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Geek Speak

123 Posts authored by: Leon Adato Expert


SWUG began in 2016 as a largely-volunteer effort, cobbled together using spare time and budget by a core set of dedicated SolarWinds staff and THWACK fanatics. The effort hit its stride in 2017, standardizing the format, honing the style, and gathering data from attendees.


And then in 2018, all hell broke loose. SWUG went to more cities than ever before, presenting on a wider range of topics and inviting speakers from every corner of the SolarWinds organization, and even inviting some of our MVPs to take the podium and share their valuable knowledge and experience with the audience.


And it was that last part—the variety of speakers—that caused a very small but beloved change for me. As Head Geek, I had the best seat and the best job in the house: emcee. I got to introduce each of our speakers, frame their topics, and then stand back and watch in awe as each and every one of them brought the house down with their skills and knowledge.


The introductions themselves became something of a labor of love for me. This group of superstars needed more than a simple recitation of their name and title. They needed to have their praises sung and their accomplishments shouted from the rooftops so the SWUG attendees understood just what an incredible individual they had in front of them, and how deep the SolarWinds bench truly was.


However, in retrospect, I may have gone a bit overboard. But I'll let you be the judge. Because as we move into 2019, SWUG is once again evolving, and it might be time to set aside these introductions in favor of some new form (note: I say "might").


Nevertheless, I submit for your reading pleasure "A Year of SWUG Introductions", i.e. all the ways I introduced speakers at the 2018 SWUG events.


Consistency Is the Key

In many cases, I was remarkably consistent when we had regular speakers such as Chris O'Brien, Steven Hunt, and Kevin Sparenberg:


Chris had two main variations:

  • A man whose name is literally part of the source code for NPM, who is known as the father of NetPath, PM Chris O'Brien.
  • A man whose name is literally part of the source code for NPM, who had an Easter egg built in his honor, PM Chris O'Brien.


Similarly, Steven (aka "Phteven"):

  • My kayfabe arch nemesis Steven Hunt, Windows fan boy, and Principal Product Strategist (Systems).
  • My kayfabe nemesis and, conversely, my little Linux protégé, PM Steven Hunt.


And Kevin only had this one intro...


  • The only person here who's landed gentry as well as a SolarWinds PM, a former customer, and a THWACK MVP, his Lairdship Kevin Sparenberg.


...until the very last one, because it was such a special moment for him:


  • This year he's acquired more titles than some people change shoes. He's also the only person here who is both a member of landed gentry as well as a former customer, SolarWinds employee, and a THWACK MVP. Please help me congratulate him on his 10-year THWACKniversary and welcome our DM of community (or THWACKbassador), his Lairdship Kevin Sparenberg.


Variety Is the Spice of Life

For the UX team, I just kept doing variations on a theme:

  • Combine the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes with the empathic skills of a Betazoid ship's counselor, you pretty much end up with our manager of UX, Tulsi Patel.
  • Cross rainbows and sunshine with a Betazoid ship's counselor asking, "How does this wireframe make you feel?" and you pretty much have Kellie Mecham, User Experience Researcher.
  • Combine the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes with a Betazoid starship counselor asking, "How does this wireframe make you feel?" and you pretty much have Katie Cole, User Experience Researcher


While at other times I was clearly at a loss

(admittedly, these all came from one of the first SWUGs where I barely did any introductions at all):

  • On Drums, SE extraordinaire Mario Gomez.
  • Director of Cinematography and Certification, Cal Smith.
  • Itinerant food critic and Fed SE, Andy Wong.
  • Chief roadie Kyle Lohren, video production manager.


For the guest MVP speakers, I tried to roll out the red carpet:

  • From Atmosera comes a person who's been an MVP as long as I have: Byron Anderson.
  • From Loop 1, we have a programming force of nature and an avid learner of all the things, THWACK MVP Steven Klassen.
  • When I was at Cardinal, Josh joined our team one month before I ended up getting the Head Geek job. He's had every right to punch me in the face, but I lucked out because he's not only Canadian, he's just an all-around amazing guy as well as a THWACK MVP, Josh Biggley.
  • He began his IT career with a walk-on role in Star Wars, but now he divides his time between monitoring and specializing as a Mini Cooper stunt driver. Please welcome THWACK MVP Richard Phillips.


The “Bodyguard to the Stars” shtick ended up being a go-to for newcomers

(Those I may not have known well enough to tease):

  • Bodyguard to the stars with top secret clearance, Federal and national Sales Engineer Sean Martinez.
  • Bodyguard to the stars and former stunt driver for Tom Cruise, Federal Sales Engineer Arthur Bradway.
  • Bodyguard to the stars, world-famous He-Man cosplayer, and Virtualization PM Chris Paap.


Saving the Best For Last

But for many folks, I let the originality flow:

  • A pretty pink unicorn with rainbow painted brass knuckles and top-secret clearance, Head Geek Destiny Bertucci.
  • Forget about knowing where the bodies are buried or who has the pictures. This person knows which NPM questions you got wrong – Nanette Neal, Program Manager for SCP.
  • Formerly a Calvin Klein model, before he gave up fitted pants for NetFlow packets - Product Manager Joe Reves.
  • Just like Locutus, it takes incredible willpower to escape the Borg collective known as the SolarWinds sales group, and yet Robert Blair did the impossible and is now our Customer Advocacy Manager.
  • Whenever you see Tom Cruise doing a mountain climbing scene, you're actually watching his stunt double, Product Manager Serena Chou (they're about the same height).
  • We sometimes find him sleeping in his car, not because he's fallen on hard times, but because he simply loves his Jeep that much. Please welcome Network Management Product Manager Jonathan Petkevich.
  • Clocking in at 6'5", he's officially the tallest person in our department and therefore the most important to us because he can reach the really good Scotch up on the tall shelves - Senior web properties manager Ben Garves.
  • Out at conventions he has fun playing the role of Patrick Hubbard's kayfabe arch-nemesis, but in the office, he's got veto power for every new feature or upgrade – Our VP of product strategy Mav Turner.
  • In D&D one of the most interesting PC's is the multi-classed character. At SolarWinds we value our multi-class staff. She started out as a UX illusionist and is now part of our rogue’s gallery of product marketing managers -Katie Cole.
  • What happens when someone with a degree in mechanical engineering takes a right turn at San Antonio and ends up at a software company? You get a product marketing manager who can tech you under the table. Lourdes Valdez.


Last But Not Least

And finally, as I have done at every SWUG this year, I'd like to introduce and Thank the people who make THWACK a reality every day:

  • And of course, Ms. THWACKniss Everdeen herself, the heavenly source of THWACK point blessings, Community Cat Wrangler Danielle Higgins.
  • And of course, the woman whose THWACK ID sends everyone into spontaneous giggles, who can repeat, from memory, every post ever banned from THWACK – Wascally Wendy Wabbot... I mean Abbot.


If you were able to join us for a SWUG this year, I hope this brought back some fond memories. And if you couldn't make it out to join us, I sincerely hope you'll have that chance in 2019. Read more from SWUG Head Master, Kevin Sparenberg, on what you can expect at these events this year.


Or just cut to the chase and join us for FREE at a SWUG in 2019:

As we stand here, in the dawning moments of a new year, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge the acts of generosity, enthusiasm, and bravery of our community in sharing their personal stories, observations, and lessons. Through them, the members of THWACK have transformed the last 31 days into an exercise in reflection, contemplation, and growth. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this group, and part of a company that fosters these types of conversations.


While I have the individual post summaries and a selection of comments below, I wanted to share some statistics with you to emphasize just how engaged everyone was in this dialogue. From December 1-31, the Writing Challenge generated:

  • 1 lead post each day from 31 different authors, including 14 THWACK MVPs
  • ...from 1,931 people
  • ...spread across 19 countries


Some other informal statistics* worth noting:


  • 127 people mentioned “Back to the Future,” “Doctor Who,” and/or “The Butterfly Effect”
  • 4,846 expressed concerns about altering the past
  • And 1,332 also worried they wouldn’t be who they are today if they had encountered their younger selves


Based on the data, we can rest easy knowing that the THWACK community will not be the one to screw up the timeline, should technology advance sufficiently to permit traveling to the past.


However, as we travel into the future in the normal fashion, one second at a time, I’d like to wish you all, on behalf of the entire SolarWinds team, a very happy New Year, and hope you experience nothing but joy, prosperity, and peace in the coming year.


- Leon


*Remember kids, 52.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.



**** The Authors *****



Danielle Higgins, Manager of the Community Team


We can’t always know what experiences led someone to become the person they are. But when we are privileged to discover the details, it cannot help but bring us closer. That’s exactly what Danielle did in her post, giving a frank and pointed description of her youth, and the messages she would tell that young woman. It’s emblematic of Danielle’s personality that those messages center around hope, reassurance, trust, believing, and focus.


Allison Rael, Marketing Communications Manager, Content Marketing


Alli outs herself as a card-carrying member of the international order of worriers and offers some background on it. But she immediately pivots to a breathtaking observation that I think we all (and especially those of us who are also members of the worrier’s club) can take to heart:


“I’ve gradually come to realize that when you worry less and live more, amazing things start to happen.”


She lists out some of those amazing things—both from her past and her present—and then comes up with this gem:


“In most cases, my worries are just head trash holding me back.”


“Head trash.” I’m definitely going to use that one in the future to frame my less helpful thought patterns.


Jenne Barbour, Senior Director, Corporate Marketing


Finishing up both the week and the challenge itself, Jenne begins by sharing her family’s Yuletide tradition (re-watching the Harry Potter series) and how the theme of the challenge this year naturally blends with the idea of Time-Turners in the Harry Potter mythology.


As so many have done, Jenne understands that, while our own past is something which cannot and should not be changed, offering reassurance to our younger selves so that we can face our challenges with a measure of comfort would be a blessing.


Her final words are the perfect way to wrap up the series, as well as my summaries:


“And as we have traveled through time to meet ourselves today, I like to think our past selves would be pretty impressed by how we’ve all turned out. By how we’ve met obstacles both big and small, celebrated wins, learned from losses, and how we cherish our families, friends, and the good things in life, however we see them. And as we head into a new year—into the very future itself—I hope we all choose to encourage ourselves to be strong, to believe in ourselves, and to remember that we are enough.”



*** The Comments ***


Day 29

Laura Desrosiers Dec 29, 2018 5:30 AM

I grew up being told I would be a failure, which I believed for a very long time, but when I went back to school 10 years after high school and found out I was able to achieve, I started to push myself for more. Everything you have stated in the list in the article is so true and I just have to begin following your advice. I will print that off and hang it in my office as a reminder to myself no one is perfect, you don’t know it all, and you can thrive at what you do.


Jan Pawlowski Dec 29, 2018 1:44 PM

I’d add to 8 by saying own your failures as well. Celebrate the wins, but own your failures. This will teach you humility, and people will respect you much more for it.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 29, 2018 8:09 PM

Very good article. I love the list, especially No 1. You don’t need to fix everything, you need to let go sometimes, sit back and enjoy the ride.


Day 30

Phillip Collins Dec 30, 2018 8:28 AM

Your letter speaks to me. I can see myself in it. How right your Grandpa was. All my life I have allowed my worries to dictate my actions, except one brief period. The last 3 years of college I was able to let worry go and enjoy my life. Many good this came of that time. I pledged a great fraternity, made several wonderful friends, met and married my beautiful wife. None of this would have happened if I didn’t let worry go and just live my life. For whatever reason, I was not able to continue this after graduating. I often look back on those 3 years and try to understand what I was able to do then I can’t seem to do now. I wish they would come up with a pill to help you keep things in perspective. Why worry about what you cannot control. Do your best, learn and grow, enjoy the life you have been gifted.


Holger Mundt Dec 30, 2018 5:16 PM

Thanks for your encouraging words to worry less. As a native southern German worrying is deeply rooted in my genes.

Always a good reminder to let aside those worrying thoughts.


Laura Desrosiers Dec 31, 2018 4:51 AM

I worry way so much about things. I will stay up all night wearing holes out in the carpeting pacing the floors. This is going to be my New Year’s resolution. Don’t worry so much and live more.


Day 31

Mark Roberts  Dec 31, 2018 7:17 AM

A great post, which for those that have read more than a dozen of the articles this month (go back and read them all if you haven’t btw), it has been interesting to see that common thread of not taking this opportunity to tell their younger self to do much or anything differently. Everyone can recount times of pain, loss and missed opportunities, but that those life experiences and challenges have brought them to the place, physically and emotionally they are happy and proud to be.


Jeremy Mayfield  Dec 31, 2018 7:56 AM

It is interesting to think about what could have been, but the truth is we will and can never know. We are who we are, where we are, and the how’s and why’s matter little. All we can do is strive to be better moving forward. The future is not written, but the past, as you referenced, is set in stone.


Jan Pawlowski Dec 31, 2018 8:22 AM

I think too often we concentrate on “What might’ve been,” rather than what is. We can all relate where we wish a certain situation had gone differently, or an outcome had been different. It’s all too easy to blame things on past discrepancies that have brought you to where you are today. In truth without those happenings, you wouldn’t be where you are, nor the person you are today. Every day is a school day, it’s your choice if you learn or not.

Over the course of December, the THWACK community had the privilege to peek inside the personal thoughts and formative moments of many of our members. The ideas, stories, and emotions they shared with us were sometimes raw with honest sincerity, often amusing, and always relevant and engaging.


As monitoring aficionados, we are sensitive to patterns, seeking to discover the signal that may lie, undetected, beneath the "noise" of unrelated data. And sure enough, as the days progressed, certain themes surfaced again and again in both the lead articles and the comments. While I identified a few of them in yesterday's post, I'd like to focus on a particular one here.


Catherine O'Driscoll may have phrased it best on day 10:

"I found it quite difficult to pass on just one piece of advice when there is so much I wanted to tell my younger self; to prepare her for and to protect her from. But then I realized that if she doesn’t go through it, then we wouldn’t become the person we are today."


The idea that we cannot go back, cannot undo what we have already done, because it will fundamentally change who we are, came up time and time again. And here, on the first day of 2019, I'm going to challenge that idea, in the hope that it allows us to set a goal for ourselves in the coming year that could have far-reaching consequences.


Recently, I read an essay where the author laid out the following logic:


First, for any action, there are many downstream consequences—some expected, others not. Some of the results of an action are intentional, while others are not. And some of the outcomes of that action can be understood as empirically "good," and others not.


So how are we—the individual who performed that initial action—judged? Are the expected, intentional, and "good" outcomes ascribed to us, or the ones on the other side of the equation? Or are we credited with all outcomes and results? Or a mixture of both?


The answer, this author states, lies in our reason for taking the action in the first place.


If our reasons were to harm or hurt or otherwise "do bad," then those are the results that we, in a sense, get "credit" for. The fact that our action might ALSO have had helpful or positive results is less a credit to us, and more a credit to fate, Karma, nature, luck, Divine providence, etc. And, obviously, the reverse is also true.


But let's say that, at some point in the past, we acted wrongly with the intention to harm, and that action had a mixture of reactions both bad and (unintentionally) good. Sometime later (moments, days, or even years), we look back at that moment and feel true, sincere, honest regret. We reflect on that moment and learn something about ourselves that we understand much change.


And we change it.


We work on ourselves. Grow. Improve. Mature. That moment in the past becomes an object lesson for us, and impels us to become better than the person we once were.


NOW, standing in the present moment, how is that action judged? As it turns out, all the positive results—unintended though they may have been—can be ascribed to us and the negative ones (while not disappearing entirely) fade into the background. This is the critical idea behind reformative, versus punitive, consequences. Behind repentance. Behind forgiveness.


Looking back at that theme that came up again and again—that we cannot offer advice to our younger self because it would fundamentally change who we are today—I say that if we use those past moments as motivation to change who we are today, then we HAVE changed our past selves. We have reached back through the years and changed the past. Not by changing WHAT we did, but changing the MEANING of what we did.


And in the words of the author,

"Time then becomes an arena of change in which the future redeems the past and a new concept is born – the idea we call hope."


My hope is that over the course of December, you found more than just some interesting stories, or chuckle-worthy reading. I hope in either reading or writing the words that were shared, you found a catalyst for positive change that can lead you toward hope and happiness in your life in the coming year and beyond.


From everyone at SolarWinds and the THWACK community,

we wish you a very Happy New Year and the best to come in 2019.


P.S.: Use this link to catch up on any part of the 2018 December Writing Challenge you may have missed.

This is our last full week of the challenge (as well as the last full week of 2018) and I'm committed to making the most of every moment, every insight, and every comment—all of which have been both a joy and a privilege to read. Here is my summary of both the lead authors and a selection of comments. Thank you to everyone who took the time during a busy holiday week to check in and participate.


- Leon



**** The Authors *****



Sydney Moorhead, Copy Editor/Content Specialist, Corporate Marketing


Sydney is one of the younger authors to contribute this month, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a wealth of wisdom she's already acquired to share with her younger self. I thought her observation that, "There will always be things that are hard, but your ability to deal with them will get better," was especially poignant. As was the wise-beyond-her-years awareness that, "Things happen for a reason." But what really got me was this piece of advice:


"Follow the writing, wherever it takes you."


Steve Carleson, MVP


Steve's post is a reminder of how deeply a careless comment can affect others, how we need to be kind with our words, and how we need to work—and support each other—as we overcome some of the setbacks of our childhood. It's also important to remember that we all may work in the same industry, but we come to it from different directions, which is why Steve's advice to himself is so interesting and touching:


"It is OK to push yourself; it is OK to want to learn more! Never let anyone else tell you to stop trying to improve yourself."


Sascha Giese, Head Geek


Sascha began with comforting words that I think we all would have appreciated when we were young: "So, young Sascha, you survived it. Why have you been so scared in the first place?"


But then I feel he offered advice which is clearly specific to his experience as a young adult, but again, is valuable for many (perhaps all) of us:


"So, young Sascha, learn to cook earlier," and even more tellingly: "So, young Sascha, don’t waste your life living in a snail shell. Get out there, see things, experience things, and explore the world."


At the end of his letter, Sascha comes back to that message of comfort and re-assurance,

"Oh, and finally, young Sascha, everything else you do is right. Some decisions won't be so smart, but they will always feel right by the time you make them, and it always comes out for the better."


Adam Timberley, MVP


Like many who have considered what they would tell their younger self, Adam was concerned about irrevocably altering the chain of events that led him to become who he was. But his response to this was both unique and (I think) brilliant:


"So rather than advise myself, I choose to simply reassure myself."


But the method that he would send this reassurance was pure, undiluted, awesome geekery:


"I would appear to myself as a ragged old man with a swirling cloak, a long staff, and a wispy grey beard. Someone familiar, wise, ancient, 8-bit."

<**insert picture**>


His reason for not changing this may be the best part of his thought process:


"I would keep it positive. I wouldn't want to be rich. I wouldn't want to be poor. I wouldn’t want to change things, no matter how bad or good they get. I don't believe in fate or destiny; I believe that we are all creatures of endless possibility."


Diego Fildes Torrijos, Product Marketing Specialist, Product Mktg



Like Zack Mutchler's Day 15 entry (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/contests-missions/december-writing-challenge-2018/blog/2018/12/14/day-15-proverbs-quotes-and-general-silliness), Diego chose to inspire his younger self with wisdom culled from the words of others.


Diego pre-pends his list of quotes, however, with some deeply insightful thoughts about the nature of life, passion, empathy, and goals. I found the most powerful one to be this:

"Do not regret listening to and empathizing with people that do not know how to do the same back. This is anyone’s greatest strength, because you learn from listening to others."


Tiffany Nels, Chief Communications Officer


Tiffany's mantra to her younger self, "Compare and despair," is only made more impactful by the incredibly personal examples she uses to illustrate her journey to this piece of wisdom.


I thought her admission that she is imperfect in following her own advice sometimes, but continues to try, was wonderful and refreshing. But her description of the impact on her life when she could achieve it was what made me go back and read the entire essay again.


"I stopped sweating every tiny difference, every little choice, and just settled into what was right for me."


Mark Roberts, MVP


Mark struggled a bit with the idea of offering advice to his past-self that might mess up all that was good in his future, but I loved his reasoning for this. He was less concerned about sci-fi concepts and more about the impact to his current self: "Preventing negative thoughts, which most often come from looking back at regrets from your past, can have dramatic impacts on people’s lives." However, he also reasons that "you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes." And with that in mind, he powers through his doubts to send that note to his 1985-self.


While his advice did include a few very specific items (Take the train to Manchester, and say "yes" to the dance invitation at the Rose Wilmot Disco), the real insight comes when he tells himself to embrace who he is. His introverted (shy) nature is not the weakness that he thought it was in his youth. Instead, "Many of the positive things you achieve in life and the influence you have on your family, friends, and relationships are based on your thoughtfulness and empathy."



*** The Comments ***


Day 22

George Sutherland Dec 22, 2018 8:51 PM

Hang on for a wild ride. The world lays before you at 25... Stay alert for the hidden opportunities that await you.... they can and will be the best.

As one English Major to another...Use your skills to help meaningfully communicate to others... 41 years after graduation it is an integral part of what I do each day.


Joshua Smith Dec 24, 2018 2:46 PM

Thanks for sharing. There's a lot of wisdom in your post. Don't let anyone discount your wisdom because of your age. Stay level headed!


Jan Pawlowski Dec 23, 2018 5:46 PM

Sometimes in life you get to where you are, then decide that it's not where you wish to be. I know I’ve been there. I changed path a little later than mid-twenties, but the sentiment is the same. Just be honest with yourself, as whilst at 25 or so, you think you know everything. Truth is, that you learn each and every day, until the day you die, or at least that's what I’ve learned so far. Who knows what tomorrow will teach me.


Day 23

Olusegun Odejide Dec 23, 2018 1:54 PM

Very insightful write-up. It is amazing how much influence people in one position of leadership or authority could have on us growing up. This is a wakeup call in using such position wisely and also to us to encourage ourselves and others not to settle for less. Excellent work is rewarding. It is surely OK to push yourself.


Richard Phillips  Dec 24, 2018 10:15 PM

"Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself." So true. We so often give others power over our lives. Most of the time we have the power to move forward or change things, but if we give others power over ourselves we will eventually lose power ourselves, or at least feel so strongly that we have lost our own power that it will take something big or major to get power back into our lives. The best way to prevent this is by being proactive along the way. "Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself."


George Sutherland Dec 23, 2018 1:01 PM

I had two teachers in high school that made all the difference. One taught math the other physics, both Jesuit priests. Both believed in me! Both unlocked my desire to do better. Both gently push me and that made me push myself even harder. The younger George only vaguely appreciated their efforts. The older George acknowledges their insight and vision of me in the future.


Day 24

James Kump Dec 24, 2018 10:47 AM

It takes courage to set aside the world's predisposition on yourself. It takes getting over fears. But, even in later life, you do want to strive to "Be Adventurous." Sometimes it takes life knocking you down to come to that realization.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 24, 2018 12:21 PM

"Happy Christmas!" A very European greeting. It reminds me of Christmas's long ago, making calls to my Scottish and Australian aunts and uncles around Christmas. I don't hear it enough anymore... Be adventurous indeed! Europe offers wonderful advantages by having so many different countries in close proximity. You can be exposed to so much and you don’t have to travel very far. Kudos to you.


Holger Mundt Dec 24, 2018 12:26 PM

Ich wollte mal Arzt werden...daher auch noch der „HerrDoktor“, eigentlich hätte ich das auch gerne probiert, aber Elektrotechnik/Informatik war so schön einfach in der nächstgelegenen Stadt zu studieren. Und ich dachte mir, mit dem Auslands-Schuljahr in den USA war ich doch schon abenteuerlustig genug. Ich gebe dir Recht, man kann nie genug Abenteuer haben, mein pickelgesichtiges jüngeres ich hätte ruhig auch abenteuerlustiger sein können! In diesem Sinne: frohes Fest! Auf den nächsten Glühwein im nächsten Jahr.


Day 25

Phillip Collins Dec 25, 2018 5:13 PM

It has always been my philosophy to accept responsibility for my actions and move on. It doesn’t help me to dwell on those actions, whether good or bad. Each day is a new day and new challenges will come with it. I can learn from the past, but I can’t change it. Understanding this and focusing on the future are important to me.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 25, 2018 11:03 PM

On a somewhat unrelated note, esteemed CNN journalist Jake Tapper started a tweet thread a couple of weeks ago by announcing that this is about the time many high school seniors find out that they have been rejected by their first choice in universities. But they should not to be disappointed because it can be a hidden blessing. Fellow journalists, other media types, politicians, entertainers, and athletes tweeted back 1,000's of times with stories of how first rejections turned out to be a great success. In the end, things work out. Twitter


Thomas Iannelli  Dec 26, 2018 1:05 PM

I believe that I am here to enjoy life and, in doing so, bring as much joy and comfort to those I interact with as possible. I am not responsible for their emotions, but I should try not to do harm. Like the little thing about making those shirts meech is reacting to in Radioteacher's picture above. I sought the input of fellow MVPs and felt I had the will to make it happen. It wasn't just her seeing us wear the shirts, it was the way we all felt wearing them for her and the whole UX team. Fantastic! That was enough.


Day 26

Thomas Iannelli  Dec 26, 2018 7:33 AM

Be reasonably confident, above all, to protect yourself from stupidly confident people.

OMG - This all the time! Then they see your doubt as weakness instead of your experiencing informing you that things never go exactly as planned. At the same time, I have been stupidly confident about something, but thank Galileo for #7 in your list jamesd85, I listened enough to learn I was wrong.


Steven Melnichuk Dec 27, 2018 12:43 PM

Number 1 is the hardest...how many people can truly say they love what they do...


Phillip Collins Dec 26, 2018 9:03 AM

You’ll never be happy until you find your passion. My father thought he wanted to go into business management. He obtained his degree and was given a great opportunity. In the end he was stressed, miserable, and unhappy. He left an opportunity to become JCPenney’s youngest store manager to pave roads where he grew up. He was never happier. Doesn’t matter what you end up doing. It just needs to be something that makes you happy. Each career decision I’ve made has reflected on this and each has been promising. No job is perfect, but there is one right for you.


Day 27

Jamison Jennings Dec 27, 2018 9:15 AM

We need to be comfortable in our own skin and accept the fact that we are each unique. It's healthy to take an honest assessment of where you are and where you want to be, but when your only goal is to be the carbon copy of someone else… then that's when it takes the unhealthy route.


Allison Rael  Dec 27, 2018 12:50 PM

Social media started really becoming a "thing" when I was in middle school and high school, and has become something of an addiction for me and for many in my generation. It's so easy to compare our lives to other peoples on social media, but it's important to remember that what you see on social media is NEVER the full story. Social media is merely a filter through which we present the parts of our lives that we want other people to see, "like," and comment on. I am happier when I am off social media (I have a horrible habit of coming back to it though), and that's probably because I am subconsciously comparing my full life to the selected parts of their life that people are sharing. Your advice, to take a step back before comparing, is going to be at the forefront of my mind the next time I pop on Facebook!


Zack Mutchler  Dec 27, 2018 9:37 AM

Very insightful, and kudos for finding your solace! I strongly believe that a significant level of discomfort in our lives comes from us looking over the fence at what we perceive to be greener pastures (and the ones we think are less green; judging others is exhausting). I've learned, mostly through failure, that appreciating my own blades of grass is much more satisfying than worrying about my neighbors'. I'll be here if they need help watering, but otherwise I wish them well and hope for the same.


Day 28

Richard Phillips  Dec 28, 2018 7:35 AM

It's nice that you would use the letter to encourage yourself. I too am an introvert and it often feels like that's the "wrong" way to be. But I've learned to accept (and love) the way that I am. Now I have the freedom to be who I am and not worry about it.


Nick Zourdos  Dec 28, 2018 9:40 AM

Introverts unite! Our shyness is our power. I am thankful every day that I married a fellow introvert. I can't imagine how stressful life would be otherwise.


Jake Muszynski  Dec 28, 2018 9:53 AM

"Say yes to that dance" is good advice for almost any young person.

Here in the third week of the challenge, I continue to be awed, impressed, and humbled by the insight and honesty our community is sharing with each other, both in the “lead” articles each day, and in the comments below them. The outpouring of love, support, wonder, joy, and curiosity is a microcosm of the THWACK community as a whole.


You folks are truly the best group of folks on the planet, and everyone here at SolarWinds is honored that you choose to share your experiences with us.


Here is just a taste of each of the articles (and just a handful of comments) from the past week. If you missed a posting, or haven’t had a chance to keep up, I hope this summary will inspire you to take another look.


  • Leon



**** The Authors *****



Zack Mutchler, MVP


I like the way Zack started the week off, not with a specific piece of advice or set of instructions to his younger self, but by showcasing the wisdom in common (and some less-common) phrases and sayings which he wishes he'd paid more attention to in his younger years. My favorite?


“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – Erin Majors


Paul Guido, MVP


Paul's single piece of advice to his younger self is something that resonates with me a lot: “Read and write for fun when you’re young and never stop!”


But, as with so many of these lead essays, it's the context Paul includes that adds richness and satisfaction to the advice itself.


Robert Mandeville, Senior Product Marketing Manager


Robert's advice to his younger self is one which many of us, regardless of age or stage of our career, would be well-served to take to heart: To understand the business in which we work - the goals, the numbers, the things which are important to those leading the company.


Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek


Patrick takes a step back through time to speak with his younger (and snarkier) self, to talk about the dreaded "friend zone." But instead of leaving it at a simple dating tip, he makes an amazing leap to take that sage advice into the realm that should sound familiar to many IT practitioners.


Kathleen Walker, Product Marketing, Principal


The thing that struck me most about Kathleen's advice was less what she said (although the message is powerful in its own right, and definitely praiseworthy) but to whom she is saying it. Of course, Kathleen is addressing her younger self. But the message is also meant for her younger daughter, who she wisely recognizes is "...the closest I’ll get to my younger self."


Shelly Crossland, Marketing Manager, Corporate Communications

Shelly's honesty, hopefulness, and sincerity—traits that we who get to work with her daily know and love—shines through in this post. Most tellingly, she observes: "I continue to make the same mistakes and learn the same lessons. I am no wiser than you, I’ve just lived longer and am finally starting to notice the patterns in my life."


Thomas LaRock, Head Geek


Finishing up this week, my fellow Head Geek opens with what is very likely the most uniquely delivered piece of insight I've seen this month:

"You’re a jerk. Now, it’s not your fault you’re a jerk. But it is your problem. And the sooner you recognize you have this problem, the better."


But "Tom the Elder" is gracious enough to provide a solution to this challenge: Empathy.


Like all of the other essays we've had a chance to enjoy this week, you'll have to read the rest to fully appreciate Tom's wisdom.



*** The Comments ***


That's it for the lead essays, but the comments this week were no less insightful, deep, heartfelt, or meaningful. Here are just a few that caught my eye.


Day 15

Holger Mundt Dec 16, 2018 11:58 AM

The kangaroo proverb: with an empty bag, you can make the biggest leaps

-> don't get too attached to material stuff or stuff that holds you back. Once you get rid of it, you can achieve great things.

Jan Pawlowski Dec 17, 2018 5:23 AM

There are many quotes around this similar one that I’ll post, but I think Epictetus said it best; “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A MAN TO LEARN WHAT HE THINKS HE ALREADY KNOWS.”


Phillip Collins Dec 17, 2018 7:16 AM

Great list. I know I learned a lot from my grandfather. Just knowledge pasted down from real world experience. That's where most of these quotes originate.

Day 16

Laura Desrosiers Dec 16, 2018 7:57 AM

Yes, times have changed. Modern technology has improved things but has also ruined things. Double-edged sword.


Catherine O Driscoll Dec 17, 2018 7:00 AM

I used to love reading when I was younger and would often be found on the sidelines of my siblings GAA matches with my nose in a book as opposed to watching the game. With the advancements of technology, I don't read as often and have turned to audio books or podcasts for the drive in and out of work. But I miss curling up with a good book so my Christmas wish list this year definitely has a few books on it.


Mark Roberts  Dec 17, 2018 8:29 AM

Up until the age of probably 14/15, I had read only 1 book from cover to cover for pleasure. Every other time it was because I had to. Something I am doing my best to instill in my two children is ready for fun, as it opens your mind to so much. It was such a delight the day we watched the first Harry Potter film together and my daughter spent the next 20 minutes explaining all the good bits they had left out, how much better the book was and how different she had visualized the story in her mind. We are now working our way through each of those films as and when they read the books. I cannot help feeling I missed out by not reading for fun from an earlier age. Having said that, some of the technical books I read now, cannot be described as fun reading, which can be described as eating overcooked dry turkey compared to a juicy medium fillet steak (I thought I would drop in a Christmas analogy).


Day 17

Phillip Collins Dec 17, 2018 7:19 AM

This is a key selector when I am hiring someone. Do they know how to determine business needs? Being able to do this is very important. I can teach someone how to configure a router or work with Office 365, but it can be hard to teach them to take a business need and apply technical knowledge to solve it.

Joshua Smith Dec 17, 2018 8:23 AM

I can check the box on all of those points, except my role. Over the past couple of years, it seems like my "role" has been more or less, a grey area that isn't explicitly defined in my job description. It can be frustrating when you're trying to establish clear direction. You have to know where you are before you can move to where you want to go. Nonetheless, I agree that we all need to know what our business is and own it passionately. Thanks for the article.


George Sutherland Dec 17, 2018 3:55 PM

"It's about the business stupid!" rule #1 for IT.


Day 18

Joshua Smith Dec 18, 2018 8:08 AM

  1. Bravo. I can remember being told each one of the 3 friend zone statements from bosses at some point in my career, in many different ways as well. We just have to keep trying to break the cycle and escape the "job" friend zone. One thing that I've found is, if you have sincere management, and you're able to take something off of their back, you can at least get one foot out of the door of the friend zone.

James Kump Dec 18, 2018 11:03 AM

Whoa! This article struck as serious cord. janobi comments are spot on as well. We all enjoy the challenge of making everything work and for me the synergy created from implementing technology and people to solve problems is my greatest joy. But, there needs to be a balance.......

Nick Zourdos  Dec 18, 2018 10:56 AM

For now, I'm comfortable with the relationship I have with my job. It's casual, not too serious, yet satisfying... a 'fling,' if you will. Moving into a serious relationship with my career would most certainly guarantee better compensation, but I'm careful not to let my work relationship get in the way of my personal relationships. My wife and I have made the decision to live on less so that we can spend time and grow together, and we couldn't be happier!


Day 19

Jan Pawlowski Dec 19, 2018 4:21 AM

Accepting praise and a compliment is something I especially find hard, and will always downplay it, or make the comparison of "I'm not as good as..." It's easier to deal with criticism, than praise. But I guess they're both learning opportunities.


Jeremy Mayfield  Dec 19, 2018 8:48 AM

Great advise. IT can be a thankless job. We know what we did saved time, money, efficiency, etc. Many do not see it or take for granted things which we might make look or seem easy. Sometimes the compliment seems fake or strange since we rarely get one. I strive to make sure my employees know they are appreciated, and it is nice to receive compliments. So, I know I always say thank you, if they are sarcastic or not.


Zack Mutchler  Dec 19, 2018 8:59 AM

Great advice, bookmarked to share with my daughter tonight.


Day 20

George Sutherland Dec 20, 2018 10:12 AM

The problem is not having fear... that is normal and wise.... The real problem is making sure it does not consume you, that is dangerous. The younger me had periods of fear that I ignored... sometimes to my own peril.... but it taught me to respect the fear and act accordingly. Thanks to my younger self... I am very adept at it!


Diana Simpson Dec 20, 2018 10:49 AM

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' " - Eleanor Roosevelt


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 20, 2018 10:30 AM

It's perfectly normal to be afraid. But fear doesn't always have to stop you or hold you back. Some people like to "conquer" fear. I am not sure how that is possible. Others have, "No Fear!" Go so far as having bumper stickers saying as such. No fear is impossible. I think it is more realistic is to recognize and identify your fears and understand how they affect your behavior and thoughts. That way you can manage them while trying to overcome and reach new heights.


Day 21

Jan Pawlowski Dec 21, 2018 8:54 AM

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another - think this quote says it all really. We could all be more empathetic to others. Every day is a school day.


Kevin Kremer Dec 21, 2018 9:09 AM

'There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.' - Fred Rogers


Joshua Smith Dec 21, 2018 10:49 AM

Wonderful article and wonderful advice. Empathy isn't something that should be glossed over. Too often we find ourselves not looking at other perspectives....and perspective is "everything." I've gotten a lot better about this over the years. My younger self lacked humility and perspective. I would most certainly add this to the list of things I'd tell my younger self. Thanks for writing this article!

All of the thoughts in week 1 were so deep, so thoughtful, so wonderfully personal and insightful that it's hard to imagine this week matching it. And yet, if you were following along each day, you know it did.


Once again I'm going to divide my summaries between our incredible lead authors and the insightful and honest comments that the THWACK community shared.



**** The Authors *****



Kevin Sparenberg, Technical Product Marketing Manager and THWACK MVP


Kevin begins with what is becoming a common theme among all us nerds, geeks, and sci-fi fans on THWACK—a statement about the dangers of time travel and altering past events:


"There are going to be things that you cannot avoid, pivotal moments in your life..."


But then he takes a turn, and this begins what was, for me, an emotional ride:


"...and for most of them, the pain of the event is outweighed by the experiences you gain beyond them."


The pain he's alluding to is laid bare in an essay on Kevin's personal blog: https://blog.kmsigma.com/2018/11/18/a-time-for-reflections-thanks/. Once you know the content of THAT post, the next words in his Challenge essay are a punch to the gut:


"In your future there is going to be pain—pain that defies logic to the deepness and sadness it creates—and you’ll think that it will break you. You’ll ask yourself questions that start with “What if I…?” You’ll berate yourself with statements beginning like “If I had just…” All I can say from this side of the fence is that those questions are good, healthy even, but don’t lose track of the good in life. You are stronger than you think. Just take the time to appreciate the small things in life between the big stuff."


To Kevin's credit, he doesn't lapse into non-stop foreshadowing. And some of his insights are truly inspiring (and once again, wonderfully personal).


"Watch people, I mean really watch people, and how they interact with each other. Stop thinking about how much of a baby your cousin Barbara is when she sings along with Cinderella. Just look at the joy that she has dancing around the room singing along with the mice."


But perhaps the most important piece of advice he gave his younger self comes at the very end:

"P.S. – Remember to comment your code. You don’t know that this means yet, but trust me, it’ll save you hours and hours of time later in life"


Josh Biggley, MVP


The rawness, the purity, the sincerity of the wisdom and advice that folks have been sharing, both in the lead articles and the comments below, continues to take my breath away. While I don't know what the posts tomorrow (or for the rest of the month) will hold, few so far match Josh's insight:


"Of all the advice that I've heard, of all the advice I could give, ‘Don't be afraid to fail’ is the single most important lesson we can learn in every part of our lives. Accepting failure is a profoundly humbling experience and it begins with acknowledging that we cannot know everything nor can we always make the right choices for any given situation. Deciding that failure is an option allows each of us to accept failure in others. Instead of viewing mistakes as limitations, we can begin to recognize them as an exercise in discovery."


But the advice to embrace failure—taken alone—can seem like a sentence to a life of disappointment and struggle, which is why Josh's final piece of advice is so necessary, containing both confidence and hope:


"To my younger self, in whichever multiverse you exist and have yet to take those first steps, don't be afraid to fail. Always be learning. Push yourself. You've got this."


Catherine O'Driscoll, Customer Marketing Manager


Like so many of our lead writers, Catherine struggled with the idea of offering advice that was so specific that it would change the course of our lives and fundamentally alter who we are. But I thought her solution to this conundrum was wonderfully unique and inspirational:


"I decided to give advice that is relevant to what is to come but also still allows younger me the freedom to make those mistakes, take the unpaved path and live her life as only she can!"


And what was that advice? It was short and to the point, but also focused and relevant. The essence of it was, "What I wanted to share with you is that you might not always have someone there to catch you. So, in everything you do, don’t jump in head (or face) first. Take the time to learn the steps and walk before you run...or in our case crawl before you walk!"


Destiny Bertucci, Head Geek


Destiny is the second of the Head Geeks to chime in, and also one of the few (so far) not to worry too much about "breaking the timeline" with her advice. I also found it fascinating that she focused on a single pivotal moment in life when everything changed.


"To myself, well heck, looking back I loved every trial. Every teary-eyed moment of rejection of ideas and every win that started to outweigh the losses. In the end I’d just tell me ‘Yea, you’ll never do that medical stuff’ and to follow my heart instead of the dream I thought I once had."


Richard Schroeder, MVP


Like I said, many of our authors fretted about the effects of telling our past selves about the future. Like Destiny, Richard took the road less traveled, and fully embraced this possibility, offering up advice that is at once incredibly specific to his situation:


"Don’t get into the front passenger seat of any vans without seat belts and you won’t lose your eyebrows (and you won’t get to enjoy having them sewn back on in the E.R.) after you fly face-first through a windshield in 1975"


...but also useful for all of us to keep in mind:


"Never buy a new automobile—the depreciation makes it a bad investment. Buy one that’s two years old, with mileage between 20,000 and 30,000. Buy less than you want, and only what you need, and be done with a car or toy loan in two years or less."


...whether that's our younger selves or our present-day incarnations.


Chelsia Johnson, Senior Marketing Communications Manager


From the first word, I was struck by the difference and originality of Chelsia's take on our theme; as I read further, her raw honesty and sincere assessment of the choices she had made and how she would go back and offer her younger self advice spoke to me in a way that few of the essays have.


At the heart of it, was the idea of embracing "JOMO" (the Joy Of Missing Out), and how that would have helped her in the intervening years:


"I’ve learned that while I may miss an inside joke here and there, and I might not be tagged in every photo to hit social media, I am a much better friend (and human) when I am not over-extended and saying yes to every invitation. Because you can’t show up when it really matters if you’ve exhausted all your energy. You can’t provide the support we all need at some point when you’re sleep deprived and living latte to latte."


Matthew Quick, Sales Engineer


I loved how, in true geek fashion, Matt derives life lessons from pop culture sources—in this case, a single episode of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. I also appreciated that Matt isn't trying to tell his younger self some new piece of information that he could never have known, but instead that he should take to heart something he already knew:


"...take care of others first. Everyone says Karma is a…well…negative thing, but it can also be good. Making sure that your friends and family are taken care of and that they have what they need should come before yourself."



*** The Comments ***


That's it for the lead essays, but the comments this week were no less insightful, deep, heartfelt, or meaningful. Here are just a few that caught my eye.


Day 8

Zack Mutchler  Dec 8, 2018 10:34 AM

Such a strong chunk of advice. Especially for those of us who can't seem to naturally make these connections, being mindful of how others relate can be eye opening and provide valuable lessons and insights. Thanks for being my friend and cheerleader, buddy.


Jan Pawlowski Dec 10, 2018 6:08 AM

Remember none of us are perfect, and in the words of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent, to each other."


Joshua Smith Dec 10, 2018 7:54 AM

"Not everything will make sense right now..." - This... this is something I wish people would've told me at times. Even now, I can think of times that I wish some people would've told me this in my professional life. Always consider the possibility that there are intentions and plans that you just aren't going to know about until later.


Day 9

Tregg Hartley Dec 9, 2018 11:11 AM

We are encouraged to fail. We work in an integration environment. Failure is going to happen. Just document it so you don't repeat it.


Matt Riley Dec 10, 2018 9:34 AM

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – RFK


Diana Simpson Dec 10, 2018 9:46 AM

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Henry Ford

"Success and failure are both part of life. Both are not permanent." Shah Rukh Khan


Day 10

Thomas Iannelli  Dec 10, 2018 5:42 AM

I might tell myself this, "Don't be so concerned about what your classmates think of you. The vast majority of them won't be in your life for long. Don't treat them lightly or bad, but don't let their opinions carry so much weight. Just be you."


Peter Wilson Dec 10, 2018 9:51 AM

When I was learning to SCUBA dive many many years ago, we were taught a simple mantra for when things would eventually go wrong underwater.





  1. ACT.


It works for pretty much every situation.


Louise Cannon Dec 11, 2018 4:31 AM

I'm not sure I could ever talk myself out of running before I could walk. Running is too much fun! And the face-plant is always worth it ;-)


Day 11

Jan Pawlowski Dec 11, 2018 7:54 AM

Overcoming challenges can be the greatest achievement in life. I got a degree in Business and Management, and never used it. I should've studied computer science or similar, but it was hard, and I wanted the easy life. Wasn't until 8 years later that I realized that I had the ability and inclination to do IT properly, so I got back on that horse, and set a path, small achievable goals along the way, so I wasn't daunted by the mountain I had to climb. Few years later, and I’m now designing and implementing networks, having worked my way up from service desk, with multiple qualifications in multiple fields. Who could say where I would've been had I done what I really should have? Probably not in IT.


Nick Zourdos  Dec 11, 2018 8:39 AM

I love hearing the stories of those who migrate to IT from other fields. In our IT department alone we have a former accountant, project manager, event coordinator, teacher, and even someone who was an Air Force pilot.


Diana Simpson Dec 11, 2018 10:05 AM

Great article Dez! Like kremerkm (I work with that yahoo), I also have my BA in Communications (Com Management with minors in psych and marketing). I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out (and if you ask me today what I want to do when I grow up, I still have no idea), but I have evolved from PC support to network design to network security and technical writing. Back in high school and college I told myself "nah, I'll never do that" about writing—but here I am.


Day 12

Ryan Wagner Dec 12, 2018 8:30 AM

The section on finances is especially good. I wish I had been more financially responsible when I was single and could have worked extra and set aside the money without having to sacrifice family time. There's another piece of advice: work extra, get your education, and save hard before you get married. If you can barely support yourself, you most certainly cannot support a family. Trust me, financial stability will make married life a lot easier. (I'm pretty sure the only reason I'm still married is because my wife is a saint.) Loans and credit cards are a trap to avoid at all costs. If you can't afford it right now, don't buy on credit, save for it and pay in full.


George Sutherland Dec 12, 2018 9:51 AM

  1. Rick... your thoughts mirror mine in many ways.


The most important is relationships... my wife is my best friend... 41 years married.


Diana Simpson Dec 12, 2018 10:45 AM

There a quite a few things I wish I had done differently....maybe have kids earlier (than in my early 30s), definitely hire a wedding planner than doing it myself (try moving a wedding date 4 x thanks to a was-to-be-sister-in-law complaining and then pulling the plug on their wedding plans while I was on my honeymoon) ...bought stock...


Your five questions/guidelines are great! I wish more people would follow it...


Day 13

Richard Schroeder  Dec 13, 2018 12:50 PM

I lived that too-full-schedule in the 1970s and 8's. My "Pocket Monthly Minder" 18-month calendar had multiple entries for nearly every evening and weekend. It began feeling tight. Confining. Eventually, I decluttered my schedule, my weekends opened up, and the stress at home reduced dramatically. Now I've found a good balance of family, work, fishing, and occasionally being in four bands at the same time. It sounds like a lot, but my time is my own now, instead of others'.


Phillip Collins Dec 13, 2018 1:24 PM

About 5 years ago I stopped working weekends to spend time with my family. It was the best decision I have ever made. My son and I are now closer than ever. Too much of the time prior to that was centered around work. Now my goal is to work when at work and live my life when away. It isn't easy at times, but it is best for me.


Ethan Beach Dec 14, 2018 1:30 AM

Sometimes to say no is difficult. There have been many times I didn't have the funds or had an early morning and didn't say no to try and fit it. In the end, I do not associate with those friends anymore and went through a lot trying to be friends with them. Missing out isn't always missing out in the end.



Day 14

Ryan Wagner Dec 14, 2018 8:25 AM

My Grandfather lived on a principle of "Never lend, only give." He had money and always gave it away. Not once in the 36 years that I knew him did I ever see him loan money. He gave away large sums to those who needed it, but he never asked for payment in return. His generosity and example is the reason that I practice the same philosophy. He died a man of honor at 96 years old and I will never forget his example. Be considerate of others. Never lend, only give.


Mike Ashton-Moore  Dec 14, 2018 8:38 AM

Yep, the Golden Rule. With so many religions containing this you'd think it would be more widespread, but sadly the current self-centered world view seems the political standard in many places nowadays. Channeling a recent class I attended.... "You have no choice about setting an example—only the example that you set."


Diana Simpson Dec 14, 2018 9:27 AM

As a mom, this is a daily thing...taking care of everything before me... but you do need to take a timeout for yourself once in a while....

Where are you in your career arc right now? Trusting simple statistics, I can say that the majority of you are either just starting out, or somewhere in the middle. Relatively few of those reading this essay will be at, or near, the end (whether that means retirement is on the immediate horizon or you are looking at pivoting into something completely different).


So, for that majority of you who are not-done-yet, I want to ask you: what will you leave behind? How are you planning for your graceful exit? How are you ensuring that your colleagues (those who also aren't-done-yet) will continue to be successful without you to call on?


To be honest, this wasn't a question I’d considered very much, until I met a very special person in the SolarWinds booth at Cisco Live! last year.


He had clearly been around the data center a few times, about a decade and a half ahead of me, career-wise. We spent a few minutes amicably playing what I call "IT sonar"—where you get the depth and breadth of someone's experience by reminiscing on the tech you've seen come and go.


But then he turned to the demo station, because he had a few questions. The things he wanted to know were interestingly specific. They didn't center on the latest-and-greatest. He'd heard about our most recent features, and he and his team were using them. He was at Cisco Live!, and knew about THEIR most recent announcements, but wasn't particularly concerned about how WE could monitor THAT.


This was notable because, if I'm being honest, people visiting the SolarWinds booth usually fall into three categories.

  1. People who want to know about our stuff.
  2. People who want to know if OUR stuff can help with this OTHER stuff they just heard about and/or are buying.
  3. Fans who just want to say, “HI,” bask in the orange glow of #MonitoringGlory, pick up our latest buttons or stickers, and pose for a selfie.


Curiosity piqued, I asked him what was up. What was he REALLY trying to do? His answer came as a surprise, "I built this thing, but I'm going to retire one of these days," he said.


By "this thing" he meant all of it. The whole IT environment at his company. He took them from dumb terminals to PCs running Arcnet to Novell servers on Ethernet and all the way to today. He had a hand in all of it. He knew where the important bits were and where the cables were buried.


What got me most was the WAY he relayed this. He wasn't bragging. He wasn't justifying himself. He wasn't bringing up long-forgotten accomplishments as a way of proving he was still relevant. He was calm, confident, and clearly didn't need to prove anything. He told me he'd found his niche at the company long ago, and worked hard to gain and keep the trust and respect from both management and his peers. This gave him the freedom to make decisions in his lane, as well as reach out and help folks whose work fell outside that lane. He also described how he had worked to keep his skills sharp through the successive waves of IT trends, without falling into the bad habit of chasing the latest fad.


The problem, he told me, was that he realized there was no way to teach his coworkers—some of whom were young enough to be his grandchildren—everything that was in his head. And he realized it would be a waste of time to do so.


"There's just stuff," he said, "that isn't worth anyone's time to learn, or to carry around on the odd chance that it will be important a year or three from now. But even so, that stuff is still running. And it's going to break. And they'll need to know about it when it does."


I started to make a joke about documentation, and he told me that was just as bad as trying to teach it to somebody. Burying a piece of information, whether in a binder on a shelf or on a page in a labyrinthine SharePoint site, is a great way to feel good about knowledge that nobody is ever going to read.


He explained that his idea was to replace historical knowledge—what he called "tribal memory"—with tools that would keep track of the "what" (the devices, applications, and elements); handle the "when" by notifying the right people at the right time (meaning when something had gone wrong); and then point them in the direction of "how" by including links to walk-throughs, diagrams, or even just having very clear descriptions in the body of the alert message or ticket.


His job was to understand the "which." Which of the tasks and technical areas under his purview were repetitive busy work that could be automated (mostly) away, and which were skills that he needed to ensure the team acquired.


I joked about how the cool kids today would call it “technical debt.” He took that gag and ran with it, explaining that his goal, like lots of folks contemplating retirement, was to pay off his entire technical mortgage and have a title-burning party.


With that frame of reference, we had an amazing conversation. I'd like to think I was able to help him out a little.


But when he walked away and I started scribbling the notes that would eventually turn into this essay, I could think of just one word to describe what it all represented: "Legacy." For IT practitioners, that has some very specific connotations—technology from a bygone era that’s still around, still requires support and maintenance, but is no longer a platform on which new solutions can be built.


But of course, there’s the more universal meaning to “legacy:” The things (whether physical or intellectual) that we leave behind after we’re gone. And I realized that our documentation, our code, our integrations, and our installations are no less a legacy than the money, photos, investments, homes, cars, antiques, artwork, or businesses left to others when we die.


And as I was scribbling my notes, I thought about making THAT the end of this essay—something like, "What will be left behind when you leave? Will you leave your inheritors saddled with your technical debt? Are you thinking about how that legacy reflects on you?"


But then it occurred to me that, as impressive as the tools and automation this guy was building was, it wasn't the most important thing he was leaving his team. That wasn’t his legacy at all, not by a long shot.


I remembered the impression he left with me: calm, confident, not needing to prove anything... of having found his niche... of having gained and kept the trust and respect from both management and his peers. Recognizing how to make decisions in his lane, and using his secure position to help others.


Maya Angelou famously said,


“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


So NOW I will ask you, all of you "not-done-yet" readers as well as the "almost-there" ones, to take a moment before you close this essay and ask yourself, "What is MY legacy going to be? What am I doing, today, that will be left behind when I leave?"

Welcome to the week 1 wrap-up of the 2018 December Writing Challenge! If you missed the initial announcement, the structure of our third annual community event has changed this year. Instead of offering a new word each day on which everyone can reflect, we're taking a single idea and hearing everyone's unique view of it: “What I would tell my younger self.”


You can head over to the special forum we've set up just for this event or start with my summaries below and follow the links wherever your whimsy leads you.


I'm dividing my summary into two sections: the authors and the comments.




The Authors




Leon Adato, SolarWinds Head Geek and THWACK MVP

Day 1: Slow Down You Crazy Child

I had the honor of leading off this year. I wrote a few things. I would love it if you checked it out, and maybe even left a comment or two.



Joe Kim, EVP Engineering and Global CTO

Day 2: Navigating Ambiguity is Critical as a Technologist

Joe's message is bold, broad, and not just applicable to his past self but to his future self as well, and therefore advice we all can follow now.


“The future is hard to guess, so don’t.”


Along with that he offers two more pieces of solid advice:

  1. Focus on the “HOW.”
  2. Continue to add to your toolbox.



Charlcye Mitchell, Product Manager

Day 3: Show Up & Pay Attention, Inspiration is Everywhere

Charlcye leads the team responsible for the SolarWinds online demo (demo.solarwinds.com). This quote immediately jumped out at me, not only because it was incredibly motivating, but in one sentence it captures the spirit of that team and what they accomplish every day: "Inspiration is everywhere, but you’ll rarely see it if you aren’t looking for it."


But she didn't stop there. She went on to challenge her younger self with four more questions. (As some of you know, I'm a big fan of The Four Questions):

"Find an unanswered question that excites you; Fill your time with unfamiliar experiences and learn new skills; Teach other people; Discover more things to be grateful for."



Matthew Reingold, MVP

Day 4: Post-Recollection

Matt kept it short and sweet, and this line really caught me short: "Don’t let the bad stuff make you forget about the good stuff." We also got to hear a bit of the background and lessons learned that led to this being such an important piece of advice for him, personally.



Nick Zourdos, MVP

Day 5: Burning a Candle at Both Ends...With Napalm

Nick first acknowledged the obvious reality of offering advice to our past selves, which would effectively change the trajectory of our life. Not only that though, but he underscored how inseparable our past experiences are from our current selves, and how that isn't a truth that can be casually waved away: "The point I’m trying to make is that the past makes you… you, and that’s worth something."


With that point acknowledged, however, he nevertheless offered some heartfelt words that might have eased the path for him in his younger years:

"Make time for life. Friends, family, relationships, and your own mental health are so much more important than good grades in your college years."



Thomas Ianelli, MVP

Day 6: Let's Go Get Ice Cream and Have a Little Chat...

In a pattern that is familiar to any of us who work regularly with our MVP community, Thomas took Nick's idea even further, moving past the thought that changing our past selves does us a disservice, and digging into the idea (with citations and references) that we may not even remember our past selves clearly:

"What do you really know of this person anyway? They are as much a stranger to you, as you are to them. They are just the collection of stories you have recited for years, about significant moments."


This led him to give voice to something that I think we all, as IT practitioners and especially those who work in some type of teaching capacity, have run up against:

"It is difficult to remember what it was like not to know."


Finally, a footnote to his whole analysis is worth repeating here, because it is wonderfully geekworthy:

“*Any discussion on the merits or risks of time travel should include a warning that anything changed in the past can have unforeseen ripple effects dramatically altering the future, including your very own existence in the present."



Jez Marsh, MVP

Day 7: Always Remember

Like many of our lead writers so far, Jez struggled with the far-reaching implications of altering the timestream. Nevertheless, he found a message which was both specific to him and yet general enough that he felt it wouldn't cause too many ripples: "Est Sularus Oth Mithas,” a quote from the Dragonlance Chronicles meaning, "My honour is my life."


I found the meaning behind this message to be wonderfully insightful. "We are, at times, our own worst enemy. Receiving this bolt from the blue at that time of my life would help me defeat the lingering self-doubt and regain my mojo a little sooner."




The Comments



***** Day 1 *************



By definition, the people nearest you are the most important. They are the ones who chose to show up, to stay, to be in your company. Give that choice the respect it deserves.

Such a hard, yet important lesson. Being mindful and not taking your support system for granted is a huge sign of emotional maturity that we all should be striving for.



Dear Younger Me:

A world of good will come from treating everyone as you want to be treated.  A world of hurt follows if you don't.


Don't get tangled up in things that aren't enjoyable and interesting and beneficial to someone.  While you have your entire life ahead of you, it's too brief to waste on petty squabbles or major ones.  Spend no time worrying about things you can't change.  They're in the past.  Learn from them, modify your behavior so you don't repeat them, and move on.


Take a note from a song James Taylor recorded; consider making it your motto.

"The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it."



I'm an auto racing fan and there's more than one story and/or illustration of drivers learning that you slow down to go fast. Just what does that mean? If you drive just as fast as you can, you don't hit your lines, you don't brake at the best times, you accelerate too hard, etc. When you slow down - in other words, focus on doing things right - you hit the best lines because that is a focus, you brake at the best times because that is a focus, you accelerate best because that is a focus. So, slowing down actually makes your lap times better. The same too with IT work. I've been guilty of rushing through a project only to later see my mistakes and have to redo or repair what I've done. When we slow down and take things carefully and methodically, we are at our best.


***** Day 2 *************



Thanks for the heads-up Joe.

At this point in my life I was about to stop diversifying and wanted to narrow my development in this field (IT), but after reading your experience, I now believe that the diversification that I am aspiring to achieve will further my development more, that aiming for carrier development.

Thanks for laying out there this game-changing perspective.



This is a tricky one for me. My previous department was dissolved and I was moved to a different team, after 11 years with my company. It's hard to forge your own path when you're held inside a box and not allowed any growth at all. It fosters complacency and apathy. I think some people might read "so don't (predict the future) and presume that nothing can be done...” I've been there. I'm fortunate to have leadership that wants to foster growth in many directions now.



This is a terrific read.  Joe outlines and explains two specific ways we can be better people going forward.  I appreciate that he is concise, makes his points and supports them.  I'll read this more than once.


***** Day 3 *************



So often people view everything from the angle of "what's in it for me." Once we begin to look at what we can bring to others our purposes will become more apparent.



I find point 3 most important, giving folks guidance on their own journey...



In my experience (YMMV) I always learn the most when I'm teaching others.  Sometimes you're literally only slightly more knowledgeable than the person you're teaching, but having to teach a concept requires you to wrestle with the knowledge, the right way to convey it, and to come up with multiple analogies or ways of communicating it. You don't really understand something until you can teach it, and teaching it always highlights deficiencies in my own learning or understanding as well as helping to bring more clarity my knowledge.


***** Day 4 *************



One of the long-lasting lessons I've taken from a leadership course I attended in the Marines:

At any given time you have up to 360 choices of direction for lateral movement. Pick one. People who sit in the same spot are the easiest to hit.

(paraphrased to clean up for public consumption)

The point being, when faced with any challenge, you have to make a decision, and preferably quickly, because ANY decision is action, and action begets action. Waiting for the perfect situation usually results in a lot of waiting, in my experience anyways.



Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are 'It might have been.'



I agree, hesitation is natural and something I am very good at. I think it has helped more than harmed. It gives me the chance to think before I leap.


***** Day 5 *************



"Diamonds may be formed under pressure, but never forget they are not formed overnight."



How do I deal with burnout? I literally ran up a mountain! I am not suggesting that for everyone but it has made a huge impact on my approach to life and work since. It was also a #bucketlist and fed into a lifelong desire that I mentioned in my Day1 post.

I as well went through intense stressful periods of my life that has altered my personality permanently... for the worse. Unfortunately I was never able to return and I do miss my old self.



Life is full of choices, whichever you choose can be viewed as the wrong one.  Live life for the moment, and do what makes you happy.  Live life without regrets.  Having worked 16-18 hour days to try and "help" the company, to be overlooked, and undervalued, you soon find out to stop.  Take stock.  And most importantly, do what makes you happy, as no-one else in life will.  If that means working loads, and learning great. But then don’t worry about the things you may miss by not experiencing them.  Alternatively, work hard, play hard and use your time wisely.  There is no simple one answer, there is no silver bullet.


***** Day 6 *************



Choices are made, reality hits hard when you grow up.  Time goes on and that broadens the vision to make you realize what you could have done better.



What does the younger us know that we don't? As you grow you change, was it for the good? Are you still the same person? What a great concept to think about. I moved around a lot when I was young being in a military family. As we moved I would meet new friends that would have an impact on me and change who I was. Who could I have been if I stayed in Hawaii where I was born? Would I still be the man I am in the tech field do what I am doing? This writing challenge gets me thinking, please stop I don't like this.



Great post tomiannelli. It's funny, you absolutely nailed something that has been semi-haunting me (in a good way) recently. I've been thinking a lot about memory bias and am I falling prey to it, and to what extent current events and circumstances are biasing my memories one way or another.  It's an interesting question to think about, and like you, I'd like to go back and ask my younger selves at various points in time what my thoughts and feelings were at the time they were happening.  Not sure if a diary would help or not - you don't always see what's salient at the time. Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post.


***** Day 7 *************


Let's do our best to change the future to the best possible place to be for our next generation . :-)

Jez I think you're the first person to mention timing. I'm surprised none of us other ultra-analytical IT pros thought of that!

Very nice! If I could, I think I'd do the opposite and have my younger, more optimistic self remind my current self that life is really pretty good and that I should be more appreciative.

“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.

A magical thing. And sweet to remember.

We are nearer to Spring than we were in September.

I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”

- Oliver Herford


Here on the eve of the darkest month, when cultures across the world celebrate light in an attempt to brighten the short days and long nights, we want to bring some illumination to our THWACK® community too, in the form of the December Writing Challenge. In my announcement, I described how this challenge has been an uplifting event each year, and how many of us—both inside SolarWinds and in the THWACK community at large—look forward to it as a chance to reflect on the past and connect, both with each other and with our goals for the coming year.


I don't need to repeat the instructions (you can read them in the announcement, here), but I hope this post gives you a final reminder to keep an eye on the December Writing Challenge forum starting tomorrow and each day during December.


Rather than a word-a-day style writing prompt like previous years, this year's challenge has a single idea: "What I would tell my younger self." We're excited to read everyone's contributions, ideas, and discussions.


See you in the comments section tomorrow!

It is often observed that, "The practice of writing begets more writing," which I, at least, have certainly found to be true. But more than that, the act of writing creates connections to readers (not to mention other writers) in unexpected and delightful ways. Perhaps this is because writing is always personal, even when giving over nothing but relatively dry facts and processes. There's always a perspective, a point of view, buried in the most mundane of procedures. So how much more so when the topic is something deeply and specifically personal?


Which is why so many members of the THWACK® community look forward to this time of year: for the chance to read, and even participate, in the December Writing Challenge.


That's not just idle speculation or opinion. As with all things at SolarWinds, we have solid facts and data to back up that observation. Last year the 2017 Challenge attracted:

  • 32 days of posts by a select group of 26 authors (including 12 THWACK MVPs).
  • Over 255,000 THWACK points awarded


But beyond the raw figures, the challenge opened a window into the private lives and personal thoughts of the participants. We read about hopes and dreams, successes and setbacks. Each day’s entry allowed us to catch a glimpse of the person behind each THWACK ID and avatar.


This year will be no different, even as the format changes slightly. Rather than a new word each day, the 2018 Challenge features a single writing prompt:


“What I would tell my younger self.”


Each day, a featured writer (whether from the SolarWinds staff or our THWACK community) will share their thoughts, and the community is then encouraged to respond with responses, comments, or advice of their own. Participants will earn THWACK points (2,000 for writing the featured article, 200 for commenting).


At the end of the week, a summary article on Geek Speak™ will highlight some of the more engaging contributions.


Because a society without rules tends to descend into chaos (or in the case of THWACK, a passionate debate about who is the greatest starship captain of all time), let me clarify how this will work:

  • Each day a select author will post to the 2018 Writing Challenge Forum, which you can find here.
  • The post will appear at (roughly) 12:01 a.m. CT (GMT -6).
  • Once that post appears, the community is encouraged to offer their thoughts in the comments.
    • Commenting will earn you 200 THWACK points.
    • One comment per person per day will earn points.
    • You are free to continue to comment but points are earned only for the first comment per day.
  • You have until midnight U.S. CT (GMT -6) to comment.
  • For weekend posts, you have until Monday at midnight U.S. CT to comment for the Saturday and Sunday posts. That way, people who take their weekends seriously are not penalized.
  • If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.


So sharpen your pencils, gather your thoughts, and get ready. Because December 1st is only 5 days away!

In honor of Stanley Martin Lieber, z''l

Known to most of the world as "Stan Lee"



When we first moved into the Orthodox Jewish world, we were invited to a lot of people's houses for a lot of meals. The community is very tight-knit, and everyone wants to meet new neighbors as soon as they arrive, and so it was something that just happened. Being new – both to the community and to orthodox Judaism in general – I noticed things others might have glossed over. Finally, at the third family’s home, I couldn't contain my curiosity. I asked if everyone we had visited so far were related. No, came the reply, why would I think that? Because, I explained, everyone had the same picture of the same grandfatherly man up on the wall:


Image source: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, from Wikipedia


Our hosts were now equal parts confused and amused. "That's Rabbi Moshe Feinstein," they explained. "He's not our grandfather. He's not the related to anyone in the community, as far as we know."


"Then why on earth," I demanded, "is his picture on the walls of so many people's houses around here?"


The answer was simple, but it didn't make sense to me, at least at the time. People put up pictures of great Rabbis, I was told, because they represent who they aspire to become. By keeping their images visibly present in the home, they hoped to remind themselves of some aspect of their values, their ethics, their lives.







Several years later I was teaching a class of orthodox Jewish twenty-somethings about the world of IT. They were learning about everything from hardware to servers to networking to coding, but I also wanted to ensure they learned about the culture of IT. It started off as well as I'd hoped. When I got to sci-fi in general and comic books specifically, I held up a picture:

Image source: You'll Be Safe Here from Something Terrible, by Dean TrippeImage source: You'll Be Safe Here from Something Terrible, by Dean Trippe


"Can you identify anyone in this picture?" I asked.


Their responses were especially vehement. "Narishkeit" (foolishness) said one guy. "Bittel Torah" (sinful waste of time) pronounced another. And so on.


"Well I can name them all," I continued. “Every single one. And you know why? Because these aren't just characters in a story. These are my friends. And at a certain point in my life, they were my best friends. At the hardest times in my life, they were my only friends."


Now that they could tell I was serious, the dismissiveness was gone. "But not only that," I continued. "Each character in this picture represents a lesson. A value. A set of ethics. That big green dude? He taught me about what happens when we don't acknowledge our anger. That man with the bow tie? I learned how pure the joy of curiosity could be. And the big blue guy with the red cape? He showed me that it was OK to tone down aspects of myself in some situations, and to let them fly free in others."


Then I explained my confusion about the Rabbis on the wall, and how this was very much the same thing, especially for a lot of people working in tech today. And to call it narishkeit was as crude and insulting as it would be to say it was stupid to put up a picture of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein when you're not even related to him.


Then I explained where the picture came from. How author Dean Trippe came to write "Something Terrible" in the first place. At this point, my class might not have understood every nuance of what comic books were all about, but they knew it held a deeper significance than they thought.


Going back to the picture, I asked, "This picture has a name. Do you know what it's called?"


You'll Be Safe Here.


That, I explained, was what comic books meant to me – and to so many of us.


That’s the world that Mr. Lieber – or Stan Lee, as so many knew him – helped create. That’s the lifeline he forged out of ideas and dreams and pulp and ink. That lifeline meant everything to a lot of us.


Ashley McNamara may have put it best: "I repeated 1st grade because I spent that whole year locked in the restroom. The only thing I had were comics. They were an escape from my reality. It was the only thing I had to look forward to and if not for Stan Lee and others I wouldn’t have made it."



The truth is that "Stan Lee" saved more people than all of his costumed creations combined.


And for a lot of people, that's the story. Stan Lee, the man-myth, who helped create a comic empire and was personally responsible for the likes of Spiderman, Captain America, the X-Men, the Black Panther, and so on.


But for me there's just a little bit more. For a Jewish kid in the middle of a Midwest suburban landscape, Mr. Lieber had one more comic-worthy twist of fate. You see he, along with his cohort – Will Eisner, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg), Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Bob Kane (Kahn) – they didn't just SAY they were Jewish. They wove their Jewishness into the fabric of what they created. It obviously wasn't overt – none of the comics were called "Amazing Tales of Moses and his Staff of God!" Nor were Jewish themes subversively inserted. It just... was.


Comics told stories which were at once fantastical and familiar to me: a baby put in a basket (I mean rocket ship) and sent to sail across the river (I mean galaxy) to be raised by Pharaoh (I mean Ma and Pa Kent). Or a scrawny, bookish kid from Brooklyn who gets strong and the first thing he does is punch Hitler in the face.


And underlying it all was another Jewish concept: “tikkun olam”. Literally, this phrase means “fixing the world” and if I left it at that, you might understand some of its meaning. But on a deeper level, the concept of tikkun olam means to repair the brokenness of the world by finding and revealing sparks of the Divine which infuse everything. When you help another person – and because of your help they are able to rise above their challenges and become their best selves – you’ve performed tikkun olam. When you take a mundane object and use it for a purpose which creates more good in the world, you have revealed the holy purpose for that object being created in the first place, which is tikkun olam.


When you look at the weird, exotic, fantastical details of comic books – from hammers and shields and lassos and rings to teenagers who discover what comes with great power; and outcast mutants who save the world which rejects them; and aliens who hide behind mild-mannered facades; and Amazonians who turn away from beautiful islands to run toward danger – when you look at all of that, and you don’t see the idea of tikkun olam at play, well, you’re just not paying attention.


Stanley Lieber showed the world (and me) how to create something awesome, incredible, amazing, great, mighty, and fantastic but which could, for all its grandeur, still remain true to the core values that it started with. In fact, in one of his "Stan's Soapbox" responses, he addressed this:


“From time to time we receive letters from readers who wonder why there’s so much moralizing in our mags. They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all – old time fairy tales and heroic legends – contained moral and philosophical points of view. At every college campus where I may speak there’s as much discussion of war and peace, civil rights, and the so-called youth rebellion as there is of our Marvel mags per se. None of us lives in a vacuum – none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us – events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist – but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it! Excelsior!”


Excelsior indeed.

To Stanley Martin Lieber, Zichrono Livracha.

(May his memory be for a blessing)

Young girl holding a pen. Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

Recently, my friend Phoummala Schmitt, aka “ExchangeGoddess” and Microsoft Cloud Operations Advocate, wrote about her struggles with imposter syndrome (https://orangematter.solarwinds.com/beating-imposter-syndrome/). It's a good read that I highly recommend. But one element of it stuck with me, like an itch I couldn't quite reach.


I knew this itch wasn't that someone as obviously talented and accomplished as Phoummala would experience imposter syndrome. It's been well-documented that some of the most high-achieving folks struggle with this issue. It wasn't even the advice to "strike a pose" even though—because I work from home—if I did that too often my family might start taking pictures and trolling me on Twitter.


No, the thing that I found challenging was the advice to "fake it."


Now, to be clear, there's nothing particularly wrong with adopting a “fake it till you make it” attitude, if that works for you. The challenge is that for many folks, it reinforces exactly the feelings that imposter syndrome stirs up. The knowledge that I am purposely faking something can work against the ultimate goal of me feeling comfortable in my own skin and my own success.


Then I caught a quote from Neal Gaiman that went viral. The full post is here (http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/160603396711/hi-i-read-that-youve-dealt-with-with-impostor), but the part that really caught my eye was this sentence:


"Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people [...] doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for."


Maybe there weren't any grown-ups.


This gave me the nugget of an idea. If nobody is actually an adult, then what are we? The obvious answer is that we're still kids wearing grown-up suits. We're all playing pretend.


Yes, I know, "playing pretend" is almost the same as "faking it"—except, not really.


When you play pretend you acknowledge the reality that Mrs. Finklestein is really a bear wearing your wig, the necklace you stole is out of Mom's jewelry box, and that there's no tea in the cup—but you simply opt to not focus on that part. You’re focusing on how Mrs. Finklestein just told you the most interesting bit of neighborhood gossip, and that this tea is just the right temperature and delicious. When you play pretend, a magical transformation occurs.


The movie Hook had a lot of drawbacks, but this scene captures the wonder of imagination pretty well.


Imagination can carry us to an important place. A place where we give ourselves permission to go with our craziest guesses, or invest fully in our weirdest ideas. To explore our wildest ramblings and see where it all leads. And more importantly, imagination allows us to run down rabbit holes to a dead end without regret. With imagination, it truly is the journey that matters.


I remember a teacher talking about one of her best techniques for helping students get "un-stuck." When a student would say "I don't know," she would respond, "Imagine you did know. What would you say if that was true?" Sometimes, imagining ourselves in a position of knowing is all it takes to knock a recalcitrant piece of knowledge loose.


As adults, we may feel that imagination is something we set aside long ago. That may be true, but it wasn't to our benefit.


As Robert Fulghum wrote:


"Ask a kindergarten class, ‘How many of you can draw?’ and all hands shoot up. Yes, of course we can draw—all of us. What can you draw? Anything! How about a dog eating a fire truck in a jungle? Sure! How big you want it?


How many of you can sing? All hands. Of course we sing! What can you sing? Anything! What if you don't know the words? No problem, we make them up. Let's sing! Now? Why not!


How many of you dance? Unanimous again. What kind of music do you like to dance to? Any kind! Let's dance! Now? Sure, why not?


Do you like to act in plays? Yes! Do you play musical instruments? Yes! Do you write poetry? Yes! Can you read and write and count? Yes! We're learning that stuff now.


Their answer is ‘Yes!’ Over and over again, ‘Yes!’ The children are confident in spirit, infinite in resources, and eager to learn. Everything is still possible.


Try those same questions on a college audience. A small percentage of the students will raise their hands when asked if they draw or dance or sing or paint or act or play an instrument. Not infrequently, those who do raise their hands will want to qualify their response with their limitations: ‘I only play piano, I only draw horses, I only dance to rock and roll, I only sing in the shower.’


When asked why the limitations, college students answer they do not have talent, are not majoring in the subject, or have not done any of these things since about third grade, or worse, that they are embarrassed for others to see them sing or dance or act. You can imagine the response to the same questions asked of an older audience. The answer: no, none of the above.


What went wrong between kindergarten and college?


What happened to ‘YES! Of course I can’?"

(excerpted from “Uh-Oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door” by Robert Fulghum)


So, I want to fuse these ideas together. Ideas that:

  • We sometimes feel like imposters, about to be discovered for the frauds we feel we are
  • "Fake it till you make it" doesn't go far enough to help us avoid those feelings
  • Maybe none of us are actually grown-ups, but instead are still our childlike selves, all acting the part of adults
  • Imagination is one of our most powerful tools to get past our rigid self-image and gives us permission to playact
  • And that the childlike ability to say "YES, of course I can" is infinitely more valuable than we might have once thought


Maybe we need to take to heart what Gaiman said. There aren't any grown-ups. Every adult you know is a little kid wearing a big-person suit, muddling along and hoping nobody notices. But we need to take it to heart, accept it, and own it. Own the fact that we're little kids. Reclaim the brash, the bold, the brazen selves we used to be. When you’re experiencing an attack of self-doubt, I encourage you to imagine you’re 8 years old—your 8-year-old self—doing the same task. How would that kid go about it?


Sure, in the years since then we've all had a few scrapes and bumps.


But that doesn't mean we should stop imagining what it would be like to fly.

Leon Adato


Posted by Leon Adato Expert Oct 30, 2018

My wife called me for the third time, and I could hear that she was working hard to remain calm but was undeniably at the end of her rope. She had missed the freeway exit. For the third time. And was going to be late for our lunch date. Could I PLEASE tell her JUST ONE MORE TIME what the exit name was?


We were in Switzerland. The company I worked for had moved us there just a week earlier, and my wife was meeting me so we could have a quick lunch and then go house hunting. I told her, again, that the exit was "sheb." Since this was our third time on the phone, I was beginning to doubt myself. Did I have the exit name wrong?


And that's when it hit me. My wife's second language is Spanish. I, on the other hand, learned French growing up. For those unfamiliar with linguistic differences, Spanish is a delightfully phonetic language. It is almost impossible to misspell a word in Spanish, presuming you know how to say it out loud. French? Not so much. I had been telling her to get off at the exit named "sheb," because my French-speaking brain never gave it a second thought.


And how do you spell "sheb" in the French-speaking part of Switzerland? (Answer: "chexbres")


I learned something that day about how I process and communicate directions, regardless of the language. Those lessons continued for the duration of our stay. Of course, distances and speeds were measured in kilometres. But it turns out the Swiss don't hold much stock in street signs. Roads operate as a network of roundabouts pointing to various villages. Getting from place to place means knowing you are going from Lausanne to Crissier to Pully to Renens. It's a far cry from "turn north at Elm and Wadsworth."


Directions, it turns out, are an incredible way to find out how someone thinks, and how they might work (both as an individual and within a team). Not just in terms of geography, but in other areas as well.


From time to time during my IT career, I've been on the other side of the desk, evaluating people we wanted to hire.


I discovered a few truths early on.


  • Everyone's background and path to IT is as unique as are their personalities, so you can never expect to understand someone's skills or level of accomplishment just by looking at how they got here.
  • Asking cookie-cutter technical questions rarely tells you anything except whether the individual on the other side of the table is good at answering cookie-cutter technical questions.
  • Questions like "tell me your biggest shortcoming" rarely elicit an honest answer (let alone foster a sense of trust or open-ness).
  • Questions that begin with "Tell me about a time when ...." are really an invitation to see if the candidate could improvise a work of fiction on the spot.
  • Asking deep technical questions usually just proves whether the candidate knows the same weird trivia about a certain technology that I know well, rather than whether they have meaningful skills to bring to the job.


After a bunch of really bad interviews, I was struggling with this issue yet again when I thought back to that day with my wife on the phone in Switzerland, and it all clicked. The next time I had a chance to interview a candidate, I threw out all the other frou-frou and tested my theory:


"Tell me how to get to your favorite restaurant."


The beauty of this question is that it's immediately obvious there's no wrong answer, and equally obvious that there's no way to "game" the system. You can't fake your way through it to give the answer the interviewer wants. You can't study a list of really good answers or crib off someone else. For the interviewer, this question also cancels out interviewer bias. Directions aren't dogmatic, and even if a candidate gives a different route to a location I know, that's not the point of the question anyway.


It's the way in which the candidate answers which reveals so much.


Do they ask clarifying questions? Things like “From here, or from your house?” or “Are you walking, biking, or driving?” or my favorite, “Are you a north-south person, a left-right person, or a ‘There's a K-mart on the corner’ person?”


Do they validate that I'm understanding their instructions? Anything from "Does that make sense?" to "Do you want a minute to write this down?"


Do they ensure that I'm even interested in going to that location? "Hey, my favorite restaurant is this weird little Thai place. Do you like Thai food?"


Do they skip all the niceties and just give me their set of directions, without preamble?


When I ask for clarification or even change the rules ("Oh, I forgot to tell you, I love public transportation. Can you get a bus to this place?") are they able to adapt?


And still, the point is that there's no right answer. I may be interviewing for a position where I need the employee to get right down to business, to avoid chit chat, to execute instructions as documented. Or I might be looking for a someone who can put themselves in the user's place, and therefore ask a lot of clarifying questions.


In the world of IT, there's an almost continuous focus on understanding where we've been, by collecting and analyzing baseline data; where we are, in terms of real time system statistics and performance metrics; and of where we're going, in terms of predictive analysis and data-based recommendations.


And maybe because of this, we can lose sight of two other data sets that are incredibly important: how we came to be here, and how we want to get to the step of our destination.

Whether you’re a seasoned IT professional or a tech newbie just trying to get into the IT game, you’ve probably noticed that alerts can be a real pain—if not managed correctly.


Don’t let alerts control your life and bring down your monitoring. Join me and SolarWinds engineer Mario Gomez during the session “Alerts, How I Hate Thee,” as we hash out some of the real struggles that poorly crafted alerts can create,and then discuss practical solutions to improving your alerts and resolving these issues. Some alerting topics we’ll dive into include: understanding and leveraging the differences between an alert scope versus a trigger;  the best time to trigger an alert; best practices for testing your alerts; and options for sending notifications that give a break to your poor old email system. And of course, we’ll also look at some options for integrating alerting into external systems like Slack and ServiceNow as well as using automation to take your alerting to a whole new level. After all this discussion and analysis, we’ll all hopefully come out the other side hating alerts a little less and starting to enjoy the benefits proper alerting can have on monitoring.


This session is just one of many that you can look forward to during THWACKcamp 2018. Taking place from October 17 – 18, this two-day, premier online event is entirely free! Enjoy the event from the comfort of your computer—wherever that may be—as you learn from SolarWinds Head Geeks and a wide array of technical experts, all of whom bring their different backgrounds and areas of expertise to the table. Be a part of an important industry discussion that will gear you up for all the IT goals you want to meet in the coming year. If you haven’t already, be sure to register so you don’t miss out on this year’s THWACKcamp!

We all start out somewhere. Our first taste of technology somehow leads to that first server build, switch config, or line of code. Which, in turn, leads to our first “real” tech job and a slew of other firsts—first time leading a project, first outage, and maybe even the first promotion. Somewhere along the way, you had your first chance to work with SolarWinds® tools.


While experienced IT professionals can look back (hopefully with fondness), many of us are just getting our legs under us when it comes to SolarWinds solutions. Right now. Here. Today. And that’s what this session is all about: helping you get up to speed quickly and avoid the feeling of hunt-and-peck that often comes when learning a new software suite.


In this THWACKcamp 2018 session, I’ll be joined by fellow Head Geek Destiny Bertucci  to give a tour of the most important features, screens, tools, and utilities that you’ll need in those critical first days, whether you are completely new to the role of monitoring engineer, or are experienced with monitoring but new to SolarWinds.


Want to make sure you attend this and other sessions during this year’s THWACKcamp? Be sure to register for THWACKcamp and plan out the sessions you’ll attend on October 17 – 18. Not sure if you’ve budgeted enough to attend this premier online event? Don’t sweat it! THWACKcamp is completely free. You don’t even have to worry about travel expenses—just make sure you have access to Wi-Fi. SolarWinds Head Geeks and a wide array of technical experts will be hosting these sessions, as well as answering your questions in a live chat, so you can walk away feeling like you can take on any IT challenge that comes your way. Can’t wait to see you there!

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