Dropped Packets with Stephen Foskett — SolarWinds TechPod 003

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Listen in on a candid conversation with Stephen Foskett, a fixture in the world of enterprise information technology, longtime voice in the storage industry, and organizer-in-chief of Gestalt IT's Tech Field Day. Stephen divulges some of his best tech-related travel tips, secret passions, and what the future has in store for Tech Field Day with TechPod Dropped Packets host Alex Navarro. Related Links:  
Stephen Foskett


Stephen Foskett is an active participant in the world of enterprise information technology, currently focusing on enterprise storage, server virtualization, networking, and cloud computing. He… Read More

Episode Transcript

Alex: Stephen Foskett is a fixture in the world of enterprise information technology, longtime voice in the storage industry, and organizer in chief of Gestalt IT’s Tech Field Day–events hosted in North America and EMEA to bring IT product vendors and independent thought leaders together to discuss industry trends and tech advancements. I’m Alex Navarro with SolarWinds TechPod. This is Dropped Packets.

Alex: You actually travel quite a bit for work.

Stephen: Yes.

Alex: A little bit here and there. Do you have some favorite bits that you still look forward to?

Stephen: I do. And you know, the thing about traveling for work is that it sounds like a lot of fun until you’re doing it and then it’s not so much fun. And, you know, I know, I’m not going to sit here and complain and say, oh, it’s so awful to have to fly to Las Vegas or San Francisco or you know, some places, you know, Milan, it’s so terrible, but it is honestly, you know, kind of, it kind of wears on you. I mean, nobody likes being on a plane, nobody likes being in hotels and so on. I mean, even nice hotels are only moderately nice. But, the thing that I love about traveling is, if you can do something that’s local and that’s one of my, that’s where my, my biggest travel tip, find something that you can only do there.

Alex: Oh, I like that.

Stephen: You know, go to some kind of restaurant. Some kind of activity. I mean, obviously, you know, go see the tourist things, but, you know, have that special kind of food that they only make there, or something. And that’s, I think the, you know, my favorite part of traveling is that is I try to find out like something local, something interesting, something off the beaten path that is going to be–going to stick with me. So, I’ll remember that time that I went to Rochester…and I do because, you know, I got to have the hot sauce in the Garbage Plate in Rochester and it’s like wow, that’s the thing that I did.

Alex: In the Garbage Plate?

Stephen: In Rochester, that’s a thing. Google it.

Alex: OK.

Stephen: Yup.

Alex: And so what about visiting Austin? What’s the, the one thing, authentic experience that you’ve had here?

Stephen: Honestly, for me, Austin is about the food.

Alex: Oh, naturally.

Stephen: I mean, there are so many great restaurants here. I was like so excited. We were like, oh my gosh, we’ve got to go to Kerbey Lane for breakfast, you know, and you’ve got to have migas because it’s like, you can’t get this stuff in other places, or you can, but it’s meh, you know? We went to Amy’s Ice Creams, you know, I mean, we went to, you know, all these like kind of favorite places in Austin already just this week because it’s just all saved up. Oh, I got to go to my favorite Austin thing.

Alex: And so, OK, we talked a little bit about the drawbacks, but you know, do you have any tech tips that you use?

Stephen: The biggest tip is the frequent flyer membership kind of stuff. I like to say that people, people always think that that’s about, you know, drinking champagne in first class, but it’s totally not. It’s about having a less awful experience when things inevitably go bad. And so, you know, by joining the frequent flyer program and joining the hotel program and so on, and then trying to focus on those programs and get some status on those programs, it just means that when your flight is canceled, you can call somebody and they’ll actually answer and move you to another flight.

Alex: You’ll actually talk to a human?

Stephen: Yeah. I mean, first class is not what it’s chalked up to be. It’s, it’s the fact that somebody will answer the phone when I’m stuck in Detroit.

Alex: That someone will help you in your time of need.

Stephen: Exactly. Yeah. And then another one of my favorite, you know, from a tech perspective, one of my favorite tips is, I love Google Fi. Now, I’m an iPhone user, but the Google Fi with the Google Pixel phone or the Google Nexus, is what I have, is so cool because it works anywhere in the world and you basically get, you know, you can have data and maps and stuff.

Alex: Unlimited data I’m guessing?

Stephen: Well, it’s 10 bucks a gig and it works anywhere in the world. I’ve used it probably, I personally used it in about 30 countries.

Alex: Oh, wow.

Stephen: And it just works. You land, you turn on your phone, and it’s on. And I love that.

Alex: Well of course, because naturally we need to be tethered to our smartphones at all times.

Stephen: How else would I tweet?

Alex: Are there any other things that you must travel with?

Stephen: Well, you know, it’s funny, I have been traveling with my laptop less and my iPad more. I got the, I’ve got the iPad Pro with the keyboard and I find that I can usually travel just with that. You know, the portable battery packs, I’ve gone through, like 50 of those like portable battery packs with various features. But, the coolest thing about those again is, is that you can charge them from USB ports.

Alex: Right.

Stephen: And, another crazy tech tip, if you find yourself in a foreign country where your things don’t work, the back of the TV probably has a USB port and you can probably charge something…

Alex: Ooh, that’s a good life hack!

Stephen: …From the USB port on the back of the TV.

Alex: So you don’t need an adapter, just look on the back of the TV.

Stephen: I had to do that and once I left all my foreign adapters and I was, it was like late at night and I’m like, how do I check? Oh yeah, there we go. That’s fine.

Alex: I was going to say, that seems like a very specific tip, so it had to have come from personal experience.

Stephen: Oh yeah. Well, we did that on cruise ship too, because it was all these like, like all these like electronics on the cruise ship that had like a USB port on them. And so, I just told the kids, I’m like, plug your phone into that. I guess that’s bad advice.

Alex: Tech-related activities, hobbies that you like to do in your spare time?

Stephen: I’m a mega-nerd. Do you really want to open that door?

Alex: I mean, it’s already out there.

Stephen: OK. How about this? I designed and 3-D-printed, one of the items on the famous SolarWinds Wall of Geekdom.

Alex: I heard a rumor that you had a 3-D printer.

Stephen: I love to design and print 3-D stuff. It’s so cool to have something in your head and then, like an hour later, in your hand. I mean, it’s like magic. It’s like we live in the future. So I’m, I’m huge on that. I also am really into other, basically the Holy Trinity of Tech, right? You’ve got computers, you’ve got cars, and you’ve got watches. And I’m into those things. And so, I actually have blogs and have written a lot and done a lot of investigation into each of those things, just because I just love that whole mechanical thing, you know?

Alex: Well, I did notice your, your lovely timepiece there.

Stephen: I got a fancy watch. I love my fancy watches.

Alex: That’s why they call you the dashing…

Stephen: Do they?

Alex: …Stephen Foskett. Someone tweeted about it.

Stephen: That’s weird. I’m dashing away.

Alex: So, tell me a little bit about your watch collection then. I hear it’s extensive.

Stephen: So I love, I love watches because they’re so, they’re so real and visceral. Like as a, as a computer person now, everything is software, everything is programming and, you know, sitting at a keyboard and check, check, check, it’s all digital and it just does its thing. I love the fact that you can have something that is purely mechanical. I mean, one of my favorite aspects is that it literally will die without a human touching it because they stop. I mean, you have to wind it. And then, I love learning about all the crazy complications and the ways that they’ve, that they’ve engineered these things and the close engineering tolerances. It’s safe to say that watches are probably the most high tech thing that doesn’t use electricity.

Alex: I like that.

Stephen: So I, yeah, I love the, I love that whole aspect. And, so again, back to the whole traveling thing, one of the coolest things that I did was I went to Switzerland and I went to Swiss watch school and I built my own Swiss watch.

Alex: You did not!

Stephen: And that was super fun. I would recommend it to anyone.

Alex: How long did it take you to do that?

Stephen: Oh, it was basically a kit, so, like a day, but it was still really cool.

Alex: Are you wishing I hadn’t asked that followup question? It sounded really impressive.

Stephen: It sounded really cool. Yeah. No, that’s it. What can you do?

Alex: Well, I will say, I don’t know anyone else who has built their own Swiss watch. So, there’s that.

Stephen: That’s cool. That’s cool. And I love that, that whole, all the technology there and that’s, that’s the most fun thing about traveling and, and nerding out, is nerding out with other people that care about the same things. Because there’s like a whole community about cars and everybody talks to, geeks out about cars. I think that there’s probably similar communities and other tech areas like guns and stuff, but I don’t know anything about it and don’t care. So, you know.

Alex: It’s not your jam.

Stephen: Well that’s how, that’s how nerds are, right? You care about what you care about.

Alex: This is very true. And so the cars, is it particular to technology in the cars or just the cars themselves?

Stephen: I’m definitely more of a nerd about it. So, I really care about the engines, and the transmissions, and all that kind of stuff. I was a Wikipedia editor. I wrote over 10,000 articles on Wikipedia, including all the articles about Ferrari engines, Ford engines, Chevy engines, all that kind of stuff. I started all those. If you look at the history, you’ll see S. Foskett at the beginning of almost all those articles.

Alex: No way!

Stephen: Because I wasted way too much time and brain space on cars. Did you know that? Yeah.

Alex: I had no idea.

Stephen: Yeah, that’s a secret. I shouldn’t have said anything.

Alex: Well, now I want to see what other secrets. I’m just kidding. OK, so any passion projects that you have coming up, anything maybe that our listeners wouldn’t be privy to?

Stephen: Well…in November is the 10th anniversary of Tech Field Day.

Alex: Oh, well early congratulations.

Stephen: We’re already getting excited about inviting back people who were at the first event. We’re going to invite back as many of the delegates and speakers and all the friends we’ve met along the way and we’re going to have a huge party in San Jose. Yay. I wish it was in Austin. It’s much more fun here. Uh, no, we are going to try and get everybody back together and that’ll be a lot of fun. And I think we’re all going to look a lot older, but uh, what can you do?

Alex: Is San Jose where the first…?

Stephen: Yeah.

Alex: OK, I see.

Stephen: So, we’re going to go back to the same places and have the same people come in and stuff. That’ll be fun.

Alex: That’s exciting. Well, thank you so much for divulging all of your secrets.

Stephen: Yeah. Those are all my secrets.

Alex: I look forward to you guys celebrating your 10th anniversary. That’s a huge accomplishment and milestone.

Stephen: I invite everybody to join us too. I mean, you know, we share all this stuff online and you know, if people are in the neighborhood they can drop me a line and maybe they can come to the 10th-anniversary party.

Alex: In San Jose, California.

Stephen: Yes, in San Jose, California.

Alex: Well, until next time then. Thank you so much, Stephen. We really appreciate it.

Stephen: Great. Thanks.

Alex: Thanks for visiting. I’m Alex Navarro and we’ll catch you on the next episode of SolarWinds TechPod, Dropped Packets.