In this episode Rich speaks with Dave Fogle from Civo and Kris Nova from Twilio. Topics include: How Dave’s tweet “From homeless to Kubecon in 7 years” brought us together, Dave and Kris’s stories about how they became homeless, how they took care of their gear, their love of open source software and how they used it to level up, and how they transitioned from being on the street to tech jobs.
What is Kube Cuddle?
A podcast about Kubernetes, and the people who build and use it.
Rich: Welcome to Kube Cuddle, a podcast about Kubernetes and the people who build and use it. I'm your host Rich Burroughs. This episode of Kube Cuddle is different than most in a couple of ways. First I have two guests for the first time, Dave Fogel from Civo and Kris Nova from Twilio. It's less of an interview and more of a conversation.
Second, we focus on a specific theme. Both Dave and Kris spent some time unhoused or homeless, depending on the language that you prefer. They went from living on the streets to working in tech, and in both of their cases open source software was their bridge into the tech industry.
I think that, especially at this moment in time, almost two years into the pandemic, when so many people have lost their homes, that it's important to listen to folks who've had these experiences, as we'd listen to anyone with a background that's unfamiliar to us. We grow by listening and understanding.
I want to thank Dave and Kris again for speaking to me about their experiences being unhoused. They put themselves in a very vulnerable position, and it means a lot to me that they trusted me with that.
Thank you also to the Patreon supporters who make the podcast sustainable. You can join them for as little as $2 a month at patreon.com/kubecuddle. And if you find this conversation as impactful as I did, please consider sharing it with your friends in the Kubernetes community. We'd really like to get these stories out there.
Okay. Let's go to the conversation with Dave and Kris.
I'm here today with Dave Fogel and Kris Nova. I want to thank you both for joining me.
Kris: Yeah, thanks for having us Rich. I'm stoked to be here.
David: Yeah. Super glad you could have us.
Rich: Yeah of of course. I'm, I'm really excited because this is I think a really important topic. And um, before we get into it, I wanted to set a little bit of context for the listeners in terms of how we all got together to be sitting down to talk today. Um, Dave, you had posted a tweet that someone pointed me to, and um, why don't you tell us a little bit about that experience?
David: Yeah, so doing my usual, I was making lame tweets on Twitter and uh, made a tweet that went I believe it was "From homeless to KubeCon in seven years. Never count yourself out." Um, that apparently struck a chord with the community. And here we are, we have Kris who you roped into all this talking about the whole thing.
Rich: Yeah. So, it turns out that you have a somewhat similar experience to Dave as well, Kris.
Kris: Absolutely. I, I did not get started in this world with a finger quote, traditional entry into the workforce, but. Yeah, I think Dave might have done it faster than I did going from homeless to KubeCon, but I definitely share the same overall trajectory.
Rich: Yeah, you definitely have both made some big leaps. Uh, Kris I remember actually like meeting you at KubeCon. I think it was at San Diego. I saw you speak and got a chance to meet you in person. Um, so, So this discussion is really a lot about the fact that you were both, you know, unhoused or, homeless and um, and were able to build yourselves into these into these tech careers.
I wondered if you could talk a little bit about each of you how it is that you became unhoused in the first place
David: Yes, I'll go first. I could probably simplify it with the word depression. In the end, that was what the root cause of everything, I believe could be pointed at. Um, I was a 23 year old data center administrator in Louisville, Kentucky with a, a two year old son and a house and a couple of cars. And one day I was just a systems administrator and all the other things weren't there.
And I guess really in the end I let myself fall apart. Um, I didn't have any way to rationalize it and it ended up with me pretty much abandoning most of my life there in Louisville, moving back to Illinois and just hanging out with friends, and it slid down from there. Eventually I was sleeping in the streets of Peoria homeless.
The uh, the Dan Fogelberg Memorial Park bench was home operations for me for a while there. And eventually found myself out in California for a good long time. And um, you know, the reason why, because it doesn't sound like there was much to cause it, and there really wasn't except for, I didn't let myself fix it.
Rich: Well that those are some pretty big life changes to go through. It sounds like, I mean, that sort of dropped on you. So I imagine that's, the case for a lot of folks that there some sort of, catalyst, I guess, some experience that, that leads into it. Um, Kris, how about you?
Kris: I it's so wild. I almost have the same exact same story is as David here. I'll start on the, what led me to be, to being homeless, before I got my faithful first gig as a data center technician. And for me it was, it was I moved out when I was 17. I never graduated high school.
And obviously I was drinking. I was like, rebellious. I did not get along with people at high school. I didn't get along with jobs. Except for when I did. And when I did, I did great. I was the kid who got F's in every class, except for Honors Physics that I really liked and got an A in that class.
And um, same with jobs. I couldn't hold down a job for any reason. And then, I found one where I actually got along and worked there for two years. So, uh, I didn't have a good home life and my parents weren't supportive. And at this point in my life well, I guess the context here, if everyone doesn't know. I am very openly transgender. I was born as a male and grew up as a boy in Texas. I always knew something was wrong and I always knew that I just didn't fit into this world, that my family liked to pretend that we all lived in. And that I think is what led me to, to choosing a life of homelessness on my own at a very young age, over the life that was made available to me, otherwise with a lot of qualifications.
So I wanted I think the one thing I want to like remind myself and remind everyone is I very much opted in to being homeless, right? Like I woke up one day and said to myself, I am making this choice. I would rather go sleep under a bridge than go sleep in this bed with these unnecessary qualifications.
And then these like expectations that I don't agree with. And. Yeah. And that's how the whole thing started. And then I'll, I'll be honest. Like, you know, I have a big Jerry Garcia grin on my face right now, but it was a hell of a ride. a across the country for a few years. so like once you're in it it's it'll sustain itself.
So once I was on that homeless life cycle, I actually was relatively happy. Like I, I was making bad choices. Sure. But um, you know, I'm I was smiling most of the time. I had a
Kris: I made good friends. I'd do it again.
David: I was having the same kind of thought a little bit ago and it struck me that, you know, yeah. I had some pretty good times in jail too playing spades, but God, don't send me back.
Rich: Well, that's interesting too, because that's a whole different topic, right? Like the struggles that people who have been incarcerated at some point have in the industry. Um, there's a really rad person named Kurt Kempel who is very open about the fact that he was incarcerated and talks about that.
And, and all of these things are uh, you know, can definitely be barriers to people. It's super interesting because I bet that if neither of you were having this discussion openly, that, you know, most people probably wouldn't guess that you'd been through these things.
Kris: I don't think so. I really don't. And I also I feel like the, whether it's incarceration or crime or homelessness or poverty or a life of oppression or all of the above. I do feel like there is, there's a nod. There's a look, there's a, wink that we can instantly bond over. And I see that same like level of companionship in the transgender and queer communities. Like that. Like, Oh, you've been on the streets. Like right away upon talking with Dave, I felt like I had known the guy my whole life, just because I knew that knows a lot of the things that I know. He's seen a lot of the things I've seen and has had to make do with like really, really not much to your name at the end of the day
David: Oh, yeah.
Rich: Yeah, we had a a bit of a call, ahead of time to discuss, you know, how this would all work. And and it was really interesting to see you two kind of bond over like these shared experiences. And it was like, I can't remember Kris, you used a phrase, and Dave immediately knew what it meant. Um,
Kris: Oh, flying signs, flying signs, if you know, you know.
Rich: So, so what is that? Because I don't know.
Kris: Take it away Dave.
David: Um, yeah, if you've ever seen person on the side of the road with a sign that says "In need, please help. Anything helps." There you go. Your, there's your sign. Go. Fly it.
Kris: It's, I always found it interesting. People took an economical approach at busking or asking for handouts. Which I have opinions. I would love to get into my opinions on the differences between the two of these. But,
Um, It was, my friends would say things along the lines of like, I have to go to work today. And working was, you go out, you get up in the morning you put in a solid days worth of work and you try to make what you can and you get it together.
And then you, you come back at the end of the day and you say, okay, I made a hundred dollars and I got groceries. And I got somebody to let me their phone. So I made two of the phone calls I needed to make. And I got a little bit more information to help get me through the next 24 hours. That, that was it.
That was your job, right? It was just like with that.
David: And some days just charging any electronics devices you did maintain. was a job in and of itself.
Kris: I still, I still have like cell phone charge trauma. Like even when traveling like, you know, me with like fancy credit cards and like, I made my money and I've grown up. I've got a big girl job. Did the whole thing. I still have this part of me when I'm like walking through the airport where I'm like eyeing all of the receptacles on the wall because I know what it's like to be like down, out of luck, no phone.
And you're just kinda like, what do you, what do you do? And it can go from, Hey, I just need to make a quick phone call to I'm stuck until I get money from a stranger. that's just a really uncomfortable place to be.
David: Oh, yeah. It's vulnerability from the moment you wake up till the moment you wake up the next day. Cause sleeping doesn't necessarily remove vulnerability. Um, you just don't notice it.
Kris: It's also with that vulnerability. I noticed, I always felt a little more free, a little more reckless, right?
David: Yeah. Less to lose in a way.
David: of things that you, you know, does it matter really if somebody steals your blanket? Yeah, but you can get another one. If you got drunk and left something somewhere, is it really the biggest deal in the world?
David: for a week on the other side of town getting just completely smashed on cheap whiskey with homeless people from the other side of San Diego?
Yeah, sure. Nobody cares. There's, there's no responsibility.
Rich: Now you both were like doing computer stuff while you were on the streets. And you mentioned a little bit in the call that we had about just kinda how you dealt with your gear
Sorry, w w what the audience can't see is is where we have video footage right now, and like Dave, and I just look at each other and like, give each other the, you go ahead. No, you go ahead nod.
David: And what you can't also see is the occasional lag.
Rich: Of course.
Kris: So I, I, I'm really proud of this part of my life. And I feel like it's really funny whenever I tell the story. But I would do it again. I was really proud of this level of ingenuity on my end. I lived, finger quote lived, in a storage shed for a while.. And by that, I mean, like, it ha it was an air conditioned shed.
It, it opens like a big garage door. It opened out to a parking lot. So I could even back my car in there if I needed to. And, you know, I put a bed in there. There was electrical in there. And that was the closest thing I had to a home for about a year, the better half of the summer, well into fall. Around the time it started getting cold.
And, and, I really started to miss the of of a house. it also got lonely. anyway, I mean, that was in a weird way it was paradise. I had my computers, I had electric, I had a bed, a fridge. That was it. I mean, it was, it was minimalism to a T. It was like, you wake up, you're either working, you're either doing what you're passionate about or you're sleeping. there was really no other distractions. And um, yeah, that was my big solution to the whole, like, where am I going to keep my gear? And it wasn't good gear by any means it was this was like, I found an Alienware case at a thrift store that, somebody's kid moved off to college and the lady had it for 40 bucks and, and then I found like the telecom place down the street was getting rid of their old Dell workstations and I got a keyboard and a mouse.
And I still have equipment here at the house that like, I remember just like finding behind the building one day.
David: Yeah, I didn't have the fortune of a storage unit, but I did have the fortune of San Diego and it's beautiful weather. Which was probably the only thing that really in the end was my saving grace. Um, but as far as keeping computers um, San Diego, it's not too hard. You can keep it in your backpack, thankfully.
So it was me. I had a nexus, one, a nexus S and two netbooks. One of them had a modified wifi drivers, so I could run Aircrack on it. And I pretty much lived my life breaking Ocean Beach, California's wifi routers. As I slowly bummed my way around town, find a new spot that I didn't have the access point and password listed in my a little book.
And I'd crack me a router and have internet for the day. And kind of uh, did that mainly as a survival thing. Something that really has been solidified in years past, but it was this feeling that the only thing that hadn't been taken from me was my knowledge.
David: And that was the only thing that I could actually have any say over in my life.
And those computers were my knowledge. So it was to the point where, yeah, it was a, you know, cheap two gig of RAM netbook from and it's garbage, but you would have had to kill me to get it. Cause it was me in a way.
Kris: Yeah. I feel a lot of that. Particularly about the knowledge. I always knew I was smart and capable. I always knew that like the ability to learn or the ability to understand never got in the way. If anything, it caused more problems than, than it helped. Right. Like, I, I felt like in a lot of times I just moved too fast for the world around me.
I was done with high school before I even stepped my foot in the door. I
was ready for, for something bigger and better. And computers were, they were, they were the puzzle. They were the big unknown. They were the thing that I knew that the rabbit hole would just go so deep I knew there was a lifetime of learning there.
And as I kind of like quote, took it another step deeper into the cave, I found more. And there was this like big, lovely open source community waiting for me. And as someone who had been really hurt by the economic system of this country had been left out literally in the cold, without home, without food, healthcare, this idea of comradery really made me happy, made me feel safe.
There were good people in the world with good hearts who shared for the name of science and for the name of sharing. And I didn't find that anywhere else.
Rich: of time. period was this?
Kris: So actually, I wrote this down. My first homed year, you know, Was 2011. So that was 10 years ago. It's not feel 10 years ago.
So this, I think 2009 was the big summer, right? That was like the big of traveling and being young and not a care in the world and where I had made the decision that like, I was going go and do my own thing. was about the time, you know, 2009 ish was the storage shed year.
that's when like the computers started to really pile up. And when I started to really hack on things.
Rich: And Dave, you were working while you
were out of the street.
David: I mean to a point, yeah, you can call it working. I had technical skills. I could fix things, you know, there wasn't, it's not like I was deficient in any way. I was just a depressed bum who didn't want to do anything for himself. Um, you know, that left, definitely left the door open for things like fixing local computers and minor car repairs.
And Hey, I'll take your garbage out for five bucks and things like that, you know? So I managed to avoid having to bag or busk thank God, cause I'm a talentless hack. But yeah, that was a lot of, it was just using the skills that I had and helping the people around me, you know. It was pretty good little way to live, I think.
Rich: Yeah. And were you like Kris also like, like focused on learning new things and digging deeper into computers?
David: Oh yeah. That was pretty much the only thing that I did. I think my possessions at that point were the original Dune trilogy box set that my stepfather had given me, the two cell phones, the two computers, four or five changes of clothes and whatever random magazines I had checked out from the library, which was Popular Science or Popular Mechanics for trashy reading materials.
And everything else was either talking to people or just reading things on Reddit playing around with Linux computers. I was still paying for Linodes actually. At one point I had I had five Linodes and no house. So there was, there was always something to do for $5 a month. And that was what kept me sane for a while.
There was, building little web servers. Yeah. I'm living on the beach, making a website. That's awesome.
Rich: And were you just teaching yourself how to do these things?
David: Uh, yeah, for the most part, like I said, I had been a data center administrator down in Louisville for a internet service provider. I was self-taught up until that point. I was one of those people who said, Hey, I work at PetSmart as a dog trainer and I need to get a better life. So I literally drove to Walmart and bought a clearance HP desktop, took it home, formatted the hard drive, installed Linux on it said, all right, I'm going to learn how to install a web server and run it. And um, and a half, two years later, I was administering you know, whole data center, 1500 bare metal machines and a 60,000 or so ISP customers. I guess it'd actually be three years.
So it was a, was one of those fights for survival again.
Rich: Yeah. It's uh really interesting to me that you both have this sort of experience too with open source software being like the thing, that you were able to use to level up.
Kris: Oh yeah. I think my whole life I had experienced this sort of like, kindness has to come with a receipt, right? Like you don't get a hug unless you pay for it. don't get food unless you pay for it. comes for free. If you ever hope somebody is going to do something nice for you, the answer's usually going to be no.
And then one day, imagine the, 18 year old version of myself, dreadlocks, acoustic guitar and a banjo on the side of the street, in the middle of the Midwest coming across like Linux forums and it's just nerdy people who think like me and value the same things I do.
And there's a whole, wasn't just one or two of them. There was an entire world of them and they all existed out there on the internet and IRC channels and, Linux forums. And then it became like a part of my daily life slowly, where I actually discovered there was people that you would see everywhere who, you know, one of my favorite questions to ask people, like, what operating system do you use?
Do you run Linux? Oh, you do. And then all of a sudden, I, it was, we had so much we could connect over and bond about. And like the one thing that I just always was just in love with, was this idea of, nobody did it to make money, like at the expense of other people. It was always like, we're all trying to make money. We're all trying to get by, into this world. And we've just decided that sharing is more important than like hiding. And that just that was just such a new revelation for me to see that in the wild.
David: Yeah, absolutely. And looking at homelessness in the light of open source, those are the only two times that normal people can find themselves outside of the majority of money's influence. You know, when you're sitting there and it doesn't really matter if you have money or not, in some ways, it really just leaves the thing at hand as the only thing left.
And unless you actually see things and experience them in a more real way and open source software kind of feels like that. You know, when you have talk to somebody and have a nice time and they buy you dinner is the same thing as, like, Hey I helped this guy fix this problem in his software. And he gave me a shout out on the GitHub repo. has that same feeling to me in a way.
Kris: Open source software was the first time in my life I felt wealthy.
David: Oh yeah, it was the great equalizer. There was literally no difference between me and any other person sitting in front of a Linux machine.
Kris: It normalized everyone. And then I found out that maybe in this other world where I, I could even afford a house, I was at the very bottom of the pecking order, but like I was queen bitch, right? Like I was top dog, like I was the top of my game and the more I invested in it, I actually found that work, that investment pay dividends.
And that was intellectually. That was economically. That was with my job. And ultimately what got me off the street was, it was the first time where I felt like I actually had a tool that could get me to the next level in my life. I didn't realistically see myself getting, working at a restaurant or, doing any of the other odd jobs I was doing around the Midwest.
None of those were ever going to get me to a point where I could buy a new computer or buy a new car, or like actually progress my life. But all of a sudden, open source software, like David said, reset everything. Leveled the field
Rich: So let's talk about that a little bit, about your transition off the streets. Like how got your first job and made that transition.
Kris: I can go first.
So I was put on academic probation. I, I, so I had tried to put myself through college and while I was putting myself through school, it was, I certainly didn't need college. I hated college. I didn't find any value in it. But, I was still dealing with that, that ever present nagging in the back of my head of teachers and parents and coaches, Oh, if you don't go to college, you're going to end up poor on the streets with no money. And I'm kind of over here, poor poor on the streets with no money, like going to college. Like, I pretty sure that this is this is not what I signed up for. And so anyway what it ended up happening was like, I took a summer off or something took some time off of school. My active status with the school was, taken to like no longer enrolled. I lost my wifi connectivity.
And so, but like, think about it, right. Campus was like my goldmine right here, there were pretty girls and there were pretty boys and there was people with credit cards and wifi and coffee.
And, you could just go sit next to the nice, cool fountain. And this was, and I of course was like the renegade rogue hacker. And I got my wifi taken down and I did what any self-respecting Linux hacker would do in you know, 2011. I Acquired internet access. And I acquired a lot of internet access and I started to download things and host things that were on this internet and that uh, you know, it all caught up to me one day.
The college didn't find any use in me coming back. And I remember one of my Computer Science teachers that, I actually dropped out of like my first Computer Science class. Cause it was like a Visual Basic course and I was paying so much money for somebody to tell me, like the square to the upper left hand corner.
And like here's what an if statement is. And I'm like over here, like researching algorithms. Get off my lawn. And anyway, her husband had owned a small e-commerce website and was like, look, I, like in my mind it was like very Hollywood Key kid. I hear you can code kid, right? Like very like very hokey.
And anyway, he gave me a job and I was like 18 or $19 an hour, which at, at the time I was making $7 an hour, which like that was like, oh my god money. That was like, like game-changing money. That was like, I can get my teeth fixed money. And um, and yeah I took it and I started working and that was PHP 4.
And that was, you know, writing functions was like the big deal. And that was the first step into computer science professionally. And I think already you can see how I made money, like good money there. And then, I took a job in Colorado doing data center, tech, technical things, and that was polishing fiber and and stacking servers and switches.
And, you know, it was all job based. So some jobs were go pull cable, shut up, and other jobs where, Hey, can you go provision our door locks? And that turned it to a systems admin job, and that turned into a engineering job. And here we are 10 years later.
David: That's awesome. Um, Getting back off the streets was a little bit more of a process for me, unfortunately. I had, we haven't gotten onto the subject of drugs and unfortunately homelessness and drugs are rather intrinsically linked in a lot of ways. They go hand in hand. It's um, you can't find one without the other, in most cases.
Um, when I was a kid, 17 or 18, my parents, 18 actually, my parents had kicked me out and I got involved in drugs. That's what led me to Louisville the first time. Eventually the army. Um, I was a tank gunner for a little while there. Me being me, it didn't last, nearly as long as the army wanted, but I had better things to do in a way.
Um, Then I uh, let's see here. So yeah, that was the first time that I was really homeless. So that kinda got me out that first time around the adulthood, homelessness period, though. Getting out of that I had acquired a fairly vicious alcohol consumption habit. So I spent a good number of years, probably two years after coming back to Illinois, um, pretty much crap couch surfing, between frat houses and college houses on the Bradley campus here in Peoria. Drinking a 30 case a day, blasting myself into oblivion, waking up next month, repeating. And um, that kept me down for a good long time. I actually met my my current fiance and cleaned myself up.
She used to drink too. She got herself cleaned up and we um, maybe about six months after we actually got a house together, we learned that we were going to have our first child together. And at that point I was like, oh, all right, fine. Let's go ahead and do the adult thing. Go get a real job.
So I started working at a, a cell phone repair. Which in hindsight is more akin to IT arts and crafts than I should have really been doing with my time. but I fixed lots and lots of cell phones. I was the only person at the company that could on computers. And um, due to some circumstances, I had to take a few days off.
I got permission to take them off. I came back to work and they said, Hey, we need you to sign these documents. And I said, what are they? And they said this is a two written warnings for taking the time off. And then us terminating you for taking time off of that asking. So I immediately went to the only other computer repair shop in Peoria a place called Peoria IT.
And I walked in the door and said, Hey, do you need any employees? And he says well, I was thinking about firing and the other guy, can you start tomorrow? So I started the next day. And I wound up running that shop for maybe five years making anywhere from 9 to $11 an hour, trying to raise a family of two kids. And this was all the way up until, the pandemic. Um, I lost that job maybe a day before the pandemic lockdowns in Illinois started. But while I was there, yeah, it was this constant struggle of like, what are you going to do today, Dave? I'm really thinking that I'm going to learn, Golang inside and out, before I go home from work today at five.
And then I'm going to go home and try to figure out how to feed my kids because I have $3. Um, And that was pretty much that whole five-year period there, was me saying, okay, Peoria has nothing for me. I don't have a degree so Caterpillar is never going to hire me. Um, what do I do? it was again, back to open source software you know, they, they gave me the path forward. Specifically,and the reason I even know you guys uh, was Kubernetes. It was the announcement on Hacker News of a Kubernetes 1.4. Kubernetes, anywhere they said. And I took that anywhere a little literally, and used kubeadm to install a little Kubernetes cluster on some old Dell desktops that I pulled out of a factory a couple months beforehand.
And that was my first bare metal cluster. Oh, you
Kris: can I, Can I ask a question about that Reddit or Hacker News post really quick? So this was 1.4
Kris: And this was like the first big Kubernetes is like, you can run it on AWS. So like everybody was talking about Kubernetes being anywhere.
That was my blog post.
That is freaking amazing.
Kris: Yeah. It was when I had done, it was the only time I've ever been on the front page of Hacker News. It was kops 1.4, and I had written a blog post on my, I hit the, I think I might still have the old discs around here somewhere of the actual original blog posts. But like, um, if we're thinking of the same one, this was the one where I had written, here's how you get a highly available Kubernetes clusters up and running on AWS.
Uh, Just like you would in GKE
here's the exec.
David: the first time I installed it was on AWS had some credits back then. So
Kris: Yeah. You were probably running my kops code
and one, one dot for.
Rich: That is so amazing.
David: Hey, the bums going to help each other out once in awhile, sometimes YAML spec between friends is enough.
Rich: For the listeners this is not one of the things that we discussed ahead of time. So this is, we just discovered this or.
Kris: Um, Wow. Which, you know, I've always had mixed feelings about that work, but knowing you now and knowing that, like it touched your life and made you get here like, wow. Like, think
about that. I
didn't have to write that blog post, you know,
David: Yeah. And that's the reason why we're really having this talk is, I personally am hoping that there might even be just one person who hears this or their friend hears this or something happens they realize, yeah, maybe, I'm not stuck here. Maybe I can go play with clouds of worrying about if the church hotdog has sand in it.
Kris: Yeah. Another thing that I think is really important here is like, I do feel shame about where I came from and do feel embarrassed that I, I've had people that I look up to that I admire, you know, tell me, you got a late start you're behind, you know, other people. They started at this type of stuff when they were 18 and they were sober and they had a healthy breakfast and a warm bed and supportive parents and like, and they're smart.
And they're ambitious and they can outperform you. And it's um, so as I w went from survival mode to like reflective mode in my life, I've had to come to some pretty bitter truths about myself, and I'll even go as far as I'll call myself out. Like, I, I flat out lied to people about jobs that I had had just because I wanted, I knew I could do the job.
And the only way I could get people take me seriously was, politically correct way of saying this is I embellished. But coming from a life of homelessness, survival is all you know, and I would say what I just said here to anybody's face. And they would say, yeah, I'd hire you again.
You were a great employee. I, and that's something that I do feel proud of that I don't feel shame on that. I think there's something to be said about like, uh, I don't think anybody wants to admit they were eating sandy church hot dogs. And, a few years later, like there, they have six figures in there working in kube because everybody else around us is not eating sandy hot dogs, a few, a few years prior.
David: Oh, yeah. And you casually mentioned, look, I got to fix my teeth. I'm still waiting. Um, It's for people who have been homeless teeth are really hard to take care of outside of houses and things like that. You wind up uh, I still carry that little mark of shame with me, unfortunately.
Uh, KubeCon was difficult. If it hadn't been for masks, I wouldn't have been nearly as comfortable with it, honestly.
Kris: And that's, not to draw this back to kube and tech so hard but like really understanding your order of priorities at the end of the day, I think is I go there naturally, right? Do I eat or do I fix my teeth? Do I feed my children, do I don't have kids, but I'm assuming those are the types of questions you deal with.
If you only have $5, where does it go? And it turns out like, I have so much empathy for like alcoholics and folks who use drugs because I really believe there's no such thing as a bad I think there's just hurt addicts. and I think that if you have $5 and you have to pick between your teeth and food, if you pick food, it's going to be really easy to take that $5 and turn it into a $3 meal and a $2 40, because at least now you have food and you don't have to worry about your teeth.
Kris: And that I think is that's why I have so much empathy for everyone. And I try to have that same empathy for myself. I don't always get there.
Rich: Yeah. It's interesting that you both mentioned the shame because I think that um, you know, one of the reasons that I really wanted to have this conversation is that. I've never been unhoused or homeless, but I've had struggles of my own, and I'm pretty transparent about the fact that I've dealt with all kinds of mental health things.
You know, I have ADHD, I've dealt with anxiety and depression a lot. And one thing that I've found is that talking about these things publicly has really helped me with the shame. You know, that, That, like the thing is secret, when it's hidden, you know, that's when stigma is there and the shame is there more for me.
I do want to um, say that I understand that everybody's situation is different, right? And I'm not saying that anybody listening to this needs to be as transparent as maybe we're being at the moment. Like those are very personal
Rich: But but I think it's important from that perspective.
And then the other thing that I think is important, this came up in our previous conversation. The idea of representation, right? you think of representation, I think that most people tend to think of things like race and gender and, maybe even income, but you don't really hear people talk about it connection with homelessness, you know, like, understanding that there are people who've had these experiences our communities and listening to them.
David: Yeah, absolutely. Cause there's, in the, especially in the homeless community, there aren't spokespeople from the streets out there on TV like, Hey look, we're homeless people and we exist and we need things to. Um, We don't have that. We never had that. There's people who are outside the community who run homeless aid organizations, and you have churches and other things like that, but none of those are done by anybody in that community.
So there's always so many points that are missing. was watching the United States of Flags the other day, which is an amazing documentary. I believe it's on Amazon right now. But it's all about homeless people and the people that they were interviewing who were doing this work, they were talking to all of the homeless people throughout this movie kindly, but like they were mentally defective. And people may not have noticed it in quite the visceral way that I did.
But I've been talked to like that, you know, it's that's where a lot of these problems come from. There's nobody who gets it. Who's out there shouting about it. There's lots of people shouting about it, but they don't really have the whole picture. There's people out there who literally are smart enough to cure cancer in their sleep who are sleeping on the side of a road somewhere.
David: And it's
Rich: at this moment in time, where there's obviously been a lot of people who've become unhoused because of the pandemic. And you know, I, I live in Portland, there's a block near me where the entire block is pretty much a ring of an encampment. And there, there are several other within walking distance of my home.
And there are a lot of people who have acquainted that with like a moral failing on the part of these people. And it always just hurts my head because we're in the situation where obviously a lot of people have lost jobs. They've lost income, they've been evicted. And that's not to say that's the situation for everybody who's on the street right now. But you can't have a pandemic for close to two years and expect that you're not going to have a lot more unhoused people as a result.
David: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Kris: I think a big thing for me is w we seem to forget that people who end up in those homeless encampments there there's a very thin line between those people and you and me. And I th I think to just share a little bit of like my story. I ha I had gone from, I was having problems at school and I got sent home from school, to like, I was having problems at school and I was sent out to the streets.
It's just, the day that I lost contact with my parents. And that was it. That was the only difference. Like you, you go very quickly from, oh, he's just a bad kid or she's just a bad kid to she's on the street and she's a hoodlum and she belongs, she belongs behind bars.
David: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I, two days or the night that I graduated from high school and my stepdad met me at the uh, exited the gymnasium and his exact words were I'm, I'm proud of You have two weeks to find a new place to live. And that was my entrance to adulthood. Um, I actually lived in a camper in my uncle's driveway for eight months after. Um, It really didn't get a whole lot better for a good number of years. And it did stay that way for long because as I've you've been aware of nothing's really permanent
Kris: So much of this in my mind has to do with privilege, right?
Like we all lived through the same pandemic, everybody's experience was different, but it was the same virus, no matter where in the world you were. COVID is COVID. And I think it's reasonable to expect. If you're working at a cell phone repair shop, all of a sudden people probably stopped coming in to buy cell phones. And you know, what happens in an economy where people stop buying things,
David: everything dies.
Kris: every people's jobs go. so I think there's this there's this ongoing concept of like, oh, if you lose work for a few months, you should just get by.
And I think a lot of that you should just get by, comes with this grand assumption of privilege. Of that, you can just go to your parent's house. can just go to your, you know, borrow money that's in like your savings, or sell your car that you got when you turned 16 from your grandparents or like whatever.
And there's just in the world, the way this economy is set up, there are people who are born into situations that you just don't have that. And that's that thin line between homelessness and privilege. Right. If I lost my job when I was 21, it's streets no deal. There was no parents to go home to.
There was no money to fall back on. There was no car to sell. There was no anything. And that was because that's just the way my life started.
David: And that never really goes away either.
Rich: I felt that way for a long time. I think more in terms of mental health, that that people don't understand like how close they are to ending up in, really precarious situations because of things that, you know, mental health problems or other things that impact them in life. Um, I'm wondering if you um, if someone is listening and has had these kinds of experiences or maybe is unhoused even right now and trying to figure out like how to make the kind of transition you all have made. If there's any advice that you'd have for them.
David: I think I would say, thing that I needed to hear the most. Anything that you're doing to get yourself out of this situation, no matter how insignificant is a giant move and is going to have big consequences and results. Even if it's just going out and renewing your ID, so you have a valid ID so that you might be able to do something else next week.
That's important. That's a big step in getting yourself out of the hole because everything is a roadblock. So it doesn't matter how big or small it is. You just get it out of there.
Kris: There's two things. Like the first one is this sentiment of trust your gut. Where there's smoke, there's fire. Like, like Dave earlier had shared a little bit about drugs. Um, you know, I, I had an alcohol problem, so I was like, Dave and I had the same drink of choice, right? Like a bottle of Old Crow on the side of the road.
That was my life for four years. And and that was a fine life when you were drunk.
David: Oh yeah.
Kris: so I think, but every day I woke up and it was harder to get out of that. knew what the problem was. I always knew that, like this wasn't okay. And I was, I would constantly do these gymnastics in my brain to kind of get over it.
And um, yeah, I think, you know where there's smoke, there's fire, trust your gut. You know where to start, you got to do it. It's going to suck and you're not going to want to do it, but definitely start there. I think the other thing is um, yeah. Kind of like what you were saying, there are consequences and they're going to be big.
So at some point you just got jump. I mean, you just gotta do it and it's going to be scary, but you got to make up your mind one day that you're, you gotta, you're gonna make a change and you know what to do.
And I think once you make up your mind to do something, for me, it's, I've learned over the past decade that my ability to make a decision is equally as powerful as actually going in and doing the thing.
David: Yeah. And one thing you'll notice a lot of homeless people have this it's almost a tick where we, we always have to preface things like, or punctuate things with, you know, but I had fun and it was terrible and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it was okay. And there's, there is that justification that tells you you're okay.
It's, It's how you survive as a human being, whatever environment you're in. If I'm not dying I'm okay. Is the way it goes. So it's really easy to get stuck into the point where, I mean, yeah. I won two world youth and science and engineering competition, medals computer sciences, when I was in high school. I got a 32 on my ACT. I self taught myself how to be a Linux engineer, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It's completely okay for me to sit here and drink a 40 and two pints on the beach and not go anywhere for seven months. Cause that's completely fine. It's fun. It's great. And that's one of the big catches in that is yeah, you can have fun.
Like I said, you can have fun playing spades in jail, but please don't send me back. Even if it's for traffic tickets, like my case,
David: It's of ways that you cope and survive is by telling yourself that this is okay. There is worse ways to be, even when there really isn't much of a worse way to be.
Kris: Yeah. I also think finding, you know, for me, for us, it sounds like it was open source. It was computers, but finding something that gives you that same feeling
Kris: as harmful.
David: Exactly. And there, the freedom that computers and just running machines on the internet, caring about my services and worrying about config files and things like that. It it retaught me how to do normal people, things. You know, it taught me how to prioritize and make things important that aren't really important, but they need to be important. And, you know, it was what was not important to me at that point. Finding a house and going off and being a reasonable, normal, human being wasn't very important to me. But it's like when you have to reconfigure, the PHP config file, even though you hate doing it, you only got to do it once, so just go do it and you'll be fine.
And I think a lot of those lessons really carried over on just how to do something, even if you don't want to, or it doesn't matter.
Kris: It also, computers gave me a way to rationalize my approach to more than just computers.
Before I fell in love with designing software, I struggled with like basic tasks, like getting a driver's license. But then like once I saw like, oh, you declare the end state, you go and you reconcile it. Like whatever computer science lesson was floating around in the back of my brain, when I walked to the DMV or did whatever I needed to do, it gave me like some prior art for how do I just navigate the situation that I failed at miserably.
Rich: Kris you had mentioned when we were talking before the kind of connection between hacking and being homeless. And I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about it.
Kris: Yeah, this is exactly why I am so stoked for this next generation of people in this world. I feel like I got a taste of it early because of my really unfortunate situation. But I feel like the compounding generational wealth or lack thereof that the new generation of kiddos growing up today are going to be facing.
The new normal is exploitation, right? The new normal in, especially in this country. I feel like for kids these days, people who will be turning 18 in the next five years it's going to be, you either need to exploit this economy, you need to exploit your job, your career, your life. And you need to take advantage of it and outsmart everyone around you and hack it.
Or you're just not going to be able to survive. And I see that more and more, the more young people I talk to you, I feel like I learned that from hacking. I learned this idea of like, oh, I need to go to the hospital. I need to go to the hospital, I need to go and understand healthcare. Well, I need to go read fine print.
And that used to stress me out and I didn't do it. And I refused to let myself accept this healthcare situation, cause it had hurt me so bad. You know, I go to the doctor and I ended up with a $10,000 bill later and I didn't understand it. And I, nobody ever told me why or what happened or how to make that not happen.
And it just scared me and it traumatized me. The second I went from there's this really nebulous, scary system in the world that's going to bankrupt me, to, it's just a system and it's got documentation and I can go in and exploit it. It completely changed my life, right? All of a sudden I am now hacking the healthcare system and I realized very quickly that's what everybody else was doing.
The whole, all along was it was, you have to read the fine print, you have to go poke at it and try things and see what your attack vector is and ask people questions, and probe and poke and gain information and piece together what you need to piece together. And that's just how you navigate an Anthem bill.
Right? That's that's also the same approach I take to exploiting a server. And so it was just like, that is was the lesson that I definitely learned from computers.
Rich: Um, I'm wondering I know Dave that you had your tweets and talked about this a little bit publicly. I don't know how much you have Kris, but I wondered if you'd share a little bit about, you know, what kind of reaction you've gotten from people in the Kubernetes community? You know, um revealing this stuff about yourself.
Let's, let's start with you, Dave.
David: Um, well, I, I found myself at a moment where the CNCF retweeted, one of my tweets. And I was just some dude who read their documents and that felt pretty good. So it was, it was a big validation that, you know, maybe this was actually a good way forward and maybe I found a new way to fit in somewhere. Because it's real easy to fit in with homeless people, qualifications are low.
But when people in the community you're like yeah, yeah, yeah. I deal with horribly cerebral concepts all day long. This is the important thing to talk about though. I think that was the real realization that I had there was like, know, I think I might know a little bit of my purpose here a way, just getting this message out here and there.
Rich: How about Kris?
Kris: I think like before I say too much, Kubernetes is the best community I've ever found in this world. Period. Not just in computers, like in, in the whole world of worlds, all that is existence, everything, the light touches. Kubernetes and the people I've met here have supported me more, made me happier, provided more help, support, resources, made me feel welcome.
Made me feel like I finally had a home more than anywhere else I've ever been. However, we got a lot of work to do. And I, you know, there have been times where I felt like my story was exploited. I felt like my unusual story especially being a trans person was used without really my consent. We need a trans person on the team, so we called Nova. We need a woman on the panel, so we call Nova. We want a person without the MIT, Harvard background on stage, so we called Nova .And I know a lot of women, of minorities, people of color who have also expressed these types of, oh, they just picked me because I'm gay.
Oh, they just picked me because I'm black or I'm brown or I'm Jewish or And um, and that's a real, that's, I don't want to undermine that at all, but I also don't think that's always the case. I do think that there's a lot of really good people here as well. So I think really what I would say is.
I had been bitten a few times, but I had been helped out way more times than I've bitten. And I think not many places in this world, could even say that the words I'm saying right now, and still go get a hug from everyone afterwards and actually feel like I'm still welcomed.
So I think that says a lot about the community in general.
David: Yeah, the,
Rich: you. Oh, go ahead.
David: I was going to say the CNCF community, they celebrate differences in a way that's miraculous and beautiful in my mind. Yeah. If you're different, that's the reason why we love you in a way. Because it's not important other than it makes you, you.
David: And I think that's really it.
Kris: Linux has always, when I think CNCF, I think Linux, because there, too much
Kris: but like for me, Lennox has always been the island of misfit toys. It's always been that, that third category. Kind of misfits and, jugglers, people and unusual people, neurodivergent folks, just anyone who doesn't always fit into like the mold.
And is my favorite place I've ever found that's the closest place to home I'll ever have.
David: I agree.
Rich: I, I agree. with you both. And I feel the same way about this community. I think it's just amazing. are so many people that I've met, who are the, not only smart and giving, but people who have a ton of empathy and really good values and care about other people. And that's why I'm doing this podcast.
I I don't make anything on this, in fact I have, I've spent a lot more than what's come in through the Patreon but it's I think it's important. I think that it's that what I'm trying to do talk to people and share their experiences and you all have definitely an interesting set of experiences that I think really do deserve to be talked about.
And I want to thank you both for coming on. I think it's really uh fantastic and also pretty brave for you to be so open about these things. I take it for granted. I was very excited to do this recording and um, thank you both.
David: Thank you.
Rich: And I will put some links the show notes to some of the things that we've discussed. I'll also link to both your Twitters. Um, is there anything else that, that you want to mention?
Kris: Um, can I, can I give a quick plug to my non-profit?
Here, let me just pull up my thing really quick. Um, so yeah, if I could just share a little bit about the non-profit. Growing up as a transgender person had always been hard. And one of the things that I'd always gotten in my way as I was navigating my career was, I always felt like my body was getting in the way of my ability to use my mind.
I feel like has a lot to do with being homeless as well uh, where it's it's maybe, addiction or just fitting in or some other reasons. Um, so anyway, the Privilege Escalation Foundation is a nonprofit that I founded in 2021 with just a broken heart and a little bit of hope in California.
And our dream is to enable gender conforming healthcare, financial resources, and overall support for transgender minds in science, technology, education, and math. We don't very much right now other than we're basically just a tax refund that will allow us to throw money at the problem, of any trans person in this world struggling to just get the healthcare, they need to just survive.
Rich: Yeah, it's fantastic. I remember when you announced it, Kris, I was so impressed and I made a small donation at the time. I'm probably due to make another one. thank you for the reminder. Dave, how about you? Is there anything else you want to add?
Depression can kill you. If you are dealing with it, you have to get out of your own way, one way or another. You should probably make it easier on yourself and do it early and do it quickly and deal with the depression before it starts putting you out on the streets of California, thinking it's ok.
Rich: Yeah. Um, mental health is obviously a huge concern of mine too. And I do hope that folks that are listening, if you if you need to um, to seek out some help, that you do that. Um, think that we're going to wrap it up here. I, once again, appreciate you both so much for coming on. Thank you.
Kube Cuddle is created and hosted by me, Rich Burroughs. If you enjoyed the podcast, please consider telling a friend. It helps a lot. Big thanks to Emily Griffin who designed the logo. You can find her at daybrighten.com. And thanks to Monplaisir for our music. You can find more of his work at loyaltyfreakmusic.com. Thanks a lot for listening.