on Cleveland. It's just a recognition of this is what this it market is. It's not Austin or Seattle or you know, whatever. You know, New York,

Corey: 16:05 Chicago I've heard has got a lot of Ruby shops, which is, which is disappointing cause I'm from Chicago and that's just sad.

Leon: 16:12 I understand. Okay. So that's how you got from here, more or less, how you got from here to there? Did I did

Corey: 16:16 So, so then I, um, so I've got a job at Paragon consulting, which does websites for companies that don't want to hire full time developers. So using content management system and worked there for awhile and then got a hankering for, uh, working with not with, not working in content management systems anymore. And uh, so moved over to AutoSoft just as a regular mid level. And um, I think it's been working out pretty well. They've, yeah. you know. Now I'm the team lead and you know, things are, things are soaring.

Leon: 17:01 Nice. Okay. So that, so that's the journey as far as the technical side go, but we are ]Technically Religious here. So, uh, let's talk about the religious side. You identify, as you said at the top of the show, um, as a Orthodox Jew. Did, you always start off at that level of observance, you know, where, where did you, sorry, let me, let me step back. What does Orthodox Judaism look like for you today? Because, as I like to say, especially on these kinds of shows, labels are hard and they're often imprecise. And a lot of times when you ask somebody, "What are you?" The first thing people says, "Well... I'm sort of, you know..." And then they give this sort of very qualified answer. So in, in the long form, how do you identify your religious observance today?

Corey: 17:48 I remember one website that would give you a list of choices for which label really worked for you. And the funny part was you would click on like the, on the overall Orthodox part and then there would be eight different choices within that label. And included in that, you know, we have this term "modern Orthodox", they had it listed twice. First one was with MODERN in caps, the second one was with ORTHODOX in caps. So I'm kind of in between on those.

Leon: 18:28 So you're camel case,

Corey: 18:29 I'm camel case.

Leon: 18:32 All right, fair enough.

Corey: 18:33 So to me, I live in a very modern world while juggling the responsibilities of an Orthodox... Of a strictly Orthodox Jew. So for those who know that, I know Shulchan Aurch, i know Gemarrah, all those things, you know, I follow and I try to learn and I try to teach my children and whatnot and which, which means I'm carefully selecting the beer I'm getting. You know, when, when the fun car comes around at work.

Leon: 19:05 You know, no, you're keeping kosher, you're keeping Shabbat, you're, you know, doing all that stuff. And for those people who don't know Corey, he's also what's called the Gabbi at our synagogue. He's the person in charge of making sure that people are running the parts of the service that need to get run and they're going as fast as they need to go and no faster. And that they stand up when they need to stand up and sit down when they need to sit down. And he also reads Torah at least twice a week to make sure that that happened, you know, so he, he is the glue that keeps things moving. So: knowledgeable and also taking responsibility for things.

Corey: 19:40 I'm the Orthodox Jewish version of a bartender. Nobody notices me unless I've screwed up.

Leon: 19:46 Right, exactly. And everyone has an opinion about how to mix the drink regardless. So, okay, good. So, so that's how you identify today. So then back to the question I started asking, is that where you, obviously you didn't start off as Gabbi, but did you start off in this type of, or this flavor of Orthodox Judaism or was there a progression?

Corey: 20:06 I was born and bred in the gabbai tanks.

Leon: 20:11 Next to the Kwisatz Haderach on Dune. Yes. I understand.

Corey: 20:16 Uh, no, actually I did not start out religious. Uh, originally growing up I went to a Solomon Schechter school, which is a more conservative, uh, Judaism school. Uh, my family went to an Orthodox shul, uh, the local Chabad. Classically, there are two versions that you'll find in the wild of Chabad Shuls. One is the, you have all these Chassidic Jews who are all meeting together. In most other locations though they are, where like the handful of Orthodox Jews will be, but where they will get some of the, of the more non-affiliated or nondenominational people to come in and celebrate being Jewish and have some kind of connection that way so that.

Leon: 21:09 It's the outpost.

Corey: 21:10 It's the outpost, which was what we were. Um, but we would still drive to shul on Shabbos. We would easily eat out non-kosher and when not. But that all changed, uh, from two major events. Number one was my brother William going to Yeshiva in Israel after high school. Which got me more thinking about being religious. And the second thing was, uh, I ended up leaving Solomon Schechter because of a couple of bullies basically. Uh, and so the only other option as far as Jewish school was wa was, um, uh, an Orthodox one, which is what I went to. And called Hillel Torah in Chicago. I went there and then through osmosis, you know, and through seeing my brother becoming more religious, I ended up following suit there and then ended up going to a more religious high school than he had gone to. Uh, and then when also followed him to into having a Israeli yeshiva for two years, um, afterwards. And then, you know, unlike my brother though who went to Yeshiva University in New York, I ended up going to New York University and more, more secular school.

Leon: 22:42 That solidified your sort of observance as it looks today. And I know that you talk about being Gabbi even at NYU that you were in charge of making sure that the, the congregational responsibilities within the, you know, NYU within the college crowd happened efficiently and effectively also.

Corey: 23:01 Which basically consisted of me in the kosher cafeteria every day yelling out MICHA!!!!

Leon: 23:07 So we've talked about your, your progress, your starting and ending point, um, in, uh, technical terms in religious terms. So now I want to focus on the overlap between the two. As a person with a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. In this case, the Orthodox Judaism, who has a long career in tech, how have those two things, um, what challenges have you found along the way with those, with those two parts of your life?

Corey: 23:36 I've been very lucky, lucky in that most places that I've gone to, they've been very accepting of my religious beliefs, especially in agile environments. When I say, "Hey, I'm going to have to take off early on Fridays, but I'm going to spend more time the rest of the week to make up for that. I'm still going to get my work done." My sprint work, I'm still going to get, you know, my at least 40 hours. And is that okay? And for, you know, everybody said, "Yeah, yeah, sure. That's cool." The only struggle that I had with that was, uh, at one company where the raises and bonuses and promotions were dependent on you're competing with your fellow developers. So if you had a number of developers who were working 60 hours a week and you were only working 50 hours a week, well they were more in line to get raises and bonuses and promotions, then you were. So for someone who's, you know, got 24 hours where 25 hours where they're not on the computer at all. That takes away a lot of times from being able to potentially join those ranks. So that was kind of frustrating and it ended up leading to me eventually leaving that company. Cause I, I'm competitive when I play board games. I don't want to be competitive in the office. I want to be, I want to be in a situation where I can be recognized for my own work and you can be recognized for your own good work. And I feel like, I feel like morale is better when you have that in a company versus that versus the pressure of "I've gotta be better than you."

Leon: 25:31 Yeah. When it, when it's the accounting team versus the IT team and they're up six to four, everybody's losing. Yeah. But, but yeah, collaborations is far more effective in the workplace then than competition in that way.

Corey: 25:45 There was one other thing, which is minor, very minor, but it's the fact that people sometimes have a need to apologize for things that I'm so used to for a long time that I don't even notice it. But yet people feel like they have to apologize to me for those things. The biggest example being kosher food. So your company has a lunch and learn, we're all going to be learning about this topic and they bring in pizza and of course the pizza has got, you know, pepperoni and sausage and they'll have a regular vegetarian one, but it's not kosher anyway. Yeah.

Leon: 26:32 So people are apologizing...

Corey: 26:33 So the people, Oh my God, you know, I'm so sorry. None of the kosher places deliver nearby. And I'm really sorry. I'm like ever since college, and we're talking now about, you know, 15 years, there's never been kosher food except maybe a couple of times. And even then it was sponsored by the Judaic studies department. So computer science, I had computer science talks in college. I had colloquium in grad school, I've had 10 years of being a professional developer. I don't expect kosher food. It's a slight irritation. It's a minor irritation, but it's still an irritation. When people apologize to me for not having kosher food or stuff like that, it's like I don't, I don't need it.

Leon: 27:21 Right. It wasn't even on the table. Like it was never on the table. I appreciate, yeah, I appreciate the sensitivity and you demonstrating that you are sensitive to it, but really wasn't ever on the... like let's just have our meeting and keep on going and I'm going to eat the sandwich I brought anyway.

Corey: 27:36 Although there was one company Paragon shout outs to Mark for, for doing this for me who said, uh, "If you want, when we have those lunch and learns, if you're willing to spend the time to drive over to one of these places, pick up food and come back, I'll give you the company credit card and you can go out and buy it." And I was like, "Hey, deal!" And then I ended up, uh, creating a series of lightning talks at the company. So I could not, not just so I could get free food, but...

Leon: 28:07 Okay. I will say though that that especially when you're dealing with, um, team members who have specific dietary needs, whether it is vegan or gluten free or Halal or kosher or whatever, um, I think sometimes companies they err by saying, uh, "So we'll, we'll buy this thing that's kosher, we'll buy this thing that's Halal." And yet there are nuances to those dietary needs that the person who needs that food understands, but the rest of the company doesn't. And so you end up in a very awkward situation of somebody said, BUT BUT YOU SAID it was kosher." "Yes. But it's not a hecksher. It's not a standard that I hold by," you know, or "Yes, you got, you know, gluten free but it wasn't nut free" or whatever. And you end up with, you know, sometimes for feelings and things like that where as saying to somebody, Hey, we really want you to feel included. Will you go buy, will you go get well, you make sure is sometimes not the burden that it might sound like to the outside person. It's actually, you know, much more inclusive because now I know the food is going to meet my personal standards. I'm not saying higher or lower. I'm just saying that's my personal standards and it's gonna be what I wanted and it's, you know, I'm not going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation about you just went through literally hell and high water to get this and I'm still not eating it. So I like that. That was really smart. Good work Mark! Okay. So those are some of the, you know, again, nothing major but um, you know, some of the, the challenges between your religious and technical life and I want to spin it around now. Were there any benefits, were there any surprises, positive surprises that you had where you showed up into your technical world and realize that your religious point of view was actually an unexpected benefit?

Leon: 29:59 Uh, I was working at Paragon and at the time we were working in this medical office building, which was kind of weird cause we were all in these offices instead of, you know, being in a room together. Cause it's just like these tiny offices. And there was one seat open in the room I was in. And Mark says to me, "Hey, we've got a guy who's coming in who's going to be taking over that seat. It's a man named Kamran and he's going to be starting on Monday. And yeah, just make sure he feels welcome." And I said, "Oh," me thinking, you know, because we had at Paragon we had, and I think they still do have a fair amount of people from Indian descent who worked there. And I said, "Oh, that sounds vaguely like an Indian name." And he goes, "No, actually Kamran is originally from Pakistan." And you know, the, the alarm bells almost went off in my head as it were because okay, now I'm going to be in this situation where I'm working with somebody who's obviously Muslim and I'm very openly Jewish. I wonder how this is going to work out. You know, not, not being pessimistic, but just like, okay, this is going to be something new for me. Working with somebody who is Muslim. And I am, uh, I was, I had a very positive experience at NYU with, um, uh, Jews and Muslims, uh, being very friendly together. Um, there was, as an example, there was a trip shortly after Katrina hit where they had Jewish and Muslim students going together and rebuilding some houses in new Orleans. And those kids ended up getting along so well with each other that you would see them frequently at the kosher cafeteria eating lunch and dinner together. You know, so very positive experience there. And so I was like, you know, I'm going to, this is going to be new for me because now I'm in that situation and I'm going to, I took it upon myself. I said, I'm going to, I'm going to really try and do exactly like what those kids did. I'm going to. And so, um, Kamran and I ended up becoming very good friends actually of working together and to the point, and of course we would have discussions and discuss. Of course the conflict in Israel in the middle East came up and we had our discussions and there were always respectful discussions. And I remember one time we were talking about something that was in common between Judaism and Islam. At one point I was just looking at me at all, "Why are we fighting? Like so many things that you have in common, why are we fighting?" He goes, "I don't know man. I don't know." Yeah. And the second story, I would come run his holiday party. And those are two very loaded words everybody,

Leon: 33:11 We're going to have an episode on that coming up soon on technically religious about the dreaded holiday party in the office. Yeah.

Corey: 33:18 But I, I still remember he brought his wife to the holiday party and she was in, uh, she was in full, uh, attire. Um, not, not a burka, but I, I'm blanking on the term off the top of my head...

Leon: 33:31 Hijab?

Corey: 33:31 Yes. On top. And then long skirt or dress or, I don't know that the technical term for it, but [and I'm like, Oh, I get to meet Kamran's wife. Cool. And there were a few people ahead of me who were truffle, wanted to meet her also, and she was shaking hands with these people, with these guys. And I'm just thinking in my head, you know, Judaism, we have an idea that the sexes don't really shake each, you know, make physical contact unless you're a family member. I wonder if Muslims have that too. And so I specifically did not shake her hand, but then I worried about it for like the rest of the weekend. I'm like second guessing myself. I'm like, did I God, I hope I didn't insult her. I went in and insult him and I come in on Monday and I said to come on by the way, I didn't shake your wife's hand. And he looks at me and goes, "You guys have something like that too, don't you?" I said, "Where we don't shake women's hands?" Yeah. He goes, "Yeah, we've got that. Also. You were the only one who knew about that." And just like, that's just so cool. So yeah, that's we, I mean we had a... Mark arranged when we moved to a new new building. Your range for us to have a closet basically that was designated as our prayer space. Which Kamran and I would always joke that if we got another religious person in, we'd have to have a signup sheet. Right. Because especially there was the afternoon prayers were so closely timed where I would go to the closet, and it would be locked. I'm like, Oh, Kamran's daven... Kamran's praying right now. I almost said Kamran was davening right now, which is the Jewish term for it. And so that was, that was an instance where it was so, it was so nice being religious and sharing, being religious in tech with this person and becoming good friends even with our differences. So there, that was both. Yeah. Benefit and to surprise. The other, the other benefits have been, I mean there's, you see really so many amazing people who you really get to see just how respectful people can be about it. Where if you weren't religious, you mean maybe they'd still be respectful, but there are so many times you find people willing to go out of their way to be accepting of you. I mean, there've been plenty of times where I've said to my team like, "Hey guys, I got to get out of here. I've got prayer services that I have to go to and then.

Leon: 36:11 Sundown is coming fast. It's winter or whatever it is.

Corey: 36:14 And especially Friday. I mean, so many times we've since changed it to a Wednesday to Wednesday a sprint. Right? But there were times where Friday's last day of the sprint, and I say, "Guys, I've checked in some code. It doesn't work. It's not, it's not finished. But I got to go." And somebody saying, I've got it, I'm going to, I'll take it. You know? And that's, that's been a wonderful sight to see, has been, has been those, that kind of reaction.

Doug: 36:45 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes. Leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.

S1E32: Fight the Stigma, part 2

S1E32: Fight the Stigma, part 2

November 19, 2019

"Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you're part of a team!" - so goes the impossibly catchy song from the Lego Movie. In IT, we are often expected to be caught up in that same spirit - hyped up on the adrenaline of fixing systems, catching hackers, and inventing new stuff. These expectations - which come from external sources like our boss or company or IT culture at large, or internally from assumptions we've taken on as personal truths - can fly in the face of how we're actually feeling. When our feelings turn from just being "a little tired", "a little frustrated", or "a little sad" to serious challenges like burn out, rage, or depression, it can be hard to admit, let alone seek help or ask our coworkers for support and understanding. And yet religious, moral, and ethical traditions are rich with stories of people coping with the exact same challenges. In this episode, we're going to get brutally honest about the mental health challenges we've faced and are facing today as well as what lessons from our faiths we can carry with us to provide insight, comfort, and even strength. Listen or read the transcript below.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have is 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 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Leon: 00:30 I want to pivot back around though, just talking about the leaders in our faith community and the behaviors or the examples that they show. I read something last year from Rabbi Sacks who is the former chief Rabbi of London. It really surprised me because it was a take on a part of the Torah of the Bible that I wouldn't have expected it and I didn't see it when I was reading it myself. Um, Rabbi Sacks was talking about when he himself feels depressed and overwhelmed and anxious. And he said that whenever he felt that way, he would recall a point when Moses himself reached his lowest point. And this is for those people who want to find it in the book of Numbers, chapter 11, verse 10 or thereabouts. Cause I know the numbering is not always the same between different, uh, versions of the Bible. Um, so the Israelites were engaged in their all time favorite activity: complaining about the food. Uh, in this case, they were recalling fondly the cuisine that they got to have in Egypt, completely forgetting about the fact that they were slaves at the time, that was completely ignored. God is, uh, because of this, understandably angry, but Moses was more than angry. Uh, as Rabbi Sacks describes it, he suffers a complete emotional breakdown. And one of the things he says is, it says to God is, "I cannot carry this whole people on my own. It's too heavy for me." And rabbi sacks continues by saying "...somehow the knowledge that the greatest Jewish leader of all time had experienced this depth of darkness was empowering.." That he, he took comfort in knowing that everybody sometimes gets there. Everybody experiences this. Even the man who the Bible itself says was the most humble human ever to walk... Who will, who did ever or will ever walk the face of the earth. The one human who was righteous enough to speak face to face with God, still had crushing depression that he didn't know how to get past himself. And by the way, um, in this plea to God, "I can't do this." God has an answer. God's, you know, by saying I can't, this God says, okay, here's how I'm going to help. And that also is empowering. Um, so I just, you know, when we talk about the things that we value in our leaders, I think we, we'd be remiss to not mention Moses.

Josh: 03:17 Yeah. To not mention God, right. Because when we're talking about the ultimate leader, I mean, even Moses at his lowest point turn to God and said, I can't do this. And God's like, okay, let me help you. I think that for those who have a religious belief, um, that is, that is ultimately where they turn to, uh, is just to God.

Yechiel: 03:41 And if I recall correctly, the way God helped him was by telling him to get help to you, told him to gather 70 elders and have them help out with his duties. So having spoken about the stigma behind talking about mental health and it was sort of what the, how we expect our community around us to react, the values that we expect them to have. Um, how do we actually go around treating, uh, non mental, uh, mental health issues? Is there something that we can take from our religious traditions or religious communities? Is there something that we can learn from that?

Josh: 04:13 I mean, mental health within Mormonism is something that very recently has, has started to, uh, to peak. In fact, Mormonism, has a bi-annual conference. It happens in April and October every single year. They call it the general conference and it's broadcast live from Salt Lake city. In the one that just happened in October, there were a number of addresses from leaders of the church around mental health. Um, the church has, and we'll put this in the show notes. He actually has a website that's dedicated to mental health and it outlines a few things that we can do. It talks about, you know, watching what you say. So if, if you're in a position where someone comes to you and says, "Hey, Yechiel, this is the, the challenge I'm having, be careful the things that you, that you respond with, right? Sometimes we just need to listen and we don't need to fix, which as engineers is really hard because we want to fix everything because everything can be fixed, right? Um, we also need to be authentic friends. Um, everyone needs a friend and when you are suffering from depression, the world feels like a very lonely place. Um, it's, you know, talks about things like practice, self care, and it goes into details and what to think. Self care is, um, it talks about, you know, this, uh, the "be still", you know, sometimes it's for me, when I'm in a depressive episode, I do the opposite of, um, be still, I get really busy. The more busy I am, probably the, the more unstable my mental health is. Um, so, you know, if I'm working 12, 13, 15 hours a day, um, I'm, I'm probably trying to run away from something, um, you know, talks about, you know, finding joy and taking care of our physical cells, which is really important. Um, yeah, those are all things. Now I will also point out that the reality of Mormonism is this. The state of Utah has the highest percentage of Mormons anywhere in the world. Um, and in a study, um, done I believe in 2017 at found that LDS women are almost twice as common to have mental health issues than LDS men and 20%, 27% of a Mormon women and 14 and a half percent of Mormon men were dealing with a significantly a significant depression. And Utah again, which is predominantly Mormon, also has the highest incidents of adult mental illness and adults with serious thoughts of suicide in the, in the entire United States. And those are some pretty heavy things when you have such a high population that is focused on mental health. So yes, you know, Mormonism itself is doing a lot of things to say to start this narrative. And as we talked about before the show started, Canada, um, among other nations in the world has done a wonderful thing where there's a company here, uh, it's kinda like your Ma Bell down there in the States, uh, Bell Canada and they, every year, um, they run a campaign called "Let's Talk." And that campaign has been super powerful in, um, addressing the stigma around mental health and seeing others who have not only experienced mental health but have been able to navigate the complexities of it. So, I mean, religious communities, as I talked before, very complex narrative, a very complex system. Some are so much better in dealing with it than others. Um, I think Mormonism is getting better. It still has a ton of work to do.

Yechiel: 07:44 Speaking from the Jewish community perspective, there's um, the stigma is still there like Leon spoke about earlier. But I do believe it's getting better. It's becoming more OK to speak about it. It's becoming more okay to seek help. I mentioned earlier that, you know, some people can see it as a sort of a religious failing, but on the other hand, Judaism also tells you that when you're sick you should go to the doctor. There's um, there's the verse in the Torah that specifically gives permission to doctors to heal. And so realizing that your mental health is just like any other health issue, there is actually a mitzvah. There's a commandment to take care of of that. You can't serve God when you're not, when you're sick and bad. You also can't serve God when you're depressed. So dealing with it is important.

Leon: 08:31 Right. And, and that versus, I think it's important to point out that that versus in direct contradiction to the idea that going to a doctor would deny faith in God, that that seeking another human to help fix you would say, "Well, I believe this human is more powerful than, or has somehow more ability or skill than God does." And so this verse comes to say, "No, that's not how, that's how not how this world works. Uh, you know, this world works on certain, you know, principals and doctors have an understanding of, you know, the biology and all those things and that's okay. I put it there for that reason." Um, yes, you're right. You know, God is the one who is ultimately going to heal you. But in the same way that God is the one who ultimately is going to feed you and ultimately gonna make sure you're okay. And yet we still have to do the work of planting seeds and harvesting and all those things because we still have to take part in this world. The same thing with seeing, uh, you know, professionals who can, who can help us out. They are part of the process. Um, I also want to add that this way, this is where we get into the true role of what a rabbi does in Orthodox Jewish synagogue communal life. Um, I think from the outside people think the rabbi is the, you know, either the smartest Jew in the room, or the one who leads all the religious things, you know, they lead the service and the, they read all the important parts. In fact, when you go to an Orthodox service, the rabbi is probably the one who is sitting there doing the least. Um, in the service. They're not leading. They're not, you know, any of those things. The rest of the congregation handles that piece. The rabbi is the one who understands, uh, each of the congregants on the most personal level. That's, that's what they're there for. They're there to know what somebody is struggling with, uh, religiously and to know if they're struggling with something emotionally or in their health. Because Judaism is so private about things, people don't necessarily broadcast their troubles. The rabbi is the single point of contact in a lot of cases where someone says, yeah, I just got fired from my job and I'm really embarrassed about it. And the rabbi can reach out to somebody else and say, Hey, I, you know, I heard that in your company. You're, you're looking for somebody. I happen to know someone who is looking for work, you know, and can be that switchboard operator who can put people in touch at the same time, the rabbi is the touchstone. Who, who says, "Oh, that thing that you're, you know, you're questioning about your faith. That's normal. Lots of people do that." Um, or to say, "Wow, that's really kind of exceptional. Let's work on that. Let's talk about that. Let, let you know. Let's see who else we can, we can bring in for that." Whether that is spiritual or emotional or, you know, uh, mental slash psychological or just physical health. Um, they're the ones who are there to be the reality check and the sanity check and that trusted advisor. So, uh, I, I think Josh speaking to your point about what are you look for in religious leaders. Again, someone who's can be vulnerable, can also open themselves up to other people being vulnerable to them, but also that's, that's their role, uh, in the community. And the other point I wanted to make is that, uh, to your point about being still, uh, in, in Judaism, we pray three times a day, you know, morning, afternoon, and in the evening. The prayers are not, uh, they're not trivial. You know, they can take anywhere from 45 minutes to, you know, at the very least, 15 minutes, depending on what time of day it is. And I think that that's, they can be extremely meditative. You know, they offer an opportunity to check in with yourself, you know, whether you want to talk, you know, call it talking to God or checking in with the boss. Uh, I don't mean Springsteen. Or, uh, you know, checking in, you know, with yourself, whatever it is. If you take the opportunity, prayer can be more than just a litany of, "I really need this. And I really like that. And can you buy me a pony and you know...", Or, you know, "thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You're wonderful. You're wonderful. You're wonderful." It can be a moment to say, how am I doing and what feels missing? And Josh, to your point, you know, am I running away from something? Is there something I'm avoiding? What's that all about? Um, so I think that that in a Jewish context, there are these opportunities. Not that everyone takes them, not that everyone looks at them that way, but I believe that they're there.

Josh: 13:19 Yeah. Honestly, one of the hardest transitions, one of the hardest things that I had to do when I transitioned away from Mormonism was a rediscover prayer. Uh, you know, once, once the deity that you knew when I couldn't define God for me anymore. And that was really hard. So I'm a little curious. I want to go about to your, just your description of the rabbi because there appears to be such a, a broad difference between your experience, both of your experiences, um, with Orthodox Judaism and the, um, the role of the rabbi. And that of Mormonism. Um, so tell me, tell, tell me, tell the listeners a little bit about rabbis. How long do they go to school? What training do they have that allows them to have that role where you could go to them and say, "Hey, a rabbi, I'm struggling with this. I'm struggling with my mental health. How do I work through it?"

Leon: 14:17 Yechiel, this one's for you.

Yechiel: 14:18 Yeah. It's interesting because there is nothing in the formal training of a rabbi that actually prepares them for that. The actual formal training is like purely the legal aspects of it. Like knowing how to, you know, is a kosher or not, you know, it was a, you know, what am I allowed to do on Shabbat? What am I not allowed to do? You know, the sort of the, the, the legal aspects of the questions that they might ask you. But then like I said, you know, every rabbi of a congregation has to deal with all these other issues that come up and that pretty much comes, you know, that there is no formal training for that, that they, that you have to pick up. You know, most rabbis will spend time, uh, under, you know, sort of as assistant grab buys, helping out other communities and picking up and you know, the, those are things... These are things you can quantify. You can't teach them in a classroom, have empathy and relating to people on communication skills. These aren't things that you can teach. You have them or you don't. Obviously you can perfect them, you can make them better. And someone who will struggle with that, we'll just realize early on that being a rabbi is not for them. So it's sort of a self selecting role where the most successful rabbis are the ones who are most respected for the reasons that Leon mentioned because they have this empathy because they have these people skills because they have these connecting abilities to bring people together and to really get down to what people are.

Josh: 15:56 So our rabbi is, uh, the role of a rabbi is not assigned? It is something you pursue.

Yechiel: 16:02 Yes.

Leon: 16:03 Right. I also before it, before people recoil from, from their ear, you know, their earbuds and they go, "Oh my gosh, they were completely untrained and to do this", the rabbi isn't necessarily one who is going to try to fix these, these issues, these mental health issues or whatever, but they're in a position where as you feel said, they can listen, uh, empathetically and they can be a sounding board to say, "This is not, you know, this isn't typical." This isn't a a... I hate to say normal response, but this isn't a common response to these situations and let's help find someone to talk to. And rabbis regularly do, you know, uh, recommend people to therapists and psych, you know, psychologists and psychiatrists, to marriage counselors and to, uh, you know, personal counselors as well and say, let's, you know, they, they don't try to tackle... In the same way they wouldn't try to tackle a myocardial infarction, you know, a heart attack and say, "okay, I can Torah this!" Like, no, that's not, you know, they're going to say this is not good physical health. We're going to call an ambulance now. They also, but, but people are often more comfortable sharing their mental state with them and therefore they can be the point to say, you know, as another human listening, "You know what, I think we need to get someone else involved. Let's, let's do that."

Josh: 17:35 So. again, we're trying to, to interweave our religion and our IT communities. And so this role of a rabbi is very interesting to me. I'm wondering if there is an equivalent when we're with mental health and our IT communities, like is there like, do we have those that, that rabbinical role or do we have, you know, in the context of Mormonism, do we have that, that role of Bishop or stake president, which if you're Catholic, a stake president is like a, uh, an Archbishop. Uh, I don't know what the, the Jewish equivalent of that is, but like, uh, you don't have one.

Leon: 18:10 There ain't none. There's no organizational structure. That's another misconception is that there's some, you know, pan galactic, Jewish organism. Forget about the conspiracy theories. You know, there, there's really, I mean, you've never seen anything quite so disorganized until you get into Orthodox Judaism. It's...

Yechiel: 18:29 uh, but to answer your question about, um, what would be started the equivalent role in it, uh, I think a, a good manager would recognize if one of their teammates, you know, is taking on too much, seems to be burning out or it seems to just be stretched too thin or just in general it seems to be down and will call them out on it and tell them, you know, take a sick day, take a mental health day, you know, if they see other problems, persistent, talk to someone. Um, obviously the workplace has, you know, I'm lucky to work at a company that values mental health and you know, and it shows both like in the benefits that they offer and the health insurance that they offer and you know, they offer counseling and things like that. Um, so I think definitely workplaces have a lot to... Have a big role to play in here. And started and a direct equivalent to the rabbi job, the mat, you know, a manager has direct responsibility for their reports.

Leon: 19:25 So I also think that, um, it, you know, we, I think we all know that that manager, you can have good managers. I think that, um, a whole other podcast or entire podcast series on the types of managers we've had. And yes, Josh, I'm in the middle of reading the manager's path. So based on, from your recommendations. So, uh, you know, the good and bad managers all around. But I also think that, um, mentors, which is much more self-selective have the opportunity to, to be that sounding board. Um, someone who knows you, who understands what you're going through, who understands that in a professional context, but is able to say, um, as we said at the top of the show, it's one thing to be a little tired or a little upset or a little frustrated, but when that turns into, you know, longterm exhaustion or rage or anxiety, that's, you know, sort of a tipping point and a mentor, maybe the person who is able to say, "No, no, no, I've, I've, I've seen this, or I'd had this and I can tell you right now, this is, you know, let's, let's do something about it."

Josh: 20:32 I've been pretty fortunate to have really good managers, um, for the past five years. I mean, that's not to say that my managers and the previous 15, uh, weren't, weren't, uh, good. Uh, or in some cases even, you know, Leon, you and I, uh, shared a manager. Uh, Andy was an outstanding individual. Still is. He's not changed a bit. I mean, he's still outstanding. Um, I've had, uh, two other managers since Andy transitioned away from our team into another team. Uh, both of whom I've been able to talk openly about my mental health and my depression. And to the point of mentors. I recently picked up a mentor. I reached out to somebody that I'd worked with, a director. And in our first conversation I was able to say to, you know, to this individual, Rob, look, I want to tell you that I, you know, I struggle with depression. I've, I've got some mental health challenges that that is part of who I am and it, it helps me to be who I am, but sometimes it also inhibits me. And I think to the point of this, this whole podcast, if we can fight the stigma of so many other things, uh, right. My oldest son has autism. When he was diagnosed, uh, more than 20 years ago. Um, the stigma around autism was, O"h, they are cold, um, isolationist individuals. They have, you know, there's nothing going on. Um, you know, all you can do is either medicate or give them intense therapy and that's the only way to save them". Um, w we bucked the system on all of those and now we're having discussions around, well, look, the autism is a spectrum and there are some people on the autistic spectrum that if we just removed the things that they struggle with, they can do exemplary work. Um, and I think that, I think that we'll mature, um, as a society where we look at mental health and we say, look, there are some things that we can remove and that when we remove those barriers that we have more people that can contribute to the well being of society. Um, I mean, I, I, I guess I'm very fortunate. Yechiel used a term, uh, earlier where you said, um, from a position of privilege, and I think that I have often operated from that position of privilege when it comes to the, the immediate managers I've had.

Leon: 23:12 So I just, uh, offering, um, a point of perspective is that I, I still think that in it mental health, talking about mental health is a challenge. I don't want to diminish that or be Pollyanna about it. It's, you know, there's a lot of people walking around in a lot of different companies or teams who know, not just suspect, but know that there is nothing, there's no way they can talk about it. Um, and I think that especially in parts of the it community, that are already struggling with toxic masculinity and brogrammer culture that's just not gonna happen. Um, however, I have seen enough discussions about burnout, um, about dealing with poor workplace habits or teams or processes. I've seen social media discussions tagged with the #FightTheStigma hashtag, you know, I've seen enough of that to know that there is a shift taking place, this podcast, you know, not the least among those things that this is a conversation that more people are insisting that we have. Um, to put it out in the open to say this is a thing that happens. Again, Josh just, you know, in the same way that once upon a time people didn't dare talk about a child with autism. Now it's, you know, I was talking to somebody the other day who was on a flight and they were sitting next to... She, she works with, uh, exclusively with, with, uh, adults and kids with autism. And she was sitting on a flight next to somebody who was just coming with their child from having gotten a diagnosis and without thinking, she says, "Oh my gosh, that's wonderful! That's so exciting!" Because in her perspective, working with these folks all day long, every day, they are joyful and fun and creative and interesting in ways that neuro-typical people just aren't. And you know, she just, and she said, "I actually had to check myself for a minute because I realized that they had just gotten this diagnosis. They were just wrapping their head around it. And my unabashed enthusiasm was probably not taken the way that I meant it." Um, so in that same way that they're, you know, that, that reaction to families who have individual with autism in it, I think that, you know, the more we talk about it, the more that we bring it out there and talk about our individual experiences. Um, I, I do also want to bring up something that I had seen a friend say earlier, which is that as much as we encourage people who may be, uh, dealing with depression or are struggling with, um, you know, just emotions that they can't even quantify, um, and saying, you know, "if you're not sure what to do, get help...", We acknowledge, or at least I acknowledge that I may be adding fuel to the fire because in those moments, movement, emotional or even physical movement, maybe the hardest thing to do and not being able to do that may feed into that depressive cycle that you're experiencing. So, um, you know, get the help that you can. Be kind to yourself in the same way that you would be kind to anybody else in your world. Uh, again, from our religious tradition, I think that we are taught, we are, we are told, we are commanded to give the benefit of the doubt, to be kind to both our neighbors and the the strangers, in our community. And yet that is the thing that we are most reluctant sometimes to give ourselves. So if it helps at all, treat yourself like a stranger. To, you know, if you say, "I don't even know who I am." Okay, fair enough. Then then get to know whoever that weirdo is looking at you in the mirror and treat them with the kindness that you would treat anybody else who showed up at your doorstep in need.

Josh: 27:05 My wife, uh, she was a great example to me today. We, we have, uh, some, some, uh, friends who recently lost a child, um, in a very traumatic way and child, but he was an adult, a young adult and it was difficult for my wife to, to talk with this other woman. She was obviously struggling with the scenario of, you know, life without this child who had this wonderfully infectious smile. Um, he was just a joy to be around. He was very hyper, very, very hyper. Uh, but he always made people smile and always made people laugh. And as I watched my wife, um, you know, the, the, the thing you don't want to say to somebody, and this is to your point, is well, what can I do for you? Because the answer is I don't know. I don't know how to help. And so my wife said, "Look, if you need someone to talk to, please call me. Or if you need someone to listen, please call me. Just know that I'm here." And I thought, wow, that is such a powerful thing. It's so simple. But you, as you said, Leon, we often are not willing to give of ourselves in that way. Um, so to all of our listeners, you know, be present for those among your coworkers and your community, whether it's IT or religious, I think that's powerful, right? I, I hope that our IT communities get better, uh, get more authentic and maybe less competitive. I think that'll do a lot for our mental health. Here's what I'll say. Um, when I started my religious community, which I have, uh, which I wrapped up now that, that I'm in a different place. Um, the tagline was, "You are not alone." Um, so if nothing else today, I hope that our listeners, well, we'll take that and remember, you are not alone. Um, life is a journey. Sometimes we pull off at a rest top and we can rest. Other times we press on even when we should have pulled off to rest. Um, do not walk the journey alone. Your path looks different than my path. Looks different than Yechiel's path or Leon's path. But we're all on this journey together. Um, if you are struggling, if you need someone to, to or reach out, reach out to us via email, our Twitter DMs are open. LinkedIn. Heck, you can even look me up on the phone book because Prince Edward Island still has a phone book. It's crazy. I know, but um, just remember that you're not alone. You're not alone and uh, people, people will be there for you.

Leon: 30:06 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visited our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

Josh: 30:18 At Technically religious. We usually have something funny to say at this point in the show, but mental health is nothing to take lightly. If you are struggling, please reach out to a family member, friend or a healthcare professional. If you are in crisis, please seek immediate medical attention. You are not alone. Fight the stigma.


S2E31: Fight The Stigma

S2E31: Fight The Stigma

November 12, 2019

"Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you're part of a team!" - so goes the impossibly catchy song from the Lego Movie. In IT, we are often expected to be caught up in that same spirit - hyped up on the adrenaline of fixing systems, catching hackers, and inventing new stuff. These expectations - which come from external sources like our boss or company or IT culture at large, or internally from assumptions we've taken on as personal truths - can fly in the face of how we're actually feeling. When our feelings turn from just being "a little tired", "a little frustrated", or "a little sad" to serious challenges like burn out, rage, or depression, it can be hard to admit, let alone seek help or ask our coworkers for support and understanding. And yet religious, moral, and ethical traditions are rich with stories of people coping with the exact same challenges. In this episode, we're going to get brutally honest about the mental health challenges we've faced and are facing today as well as what lessons from our faiths we can carry with us to provide insight, comfort, and even strength. Listen or read the transcript below.

Destiny: 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.

Music: 00:24 "Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you are part of a team. Everything is awesome..."

Leon: 00:31 So goes the impossibly catchy song from the Lego movie and it we are often expected to be caught up in that same spirit hyped up on the adrenaline of fixing systems, catching hackers and inventing new stuff. These expectations can come from external sources like our boss or company or it culture at large. We're internally from assumptions we've taken on as personal truths and can fly in the face of how we're actually feeling

Yechiel: 00:56 When our feelings turn from just being a little tired, a little frustrated or a little sad to serious challenges like burnout, grades, anxiety or depression. It can be hard to admit or let alone seek help or ask our coworkers for support and understanding. And yet religious, moral and ethical traditions are rich with stories of people coping with the exact same challenges.

Josh: 01:15 In this episode we're going to get brutally honest about the mental health challenges we faced and are facing today as well as what lessons from our face we can carry with us to provide insight, comfort, and even strength. I'm Josh Biggley and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasts, crime, Leon, Adato.

Leon: 01:35 Hello.

Josh: 01:36 And Yechiel Kelmenson.

Yechiel: 01:38 Hi again.

Josh: 01:39 Hello. All right, so this is a bit of an odd episode for us. Um, I mean this, this feels a little heavy. So before things get to, you know, heavy for us, little shameless self promotion. Leon, why don't you lead us off?

Leon: 01:55 Okay, so I'm Leon Adato, uh, I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. You can find me on Twitter @LeonAdato. I blog and pontificate on all sorts of technical things at and identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Yechiel: 02:11 I'll take a next, uh, I'm a Yechiel Kelmenson. I'm an engineer at Pivotal. Um, you can find me on social media at @YechielK, um, if you want to read what I have to say, it's on my blog at and like Leon, I'm an Orthodox Jew

Josh: 02:26 And I'm Josh Biggley. I'm currently an enterprise monitoring engineer, but by the time this episode drops, I'll have started a new role as a senior tech ops strategy consultant at New Relic. You can find me on the Twitters, uh, at, @jbiggley. Um, I don't actually have a place where you can find me other than I would say Twitter, LinkedIn. I I've taken to, to posting a fair bit on LinkedIn. Um, and I identify as an ex Mormon,

Leon: 02:52 Um, and I'm obligated to point out to everyone who might be scribbling madly to try to write that down, that we will have show notes and it will have all those links and everything else we refer to in this episode. So please don't worry, just sit back, relax and listen, just to enjoy the conversation. So I, I have to say that this entire episode was actually inspired by a comment that Josh made during one of our other podcast. It was episode 28, which is titled Release to Production. Once again, we'll have a link to that in the production notes and around the 12 and a half minute mark, Josh said this:

Josh: 03:26 And then in my own family, right, I suffer from depression and my work toward getting promoted happened to coincide with a really difficult depressive episode.

Leon: 03:37 So Josh, I want to start off by talking about that specific moment. Um, do you find that you're talking, you talk about your mental health often.

Josh: 03:46 I mean, you know, mental health, um, I, you know, as this episode title fight, the stigma, um, says is perhaps not something that I've talked about often. Look, I've, I've dealt with mental health issues, um, at least going back into my late teens. Um, it's something that, that kind of ebbs and flows for me. It's something that I'm comfortable with talking with my family about what my immediate family. Uh, and there are a few other people in my circle of trust who I've, I've talked to my I talked to about my mental health.

Leon: 04:21 Okay. So that being the case, you know, you, you're not mental health forward when you have, hi, my name's Josh and here's my depression is not how you do things then. Then I have to ask because it, you can hear in the clip. It was just something you said and it was a point that you were making as part of a larger conversation and we move, you know, and we moved on from it. But I have to imagine that that had to feel a particular way to say that on the air like that.

Josh: 04:49 I think the advantage of doing a podcast is that you record it and then it's done. And then you, you almost forget that you say it at least until I do the transcriptions. And by that point,

Leon: 05:01 by the way, thank you.

Josh: 05:01 You're welcome. And by that point, here's the thing, when, when you're struggling with something, um, confession is good for the soul. And I honestly, I do believe that it is good to share. I mean, did I intend to share at that particular moment? No, I didn't. Do I regret sharing? No, I don't regret sharing.

Leon: 05:29 Okay. Which, which takes me to the last, you know, basic question about that moment, which is have you gotten any feedback, you know, on, on social media or in, you know, on the blog that's associated with Technically Religious or anything, you know, or even just comments that you've gotten one-on-one.

Josh: 05:44 Has anybody come in and said, wow, you know, you said that and X, Y,Z , you know, uh, I haven't, and, uh, honestly, listeners, I'm a little disappointed. Uh, I know that mental health is a real struggle for people. I know many, many people, and we'll talk about this a little later, who struggle with mental health, whether we're talking about full-blown depression, whether we're talking about anxiety, whether we're talking about, you know, unhealthy levels of stress, whatever it might be, and nobody reached out. Um, I think the stigma is very real. And so, you know, if, if you're struggling or if you want to talk, you know how to find me.

Leon: 06:26 Right. And I think that goes for certainly all three of us. And I, I would also say that, um, the, the Technically Religious, uh, speaker cast at large, um, one of the things we've all been very open about is, is saying, look, if you have a question about anything that you are dealing with struggling with, have a question about, curious about, we're all pretty, Oh, we wouldn't be doing a podcast if we didn't want to talk about it.

Josh: 06:50 That's right. And we do like to talk. I mean, we're, we're pretty good at it.

Leon: 06:54 So that's on sort of the, the podcast technical social media side. Have you shared these kinds of things in religious contexts?

Josh: 07:03 Um, no, no, no, I haven't. Eh, and, um, yeah. Uh, and there's a reason for that. Um, in my, my religious community, um, as I said, I'm ex-Mormon, uh, now as our listeners know, I've, I've been transitioning since this podcast started. Um, there is a very toxic culture of perfection. Admitting that you have a mental health struggle is not a minute, is not looked at. It's looked at as a weakness. All right. Um, I F my personal experience, um, included some really fantastic people, but I also met some of the most cutthroat people that I've ever encountered in my entire life. And when you showed that soft underbelly, that weakness, your fear was that they would got you. Um, and here's the thing that's not unique to Mormonism. Um, I expected that is anytime you get a group of people together, you're going to find those, those individuals. I mean, in some organizations they may be more, but there's probably one, at least one in every organization. And for me, ultimately the, the question that I, I had to ask myself was, am I, am I generally comfortable with sharing this, um, within my religious context? And the answer was no. I mean, it's not that I didn't share it with people who shared my religious beliefs. I certainly had those, those moments, but it wasn't something that I got up in the middle of a sermon. I was like, yeah, yeah, I, I suffer from depression. And those things just didn't happen.

Leon: 09:01 Right? So I think it's, it's important to point out, and, and I've said it in a very particular way on this podcast a couple of times a Judaism and apparently Mormonism also have not found the cure for the common asshole. There's still gonna be, you know, individuals who are jerks regardless of their religious affiliation. And that's, you know, that's the truth. But it's got to be hard when you are talking about, uh, w when you're having conversations around ethics and charity and Goodwill and kindness to know that there is a line in the sand that you're just not comfortable crossing that by all accounts shouldn't be there. Um, so in the Orthodox community, my, my first and my visceral experience with talking about mental health, and it's not the only one, but it's the one that comes to mind every time, is that when, when mental health comes up, um, where a lot of people go is that admitting to or getting help for mental health will make it harder for, uh, children to get a shidduch or get a match for a marriage, um, either for themselves or for siblings. So a lot of families will sweep those kinds of things under the rug. And again, it's not just don't talk about it, it's also not medicating children for everything from attention deficit to, to anxiety, to oppositional defiance disorder to anything. Because the medication itself is an admission of a problem and that can get out in the community and that can be seen as a challenge. I'm not saying it is a challenge, but I think that a lot of families immediately, that's their first worry is my kid won't be able to get married because of it.

Yechiel: 10:47 Yeah, I definitely seen saying as far as the Orthodox Jewish community, that's probably the biggest obstacle in terms of talking about mental health. Um, and then on a secondary, uh, you know, started saying secondary and isn't that it's not as big a problem as the shidduch problem. Um, I find also that people have a hard time sort of owning up or admitting that they have, that they have issues because there's like, there's so much stress put on, on, you know, believing in God and trusting God that everything is good, that everything that God does is good and therefore you should be happy and you should be confident and you should be. Um, the umbrella term for it in Judaism is betach baShem to have trust in God and you feel like when you don't feel that way. When you feel, when, when you do have depression or anxiety or whatever it is, you feel like there's something wrong with you. Like if I was religious enough, if I took these ideas more to heart, I wouldn't be feeling this way. I wouldn't, you know, it's a, it's a failure on my, on my part as a person, as a religious person, not realizing course that it's a health issue, like any other health issue. And just like getting the flu doesn't mean that you're trusting God is lacking. So it doesn't getting depressed me. That is a problem in your life.

Leon: 12:04 And that's, and I think we'll, we'll talk more about that in a little bit about, about how things can be addressed. But yeah, it's, it's really hard when a crisis of mental health also becomes a crisis of faith because I think those two things have a really easy time of feeding upon each other to make the entire situation much, much worse.

Josh: 12:24 So I'm curious, something that, that comes to mind, um, that, at least on the surface appears to be a commonality, is this idea of the gospel of prosperity. And you see it a lot in Christianity, right? It's the whole idea that, well, if I'm, if I'm obedient enough and if I give enough than if I serve enough, then God will give me. And if I'm, if I am poor, if I'm sick, if I struggle, then you know, obviously I'm not doing, or even worse, you know, if you Yechiel, you know, if he's struggling, well obviously he's not. Uh, and then we get into that judgment that is unfortunately very prevalent in Christianity. And, and for those who are, who cannot see Leon, he is, he is writhing and agony here.

Leon: 13:18 I only learned about prosperity gospel a year or two ago. I never heard of it before. And the whole thing just, I can't, I still can't wrap my head around it because it's not, it is absolutely not a Jewish concept. Um, and it, that's not what this episode is about.

Josh: 13:39 That's interesting though because it's, at least within Mormonism, there is a lot of veneration about leaders and you know, how do we follow those leaders? And one of the things that at least if you go to your local bookstore and cause they still exist, there are places you can actually buy books that aren't online. I know it's weird, but if you go to your local bookstore and go to the self help section, you're going to read a titles from people who are leaders in their spaces, right? And we look to those people for inspiration. Today I was on LinkedIn and uh, uh, Jeff Weiner, who was the CEO of LinkedIn, shared a post, uh, and we'll put it in the show notes, but he was asked about what his leadership values were. And I thought that these were really interesting because as, as we're talking about this stigma or the potential for a stigma around mental health, um, if I had mental health struggles, I would want to be an environment with a leader like this. Here's what he said, "Be compassionate, be authentic, be open, honest and constructive. Be of service others. Lead by example, inspire." I thought, Holy cow, that that is what I want would want in a leader. And if I had a leader like that, then I would feel comfortable opening up to them and saying, look, these are my struggles. This is what I'm dealing with. Ken, how can I help? Or how can I continue to work and work through these struggles? I dunno, uh, Yechiel, what values do you have or what attributes do you value in, in others professionally, whether fellow engineers, managers, leaders?

Yechiel: 15:38 Obviously in addition to having their technical ability, I think if they can't share that tech and global, I said, I don't have the empathy to, to look back and bring back, bring people up with them, you know, um, then, uh, they're started sort of uselessly. Um, there's a whole thing going on in Twitter now about 10X engineers. And I heard someone who said it that defined it very well. 10X engineers that someone who writes 10 times more code at 10X engineers, someone who can teach 10 times 10 more, 10 other engineers who can create 10 other engineers is sort of as a force multiplier. So if you don't have this empathy of, you know, if you don't have the communication ability and being able to bring other people up behind you, then what are you worth?

Josh: 16:27 Hmm. I like that. Alright. Leon?

Leon: 16:28 Yeah. Um, so in terms of professional values, I think it's all the things that are unfortunately labeled soft skills, which says everything that you need to know about how an organization perhaps views them, um, which is wrong. I think that people's ability to connect on a human level is significantly more important than their ability to do any particular technical trick. Um, or I guess I should say that if I need a particular technical skill that's a consultant or a contractor that's not a colleague, a colleague is somebody that I wanna build a relationship with. And, and Josh, to go back to your point from earlier on, I want to be among people that I am, I would be comfortable sharing those parts of my experience, not saying my life. I am not saying that you have to work with people at work who you're buddy buddy with, but you have to work with people who you can be vulnerable with in a work context where I can say, I don't know, or this has me frustrated or I'm really frightened about taking on this task. I'm, you know, I'm apprehensive about this. And you have to be able to say that, not because it's important to be vulnerable or whatever, but because if you, if you can't say that, then you're going to either avoid doing things that are, uh, opportunities for you to grow in your career and your skills, or you're going to do it anyway, and you're going to sort of do it in that sort of blind haze of panic and you may not execute well. Whereas if you have a team where you can comfortably say, I'm having a really hard moment right now, can I have, can I have five minutes? Can I have half a day? Can someone sit with me while I do this? You may not have to do anything, but I just need, I need a buddy on this. You know? Um, when you have a junior engineer who comes in and says, I've actually never, you know, done this kind of coding before and can feel comfortable saying that and the team and say, not a problem. You know, I'm going to sit right here. I'm gonna do my own thing. But when you have a question, I'm right here to answer it for you. You know, that's again, that's a vulnerability in a work context that I have to be comfortable enough to say that's the things that I value are people who, who foster those kinds of conversations.

Josh: 19:03 You used a, a phrase there, um, or an example where you said, I'm not comfortable doing this thing. One, that is a really tough thing to do professionally, but it reminded me of one of the very last experiences I had in Mormonism. Um, so for context and Mormonism, there are no, there is no paid clergy at the local level. Um, they do practice lay ministry. So that means that the, the leader of your congregation is, could be your accountant to, it could be, uh, he could play a plumber. In my case, um, the, the leader of the congregation I attended as, is actually a fellow it pro, um, works for the provincial government. Really nice guy. Um, but my responsibility in the congregation was as the clerk. So I, I had a chance to invite, uh, people at the direction of, um, our Bishop to, to give sermons on Sunday and we call them talks and Mormonism. But we've actually there, there are many sermons and you'd be assigned. Everyone in the congregation ultimately gets assigned. And I remember we assigned a topic to a woman who's been a member for a very, very long time, um, you know, many, many decades. And she approached me probably a week before she was supposed to give her her talk, her sermon, and she said, Josh, I, I can't do this. Like, I, I can't speak on this topic. Uh, if you're interested, the topic was the physical nature of God. Right? Um, and so, you know, Hey, it's a heavy topic, but she's like, I read this and I'm, I, I don't, I don't understand it. And my response to her was, then talk about what you're comfortable with. I mean, pick parts of, you know, the reference material that is good for you, and then deliver that. But in your, in your comments, Leon, I was struck by how rare that might be. You know, oftentimes we're told, well, you know, just, just go ahead and do that. Um, so my next question for both of you is, we've talked about these values that we, um, that we want to see in our colleagues, in our managers professionally. Are they any different than our religious observance?

Yechiel: 21:16 Not necessarily. Um, and Judaism, there's, there are two kinds of commandments. Um, there's been a bein adam lamakom, which are commandments between man, between a person and God. And bein adam lechaveiro between a person and another person. So the first category would be commandments around prayer, around the holidays, things that are between you and God. Um, the second one includes things like, do not steal, be nice to each other, help each other out. And the Talmud is full of quotes that say that if someone says that I owe, you know, there's a quote about the ethics of our fathers. If a person says, I only have Torah, then he doesn't, then even Torah, he doesn't have meaning. If someone says, yeah, I'm just going to study and learn Torah all day, that's my thing. Uh, doing things and, you know, being nice to others. That's that, you know, that I'll leave that for others. Then he doesn't even have the Torah because the Torah is all about helping others and being good with others and being good to the world. So, yeah, so just like an it, having the, you know, having the, the brilliance is nothing if you're not going to share with others, if you don't have the humility to pay it forward.

Leon: 22:28 Right. And, and as an example of that, um, you know, when we're talking about rabbis, you know, the, the congregational leaders, and, and we'll get to that in a little bit also. Um, well what that really means in a Jewish context, but if a rabbi isn't comfortable getting up as part of his discussions, whether it's a sermon or a class or a lecture or, uh, a conversation, um, and say, and this thing happened, and I was, I didn't even know where to go with that, or I was feeling really overwhelmed or it really scared me. You know, any of those things. Once again, same thing as we talked about with the IT people. If they're not comfortable admitting to that, you know, quote unquote weakness, then that's, um, that's problem. If they're laboring under the misguided assumption that they have to be infallible, that is not going to end well.

Yechiel: 23:27 Yeah. Uh, actually reminds me of something like my teacher brought up a lot. Uh, one of the foremost commentators on the Torah Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, who lived around 900 years ago in France. And he, so he's like the foremost commentator on the Torah, every pretty much every homeless you'll find at any synagogue has his commentary there. And there's actually a pretty famous, uh, one of the verses, Rashi quotes some line from the verse and says, I don't know what this is teaching us. And my teacher said, you know, why did he bother saying that? If you don't know, just leave it out. I mean, you're not, why do you have to tell us? So how many did you say that, you know, it's true. There were probably many other places where Rashi didn't know any, he didn't say anything, but he made a point to say it at least, at least once. So that we should know that it's okay to say, I don't know.

Josh: 24:18 I liked that. I liked that. So what happens when we encounter in our professional, personal, religious, you know, community environments, people who look at these values that we have, that we, that we desire and others and be like, I don't care. Wait, I, I'm going to violate these values. I mean, I can tell you what happened to me that led to my transition out of Mormonism when I saw people within Mormonism, uh, specifically leaders of the church who were acting in a way that had I acted locally, my wife would have been mad at me, my fellow congregants would have been mad at me. My Bishop may have pulled me in and said, Hey, Josh, like, what the hell are you doing? Like this is not the way you behave. Um, I certainly would have been judged. And so when I saw that from others, that began my spiral down up. I don't know which direction, uh, at the time it was down, but now I feel like it was up. Uh, and, and ultimately out of Mormonism. So, I mean, Leon, Yechiel what happens, what happens when we're, we're, we're, our values are violated?

Yechiel: 25:23 So I think like Leon mentioned earlier that, you know, no one found the carry out for the common asshole. Um, you realize that you know these things, you know, these people exist and they are not the people that we want to be around. If it's possible, like you did so cut them out of your life though that does come from place of privilege and how it always is that an option both in religion and in it, not always can you just leave your job or leave your congregation or leave your community. Um, but if you can do it, if you can't try to distance yourself as much as you can.

Leon: 25:59 I know that Josh, your, your transition was, you know, there wasn't like, well that was the one thing, you know, there was a lot of things that led up to this, this decision. So I don't, I don't want to characterize it as well, if only you had done this one thing that you wouldn't have those problems. You know, again, it was like all real problems. It was complex and had a lot of moving parts. Um, I think that if, if anyone listening has an experience with somebody where, you know, again, they violate these values that the religion as a whole holds as fundamental or that you personally hold as fundamental. I think the thing is to remember that they're one individual, that they're, you know, that, that they don't make up the sum total of a community, IT community or, or other. If you find yourself in an environment where those values are upheld and lauded, you know, the, the so-called toxic environment, you know, bro-grammer culture in an IT department or um, you know, or, or toxic management or, uh, or just a really unhealthy congregational life or a congregation that, that espouses a value that isn't intrinsically negative, but it's not something that's helpful for you, um, to remember that you, you do usually to Yechiel's point, usually have a choice. And that choice doesn't have to hurt. It just, it might be different. And to give you a very innocuous example of that. And I've talked about this on our podcast before, I, I read Hebrew very slowly. I'm, I've been working on it for a long time. I'm getting better, but it's still slow. And so when I find myself in a congregation that values the speed with which the prayers go, "we can get morning services done in 20 minutes. It's great!" You know, when, when I'm in there like, Hey look, I found somewhere that's not my place. This is really not for me. Um, and as you know, if I'm, if I need to be in that environment for whatever, I just sort of tough it out. But I know that as soon as I can get out of that environment, I, that's, that's what I'm going to need to do. It's not helpful for me. It's not healthy for me. It doesn't do anything for me. So that's again, that's an innocuous version. If you are in an environment that is exacerbating your mental state, um, either because you know, what you're hearing in the pews is mimicking the, the mental negative self talk that you have going on in your own head or it's making you feel more anxious rather than less or you feel like you can't share anything about who you really are with the people around you. Then, you know, it may take time, but you need to know that there are other communities, there are other places to go in most cases. Again, I'm not diminishing the, the long journey that Josh, you and your family have gone through.

Josh: 29:04 No. Yeah. I think that Maya Angelou really sums up something that I wish I had known before and I, I didn't know who my Angelou was before I began my faith transition. But among other notable quotes, she says, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." And I think that that's really powerful when you are, when you're looking for people who you need to trust. Um, especially when it comes to our mental health. Um, if someone tells you, I am not someone who's going to protect you, um, and you see that, don't bring them your struggles because they're there, they're not going to be healthy for you.

Leon: 29:46 Can't wish people into being the person that you need them to be at that moment.

Josh: 29:50 That is right

Leon: 29:50 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.

Doug: 30:00 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: 30:14 At Technically Religious, we usually have something funny to say at this point in the show, but mental health is nothing to take lightly. If you are struggling, please reach out to a family member, friend, or a healthcare professional. If you are in crisis, please seek immediate medical attention. You are not alone. Fight the stigma.

S1E30: When Good People Make Bad Choices

S1E30: When Good People Make Bad Choices

November 5, 2019

The saying goes "To the left of me, lazy. To the right of me, crazy.". It's human nature to think that we know the right way things ought to be done. This is true for us as IT folks and may even be true in our religious life. However, religion has A LOT to say about how, when, and why you might offer "correction", and that may inform the ways in which we offer advice to our wayward IT bretheren. In this episode Josh, Doug, and Leon explore the ways in which our religious sensibilities can inform the way we help our colleagues to stay on the straight and narrow. Listen or read the transcript below.

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

Leon: 00:25 As the saying goes "To the left of me, lazy to the right of me, crazy" It's human nature to think that we know the right way that things ought to be done. This is true for us as IT folks and may even be true in our religious life. However, religion has a lot to say about how when and why you might offer correction and that may inform the ways in which we offer advice to our wayward IT brethren. I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcast crime, Josh Biggley,

Josh: 00:55 Hi-di-ho, neighbor!

Leon: 00:57 And Doug Johnson.

Doug: 00:58 Hi, dee-ho?

Leon: 01:02 Right! Now he's a resident Canadian. He's got to do that. It's like a thing.

Josh: 01:06 It's true. I just want to point out before we jump in that we also have, um, IT Sistren? I don't know what the word is for that.

Leon: 01:13 Yeah, no, that's true. IT, yeah. Folks,

Doug: 01:16 Sistern!

Leon: 01:18 No, we're not doing that. It folks. F. O. L. X. Yes, you're right. Um,

Josh: 01:23 So F O L. X. Great. And now we're talking in l33t speak. This is fantastic.

Leon: 01:28 No, it's, it's good. It's a thing.

Doug: 01:29 Totally woke.

Leon: 01:29 All right, before we dive into the actual topic, I'd like to give everyone a chance for some shameless self promotion. Josh, why don't you kick it off?

Josh: 01:37 I'm Josh Biggley. I am a senior engineer of enterprise monitoring. You can find me on the Twitters at uh, at @jbiggley. I've also started up a new Twitter handle called, uh, uh, what's it called? Wait, uh, @DataGeekCA because I was, I was shamed for not having a Data Geek Canada, uh, tag. So now I do. Um, if you want, you can go to and follow along with my faith transitions community, uh, for religious observance? Currently Post-Mormon transitioning into ex-Mormon.

New Speaker: 02:12 Great. How about you Doug?

Doug: 02:13 I'm the CTO of WaveRFID. We do inventory software as a service using a radio-frequency identifier tags to go ahead and track glasses and things in medical offices. I'm not on social media at all anymore. I just was spending way too much time on it and I decided to bail. But you can find out about our company at and uh, I'm basically in evangelical Christian.

Leon: 02:39 Great. And for those people who are scribbling down this stuff, you know that we're going to have show notes usually a day after the podcast drops so you can stop scribbling and keep listening. Um, I'm Leon Adato. I am a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes, that's actually my job title. It's the best one on earth. You can find me on Twitter or the Twitters, as we say at Leon Adato. You can also read my pontifications on all things technical and sometimes nontechnical at and I identify as Orthodox Jewish sometimes to the chagrin of my Rabbi who often finds the things that I say challenging for him to have to answer for. Um, which is kind of where we are. We're talking about people sort of going off the rails and doing bad things and what we do about it or can do about it. And what I want to do is I want to first define it like any good IT person. I want to define what we're talking about. So we're not talking about really bad things, we're not talking about things that would get you into an orange jumpsuit or have you do hard time. But what are the things that we're talking about?

Josh: 03:44 Oh, I'm going to do a really bad thing right now and I'm going to tell you that I found your next job.

Leon: 03:49 Okay.

Josh: 03:49 I was in New York city recently and I had a chance to talk with the lead Site Reliability Engineer for Marvel.

Leon: 03:59 <gasping>

Josh: 04:01 Yes.

Leon: 04:01 <sounds of wonder and amazement>

Josh: 04:01 For Marvel.

Leon: 04:01 Okay.

Josh: 04:05 This, this. If Leon ever gets fired...

Doug: 04:10 This is not as rare as you might think.

Leon: 04:13 Right!?!

Josh: 04:15 I mean that's why I was looking out for him. Uh,

Leon: 04:19 It's a thing, right?

Josh: 04:20 It is a thing. Okay. So that's not a bad thing. I mean looking out for your, your fellow, um, your, your friends, uh, your colleagues and helping them find a role. Um, that's a good thing. I think you should do, you know, um, much to the chagrin of Charity Majors you should not test in prod.

Leon: 04:39 Okay. Right. Yeah. People. Okay. So again, testing, testing in prod when there is a process for testing in prod I think is different than people who just try to sneak stuff in without a change control, without telling anybody they're just going to do it and hope that they, that nobody notices. That's the problem.

Doug: 05:00 My dev team almost tried to do that a week ago. We, we release about once every couple of weeks and we were all set to release and there was, it was Thursday we were going to be releasing that weekend cause we released it on the weekend so we don't mess up any of our clients. And, um, there was just this one little thing that, that, uh, the product owner wanted and they said, Oh, well we can just go ahead and do that and get it done. I said, no, no, we'll do it in the next release. No, cause they're like a bunch of cowboys, you know, it's like, Oh yeah, we can just put it in and fix it. It's like, no! Bad! Fortunately, I'm CTO, so I can say "Bad. No."

Leon: 05:37 Right. Okay. So that's a bad thing that people do. So there's other things though, but whether it's IT or religious or whatever, I, so one thing that I see in the Orthodox community, people who, uh, make religious decisions for other people when they really don't have the credibility to do it. Like they might have a position in the synagogue, maybe they lead really well or they're just always there and present and they feel like that gives them the right to, um, say "You ought to do blah, blah." Or "Here I can tell you how to do this thing." Um, and that's honestly, that's the job of the rabbi. That's why the rabbis there. Um, so I think that that's, that's another one of those bad things that that fits within the framework of what we're talking.

Doug: 06:22 It happens with Bible instructors in Christianity, the guys who are teaching the classes and that kind of stuff, people look to them for guidance where really you should be going. The kinds of things that they talking about. You should be going to the elders or the, the, uh, pastors. Okay.

Josh: 06:37 So the great irony, in Mormonism, at least at the local level, they practice lay ministry. That means that you are literally asking your plumber or your accountant for marriage advice because there is no training for clergy.

Leon: 06:59 I can see that being problematic. I'm not trying to, I'm not trying to trigger the post-Mormon here. I just, you know,

Josh: 07:06 Too late. I'm already triggered.

Doug: 07:08 Although I could, I could see the examples that the plumber would use for marriage counseling,

ALL: 07:14 <hysterical laughing>

Doug: 07:14 Just saying.

Leon: 07:14 Oh my God! <laughing>.

Josh: 07:15 This have anything to do with the melons?

Leon: 07:19 Okay, wait, the melons are later. Don't spoil the melons.

Doug: 07:25 I'm sorry.

Leon: 07:27 So what are some other things moving along...

Doug: 07:31 In IT, for instance, one of the things that is, uh, people who are architects for instance, tend to go ahead and just say, well, this is the only way we're, this is the way we're gonna do it no matter what. Whereas in Agile, it's supposed to be the team come suit decision. But if you've got somebody who is got strong opinions and is in a position of I'm going to put power in quotes, or even if they just have a strong personality, they can go ahead and cut the discussion short, um, way too soon.

Leon: 08:04 Right. That's a bad thing. Okay.

Josh: 08:06 Yeah. And I think that, that, that ties in nicely with the, the religious context of thinking that you are better than somebody else, that, that holier than thou thing. I mean, um, some, uh, some people that we meet in our careers really do think that they are gods and that what they say is they can't go wrong. And unfortunately we run into those people in our religious observance, hell, we run into those people in, you know, in our coaching experiences. In our, you know, when you're out talking, you know, geek stuff with just, they're everywhere. Don't, don't be that person.

Doug: 08:47 All right. Right. On the flip side of that though, the more I learn about God, the worse I realize I am.

Josh: 08:53 Yes. That is, that is true. No, no, no. I mean [inaudible]

Doug: 08:56 I'm holier than nobody at this point!

Leon: 09:00 Oh, so look who's nobody now, uh-huh. There's a joke that goes along with that. I'll post it in the show notes. Um, okay. And one thing that's worth mentioning just to wrap this up, the kinds of stuff that we're talking about, again, the kinds of things that we notice in our daily lives that cause us to want to issue a correction are just the low level office type cheating that you see people cheating on their time sheet, fudging on their expense reports, taking credit for work they didn't do.

Doug: 09:27 Those are bad things?

Leon: 09:27 Things those are, yeah, yeah, they're, they're bad. Um, those are things that, those are things that again, don't get me off track man, that really are, are meant. Those are the things that we can find difficult to avoid the impulse to want to just call them on the carpet and tell them that this is a problem. Meanwhile, there's a question about whether or not we should call whether or not we should avoid the impulse, whether that's in fact the the moment to do it. Um, but I, before we get there, I, I want to do a little bit of psychoanalysis, a little bit of sort of sociological, uh, digging. Why do these hah, don't people know better? I mean, come on. You know, these are not new concepts. We've all been on both the receiving, we've been on the receiving end of these people should know better. Why does this, why do you think these things keep happening?

Josh: 10:21 So I had this conversation a couple of months ago with my friend and colleague, Zack Mutchler and Zack is a former Marine or is a Marine. I don't know how Marines refer to themselves once they aren't active anymore. Um, but he said this to me, he said, Josh, all Marines are soldiers. That's it. It doesn't make them good people. They're not any more trustworthy than anybody else. They're just Marines. Now, he did say that Marines are generally on the battlefield exemplary, but he said, stop, stop putting expectations of how you think people should behave just because they wear a particular label. And I thought, well, I mean that's interesting and maybe it's my expectations of people that are really falling down. And that is in both a religious context as well as the IT context. Like when I look at a fellow senior engineer, I have an expectation that they are going to function at a rather high level, but I'm a senior engineer after 20 years in the IT industry, someone else might be a senior engineer after six we might have the same technical knowledge, but certainly not the same context. Maybe not the same emotional maturity. Um, same business acumen. So, perhaps it's me who's,... my expectations are incorrect?

Leon: 11:55 Interesting. Right? So, so just because people come from a particular community or ascribe to a particular philosophy or faith or whatever, doesn't mean that they naturally and automatically have all the traits that that group proclaims as being important or good.

Josh: 12:16 Yes. You are not just a good engineer because you like Linux.

Leon: 12:20 Um, okay, fine. All right. [Laughter] Took me a minute to swallow that one, but all right, so stipulated. I will take that one. Um, yeah, and I think that also says a lot about the nature of how we are all at our heart learners from, from the day we're born. We are learning. So you know, I am learning how to be, how to become a better engineer, Linux sysadmin, Jew, whatever it is, you don't automatically get like all the prizes. Um, so I can, I, I can see that, but I can also see how sometimes we want to, we want to give those traits because in some respects we need it. I need you to be that good. I need you to be that trustworthy right now and the, because you come from this group where you co you have this as part of your background that that's what I'm, I'm projecting on you, but now I need this and when you don't have it, I'm let down. And that's where the frustration can come. I also like the idea that, uh, you know, people, like you said, people are just people or as I put it a little bit more crassly Judaism has not in fact found the cure for the common asshole. Yeah.

Josh: 13:34 Oh, well that's it, no, I'm going to, I'm not going to be Jewish anymore.

Leon: 13:39 Okay. I just said we haven't found the cure we were looking for the cure. Yeah. No religion, no ethical point of view. No, uh, spin class. No CrossFit cult has found the, has found it.

Doug: 13:56 No, I mean most people are just, I mean at most people are selfish, but I mean a lot of what we do, a lot of what religions about a lot of becoming an adult is burying some of that selfishness or at least disguising. And so that people can't tell that we're as selfish as we are. But I mean, a lot of this stuff just comes from trying to give myself a leg up over somebody else. I mean the, the whole, uh, "woke" thing now with everybody's saying, you know, you've got white privilege and therefore you should decry it and all that kind of stuff. And I'm going, nobody gives up their privilege. Right? If you were in a country that was predominantly African and Whites were, uh, the ones that were being beaten on you, would, nobody in that country would give up their black privilege. It's just not gonna happen. We can try and we can try and improve on that. We can be conscious of it. We can become better human beings, um, and, and try and make things more open for the whole world. But the reality is our bent is to go ahead and take care of ourselves, our kids, our family, our tribe first. And a lot of the stuff that comes to that is because of that.

Leon: 15:13 Well, well that's, that's certainly part of the biological imperative. I also think that when we talk about privilege specifically, it's not so much give up your privilege as A) acknowledge it. Don't just say that, Hey, it all is mine and you can be yours too. Like, no, sometimes there are really strong societal factors that block it, but also, um, I won't say, nobody's saying give up the white privilege. What I am saying is that, um, to acknowledge and then use the privilege to create a more just and a more equal environment moving forward, which sounds like giving up privilege, but it is the same thing as saying, well if I, if I have this one candle and I light more candles, I'm not actually giving up light. Like, it doesn't diminish it. And that's the same thing. You know, when you use your privilege to open up the space for other people, you aren't in fact losing anything.

Doug: 16:10 Right. But I think I, you know, it's not, I don't think it is most people's bent to do that. We have to work at that. That's why that's why we're doing this show. I mean the reality is it's stuff that we think about. It's because we are working on it as you said, cause we're learners. Um, not everybody is. Some people are just perfectly happy to just take everything that they can possibly get and just kind of crank on the lawn. There's a lot of people like that.

Josh: 16:37 I think there's a lot of, a lot of people in the world too who are generally good people and for me this is, this is the hardest one where you find people that do mostly good things and then they justify doing that one bad thing. And I don't mean I do mostly good things and then one day I suddenly decide that I'm going to, I'm going a pocket a candy bar while I'm in the store. I mean, I do mostly good things and then one day I do a really despicable, awful thing. When that happens, whether by choice or circumstance, which leads you to a choice. That's a really a really challenging thing to be the person who decides to do that bad thing. And when we look from the outside and say, Oh that, I can't believe that Josh did that horrible thing. Inside I'm saying, yeah, but it was, it was just a little thing. Context. Justin Trudeau is the prime minister in Canada. We are currently in the midst of an election and it has come to light that Justin Trudeau, uh, dressed in black face a number of times, not once, not twice, not three times, but he doesn't remember how many times it occurred. And to him, he's saying, well, that was me then. This is me now. And on the outside we're saying, Oh my goodness. Now, um, I'm not going to tell you where I weigh in on that debate because I don't think it matters. It's, at least in Justin's mind it sounds like he saying, but I mostly do good things, but I did one bad thing.

Leon: 18:29 So there's an interesting concept, uh, from the Jewish standpoint about free will and without going too deeply into it. And for those people who want to look it up and put in the show notes, rabbi Akiva Tatz has some interesting thoughts on this, but the, uh, the free will is you don't express your free will when you put on your socks in the morning or where you pick your cereal. That's not freewill. That's habit. Even if you pick Lucky Charms instead of frosted flakes or whatever, that's still not freewill. Freewill exists in a very particular point in our lives where we make a decision that challenges us in some way. So when you woke up in the morning you had to think really hard and make a really extended effort not to go out on the street and knock over an old lady and steal her purse. Right.

Josh: 19:16 I did!

Leon: 19:18 Okay. That's probably not okay. That's probably not where we're at, but there are people who wake up and that is a challenging question. Not because they're bad people, but you know because there's a circumstance because there's a context because of whatever and the decision not to go rob somebody is a very challenging one. That is the point at which their free will is operating. Saying that their free will allows them to go to their place of worship and pray about, that is light years ahead in the same that for me going to a Yeshiva like my boys do and learning all day is beyond my skills and capabilities. And to put that standard on me is, is unfair where I am at personally with my line of freewill, that's the battleground. That is that line and it moves back and forth. So what you're talking about, Josh is somebody for whom that battleground was in a particular place at a particular time and that battleground has shifted. And so that saying that's not who I am right now is in fact true, but at the same time it is who you were and there's a level of responsibility that we bear for that. Now what that is is also an interesting conversation both religiously and also, you know, in tech and things like that. You know, I am somebody who, uh, did not and purposely did not declare variables before using them.

Doug: 20:47 I'm not even going to go there. Yes, I know. I've known that. I've known this about Leon for decades.

Leon: 20:53 Yes, yes. It was something I proudly, I did proudly. And, uh, that is no longer the point at which I struggle. So there's, but there, yeah, Josh has a look on his face for those people listening. Josh has look, like he doesn't even know who I am anymore. He's not even sure we can be friends.

Josh: 21:12 In fact, I was thinking that very thing. I don't know if we can be friends anymore, Leon.

Leon: 21:16 But again, my point is, is that, um, but, but just to, to pull it back around again, you know, why do people do these bad things? So in some cases, this is the point at which their struggle is at, this happens to be their struggle point and, and they're going to go back and forth and they're going to work really hard at it and, and hopefully they make progress in the correct and the good right direction about it. That's one thing. Why else? Again, I'm going to get us back on track. Why else do people, uh, you know, fall into these traps?

Doug: 21:47 Peer pressure. I mean, everybody else around you is doing it. Um, in fact, that that can even happen in religious communities. The whole, um, you can have situations where, um, in Christianity we're supposed to reach out to people regardless of their sin, because the whole point is to save people from their sin. And yet there are certain people who if they show up in the church, um, you know, they're going to be, they will be shunned by the people who are there, even though this is a person who you can, should actually be meeting where they are. Um, you know, there, I mean there's, there's, there are specific churches that reach out to people who were on drugs or to the homeless or to all these that other churches would have nothing to do with. And that should, and is that wrong? Well, it's not wrong if you look at everybody else in your church, and that's what people are doing, they're going, well, you know, yeah, we'll, we'll go down and help the homeless as long as we drive to where they are and they don't come to our church.

Leon: 22:52 Right, right.

Josh: 22:53 So back in 2013, uh, uh, uh, a Mormon Bishop, uh, named David Musselman, um, he dressed up as a, as a homeless man and walked into his congregation and he was, aghast at the response that he got from his congregants. Um, I mean for some people he, you know, he got, he got great responses from, you know, uh, offers, uh, food, um, offers of assistance. But he also had, he also had people who wanted him to leave because he didn't fit, um, he didn't fit that, that model. He wasn't wearing a suit and he wasn't clean. Yeah. The hub, that pressure to conform is real.

Leon: 23:50 So I've seen that. I've seen that in communities where, uh, it's not even the, the individual. The thing is we don't want to become the synagogue where those people come. Where, you know, we don't want to be known as the synagogue for, for those kinds of people. And "those kinds of people" is an interesting mix. But you know, so we will do things which subtly let those people know this isn't their place, you know, and it can be everything from not calling page numbers, like just not calling page numbers. If you don't know where you are, probably not your place, you know, those kinds of things.

Josh: 24:30 I would suggest that our listeners go out and I would love to see some vigorous debate on the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment at Yale University. Um, the latter of which involved, uh, someone in authority telling, uh, telling a volunteer to shock an individual in another room. Uh, I mean there's, there's, there will be volumes written on these two particular experiments, but I think they tie in nicely to that pressure to conform.

Leon: 25:02 Okay, great. Um, okay, so moving along, uh, now that we have a sense or we've explored a little bit why people do do that, what does religion specifically say about how we should address these kinds of things? Again, we see it happening, it bothers us, and now we have an urge to go do something about it, to address that person or to to act in some way. What does our religious, uh, framework tell us about what we ought to be doing?

Josh: 25:35 I mean, Jesus went into the temple with a cat o' nine tails and turned over the tables of the money changers and kicked them all out. Isn't that how we respond? This is why I work remote. I'm just going to point that out. [Laughter]

Doug: 25:48 So if you're the Messiah, I think you can get away with stuff like that. How's that?

Josh: 25:52 Okay.

Leon: 25:55 I got, I got nothing.

Doug: 25:57 It's different rules. But uh, in Christianity, um, in Matthew 18, basically it says, if your brother sins against you, you should go to him. And if you can win him back, you know, you go to him privately and if you can win him back, then you've won your brother. If he refuses to hear you, then you go back with two or three others so that all of the facts can be, you know, in public. And if he still refuses, then you take him before the church and if he still refuses to go ahead and repent, then you basically, you treat him like a tax collector and a, Oh, I forgot what the other word is. But in any case, but you don't kick him out of the church, but he's no longer one of your brothers. You don't treat him that way.

Josh: 26:42 So Christianity sounds like the Mob.

Doug: 26:44 Well it is to a certain extent except that you know, it is your brother has sinned against you. So this is, yeah.

Leon: 26:52 Right. Okay. So, and that was the point I was going to bring up is that this is where you're saying somebody has wronged you in some way and so you of course have, I'm going to say the right, but you, you have the, the option of saying, Hey, this really bothers me and I need you to do something about it. You know, and the person you know has to, has to face up to it. That's interesting. What's interesting about this is that, uh, in the Jewish tradition, the focus that you just described is actually the opposite, the opposite way about what repentance is. That if you have something you need to repent for, there's this process. And the first thing is first of all, acknowledge to yourself that you did something wrong. And the second thing is to apologize to tell the person that you have wronged that you know you've done this. The third thing is to compensate. And so if possible, you know, to repair the thing that was broken or to pay for a replacement, whatever it is, can compensate. But then there's a fourth step and repentance is not complete until the fourth step occurs. And that's when given the opportunity to make the same mistake, the same sin again, you don't. And that until that occurs, you have not really fully repented. And there's a whole sense of, you know, waiting for this moment to come where it's like, Oh, this is just like the last time, except now I'm going to be doing, I'm going to do it differently. And that's what proves it. So to go back, Josh, to your point about the person who was dressing up in blackface, if given the opportunity to dress up that way, again, if they chose not to, that might be again, assuming all the other stuff had been done, you know, and it was sincere and all that stuff. But it's interesting that those are two sides of the same coin, right? One is when you have been wronged, what do you ask the other person to do? And hopefully they will take the lead and go ahead and on the other side, if you've done wrong, now you've got this, this problem, this feeling and I need to do something with it. I needed to act. So how do I do that? So having said that, the, the process for rebuke, the process for giving somebody a, you know, a correction in Judaism is again, like most things pretty, uh, pretty well organized. And it says first of all that if you see someone, if you see a friend walking a bad path, so it's not about someone doing something to you, you see them walking a bad path, um, then it is a commandment. It's a mitzvah. But that means commandment to return them to the good. If you don't, you are liable for the punishment of the sins your friend committed. Basically by failing to do something, by failing to act, you are ha you have ownership of the bad stuff they do because you could have stopped him. However, there's a whole series of buts that go along this. You have to get this rebuke privately and gently, okay, not publicly, not out. You know, and you have to do it for the person's good. That means that you have to make sure that in your heart there is no ounce of glee. There's no ounce of excitement that Oh, I finally give to give him what for and whatever that you have to be able to do it for their good and their good only. That you have to do it with love and you have to know for a fact that the person you're doing this to, you're giving this rebuke is going to hear it in the spirit that you mean it. And if any of those conditions is not true, then you are commanded not to say a word. Ever. Because you are going to do more harm than good. And I find that deeply interesting that you know, it starts off by saying, Hey, if you see him doing something wrong, it is your commandment is your obligation to fix it or else it's on you. Like they go and do something bad now your libel, but you've got to have this whole relationship. And if you don't have this whole relationship back off, be quiet. And, and the reason why I like that is because the implication it has in it in our technical lives, right? And when we started putting together this, this episode, I was thinking about code review, I was thinking about when I'm picking a Doug's code and like, Hey, Hey, there's this, you know how you could do that better? Hey that active directory design. Yeah, no, we could, you know what gives you any right to butt your nose into somebody else's design or on the other hand you see bad code. If you see something, say something like, which is it?

Doug: 31:27 Well it comes down to a lot of what you were talking about. Do you have, um, do you have a stake in the game? Okay. If you're on the team that's making this code and it's all our code and code reviews are part of what we do, which they should be because we're a team, please. Okay. Then the reality is it is my job. It is my commandment to go ahead and do a code review to help you to improve your code, to make our code better. However, if I'm just wandering by some other team and I look over and I see their code, I, you know, I'm just a jerk. If I jumped in,

Josh: 32:14 This feels to me like the backfire effect. So I'm, I'm just going to read the quote because I think the quote to me does a better job at explaining it than, than I ever could. "The backfire effect as claim to be that when in the face of contradictory evidence established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger." And so I thought, wa what? What does that mean? Like when someone lays evidence in front of you and says, Josh, the earth is not flat and I aren't, am I going to be like, Oh, Oh yeah, you're right. Or am I just going to dig in? And all joking aside, this is fundamentally the challenge I had with Mormonism. Now remember I was a practicing Mormon for 41 years, very devout, very, I'll even use the term Orthodox in my views. And when people would present contradictory information to me, I would go through a period of cognitive dissonance and then would realign the things that I thought I knew or was presented with now, uh, with the things that I did know, and I would just dig in stronger that that backfire effect is very real. And I remember a very specific case where I was in Las Vegas, had a couple stop myself and my companion when we were missionaries and invite us over. They said, Hey, we want to share some information with you. You know, we had a great discussion and we said, do you have any questions? And then they drop some questions on me that at 19 years old I had never heard in my entire life, but my, my response was to just dig in. So I mean, how, how do we prevent this backfire effect in our careers because it, if it happens, it is downright toxic. So how do we stop this backfire effect in our career?

Leon: 34:17 One point that was clarified in that definition, um, is that this the backfire effect doesn't occur when you say your right blinker is broken. You know, it doesn't occur when you say, you know, we're out of Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms will be fine or whatever. It only occurs when you are, um, providing contradictory evidence to somebody's deepest held beliefs to the things that they feel are central or core to who they are. So, you know, to take some hot button issues, tabs versus spaces, you know, Doug is making...[laughter]

Doug: 34:57 Don't go there!

Leon: 35:06 You know how to pronounce the Graphics Interchange Format, abbreviation.

Josh: 35:10 Um, you obviously do not know how I feel about Lucky Charms cause you brought that up at the beginning and we come to the flippant thing and I just...

Leon: 35:22 Right, I've lost you. Right? Again, you're digging in like now it's like honey, buy 10 more boxes! Right? So it's, it is when we challenged somebody's deepest held beliefs, which means that we have an obligation when we are offering correction, whether it's in our religious, moral, ethical communities or in our it communities to understand other people's motivations that, you know, are you just saying, you know, I really think that a for loop is going to work better here. You know, or does this person for whatever reason, have a deeply held belief that you know, case, you know, that the switch construct is really fundamentally better in some way.

Josh: 35:58 I mean, data doesn't lie. I would say run them head to head. I mean that's just me, right? I, I, I have, I've built my entire career off of being wrong or more correctly. I have built my entire career off of not knowing. My, my second job in IT was given to me because I said, I don't know. Um, I mean for, for me, it, there are a few times that this Backfire Effect has, has gripped me and made me into a monster. But by and large, I I think as IT professionals, we need to be open to being taught more often than we need to then we need to teach.

Doug: 36:42 Although one should point out that a Canadian monster is like, you know, still a fluffy puppy.

Leon: 36:47 It's still the stay Puft marshmallow man that is literally the, you know, the embodiment of the Canadian Monster.

Josh: 36:54 Snuffaluffagus? That's the Canadian monster.

Leon: 36:54 Rampaging Snuffaluffagus. Right. So, uh, yeah, but again, I think that Josh, your point is well taken that, that we as it professionals need to remember to be flexible to remember that we are lifelong learners. At the same time, what we're talking about is when we ourselves are confronting somebody else who may not have come to terms with that. And when we see that we are challenging, again, not their belief in which, you know, code editor they should use, although that can be a religious war also. Um, I'm just picking them today when they're, you know, it's, I'll just be generic when, when it's not when we're picking something trivial or minor, but rather when we're picking something that is a foundational belief that that Backfire Effect comes to being that we need to possibly use all the structures that we just talked about, about who's the person to deliver that message and how that message can be delivered so that the person can hear it in the right way that it's meant and that they can grow and improve.

Doug: 38:02 As a senior dev. A lot of the work that I've had to do on teams is basically to coach junior devs. And the hardest part of that is that they're just so darn enthusiastic. Um, there they just be a little more jaded. Well, I mean the PR and the thing, I had one guy that just would not code out. It was crap code, but boy, he'd get it out fast. And so, you know, the trick then was to go ahead and help him, him to improve, to give him reasons why there are better ways to go ahead and do this. Speed is not the only thing that you worry about. And, but without breaking his little spirit, you know, and it's just, you know, it's the, it's exactly the, you know, there are steps that you go through where you're just saying, okay, how am I going to phrase this in a way that is not critical, but they can see that there's a room for improvement that they can then possibly grab hold of it. And so, you know, your goal then is as a coach to go ahead and help them become a better developer without having them hate you. In the meantime.

Destiny: 39:06 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: 39:19 In the Bible, Matthew records by their fruits, you shall know them.

Doug: 39:23 So ironically, we're not supposed to be judges, but we're supposed to be fruit inspectors?!?

Josh: 39:29 Doug, are you looking at my melons?

Leon: 39:32 [Laughter] I cannot be having this conversation.

S1E29: Tales From the TAMO Cloud Featuring Al Rasheed

S1E29: Tales From the TAMO Cloud Featuring Al Rasheed

September 24, 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 friend, sysadmin, Tech Field Day representative, and recurring Technically Religious guest Al Rasheed. Listen or read the transcript below.

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

Leon: 00:22 Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside. That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for Then A Miracle Occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output for it pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view. Our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future.

Leon: 01:08 My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you're going to hear on this episode is my friend and recurring guest on Technically Religious, Al Rasheed.

Al: 01:16 Hi Leon. Thanks for allowingme to participate. As you mentioned, my name is Al Rasheed. I'm a systems administrator. I can be found on Twitter, @ Al_Rasheed, and you can follow me or follow my blog, I should say at I'm a Muslim. I believe in practicing good Karma, in remaining conscious of your decisions in life, and in one.

Leon: 01:40 Okay. And if you are madly scribbling down all those websites and stuff, you can stop and just listen and relax. We're going to have show notes so that you can find all that stuff without having to write it down. So let's dive right into it. I want to start off with the technical side of your life. Where, what do you, what work are you doing today?

Al: 02:01 Ah, so currently I'm a systems administrator. I've been in it for approximately 15 years plus. Um, I've got various certifications. I've been, I've worked at all different gamuts. I've been in the education field for IT. I've worked as a federal contractor forITt. I'm a DCVmug leader. I'm also a member of the VMVanguards, the a Vmware Vexperts, Cisco Champion, Nutanix NTC. I'm also Tech Field Day delegate. And most recently I was awarded, uh, with The VMug President's award at VMWorld 2019 in San Francisco.

Leon: 02:37 Right. I was there for that. So that was kind of exciting. That was amazing to see. Congratulations on that one. Um, okay, so that's where you are today. All things virtual. Uh, that's incredible. And it's always a lot of fun to have. For me, it's always fun to have friends who have those bases of knowledge because A) I have somewhere to turn when I have a question, but also B) when I get more curious, I can always turn and say, okay, "what's the cool thing? Like what should I be working on next?" So it's always neat. Um, but you probably didn't start off in all the virtual stuff with 15 years. VMWare wasn't around. So what did you do when you were just starting out?

Al: 03:13 So, just starting out right out of school, uh, relatively new. Uh, I was relatively new to marriage and in my early twenties, I was in retail. And at the time it was a career that I pursued. Also, it was the, um, degree that I pursued in school. Uh, it paid well. It got me through it, provided what I needed at the time, but as my wife and I sat down and started to focus on putting, you know, we were working on a family and then having kids, the along hours got tiresome working from four to midnight and then being back four hours later, uh, gets a little bit old after a while. Again. Weekends weren't off the, there were long days. And as most of us can really relate, whenever you're in retail, a customer service customer is always right. Um, but not necessarily, but you have to take your medicine and accept it.

Leon: 04:05 Yeah, it's a lot of "grin and bear it" kind of stuff. Right. Okay. So that's where you started, but how did you get from there, from that retail space into where you are today?

Al: 04:16 So, um, I took a chance on myself and when I say myself, that obviously includes my wife and at the time my son, he was about two years old. Um, I jumped into IT into a help desk position. It was a relatively low paying job, but it was a starter. It was a starter role within IT and it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make. Um, but at the same time I held onto my retail job in a part time position to make up for some of the money that I'd lost during this transition. And I held both jobs roughly for about five years. So give or take on average and I'm not making excuses for myself. Everybody's got to go through this, but it's, it's worth the sacrifice and the challenge. Um, for about five years I was putting in 60 to 70 hours a week and that included weekends, but, but I knew there was going to be a reward because IT was booming. Everybody was jumping on it. The Internet had just blown up for lack of better way of putting it. And um, you know, I just wanted just like anybody else, a comfortable... I thought at the time, low stress job. But IT can be stressful. We all know that as well. Um, I don't have any regrets. I'm glad I did it. It's definitely elevated me to a point in my life in career, but also provided for my family in areas where I never thought were imaginable.

Leon: 05:36 Great. That's, that's, I mean it's a lot of dedication and as a lot of us who've been sort of through that in that time period, you know, those 10 to 15, 20 years ago or (cough) more for some of us, uh, whose beards are a little grayer, it, you know, there is some sacrifice at the, at the beginning, but you see that there is you, there's a brass ring, you see that there's a reward at the end and so you're not just working for the sake of working more. Um, and that's, that's an important lesson to take away I think. Um, all right, so we're going to come back to that, but I want to, I want to flip over to the religious side. This being Technically Religious. So we're going in order, we talked about the technical, now I want to talk about the religious side of your journey, of your growth. Now I find that labels are really hard for folks. Um, you know, you say, "So what kind of Blah Blah..." whether it's Christian, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, " what kind?" And the answer is always, "Well, I'm sort of this and I'm sort of that..." There's, there's always an explanation to go with it. So labels are imprecise, but I'm curious how you would define yourself. Uh, you know, in a religious way.

Al: 06:42 Correct. So as I mentioned, to start off this conversation, I am Muslim, but I would consider myself a conscience, conscious based Muslim, a conscious based religious person. Can I be better? Absolutely. Am I terribly bad? I don't think so. I know my right from my wrong, I try to convey these lessons learned not only to, you know, for myself but for my wife and my kids, but those around me. And um, we just try to focus on positivity, help others out as best as possible. But you know, when I have to, if I have to look myself in the mirror, I do have a lot of room to grow with and uh, there's a lot expected of me and um, I can always improve. But there are, you know, religion is a delicate subject depending on who you speak to. It can be interpreted in so many different ways. So I'm trying to be as gentle as possible when I explain how I approach it. Um, because you know, just some people take it to another level and I, I don't want to A) offend anyone, nor do I want to get into a, a "beef" for lack of a better way of putting it online or on Twitter or however, if I were to see somebody in person.

Leon: 07:47 Got It. Okay. Well I will respect those boundaries too. But, uh, you know, again, I know from our other conversations that you have, you know, a pretty strong point of view for yourself, not for, uh, for anyone else, but you hold yourself to a very high standard and it definitely informs the way that you approach work. And, um, okay, so the same way I asked you about how, where you started in IT and how you got, uh, to, you know, this point in your life. So is this where you are now? Is that where you started? Is that, you know, your sort of level of observance and consciousness, religious consciousness when you started out?

Al: 08:22 I would probably say no. Um, maybe prior to getting married I wasn't as conscious of everything that's around me or what's expected of me as a Muslim or someone that's following any faith. Um, it's probably, it probably has to do with just being immature at the time or just, um, not really keeping those ideologies in mind that I think as you get older you start to realize life is a little bit shorter, especially as you become, especially as you become a parent. Um, maybe you want to become, you know, obviously you do want to act as a role model and a mentor and more so when I was more actively involved with my kids' activities, now that they've gotten older, you know, they want to distance themselves from dad and mom because they seem to know everything. But we were just like them. So, you know, when I was younger I was actively involved in like their sports, their activities, but I didn't necessarily do it for my kids. I also did it for myself in the young people that they were surrounded by. Uh, one thing that I, I really cherish and I, and I can't get enough of it, is if I happen to see somebody, like one of my son's friends who I coach, let's say for example in basketball 10 years ago, so that was my son was 12 years old at the time. They'll approach me and say hello, Mr Rasheed. And I don't even recognize them because they changed. You know, they're now young adults. My son's 22 and he doesn't look like he did when he was 12, but you know, they'll always approach me and they will call me by, you know, my name. But not only that, they'll take a moment or two and say, "You know what, thank you. Because what you taught us and then has helped us grow to where we are now." And when it was, when I went up, when I was involved in their lives at that time, it was predominantly around sports. I am a sports junkie, but I tried to also teach them life lessons and I think they've taken that and learned from it.

Leon: 10:22 Nice. Okay. So, uh, I think we've, we've covered your sort of religious journey or your spiritual journey along the way. Um, now what I want to do is talk about blending the two because I know that for people who have strongly held religious, moral, ethical points of view that work in general, and IT specifically can be interesting. I'm not saying it's a challenge, I'm not saying like it's a problem, but it creates a set, a set of layers to the work that folks who may not have that strong a point of view don't always, uh, have to manage or deal with. So I'm curious as a Muslim and you know, as somebody who's worked for decades in IT, you know, what challenges have you had with that overlap?

Al: 11:12 I think both your career in it and your faith as a Muslim, in my case, they both require an insane amount of patience, especially when you are out of your comfort zone or you don't live in your faith-based country. Uh, I, you know, I've, I've been a US citizen for pretty much my entire life. I've lived here in this, in the States for my entire life. So I've adapted to that culture, that way of life in general. But there are times, especially in IT, and I don't know why it has to be IT-related or specific to IT, but, um, your patients. Yeah, I want to say your faith, you keep faith in the back of your mind more times than not how you are going to react to a certain situation, especially if there is a potential for it to become unnecessarily, uh, provoked or heated.

Leon: 12:06 Okay.

Al: 12:08 Um, I, as you can relate, many of us in, in this industry, As IT professionals, we're acknowledged, we're appreciated, but they don't know we exist until there's a problem. And they will let us know when there's a problem. Nine times out of ten,it's not done in a manner in which you would prefer to be notified there's a problem. And so when you've got a herd of people coming at you and you're already well aware of what's going on and you're attempting to fix the situation on the back end and try to keep it to a minimum, those are the, uh, those are the opport... Those are the moments where you find yourself questioning, not necessarily why you got into IT, but why do we have to go to this level to report something that can be relatively low key and fixed in a quick amount of time.

Leon: 12:56 Right. But I liked it. I liked the word you almost said - it's an opportunity to have a chance to first of all reframe their point of view. And again, as somebody who has a strong, you know, moral, ethical, religious point of view to be that, uh, to be that example, to be that role model. Um, sometimes we do end up representing a segment of the population. You know, I know that a lot of times for people who especially don't know, me personally, I am a 5' 8" kippah and you know, seat seat. I'm just this religious dude who's standing there. And that's what they see. And so I do recognize that my interactions carry a weight that isn't just, hey, Leon didn't handle this well. It, it goes further than that. So you have an opportunity to not only help manage expectations as an IT person, but you have a chance to manage expectations as the whole person who you are standing in front of them.

Al: 14:00 Correct. Correct. And I find it's not, like I said, it's not about me when I put it this way. I think it does apply to a lot of us in IT. Honesty can be a challenge. And I'm not saying that we always have to lie, but sometimes you've got to beat around the bush to put it mostly because if there is an issue and you're upfront and you give the end user who the individual, whoever the individual is, that's asking for an update to the situation, uh, the truth, they may overreact and take it up to another level that's completely unnecessary. And unprovoked. I'm not saying lie, but sometimes, and I hate to use expression beat around the bush, but kind of just give them as little as possible without putting yourself out there in a tough, in a tough area.

Leon: 14:48 Well, and I would also say that there's, there's a way to, you don't have to say everything right. And that counts for lots of people in lots of situations. That truth is answering the question that you're being asked. Um, I will never forget that one of my children asked me, you know, 'Dad, where did I come from?" And so we sat down and had this very long, very specific conversation about biology and when I was done, my childhood, oh cause Bobby's from St. Louis and I realized I was not being asked the question. I thought I was being asked. And so answering the question that, that you're being asked, you know, "what's wrong" is a very open ended question. And if you give too much detail, people can, at best they'll ignore the answer. But at worst you're giving them bits of information they didn't really, they weren't really looking for in the first place.

Al: 15:47 No, that's, that's a valid point. As the kids say TMI, too much information. I totally get it now as we've gotten older, but I know we've mentioned on previous segments on your podcast, I've acted as a mentor in my career in IT, and one of the pieces of pieces of advice that I give to young people getting into IT is keep it - and with all due respect - keep it simple stupid, the KISS method. Don't go out of your way to offer the end user, whoever you're explaining this to, an opportunity to twist your words around or maybe they just don't quite understand what you're trying to explain to them and then they can convey it incorrectly to someone else that could elevate it to a just a very challenging awkward position to be in.

Leon: 16:32 Okay. So any, any other challenges that you've had again with your ethical, religious, moral point of view, blending that with your IT experiences?

Al: 16:42 Um, communication is very important to me. Everyone should have an open door policy. Um, feedback should always be provided in good and bad situations cause we can only improve from it. Um, there are times where if you are going back to the honesty key point, if you are honest and upfront, there is a tendency, not, not necessarily all the time, but the occasionally that it could backfire. And um, it's, you know, the old expression, "you have to play the game" or "don't hate the player, hate the game." I don't like to be that way. I don't think anyone wants to be that way. And it's not something that I would encourage anyone to go down that path or act in that way. Um, but you know, it's a delicate balance and you just gotta be aware of your surroundings, but do it morally and ethically without not only, you know, putting yourself in a bad position, but your team as well. At the end of the day, you're a team. You have to function as one and, uh, we have to improve collectively.

Leon: 17:39 Right. And, and again, you want to answer the question you're being asked, you want to offer the, you know, that those pieces of information don't overshare because at the end of the day, people, you know, they have a quick question. They want a quick answer usually, especially when something's really happening in IT. You want to be able to be brief and be brilliant and be gone.

Al: 18:01 Yes, right. And all but, but be authentic, be original. You know, it's going back to what you just said and don't try to create something that you're not cause that that hero mentality sooner or later we'll come back and get you. And before, you know, you have a reputation of being that type of person and it's not something that anyone in IT or any, any, any career for that matter wants to be. Because once you've been singled out or blackballed or considered this type of individual, it's really hard to recover from.

Leon: 18:35 It definitely can be. All right. So, so that's sort of the challenges. But, um, I'm curious if there have been benefits or surprises, uh, or just, you know, positive things that this overlap between your religious perspective and the IT work that, uh, you've had. If there's anything that, that you've experienced over the last 15 years.

Al: 18:54 I think getting more involved more recently in the, the community in general, that the community, regardless of what platform it is, has been inspiring for me. It's opened up so many doors and created so many friendships, including with you and Josh on the podcast. Uh, it's refreshing to know that there are individuals out there that care for one another, not only from a professional aspect but from a human perspective as well. Because, you know, we work to live and we'd hate to work or we'd hate to live to work. And so I, I, that's something that I've learned over the past few years is, you know, you can put in 70 hours, but it's, and that's fine and dandy, but sooner or later it's gonna catch up to you. And before you know it, you're not going to be happy professionally. If you can't do your job in a 40 hour a week. And, and I get it occasionally you have to over your, you know, you have to overextend yourself. You have to sacrifice an hour or two here and there. But when it becomes a consistent part of your life, when you're putting in 70 hours a day, you're defeating the whole purpose of everything that you've worked so hard to get to.

Leon: 20:00 Right. And again, I think that the, some of the guiding principles of our, our faith lives start to put, to put that into a particular framework of, you know, what are you doing this for? What's the point? Um, I was listening to someone speak the other day and they said, you know, if someone showed you a machine that was a perfectly self running machine, "Look, I turned it on and it never, it just completely feeds itself!" And you'd say, "That's wonderful. What does it do?" "Well, it does that, it just, it runs and it, it, it keeps itself moving and it keeps itself oiled and it's self repairs and stuff." "Yeah. But what does it do?" "Well, that's what it does. It just, you know...", You'd say, "Well that's cute, but a machine that works so that it works, it doesn't even make me a cup of coffee. It doesn't, you know, Polish the dog or like that. That's sort of a pointless, a pointless machine." And if we've become that pointless machine where we are working so that we can work so that we can keep working so that we can work, it's that sort of never ending loop. And I think that again, our faiths point us toward like, that's not it, that's not what you're supposed to do.

Al: 21:06 I was just going to say, sorry to interrupt you, but then you do lose sight of faith when you're working night and day and all you do is think about work, work, work. And I don't want to come across the wrong way. Um, I, you know, I would hate for someone to characterize me in a different manner. Um, but I, you know, I, I'm a hardworking individual. I'm diligent, I'm thorough. I'll do the best to my ability. I am a team player, as I pointed out earlier. But you know, at the end of the day, I want to come home and separate work from life.

Leon: 21:37 Absolutely. And I think that when you have that, when you have that ethic, everybody except the most, uh, abusive or small minded people will respect you more for it. Okay. So any final thoughts? Anything? If somebody listening this and saying, "Wow, that sounds just like me except, you know, he's way further ahead than I am" or whatever. Like what lessons do you want to share? What final thoughts do you want to leave everyone with?

Al: 22:02 I would say based on where my path has taken me, you should always take a risk on yourself, especially if you've got an opportunity to do so. Uh, without, you know, without risking a lot, you'll realize sooner than later that the effort that you put into it, you'll be rewarded for it in time. Um, if you sit back and wait for someone to do something for you, nine times out of 10, it's not going to happen, but do it the right way. Um, seek help, uh, become a part of, you know, the various community groups. Um, occasionally, you know, you've got to volunteer because you've got to give and take. So you can't have everything, uh, put out on a silver platter. You've got to put in the time and effort, the blood, sweat and tears as they say. But a don't make yourself miserable doing so. And when I reflect back, I, I don't really have any regrets, uh, with what I chose to do at the time. I'm happy I'm, I'm, I've gotten to this point in my life and in my career, but moving forward, I, I still want to elevate and I still want to grow. And, um, I'm looking for that next challenge in my career. And, uh, if that opportunity presents itself for the right reasons, and if that a organization finds, um, that I am the person that they're looking for, you can always reach out to me. I'm more than willing to have a conversation.

Leon: 23:17 They'd be idiots not to take you. I will, I will go out on a limb and say, Al, it is always so much fun to talk to you. Uh, I know we're gonna have you back on the Technically Religious podcast here in the near future, but thank you so much for taking some time out of your evening to talk with me.

Al: 23:36 Thank you as always, and I appreciate your time and support and if there's anything I can do for you, the podcast or anybody in general, you've got my contact information, you're more than welcome to share with me if they reach out to you directly.

Doug: 23:48 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.


S1E28: Release to Production, Part 2

S1E28: Release to Production, Part 2

September 17, 2019

The phrase “release to production” conjures a very specific set of thoughts and even emotions for folks who live, breath, and work with technology. Some of those thoughts and feelings are positive, while others are fraught with conflict. At the same time, those of us who are active in our religious community experience a different kind of “release to production” - releasing our children to the production environment of our faiths, whether that is teaching abroad, missionary work, or adult religious education that takes our young adult across the globe. And like our IT-based production release experiences, we watch our kids transition into chaotic systems, where parental observability is minimal even as the probability of encountering unknown-unknown error types grows. This week we continue the discussion from the last episode, where Leon and Josh to look at what our IT discipline can teach us about how to make this phase of the parental production cycle easier. Listen or read the transcript below.

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

Leon: 00:24 This is a continuation of the discussion we started last week. Thank you for coming back to join our conversation.

Josh: 00:31 You know, there's a moment in my and my childhood that I think accurately reflects my approach or how I got into IT. And I really wished that I could have had somebody at the top of Devil's Run with me who could say, "Look, now young Josh, this is not a good idea." So you have to picture this. It's this, the largest hill in my neighborhood and Ontario and it is a, a run that goes down, hits a flat top and then goes down again, uh, into this grassy meadow before there's a highway. And there are trees that are grown, that are grown in across the path. And here I am, I'm probably seven years old, right? This is the 80s. There are no bike hel, there are no like bike helmets. No. And I'm on my BMX, right. Uh, no suspension. It's not like I was, you know, dry, uh, riding a mountain bike with, you know, eight inches of travel on the front end and three in the back. Like this is teeth chattering. And I friends and I of course are at the top of this run. No one locally is Devil's Run. And I'm like, I can totally do this. And so I set off down this hill and about, oh, about a third of the way I realize I'm in trouble. Not only are my fillings rattling out of my teeth, right, but I, I'm, I'm losing control. And then I hit the middle, this, this flat top and I'm like, oh, I can. And then I hit the second part of the hill and I'm flying down. [chattering noise] Just the chatter the entire way I get to this meadow. And I realize that there's a fence coming up. Cause that's the only thing between me and the highway. I slam on my brakes. If you've ever slammed on your brakes and a grassy meadow, you do not stop. You just slide. I crashed headlong into this chain link fence. The next thing I remember was my friends standing over me. "Hey, are you okay?" I don't know how long I was out. They, they walked down, um, Devil's Run after seeing my spectacular run. I wish, I wish that someone had said, hey, you know, you should probably take a different route to the bottom of this hill. But I got there really quickly and that's kind of like my IT career. I got to my it career really quickly. I'm only 40 (ahem!) something and I've been in it for 21 years and there are a lot of people that are a lot older than I am that, you know, they did the, they did the traditional route and didn't get into the right t career until they were 25 or 26.

Leon: 03:10 Sure. Right. And Yeah, the subtitle for that. And for some of us, perhaps the epitaph on our tombstone will be, "Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned", and that's...sure!

Josh: 03:25 There was a lesson to learn in that?

Leon: 03:26 Yeah, there probably was. There's a few, few functional lessons. So in the category of "Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned." And really it was the, the impetus for this entire episode, uh, my son is, uh, actually about to be on his way back from Israel. Um, I'd like to point out that he left last Wednesday, uh, for a year of yeshiva and he's coming home. Uh, it was, uh, a challenge from start to finish. He got there and things were not as he expected. Um, I will, I will say that he is a fairly resilient kid. He's done traveling. He's, you know, he's been to a high school yeshiva program that wasn't at home. Yes. There was some, um, some homesickness that was certainly involved. Yes. There were normal dorm shenanigans that occur in every dorm situation, you know, "Hey, I want that spot. You can't have that spot!", You know, that kind of stuff. But, uh, there was also a set of circumstances that were not related to that. They also were not of the caliber of civil unrest, mind you, but, um, just a lot of things that didn't match the set of expectations that he had going in. And by the time we got the better part of a week in, he was so miserable and so unable to, to change his frame of mind that nothing was going to work. And we also realized that everything that we wanted for him, everything that we, and by we, I mean my wife, myself and him, were going to get out of this experience at yeshiva wasn't going to occur. And even if it did occur, it wasn't worth or greater than the challenges he had faced already and the challenges that we're clearly still going to occur while he was there. So we made the decision this afternoon and, um, got a ticket and he's, he's gonna fly home tomorrow. So this is effectively the same as you know, catastrophic failure and a rollback in, you know, in production. That you have your change control window, you have everything plotted out and things simply nothing installs or deploys the way you expect it to. And you find yourself at 2:30 AM with three more hours on the change window to go saying, hmm, no, we got to pull the plug, roll it back and we'll try again some other time, but we have to sit back. So that's, that's the story. Um, so let's, you know, so let's talk about this in an IT context.

Josh: 06:11 You know, the, this is a tough one, right? Because in in the IT context, if we have to roll back our change, the change management folks are going to ding our change scores, they're going to say, "Hey you, you failed to deploy", and I will say that my current employer is changing that mindset. There is no longer a, a ding for rolling back a change because it means that you did your T-minus an you were executing and you recognized that this is not going to work the way that we wanted it to work, so we're going to roll it back because we want to protect the customer. Or in this case, you want to protect your, your child. You.

Leon: 06:54 Right.

Josh: 06:54 You're like, "Look, you being at yeshiva is just not going to work. We're going to bring it back, we're going to re-plan, and then we're going to redeploy and probably in another direction." I mean, we've talked about this before, right? Sometimes you have to walk the path that you were not supposed to walk only as far as you needed to so that you could realize it's not the path and then come back and walked confidently down the path that is the correct path for you. Much like me pursuing my, my law degree just was not going to happen.

Leon: 07:24 But you never sat there and said, "What if? What if?" No, you, you had enough of the what if to say no, no, no. I know. I know what that one was. Yeah.

Josh: 07:32 I also wanted to be a stockbroker. I made it, I made it to the first class of my, or the first lesson of my first two classes and I was like, no, I do not want to be a stockbroker. Did you know the stock brokers have to do math?

Leon: 07:46 Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're doing a lot of it.

Josh: 07:48 I didn't, I just thought they made money. It was weird. I had the things you don't know when you're 21.

Leon: 07:53 Yeah. Yeah. This is difference between counterfeiters and stockbrokers.

Josh: 07:56 Oh, weird.

Leon: 07:57 There's a joke there. I, I'm not good enough for financials to be able to finish that joke. So feel free to like leave a comment on the podcast about like how the, what the punch line for that would be. Um, so, so when we think about rollbacks to production, I think in it context it happens. But then we think about, all right, what can we do? Not just to make sure that this thing doesn't fail in the rollout, but how we can change our, uh, it culture, our it processes so that rollbacks occur less often. And you brought up a really good example, um, you know, as, as a true DevOps aficionado, you're going to invoke the holy name of Netflix.

Josh: 08:36 Of course, right? Netflix. Netflix is "The" company when it comes to, hey, let's break things. Uh, they introduced this idea of chaos monkey and it was actually built on a platform that allowed for this continuous, continuous deployment model and they would inject these problems. Uh, so the idea was that they wanted to see what would happen when there was a quote unquote random failure. Uh, so they, they developed this, this platform that was shut down an instance and did it impact us? And if it did, oh, that's interesting. Why did it, ah, let's go investigate. And so they would do the root cause and then resolve it. Um, chaos monkey has gone a step further now. Uh, one of the, one of the inventors of that methodology and of that platform has developed a platform called gremlins and gremlins are, are, I mean, they're exactly like those little evil creatures that were in the bad eighties movie that we watch over Christmas of the same name. Right? They're like, "Terminate an instance? Uh, no, no, no, no. We're going to rail the CPU in your box. Oh, we're going to fill a volume. Oh, we're going to steal your swap memory!" Um, that whole idea of let's, let's inject some failure into that deployment model just to see what happens. That's what I think is really important.

Leon: 09:57 Um, so, and just to clarify for folks who may not be familiar with the term or as familiar with IT, this isn't just breaking things for the sake of breaking things. This is breaking things to then see what the effect is and build a product that is more resilient to these random breakages. And not only that, but to build teams that think in a very particular way about what could go wrong. Um, just to extend the Gremlin concept even further. I heard that, I'm not sure if it was at Netflix or somewhere else that the chaos monkey visits the humans.

Josh: 10:32 Oh boy.

Leon: 10:33 Um, right. And does not inject chaos into them. But what it does is, uh, somebody will show up at somebody's desk right before a release to production and say, you are really, really sick right now. You have to go home for the rest of the day with pay, but you have to go and the person will say, "But, but, but I was part of the release team." Like I, we know, we'll let you know who, what happened tomorrow. Good luck. You know, this has been a visit from your friendly neighborhood chaos monkey. So you know, what happens when a particular person isn't available. And of course, again, the, the, you know, the next day they go back for a postmortem and say, well, because you know, Sarah wasn't there. Um, we didn't have somebody who do that. Oh, that's really interesting. Um, since I know that Sarah is very committed to being able to take vacations and actually be sick, sometimes we probably ought to figure out how we can have some redundancy in our human processes. Um, you know, so that that doesn't affect us when it matters.

Josh: 11:33 Um, I just want to point out that the last week, my team of three, I quickly became a team of one and it just, you know, PTO and a great opportunity to go out and meet with a vendor and suddenly Joshua is running solo. Um, right. We survived, although we like to inject chaos just for fun.

Leon: 11:53 I'm not saying chaos isn't entertaining when it occurs to other people. [Laughter] It's was it Mel Brooks who said the difference between comedy and tragedy, if you fall down a manhole cover, that's comedy. If I get a paper cut, that's tragedy. So yeah, the chaos monkey is great, but uh, it's, you know, when it happens to somebody else.

Josh: 12:15 So how would we apply this then, Leon to, to our families, right. Uh, I think I have some experiences that my family has gone through in the past decade, right? My daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis, uh, had back surgery. She's got, uh, 21 inches of titanium rod on each side, or sorry, 16 inches of titanium rod on each side of her spine. Uh, 21 or 22 titanium screws in her back. And, um, she did a, uh, Trek which, and Mormon, uh, in Mormon culture, I wouldn't say theology, Mormon culture. Um, they reenact a, a pioneer journey, so they have handcarts and they, they drive them. She did that. Uh, 3.5 months after back surgery. I mean, my son on a mission, um, you know, was diagnosed with Tourette's, which made conversation very hard. Now he's out doing missionary work and loves to talk to people. Um, and then on my own, my own family, right. I, I suffer from depression and I, my, my work toward getting promoted happened to coincide with a really difficult depressive episode. Um, so I mean, I, I, for me and my family, I think that those experiences have taught us this. And I do love baseball. So this, yes, as the baseball analogy, when life is throwing you curve balls, just swing away. I mean when people look at those things, we were like, "Oh, well, you know, Josh, you know, he, he has, he has depression", but when you swing away at those curves and you, you know, you pull one out of the park, uh, for me that, that, uh, allowing that chaos into our lives, uh, it allows, it allows the acknowledgement that, "Yeah, I don't have control over this thing, but I am still going to take an active, active role." But I mean, how do I take that and how do we instill that into my kids. Obviously I, I've done it, but I, I mean, I don't know how I did it.

Leon: 14:13 So I think you're, I think the analogy is good and I think the point is good that Netflix said, look, failures are going to occur. So, the only way we can get better at them is to keep experiencing failures and keep on growing from them. But we're not going to wait for the failures to happen to us. We're going to actively seek those failure modes. Now that doesn't mean uh, again, quoting Barbara Collaroso, uh so, uh, class if you don't cross the street. But if you don't look both ways before crossing the street, something bad could happen. "Jenny, go run and show them!" Like you don't do that. So, but as you, you can't watch, but I almost almost made him spit coffee out of his nose. Um, or whatever you're drinking probably wasn't coffee. Um, so I think that finding situations for our family to go through with which are less than perfect, which are, um, perhaps a little fraught or have the potential to be a little bit fraught, whether that is, you know, moving, I mean, just simply, you know, moving, moving to a new, a new home to new school, to new city, I think that causes a lot of families, a lot of, uh, concern. What are we going to do to the kids? We're going to teach them how to move. We're going to teach them that things change. Um, I think moving every month is probably a little excessive, but I think we can look for those as opportunities, not just as challenges. Um, if you know, somebody in the family speaks a different length, is able to speak another language. I think having that person insist on speaking it and allowing the rest of the family to adapt to that. Um, I've seen families where one parent speaks only one language. The other, so the family I'm thinking of, he's from Spain. She is from Switzerland. They speak all the languages, they speak together, so they each speak Spanish, French, German or schweizerdeutsch in English. They speak all of those. So Dad speaks to their daughter in Spanish only. Mom speaks to the child in schweizerdeutsch only. And they speak to each other in front of the child in French only.

Josh: 16:22 Oh my goodness!

Leon: 16:23 So that the kid understood that there were different modalities to speaking. When I'm talking to Daddy, I have to use these words. When I'm talking to Mommy, I have to speak up these words and if they're both here, I have to use these other words. But it taught the child to sort of mental resilience. Um, that I think is admirable and I've seen families do it that way. I've also seen families do it where dinner time is, you know, Spanish time. We're just at, at this meal, this is the only language we are going to speak. Good luck. You will not damage your children doing that. Uh, pulling from my own personal experience. Uh, the way that the Adato family takes vacations is relatively unique. Uh, I'll try to tell this briefly, but um, when we go on vacation, we don't tell our kids that we're going, we don't tell them where they're going. We don't tell them how long they will be gone. What I mean by that is that my wife and I plan the vacation like you do, but we don't tell our kids anything about it. It's done completely in secret. And then on the day that we leave, we usually, uh, wake them up around three o'clock in the morning. A lot of our vacations are driving vacations. So we wake them up around three o'clock in the morning and sing to them [singing] "We going on on an adventure. We're going on!" As the kids got older, they would swear at us more as we did that because we were waking them up and then they know what's coming. We'd load them into the car in their pajamas and we start driving. About 20 minutes in, we'd start giving them clues and we'd continue to give them clues, uh, for the next four or five hours. When they were young, this kept them occupied and out of the "Are we there yet?"-mode since they wouldn't know are we there yet? Cause they don't know where there is but the clues were not particularly helpful. For example, we were going to Boston and some of our clues was like the little magnet tiles. You know there was a one and a two... One if by land two if by sea? [groan] There was also, there was a Minute Maid orange juice container that was cut out in the shape of a guy for the Minute Men. And, uh, we also had a little stone and a matchbox car... For Plymouth Rock. Yeah.

Josh: 18:33

Leon: 18:33 Since I said we were going to Boston, all of that made sense. But since we didn't, they, they sometimes got really obscure. Like we went to Israel, we did take a trip to Israel and one of the clues there was a model airplane with holes drilled in it. Um, which did not mean as my son announced loudly to the plane that we're going to crash. [Laughter] Um, instead I was, I was trying to make a joke about the holy land, so... Right!?! Right. So these clues, these clues are not easy or, or helpful clues. They're really just obnoxious clues that keep the kids paying attention. So, but the point is, is that as we go on vacation, like a whole vacation experience is one of guessing and trying to figure it out and, and having fun with it and learning to enjoy the uncertainty of it. Um, because at the end of the day, I think that's the part that we as parents and also I think, uh, you know, we as young adults who were failing in different ways and, uh, our kids who are young adults and failing in particular ways, I think that's the challenge is "Wow do we face and, and address uncertainty?" How do we, you know, "I thought it was going to go like this and it's not, and now what am I going to do about it? Um, you know, I don't know what to do. This wasn't part of my, my game plan. So now what?" And sometimes the answer, the right answer is rollback come home, regroup. You know, sometimes that is the right answer. Sometimes the answer is, you know, sidestep. Okay, so lawyer isn't going to work, but you're not going to not work. You're not going to not do something. So, alright, how do I take a side step into another career? I think that that's what it comes, uh, comes down to, is facing that uncertainty and having strategies for when those uncertain moments crop up.

Josh: 20:32 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media

Leon: 20:46 Test in Dev? Not me! I test in prod. What could possibly go wrong?

Josh: 20:51 Narrator: Apparently, a lot. Nobody was surprised.



Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App