Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we’re not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a “TAMO Cloud” – which stood for “Then A Miracle Occurred”. It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it’s output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud – where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys – both technical and theological – and see what lessons we can glean from where they’ve been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with friend, co-religionist, programmer, and recurring Technically Religious guest Ari Adler.
Leon: 00:00 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We’re not here to preach or teach you our religion. We’re here to explore ways we make our career as it professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Leon: 00:21 Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we’re not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for Then A Miracle Occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud, where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they’ve been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. My name is Leon Adatto, and with me today is Ari Adler.
Ari: 01:11 Hi.
Leon: 01:13 All right. Before we dive into the topic, uh, let’s do a little bit of shameless self promotion. Ari, tell us a little bit about who you are, where you work, where we can find you, all that stuff.
Ari: 01:23 Currently I’m working helping to make applications at Rockwell Automation here in Cleveland, Ohio. I have really in my career up to this point, been mostly focused on the front end, specifically working with the angular framework that’s Google. And right now I am working in the research and development department in Rockwell for a really important application of theirs. Um, and yeah, it’s really great rewarding work and I’m part of an amazing team.
Leon: 01:51 Fantastic. Okay. And if people wanted to find you online, can they do that? Are you anywhere or are you just invisible?
Ari: 01:56 I am visible. I have a LinkedIn, um, account. So that would, that would definitely work. Um, AriAdlerJSProgrammer, JS doesn’t stand for Jewish Stud but rather Java script.
Leon: 02:10 Okay. Uh, but now it does from now on, I will never be able to unthink that. So, uh, for those people who might be scribbling madly, “J S does not stand for…”, Uh, we’ll have the links in the show notes, so don’t worry about that. And finally, how do you… Religiously, how do you identify it?
Ari: 02:28 So, um, I’m definitely part of the Orthodox community.
Leon: 02:32 Okay. And we’ll get into more about that in a, in a minute. And just to round things out, a little bit of promotion for myself, I’m Leon Adato, I’m a Head Geek. Yes. That’s actually my title at SolarWinds, which is neither solar nor wind. It’s a software vendor based in Austin that makes monitoring software. You can find me on the Twitters @LeonAdato. I write and pontificate about things both technical and religious at https://www.adatosystems.com. And I also identify as an Orthodox Jew. So let’s dive right into it. Tell us a little bit more about the kind of work that you’re doing today. Nothing specific. Cause I know you’re working on a very top secret project that can’t… Actually, it’s not top secret but you know, we don’t try, we try not to talk about those kinds of things here on the show. Just in case there are nondisclosure issues. But tell us what kind of work you’re doing today.
Ari: 03:21 The project I’m involved with is using a lot of newer types of frameworks, mainly using node.js, which is a very, very powerful, um, way of setting up servers and running the back end. Um, and the language is mainly with TypeScript and my particular role has always basically been with my career working with the front end, with the, with the creating UIs. Uh, the user interfaces. Generally been done using a framework called angular, which is a very robust, full, involved framework. It’s quite complex and I’ve used a new, a lot of different capacities, whether it be dealing with splitting large amounts of data, or getting user input. And without going into any more detail about the project I’m doing, it is definitely a very, very important and highly recommended framework. If you do have to make a web application. It’s, you know, it’s well known and there’s very good documentation and tutorials that are easily defined. But that is mainly the tech that I’m, I’ve been using.
Leon: 04:35 So I, I presume that you were born knowing how to work with angular, that you came out of the womb, in fact with a keyboard in your hands and you know, all that’s up is that, no, that’s not how he’s, he’s looking at me and just like staring. Okay. So where did you, if you didn’t start off, you know, coding from, from birth and how did you start out, you know, what was your starting point?
Ari: 04:57 Well, there was, there was, there was a little “A”, on my diapers…
Leon: 05:01 Right. So that was a for angular or…? I think it was for “Ari”
Ari: 05:04 Well, it had the little symbol there for angular in it. Yeah. Yeah.
Leon: 05:08 No, he was the chosen one.
Ari: 05:10 I wasn’t born with it. Angular is actually, a lot of people don’t realize this. Like, if you ever have to write a job description and you want somebody to work for angular, don’t ask for 10 years of experience or the framework that only you know, came out with the, uh, with the production version and May, 2016.
Leon: 05:30 So that’s, that’s a pro tip to anybody in HR who’s listening to this, who’s, you know, writing job descriptions is find out how long the technology has been out for before you say, “must have, you know, 16 years experience with, you know, windows 2016.
Ari: 05:45 A framework, which has only been out for six months. Right.
Leon: 05:48 Okay. So where did you start at?
Ari: 05:50 I did not start out in tech. Um, I actually taught for a few years in middle school and an elementary school. I taught in Queens and Brooklyn before we relocated to Overland park, Kansas. I taught at the Hebrew Academy there. Um, and um, from there we moved to Cleveland and I met, um, inspiring young man named Leon Adato and I, um, joined the a a course to learn, um, the, the tech world. And, you know, I’m hoping at some point in my, as I continued in my career I might find a way to go and I do have a master’s degree in education. I’m hoping that at some point maybe a cross paths a little bit, I know that there is a lot of it has been done and I’m sure there’s plenty that can still still be done in this field without getting into too much detail cause I haven’t really thought it out so fully yet. Right now I’m kind of busy with work and, and family life. But I, you know, as soon when I get to a certain stage where it’s things quiet down a little bit, education and technology I think are two things that very much can go hand in hand. Um, I view tech as a tool and it’s something that obviously can be very distracting and very harmful if done in the wrong ways, but if used correctly can really help solve a lot of problems. And I know educationally speaking, there’s a lot of challenges that, that kids have in their… There are, there is a lot of things. I know that Math Blaster, I had to even that when I was a kid, there’s really no end to what it could do to help. Just even writing algorithms that can help figure out for a particular child what, what they’re missing and what pieces would help them improve. You know, there’s, you know, whatever the future is, is exciting and uh, I hope to be, to be part of it.
Leon: 07:41 Okay. So you didn’t… you started out in education and you mentioned a little bit about the, there was the program that has been mentioned on Technically Religious before. What I affectionately refer to is “Frum Guys Who Code”, but it was really, um, Gesher. Uh, it was uh, the Gesher Upper Level prefers a short program to get, uh, get some folks started on technology.
Ari: 08:05 It was a bootcamp. You can call it a bootcamp.
Leon: 09:20 Right, it’s been 15 minutes. So that epoch is over now, right?
Ari: 09:27 Um, I learned a lot of the ropes from there. And then, um, from that, I, I, I’ve moved on, I’m working for or worked for Park Place Tech, um, for stint. And then after that I got, um, I got my placement at Rockwell. So I’ve been at Rockwell really since March. I’m in a different division than it was when I started. Um, yeah, it’s really been an amazing ride and I’m still learning tons. Um, you know, one thing that I’ve needed to do recently, which I was never asked to do and I know a lot of developers, you know, really either dread this or just avoid completely is learning to write them unit tests, which is something that I’m Angular itself. If you read the documentation, they think it’s very important. Um, and I, it’s really something that I wanted to improve at. And um, I think I have, um,
Leon: 10:15 Well you do, you do a couple dozen of them or 20 or 30, and you start to get good at it.
Ari: 10:19 Yeah. But there, there’s all different, yeah. Things. And you know, it’s, it’s a, it really is a complex area, you know, to a certain degree, in order to really do it well, you have to almost be developer, not just a tester, cause you have to really know how the code works. Um, and the company definitely recognize that and they wanted, um, to get developers in the testing a role also. So that’s actually what I’m trying to really be the most current, uh, you know, area. But you know, it’s, I, you kind of have to wear all hats and which is, you know, brings you back to education. A big part of what I love about tech and I, I feel like almost any job really, if someone has this mindset and it’s not just professional, but really how you live your life is solving problems. Right. You know, don’t get, when I was in the classroom and you know, there, there was, I needed to accomplish a certain thing. I didn’t view that. You know, any child would be like, uh, you know, was anything, was, was beyond their capabilities. As long as they had the right encouragement. And you could connect with them in the right way. And I was very successful in the classroom. Um, and tech is basically the same thing. I’m definitely blessed with the team now that, that definitely has that, that viewpoint. But anybody who is focused on “Why I can’t do something” versus “How can I accomplish, uh, what it is that has to get done” is really, um, they’re really looking at it the wrong way. And this is true, in almost any aspects of like, I know we’re going to get into the religious aspect, but, you know, it’s, uh, it’s just, it’s, it’s really that, uh, that there is a focus on solving, solving problems and making things better and always improving and never, you know, getting caught up in the, uh, in the problems. But rather, how can I make this better? How can I get this to work?
Leon: 12:08 All right. So that is actually a perfect dovetail. So you said at the top of the episode that you identify as an Orthodox Jew. Tell me a little bit about, more about what that looks like. Um, as I’ve said before, uh, especially on these TAMO cloud segments, labels are imprecise. They’re difficult. A lot of people sort of bristle at the idea of being pinned in to one particular kind of thing. When you say that you identify as an Orthodox Jew, what does that mean for you? How does that look?
Ari: 12:33 So it’s funny you asked me this. Honestly, I haven’t had that much exposure to a lot of elements of the Orthodox Jewish world a little bit before I came to Cleveland. No, I, I always defined myself as like a, uh, individual thinker. I feel, and this is very much downplayed, at least I feel like in my own circles, I’m assuming it’s true and for many other communities that, um, I feel like people, you know, th the main job that anybody has as a religious person, my feeling is that like, you know, obviously that comes with believing in a higher power, right? Believing in God and therefore what that comes with and what scientists don’t constantly have to struggle with this idea is that we have free will, right? We, we, we have the right to be able to go into choose right from wrong. Um, and society at large obviously feels that we otherwise you couldn’t have a justice system and so forth. So as much as people want to, to, um, deny the kinds of a higher being, if it doesn’t, uh, suit them, we, we, you know, most people definitely believe in freewill. I don’t know how that can work if you don’t think that, you know, there’s a guy who ever came from monkeys or whatnot, like, you know, everything just happened on its own. For sure as a society overall, we believe in and free will and people have to really, therefore by definition come to their own decisions for themselves. That means that we constantly have to be choosing, right? Free will lends to choosing and, and if a person is choosing without knowing anything, they’re going to be making a lot of mistakes. Therefore, people always have to be learning in order to be able to, and it’s very different. It’s very difficult. It’s very challenge cause we’re always faced with new things and new problems. But if you have that solid foundation of education and always learning… And the problem is that if somebody doesn’t know how to learn, if they don’t understand for their own, because you can’t always just rely on asking somebody else that’s, that’s not really possible. Right. You know, we’re constantly faced with decisions and choices the same way that free will is a constant factor in our lives from when we wake up to when we go to sleep. It’s really something that really has to be to, you know, I, I feel like that that getting people to be independent thinkers and independent learners is really, really critical. And I think this is something that’s is, it’s downplayed to a large degree. I’m not going to get into why. Therefore, I kind of view myself as, I don’t want to call like independently Orthodox, but very much from the mainstream that to a certain degree, being part of a of a larger group is good, but it should be really understood what limitations that that can bring that if people feel like, well, as long as I, I stick with the Joneses, I’m, I’m going to be pleasing God. I think that they’re making a major fallacy with that viewpoint because I think that the, a person always has to be looking at themselves and, and thinking that I’m really the only person who can improve me if they’re hiding behind society a large, I think that that is something that is, um, is a real, real danger.
Leon: 15:49 So you’re saying that herd, herd immunity does not work when it comes to perhaps heaven?
Ari: 15:54 Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I, I don’t know if that like fully answered the question of how, how I define myself religiously, but someone who, I guess I call myself a learning Jew.
Leon: 16:05 Okay, fine. That’s fine. So, uh, the question then moves into, is that how you grew up? Is that the Judaism that you were used to or is that the experience that you were used to in your younger life? And again, I’ve said this before on other episodes that when we’re growing up in our parents house or wherever we were growing up, whatever was happening in the house where we grew up, that’s what we did because that was what was around us. So we then left and came to a point where we realized to your, to your point that there’s a moment where you can choose and that’s when you start to formulate your own experience. So what did your, what did, what did your growing up world look like?
Ari: 16:50 So both of my parents were not raised Orthodox. They kind of, they kind of needed to become more religious at a later stage in life and they didn’t get, um, in as much as of or nearly as much as the formal education that I was blessed with. So, obviously it wasn’t really possible to be, you know, to have been, been raised in a way – As often happens when people don’t get the education in their youth – it’s hard to catch up. I lost my father at a young age, so like it was very much, I was kind of to a certain degree, I mean my, my mother is, you know, she should live in, be well is, you know, really an amazing person. Um, but you know, she’d be the first to tell her she’s no Rabbi. Right. And she’s, she’s always learning and going to classes, but you know, obviously, you know, with her background is coming from quite as a secular place. Um, so, you know, she’s, she’s who’s also seeking and learning and, but she, she doesn’t have the same kind of background, not having any kind of like formal education in, in her younger years. So, you know, my house is very different than the house I, I grew up in as a child, therefore. Um, so I definitely grew up in a, in an Orthodox home. Um, but there’s, there’s lots of different levels to what that could mean.
Leon: 18:14 When I talked to other people about this, what’s called Baal Teshuva, you know, people who came to Orthodox Judaism later in life, and my wife, my family and I are, are in that community. It’s very much, it’s very similar to the immigrant experience. Where you come to this foreign country called the “Orthodox community” and now at whatever age you arrive there, you have to learn a whole set of rules and expectations and language and behavior and jargon and things like that. And you do the best you can and you learn to code switch and you learn to adopt that, but you’re never quite natively fluent the way that a child who’s born into that country or community is. So that for, in a lot of ways that that experience you’re describing is similar to growing up when your parents are immigrants and you were born in that country. So you have a level of a perception and a level of fluency that they’re not going to have because again, they, to your point, they weren’t, they weren’t born with it. How did you get from there to here? You know, when you were, so you were grown, you were born into a Baal Teshuva family and now your house looks very different. What was the formative element, aspects of that from point there to point here?
Ari: 19:25 Because I went to, um, a Jewish school, so I was able to get much stronger education and I carried that with me post high school, going on to a Yeshiva. I studied for many years. So that was able to give me a much stronger background and a much stronger foundation in understanding the religion and what, you know, what we believe God expects of us. Um, and so in a nutshell that that really is the, uh, you know, the reason. Just through education, through, through the more understanding I was able to, um, hopefully be able to make some, let’s call it better choices. Some, uh, you know, some, uh, have a little little more control over from a religious standpoint what my home should look like, what, what I should value, what I want to give over to my children. Like, like I was saying before, and you know, knowledge is power and no matter what stage somebody comes in to the game, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s not really important about, again, like being socially, you know, accepted by the peers. Because like, like I was saying before, it’s, it’s, so… The main thing is really individual and you know, sometimes people get like a little bit caught up in, “Well, you know, do I fit in with this, with society at large?” But again, that’s not, that’s not the point of the every religion to in with society. It’s about making the right choices and recognizing our, our free will, the best way that we know how to, um, and ultimately anyone you know, is going to believe that, that it’s up to God to kind of judge us as to where we wound up. And now, honestly, we were with ourselves, why we did what we did. And that’s really very important foundation, I’m assuming, to any religion for sure. For mine.
Leon: 21:10 Okay. So we’ve talked about the technical and we’ve talked about the religious. So now I want to blend the two. I’m curious about any situations where in taking your strong religious point of view along with this technical career which you’ve moved into in the last couple of years, if there’s been any conflicts or any challenges that have come up between those two things. Any points of friction?
Ari: 21:33 So that’s a very interesting question. Inherently I don’t see any conflict at all between the religious world and the technical world, but I find a lot of conflicted people in, in it. On both ends of the spectrum. You have a lot of people in the religious world who shun, or are very, are very anti, a lot of aspects of the technical world. And I found a lot of people in the, in the, in the technical world tend to be pretty anti-religious. Um, you know, my first day at one job I, I am overheard a fellow person on my team. They were having a conversation, I think I had mentioned something, whatever, but you know, we were talking about, you know, being, being bored or whatnot. And one of the person just blurted out, “I haven’t, I haven’t been bored since the last time I stepped into a church.” And I think he said after that, that was when he was like eight years old or whatnot. So, you know, he, he obviously probably didn’t consider himself to be too, too religious. I didn’t, you know, follow up in the conversation. But I, I, I’ve certainly met a good deal of people who kind of, let’s say to a certain degree, substitute their religious life with, with the tech. I think that that’s, although I kind of understand that a certain level, why they mentally would be able to do that. I think that they’re gonna leave a huge vacancy just in, in their own souls. I mean, in, in, in, in their own completeness as a human being. Cause I, you know, I mean, I, I, you know, assuming that we were all created by God, so there’s this idea that the whole reason why there is concept of religion is, is not just, no, it’s not, not a scam. People have the, this, this natural yearning for, for, for spirituality to be part of a higher purpose and to have a real meaning in life. Um, which is something that, which with a technology can kind of like give somebody maybe to sort of be a sense of purpose. Not really, but it could give someone the facade of that. I like, to use the example you could have, you know, I, I have a, a young baby at home and you know, from a young age, human nature gives us a… Really, from birth or even in the woman shown the this natural desire to, to suck, which is obviously it’s a necessary thing for a baby to be able to nurse or bottle feed or whatnot. If, if the baby can’t get access to food when it’s hungry, it’s gonna suck on what’s ever there or there be a rock nearby or a sticker, a, you know, a teething toy. Right? It’s just gonna because it, that natural, it’s got a suck on something. So if it can’t suck on something that’s going to help it gonna suck on something that can’t help it. But I think it’s kind of like the same idea over here. That like people do feel like they have to be part of something bigger and they want to have a meaning and, and a sense of purpose. And that’s not the idea of, you know, when, when the, the original Turing machines, and you go through the history of computer, it was not meant to be sucked on. It was not meant to nourish the spiritual side and the fact that you get so many people that I think to a certain degree are using it in that way I think is a real, I mean, it’s a real shame and it’s, you know, really something that is, um, I had never really heard or spoken about, but I think it very much exists for my own personal, uh, you know, meetings, people from all different spectrums and so forth. Like, um, what I was saying before. The two really have, you know, can, can very much augment one another. No, no question. They really are two separate things, but to a certain degree you have, you know, I, I don’t know if like religions can sometimes feel, feel threatened by tech and you know, I, I certainly know people who definitely feel that way. And you definitely have the reverse that people like wind up going the other way that they feel like “Iif I have tech I don’t really need religion.” Um, and again, like neither one of those things make too much sense to me. Technology is a tool to just, you know, help us and you know, become better at what we, you know, at who we are and what we do.
Leon: 25:55 So that’s the, the, again, the friction points or the challenges that you found between your religious life and the technical, but how about the happy surprises? Were there any benefits or anything about your religious life that brought almost like a superpower or a secret trick that you didn’t think was going to be useful but in your technical life, it turns out it was really, really helpful.
Speaker 2: 26:17 Um, yeah, sure. Most of the way I, I, I analyze and think comes from my religious studies. So it’s really, it’s given me a tremendous advantage coming into the, the technical world. I think there’s certainly a lot of people with a lot of just raw intelligence. Brain power, which is really, really great. But, you know, I think to a certain degree I have the ability to kind of look at things sometimes from a little bit of a different perspective and being able to analyze things a little bit of a different way. Being the fact that I’ve been able to intensively learn things at a high level from both a religious aspect and a technical aspect. So I think that they can really, um, aid and abet my critical thinking skills and my analyzing skills in my, um, creative thinking skills, which is something that, you know, it was really a lot of, of overlap in both, both areas.
Leon: 27:19 This has been a great conversation. I’m just curious, any final thoughts, anything that you want to leave the listeners with?
Ari: 27:24 Yeah. Well. Um, I think that the, the, this idea of the, um, anyone who’s listening to this podcast, obviously you’re probably very much, um, care very much about these two topics of religion and technical, uh, this, you know, field. IT. Um, you know, I, I think that it’s, um, it’s, it’s really great to kind of put the two together and like a whole in a wholesome way to, to go, you know. Because some, like, like I was talking about before, since sometimes those things are viewed as being mutually exclusive to a certain certain degree or at least not friendly. You know, I, I don’t, I don’t know if that is necessarily true. And I’m, this, this is really, this is really, you know, it’s, uh… Religion means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and the importance and what the capabilities are with the technical world also means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So, you know, a podcast like this, putting the two together and get, getting people’s thoughts, thoughts, and either ideas. It’s really, it’s truly, uh, it’s, it’s a wonderful accomplishment and I think a very worthwhile endeavor.
Leon: 28:32 Thank you. All right. All right. It’s been fantastic having you here.
Ari: 28:35 Thank you. It’s been great talking to you, Leon.
Leon: 28:39 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, http://www.technicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.