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S1E3: Being a “Light Unto the Nations” During a Sev1 Call

In episode 3 Josh, Roddie, and Leon talk about how we can – and whether we should – draw on our religious background to guide our behavior during high-stress moments. And in IT, few things get as stressful as a Sev1 (severity 1) outage, and the all-hands-on-deck conference call that usually comes with it. Give it a listen, or read the transcript, below.


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

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

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

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

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

Josh:                                      01:01                     I’m Josh Biggley

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

Roddie:                                01:39                     Like, yes, what,

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     03:57                     Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Leon:                                     05:17                     Okay.

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

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

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

Leon:                                     05:55                     Yes.

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

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

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

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

Roddie:                                07:16                     All the time.

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

Roddie:                                07:22                     All the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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