My Voyage from Customer to Solarian

Community Manager, Ben Keen

My name is Ben, and I'm a Solarian.

Hello, THWACK® Universe. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Ben Keen, and I’m honored to introduce myself as the newest member of the SolarWinds® Community Team. I’m now one of your community managers. I’ve had the honor of being selected to follow in some incredible peoples’ footsteps, and before I continue, please allow me a few moments to outline my journey.

Life Before SolarWinds

I’m a Veteran of the U.S. Army, having served from 1999 – 2008, including as a member of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division during the initial invasion into Iraq in early 2003. Upon my separation, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA, where I worked in the IT field in many different roles, including help desk, hardware maintenance, server administration, and monitoring engineer.

I’ve been a member of THWACK for about five years now, with the last three years as a THWACK MVP where I’ve focused on helping new monitoring engineers wrap their heads (and hands) around SolarWinds solutions and drive the adoption of Modern Dashboards. I’ve presented at two previous SolarWinds User Groups (SWUGs) and this year was my fifth time attending THWACKcamp®. So, while I’m acting as the new guy, I only mean this within my capacity as a new Solarian, as this isn’t the first online forum I’ve had the honor of running.

For the past few years, I’ve been a volunteer admin on a forum for military members and veterans known as RallyPoint. If you’re a United States Armed Services Veteran, we have one more thing in common. I enjoy volunteering with them because the forum is much like THWACK: A place to share your ideas and ask questions while connecting with others who find themselves dealing with similar hurdles.

The Move to SolarWinds

Why the change, you might ask? It couldn’t be simpler. After 20 plus years in the direct support game, I found this opportunity to be a great way to continue my professional growth and feed my hunger to help others. While I won’t have all the answers to every question, it’s my goal to maintain and improve THWACK so the entire community can come together and support each other.

I’m a long-time THWACK cheerleader. This community is much more than a support forum like those you’ve used elsewhere. THWACK is a community of like-minded IT professionals who are here to learn and grow from each other. All are here to ensure others they are not alone because – let’s face it – no one thinks about monitoring until something goes sideways. It’s my goal to do everything within my power as the new THWACK community manager to continue in this mindset. March 21st was my first day, so I’m now officially a Solarian.

Me Outside of THWACK

Since THWACK is a community beyond a support forum, I think it’s critical you know a bit more about me outside of SolarWinds and THWACK. As I mentioned earlier, I live in Pittsburgh, PA, with my wife and three children: Reilly (now 17), Becca (who’ll be 16 this summer), and Liam joined the craziness on April 16th, 2021. I also walk through life with the assistance of a medical alert service dog named Bolt. Bolt, a blue/bi-color German Shepard, was trained by Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, a national Non-Profit organization in Williston, FL. They provide service dogs to disabled Americans around the country, focusing on Veterans and First Responders.

In my spare time, I enjoy watching hockey games, smoking cigars, taking photos with my Nikon D300S, or working to help support Veterans around the country. 

The First Few Days

If you’re reading after it goes live, you’ll realize I technically started a couple of weeks ago, so what can you say about your first few days at any new company? Thrilling, scary, exhausting? Probably all of those and some I’m not recalling right now (did I mention exhausting?). But to be 100% honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Despite my enhanced access via the THWACK MVP program, there are new people to meet, understand how their roles intertwine, and oh, so many names to remember. Like any company of this size, everyone’s got a role to play, and I’ll be learning the intricate details of my place within the SolarWinds organization for the foreseeable future.

For the first time in my professional career, I’m not part of a technology team under a Chief Information Officer (CIO). So, as part of the Community Team here at SolarWinds, I’ve found myself working under our Marketing GVP and alongside some great people with years of marketing under their collective belts. And while this is the most significant adjustment I’ve made over the past few days, it has caused me to pause and look at things beyond a technical how-to point of view to one focused on delivering messages which encourage interaction from the THWACK Community. I hope you not only see THWACK as a place to get answers but as a place where everyone is welcome regardless of the level of experience you have in the monitoring space. 

My Short List

I won’t bore the community with a 30/60/90 day plan because we all know how those work when placed against business needs, but I do want to call out a few things I’m excited about in the near future:

  • The return of SWUGs—the first located in London in April 2022
  • Learning the architecture and bringing my ideas to the other community managers to help plan the future of THWACK
  • Working with the team and taking an active role in the upcoming THWACK Livecast series—stay tuned to the Community Announcements for subsequent sessions
  • Spending part of my day answering questions on the THWACK forums (my personal favorites are The Modern Dashboard Content Exchange, The Orion® Platform Forum, and the Server & Application (SAM) Product Forum because they challenge my knowledge and problem-solving skills)
  • Learning everything I can about the SolarWinds portfolio of solutions—specifically products where my exposure was previously limited
  • Continuing to be an asset and cheerleader for all the THWACKsters out there

Looking Forward

I’m thrilled to start work with you all and serve as an agent of change here at SolarWinds so we can continue to make THWACK the best community in IT. I’m ready to get my hands dirty, but there’s so much to learn, so I appreciate your patience as I ramp up.  Please feel free to connect with on THWACK (),  Instagram (@themonitoringguy), and Twitter (@monitoringguysw). If you get the chance, come up and introduce yourself at our SolarWinds events, including our London SWUG. Finally, a big thanks to everyone—I’m excited to interact with all you THWACKsters!

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