A Very Merry TechPod — SolarWinds TechPod 071

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TechPod gets into the holiday spirIT as hosts Sean Sebring and Chris Bowie are joined by THWACK® Community Manager Kristen Piña-Flores to discuss what's on their IT wishlists for the upcoming year. Listen in as Sean and Chris reflect on their past year in IT, what they’re thankful for, and what their IT Resolutions are for 2023. Related Links

Episode Transcript

Announcer: This episode of TechPod is brought to you byTHWACK, the SolarWinds community with more than 150,000 members. The THWACK site has product forums, event listings, monthly missions, contests, and much, much more. There’s even a content exchange where members can share custom queries, scripts, templates, and reports with each other. To learn more, visit thwack.solarwinds.com.

Sean: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of TechPod. This TechPod episode is A Very Merry TechPod. So hold your Scrooge at the door, and we’re going to get started with some exciting topics today, talking about what we might be thankful for. We’re going to be talking about some wishlists, what we want around our holiday season, and even some resolutions to come. I’m joined today again, of course, by my co-host, Chris.

Chris: Hello, everyone.

Sean: And let’s get started. So let’s get started with the, what am I thankful for? I think this is a great way to kick something off, and we want to have some fun with it. So this year, what am I thankful for? Actually, I’m going to put Chris on the spot. Chris, what are you thankful for?

Chris: I’m thankful for many, many things. But one of the things that I am truly thankful for, and it’s very top of mind because it just happened in October, is our Solar Wednesday, which happened. So what I’m trying to say is I’m thankful for our customers because we had our first-ever Solar Wednesday event. And for that event, we were talking about launching our new solution SolarWinds Observability, as well as talking and highlighting new features for Hybrid Cloud Observability, which had a release in October as well.

Chris: But we had fantastic engagement from the community, from our customers. I think we had over 700 attendees. It was a virtual event, but it was just a really great way to reengage with customers and showcase in a new way what we have coming up and what we’re excited about, and what we hopefully want them to be excited about in the coming year and coming months.

Sean: Awesome. And I had something about community as well, and this is not a cheesy opportunity to rub elbows with all of our very friendly customers and community. But I am also thankful for community events.

Sean: Even I had a great opportunity to participate in SWUG this year, and it reminded me of other times that I have been able to engage, not just from a sales, not just from a customer’s perspective, but with other like-minded individuals, right? Folks that are interested in the same workspace.

Sean: So community events in general. I really like the opportunity to go to conventions and just chat with people, and it’s always more fun when you got something to relate to. So also happy the world’s opening back up, and I get a chance to participate in these community events.

Chris: For sure. And you traveled to Austin for [inaudible], didn’t you?

Sean: I did. I got to go back home. I got to be at SWUG, which by the way, if you’re not familiar, SWUG is SolarWinds User Group. So it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate our wonderful user community, primarily from THWACK, which is our community forum. But we had them globally this year.

Sean: We had APJ. We had London and a few locations across the US. So if you’re not familiar, take a look. We’ll get some resources for you. But it was super exciting. And again, it was just really nice to be in a community environment with some like-minded.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I think, from what I heard, we had really great turnout across the board, across the world, so love that. Love that we’re getting more events in.

Sean: All right. I’ll pick up the next one then. And I think you have something about this, too, so we can just keep teeing each other up.

Chris: Yes, I did copy you somewhat.

Sean: That’s okay. One of the things that I am most thankful for, which actually didn’t affect me too much, but it affects the world, is less commuting. I’ve been working from home for quite some time, so less commute is so much nicer. I remember when you have an eight, nine-hour work day that was actually closer to 10, 11 because of the commute that you had to throw on top of it. And being an Austin native, I’m very familiar with extra-long commutes.

Sean: And so it’s nice to see that the world, especially in the IT industry, right, we’re the pros at it. We should be able to capitalize on the fact that with technology, there are more opportunities to work remotely, to work from home, save gas, save commutes, get people off the roads, and increases productivity in many ways as well. So I’m super thankful for that.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. To echo that, that’s one of mine. I know that when we had spoken before, and we were kind of planning out and discussing this episode, you had mentioned that. And so, to piggyback off of your great idea to be thankful for, I think that I enjoy my routines at home.

Chris: I have my special teapot, special teas at home that I don’t have in the office. So having kind of your creature comforts at home, it’s difficult to replace that and replicate that in the office, isn’t it?

Sean: I like the creature comforts. I’m definitely a creature. I eat a lot of meat, chicken off the bone, and nobody wants to see that. So it’s nice to be able to just eat without any shame in your safe place.

Chris: I’m imagining you like at the Renaissance Fair. Do you know those huge turkey legs just like…

Sean: Oh yeah.

Chris: You just have turkey legs constantly every week on the podcast –

Sean: It’s pretty barbaric. It’s pretty barbaric, but there’s no shame I can do it at the comfort and safety of my home office with my camera lid closed.

Chris: I completely relate to that. It’s also nice just to be able to take your dog for a walk and get some air. That’s always a nice break too.

Sean: I’m also blessed with a young family. So my wife and I have two younger kids, and being able to be remote is a great opportunity to spend more time with them. So super thankful for the family support because work gets busy. Travel makes you extra busy.

Sean: So, just a shout-out, right? These are the holiday seasons. It’s a great opportunity to be thankful. So a shout-out to family. It helps make this possible that supports everyone through their work. And I’m very grateful for mine.

Chris: Absolutely. I could not agree more. Also, very grateful for mine. Shout out. Shout out to my family. I should have a sign that says, “Hi, mom.” If only this wasn’t a podcast!

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: … then everyone can see it.

Sean: Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately that has me thankful is a lot more opportunity for expression. In fact, this TechPod is a great example of that, and I feel like more and more organizations and thank you to SolarWinds, especially for these kinds of opportunities to give us a chance to express, to share thoughts, to have more thought leadership, and more community involvement, once again, the community.

Sean: But again, to express. And technology really is a big part of that. For example, take podcasts, right? This wouldn’t be possible. We wouldn’t have these opportunities. We wouldn’t be engaging today, right now, without the technology and the podcast and the channels that it creates, webcasts, all sorts of different things. And I’m super thankful for that because it gives me a chance to again, express myself and my thoughts my opinions and be creative in a way that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to.

Chris: Yeah, I think that’s a really, really great point. It was such an honor to be asked to be included in the TechPod, and I was very happy to be able to meet new people. I knew the video team, but especially to form a relationship with you, Sean, has been really special. So, I’m thankful for our new bond as co-hosts. That’s loads of fun.

Sean: I’m literally blushing. It is. I’m thankful that we have had a chance to co-host this, and yes, agreed. It’s a big honor. It’s one of my favorite things that I get to share and feel proud for myself, telling folks that, “Hey, I’m a SolarWinds host.” So, it’s a really, really cool opportunity. And again, not just from SolarWinds’ perspective, but I’m happy to see more organizations culturally around the world.

Sean: It’s more expected, not just desired. But it’s expected that organizations, employers should be giving more opportunities. Along the same lines as mental health, these are things that help promote for a healthy work career for a healthy individual and just make me a happier, higher functioning person in general when it’s not the same thing all day, every day.

Chris: For sure. And I love how we get to interact with folks who we might not be able to normally on this TechPod with our special guests that come in. It’s been really exciting to speak with experts on different topics and areas of tech that you might not have known a lot about before. But afterwards, you feel like, “Okay, I learned a lot there that was super interesting, and I made a new connection out of that experience,” which is always something to be thankful for.

Sean: It’s always fun to share other culture with folks. Again, a callback, Professor Dr. Sally Eaves, right. Those opportunities to share an exchange with other folks across the globe. So super thankful.

Sean: And speaking of being thankful for our community, we’re going to try a new segment today, and we’re using our community corner welcoming today Kristen Piña, our community manager, as a special guest. And something that we’ve done is we asked Kristen to reach out to the community and ask them, so to speak if they could wave a magic wand, what would they wish for? Kristen?

Kristen: Hey, Sean.

Sean: Hi.

Chris: Welcome.

Sean: So, what exactly did we ask them, and can you give us maybe one or two results real quick, and we can kind of take a look at what the community feels?

Kristen: Yeah. So, we did reach out to those folks like you were mentioning in our community, THWACK, as we all know it. THWACK stands for Technical, Helpful, Well-informed Answers Creating Knowledge. And we just posed it. If we could give them everything they wanted on their IT Wishlist in parentheses, not tech gadgets, what would they ask for? What are they looking for, really? And really, what are they interested in terms of trends?

Kristen: Like things that they maybe want to see go away or what they want to see continue into the next year. And we came back with some really great responses, honestly, outside the box. I couldn’t have asked for better. And that’s honestly what we get out of our community. They have really great engagement and thoughts there. But if you’re ready, I can just go ahead and kind of get into some of the responses.

Sean: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

Kristen: Cool. So, at the top of their list, they said doing more with less. We all know that our tech pros there on THWACK are all about automation, and just that is so much evolving here in tech just with the increase in machine learning and the fact that it allows these tech pros to get back to what really matters. And just getting some of those mundane tasks out of the way with automation is really what I think makes their day-to-day a breeze. And so, they ask for more of that.

Kristen: And then a really fun one, which I think just as the trends go and what we’re seeing in our culture is working from home. They love that flexibility, and they love being able to still have all of the availability of understanding what’s going on in their environment. But at the same time, they did ask for more socialization. So, returning back to in-person events, it’s great. So, if you guys are familiar with our in-person events, our SWUG events, SolarWinds User Group events, we love seeing you guys interact there and come and ask us questions. So more of that.

Sean: I love that. And also, that’s something that Chris and I had just said as well. We’re super excited for working from home but also for in-person and community events. So, it sounds like we’re kind of… we’re in tune with our community, which is very nice to hear. But there’s also, I think, a theme. I want to see people when I want to see people, and I want to stay home when I want to stay home, which I can totally resonate with.

Kristen: Yes, definitely. And yeah, so just getting back to those in-person events. Sean, you were a member at the Austin SWUG or speaker; excuse me. So, you know firsthand just how great it is to see everybody and get to talk to them once again –

Sean: Absolutely. Yeah. And I will say that no matter how techy you think you are when you go to those events, you’re almost guaranteed to learn something and meet somebody who knows more than you. So, it’s super fun, super humbling, it’s super educational. I also wanted to call back to the first one you brought up because I like to make references and analogies. Doing more with less.


Sean: The first thing that popped into my head was the opening to Back to the Future, where there’s a thousand gadgets, clicking, ticking, talking, and it’s all just to pour a can of dog food in a bowl. So IT pros, Doc Brown, right. We’re going to do more. We’re going to try and do more with less, or we’re going to try and automate that process, work smarter, not harder. So I just loved that one, and that was the first thing I thought of, so I figured it was worth sharing.

Kristen: Yeah. Definitely. The next one, it’s very interesting. So they’re asking for more controls within Windows, Mac, Android, iOS to allow you to just completely block out negative news cycles and allowing you to focus on the news that matters, which I found very interesting because, yeah, I think it’s true for mental health and just keeping up with what’s going on in the world. You really want to focus on what matters.

Kristen: At the same time, nobody ever talks about the plane that lands safely. So just having a little bit more control around that so that it doesn’t just take your day into a total negative tailspin, I think, was awesome to hear from them.

Chris: That’s a very good point. I was just going to say that I think we’re all familiar with doom scrolling. That’s something that can be very easily done when you get distracted by an article that pops up, and then you kind of start clicking on related articles, and minutes have gone by, and you’re feeling in a really weird head space. So I can absolutely relate to that sentiment.

Kristen: Definitely. Yeah. And your mood just was a reflection of what’s around you, so I can understand the sentiment of wanting to carve out some of the fat and what you’re hearing day-to-day. The next one is near and dear to my heart, so more recycled tech. There’s so much, and it kind of goes into the next point here too, as well. So I’ll just go ahead and read that one off as well.

Kristen: But more collaboration between big tech and bringing co-op solutions to struggling schools and disadvantaged because of the time that we live in. There’s more people who miss out on the benefits of tech when they’re not in that connected and inclusive world. So, this is kind of like twofold.

Kristen: There’s a lot of really awesome legislation going around that’s bringing everyone down to the USBC, and it cuts back on technology or, sorry, the cords and kind of puts us all in the same system so that we’re not one wasting with the mask and consumption of all these different types of cords. And we are recycling often. So I think that’s awesome and great to see continuing here into the future.

Sean: I think that’s super important to one unification. I mean, a lot of things I see are kind of monopolizing on their own type of product for their gain when it doesn’t look at the global gain for us as a society, us as a planet even. Not to get too ethical into it. But it definitely makes sense, and I think that it’s something that we should also wish for, right. It’s a big ask.

Sean: But on the other note that you brought up about the collaboration between big tech. That made me think of something, right, with struggling schools. And I think something that technology isn’t viewed enough in yet when we’re talking about the struggling communities. There might be grants. There might be buildings. There might be squads that go to help in those areas, but technology has so much capability to assist in those areas.

Sean: And I don’t think grants for technology or putting technology in place to help with the infrastructure in those areas is considered enough. And so, seeing that on a Wishlist involving technology and healing and aiding in those struggling areas, I think that there’s a lot to be said, especially in a non-physical tech sense, right, if we’ve got a lot more of these cloud options that are out there. They’re more subscription-based, and it’s about licensing. So again, talking about grants. If that kind of technology can be leveraged to, again, heal the communities, I think that that would be a wonderful thing.

Kristen: Yeah, definitely. And this might be a huge wish, but just because of the way technology is really taking off these days. But how often we iterate upon the last newest thing? So just we’ve gotten to this point where it’s just one new thing one year and then the next new thing the next year. And it’s just we get into this warp cycle of just constantly having to build and replace, build and replace, build and replace.

Kristen: And I think people are just somewhat getting tired of that. I think it might be split down the middle. Some people really love it. They love the innovation, and some people just feel like good things take time. And also, if it’s broken, why do we need to fix it so quite so soon? Because it does create this culture of just-

Sean: Right.

Kristen: … constantly needing more. And so, you have to wonder, even with just technology, how that affects everybody from children to people our age. And then even-

Sean: I think that’s a huge benefit of a lot more modern platforms and cloud infrastructure, too is, and just use two different words to kind of reiterate the same thing you just said Kristen is enhanced rather than replace, right. We’ve got opportunities to improve, enhance rather than just throwing the old one in the bin and getting a brand new one where we’ve got so much waste, and there was so much that was usable from that other product.

Sean: So I like seeing that technology’s headed more in that direction. I hope it stays going more in that direction. There’s less waste in that sense. And I think there is one more, probably the most important thing on that Wishlist there, Kristen.

Kristen: Yes. Their last item that they super wish… or they want to see in 2023, their biggest wish is for Dark Theme in all products.

Chris: Why am I not surprised? I feel like we hear this one a lot, but I love it.

Kristen: I’m not surprised in the slightest. But these are our kiddos. We want to give them what they want.

Sean: Did you say these are our kiddos? I love it.

Kristen: Yeah. I feel like I have to take care of them. And I’m representative of them!

Sean: You heard it from your community manager, Kristen Piña.

Kristen: Yeah. They’re probably going to be like, “Ma’am, I am like 40 years your senior.” But I’m very protective of them, and I’m all about giving them what they want.

Sean: That’s awesome. And I’ll agree as a regular form MOD for the ITSM space number one feature request Dark theme, right. Everyone… And I do use it. In fact, when I do presentations, marketing does request me to switch it back to the Classic, and I have to put my shades on for my demonstration just to get acclimated back to non-Dark mode. So, I’m with you.

Chris: Am I the only one who likes Classic or Light mode? I don’t have Dark mode for anything. Is that very strange? I’m sure all the listeners out there will be like, “Oh, she’s weird.”

Kristen: No.

Chris: “We don’t trust her.”

Sean: It’s to contrast. To contrast with your… Never mind. I was going to say it’s your dark personality. I was like, that didn’t come out anyway the way I wanted. So, thank you very much for that, Kristen. And before we get into one of my favorite things that we do in our TechPod episodes, I wanted to give you an opportunity, as our community manager, to give us a quick shout-out to the community itself.

Kristen: Yeah. So, for anybody who doesn’t know what THWACK is, I mentioned the acronym of what it means, Technical, Helpful, Well-Informed Answers Creating Knowledge. And that’s really what we do in the community. We are there for each other. It’s a community of IT pros that come together. We like to say we are a home to people who are looking for answers even when they don’t… haven’t reached out to support just yet.

Kristen: You may have a fellow IT peer who’s already asked and answered that question on THWACK. And just a plethora of information and programs like our monthly missions that are gamification where we give or create more knowledge around all of our hosted products and then our virtual and in-person events like THWACK camp and SWUG. So, we’re happy to have all of you and just always interested in getting better. So yeah, come in and join us, and create a profile, add me as a friend. Let’s get to work.

Sean: They have squeaky hammers, t-shirts.

Kristen: Ah, yes. I forgot the most important part, points. You build points in the community which you can convert to SWUG. So yes.

Sean: So those points can go a long way.

Kristen: Thanks, Sean.

Sean: Absolutely.

Chris: I’m ashamed to admit, Kristen, that I have been at SolarWinds for coming up to four years, and I did not know what THWACK stood for. I just thought it was a cool action word.

Kristen: A lot of people… I’ve been around the block for a while at SolarWinds and coming up on six years now, so I’ve seen a lot in my time here. And that is definitely… You’re not the first person to tell me that. So, I love screaming it from the mountain tops, and every time I tell somebody that they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, that makes so much sense why you know guys named that THWACK.” And I’m happy to share the knowledge with everyone.

Chris: Love it.

Sean: That’s awesome, Kristen. Okay, are you ready?

Kristen: I’m always ready.

Sean: All right, brace yourself. Here we go. Rapid-fire questions. I’m going to take us away. What did you ask for the holidays this year?

Kristen: Oh, more records for my record player.

Sean: Oh, anything in specific?

Kristen: Taylor Swift, of course.

Sean: Wonderful, wonderful.

Chris: Here’s another one for you. What’s your favorite holiday to decorate for? And this, I feel like, is a personal question because I know that you have awesome design taste, and you like to decorate. And I’ve seen your Halloween decoration, so I’m really curious if you have a favorite holiday.

Kristen: Yeah. Halloween is near and dear to me, but I’m going to be a really basic Christmas. Christmas, I go all out. So, you’re about to see my Christmas reveal, and the trees are already up. The whole house smells like pine. I love it.

Chris: That’s awesome. You’ll have to post a picture to THWACK, maybe we can get a thread going, and everyone’s sharing their holiday decorations.

Sean: So, no dark mode around Kristen’s place for the holidays. Could be nice and bright. Lots of lights, I would imagine.

Kristen: Nice and bright.

Sean: Good.

Kristen: Very merry and-

Sean: Awesome. Very merry. A Very Merry TechPod. All right, so next question and this is my favorite one in our rapid fires. Would you travel to the past or future?

Kristen: Oh, the future, of course. The past is done.

Sean: Ooh.  Why?

Kristen: Past is over and done with. I am really hopeful of some sort of Star Wars dystopian future where I can wheel a lightsaber or something like that.

Sean: Oh yeah, okay. I like how fast that was. She was ready.

Chris: I know there was absolutely no hesitation in the answer. Love it. I have another one for you.

Kristen: Sure.

Chris: What’s your ideal holiday vacation?

Kristen: Oh, man. I have this dream of going up somewhere very remote, holing up in a cabin, just surrounded by snow, and just being in front of a fire, and my phone has no service. And this doesn’t take a dark turn. This is just like great. I’m disconnected. I am in the middle of nowhere, mountains in the background, that kind of stuff.

Chris: To be honest, that sounds dreamy.

Sean: Yeah, it’s a nice pretty picture.

Kristen: Mm-hmm.

Chris: For sure.

Sean: All right. Last one, because apparently, I like to talk about food. What’s your favorite holiday dish?

Kristen: Oh man, I feel like my Mexican card would be revoked if I didn’t say tamales. It’s got to be tamales.

Chris: Any particular filling? What’s your favorite feeling for your tamales?

Kristen: Oh man, everybody finds this so weird. But I love the cream cheese and jalapeno tamales. They’re very-

Chris: Actually, I don’t think that I’ve tried them.

Kristen: Yeah. In the Valley where I used to… a lot of family growing up. There’s this one tamale maker called Delia’s that everybody… She’s really renowned within Texas. You can actually get her shipped to you. She’s got a location in San Antonio and then deep-down in… I think further down south in the Valley. And I order them every year, and it’s a hit with my family.

Sean: That’s awesome. And now I’m hungry, and I miss being at home in Texas.

Kristen: Yeah.

Chris: Can you get them shipped?  How far does she ship?

Sean: Yeah.

Kristen: Yeah, yeah. I think she does ship out of state. I think once I gave the link to a friend in Colorado, and she had them shipped out for a Christmas party.

Sean: That’s awesome.

Kristen: Yeah.

Sean: That’s awesome.

Chris: And I’m going to be DMing you for the details right after this record.

Kristen: Sure thing.

Sean: So thankful for tamales. It’s on my Wishlist.

Kristen: Yes. Let’s make that a hashtag.

Sean: Well, Kristen, thank you so much for joining us. Again, Kristen came in a new segment we’re looking to add, Community Corner, and we’re joined by none other than Kristen Piña, the Community Manager.

Kristen: Thanks for having me, y’all. This is really exciting. I’ve been trying to get involved with TechPod for a while, and you guys make it so much fun. So, I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Chris: Thanks for coming.

Sean: Chris. That was awesome having our community manager and involving the community, especially after both of us happened to, and that was not scripted, bring up community in what we’re thankful for.

Chris: Absolutely. Yeah, that was a joy, and I can’t wait to integrate more community feedback and have more community corner topics moving forward.

Sean: To find out more about the community, we’ll have links that you can check out. But let’s jump into the next bit here. We’re going to talk about now again keeping our Very Merry TechPod theme our Wishlist. So, the community shared some of their thoughts. We’ll see how close Chris and I came to their thoughts with our Wishlist.

Sean: And I have to brief you upfront. It’s not close at all. So, I’ll kick it off, time for my projects. So, I’m always stuck working on my day-to-day, and I just want to get some other stuff done. So, can I just magically wave of a wand, get some more time for my projects?

Chris: Wouldn’t that be nice? Or the ability to stop time, just kind of have everything freeze –

Sean: Well, I think about that, especially because of the past and future one’s my favorite question. If I stop time to get things done, then by the time I unpaused it after a year of stopping time, I’m older than you. I don’t know if I want that.

Chris: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Sean: My clock didn’t stop ticking, so I just need to give everyone more time somehow. And that’s where the wand comes in because I need magic.

Chris: How about adding more time to the day without adding more specific work hours? Because no one would thank us for adding more work hours to the day. But yes, more time generally would be ideal.

Sean: I don’t know how to solve this mystery. I don’t know how to solve it, but I wish I had it. How about you?

Chris: I like the studies, and this is kind of going off on a bit of a tangent. But thinking about working and needing more time. The four-day work week and how that’s worked for some companies. And I think it’s mostly been tech companies that have adopted that. But that’s been quite interesting to see how that’s worked and how lots have actually found productivity. Maybe that’s just my cheeky plug to SolarWinds. I’m like, “Hint, hint! Good job.”

Sean: Yeah. Personal opinion. You’ve got my vote. I love that. And actually talking about somehow magically making more time. I know in a lot of films or stories, your first Wishlist item kind of plays into that.

Chris: Yes, yes, it does. So, the reason that I was thinking of kind of a cloning machine, and it’s a bit of a weird one. But it’s mostly because when there are so many meetings, there can be a bit of a temptation to multitask.

Chris: And so, I would really like to have a cloning machine just so that there could be one of me that’s very plugged in and very present in the meeting. And then there could be another version of me that’s able to just tick off some of my more tactical to-dos for the day. So that’s a weird one, and I don’t think cloning technology is there yet in the world.

Sean: So, I was hopeful that you would answer like that because it would’ve been an even weirder one if you just wanted to hang out with yourself.

Chris: Oh God. I didn’t even consider that!

Sean: What? You didn’t because that was the first thing I wanted to do. Let’s go hang out. I wonder what it’d be like to hang out with me. Maybe I’d not like it. Maybe it’d be cool. Who knows?

Chris: I would be… Yeah, I’d be terrible. I’d be saying to my double, “Here’s my meeting schedule for the day. So, if you could just go and do all these.”

Sean: Yeah, you’re the boring clone today.

Chris: Right. Exactly. Yeah. We’ll take turns, but today you’re my meeting clone.

Sean: Let’s split the job. That’s the closest to the solution for the time for my project. Someone gets the boring day, and someone gets the fun day.

Chris: Exactly.

Sean: But I still need to eat double the amount of chicken.

Chris: Oof.

Sean: New problem. All right, that’s next year’s problem. Next year’s Wishlist.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. What else is on your Wishlist, then?

Sean: Okay. Well, I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. So, it’s a new office chair. Oh man, I would love a new office chair. One of my things I liked about being in the office is they kind of took care of making sure the equipment was more refreshed, had nice chairs in there. Being a more frugal individual, I may not have the finest apparel to sit on, right. It’s a squeaky old desk chair, and I’d really like a new one. So, I think I’m going to go for it this year.

Sean: And then also kind of part of that, just another nice ultra-wide monitor. My last one didn’t make it through my move, and I was super sad. But that extra real estate really goes a long way on the screen. I didn’t even go down to one screen if it was a big one. So, I’m just trying to get that lux IT pro-life. You know what I mean?

Chris: #luxlife.

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: No, I think those are very, very good ones. While you were speaking about how the office has such good ergonomic chairs and that kind of thing, I was planning in my head. I went off into my own head space there, and I was thinking, how can I just go and get my chair from work because it’s a really comfortable one? And I was like imagining having to cram this office chair into my car and wheeling it down the hallway and if everyone would give me weird looks for doing it.

Sean: I’ve literally been there. I’ve literally been there. Done that. All right, next one for you. You go ahead.

Chris: Yes. So, this is actually one that I thought of because of something that you had said, mostly around sort of trying to streamline and unify various platforms or processes. So, one of my Wishlist items would be to have a cross-functional collaboration tool. And a lot of what I do day-to-day is in managing projects and go to market.

Chris: And it would be really useful to have one platform that goes from engineering to marketing, maybe even HR. And legal can use the same platform. I’m sure that technology exists. But it would be very helpful, I think, to have one streamlined project management platform to use. That would be something that I would find very useful.

Sean: I think that unifying platforms is one of the front runners on all top discussions that I see in technology right now. Less is more, but sometimes making that one platform is difficult. And this really fits really good into SolarWinds space for us to talk about. And just to give some foundation to where Chris stole that idea from.

Chris: I don’t know if I’d ‘steal’…

Sean: I’m just kidding. But yeah, unified communication platforms was something that I had said, and some specific examples is email, Slack, Teams. And when we think about our conference tools, we’ve got WebEx, Zoom, Teams again. So, there’s many, and it’s hard. And we don’t necessarily say we want to get rid of them all because then there’s only one, and that’s kind of a creepy concept. But unifying them as much as possible is nice. And when you can’t necessarily unify them, is integrating them, right?

Sean: So that from an end-user experience, I don’t have to be a WebEx or a Zoom person. I can still use mine. And it integrates with those so that, again, if an organization has their preference, they can choose one. But the technology, again, like you said. You were saying that “I know the technology’s got to be out there.” And I think it is. It’s getting there. It’s getting big time.

Sean: In fact, shameless plug here, Service Desk… SolarWinds Service Desk now has integrations with both Slack and Teams, trying to meet someone where they are. So, it’s kind of the same concept, and that’s also unscripted. It wasn’t trying to plug that in there. But it’s the idea of meeting someone where they are. I don’t want to have to change my platform all the time. I don’t want to have to change tools. “No, don’t take my tool away.” It’s actually probably one of the bigger ones, right. If someone kind of starts to develop, what did you call it, a culture, a creature culture?

Chris: Oh, a creature comfort.

Sean: Creature comfort. It’s my creature comfort, right. I’ve gotten used to this tool. Now you’re telling me to move to another tool. Those are discomforts in the workplace. So as more technology is capable of integrating the experience, so someone doesn’t have to shift or make themself uncomfortable, we can meet them where they’re at. I think that’s why that’s on my Wishlist.

Chris: Yeah. And I think that’s a great one. And it does sort of tie into one of the points that our community raise, which is automation and just really trying to make things as easy as possible for yourselves in work and automation unified platforms, trying to stream my processes where possible. Those are all things that we can all agree that we need more of and that would improve our lives exponentially.

Chris: So, I do have one last Wishlist item, Sean. And that is… I mean, it’s technology, but it’s not really tech related. But it’s a natural light alarm clock. And it’s kind of one of those gadgets, and I don’t know if it really works. But I would love to reduce dependency on looking at my phone and screen time. And it reminds me of something that Kristen had mentioned about how she would love to be in a cabin in the woods without any cell service.

Chris: And so, having an alarm clock and especially a natural light alarm clock where it’s supposed to gently wake you up from slumber, I think, that that would be a really cool gadget that I would put on my Wishlist.

Sean: You need a large window wall in your bedroom with an automated curtain that slowly opens in the morning.

Chris: That’s fancy. That might be a little bit more expensive than my clock.

Sean: I don’t know if we’re talking about being nuzzled in a mountaintop. I’m going to dream big. It’s my Wishlist.

Chris: That’s true.

Sean: But I like that. No, I do like that. And it definitely is nice when you wake up more naturally with natural light. I feel you. That’s nice.

Chris: Yeah.

Sean: That’s nice.

Chris: That would be a good one. Okay. Well, I think that we’ll segue into resolutions, and I was thinking about what do we want to do better next year. What are some of our goals in the coming year? So, Sean, have you given any thought to resolutions?

Sean: I did. It’s hard to, and I think that we should think about these more often. And one of the ways I’m going to kind of bring this up is rather than resolutions, which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with. But this goes into something I had talked about in some of our first episodes together was continual improvement, right. If we’re thinking about a resolution, it’s an opportunity, opportunity to be motivated, opportunity to make a big change.

Sean: So, I’d like to, rather than focus on just resolutions, which I think that’s nice to have a big picture goal, think about what should I do better day-to-day, not just at the beginning of a year. So, I would like to, as a resolution, get better at looking at the small picture and what do I want to do better tomorrow, not just next year. But that’ll be a nice way to kick me into resolutions is to try and always be thinking about what I can do better.

Chris: I think that’s really wonderful, and I agree that having that in the forefront of your mind, it only just makes you… I feel like it makes you a happier person and a more curious person, which is always a positive thing. If you’re constantly thinking about how can I improve? What’s another lens I can put on this? Going into the next day with fresh eyes. I think those are all really important things.

Chris: One of my resolutions is probably learning more about a product or area that I don’t currently work in today. So, if I think specifically about SolarWinds, I’ve got you, Mr. ITSM. Maybe I should just set up a meeting with you and just go through the ITSM space one day, or I should chat with the database folks because there are certainly gaps in my knowledge.

Chris: I work in the observability and infrastructure space at SolarWinds, but I would love to learn more deeply about these other pockets of the business. So yeah, those are just some of my resolutions that are quite practical, not so theoretical.

Sean: So, either we’re getting a little too in sync, or I got to stop sharing my notes with you because it’s just too similar. I had wrote for myself is training on a new skill, right. A skill outside of my direct line of work. And I think it’s important, right. At one point in one of my positions in my career, I refer to myself as I felt sharp. I was on top of things. I felt like I was progressing my career very well, and then things got too easy. I wasn’t learning anything new. It became just operations. And I felt like I was a sharp knife that was getting dull, right. Dull being a nice contrast to sharp.

Sean: So, one of the ways to really feel keen again and stay on top of myself and my growth is train on something. And if it’s something you already know a little bit about, it might be less stimulating. And something that could be tangentially related to your job but is outside of your direct line of work, I think that’s a really cool opportunity to progress yourself, make yourself more marketable, and more of an expert than you realize in your own field.

Sean: Because those things that input into your direct line of work, while they’re not within it themselves, that’s just going to make you that much more versatile, that much more knowledgeable in your own direct line of work.

Chris: So, if we think about taking that resolution about kind of sharpening skills outside of your direct experience, are there any things like outside of work even, like hobbies or skills you might like to… Maybe you want to be really good at inline skating or pottery or painting. Are there any of those that come to mind that you’d be interested in kind of exploring?

Sean: That is a great question. And the first thing that comes to mind is where’s my budget for all my hobbies and ideas? And in fact, budget inspired me into something else because woodworking, crafting, building. My dad, when I was younger, got me into building, crafting, constructing. He’d get me these little tech kits and build a radio, build a little dinosaur that walks, right, just little kits. So I’m really enjoy following a blueprint and building something.

Sean: But again, that requires materials, that requires money, that requires time. So, of course, I did have to invest in some tools. But albeit what I did was I kept my budget low and tried to repurpose or use hand-me-down stuff and pallets, pallet boards, which, if you find a place that’s just giving them away, throws them outside, a lot of people curb them, right? Pallet boards, there’s free materials.

Sean: So then, you may only have to invest in some of the hardware, like the nails. But then I’ve got free wood. All I have to do is butcher the wood how I want, shape it how I want, and put it somewhere. And so, I’ve got a handful of things around my house. I’ve created a bar, which we just put by the front door, set our keys on it actually has a router on it. I’ve got a coat rack, chalkboard, court board combo where we hang our coats. So, it’s got a coat rack on it. It’s got a chalkboard on one side and a court board on the other. So, we can leave notes by the front door and hang our coats, our hats.

Sean: So, it’s a really fun project. It’s a really cool hobby, and I’d love to get better at it. And I think taking a course would definitely be super stimulating because I’m super interested in it. And I’m just making stuff up as I go along, and watching stuff on social media makes it look way easier than it really is and only gets you so far.

Chris: Yeah, I’ve seen some really cool creations with palettes. So that’s interesting you brought that up because I have seen people online doing really inventive and cool stuff.

Sean: Any other resolutions for you, Chris?

Chris: Yeah. I think, and it sort of ties back to what we were speaking to earlier. But I hope that, in the coming year, I have more opportunities to go to trade shows and interface with customers because I really, really enjoyed doing that. I know I mentioned… might have mentioned that in the last TechPod we recorded.

Chris: But I was at Cisco Live, and that was my first trade show, and I just had such a blast meeting our customers and being able to chat with them finally face-to-face. It’s great to do it on calls also, but I think that that would, I don’t know if that’s a resolution that’s within my control, but I’m putting that out in the universe that I would love to go to more of those.

Sean: I love where your head’s at.

Chris: Where’s your head at?

Sean: All right. Then we can jump into our rapid-fire questions, favorite part, and then we get to go back and forth with each other today. And, of course, very merry, happy, fun holiday questions. So, I think what we can do is we can each ask a question, but both of us should answer because-

Chris: Okay.

Sean: … I want to answer all these, and I want to know your answer to all of them too.

Chris: Sounds like applying. Let’s go for it.

Sean: All right. Favorite holiday dish? You first. Non-dessert, by the way.

Chris: Okay. Important distinction. I would say stuffing. And this is specifically something that’s eaten at Christmas time and also Thanksgiving. In the UK, stuffing is something that’s served usually with your Christmas dinner. And so, I’m very fond of a good stuffing. How about you?

Sean: That’s hard to compete with because that’s also one of my favorites. And it’s always going back to something like mom’s recipe. Man, mom’s got the best stuffing for turkey. And it’s also, most specifically, the turkey that’s in the stuffing, not the stuffing that you bake separate. It’s the one that’s with the turkey. I don’t think I can really disagree with that one. But to throw another one of my favorites out, there is green bean casserole with the fried onions on top. Love that. Love that.

Chris: [inaudible] choice. That’s a solid choice. So, what’s your favorite holiday dessert?

Sean: Historically, and it may still be pumpkin pie, got to have whipped cream. Again, mom’s recipe. But lately, my grandmom’s, which my mom’s been making, the pecan pie, and she has a pecan tree in front of her house, so if she comes to visit or we visit her, they’re her pecans from the front yard. So the pecan pie.

Chris: I feel like you really can’t beat that. That’s excellent. It’s a tough one to answer because fruitcake is not my favorite thing in the world, but that’s kind of a traditional dessert at Christmas time in the UK. But my mom makes an excellent pavlova.

Sean: A what?

Chris: Pavlova, it’s like a meringue cake and usually-

Sean: Oh, okay.

Chris: … It has kind of different fruits on top. And it’s delicious and light, kind of very opposite to what you’d normally associate with holiday desserts. So that’s something that I really enjoy. She’s an excellent cook and baker, so that’s something that comes to mind.

Sean: I like that contrast because you’re right. When I think about holiday foods, I feel heavy. I feel more savory even. So that light contrast is a nice, cool, refreshing exception to the rest of the holiday so far.

Chris: Yes, that’s right. Really cuts through some of that rich food.

Sean: All right. Favorite holiday movie? Go.

Chris: I have to say Bridget Jones’ Diary and I don’t know, have you seen it? It’s one of my favorites ever. I really love that film.

Sean: Oh goodness.

Chris: It’s just so feel-good. I would challenge anyone to watch it and just not have a huge smile on your face because, between the corny Christmas sweaters and just everything, I just love that film.

Sean: I wanted to know and refused to try and find out before this episode. I did not expect that. If you’d asked me 500 times, I wouldn’t have realized that’s what you would’ve said. No, that’s great, though, because, like you said, it’s good to have a good feel, good one. And that probably rang true on a specific holiday and then began to just continue resonating for you on the holidays. So that’s awesome. That’s awesome that you got one like that.

Chris: How about you? What’s yours?

Sean: Honestly, when I think about the holidays in general, not just a specific one holiday, but really kind of starting towards the end of October until the end of the year, is the Harry Potter series for me.

Chris: Ooh, wow.

Sean: It just covers so many different holiday vibes within it. Because you’re going throughout kind of the end of a school year, or I’m sorry, the end of the holiday season with them. And then you get into the fun climax of whatever the story’s going to be, right. First half of the movie, they get there in the school year, late fall, roll into your Christmas. Happy Christmas, Harry. And then we get to dive into whatever the cool, exciting climax of that particular book is.

Sean: And by the way, if I haven’t shared this yet. One of my favorite things about that is that they’re really detective novels if you think about it. You just throw in some magic because everything’s about uncovering the next clue. And I’m like, man, it’s so exciting if I could use magic to uncover clues. A lot of this has been waving wands on our Wishlists anyway. Oh man, that would be quite a delight.

Chris: Did you plan that? That was very seamless. I’m really chuckling over here. Okay. So, this was kind of an interesting one, and it’s a question because I don’t know if such a thing exists is, do you have a favorite holiday gadget? Is there even a holiday gadget that exists? So, it was more… It’s a rapid-fire question. I guess. But I was just curious.

Sean: Sure. This is maybe going to be funny, but batteries. Oh my gosh. I feel like around the holidays, somehow we just need a bunch of batteries. Or you know what I just realized? I don’t know if it exists. But we’re talking about magic a lot on this episode, and who doesn’t want some holiday magic, a way to roll up the lights better?

Sean: My goodness. If I want to put lights up, the worst part about it is when I got to put them away and then try to get to them next year. If there was a holiday gadget that made that better, find me on THWACK, send me a message, write me an email. I want it.

Chris: That would be amazing. I was actually… As you were talking about lights, it made me think about extension cords. That’s a holiday gadget that is invaluable. This time of year, you’re always thinking, “Okay, where’s that extension cord? I really need it. I’ve got a thousand different lights to put up.” Yeah, that’s definitely one.

Chris: Also, thermometers that are wireless that can go inside your turkey or whatever you’re baking. And it kind of tells you the thermometer on your phone.

Sean: Ooh.

Chris: And I think that it just triggered a memory in me, and that would be a very cool holiday gadget.

Sean: I wonder if they have those now because I would not be surprised if there was some kind of Bluetooth injectable thermometer you could plug in your turkey before you throw it in the oven.

Chris: And then you don’t even have to open up… you don’t even have to open up the door to check the thermometer.  You just, yeah.

Sean: Which is always taboo anyway. You don’t want to let that nice fragrance and juiciness out before it’s ready.

Chris: It’s risky.

Sean: That’s awesome.

Chris: No, I’m sure it exists.

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah. Pretty sure.

Sean: Well, this was a ton of fun, Chris, and I’m super excited that we got to try the Community Corner for the first time. So special thanks to Kristen Piña, also our community manager. Thank you again to everybody for tuning in to A Very Merry TechPod. We wish everyone safe holidays and a safe new year.

Chris: It’s been our pleasure. Thank you for tuning in, and we’re looking forward to many more TechPod episodes with you all.