IT in Education During a Pandemic with Bradley Chambers | Where’s the Any Key Podcast Episode 11

The following is a transcription of an episode of our podcast, Where’s The Any Key? Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have in response to this recording. You can find our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are available.

Ryan Bacon: Welcome to Where’s the Any Key? The podcast where we talk about anything IT related and even some topics that are IT adjacent. I’m your host Ryan Bacon, the IT Support Engineer at JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

Introducing Bradley Chambers

Ryan: Joining me today is Bradley Chambers. He is the Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the host of the Apple at Work podcast, and a regular contributor to 9to5Mac. How’s it going Bradley?

Bradley: Good, good. Thanks for having me, Ryan.

Ryan: Thanks for coming on. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself. 

Bradley: I mean that kind of sums it up, really. I’m from Chattanooga, born and raised here. Chattanooga is pretty unique cuz we have the fastest internet in America from a city perspective. Everybody in our city can get gigabit internet, symmetrical up and down, for 70 bucks a month. We have a local power company that does fiber-to-the-home across the city. It’s been doing that for almost 10 years now. It’s really, really done wonders for our economy. You can just imagine what kind of businesses it’s brought. Three kids and worked in education for the past 10 years or so. 

Dealing with a Changing Industry

Bradley: Certainly a lot’s changed. I always tell people every bit of my job today didn’t exist, not only when I was in college but even when I started here. IT’s just one of those fields that you continuously have to be moving and rolling. 

Ryan: That’s so true, and honestly that’s one of the reasons why I love doing IT. It’s constantly evolving. You never feel like you’re stuck in one spot. 

Bradley: Yeah, that’s fair. There’s a good and bad to that. The problem is that people want solutions and, oftentimes, you didn’t know there was a problem and it’s a challenge. One of the issues I face in IT is that you’re never done with anything. You roll something new out… well you’re not done. You have to maintain it and support it. So, it becomes difficult. I feel like you’re balancing these balls in the air that you kinda keep adding more, but yet you don’t ever get to drop any. Certainly in a bigger organization you don’t have to control all the systems, but here it’s kind of a one-man wrecking crew as they would say. So it can be difficult at times.

Ryan: I’ve worked in plenty of places where it was just a one man shop. Just me, and I totally get that. You’re always having people come to you asking you for new things, and not only that, not just when people come to you, but it’s part of your job to be proactive wherever you can. You’re adding stuff to your own plate if you’re doing your job well. So that makes a lot of sense.

Doing EDU IT in a Pandemic

Ryan: One of the reasons why I’m so glad to have you on is because you’re in what I find to be a really interesting situation in the current time. So we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. You’re in education and I feel that’s been one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, and especially when it comes to IT. Could you give us a little bit of insight as to what your day-to-day may have been before the pandemic and how it has changed over the past several months?

Bradley: Yeah, obviously beforehand it’s kind of just business as usual. Everybody’s on campus doing their day-to-day. While the systems are different and the tools are different, roughly the same as it was 10 years ago, you’re trying to keep things running, keep the mission going forward. Now you add this wrinkle to it. I still go back to ‘nothing has been removed’. That’s been one of the challenges this fall versus, say, in the spring. In the spring, everybody was at home so it’s like you didn’t have the day-to-day challenges of your own network and your devices that were in the school but then it just became you shifted to how do you handle distance? 

Now we’ve got a mix of both: Some kids distance but the majority are at school. For example, if a live lesson’s being held over Zoom, everything at school’s working great, but a Zoom client on a remote device won’t open. It’s not your device but it won’t open. It’s not your fault but it becomes your problem. You just have these additional variables that you have to consider. It’s not a complaint of any kind, it’s just one more thing to keep track of it and make sure it’s all through. In terms of keeping your network, now if something happens and it’s down for a little bit it’s not just affecting kids in the classroom, it’s now also affecting the kids at home. In the classroom they can just move right along, we’ll regroup to something that doesn’t need technology. Kids at home don’t have that option; it’s the only way they’re going to do it. So there is just some added stress there and more worry. There’s more variables to consider. 

Ryan: That makes perfect sense. Now are you, out of curiosity, is it just you there or do you have a small team? 

Bradley: Just me. 

Ryan: Oh man, that’s a handful. That is definitely a handful. Are you being asked to help support, help provide support to a student who may be having issues with their home technology?

Bradley: Absolutely. In a business such as ours, independent education, your parents pay for something they can get for free, so you really want to go that extra mile within reason. It is hard because you’re trying to wear so many hats. It is not as simple as you got a help desk application that you work through your tickets on and there’s just more tickets. You’re working on that stuff and getting text messages, your phone’s ringing… how do you balance all that? How do you deal with the immediacy problems, which is also the scaling, the long range problems, and trying to do both at the same time. It can be a challenge, and it’s nothing that even being on a team of 5 people, it’s still a challenge dealing with that. It’s just exacerbated, the pace at which you must move. 

Ryan: Yeah that makes sense. I know this with us, like before we closed down our offices and shifted everybody to remote work, it used to be like ‘okay, your home router not working or problems with your modem… that’s not our problem.’ You know, it’s completely separate, but once you go to remote work, it becomes your problem because it is impacting the productivity of an engineer, or in your case, the ability for a student to learn. For me, that was a very interesting paradigm shift because in my entire IT career up until this point, helping, giving people advice for problems on their personal technology stuff like that has always been a favor or something like that. It’s now become really part of the everyday part of our job and it’s a really interesting paradigm shift to me to see that.

Bradley: Very much agree with you. If you have an employee that is doing a lot of customer demos and their makeshift home office has poor Wi-Fi connectivity, that’s not just an annoyance, that affects business. It goes back to it’s not your fault, it just becomes your problem. I’ve even felt like some of these networking companies are probably going to come up with these remote office kits. The kicker is every home is different. That’s certainly a challenge. We’re all at the place where we know a $30 router from Walmart is not going to cut it anymore and even if you’re not a company that’s providing connectivity to the house, whether it be paying for the internet, having it installed and managing for the network. You can even say your location must have an average speed of X to be able to do your job. That is on you to make sure that happens. It’s not IT’s job but you got to take care of that. It’s a balance there, and again it’s one thing when you’re a ten person company, but when you’re a 30,000 person company that’s now remote, that becomes a drastically different challenge. Instead of having one network for 30,000 people, you have 30,000 networks.

Adapting Environments

Ryan: Exactly. So, with all this shift and with the change from all on-campus to all at-home to switching over to a hybrid approach, were you involved with that decision making? Did they loop you in on that? What did that look like from your perspective? 

Bradley: I certainly was involved. It’s finding in the balance of what can you afford, what can you deploy, and what can you manage. For example, for the students that are remote, we have these Meeting Owl cameras. It’s a 360 degree camera set up in the classroom for the kids, so that’s what they see when they login. It’s just working over like a Zoom client. It’s just essentially a camera that the computer’s in. We thought that was going to work well. Because again, designing for distance is one thing. Designing for on-campus is one thing, but designing for hybrid is going to be another. We thought how can we give the best experience at home to the students? Now, so we get those cameras in. A couple days before school we said, okay these shouldn’t be complicated, but we haven’t gotten them because they’re obviously backordered. This company’s been making them as fast as they can. So you get them and you think ‘okay, we install them. We’re good to go. Well immediately, day one, teachers couldn’t get them connected. You go, ‘what is the problem?’ It’s not complicated. It’s a USB into the computer. It’s a camera! There’s no tech to it. Now, it does connect to WiFi for software updates, but again, they were up to date, good to go. 

Well, I started thinking, ‘okay, what would cause it… finicky connection. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t. We had just deployed new laptops this summer as well, so our teachers, they obviously had USB-C. These cameras, of course, they did not come with USB C. It was USB-A. So we were plugging them into each teacher’s USB hub. It’s got HDMI, VGA, and USB-C, and everything can pass through. $20 on Amazon and it works great. If they have TV or a projector it works great. Now, if you just don’t think about it, you’re in a rush…. well, they on their website FAQ that if you see that issue, they really recommend using a direct cable. It’s a micro USB to USB-C, or only Apple’s official adapter. I’m sure it has to do with power output, but a flash drive works just fine. The camera needs a certain bandwidth and has variance… so yeah, now I’ve got to overnight them because there’s no good place and to go buy that many USB-C to micro USB-A cable. There’s not a store that’s going to carry that. So I overnighted them from Amazon, they came in the next day. Plugged them up, problem solved. 

Those are the kind of problems you face, where it’s like it’s not like a massive ‘oh, this doesn’t work.’ Now some districts have seen that, where they’re these massive districts. No, ours has never been like ‘oh, this is not working’ it’s like ‘this is working some of the time; this is got to be a weird problem.’ because in some ways, not working any of the time is easier to fix then working some of the time. That’s just a minor example of an issue we faced and… there wasn’t a lot of training. I even joked, it’s not like there’s ‘Owl School.’ I didn’t go to Owl installation school. You just plug this stuff up and it works, then it’s just cable issue, simple as that.

The Secret Sauce of IT

Ryan: Yeah, you learn as you go. That’s something that I found a lot of people don’t realize about IT professionals, their IT staff at their companies. There’s no way that one person or even one team is going to have experience in every single piece of technology that the end user’s going to come across. We have to figure it out as we go a lot of times and Google is our best friend and that sort of thing.

Bradley: Oh, 100%. I’m just really good at Googling things. I kind of explain it to people as ‘I’m not necessarily an expert in any one thing, I just know how the pieces fit together’ and so I think that’s the role of the IT integrator. It’s an emerging and important role. I think that’s where JumpCloud really excels. Your core business is integrating things together. It’s a key skill because not one company is going to do everything. Not one service is going to do everything. But how these services integrate is very very important. 

Ryan: Yeah, to add to that, one thing I would always say to people is that it’s also the job of your IT person to know what questions to ask. When you’re troubleshooting something and you’re looking for the problem, knowing how to phrase a question or knowing your resources, so how to ask and who to ask, are two big things. 

Bradley: Just an example of an issue I was having this morning. We use the Ubiquiti cameras. We had a massive remodel this summer that was already scheduled and actually made easier by remote learning because we were able to start our construction in April when it was decided school was not going back, we just started knocking down walls in April. It’s part of that. We re-cabled in our building. We have an old building. It’s one of those scenarios where I can look at a jack on the wall and know it was plugged in somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you what switch port it was just by looking at it. So we decided to re-cable our building, new CAT-6, new cameras, this, that, and the other. I really liked the Ubiquiti cameras just because of the cost. You can’t beat it. Especially in that number. I needed 36 cameras. The other brands out there that I wanted just were out of my price range. 

So, I have the network video recorder and I guess it was last Friday, I plugged four drives in. The drives are hot swappable so I put a fourth drive in to give it more space and to give it an extra drop failure… well it was taking forever to rebuild, so I just reformatted the drive, the RAID, and just let it start fresh. Well, ever since then, like last night, it was being kind of wonky. So this morning I rebooted it. The device came back up but the actual video app wouldn’t restart. So I’m on the Ubiquiti forums. I’m messaging and downgrading the software and there’s just no manual on ‘when this is wonky, how do you fix that?’ You’re just trying to piece together the information as best what you can. It’s frustrating because you feel like there should be an instruction manual for everything, but there’s often not and you just kind of got to use your best problem solving skills or something to say okay what is new here? and work your way through it.

Making the Most of Stay-at-Home Orders

Ryan: I’m glad you brought up the construction thing, because I think that, in a way, those organizations — JumpCloud included — who closed down their offices and switch to a whole remote thing, at least for a time, that is giving IT a time, a chance to go in there and do work on office networks. It’s all that stuff. We really want to do this but we would have to shut down the office or go in on weekends during off hours. When we shut down our office, we had a checklist of things we were waiting to get done that could only get done on weekends and such. We were like ‘hey are we okay to go into the office while everyone’s gone?’ They said that’s fine, and that was great. We would go during normal business hours and shut down the entire network, reconfigure our firewall HA cluster… you all this stuff you are going to dread having to do because that’s going to be your weekend. It’s kind of like a little bit of a silver lining to all the craziness that office closures have done.

Taking the Chance to Go Zero Trust with the Cloud

Bradley: That leads me to a thought process of something that I’ve been championing for 10 years in terms of making your enterprise network like a zero trust environment to where your network needs to feel the same for users at home and at the office. Like, to me, if you put a VPN into it outside of just certain things, you’ve failed. You should be leveraging cloud services to make things happen.

Clearly, you guys are that way because you can just shut the network down and nobody at home notices. It’s not like that everybody’s at home and then kinda tumbling back in the office. It’s like no, our system is designed where as long as they have an internet connection, they’re secure. That’s the nice thing about it, so everybody has their connectivity to Google, Microsoft for email, Basecamp, Slack, all these various cloud services. Again, it stinks because in employee onboarding if you don’t have all these things talking together, but in a sense, it’s like security by obscurity. There’s not one thing that breaks down your entire network. The nice thing is, if you use Basecamp or Slack heavily, if Slack goes down, I’m okay with that because it’s not my job to fix that. Depending on the kind of person you are, that’s good or bad, but I’m happy if something goes down and it’s not my responsibility to fix. Somebody smarter than me is working on that.

Ryan: With a lot of these services, you generally have alternatives. We use Slack; that’s our main communication tool, but if Slack experienced an outage, we’re a Google shop also, so we could just send out a message: Until Slack is back up, everyone has access to Chat. There’s built-in redundancies because a lot of these products offer multiple services, and there’s overlaps. Luckily, we’ve never had to deal with a Slack outage, but we’re covered if it happens. 

Bradley: You can always just roll to email. Slack, personally, kind of drives me nuts. I think one of the challenges that happened in the last couple years is it’s never been easier for someone to reach you, but it’s also never been harder to focus for any length of time. You can actually think like ‘I’m going to dig in for 2 hours. I’m going to work on this log, see what errors are happening…’ Now if you do that, you come out of that hole and you got 30 DMs on Slack, you got a bunch of emails, group text, and then which of these Slack channels do know I need to follow up on? I love the immediacy of the communication we have in a way but it makes you really stressed. 

That’s why you have some of your best ideas in the shower. When you finally disconnect, you can finally think through this problem. That’s the downside for all these tools we put in for remote workers. They’re great in a sense and they’re also going to have to be leveraged and we have to make sure people have this time to focus, get work done and not just live in the immediacy of what somebody else needs at the time.

Supporting Distributed Users

Ryan: To add to that, we now have employees spread across the entire US. Once we shut down the offices, we were like “you know what? remote work is here to stay. Open up the recruiting areas. Now we have people in every single time zone, which is great… but our support team is me and one other person and we’re both here in Colorado. We also have teams in other countries as well, so it becomes difficult when your the core support team and you get texts or Slacks at 11 o’ clock at night and you’re trying to go to bed or maybe already asleep… sometimes — most of the time, luckily — they can wait til the morning. Everyone once in a while though, you get that alert that somebody has hit a roadblock and they can’t do their job until you do something to fix it… that level of communication and interconnectivity does definitely make things difficult when you are fully remote.

Bradley: The timezones especially, you could have someone who’s 7-8 hours ahead of you, if you don’t deal with something at 8 meaning they’re down for most of the day then they’re going to sleep, that stinks for them. On the flip side, it’s like you’re then on-call really 7 days a week or 6 days a week because then on Sunday, it turns into peoples’ Monday. It is a challenge…  you guys are on Mountain Time right? We’re on Eastern Time and I always give the example, people on Eastern Time get screwed on all this because nobody on Eastern Time expects Pacific Coast people to get up at 4 AM, but everyone expects people in the east to be up late. It’s a challenge. It’s another issue, and not just when you’re remote, now we’re remote on different time zones. It’s harder to schedule meetings, and if you’re in the support role, there’s that burden of if it’s 5 AM in my time, 10% of users are already in their workday.

Ryan: I don’t know how many vendors I have scheduled meetings with on the East Coast that were extremely happy to learn that I’m an early bird. So I’m usually up and working at like 6 AM. They’re able to schedule meetings at like 8-9 AM their time, normal hours for them. I could see that being an issue. It’s something that we have to change mindsets on. If we’re going to be working with these distributed workforces on a regular basis, both on the support and employee side. If we’re looking to grow our team, it’s nice to have your team within close radius. Since we still do have offices, if we need to go in and I need all hands to go fix a major network outage or something like that, we could do that or be onsite to provide support for people who do come in the office when we open back up. But in a way, it’s almost better to hire someone on the East Coast to handle those requests in a more timely fashion, look at the whole ‘chasing the sun’ model of scheduling support. It’s caused a lot, I wouldn’t say problems, but it gives you a lot more to think about when you’re looking at growing a team.

Bradley: You’re right because, especially if you’re a worldwide company, if you had somebody that was say East Coast time, and they were, say, 5-6 AM to 2 PM Eastern, and then you had  somebody in the middle of the country that covered the West Coast, their hours would only overlap by like 4 and that’s a good thing. That way, the people on the west coast, they don’t wake up until half the company has issues with you. On the flip side, the people on the East Coast can say at this time, I mentally can be done. 

Finding the Time to Recuperate

Bradley: I think that, in support roles, people need that time to check out. It sounds like you get home from work and you have issues like one of the kids’ iPads is messed up and something in your smart home isn’t working. You don’t want to deal with it. You just want to go outside and read a book! Somebody said something, it was a meme or something of a castle out in the woods. It said ‘for $40,000, could you stay here for 30 days with only books and all the food and drink you would need?” I might pay money to do that! That would be nice.

Ryan: Yes please!

Bradley: Again, we have this world that’s hyperconnected and we, as technology and support people, we’re in that. We live that connectedness and it’s like a mental fatigue where you’re like ‘I can’t keep going at this pace’ because we’re adding, we keep adding technology. Even in the office, much more the facilities group is coming under it, like the things they would deal with now have a strong interaction technology. HVAC controllers and things like that, they’re all on the network. How do I secure that? It’s your job to maintain the software but you also need to make sure people have access, that it’s secure… it’s another thing. But, you’re taking on that thing. You’re not giving up this. I can’t keep more of these balls in the air. I got to like, either have more hands to catch them or drop some. It is a challenge that’s exacerbated when you’re a worldwide distributed company. If you’re in a certain time zone, it’d be hard.

Ryan: It really is, and to add to what you’re saying: the need for downtime and how those of us who provide tech support for a living get pulled into that in our private lives. I mean, how many days off have you had where you essentially put in a whole working day helping friends and family?

Bradley: 100%, or even just like your own project, which I kind of enjoy those… but yeah, you’ve got a quick question, somebody calls you. I love technology, but at the same time like you do want to recognize its limits. It’s nice to have a time to completely disconnect, and that goes back to knowing your situation. ‘Okay, I’m going to take this week off.” Do you have support at the office that can cover that?

Sharing IT Knowledge with Peers — Remotely

Ryan: To shift back to how the pandemic and what supporting an educational organization has been like in the pandemic, the different school districts in your area, whether they be your private private schools like yours or public schools, are you working together with IT teams at another school, or for other districts? Do you have kind of like a think tank? Do you share knowledge or solutions and that sort of thing?

Bradley: In normal times, we used to. All the IT directors in the city, whether public or private, we would try to get together for lunch once a quarter. Even if we just had somebody present on something they’d been working on, we did that in normal times. We haven’t just because we’re all moving so quickly. I would like to. I personally like conferences like the rest of them. I think those have value to get away from the office with colleagues and just chat about things. 

I’ll tell you though, where I found a lot of just good discussion is on the /r/K12sysadmin subreddit. That has been like a great place, even stuff I’m not interested in or it doesn’t affect me but helps me think through stuff. Things that different districts are dealing with… honestly, I find it fascinating. You can read these unfiltered things of what people are working through and it’s been kind of a breath of fresh air. I just see that you’re really not alone.

Ryan: I love the general /r/sysadmin subreddit. There’s an IT pro one out there. There’s several and they’re all just great places to find amusing anecdotes to really good out of the box thinking on solutions to even a place to vent because even if you run a real customer-service driven, very friendly open support organization, sometimes you do just need to complain and blow off steam and having places like that really really does help.

Bradley: Absolutely. It’s bringing us all together.

The Biggest Challenges and Pleasant Surprises of the Pandemic

Ryan: Absolutely. So what would you say, with this whole thing, what have been your biggest challenges you’ve hit during the pandemic?

Bradley: Truly, just burnout. It’s just nonstop. I think a lot of it too is we just did this construction project and had a lot of technology with it. A lot of people had this initial stress over remote work in the spring, and then by summer we were like, okay getting my groove. We went from distance learning… here in Chattanooga we had tornadoes come through and hit our city in April. Nothing like having tornadoes come through and ravage your city during a pandemic. My house was damaged… not terribly, we didn’t have power for about a week. We had about $4000 worth of damage. So you go from pandemic to distance learning to tornadoes to remodel to, not only just normal back to school stress but also stress from a different back to school. You’ve got your normal things you’re trying to get up and running on top of all of these new systems. We’ve got this system for kids to check in with their temperature. There’s all these new things and it’s just like 6 months of chaos. When are we going to get to come down? This has been like the first week where it’s starting to feel like normal school. Get the mask and sanitizer but I can go into the office now, and we’re getting there.

Ryan: Now on the flip side, have you had any, like pleasant surprises during this whole thing? 

Bradley: I think it’s one of those were you really are surprised at how quickly a lot of your staff just like figures it out techwise. There’s a lot of things where they just had to roll with and get creative on, and they just did it. It’s amazing when it’s like things are like they were doing at home lessons with kids. They didn’t have my support right there. We would do remote-in and I would help them best I can, but it’s different when you’re not right in front of them. We weren’t set up to do that, but they just did it. Even people that you wouldn’t think of as technology innovators, they rise to the occasion.

Ryan: I’ve experienced that same thing here where everybody comes together as a community, not just as co-workers or IT and end users. You really start working together and they’re pitching in to help make your job of making their job easier and it’s a really neat experience and I agree. I didn’t, I wasn’t quite expecting that. I’ve always said that I have the best group of end users, period because I feel like I’m in a very interesting situation where I work for a company that develops a product geared towards IT professionals. So everybody across the board at least has a better understanding of IT people than any other organizations that I’ve worked for. That’s been a really interesting dynamic and I think it really showed itself during when we make a shift to work from home where people are actually looking up solutions and then being like, ‘hey, I ran into this problem. I read this online. What do you think?’ That sort of stuff.

Some Benefits of Remote Work

Bradley: So remote is permanent for JumpCloud, right?

Ryan: So our offices are still closed, so right now we’re doing that but we have we have shifted to where we shifted permanently to a remote first. So we will eventually open our offices back up but they’re mainly going to be there for collaboration spaces. It will very likely shift over to a hotelling model or something like that. It’s interesting that we provide a service, a product to people that helps with remote work, and because we use our own product that helped us make that shift, but before all this, we were very office-centric and that is changed. Honestly, it’s for the better. 

Bradley: Well, you mentioned it from a hiring perspective, now you can hire countrywide, worldwide, where you might have been hesitant of that before. Now you have a lot more candidates to pick from when you have an opening. Or, say someone has to move for a spouse’s job, it’s like ‘okay, it’s no big deal. We’re remote. You just pick up and move and still work for us.’ For a lot of things, it’s created new opportunities and then forced us to rethink things we didn’t think we could do. 

Ryan: Exactly. For me personally, not only am I given the freedom if my wife gets a job over on the east coast, it shouldn’t be a problem for me to relocate there either. On top of that, on a smaller scale, I have a 45 minutes to an hour commute to the office every day. The fact that I don’t have to do that anymore, that in and of itself is a gamechanger.

Bradley: Yeah, you bought yourself 2 hours a day.

Ryan: Exactly. Even though I will say, I do kind of miss listening to audiobooks and podcasts on my commute. I don’t do that much at home.

Bradley: I do enjoy a good 10 minutes commute. That’s about the sweet spot. Even 10-15 minutes a couple days a week. Let me have that decompress time, because I think that is one of the challenges of remote work: you’re just busy, busy, busy, then you’re done. I need to just sit here, close the computer, and sit here in silence. I need to get my brain in gear to end the workday.

Ryan: Exactly. That’s been a really difficult thing for me because I admittedly have workaholic tendencies, so if I’m not careful, I will sit here and I’ll be like ‘oh, things are quiet around the house my. My wife is off at work or something like that, and we don’t have kids. I’m not doing anything else. Why don’t I keep working?’ when that’s not really the best thing.

Bradley: Mentally it’s not good, like you need to have other Hobbies. That’s how you end up burnt out.

The Effects of COVID-19 on EDU IT and IT as a Whole

Ryan: How do you think the pandemic has changed how IT works in education?

Bradley:  I take it’s really set it up to where you need to be prepared for a lot of different things and I think it’s going to exacerbate this cloud-first model. The access is in teh cloud. The school network is just a really fast and stable network, but you need to be prepared for people to access things that aren’t there. Again, if you suddenly had 10% your kids go home, you don’t want to have to be setting up VPN connections for them. You just want them to be able to log in to be done. I think single sign-on solutions are going to be even more important. It’s this ‘keep it simple’ model of IT, like not making it too complicated to access your core resources. 

It also makes you ask ‘what are our core resources and applications?’ and being really good at those and leveraging their capabilities. And even further, how do we operate our business to not have printers because there’s a lot of people who say they have to have a printer to do their jobs… well you didn’t have a printer for 4 months because you didn’t have one at home since they’re all at school. You seemed to make it just fine. We’re longer in that ‘we can’t do that’ mindset it’s like because you might have to. None of this might ever happen again (let’s hope not) but I think it’s really makes you think about your vulnerabliities and prepare because weird things have happened this year.

Ryan: To add to that, to the industry as a whole, there’s always been that saying when it comes to security: ‘it can be easy to use, easy to access, or it can be secure.’ One comes at the cost of the other. I never truly bought into that. It may take more work for something to be secure and accessible but I think that everything that’s gone on here with having people work from home and all that stuff… it’s highlighted the need to have both of those functions — secure and accessible — work hand in hand and it’s shown that it’s possible, too. 

Also, I think remote work’s here to stay. The Genie’s out of the bottle. There’s no putting it back in and so us as IT professionals are going to need to learn how to adapt to this whole new model and support it and grow with it and help to facilitate it.

Bradley: Again, it’s just being able to adapt quickly. That is the key theme of 2020.

Ryan: Exactly. Alright well, Bradley, thank you very much for coming on and chatting with me. Again, my guest has been Bradley Chambers.

Bradley: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it. Again, hopefully we have a much calmer fall but we’re all just here trying to keep the knobs turned. 

Ryan: Again, my guest has been Bradley Chambers, Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist Schools in Chattanooga Tennessee. Thanks for coming on and chatting with me.

Thank you for listening to Where’s the Any Key? If you like what you heard, please feel free to subscribe. Again, my name is Ryan Bacon and I work for JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service, where the team here is building a cloud-based platform for system and identity management. You can learn more and even set up a free account at

So until next time, keep looking for that any key. If you find it, please let us know.

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