Categories
Uncategorized

Dare to Matter

To matter means a lot of different things to different people. “To matter” is a complicated thing to think about. To me, living a life that matters means that I am making a difference in someone else’s life. I try every day to make a positive impact in someone else’s life. To me, that’s what makes me feel like I matter. Whether it’s as easy as just making my roommate laugh or helping my mom at 8pm with her computer issues, I honestly can say I not only enjoy doing that but it gives me a sense of mattering.

I write this as I am going through old videos of choir performances in high school that I did tech for. Doing those gave me a pretty awesome sense of mattering. Me and a group of 4 guys would more or less be the backbone of every choir and band performance, pep rally, anything requiring some kind of tech. This gave me an immense sense of mattering. The fact that I was able to make their lives easier and enhance the production quality of all these different events made me feel like I mattered.

From the book “Dare to Matter,” Jordan Kassalow defines mattering as finding what drives you or needs you and acting on it. More or less, finding your niche in the world.

In my career, I am taking a few steps to matter. Mainly, I like to add value to the company I work for. I’ve been able to reduce operating costs and streamline processes for a number of things in my time there. Not only has my boss been very grateful but my own workload has been reduced. I used to have to spend 3-4 hours per laptop setting them all up but now it’s all automated – I can just ship people brand new laptops and once they sign in it loads everything automatically. A year ago when I was doing 3 laptops a year it made sense, but now when we have 6 new hires starting in the next 4 weeks it starts to make less sense. The really satisfying part for me is getting to see the fruits of my labor. One example of this is me building a lot of custom programs to tie different parts of our technology together. One of these is tying our physical security system to our unified security management software that monitors our network for threats. With it, we can see all of our security threats, virtual and physical, from one place and have smart alerts based on all of it. Server room door open and suddenly the core stack went down? Seems a little sus.

I think there are a lot of things that feed me. One notable one is my curiosity and desire for learning. I am naturally very curious and love learning about the silliest stuff sometimes. For example you could ask me about how fire alarms work and I could tell you how all of the different parts of a system work, why every part of it needs to be supervised, all the different codes and how they influence installs and product design. No real reason I need to learn it; I’m not going into the fire protection field or anything. But it’s just really fun to learn about in my opinion.

Categories
Uncategorized

Ambiguity

There are many times in my life when I have had to navigate an uncertain situation. One of those situations was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic at work. I remember being at my desk on that Thursday in early march when we all realized it was for real. I was sitting at my desk working on deploying a couple new utility servers when I got a text from my mom asking when I was going to be home. I said, “Dunno, why do you ask?” She then explained to me what was going on. I told her I’d be home when I got off work (it was already about 3 or 4pm at that point).

Next day, me and my coworker were discussing what we would do from a technology standpoint. We were in a pretty magical place though. Even though we had just merged with another company less than a month ago and practically doubled in size overnight, there was one thing that we both had in common. About 40-50% of our workforce was already remote – we had people in Virginia, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, you name it. This was a great benefit for us – we could spend more time strategizing and less time scrambling. While I knew other people in the industry that were scrambling for budget increases or deploying VPNs, we had the benefit of time since we already had remote collaboration tools – and that bought us options. One of those options was actually a blessing in many ways. The other company we merged with were Microsoft partners, and they got a number of benefits from it – including a number of Microsoft 365 licenses. They had been under-utilizing these benefits and one of my jobs was to make the company better utilize those benefits. Our side of things was on Google Apps for email and a number of various solutions for phone conferencing and two shared WebEx accounts that had to be scheduled so that no two were used at the same time. It was a massive pain.

I proposed a solution: Our side of the company would migrate email to Microsoft 365, and we as a company would standardize on Microsoft Teams for video/voice conferencing. This would in the end save us about $600 a month, between dropping the Google licenses, getting rid of the various WebEx accounts, and getting the other side of the company onto the benefit licenses.

We had executed a full migration by May with no disruptions to email service. It was pretty awesome to see all these moving parts come together in the way they did. Without the COVID-19 pandemic motivating us, we probably would not have a) unified the company technology that quickly or b) saved that much money as quickly as we did. I think that is a great example about how an uncertain situation can motivate you to make some impactful and lasting change for the better.

I also learned a number of things from this experience. One is that you can react when you don’t flinch. What I mean by this is you can have a knee-jerk reaction to do something, but once you’re down that path you might realize there was a better option down a different path. For us in this instance it was really luck that helped us more than anything but it taught me that lesson of what happens when things work the right way.