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 my friend and frequent Technically Religious guest, Keith Townsend. Listen or read the transcript below.
Into music (00:03):
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.
TAMO intro (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.
Leon Adato (01:39):
My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you’ll hear on this episode is long-time technically religious, uh, contributor, Keith Townsend.
Keith Townsend (01:47):
How’s it gone.
Leon Adato (01:48):
It is going great. It is so good to have you back on the podcast this year. Um, before we dive into any of these conversations, I’ve been waiting to have this one with you for a long time. Um, I want to give you a moment of shameless self promotion, where you can talk about anything and everything that is particularly Keith and CTO advisor and stuff like that. So where can people find you? What are you doing these days? All that stuff.
Keith Townsend (02:12):
All right. So you can find me, uh, easiest. Wait, you know what, there’s a new website that we did this year. So let’s Hawk that the CTO advisor.com has been a completely revamped. It’s a completely new platform and, and sculp. Uh, we did it. We’re pretty proud of the work there.
Leon Adato (02:30):
Awesome. So we’ll check that out. Fine. And how about on the Twitters? Which we like to say to horrify your daughter?
Keith Townsend (02:35):
On the Twitter? Because you know, my daughter loves that it’s @CTOadvisor.
Leon Adato (02:42):
Perfect. Um, anything else that you want us to pay attention to where people can find you and what you’re working on?
Keith Townsend (02:48):
Well, what I’m working on is a, you know, we’ve been in the throws of cold COVID just.
Leon Adato (02:54):
Keith Townsend (02:54):
Before the, you hit the big red button. We talked about just the impact of, uh, looking for the vaccine. What we’re looking for at the CTO advisor is looking beyond that, we’re going to do a road trip in which we’re going to hit 12 cities over three month period. Me and Melissa driving around the big Ford pickup, pulling a Airstream and talking to people who listen to this podcast. So people in technology and, uh, technology vendors, we’re we’re going to have a good time over the three months. So keep checking the website, check the Twitter feed on for our travels.
Leon Adato (03:33):
Fantastic. Okay. And the last thing is, um, just briefly your religious ethical or moral point of view.
Keith Townsend (03:39):
So, you know, uh, this is a big, uh, questionmark for a lot of people, but I think I have it down pat, I’m non-denominational,
Leon Adato (03:50):
Keith Townsend (03:50):
However, I’m from a branch of the Chicago, I mean of, uh, the churches of Christ. So if you’re a Christian and you think of the churches of Christ as a denomination there, that’s where I’m at.
Leon Adato (04:03):
Fantastic. Okay. And if you’re scribbling any of the websites or stuff down, this is just a reminder to keep your hand on the wheel, pay attention to the road. Don’t worry about it. There’s going to be show notes that come out the day after this podcast drops. So anything that Keith and I are talking about here is going to be written down there for you. You do not need to make notes. With that said, I want to start off with the technical side. So CTO advisor doing road trips, like what, what is your day to day technical life look like?
Keith Townsend (04:32):
Well, you know what? I was just sharing with my wife, Melissa, that that has become a lot more blurry. So I can identify religious, really religion, really easily compared to what I do technically anymore, because I spent so much time as a business owner on the administrative parts of busy, of the.
Leon Adato (04:51):
Keith Townsend (04:51):
Business, when I’m not spending time on the administrative parts of the business, selling product, creating product, et cetera, I’m doing analyst work. So I get briefed, I disseminate that information from technical folks. I create content around that and help, uh, decision makers, make decisions around purchases. And occasionally I’ll take the advisory role and advise a company on their hybrid infrastructure journey.
Leon Adato (05:19):
Got it. And, and I know that you do a lot with, you know, basically in the cloud space, uh, you have a couple of opinions about Kubernetes. You, um, may even dabble in building data centers for yourself for fun.
Keith Townsend (05:36):
For fun, or for profit. Yes, I, so I do, uh, I have the CTO advisor hybrid infrastructure, which is, you know, we, this whole Kubernetes thing and all of the journeys we talk about moving from public, from private data center to public cloud, very abstract terms, the CTO adriser hybrid infrastructure is a concrete something I can put my finger on and say, this is what their journey from private data center to hybrid infrastructure looks like. This is what it tastes like. This is what it feels like. Here’s the pain points, the gadgets. So we built a data center with the intent of showing the journey from private data center to hybrid infrastructure.
Leon Adato (06:20):
Very cool and nice that, that you have a visceral sense of what that looks like, and you can convey that. That’s really cool. Okay. So I’m going to presume that you were not born with a silver keyboard in your mouth, that you were not that upon your birth, your mother didn’t look at you and say, yes, let’s call him CTO advisor. That’s what we will do. Where did you start off in tech? What was your, your, you know, rough beginnings?
Keith Townsend (06:42):
So rough beginnings, the, uh, old man, as you know, we like to call them, uh, bought me a color computer 2 a tan TRS 80 color computer 2, for those of you that were born after the year 2000, this machine from, uh, I bought a car from somebody that was born in 20, in 2000 last night. So that was a really interesting experience.
Leon Adato (07:06):
Keith Townsend (07:06):
But, uh, uh, in 1984, 1983, my dad bought me a color computer 2, uh, Leon. We’re both of an age group that we remember war games,
Leon Adato (07:18):
Keith Townsend (07:18):
The great geek movie of all the greatest geek movie of all times,
Leon Adato (07:23):
Keith Townsend (07:23):
And I had in my mind, you know what, I’m going to go play TIC TAC TOE on a, the color computer. And that started my love for technology. Uh, you know, and then you forward through the hobbyist phase to, when I actually started to get involved in tech, it was post, uh, my initial con uh, career in hospitality. I always had the bug for tech and I got a job, uh, pre year 2K when you had a win, if you had a pulse and could spell windows, you could get a job in technology. I parlayed that into a job working in the help desk for a, uh, commodities data provider, uh, commodities trading, uh, data provider, uh, for the third shift. And that’s way back in 1997, I think.
Leon Adato (08:14):
Keith Townsend (08:14):
So that’s, that’s the start. I just supporting commodity traders, trying to get real time data feeds off of our product. So that was a really interesting experience, uh, trying to, uh, explain to somebody with an Indian accent, what a Tilda was.
Leon Adato (08:30):
What a Tilda Yeah, What does that exactly look like?
Keith Townsend (08:33):
What is a Tilda?
Leon Adato (08:33):
And also on their keyboard, where would you find it possibly nowhere?
Keith Townsend (08:37):
Leon Adato (08:37):
Um, yeah. And, and I’ve commented a few times on the show that that help desk is for many of us, one of the formative experiences that we have that either show us that we never ever want to work in tech ever again, or that there is so much richness and so much, you know, to learn and so many different directions to go in that we just can’t ever get away from it. Um, all right. So then the next question is, you know, started off post TRS, you know, color to TRS 80, uh, post that into the help desk. How did you get from there to where you are today? What was that progression like?
Keith Townsend (09:18):
Wow, that’s a, that’s a really great story, uh, or, or question, and it was a lot of, uh, just excellent people throughout my career and grit. The great thing about starting out and learning about technology, of a passion for it. This is one of those industries where you can make a really great living for your family and not have a degree. I don’t have one, at the time. I did not have a degree in computing. I didn’t even have a degree. I only had maybe six months of community college under my belt from a, from going to community college for two years. I’ll probably only hit six months of credit. So, uh, the third shift job, I grabbed a MSCE, MS, MCSE, and then,
Leon Adato (10:08):
MCSE. Yeah, I have to say it really fast to get it right.
Keith Townsend (10:10):
MCSE certification guide. And I went down the journey of consuming every bit of information I can around certification. Uh, I’m super proud that I took the windows 95, uh, certification test, which was way harder than a windows NT4 old test. And I got like 98% on it. And I was super geek because I studied for it for months. But, you know, I use that certification path as a way to elevate myself into my next career opportunity, which was again, working at the help desk. But this time at the, at the Chicago Tribune making 20 grand more a year,
Leon Adato (10:48):
Keith Townsend (10:48):
Uh, the going again that self study route, uh, mentors, et cetera, moved on to network administration, not even a year after taking the job at, uh, the Tribune, still at the Tribune moved from that to a low dip. I started this brand called Townsend consulting. It’s still part of my email address. I can’t, uh, but I was super naive as many 20 or 20 something year olds are at the time, uh, thinking that I knew enough to actually advise and consult people on, on how to deploy windows technologies. I guess I was as knowledgeable as anyone, uh, took a hard turn in my career, actually, uh, personally I had to file bankruptcy because it was a very, very bad career move. Uh, I should have, uh, stuck with a full-time employment, uh, but, uh, this is around 9/11. Uh, so I spent, uh, think about six or seven months unemployed, uh, because I made wrong turn in my career. Uh, we, we re, recouped, spent a bit of time, uh, and a mid size organization doing again, network administration where, uh, did a lot of really cool projects like, uh, deploying a backup system, deploying my first sand storage area network,
Leon Adato (12:15):
Keith Townsend (12:15):
Uh, just cutting the next five or six years, just really earning my stripes in IT around the 10, 11 year point of my career. Uh, I finally finished my degree and, uh, computing BA in computing from DePaul university. We, uh, moved to Maryland because we were in and yet a, another recession. This is around 2008, 2009.
Leon Adato (12:43):
Keith Townsend (12:43):
Uh, we moved to Maryland where I took a job at Lockheed Martin, which completely, uh, changed my career. Uh, uh, telemetry.
Leon Adato (12:52):
Keith Townsend (12:52):
I went from very engineer focused. This is if people have ever followed me throughout my career, I was virtualized geek back then, uh, moved from, uh, being kind of an engineer to an architect, a lot more customer facing, uh, uh, roles and opportunities, managing projects. I finished up my Master’s in IT project management, uh, that opened the door for me to, uh, move to PWC, which where I became the CTO advisor, the conversation has changed from, should I, you know, use I scuzzy versus NFS versus fiber channel to, you know, what should we outsource all of IT? Uh, the, so that’s where, you know, I stepped away from the keyboard. This is circa 2012, 14, and ever since I’ve been kind of, you know, that’s been the brand and the focus of my career, not necessarily, uh, I’m, I’m a management consultant. Not necessarily I am a management consultant necessarily, but I’m a management consultant with deep technical chops. So I can talk, you know, everything from, uh, file systems to storage technology, and other storage technologies to, uh, EBGP all the way to “Should, uh. we, you know, use OPEX versus CapEx for a purchasing decision is how I, how I landed here.
Leon Adato (14:25):
Got it. That is so what’s wonderful about that, that narrative is that I think a lot of people who’ve been in it for a while can say, Oh, I, I can see myself in that journey. Again, a lot of us have gotten our start in or near the help desk. A lot of us have made several, um, you know, career or company changes, which led to career changes, or at least technical pivots and what we did. So, um, it’s really nice to hear that story validated in your experiences. Um, you know, that, that there is a pattern to it. So many people come to it from so many different directions that sometimes you feel like, yeah, it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s and I, you know, who knows where it’s going to end up? No, there really is. There really is sort of a path to it, even though it may not be as formalized as say, you know, a trade or, you know, one of the, we’ll say the higher, How do I want to say this, one of the more traditional degreed paths, like, you know, get, you know, being a physician or a lawyer or whatever. Um, okay. So that covers the, the technical side of it. I want to flip over to the religious side and,
Keith Townsend (15:40):
Leon Adato (15:40):
I always like to make the caveat that, um, labels are challenging in a lot of cases, you said that you had a very easy time sort of identifying yourself, but I know that a lot of folks, when they say, when I say, what are you, they’re like, well, I’m a, I’m kind of this, but not that, not that part of it. I, one person on a earlier show identified themselves as a kicking and screaming Christian. So, you know, stuff like that. So I want to start off by saying, how do you identify religiously today? Tell us a little bit more about, um, where you place yourself religiously today.
Keith Townsend (16:14):
So, you know, it’s really interesting because, um, I think when most people, um, for those who you can’t physically see me, I’ve never physically seen me and can’t tell by my voice, cause voices are hard. I’m an African-American. And when most people think of African-American Christians, I think they have this image in their head of Baptist,
Leon Adato (16:35):
Keith Townsend (16:35):
uh, traditional soulful worship type of church. Nah, I go, I go to a multi-national I’m in a multi-national, uh, congregation.
Leon Adato (16:48):
Keith Townsend (16:48):
And, um, community. So there’s a bit of everything. So you can kind of think of it as a little bit more reserved, which has some really interesting, um, uh, I think impacts because traditionally I think you would think of the churches of Christ as more of a Evangelistic.
Leon Adato (17:11):
Keith Townsend (17:11):
Movement. So when you think of the Evangelistic movement, you think of the politics around that today. And I’m very much not of the politics of the evangelistical movement, uh, and that creates some really interesting conflicts within our, uh, with our, within our multi-national multi-racial community, because you have a lot of that culture mixed with a whole lot of black folk. So, uh, if, if for those who need a point of reference, you’ll think of the traditional evangelical, uh, doctrine,
Leon Adato (17:53):
Keith Townsend (17:53):
But mixed with a lot of, uh, multi-racial, uh, congregation and you get the complexities and the flavor of that, but bubbling, bubbling up.
Leon Adato (18:06):
Yeah. It’s, it’s never as simple as I think the media, or, you know, a quick, you know, three inches of a New York times article wants to make it sound, there’s always nuances. There’s always, you know, people are complicated and they bring themselves to everything that they do. So it’s, it’s never, never a simple thing. So, um, that is interesting. And again, as I said, with the, with the tech, you probably weren’t born as a multinational multicultural, uh, church of Christ evangelical, but not that kind, kind of a Christian. So you know, where do you start off? What was your home life? You know, what was your home religious life like growing up?
Keith Townsend (18:48):
So the, one day, if my mother was in tech, uh, she make a amazing, uh, guests because she kind of covers the, the spectrum. Uh, we, my mom specifically, my father was not religious. Uh, much of all, he has Christian, like many Christians are like many religions. If you’re, if you’re culturally a Christian, you know, you identify as Christian, but you’re not really practicing.
Leon Adato (19:13):
Keith Townsend (19:13):
So my father was a non-practicing Christian, just, you know, uh, but my mom, uh, when we were in, around, when I was in junior high, basically, uh, became a Jehovah’s witness and my mom is now a Muslim. So,
Leon Adato (19:32):
Keith Townsend (19:32):
That is, that has been quite the journey. And it’s always an interesting conversation, uh, with her. And we’ll get into that, I think, in, in another podcast or another date, but it’s an amazing, uh, conversation, but which makes it really, which has made my Christian journey, my religious journey really interesting. Uh, what is common between events, if Jehovah’s witnesses were, uh, political at all, I think their politics were probably lean towards what the evangelical churches will will,
Leon Adato (20:04):
Keith Townsend (20:04):
But more importantly, culturally they’re very similar. Faiths might be slight doctrine may be slightly different,
Leon Adato (20:12):
Keith Townsend (20:12):
But culturally they’re very, very similar. So I’m finding that a lot of the, of what I remember in my childhood as worship and as, uh, meeting and community is very similar in my, uh, religious experience today.
Leon Adato (20:29):
Got it. Okay. So yeah, so the, the, the feeling of it was the same, even if the, the particulars of the expression of it may have been slightly different, so that’s.
Keith Townsend (20:40):
Leon Adato (20:40):
Okay. Very cool. And so having grown up in a Jehovah’s witness house, even though your mom herself went through her own religious journey, what was yours like from, from that, to this, to where you are today?
Keith Townsend (20:53):
So, what’s really interesting is that I, I, uh, I wholeheartedly believe than the, uh, Jehovah’s witnesses doctrine when as a, as a teen, as a, uh, fairly young adult, when my mother, uh, uh, faith changed so that mine’s. Mines didn’t change to the extreme that my mother’s did, where she, uh, where, uh, where she went with a completely different lineage of faith,
Leon Adato (21:25):
Keith Townsend (21:25):
Mine’s changed in the fact that, uh, it wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. Uh, I was sound in, um, the beliefs of Christianity, that I don’t think has changed.
Leon Adato (21:38):
Keith Townsend (21:38):
What had changed was whether or not I become, whether or not I was a practicing Christian or not, and that I was not. So in my early twenties, uh, from my post high school to my early twenties, right before I started my, uh, technology, my career in technology, I was not a, a practicing Christian. I did not, my life did not meet up to what my religious beliefs were, you know, so, you know, you’re Jewish and you’re Orthodox Jewish. So some of the stuff we can easily relate to because we’re, uh, uh, I think, you know, Orthodox Judaism may be one of the most disciplined faiths you can, uh, go down. And when you come from a Jehovah’s witness background is a very disciplined faith.
Leon Adato (22:27):
Keith Townsend (22:27):
So there’s strict, uh, beliefs around things like sexual immorality. So the fact that me and Melissa, who I’ve been with since I was 20,
Leon Adato (22:38):
Keith Townsend (22:38):
That we were living together and not married, bothered me, uh, uh, from a faith perspective.
Leon Adato (22:46):
Keith Townsend (22:47):
So I didn’t reconcile that until, uh, I started to study the Bible again, uh, with the churches of Christ and become a baptized Christian around age 25.
Leon Adato (23:00):
Keith Townsend (23:00):
Or so. And that kinda got me from, you know, kind of Jehovah’s witness, uh, uh, on the verge of becoming a Jehovah witness to kind of stepping away from Christianity, to re-engaging in the faith in general. And then, you know, I, you visually morphed into, you know, as you think through kind of the entire journey from age 25 to I’m now 47. So a 22 year, uh, Christian journey, you know, it went from being, uh, you know, that fiery early Christian, uh, going out and preaching on the, uh, on the street corners to having teenage children and trying to, uh, help them with their own religious journeys and understanding life just isn’t as black and white, as we all would like to think.
Leon Adato (23:54):
Keith Townsend (23:54):
You know, it’s, it’s just, it’s an amazing, like, if, once you start the pull part, the details of it, and we’ll talk about things, some of it, and some of your next questions, but you know, things about, uh, things about my faith around, uh, uh, taboo topics, such as sexual orientation. Like once you become a full realized adult, and you have queer friends, how do you reconcile having queer friends? But your faith is saying that, uh, the doctrine of your faith is saying that this is something not acceptable. So.
Leon Adato (24:32):
Keith Townsend (24:32):
Separating the two or reconciling the two has been just a really interesting journey as I’ve matured.
Leon Adato (24:38):
Yeah. And, you know, friends or relatives, you know, to that.
Keith Townsend (24:42):
Leon Adato (24:42):
To that matter.
Keith Townsend (24:42):
I have a niece that I love to death and she’s engaged to another woman. So, you know, we had them over to dinner before COVID, we had them over to dinner and we had a great time, but it is, it’s some really tough questions that you, you end up, uh, just dabbling with.
Leon Adato (25:02):
Right. And if you’re reconciled to it, to those things, to those contradictions, which I think, I think the tension, the, the religious and Holy tension, I think is where the excitement is the, the, the work, the introspection, the, the, again, as an adult, as a fully realized, mature, adult, and I recognize that as I say this, uh, if my wife or children listen to this podcast, they will laugh hysterically at my believing myself to be a fully realized mature adult, but that aside, um, I think that figuring out those things about what, what I believe and what I practice and, um, how I reconcile, what my, both, what my religious peers, my co-religionists are saying, and all those things, that’s where a lot of the really interesting, dialogue can be found. Um, you know, I don’t mean arguments, but I mean, real dialogue, like, you know, what do we mean when we say this? Um, and I will say that, you know, as, as IT people, I’m not trying to diminish it, but as IT people, I think we’re used to, those hard conversations, those challenging conversations of, no, I really think this is the way we need to fix this, or this is the way we need to build this. No, that’s not it, I think this is how we need to build it based on my experiences or my understanding of the facts on the ground. And I think that that’s, that’s part of the thing that makes, uh, folks with strong religious identities who work in it. I think that’s where we find those, those overlaps. And that sort of takes us to the next, the next part of the, of the episode, which is when, as a person with a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, who works in IT, I’m curious about how those two things overlap, you know, has it created any friction and how have you overcome that, but also have there been any, you know, wonderful discoveries, delightful discoveries, I like to call them where you didn’t think that being religious was going to help your tech, or you didn’t think that being technical was going to enhance your experience of your faith. And yet it happened. So let’s start off with the, well, we’ll start off with the not so great stuff. And we’ll end on a high note. So was, have there ever been moments when your faith caused friction with your tech or vice versa?
Keith Townsend (27:35):
So that’s a really interesting question, I think, and this is not just, I think, unique to tech. I think the science is there’s two areas. There’s kind of work-life balance that category that we put in work-life balance and tech is unique in a sense that we don’t ask our payroll people to run payroll at 10 o’clock at night.
Leon Adato (27:58):
Usually not unless something’s going really wrong .
Keith Townsend (28:02):
But when, you know, when people are looking at me funny, and you don’t have this problem because of, uh, your faith, but you have the conflict, uh, the, when people are looking at me funny, because I step out of service because I got a text, is weird. That was early on like, Oh, I get the servers down on a Sunday afternoon and I’m doing service. I think Orthodox Jews kind of get this part, right. Uh, you know what? You won’t get that text because you don’t have a pager on. So the, uh, the, uh, that’s one aspect of it, but there’s the second part of that, which is the work-life balance is when you need to push back, uh, from that the computers don’t care that you go to service Wednesday nights and on Sundays. So I remember, uh, very vividly one night I was getting off of work at five o’clock and my, uh, I get a page, uh, right before I leave. And the former CEO of the Tribune is now, uh, running the, uh, back then, once you became the former CEO of the Tribune, once you retire from that, you became the CEO of Tribune’s, uh, uh, charity, whatever that was named the,
Leon Adato (29:28):
Keith Townsend (29:28):
Uh, and they had a problem and it was my job to troubleshoot that problem. So, you know, there’s this super important person and the organization I’m working the help desk, I’m on call. I get a page that this senior executive has a problem, but I have church service. And that I can’t that mentally I, in my mind, I cannot Miss Church service. So I have this conflict. Do I go help the executive? Or do I go to church in which you know, is so for me, it was really a question of faith and I chose to go to service. And this is just a good piece of advice for work-life balance. In general, I always always push against deadlines that conflict with my personal life.
Leon Adato (30:17):
Keith Townsend (30:17):
I’ve done enough stuff to know that most deadlines are autofit are artificial. Someone somewhere said that this has to be done by a date unless we’re talking about, Oh, VMworld is scheduled on the 19th of September, and this presentation will be delivered. And it has to be in by the morning of 19th of September, then everything else is negotiable. If it’s not a written. And even then, you know, we get these weird deadlines and it, and in business in general, thou shalt have their, your presentation in a month before the thing. And I kind of just brush all that stuff off. I try, I tried to respect it if I can, but if I have conflict, I manage that conflict. The second thing is by definition, and I’m sure people who listen to this podcast struggle with this. When I read the old Testament and I see that Joshua prayed and the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, I simply don’t believe it like, and you can, you can kind of water over your faith if you want to and say, Oh, you know what? I’m just being unfaithful. Or, and yes, I will believe this theme that I don’t believe. I try to be as honest as possible when it, when it, when my, my semi scientists technical, technical brain can’t reconcile something that I read in my religious texts, I don’t cover it up. Like, I don’t believe Adam and Eve, I don’t believe the, I don’t, I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe the creation story as written and the texts that we read today. And those are the things that I truly struggle with. I don’t struggle with, you know, um, again, I’m, I’m a mature adult. I have plenty of years of experience. I know how to push back on areas of conflict when it comes to scheduling. But as a, even as a 22 year old Christian, 22 years of my faith, I still struggle with reconciling what my technical brain tells me and what my faith wants to, uh, what my faith teaches.
Leon Adato (32:35):
Right. And, and that is actually a topic that we’re going to cover, uh, In a future episode, which is this idea of proof and how do we reconcile our, you know, fact-based, don’t go with your gut, say it with data, or don’t say it at all, kind of 9 to 5 lives with our, uh, again, you know, biblically found, biblically founded ideas of how the world works and how it’s structured and things like that, um, at the same time. So I want to just highlight the idea that, yeah, deadlines are artificial. If you’re on call the challenge I think, again, as a, as a, another religious person, the challenge isn’t reconciling your faith with on-call, it’s reconciling your organization with on-call, that is being done by a human. Because, okay, you had church service, you could just as easily have had bath time with the kids. I’m sorry, I’m elbow deep in a bathtub with a two year old. I’m not turning around to go fix the server right now. It’s going to wait another 10 minutes or 15 or whatever it is. You know, I have family emergencies. I have all those things. How does an organization handle the fact that on-call is a point of, you know, if the emergency is so bad that my not responding to it in the first 15 or 20 minutes caused it all to die, all to go away, Then there were some pretty fundamental problems with the system that had nothing to do with my failing on-call.
Keith Townsend (34:13):
Yeah. You have to be able to triage.
Leon Adato (34:15):
Keith Townsend (34:15):
You have to be able to say, you know, what is this really? I know I got a page for it, but is this really important because, uh, both of us have older children, mine are a bit older than yours, but there are times where I just simply can’t get back.
Leon Adato (34:31):
Keith Townsend (34:31):
And I think back, wow, was getting that, uh, was getting that CRM system up in 2 hours versus 6 really worth missing that game. Hmm.
Leon Adato (34:44):
Keith Townsend (34:46):
Retrospect, maybe not.
Leon Adato (34:47):
Yeah. And I will say, I am absolutely a workaholic. I am. I mean, at this point in my life, I’m 53, I’ve been in IT for 30 years. There is no getting around it and there’s probably no solving it. I am, I, I enjoy my work so much that it is very hard for me to walk away from it at the same time. Um, I’ve had some very hard conversations with my family who said, of course, you worked 12 hours to get that thing done. And you got the kudos. All we got was not having you. That’s all we got out of it. And that, again, this is apropo of nothing that we’re talking about in terms of tackle religion. It’s just one of those life lessons that, you know, old tech dudes, you know, are sharing, but you really have to think, you know, not only is the applause you’re going to get from your company, fleeting, you know, are you going to get a, an attaboy and that’s it ain’t worth it. Ain’t worth dropping date night with your wife or your significant other isn’t worth, you know, it’s not worth dropping it for Oh, wow. That was really good. Thank you. It’s not worth being asked to do it again. It’s not worth thinking you will always be there and it’s also not necessarily worth the frustration and the anger that you may see long-term in your family’s faces when they start to hate your job.
Keith Townsend (36:17):
Yeah. The, uh, I love it. That my kids have memories of jobs that I had, that they loved. They were like, Oh, I love that job that you would take me to. And they don’t.
Leon Adato (36:28):
Keith Townsend (36:28):
Know what I did, but they say, Oh, I love that job that you did, and there was the refrigerator full of soda and I can get free soda. And we, you know, we stop in and then we go, and then afterwards, we go across the street to, you know, one of my favorite stories is recently, my son said he took, uh, he took his girlfriend to the restaurant that was across the street from that job.
Leon Adato (36:53):
Keith Townsend (36:53):
And he said he was so disappointed and heartbroken when his girlfriend just said, Oh, it was okay. And, uh, he said, I have some of my best memories of being with my dad and my family after he, you know, take us, uh, to work at the, he did a server upgrade or whatever. He take us across the street in, have this place in. And he said the other day, Oh, and to boot is now closed in. So there’s this thing that you have to balance. We have tough jobs and information technology. And as, as, and most faiths have this thing, uh, and I think it’s pretty consistent that pride is a sin.
Leon Adato (37:37):
Keith Townsend (37:37):
And there’s no better job than being an, IT Ex that feeds your pride.
Leon Adato (37:44):
Keith Townsend (37:44):
Then what we do, the ability to be the superhero, the person who saw, saved the day, uh, I got, I had a CEO, tell me, Keith, you took us out of the stone age, et cetera. We get all the kudos in the world. And it feeds that pride.
Leon Adato (38:01):
Keith Townsend (38:02):
At the end of the day, we have to ask the question and we’ll get into this, in one of your, uh, next series of questions around, you know, what pride is a horrible thing for both your career and your personal life.
Leon Adato (38:15):
Yeah. Um, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna quote her correctly, but Charity Majors, who’s the, I think she’s still the CTO of honeycomb IO. She is still part of honeycomb, but she has gone from, I think the CTO to one of the engineers or back again, she founded the company, but she gets to have whatever job she wants in it. And she said, she’s very much anti firefighting. She said, I actually do not give anybody credit in our company for fixing a problem that blew up. I want to give credit to the person who found the problem before it occurred, who did the steady, regular testing and, uh, quality control so that the problem never occurred. And I think IT is horrible at that as a, uh, as a industry where we lionize the 2:00 AM firefighter while completely overlooking the person who shows up at 9 leaves at 5 does good, solid, reliable work that is consistent,and has few, if any flaws, that person never gets a bonus. That person. I mean, in terms of like, when we think about, you know, bonuses for saving the day, that person never gets it because yeah. They just showed up. They just did their job. Yeah. They just did their job. Perfect. You know, uh, consistently all the time. That’s the part that we should be holding up as the example. Um, but we don’t. So you’re absolutely right. And I actually made a note that, that, uh, we definitely need to do an episode on pride goeth before the fall, for sure. To talk about like what that means in tech and religion. Okay. So we’ve talked about some of the challenges. Are there any moments, uh, as I said before, this delightful discoveries, any times, when you’re you realize that your faith was really a asset, a benefit to your technical life or vice versa, where you were at church, and you realize that being an IT person was really, and not just, I’m going to go back to an earlier episode, we had where it was like, Oh, Keith can fix, it keeps the AV guy, not the, again, that lionizing the problem solving. But anytime when you realize that, that your technical mindset created a deeper or more powerful connection to your faith.
Keith Townsend (40:29):
So let’s talk about how the faith has, uh, impacted my work life and techno, uh, as a technologist, uh, you know what we, we’ll talk about it, I think in a future episode and we’ll address the, in the proof piece of it, but sometimes somethings just take faith, true story. Uh, the, I was on call and there was the help desk reporting system was running on NT 4.0 server when NT 4.0 was the latest OS from Microsoft out and available,
Leon Adato (41:02):
Keith Townsend (41:02):
But it was still then a horrible OS, and I was in there to do, uh, updates that you get in via CD back in, back in that time. And I came to it, hit the KVM. It was blue screened already. Like even before I touched anything, it was blue screened hours later. The, and this is, this has been a system that had been giving, uh, uh, problems. I called the director. He said, look, Keith, if this thing isn’t up, by the time we get back into the office in the morning, we both might as well go out looking for new jobs. So I’m like, Whoa, hold on. I was just coming in to do updates. So how did I get lumped into this whole losing your job thing? It got to the point that it had to be about three o’clock in the morning. I literally got in the middle, on the middle of the data center floor. I got on my knees and prayed. Because I had no idea how you guys have to remember this. This is 1998, 1999. There is no internet blogs that you can just go to Google or AltaVista and Google and find.
Leon Adato (42:09):
Keith Townsend (42:09):
The solution to the problem. If you get on the phone with Microsoft, you’re going to be on the phone for hours before you.
Leon Adato (42:16):
Keith Townsend (42:16):
Can get to someone who can help you,
Leon Adato (42:19):
Help you through it.
Keith Townsend (42:19):
So my only main line, my Google was just praying. I got some crazy idea to do it. So I’ve never, I’ve never shied away from my faith and my job. And I’ve taken principles from my Christian faith and apply them to my approach to work. I’m ethical. I, I’m moral, and I’m a better leader because I embrace the love of Christ in my approach to my job. I, uh, literally do not approach my job as I’m working for, uh, the Tribune or Lockheed Martin it’s, I’m working for God and is what my is, is my work acceptable? Is this something that I can present to him? Is my leadership something that I can present to him? Uh, is it something if, uh, I, my, am I taking credit where I don’t deserve to take credit?
Leon Adato (43:20):
Keith Townsend (43:20):
That’s how I approach my work because of my faith and people, uh, people give me kudos about it all the time, and I don’t always succeed in doing this, but I am who I am because of my faith. You take away my faith from who I am as a person. And I’m pretty unlikable.
Leon Adato (43:43):
Got it. Yeah, it’s, uh, it, it definitely is a, uh mitigating factor for a lot of us. Um, I will say also, just having known you for a while and worked with you in, uh, several different, um, venues that you, you bring that perspective to, is it worth doing? And, you know, you’ll look at projects that I think a lot of folks in your position would say, I know that’s not worth it. No, no, no. There’s, there’s a message here that I want to deliver. There’s a, you know, there’s a conversation I want to have. That’s worth being part of or whatever. You, you value things in a way that, um, is not, is not necessarily business like or business centric, but it is, um, humanity centric. And it is really about, you know, what can I do to help? In a lot of ways.
Keith Townsend (44:38):
Yeah. I remember what it was like too. So my brother is also a business owner. My youngest brothers are business owners. He had a,
Leon Adato (44:46):
Keith Townsend (44:46):
Uh, he had a employee. Uh, he was thinking that, you know what? I think I might be overpaying this particular employee. No, not overpaying, He said, you know I think I might be underpaying this particular employee, I really need to consider this. And then in a casual conversation, a week later, the employee said, you know what? I was at the grocery store, my wife, and it was the first time in our lives. And this person is over 40. Uh, this is the first time in our lives, where we went into the grocery store and we weren’t worried about our checking account balance, and what we were buying for and being able to buy groceries. So IT technology has transformed my life from a,
Leon Adato (45:32):
Keith Townsend (45:32):
From just a privileged perspective, you know, I’m, I, the, my wife got tagged in a photo of a billionaire. We’re not rich, but we have access and privilege that the 12, 16 year old Keith could never even.
Leon Adato (45:51):
Keith Townsend (45:51):
Fathom. I just did not know this world existed. So when, whether it’s your day job, or you personally, or someone comes with an opportunity for me to open that door to other people to have similar transformative experiences, why would I want to pull that ladder up from them and not give them the same opportunities? As I mentioned, it was grit partially that got me here, but it was also people willing to extend a hand.
Leon Adato (46:19):
Keith Townsend (46:19):
And help me up that ladder.
Leon Adato (46:21):
Very nice, Keith, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to talk to you. Uh, this is the lightning round. Any final thoughts, anything that you want to share with folks, um, just to think about on their way.
Keith Townsend (46:34):
So you know what the, I think if you can take anything from this conversation, it’s don’t be fearful of your faith. Um, people are people. There are some of them, there are truly jerks out there. One of our fellow contributors get challenged because of his faith on Twitter, but overall you impact way more people positively by sharing your faith, whatever that faith is. I’m not in a position to judge what you, how you choose your relationship with your God or your spiritual being. But what I am saying, the positivity from that will positively impact your career and others, way more than the pain for the most part inflicted upon us, because we’re open with our faith.
Leon Adato (47:20):
Right? The, yeah. The benefits outweigh any of the challenges and sometimes the challenges are there to be overcome.
Keith Townsend (47:26):
Leon Adato (47:27):
Um, I like it. Uh, fantastic. One more time for people who want to find you online, who want to see what you’re working on, um, where can people get in touch with you?
Keith Townsend (47:35):
Yeah. So as CTO visor is the easiest way to get in contact with me. DMS are open, but don’t send me anything weird, cause I will block you. Uh, and theCTOadvisor.com is how you get to me professionally. And I post a lot of stuff to LinkedIn because it’s a very powerful platform.
Leon Adato (47:53):
Yeah, you, uh, you, you have a lot of nice talks on there too, that I’ve noticed, uh, from time to time you give a, it’s almost like a mini podcast there. So.
Keith Townsend (48:01):
Leon Adato (48:01):
That’s another thing to check out is that LinkedIn link. Well, uh, thank you again for taking some time out of your day. It’s actually the middle of the day for both of us. And, uh, I look forward to seeing you back on the show.
Keith Townsend (48:11):
All right, Leon, I’ll I’ll hopefully I’ll see you in person. When I visit you via the road show. When I visit Cleveland,
Leon Adato (48:18):
If the roadshow is coming to Cleveland, then we are absolutely going to do a tour of every kosher restaurant. I will weigh 900 pounds when we’re done with it.
Keith Townsend (48:25):
I love me a kosher hot dog.
Leon Adato (48:27):
Perfect. We’ll get you one, take care.
Keith Townsend (48:30):
Speaker 6 (48:30):
Thank you for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website at technicallyreligious.com, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.