Getting to Know the New THWACK Community Manager — SolarWinds TechPod 064

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The SolarWinds community,, has a new community manager. Ben Keen has been an active voice in the community for years as a THWACK MVP and has now decided to join SolarWinds' efforts to continue having the greatest community out there. Ben will be joining as a regular voice here on TechPod and bringing his many years of IT experience and passion for community to our conversations. In this episode, we’ll dive into his experience and hopes for the future of THWACK. Related Links
Ben Keen


Ben's love for computers started back in the 8-bit days and grew from there. After joining his current employer, he found himself working as the… Read More
Chrystal Taylor

Host | Head Geek

Chrystal Taylor is a dedicated technologist with nearly a decade of experience and has built her career by leveraging curiosity to solve problems, no matter… Read More

Episode Transcript

Announcer: This episode of TechPod is brought to you by, the SolarWinds community for IT Pros.

Chrystal:  Welcome to SolarWinds TechPod. I’m Head Geek Chrystal Taylor, and today I’m excited to be joined by Ben Keen, the newest addition to our community team. Our free community platform,, is a very active space where IT pros can go to get help, share creations, network, create and vote on feature requests, and get information from SolarWinds itself. Ben and I are very passionate about supporting this community as former THWACK MVPs, and Ben will soon be a familiar voice here on TechPod, so let’s commence with getting to know him. Hi Ben.

Ben: Hey Chrystal, how are you?

Chrystal:  I’m doing good today. Let’s kick things off with a real generic question of how did you get into IT?

Ben: My adventure in IT really started back in 1999 when I joined the military. There were all these jobs in front of me that I could have picked, and I was very aware I wanted a job that I could really translate easily out here. Growing up, I was always that kid that enjoyed seeing how things worked, whether it was taking a toaster apart and making my mom mad or just seeing what happened when you touched things. Didn’t always work out in my favor, but hey, it worked out in the end. I guess you can say it really started then, and that was back in the 8-bit days.

Ben: Then, when I graduated like I said, I joined the military. My job was to provide the voice and data communications to the front. Then, after eight and a half years of service, I decided I had enough, and I got out, and I moved here to Pittsburgh, and my adventure continued, from going back and stepping back to the help desk, which is another story amongst itself, and over the last 10+ years or so, working my way back up to a senior SysAdmin. Now, since joining SolarWinds, I find myself, as you mentioned, the community THWACK manager, which has been an interesting transition from direct break/fix IT to more of a marketing IT hybrid.

Chrystal:  There’s many roles in tech, and they’re not all super technical. It sounds like you joined IT as a career on the eve of Y2K, so I’m interested to hear a little bit more about how that first year went for you.

Ben: Honestly, the first few months was not IT-related. I spent about nine weeks in South Carolina getting yelled at because in basic training, you can’t do anything right, and then I spent a few weeks at Fort Gordon, Georgia, learning actually how to do my job. So the first few months was really not technical. After that, it was different because even though we were focusing on the Y2Kness of things, by the time I got out of training and actually started doing my job, Y2K had already passed, so it was almost back to business as usual.

Chrystal:  It sounds like the military has really affected you in general, as you would expect, and probably your IT career and how it shaped where you went.

Ben: Yeah. Regardless of the job, or military occupational skill, MOS, as it’s referred to, that a man or a woman picks when they join the military, and regardless of the amount of years he or she decides to spend, it does have a lasting impact. It might impact some people a little bit deeper than others, but overall, for me, at least, it was a really good jump point because at the time, being 18, 19 years old straight out of high school, I knew college wasn’t necessarily my route to go, but I also knew that I needed something, some sort of skillset that would work. It gave me the opportunity to work alongside some great people, which has continued to this day, and it really set me forward to be able to handle some of the more stressful situations that can come at you in an IT realm.

Ben: One of the interesting interview questions I would normally get was, “Describe your most stressful day.” My caveat to that was, “In or outside of combat?” because combat is its own little thing. I will tell you guys real quick. Combat is 23 hours of boredom, followed by 30 minutes of straight panic and chaos, followed by 30 minutes of trying to figure out where your butt is. And that’s really combat.

Ben: When it comes to outside of combat, every lifestyle has its own stressors, whether you’re cramming for that exam on your final year of college or the military or whatever, but when people would ask, “What’s the most stressful day?” I would say, “In or out?” because there’s a huge difference between military stressing me out as far as the combat stuff compared to… One time, when I worked for one of the law firms here in Pittsburgh, I ended up deleting one of the attorneys’ entire user drive, and that came with a whole new level of stress. Again, the stresses of IT are similar yet different.

Chrystal:  For sure. All of our experience shapes how we perceive the world, and that includes stressors. That definitely sounds stressful. I think if you’ve been in IT more than a year or two and you haven’t had a stressful experience, then are you really in IT?

Ben: Even if you take it back to the help desk. When somebody asks me what’s a good path to get started in IT, I always refer to the help desk. I think the help desk is often discounted. People look at it as, “Ugh, the help desk.” In my thought process, the help desk is really the Genesis of where our careers begin. I can’t even count how many people I’ve talked to, and you say, “Where’d you get your start?” I would say at least 95%, if not higher than that, say, “On the help desk.”

Ben: Then, I think back to my stresses of the help desk day when you get that frantic user who is going through what they feel is the end of the world because their computer’s not working right or their phone’s not receiving their emails or “enter issue here,” and unfortunately, you’re the first voice they hear. You’re catching all their flack square in a chest, but I think that’s where you learn how to really speak to people. Chrystal, you and I, we can talk ones and zeros, we can talk in all that fun jazz, but when you have your typical end-user, they don’t care why, necessarily, they just want it to work. Right. The funny joke is rebooting, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Chrystal:  It’s a joke because it works.

Ben: Quick tangent here for our listeners. Recently, Chrystal, myself, and a few of our others joined some of our community members over in London. Had a great week, which we’ll touch upon later on in the podcast, but on the way back, I was sitting in Newark getting ready to board my flight back here to Pittsburgh, and there was a communications issue with the airplane. They were trying to fix it, trying to fix it, and the pilot came across, said, “Hey, look, we’re going to shut this thing down for a minute, restart it, and see if it works.” I kid you not, they literally turned it on, turned it off again, the entire plane, and our comms issue was clear, and we were able to get airborne.

Chrystal:  Hey man, planes run on computers too.

Ben: I love it.

Chrystal:  That’s scary, though.

Ben: Yeah.

Chrystal:  It’s crazy how much of our lives run on some form of computer these days and how often it works. That’s why it’s such a joke in IT, that just turn it off and turn it back on again. Even people who don’t work in IT know that’s the first step to do anything. It’s, “Oh, is it not working? Turn it off and turn it back on again.”

Chrystal:  That’s awesome. We’re talking about the THWACK community a lot and your new role as a community manager, and you come from a more traditional IT background and IT role. How has that been, transitioning to a community management role, and what drew you to it?

Ben: Like I said, I had done break/fix for the last 20-some years. I did help desk, I did hardware, I did mobile device management, everything, and I think that’s key for someone who gets into the monitoring space to be a monitoring engineer, whether that’s your official job title or not. And if it’s not, talk to your HR and make it so. For someone to be effective in a communications role, you’re not expected to be an expert in everything, but you should be dangerous. I managed Windows systems, Linux systems, networking, everything, so when I took over my last role, a straight monitoring engineer, even though they called it system administration, I knew enough.

Ben: I met Thwack… I refer to the community as its own entity because, for people that don’t know, we have about 180,000+ IT professionals, mostly within the monitoring space, all using at least one of our products, which is also really good for us. I really fell in love with it because at my previous role, and I was the only person working within the tools. I had all these different products that I was responsible for. Eventually, I came in, and I was the only person, but then I found THWACK, and I found myself surrounded by, at the time, probably about 160-ish thousand coworkers. That’s really where the passion came from, and this opportunity to join SolarWinds and take the THWACK community mantle or flag or whatever you want to call it really came out of nowhere, to be honest. I wasn’t looking to leave my other job or anything like that. I was content, and sometimes content can be a bad word to use, especially in IT, where everything changes every day.

Ben: Again, I wasn’t looking for a move, but this position presented itself. I look back to all the assistance users like you, Chrystal, and some of our other users have given to me, and I was like, “This is my opportunity to give back.” Not only that, but this is my opportunity to step away from 20 years of “My server’s running slow,” or whatever user complaint there is. This was different. Again, it’s different, but not different. Rather than dealing with, “My server’s slow,” I got to deal with, “Where are my points? Where’s my swag? Where’s this? Reset my password,” but I enjoy it because it’s truly giving back to the community and truly helping others expand upon their own knowledge.

Chrystal:  Absolutely. I think we can both agree that the community is a wonderful place full of wonderful people. Let’s pretend I don’t work here. It’s my favorite online community that I’m a part of. I’ve been in other forums, and there’s always an air of, “I know more than you,” and I feel like that’s not a situation that happens on Thwack. Our MVPs are the heart and soul of the community, and it’s about giving back. I had a very similar experience coming into SolarWinds, where I wasn’t really looking. Then an opportunity appeared, and I encourage everyone who’s listening to keep an eye out for those opportunities because you might not think that you’re ready to move on to something else. Still, something exciting might come along, and it might be something you want to do.

Ben: Absolutely. Let me go on a little tangent here for a second. Let me touch base on our THWACK MVPs because, like you said, they are the true heartbeat. As I mentioned before, we have over 180,000 members on THWACK. Out of that 180,000, we have under 60 members that have been recognized by SolarWinds staff as being what we consider MVPs. These members are hand-selected. We look at things as their contributions to the community, their contributions to the product, whether or not they’re taking part in user experience research or making some really great posts, making some really great comments. We really want to see these people in their activity, and their activity really speaks for itself.

Ben: Just like you, Chrystal, I’ve been a member of many forums, and I’ve seen people trying to duplicate THWACK, but they can’t do it. I tell people THWACK is the fun, professional forum. Yes, we have our serious discussions where we talk about, “How do you fix this?” or, “Hey, can you give me help with this?” We also have our time to lay back.

Ben: Every month, we have a mission. It’s our community’s time to typically learn about a new product or to learn about a new offering, or to learn more about an existing offering. Every April, we do a bracket battle. We’re coming off of the basketball tournament, getting ready to go into NHL playoffs, so we do this bracket battle. It’s just a fun time. This year, it was battle of the squads. It came down to The Incredibles vs. Monty Python, which Monty Python eked out the Incredibles in a very tough battle, but again, we let loose. I think as professionals, not only do we need to keep up on knowing things, we also need to be able to step back and have that, even if it’s two or three or four minutes, to breathe and just relax because we know as soon as those few minutes are over, the dumpster fire’s behind us.

Ben: To the MVPs, there’s some really good benefits to being selected as an MVP that we will be posting about on, so I encourage people to keep an eye out on them. I’m actually working on that write-up.

Ben: But if any of the THWACK MVPs are listening, and I had a chance to say this to the handful in London, I just want to say it publicly here on this podcast; thank you for your continuing efforts to help us look good. But I don’t think we would nearly have the success we have, either before or now, in our past lives or in our Solarian lives, without people like the MVPs keeping us in check.

Ben: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached out to the MVP community to literally pull my butt out of the fire because an upgrade went wrong or an alert wasn’t working the way I wanted it to, and within minutes, four or five MVPs were helping me out. It’s a really good community, so again, if you’re not signed up for, but you’re listening to this podcast, please visit, and make an account. It is free.

Chrystal:  A handful of our MVPs were in attendance at our first SWUG, which, for those of you that don’t know, is SolarWind’s User Group. It’s in-person, typically. I think there’s been one virtual one that we tried out during the pandemic that wasn’t as good as we had hoped due to the nature of SWUGs, which is a networking and learning event that is in-person, and the networking is a lot harder virtually. We just did that at the end of April, and since it’s the first community event since you started here as a community manager, is there anything you would like the audience to know about SWUG or about the networking and things that you can get out of those types of events?

Ben: Yeah. First things first, I will tell you there’s a massive difference between running the event and just attending the event. It’s two fun, action-filled days of training with some of the leading experts. Not just from SolarWinds, we also bring in, again, looking back at our MVPs, we tap that community to come forward and present. There were some excellent sessions that we presented on things like comparing flight control information to how that relates to monitoring, all these different little things that you don’t necessarily think of, but these presenters bring it to you from their own perspective. Sometimes that can help.

Ben: I know for me. Personally, one of my very first User Groups was in New York, and we got talking about alerts and how to make them pretty because the discussion became, “No one pays attention to ugly alerts.” I took that back to my previous company, and that’s now the standard to make them pretty. It gives you an opportunity to really leverage everyone’s perspective and to take back and really shape yourself. I say it tongue in cheek, but SWUG is really THWACK in real life. It’s the same type of thing where you can come up with your questions; it doesn’t matter how new you are.

Ben: I talked to one person at the London SWUG who literally just took over the product the month prior, and he was telling me how thankful he was to see about this because he had no idea what he was doing, but he was leaving… He wasn’t leaving as an expert because you can’t expect that for two days, but he was leaving with A, enough knowledge to be dangerous, B, a THWACK account, because he knew now the power of THWACK, and C, he left motivated. I think that’s a lot of times where we, as IT professionals, sometimes get stuck in the mud of everydayness. Sometimes it’s hard to find new ways to think of how to monitor a server because really it’s WMI or the agent. Now what?

Chrystal:  Sure, but if you’re a network admin, that knowledge might be escaping you.

Ben: Might be a power, exactly. The nice thing, again, about SWUGS is that I will tell people, like most things on THWACK, that the conference itself is free; you just got to get yourself there. You got to take care of all that, so talk to your business and see how they’ll help you out with that. It’s about two days. We say two days, but it’s really about a day and a half of networking, of sharing ideas, of just talking with other people. I believe we have a couple coming up here in the States later on, in a few months, so stay tuned to for those dates.

Chrystal:  I think you nailed it when you said that SWUG is like THWACK in person. The chance to get to network in person and meet those people, those things that are in THWACK, the bits of levity, add to that networking. You can find a friend, and that friend may want to help you more. It’s also a chance to talk to product managers in person; there’s usually product managers at these events. They do things like the feature requests live and things like that. It’s a different perspective than the THWACK online community.

Ben: The other thing, too, that is truly cool is that often, you go to these IT conferences, the huge ones we all know, Cisco Live, these big ones, and they cut you off. Wi-fi may or may not be available, or there may not be space for you to sit down. We actually make sure at the SWUG you have that opportunity so that if you do meet somebody that knows something about what you’re working on… Again, I gave a presentation on modern dashboarding, which, modern dashboards came out with the 2020.2 release of the Orion Platform, and members were able to come and show me what they were doing within their environment because they have online access. They can actually say, “Hey, this is not working right.” Rather than trying to sit there and describe it and me visualize it, bring your laptops, bring your problems, bring your notes, and hopefully if you can’t walk away with the answer after the week, you at least know someone that you can keep in touch with.

Chrystal:  We’ve touched on a few things now, all community-related, for the most part. Going back to your previous experience in the military and in more traditional IT roles, how do you expect that experience to shape what you hope to accomplish as a community manager?

Ben: The biggest thing that I want to do as the community manager is really push the community forward. What I’m hoping to do is to leverage my experiences within IT and help shape how our members translate and work. The other fun thing that I’ve had the opportunity to do is… Like you alluded to, I was a member of THWACK. I was a customer for years, so there were pain points along the way. I now have an opportunity to address those pain points, whether it’s getting the points, because… For those that are not members of THWACK yet, or if you’ve forgotten, you can earn points by doing different actions, and then you can take those points and redeem them for swag, t-shirts, socks, golf balls.

Chrystal:  Exam vouchers.

Ben: Exactly. You can get a voucher to get your SolarWinds certification done, which is just amazing. I don’t know any other product that lets you earn that type of thing for free. But again, I’ve seen these pain points, and I’m pretty sure, Chrystal, you saw them, too, but it’s my opportunity to really come and say, “Hey, I’m still wearing two hats.” I’m wearing the customer hat sometimes on top of the community manager hat.

Chrystal:  Yeah. I think it’s important for those of us that came from customer status to maintain that customer voice inside SolarWinds. It can be a real benefit to getting the customers heard on some things if we can tell those stories internally.

Ben: The one thing I’m working on, again, coming from the customer side, is recognizing our MVPs more. Again, going back to this community of select users. We, SolarWinds, the THWACK community managers, do give these people the recognition they deserve, but at the same time, we only do it once or twice. And we ask a lot of these people. They get a lot, but we also ask a lot, so I’m working on a program that I’m drafting to present to my management team and say, “Hey, look, I think we should do this.” If it gets approved, and I’m hoping it will, it’ll be our opportunity to really be publicly thanking these people because to be a THWACK MVP is not just some woohoo thing. It is something to be proud of because, again, you’re hand-selected out of a group of 180,000. You really bust your butt. We ask a lot of you, but you get a lot back.

Chrystal:  Absolutely. And even if you can’t be as helpful as the MVPs, any little bit helps, any sharing helps. It’s easy as a customer to go in there and say, “You know, they’re asking me for this dashboard, and I don’t really know what to put on there.” People have shared their dashboards, they share their alerts, they share those things, so if you’re learning, or you’re bringing somebody on to help you out, and you don’t have the time to fully dig in and go over these things, THWACK is a great resource to get ideas and to get help, more so than even just helping others. Then, when you get to a point where you can help others, we fully, obviously, encourage you to do that.

Ben: The one section of THWACK that I would like to really push people to who is rather new to the community, we reinvented our content exchange, and content exchange is really where you can save yourself a lot of time and effort because what you have there are community members who have come up with something really good, whether it be an alert, a dashboard, or report, and decide to publicly share it. It’s sitting there, and it’s really free to download. I published a few dashboards myself that you can download and add to your environment, then tweak them to match your environment because they may not be 100% percent matching your stuff, but with a few simple tweaks, you can do it.

Ben: The other thing I encourage people to do is, if you do download a dashboard or a report or an alert and you found out a better way to present something, we have a DM, or direct messaging, system on THWACK. You can message the author, and they can work with you or work with me to get those updates made to the content exchange and to keep that idea rolling because, again, the one thing I love, I absolutely love, about being in IT is nothing’s written in stone. Everything is meant to change, and if something becomes stagnant, it becomes unusable. I love for people to look at what I’ve done and see what kind of fun, little twist they can bring because, again, it’s about your perspective about what you’re doing.

Chrystal:  Yeah, it’s almost like a real collaborative effort. Even though you don’t work at the same company and you don’t necessarily use it for the same things, it’s a collaborative effort to improve what we’re doing, what we’re showing to everyone else, how we’re using our monitoring platform. It’s a great space, and we encourage you to reach out to others. If you see something missing or if you see an improvement that can be made, let somebody know. We are on THWACK as @ChrystalT and @the_ben_keen. If you are looking for any kind of contact there, you’re welcome to reach out to us.

Ben: Absolutely. The one thing, too, and I think Chrystal, you alluded to this earlier, the one great thing about THWACK is it doesn’t matter your experience level. Whether you’re that brand new monitoring person who just walked into the office and your boss is like, “Hey, congratulations,” or, “I feel sorry for you,” depending on how you want to look at it, or you’ve been in the monitoring space for years, or you’re a SolarWinds Partner, and you’re reselling our services or whatever, don’t be afraid to speak up. The additive of there’s no dumb question truly exists on our platform. Ask everything.

Ben: The one thing I do encourage users to do, and this is also something I’ll be working on, is search. Over the next year or so, I hope to make our search on THWACK not just search THWACK but also search the customer portal, our success center, all of these different avenues to gain information of what’s going on within SolarWinds. But search, because I guarantee you, like most things in life, people have asked maybe not the exact wording, but pretty darn close to what your question is, and if not, ask it. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say, “I have this question,” because nobody is going to come at you harshly. We try to keep it friendly, open to anybody, regardless of where you’re from, what you’re doing. All those fun little silos we try to put ourselves into, all that goes away on THWACK because on THWACK, there’s one silo, and it’s professionals. It’s people trying to get the best out of their product, and that’s all that matters.

Chrystal:  Yep. It’s absolutely the friendliest place that I know of on the internet, which we could go into that, but we won’t. Other than the MVP spotlight that you hope to put into effect, what are you most excited for here at SolarWinds in general, not just the community?

Ben: The one thing I’m really excited for is just to continue my professional growth, honestly. That might sound kind of selfish, but like I said, I did break/fix for 20 years, and now I’m entering this marketing space. This is the first time in my entire career that I’m not part of the IT department. I’m part of marketing. I do miss my admin privileges on my computer, not going to lie. I do miss that, but I get it; I’m not part of that department anymore. But that opens up so many more doors for adventures, and that’s what has me so excited. I get to talk to people that normally I wouldn’t have a chance to talk to.

Ben: The one joke I used to make, or still make, is, “No one ever called the help desk just to say hi. No one says, ‘Hey, how’s your weekend been? What’s going on?'” No, it’s always hair on fire, so the opportunity to talk to people outside of the IT department that doesn’t surround, “Oh shoot, dumpster fire over here,” has been really cool to learn a different side of the business. I think, at least I hope, that by doing so I can take the last 20 years of my IT experience, blend it in with my growing marketing experience, and really grow professionally.

Ben: That’s one thing, too, that really got my attention with this position is the opportunity to not only share my experience but to still gain experience from people. Again, like I alluded to before, I think any of us, whether you just entered the IT realm or you’ve been doing this work since punch card days or reel to reel tapes or whatever, the IT world is continuously changing. By the time you get done listening to this podcast, who knows what could come up. Just look at the last two years and how people quickly adopted things like video conferencing and stuff like that.

Ben: This position allows me to continue that education for myself as well as to help others, and that’s really where I wanted to be.

Chrystal:  That’s exciting. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being excited about opportunities for professional and personal growth. Like you said, with IT being a place that constantly changes and grows and evolves itself, I think if you sit still, then you’ll get left behind, so being in a position where you can continue to learn. And like you said, the community is a great place for that because people are always challenging the way things work. Me, I’ve used the SolarWinds Orion products for 12 years, I might have a set idea of how I think that those things should be used and how things should work, and someone will come along, inevitably, and be like, “Oh, I used it like this,” and it’s some totally off the wall thing. It’s just another thing that expands your mindset, so I agree with you; I think that’s always exciting.

Ben: But again, the great thing about when it happens, at least on THWACK, when something like that happens, that person’s not coming from an attack position. They’re not coming, “Oh, I got Chrystal good. Look, I got her.” No, it’s coming from, “Hey Chrystal, I love what you did here. Check out what I did with it,” and you can really merge the ideas.

Ben: One great success story I share about the community with anybody that will listen, and since you’re our captive audience right now unless you hit stop right now, which please don’t, is a couple years ago, I was dealing with an issue as a customer where people would not let me know that a server or a compute unit was being decommissioned, and the only way I would find out is when that down node alert would go right up on the screen. The first day, okay, I’ll let it sit there, but then when I started seeing nodes that were down for 14, 20, 21, 30 days, then that’s when I would reach out, and they’d be like, “Oh yeah, that server’s decommissioned.”

Ben: I’m like, “Well, thanks for telling me,” but that gave me light in two things. One, my alerts weren’t being noticed, and that goes back to making them look pretty. Two, my users, my customers, if you will, aren’t going to tell me every time they’d shut down a server or a compute unit. So I reached out to one of the community members, and I was like, “Hey, I got this crazy idea,” and this was happening at an amusement park here in Pittsburgh. I was literally in line for a roller coaster.

Ben: By the time I left the amusement park a few hours later, we had a complete beta version of what we are now calling the case of the dead node, where it just goes out and runs a PowerShell script. The person I reached out to knows way more about PowerShell than I can ever forget, and again, it was a good collaborative unit. Then, we ended up sharing that with the community, and I think at last check, it was a few hundred downloads of that particular alert because, again, that’s an issue that we all face is people sometimes forget that monitoring is there until they need it.

Chrystal:  Absolutely. Monitoring is often not treated as a tier-one critical application, so sometimes it definitely gets forgotten.

Ben: Until something bad goes down and they didn’t get the alert, and they message the monitor person saying, “Why I didn’t get the alert?” Then you show them, “Yes, you did. It just went into your deleted folder.”

Chrystal:  Absolutely. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your background that our listeners would perchance like to hear about?

Ben: We touched base on the fact that I’m a veteran. I’m not afraid to say, “Hey, I’m a vet.” I’m still very involved in that community space, even now, and one of the spaces that I’m very involved in is medical alert service dogs. These dogs are highly trained to help those of us that came out of our time in the military with some challenges, whether they’re physical or mental challenges. I had the honor of being paired with my service dog three years ago now, and again, I don’t want to go down too much of a rabbit hole here because I can spend hours on this, but Bolt has really changed my life, so I encourage people, if you are interested, if you’re a veteran or know a veteran who might benefit from having a service dog, please check us out. You can just Google Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area or close by, feel free to drop me a note.

Ben: You can check out Bolt; she is on Instagram, of course, because who doesn’t have a social account now? Just Google or search for Bolt the Service Dog, give us a like, and you can stay involved with what’s happening because, again, even though the THWACK community is my life right now, it pays my bills, helping my brothers and sisters on the community, as well as within the veterans’ community, is my passion. That’s one thing I love about this position is it brings that passion to the table. It pays the bills. That’s great; I love it. I love helping people, so if anyone has any questions about THWACK or service dogs or whatever, find me on THWACK, @the_ben_keen. There’s underscores in there, but there’s only one of me. I’m the Ben Keen. Reach out, let me know how we can help, and if I can’t help you, then I promise I will find someone, whether it’s Chrystal or Kevin or whomever, that can really help you continue to push yourself forward.

Chrystal:  Absolutely. That’s quite admirable, and I don’t know the names of other services in other areas, but if you’re not in the Pittsburgh area, I know there are quite a few other organizations that also help with service animals due to my relationships with people in the military or ex-military. Definitely agree with Ben that service animals can be life-changing.

Ben: That’s the one great thing about the THWACK community is we don’t just talk about tech. Yes, 90% of our contact is tech, but I’ll look back at the London SWUG, for example, and one thing I love about SWUG is the personal interaction we have; you learn so much about people and what’s their passion in life. One thing I learned recently about you, Chrystal, is your absolute love for gaming. I knew you were into gaming; I didn’t know how deep you were into gaming. Again, it just brings another layer into understanding Chrystal and understanding, “Okay, I game, I don’t nearly game at the level you game,” but then again, who does? Again, that’s something that we can talk about on THWACK because, again, it’s a community. It’s not a support forum. It’s not a knowledge-based article place, even though those things are presented there. At the end of the day, we are a community. We are there for each other, regardless, again, of what container you want to put yourself into as far as how you identify yourself or anything like that. At the end of the day, everyone on THWACK is a THWACKster. We care about what makes you you, but none of that is a barrier to entry—none of that.

Chrystal:  Absolutely. It is relationships, and building those relationships and networking can change things for you; just ask me or Ben.

Ben: Right.

Chrystal:  That’s all we have time for today. Check out to join the free community. You can find Ben there, again, as @the_ben_keen, and me as @ChrystalT. Thanks, Ben, for diving into your background today.

Ben: Absolutely.

Chrystal:  And thank you for listening. Be sure to follow, rate, and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. For SolarWinds TechPod, I’m Chrystal Taylor.