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S1E2: Yesterday I Did, Today I Don’t

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

Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     03:33                     Uh Huh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     10:05                     The blinky lights!

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

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

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

Leon:                                     12:51                     Yeah right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     17:46                     Correct

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

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

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

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

Josh:                                      21:47                     Right. Exactly. Yeah.

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

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

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

Josh:                                      24:29                     Absolutely!

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

Josh:                                      25:23                     That’s exciting.

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

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

Leon:                          25:47                     (singing) ch-ch-ch-changes

Josh:                           25:50                     Turn and face the strange.

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