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Hunting and Gathering in the Age of COVID

Collecting knowledge is a large part of everyday conversations. Contributing knowledge to a conversation keeps it going and allows individuals to learn new information, debate their current knowledge, and even change their opinions on certain topics. In the IT world, the distribution of new findings is vital to advances in technology. We work together to tackle issues, discover new findings, and test solutions. Whether we’re talking about creating a new product for common issues in IT or bringing something new to the dinner table, our hunting and gathering roots go deeper than we know, and a quarantine has given us the opportunity to return to our tribal tactics. Confined to our homes, we must now turn to the outside world and our devices to hunt and gather new information to redistribute within our homes and to our colleagues.

Find Your Medieval   

A coworker of mine and his wife are deep into medieval culture. Similar to a renaissance festival, but throughout the year. Certain hobbies like smithing, embroidery, archery, and more are included in medieval reenactments. But that’s beside the point. The point is, at the end of the day, they can come home and talk together at the dinner table about their hobbies and where they cross over. Since their interests both existed in a certain time period, they’re able to find similarities between them. So the conversation can go something like, “Hey I learned this today in archery,” and then a response of, “Oh, that’s interesting, did you know archery and embroidery are similar in this way?” It may be apples to oranges, but the overarching fruit theme is there. For tech pros, this might look something like a member of the sales team having lunch or a video meeting with an editor. They work for the same company and know about the same products, but each one has something different to bring to the table. With technology as the overarching theme, tech pros can discuss anything from new discoveries to recent updates. The possibilities are endless if you find a common subject.

Learning Technology Religiously

In my  community of orthodox Jews, it’s tradition to read and learn the Torah (aka the Bible, Five Books of Moses, etc.) from start to finish (every year, in fact)—and associated texts like psalms and prophets; and also the Talmud, which would require its own essay to adequately describe—but equally as important, we’re encouraged to question these texts and even strike up debates as a means of further our understanding—both of our faith and ourselves. These teachings and conversations in both lecture and partnered learning (possibly a precursor to pair programming?) happen at all hours of the day and night. But our once face-to-face meetings with our learning partners have now become phone calls or video chats. The community adapted and we continue to learn. We continue to bring our findings to the dinner table at the end of the day, where everyone can join in on the conversation—spouses, kids, etc. Being actively engaged in religious text can lead to conversations for years (trust me, I KNOW), but what about those who don’t have a 126-foot-long scroll of animal hide (i.e., the Torah) or 2,711 pages of 500BCE-to-1500CE. commentary (i.e., the Talmud) to read? No, I’m not trying to convert you, but I do believe the practice of reexamining and questioning religious text can be applied to learning and adapting to new technology while in quarantine, and allow us to create a greater conversation. For example, when I think about studying technology religiously, I think about confronting the obvious issues and hard-to-ask questions. So, ask yourself, what are the obvious technical issues you’re facing when working from home? What practices would better suit your situation? Chances are your family is struggling with the same Wi-Fi connection or the need for noise-cancelling headphones. We can apply the learning practice of questioning traditional practices to allow tech pros and the family and friends who love them to have a conversation without forcing them to find anything compelling about sorting algorithms, routing protocols, or operating systems. The answer also lies in bringing online communication into our homes.

Keep the Conversation Flowing

Here’s the fun part. Given our new “blended” living and working situations, we’re faced with the task of creating a new way to communicate and share knowledge—both in terms of the source and the way you share. First, pick a topic. It has to be something everyone is interested in, although it doesn’t have to be something anyone has deep experience with. Maybe you set your compass by whatever holiday is upcoming and find out everything about it; or use an online diversity guide to learn more about history and experiences of the celebrated group for the month; or maybe you just agree you all want to learn more about gardening, cars, or whatever tickles your fancy. Make sure you don't gatekeep. Everyone approaches a new topic in their own way. Just because you decide you want to grow in your appreciation of gaming doesn’t mean you have to save Hyrule together. The key here is to share differing perspectives. Example: I’m not much of a gamer myself, but I find the history of how teams developed certain aspects of classic games—from texture maps to compression algorithms—to be endlessly fascinating. While you may not be able to visit your favorite museums or weekly learning sessions, or even talk to your favorite coworker on a daily basis, the internet is an amazing tool. We may not have face-to-face conversations, but following informative podcasts, reading up on the latest product launches, watching SolarWinds Lab episodes, or creating your own online chatroom to geek out about new findings can greatly increase the spread of knowledge we’d normally gather throughout our day-to-day activities. So, there’s no need to try and discuss datasheets with your small children or express your concerns with a certain software to your dog. The simple act of hunting and gathering information can leave you with plenty to bring to the table in your next online conversation.
Leon Adato
Leon Adato is a Head Geek™ and technical evangelist at SolarWinds, and is a Cisco® Certified Network Associate (CCNA), MCSE and SolarWinds Certified Professional (he…
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