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 and fellow SolarWinds aficionado Jez Marsh. Listen or read the transcript below.
Leon: 00:06 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: 00:53 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 Jez Marsh.
Jez: 01:44 Hello.
Leon: 01:45 Hi there. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Jez: 01:47 No problem.
Leon: 01:48 Before we dive into the actual conversation here on technically religious, we’d like to do a little bit of shameless self promotion. So Jez, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jez: 01:57 All right. Well I’m the founder and principal consultant for Silverback Systems, which is a UK based, um, enterprise monitoring, professional service, uh, consultancy service, but specializing in the SolarWinds mindset. Yeah. Well, you know, uh, and that’s basically how we got here, but we’ll talk about that later. Um, my website is a http://silverback.systems either with an S or not. It’ll work. Oh, sorry. HTTPS or HTTP. Either one will work. Um, and I suppose if I had to say for this podcast perspective how people would describe me. Ah, well I would describe myself as an agnostic.
Leon: 02:35 Okay. And if people wanted to find you on social media, do you have a presence or have you completely issued that and just stayed away?
Jez: 02:42 No, I uh, I burnt my Facebook account over two years ago cause I could see where that was going. But you can get me on Twitter. I’m @JezMarsh on Twitter. Um, and I’m also on LinkedIn if, uh, if you’ve got a business persuasion.
Leon: 02:57 Got it. Okay. So I’ll wrap it up just to make sure that we have like bookends, uh, with the social, with the shameless self promotion. 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 a monitoring vendor. And we’ll probably end up talking about that a little bit on the podcast. You can find me on the Twitters, as the younguns like to say, @LeonAdato. I also blog at HTTP://www.AdatoSystems.com. And I identify as Orthodox Jewish. And if you are scribbling all these things down, madly stop it. Just listen, relax and enjoy the ride because we’re going to have show notes that’ll have every link and everything that we talk about in there including a transcript. So you don’t have to do that. So let’s dive right in. I want to start with the technical. Um, and I want to start off with today. So what are you doing technically today? Describe the kind of work that you’re doing and what a typical day looks like.
Jez: 03:54 Well, as mentioned in the introduction, um, my business specializes in providing professional services to customers, either new or old of, uh, the SolarWinds platform. Uh, I look, I do a bit of dabbling and others, but SolarWinds is pretty much where I live. If you cut me, I bleed orange. A typical day for me really would be, um, dialing into a customer environment. Most of my work is remote these days because the is there, why not? And dealing with whatever I’ve got on my plate or whatever. Uh, part of the particular scope of work I have to do on that day. Uh, it’s pretty frenetic. Uh, I mean my, uh, contract is with a specific customer right now until, until the summer. Uh, but there’s always people asking me questions and I do like to be helpful.
Leon: 04:46 Got it. And uh, for those people who aren’t familiar with the SolarWinds ecosystem, Jez is very helpful over on THWACK.com. Yes, that’s actually the name of the website. What can I tell ya? Naming things is hard. Okay? SolarWinds, THWACK, it’s just, it can be very difficult. So over on THWACK.com, Jez is part of the crowd of MVPs: Most Valuable Persons, who, uh, answer questions when he’s not, uh, working with clients. And I presume that you were born again, bleeding orange, that you, uh, came out of your mother’s womb already knowing all things about SolarWinds, uh, back in… No, probably. That’s probably how it work. So where did you start off in tech? How did you get into it?
Jez: 05:26 I guess there’s a lot of, it started when I was very young, probably around about 10 or 11, my father brought me a, a Zenex Spectrum, 48K with the rubber keyboard back in the day. Um, and I saw, I learned very much at the beginning literally by going through the Input magazine. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but uh, it would over months and months and months it would give you all of the code to type in to get this program running. And back then there was no colorization there was underlining of the code to say if you’ve made a mistake. So yes, I did spend weeks typing things in and need to find, I had a typo somewhere and then having to try and find out where it is. It was a nightmare. But that’s where it all started. So a hobbyist I suppose you could say.
Speaker 6: 06:12 Um, at 10 years old it’s, there’s no like, it’s not like you’re a professional at 10, so we were ALL hobbyists with everything at 10, but okay, fine. You were not thinking of doing this professionally when you first started. Okay.
Jez: 06:26 Like most people, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. Um, funny story really. I went through school, got into secondary education, which is around about 16, 17 years old. Did well in the, what they call GCSEs over here, which is the, um, high school education, I guess, uh, in the States. Um, and then went to the next level, which is college, I guess for you guys. Um, and sat down on day one and the teacher said, “Okay, we’re going to do, we’re going to learn BASIC.” And uh, and I put my hand up and I said, “We did that for GCSE. When are we going to learn something useful?” Right. I know that. Well, yeah, I know, I know. Right. And um, the teacher stood firm and said, “No, this is, this is the curriculum I decided to go with. So you either do this or you get out. “And they actually kicked me off the course. Right. So that, that was a huge, huge thing. But I was, even then, I was adamant that I wanted to learn. I didn’t want to repeat what I needed to do. What I had done previously, I wanted to learn something new and keep going. And that’s something that stayed with me. But anyway, coming back to where I started in IT…
Leon: 07:32 I just want to clarify, the thing that stayed with you was, um, was standing firm and being useful, not speaking up and getting kicked out of places.
Jez: 07:40 No, no, no. Yeah, I don’t like getting kicked out of places. I, I tend to uh, stop there, you know? Okay.
Leon: 07:47 Just making sure, you know. I like to say the biggest barrier to my employment is my personality.
Jez: 07:53 But who could ever not employ you? Leon? Come on.
Leon: 07:58 A few. Demonstrably a few people, but this is about you, not about me. So moving on.
Jez: 08:05 Okay. So my first job was, um, working for a very small, um, it support type mom and pop store, but it was lifted just run by one guy. Um, so it was building PCs, um, changing toners, that sort of thing. Really basic stuff. So in the trenches, like most people start. Um, and then from there I went to other companies and did more advanced versions of the same thing. And then it went through a mat work for a managed service provider and so on and so on until, um, I made the decision back in 2015 to start my own business. Um, it was basically the, the, the managed service provider I was working with, they’d been bought out by another company. They had a slightly different direction for the operations side of it to, uh, how we were running things before we were bought out. And the effect of he made my role as the, uh, monitoring engineer redundant. Um, so they said you can go back and do third layer Microsoft support or, um, you can take the money in, roll the dice. And that’s what I did. And it was a good decision cause you know, uh, this worked out for me and uh, uh, it was obviously the right decision, but it was brave man. I was, uh, I was really, really not sure what was going to happen.
Leon: 09:21 It, you know, I know that a lot of the folks who listen either are running their own business or are thinking of it and In IT I think that that’s a pretty common thought is, you know, “Why am I working for this other person when I could go out and hang up my own shingle?” And yet the intestinal fortitude that it requires to actually take that leap is PRETTY challenging. So a full full props for, for doing that. And like you said, it’s worked out for you so far.
Jez: 09:47 Yeah. So far touch wood.
Leon: 09:50 Exactly. So, uh, so that’s how you got from there to here is really just that steady IT tech progression. I want to turn things around now and talk about religiously at the top of the show you mentioned that you were agnostic and I’m going to guess that you weren’t born into an agnostic family, that you probably started someplace else. So, uh, first I want to hear what does your religious ethical point of view look like today?
Jez: 10:18 Well, I think it’s more a case of believing in more than just the flesh and blood on the ground… procreating,. But having read and spent time with people of various religious beliefs, um, I can’t hang my hat on any one. So I believe there’s something and I respect everybody for their views, but I’m not ready to, uh, hang my colors on a particular one. Um, so definitely not an atheist. It’s more a case of there’s something, but I’ll find out when I do, when I need to or if something makes itself known, shall we say.
Leon: 11:00 Okay. And is that a, is that the prevailing attitude in the household? I know that, um, you have kids and uh, so I wasn’t, is that the whole household? Was that your personal philosophy?
Jez: 11:13 Personal philosophy? I would say. I would say the children, um, were, did spend some time with, uh, in a Baptist church because we have relatives that is, um, that, uh, I don’t even know what’s the right word. A, a lay preacher I suppose for, for the, for the church there. And um, yeah, we used to go there quite a bit. Sleep were very involving. They had a “messy church” thing where you could take the kids and they can have fun and you could also spend time talking to the people who actually go on a regular basis.
Leon: 11:40 A messy church. I like, I like that terminology. We have, we have a messy church and the families are like, “Okay, we can be here. Like you don’t have to worry about knocking things over.” That’s wonderful. I that that’s a terminology that needs to get picked up by a lot of other places. I think.
Jez: 11:56 Yeah. I mean, I think the idea behind it was that the children can go, um, and then they have, they have these, um, activities for them. So you paint something, uh, make a Christmas card or make whatever at that particular time. They have a number throughout the year. Um, and uh, my wife, again, Baptist orientated, uh, I know her grandmother on her father’s side was, uh, very much, uh, a church goer on a regular basis. Um, but it didn’t, didn’t, uh, didn’t stick with her. So I think the whole household, I believe, uh, are believers, but not specifically in any one thing. And I’m being very, um, open minded for my children’s sake. They can do whatever they want. I’m not gonna make them follow me into one thing or the other, but that’s not why I’m an agnostic. It’s more a case of they make their own mind up is their own. It’s their own journey.
Leon: 12:54 Okay. Oh, so going back to something I said earlier, you probably were not born into an agnostic house. So how, how were you raised, you know, what was the house when you were growing up?
Jez: 13:04 Okay. Um, my father’s family are not religious really. They are, um, arms length Church of England, I would say. Uh, so, um, Protestants rather than Catholics and my mother, um, well, you know, may she rest in peace. Uh, she’s no longer with us, but um, she had a difficult upbringing. She did spend some time living in a nunnery. Uh, but that was mainly because her parents walked out on her when she was very small. Um, so she was, she had a Bible, she had a, a prayer book. I’ve still actually got that somewhere that I made sure I had when she passed on because I can always remember her leafing through. It’s got lots of paper, uh, newspaper clippings and stuff in it. And um, but you know, she always went to midnight mass and then the local in the local Protestant churches. And uh, I would sometimes go with her to support her, but my father never did. Um, so I suppose the growing up the family weren’t really practicing any particular religion, but they were, I suppose if you had to say they were Christian.
Leon: 14:13 Okay. And then the question, similar to the technical conversation we had earlier, so how, how exactly was your progression or your journey from, you know, “there” in that, you know, generally Christian identifying family into where you are today. Were there any, were there any, you know, specific moments or milestones that you said, “Okay, this is, this is what I am now?”
Jez: 14:37 Well, I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a liberal bent, um, myself and some of the, some of the decisions of the Catholic church or sorry, the, the Protestant church where there, no, at the time anyway, when I was growing up, no, uh, no, no female priests and so on and so forth and their ideas of, you know, like, uh, ‘LGBT is wrong’ or that sort of stuff. So back then I thought, well, you know, at the end of the day, if there is one God and He supports everybody no matter what color you are, what creed, no matter what, then why are you kind of saying no to that? That doesn’t make any sense. So I think it started there when I realized that there are some people who were effectively excluded. And from there I just thought, well, there’s definitely something, but I’m not happy with that label. So I’m just gonna bump along on my own.
Leon: 15:25 Okay. Nope, fair enough. Okay, good. So, given that fairly, you know, I’m going to say wide open worldview of religion, um, and your long time career in tech. I’m curious if there were ever any points where the two came into conflict where you found that the technical work that you were doing and your particular ethical, moral point of view were somehow um, you know, creating a challenge for you?
Jez: 15:52 Uh, it’s when I was working with the MSP, um, or managed service provider for those who aren’t a technical bent listening to this, um, there were a number of customers that we were supporting who were uh, aggressive investment bankers, uh, to the point where they would – there’s nothing wrong with that per se – but it was more a case of the way in which their businesses bought other businesses, pare them down to the nth degree and then sold them at a profit. And I didn’t like supporting that sort of behavior cause there are people who are going to suffer. And I found out a few years down the line that does actually exactly what happens! But yeah, I mean, but ultimately my job is to put, to support the customer. Um, and whether I don’t agree with it morally, um, I couldn’t afford not to support them. So that was the, my job, you know, my team had that customer and we had to support them.
Leon: 16:45 So on the flip side of that, were there ever any moments where, you know, your, again, your moral, ethical point of view created a benefit or a positive that you weren’t expecting but sort of, you know, came up and you realized with some surprise that “Hey, wow, this really worked out well”?
Jez: 17:00 Well, I suppose putting myself out before the children were born. Um, we had a number of people who on the 24 hour rotation that we had at the MSP weren’t able to work for whatever reason. And you know, and I stepped up and covered the shifts for them. And it meant that those people could have their time with their family cause they needed it. Because there was one occasion where somebody whose parents weren’t very well in other occasions where the children weren’t well. And whilst, you know, I knew that effectively I was missing out time with my family. I wasn’t married at the time. Uh, it was my, my, uh, my parents and my sister. Um, I felt it was important that I could give something to them and help them in a time of need. So ultimately it’s more a case of being flexible and I suppose being agnostic means you can afford to be flexible because…
Leon: 17:47 Right. You don’t have quite as much of a dog in the, when it comes to, uh, you know, specific holidays and things like that.
Jez: 17:54 Yeah. I mean, obviously now I have children, it’s a little bit different. Um, but, uh, you know, I still have respect. Like for example, my, uh, my eldest daughter has a friend who is from an Indian family and they celebrate Diwali and all the rest of it, and they include a, include her in that and I’m completely happy with that. Whereas potentially I may not have been if I had actually hang my colors somewhere else.
Leon: 18:17 All right. So any final thoughts? Anything you want people to think about or, or ponder as we finish up this episode?
Jez: 18:24 I suppose in this time of potential problems in the Middle East, um, ultimately everybody deserves to have a life. Um, and don’t look down on those simply because they don’t have the same outlook or religion as yourself. Everybody needs to have food and water for their children.
Speaker 3: 18:44 Jez, thank you so much for taking a few moments out of your, uh, this is actually the end of your holiday, so thanks for carving out some time in and talking to us.
Jez: 18:53 Not a problem. Anytime. Leon, happy to be here.
Leon: 18:56 Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, https://wwwtechnicallyreligious.com where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.