Our deep dive with the legendary Tom Bridge, partner at Technolutionary.
What do you ACTUALLY do?
I handle technology planning, implementation, support and special events for 60+ businesses in the Washington, DC area. Some are as small as a 2-person non-profit focused on the future relationship of Ireland and the US, some are as big as a family of concert venues in the greater DC area.
What types of devices do you support?
iPads, iPhones, Macs, Routers, Switches, Wireless Access Points, Thermostats & IOT, Network-Attached Storage, Phone Systems, Servers, A/V Setups, and Overhead Projectors. (No, we don’t support the last one. Anymore.)
What’s your favorite piece of tech?
I love everything about Wi-Fi, so I’m gonna go with my Spectrum Analyzer, a Wi-Spy dBx from Metageek! What better way to see if there’s a faulty power supply polluting your perfect channel assignment, or a baby monitor in a neighboring apartment bringing your Wi-Fi to its knees with a bunch of noise. Wi-Fi is one of those inventions that the more I begin to understand it, the more miraculous it seems. We use powerful radios and antennae to transmit and receive at insane rates of speed, all taking turns, all operating on a perfect clock, and we do it tens of millions of times an hour. That’s amazing.
What tools or apps are most important to your job?
The Terminal, a good hypervisor (I use VMware Fusion and ESXi), Patience, and a trusty Ethernet adapter.
Do you prefer hands-on, or troubleshooting from afar?
Hands-on. I can do much of my job remotely, and I always love talking with my clients over the phone, but nothing beats hands-on. The personal touch is a huge part of IT’s relationship within the organization, and there’s really no substitute for talking with people and working collaboratively on their issues.
Favorite thing about your IT environment?
Never, ever a dull moment. One minute you’re working with an environment lobbyist on their two-factor authentication, the next you’re helping a graphic designer deal with a crotchety print queue, the next you’re fixing the Wi-Fi for a large music and events facility.
Thing you’d most like to change about it?
I’d like to focus more. We’re doing great, proactive work, but I really miss having true engineering time.
What’s on your desk?
My podcasting rig, a Mac 512k, a fiber switch to my main router downstairs, three Macs mini, a TV, an AppleTV, an iPad, a bunch of hand tools, some odds and ends. I spend approximately 90 minutes a week at my desk, so it’s a total catastrophe. Sorry.
How did you start your career in IT?
Unofficially, I was tech support for my mom’s desktop publishing business in the 1990s. It was a great experience, and I learned a ton about how the Mac worked in the System 6 through System 9 era.
Officially, I worked the help desk in college after being encouraged by the network services team to find a role for myself. It wasn’t entirely optional. But, it was a good time.
What are the biggest misconceptions of your role, internally or externally?
That I’m a programmer. I’m not. I’m an admin. My strengths are in organizing machines and networks into cohesive units that work well together. What programming I do is almost entirely shell scripting, which some folks will insist isn’t really programming, but I disagree. What scripts I’ve written, I’ve in some case borrowed heavily from others, and in others crafted line by line at incredible expense to my sanity.
I just don’t think in for/while loops, unfortunately.
What was your proudest professional moment?
The opening of The Anthem in Washington DC’s Waterfront neighborhood. Over the course of 2+ years, we planned, designed, and built a network for use by more than 6,000 guests, dozens of staff, yet still more performers, a point-of-sale system for food and drink, and a digital display system for handling menus and in-house promotion. We were responsible for almost a mile and a half of fiber, and easily four miles of Cat-6 cabling, as well as 46 access points, comprising eight separate networks.
What are the biggest challenges in your work?
Convincing people that their computer isn’t smarter than they are. Delivering on incredibly short schedules and tight budgets. Getting the invoices paid.
Most cringeworthy request?
We’ve had some doozies over the years, but I won’t call out any single one. Generally speaking, some folks don’t understand that “consultant” doesn’t mean “lackey”. That’s okay. I understand where they’re coming, a lot of the time, and when I don’t, I just apologize for not getting it and ask for more detail. Sometimes, what makes you a great teammate is
Do you stay hydrated at work?
I carry my Penn State University Mac Admins bottle (2016 version) wherever I go, but I’m also powered by Zeke’s Coffee.
CLI or GUI?
Both! Each for the right job.
DIY or turnkey?
Who would you love to see interviewed here?
Vi Lynk, Giddens School
Jennifer Unger, Capital One
Gretchen Kuwahara, PSU
Jason Miller, Fastly
Arek Dreyer, Dreyer Network Consultants
Where can people follow you online?
I’m @tbridge on pretty much every social media!