Community, Career Choices, and Retirement with Duwayne Engelhardt (2/2)

Welcome to episode 151 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of our interview with Duwayne Engelhardt, discussing his participation in technology communities, the transition into retirement, and how life has been after retirement.

Original Recording Date: 10-06-2021

Duwayne Engelhardt is currently retired. Duwayne was the VP of Network Administration at a bank. During his career he was a Network Administrator, Technology Director, and many other things. Catch part 1 of our discussion of Duwayne’s early career in Episode 150.

Topics – Spiceworks: The Software and the Community, Money Isn’t Everything, Transitioning into Retirement, Advice for Others Planning to Retire and Parting Thoughts

2:21 – Spiceworks: The Software and the Community

  • Duwayne’s first interaction with Spiceworks was using their free help desk software. He was using a software package from a large vendor that was discontinued.
  • Duwayne didn’t realize the Spiceworks community existed until over 500,000 users had joined it.
    • The people he came across and interacted with in the community were both knowledgeable and helpful. If somoene made a suggestion that didn’t work, Duwayne could go back and ask the person again.
    • Interestingly enough, Duwayne at one time followed John White in the community for learning and sharing purposes.
  • Duwayne was a SpiceLeader for the Houston area SpiceCorps. For more detail on what SpiceCorps is, check out this page.
    • As a result of this, Duwayne met a number of vendors whose products could actually help him move projects at the bank forward.
      • It was technology that made IT professionals’ jobs easier. Duwayne loved sharing with other IT professionals who might not have had time to do the necessary research
    • Most of the time there was no need to create something from scratch (i.e. a script, etc.). Duwayne could look at what others had done and make tweaks to suit his environment.
    • SpiceCorps was a user group that began from people using the Spiceworks product. People would meet to share experiences and help new users get more out of the application.
      • Eventually vendors began to sponsor parts of meetings, providing refreshments to attendees for a chance to plug their products. Attendees liked the fact that technical representatives from the vendor would come out and answer questions on how the technology could help them.
      • As the Spiceworks application was updated less frequently, SpiceLeaders like Duwayne needed to focus more on bringing in vendors for sponsorship.
    • Nick has been the co-leader of the SpiceCorps of Dallas / Fort Worth and references some of the activities from past meetings
    • Taking 1-1.5 hours out of an IT professional’s day / week is taking valuable time. Attending a meeting like a SpiceCorps is someone intentionally spending their own time. The work is not going to go away and probably will have to be made up by an attendee some other time. These types of meetings have to be fun, interesting, and worthwhile to get people to show up.
  • John always found the community around the Spiceworks application really interesting because he spent very little time using Spiceworks software. It was the discussion forums on networking, storage, compute, virtualization and others which served as a great way to educate people looking to break into the industry / learn on the fly.
    • John got so much out of the community but has not really had much time to be a part of it over the last few years.
    • Spiceworks originally helped Duwayne a lot (the software that did inventory and help desk).
    • There were a number of applications built up around the Spiceworks community like PDQ. This company had tremendous growth because of Spiceworks and was a far less expensive alternative than Microsoft tooling.
    • Duwayne met the founders of PDQ back when it was Admin Arsenal at Spiceworld, learned about the capabilities, started with the free version of PDQ, and eventually needed to invest in the paid version because of regulations and the need to keep applications up to date. It filled a gap in the Spiceworks application capabilities and eventually became the tool to use for inventory with Spiceworks being used more for ticketing.
    • Duwayne shares the story of when he began using Spiceworks as a replacement to a product that changed corporate ownership and became more expensive.
    • From 2007 – 2015 the Spiceworks application was a big deal, but at some point along Spiceworks decided to be a marketing company that put vendors in touch with IT pros. The focus on the app seemed to go down a bit, leaving the community as the biggest value.
    • Duwayne mentions knowing Nick and John via the community long before we all met in person.
    • Because people were friendly and willing to share it made the community great. It was good friendship and fellowship. What else can you ask of life? If you have that, you have it all.
    • People who participate in communities like this are doing it on their own time.
    • We may not all have the knowledge of some folks we come across in communities. But if we can ask a question of somoene who has been there and get back a helpful response, it saves time and energy.
    • Picking people’s brains is extremely helpful, and it allows you to build connections and friendships. People in Spiceworks pushed John to dream bigger and better himself. You may not have this in your mind until someoene brings it up.

17:30 – Money Isn’t Everything

  • When Duwayne got the network administrator job at Wallis Bank, it was 5 miles from his home without him needing to drive to Houston.
    • Despite the fact that Duwayne likely could have received better pay by going to Houston he liked the flexibility of going to and coming home from work at a decent hour. He also did not have to relocate.
    • Duwayne was not a job hopper and has only had 3 jobs in his career. Moving to large companies was not for him.
    • Duwayne identified what was important to him and made the decision based on that. Not everyone has the presence of mind to do this.
    • You can learn it early or learn it late, but eventually you will want a place to call home, a place to relax and get away from thigs. "Always being at the top is not always where you want to be." – Duwayne Engelhardt

20:11 – Transitioning into Retirement

  • On the business side, Duwayne had multiple projects he wanted to complete and document to leave things in a good state for the next person.
  • About 6 months before he left, he talked with the team about what needed to be tied up before his last day. They have known for years Duwayne planned to retire, and his successor was hired about 3 years before his departure.
    • Duwayne had worked on a small team and was a subject matter expert in many areas of the technology landscape for the bank. They needed time for knowledge transfer.
  • Duwayne’s wife had quit work due to too much stress. She called him one day and asked him if he’d mind her quitting. He told her to go for it.
    • They had been transitioning off her salary in the year before that to help them get used to lower income and retirement. Though she quit earlier than they may have wanted, it did not hurt them.
    • Before making the decision to retire, Duwayne and his wife looked at their finances and even spoke with a financial advisor to confirm they were in good shape.
    • Duwayne wanted to start taking extra money after he retired while they were still young enough to enjoy it.
  • As soon as Duwayne retired, he started working on the house to prepare for a big retirement blow out party his wife wanted to host (16 hour days for 6 weeks).
    • There was a freeze that wiped out part of her garden before this that needed replacing before they had company.
    • Duwayne’s wife told him after the party he could do what he wanted.
      • Duwayne wanted to transition to a solo guitar vocal career to get some extra money and do something enjoyable.
      • Because of COVID there has not been a lot of traction here, but some of the performances are now starting to pick up a bit.
      • Duwayne has also done a lot of YouTube learning. With COVID popular guitarists were not touring. Many of them picked up YouTube channels, which allowed Duwayne to improve his playing.
  • As of the October recording date, Duwayne had been retired for 7 months.
    • So far retirement been enjoyable. He and his wife have been on a number of trips together (with more to come).
    • From a finance perspective, they are making it just fine.
    • Duwayne’s wife has taken up sewing in her retirement, putting her new sewing machine to good use making quilts, table runners, placemats, etc.
    • Duwayne’s wife is a talented artist who has been doing some very interesting things with wine bottles (usually as gifts).
    • In the same way, Duwayne often gives his music away for free.
  • Now if Duwayne’s phone rings late at night it could only be a family concern. His parents and siblings are getting up in age.
    • He still has a couple of customers, running his own small managed service provider (MSP) helping out some very small businesses like a small dental office in a neighboring town that had not made any infrastructure upgrades since 2009.
      • Duwayne built a small network for them with some virtual machines, including implementing a system for daily backups and effective rotation.
      • Another customer of Duwayne’s had a computer crash. The person had been using Outlook as a file cabinet for a number of years.

28:57 – Advice for Others Planning to Retire and Parting Thoughts

  • Save money early on, and don’t touch it if you can help it.
    • Duwayne knows many people who are living on social security alone and aren’t too happy with the things they are able to do as a result.
    • Sacrifice a little early on, and see where it goes. Compound interest is powerful over years. You may think two or three years is no big deal. Turning that into 20 to 40 years can make a huge difference in your retirement.
    • Being able to do what he wants to do in retirement is a big deal for Duwayne.
  • Plan for something outside of computers.
    • Duwayne has maintained a membership in cybersecurity organizations like Infraguard and has had a focus there for 26 years. It’s hard to transition off of it, but he has been able to fill his time in retirement with other things he enjoys.
    • Family and friends are a big part of retirement. The fact that they can spend more time with the important people makes life a lot better.
  • IT professionals forget they are helping others. If you keep that in mind it makes all the work seem less work.
    • Transition to the idea that you’re not working for yourself. You’re not working for the company but rather the people at the company.
    • When it comes time to retire you’ll have a lot of friends who will be there for you.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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