Episode 301: A Team of One

According to a recent PDQ survey, 85% of people who manage devices are a team of 1. Many of our guests have a small scope to their job: they manage Macs and/or iPhones. But many in IT manage, well, everything. That means being a jack of many traits: knowing just enough about networking, switches, routers, every piece of software used in an organization, budgeting, or whatever is on the docket at the moment. Today we’re going to cover what it’s like to cover such breadth with Ylan.


  • Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager, JumpCloud – @tbridge777
  • Charles Edge, CTO, Bootstrappers.mn – @cedge318
  • Marcus Ransom, Senior Sales Engineer, Jamf – @marcusransom


Click here to read the transcript

Sponsor Read:
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Hello and welcome to the Mac Admins Podcast. I’m your host, Tom Bridge, and it’s great to be back with you, Charles and Marcus. How are you today?

Tom Bridge (01:02):
Hello and welcome to the Mac Admins podcast. I’m your host, Tom Bridge and Marcus, aside from everything else going on in your life this morning, how are you doing?

Marcus Ransom (01:10):
Uh, I’m, I’m doing okay. So the, so the way we work out how we are doing is we get notifications from all these devices we have attached to us. And so, right, yes. Part of me rapidly getting older as my doctor has told me I need to get a little bit more fit, which is great. And so my watch told me that, uh, it, it had a running stat for the first time. Um, now I, I got my first Apple Watch on release day. So this in fact tells me that I perhaps have not actually run since 2015 , which possibly also explains why my doctor has said to me that maybe I need to do something about that, which is, which is good now, now that I am running,

Tom Bridge (01:57):

Marcus Ransom (01:58):
My blood pressure will come down, my longevity will be extended. Um, that’s how it works, isn’t it?

Tom Bridge (02:06):
I always feel better having gone for a long walk or a bike ride or done an Apple fitness thing. Um, it’s the doing it that I don’t as much enjoy. So, yeah, I was gonna say that is definitely, uh, in, in my, uh, I started keeping track of things in the new year. I started, uh, a, a daily, you know, uh, I’m using day one on the iPad to kind of keep track of things. I put a copy of my calendar in there. I put a, you know, couple of thoughts on business, things that went well, that went bad, you know, those kind of things can end up in the, in the chat. Um, and then I have three check boxes. Did I get a lunch break today? Did I go for a walk or ride my bike? And am I feeling okay? What’s my mental status? Yeah. And I’m at about 55% of compliance at this point in terms of like checking the boxes. And so if you figure there’s 15 boxes for, you know, a work week, and I’m, I’m probably checking about eight of them. Um, I, I wanna get, I wanna get better . Yeah. But, you know, we all start somewhere, right?

Marcus Ransom (03:06):
Yeah. And, and what I also have discovered as well is that notification I hadn’t seen before. There are certain muscles in my arms and legs, cuz it was running and some, some boxing as well. Um, there are certain muscles in my arms and legs that are clearly predominantly used for running and boxing because they are now letting me know that they’re giving me their own kind of push notification that, uh, they’re working. So, you know, I’m, and I’m, I’m telling myself that this will improve over time. That as I start using these muscles for what they’re intended, they will, they will feel better, just like I will feel better. So the, speaking of feeling better, Charles, how are you feeling as someone who runs clearly a lot more than I do.

Charles Edge (03:50):
I am an, i, I am an avid runner. Yep. But, uh, it is negative 14 here in Minnesota right now, so no, not doing it outdoors. I’m not that guy. .

Tom Bridge (04:03):
That’s, uh, that’s not enough degrees. You need to get some more degrees. You’ve lt out too many

Marcus Ransom (04:07):
Of your degrees. No, no. Running Charles. And probably no running water if it’s that cold, I’m guessing

Charles Edge (04:12):
. Well, hopefully not outside, but, uh, but yeah, I do have a treadmill in the basement. It gets used for, I don’t know, a couple weeks, a winter in general. But, uh, but yeah, the watch doesn’t really interact with that quite as much as it does when I go outdoors. So, you know. Um, but we have an awesome guest, right, Tom?

Tom Bridge (04:36):
We do. Uh, welcome to the Mac and bins podcast, Ilan Mueller. Uh, it’s so nice of you to join us this week. It’s great to say, great to have you on.

Ylan Muller (04:44):
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Tom Bridge (04:47):
Absolutely. You know, so according to a recent PDQ survey, 85% of people who devices are a team of one. Uh, many of our guests, you know, have a small scope of their job. They manage Max or they manage iPhones, but most folks on IT manage well. Everything. Uh, you know, that means being a jack of many traits, knowing just enough about networking, switches, routers, every piece of software used in an organization as well as, you know, budgeting or whatever else is on the docket at the moment. So, you know, that’s kind of what we’re gonna be talking with you about today. And so before we get started, you know, we love a really good origin story here on the podcast. And so take us through how you found yourself in the spot where you are in supporting the IT needs of a company all by yourself.

Ylan Muller (05:30):
That is a fantastic question. Um, so I got my start in IT doing help desk work for our university. Um, so during that time I was taking a pretty high volume of phone calls and emails, and I was actually in school for psychology. I was actually wanting to become a therapist of some sort, but at some point decided that was not for me. And now I think I am a therapist for people’s relationships with their devices and their electronics. So it worked out in a different way. Um, after I graduated, I found myself doing HR work for a smaller financial services company out in Seattle. And over the course of about nine months, my manager was like, this is maybe not for you, but we have an opening on the IT team that maybe you should check out since they were, um, pretty good about putting people into new roles.

Um, so I took that opportunity, did that for a few years, um, upleveled, you know, became a lead of a team there and then made the jump to a completely new industry, which was SaaS, um, software as a service, a company that does like sales engagement tools. So I was doing it there for a few years and decided I really prefer working at a smaller company. Um, I had worked on scaling that IT team from 150 employees to when there were over a thousand. And I just wanted to go back to that smaller environment. And that’s how I ended up where I am today doing it as a single IT manager.

Charles Edge (07:12):
So what’s an average day look like for you? Therapizing, all those Apple devices?

Ylan Muller (07:19):
It varies pretty significantly, but most of the people I support are in a completely different time zone for me. So I’m on the west coast. Um, the company is out of New York, and so everyone’s already been up for a few hours. So the first thing I do, um, when I log in in the morning is make sure that there’s nothing blowing up our ticketing queue. And from there, you know, it could be anywhere from an hour to a couple hours before I can actually get into the stuff that I really want to work on, like the, the meat of the work. Um, but after all of that is addressed, I have a good amount of time allocated to project work. Um, I spend a good amount of time every Monday mapping out what I want to spend time doing for the rest of the week. So I have a project list and a to-do list that has everything prioritized for me. And from there I’m doing maintenance on systems, making sure people are getting the support they need, working on high level projects for the organization. Um, and since we don’t have a lot of systems analysts and other parts of the company, I find myself doing system support cross-functionally as well. So supporting engineering systems or sales and operational tools.

Marcus Ransom (08:29):
So how many devices do you support on your own? Um, not just endpoints, but also sort of like networking equipment and whatever else needs support.

Ylan Muller (08:39):
We’re pretty lucky since we’re fully remote, I don’t have to do a lot of networking gear support. Um, some of it happens by happenstance. If I’m helping someone, a problem happens to be on their network, but I’m not actually, um, in charge that gear per se, but it’s about a hundred devices. Um, and they vary from max iPhones, iPads, people’s monitors, things like that.

Charles Edge (09:06):
And it does feel like a around a hundred, uh, or at least around a hundred people is where one person would be pulling their hair out like that. That just is a lot to manage. I mean, according to how technical the end users are, but also if there’s compliance stuff that could work against you , you know? Yes. So, um, yeah, that’s, that’s a, a pretty wide spectrum, I guess. How wide, I guess, is that spectrum of, of types of things that you’re managing?

Ylan Muller (09:43):
It’s pretty broad, really. Anything that involves data moving through a device or a system I touch. So, um, I’m doing workstation support, um, managing our mdm, managing identity, working with security, and sometimes actually running security programs. Um, and then on top of that, administering the actual tools that our users interface with. So it’s pretty broad, but I personally really enjoy it because I have a tendency to jump between things and I really enjoy learning different systems, so it works really well for me. Um, but it can understandably get a little bit overwhelming some days.

Charles Edge (10:25):
How many pans of glass is that? Like, I, I guess from a management perspective, like, okay, your networking infrastructure, whatever that happens to be as one tool that you have to log into to control, you know, firewalls, wps, et cetera. Um, your device management, that’s another pane of glass. Let’s say your, um, identity management, your all of the different SaaS tools, do you have to run those as well?

Ylan Muller (10:52):
Yes. Um, we don’t really have anyone dedicated to running them, so they just get tied into the fold of it. And one day when we get bigger, we’ll redistribute all of those to their respective homes. But for now mm-hmm. , it, it does come under our umbrella.

Charles Edge (11:08):
That’s quite a bit. Mm-hmm. . Yeah,

Ylan Muller (11:11):

Tom Bridge (11:11):
So for an organization your size, what would you say are the short term and long term priorities that you’ve got in term in your IT experience?

Ylan Muller (11:21):
Yeah, it’s changed a lot over the past year. I’ve been at this particular organization. So when I first came in, the focus was really on onboarding and making sure that experience was as smooth as possible. I mean, for context at the time, um, one of our founders had a stack of laptops in his home that he was mailing out to employees, and he was up at like two in the morning sending invitations. That’s what was happening at that moment when I came on board. Um, so when I got there, all of that was streamlined. We have it fully automated, we brought warehousing in, so no one’s storing laptops at their house. Things are hunky dory there. Um, so now what I’m really focusing on is turning my attention to the rest of the business. I feel like over the past year, I’ve gotten a lot of my house in order. Um, IT foundations and security fundamentals are largely handled outside of staying on top of the latest and greatest technologies. So, um, I really glommed onto this idea that a former manager and mentor of mine proposed, which is it as business process, re-engineering, actually going into other parts of the business, learning how they’re doing things, and see where you can save time, clicks, you know, plug in technology to make their lives easier. So that’s kind of where I’m putting my focus now as the business’s priorities have changed,

Tom Bridge (12:37):
Man, making that choice for, you know, I is so helpful for an IT organization. You know, you think about that, you talk about a way to win friends and influence people, right? Like nothing makes it look better than for saying, oh, if you, you know, were to think about using this piece of software, or if you adapted this process just this way, you would save this amount of time or this amount of money, or, you know, those kind of things. Those are, uh, knowledge bases that IT admins have that a lot of organizations don’t necessarily see as assets or they just don’t realize are there

Ylan Muller (13:12):
Yeah. Yet really put yourself out there. I’m fortunate to work at a company that’s small enough where I have gotten to know most of the people at the company and they understand how I can help them. But, um, I think it, to your point, does have a lot of experience implementing tools, making sure they have a full lifecycle, and understanding what other parts of the environment interact with it in a way that no other team does. So, um, even working with, you know, operational people in other parts of our organization, it is still able to bring value because they don’t see all the other parts of the company that I do or we do as IT administrators.

Marcus Ransom (13:54):
I, I know that’s something I’ve really struggled with moving backwards and forwards between smaller organizations and larger organizations, is really that disconnect from what, what the users are actually doing or what they’re trying to achieve. Um, I know when I was working in a university, they moved the IT department off campus, like nearby, but literally off campus to try and, you know, create more room for learning and teaching and seeing the number of my colleagues that were really reluctant to actually go and see how people were trying to use the, these systems that we set up. And that moment where you, you know, as you say, you walk into a room and see someone trying to do something and realize that they’ve misunderstood the instructions or are not aware that there’s instructions or have just never, nobody’s ever noticed that they’re trying to do something in a certain way and being able to look at it and go, oh, I can fix that. Oh, there’s a, there’s a much better way of doing it. Um, so, you know, how do you find that being remote with, with, with a small team? What sort of things do you do to, to try and maintain that engagement, um, when you’re not sort of all sitting in the same office?

Ylan Muller (15:05):
To be honest, I’m still figuring that out to some extent. My typical strategy is I connect with the leader of the team and I say, Hey, um, one, I think I’m seeing this issue just amongst people and what they’re talking about in Slack as I’m watching the way they work. Um, would you mind putting together a meeting with me and a few of the team members who are closest to that process and just let me shadow how they do it? Um, and this exercise is pretty helpful because I find sometimes all running this that people in a fully remote environment don’t even know what their own colleagues are doing. And in some cases, they’re able to learn from each other in that way. So it’s not only useful for me, it’s useful for their teams. Um, that’s one way of being able to do it. Um, in other cases, I’ll just talk to people. Sometimes we’ll have like a, a one off conversation. We, we use Donut internally, which matches people over Slack. So it’s, you know, nice to be able to connect with someone separately, not necessarily for work, but I usually sneak in a little work related conversation to see what they’re up to. Um, and in some cases you get some valuable intel that way as well, and they can actually work through a process with you and kind of talk with their pain points. Um,

Charles Edge (16:11):
And of course sure. The Slack admin as well, right?

Ylan Muller (16:14):
? Yeah, exactly. , I spent a good amount of time spying on public Slack channels to see what people are up up to. Sometimes I find some, some curious things that they’re working on that I’ll dig into with them because they don’t think to bring it into it, and they’re, um, in, we’ll say significant need of, of technical help.

Charles Edge (16:34):
, I mean, business process automation is n not only for the saving money and saving time factor that, that Tom mentioned, but to me, the getting to market faster, they’re closing more deals, the all the other things, um, that you can bring a, a new level of telemetry and exactness to. Um, that to me is, I, I mean, I, I remember on the, on the ROI type calculation, the things Tom mentioned, you know, we could, as a consultant, we, we could maintain customers for far longer if we helped them with that stuff. But that kind of, I, I guess the new buzzword, not by, and by new, I mean over the last three years, the like digital transformation type of type of approach, um, has been a thing, but you know, it’s, it’s kind of the, the entire ecosystem. Uh, do you see any of that as part of how you see your priorities shifting in the near or sh long-term future?

Ylan Muller (17:41):
I do. Um, I think right now every business is trying their best to optimize with what they have and being able to extend my role and say, not only can I help you evaluate the systems that you’re using and how they plug into your processes or even help revamp your process, um, but I can help your sales reps close a deal faster or get the data you need so you can report properly on key business analytics without prowling through 50 Google sheets. Um, these are things that like I can bring into the table and most it admins can as well. Um, that does require a certain amount of letting go of it is my domain. And whatever the business is doing is, you know, the responsibility of other people in the business. Um, I’m kind of moving towards how do we slot it into those different priorities so we’re not just working on, you know, arcane things that people don’t really care about. I mean, we care about them, but they might not care about, oh, we made you patch your machine and we applied some new c i s benchmark policies to your advice. Um, kind of getting us out of that realm and helping the business see, see the value of bringing it into the fold of these different projects.

Marcus Ransom (19:00):

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Marcus Ransom (20:28):
So what does the tech stack look like at, at your organization? So, have you hit the threshold where, you know, you device management is a thing that you need to do, and sort of what sort of things do you look at? You mentioned ticketing before, so what sort of processes and tools have you got in place there?

Ylan Muller (20:45):
Yeah, so we are a, a conk shop, um, which has been really nice for me because this is the first fully Mac OS environment I’ve administered. Um, I came from administering fully windows and then largely administering Windows machines At my last company, even though they did have a fleet of Mac OS devices, they kind of fell under someone else’s umbrella because it was big enough for that to happen. So being able to like point and click at policies and kind of learn my way into the operating system without like starting off jumping fully into deploying jams scripts or something was very helpful for me. Um, beyond that, uh, we used Jira service management. Um, when we came on board, when we, when I came on board, we didn’t have a ticketing system in place. Um, we were using the same sprint management system that engineering was using.

So one of my first priorities was getting the ticketing flow through a space where both I was comfortable and knew that users would be more comfortable using. So because, um, JIRA service management has an integration with help, which we can then plug into Slack, which is where everyone else is working, I threw that into the mix. And so all of my tickets by and large come through a Slack channel, which has actually been very helpful for me as a team of one, because that means that other people in the organization have visibility into the tickets. And occasionally they’ll chime in and be like, you know, Hey, this is how you solve this problem without me having to do anything, which is nice. It’s sort of a way to augment , um mm-hmm. how we’re doing things. Um, but beyond that, I do have, um, Okta deployed as well. And I spend a lot of time building Okta workflows to optimize our different systems. And essentially, I, I want to automate myself out of the IT things that are routine in the organization. So inventory management, I don’t think about, um, onboarding. I don’t think about it all. It’s all done through Okta workflows.

Tom Bridge (22:39):
I think a lot about the, uh, help desk system that we use here, which is also help. Um, and it’s so great to see one coworkers helping each other, um, when you’ve got a culture that can, that can really benefit from, you know, coworkers diving in, especially when you’ve got, you know, engineers and marketing folks and sales folks and you know, backend teams helping each other. Um, it’s really great to see that kind of, uh, esprit de core, uh, and you know, it, doing that with an open ticketing system like, uh, help, uh, you know, really kind of gives you some really good stuff there.

Ylan Muller (23:10):
Yeah, I agree. And in some cases there are things that I might have to research the answer to, and we get engineers that pop in and answer their colleagues’ question right away, and then I learn something from it and it’s documented there for the future. So, um, I’ve really enjoyed using it and probably will take it with me to the next slack oriented org I go to.

Marcus Ransom (23:30):
It’s, it’s also interesting where necessity is the mother of invention, where, you know, in, in my experience working in larger teams is where you’ll often end up with a manual process that just won’t go away because someone is able to do it and will keep doing it, even though they often have the desire to not do it. Too many of the other things are being automated. But do, do you find that because it’s only you, that’s why there, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So anything that is able to be automated kind of needs to be.

Ylan Muller (24:01):
Yeah, absolutely. Um, one of the things I focused on initially was the question of if I’m suddenly unavailable, I’m on vacation, I’m sick, what do people ask for that typically needs to be handled immediately that other people can’t do for me. Um, so that might look like, Hey, I got locked out of my account, I need to rotate my two f a device, it’s lost, you know, so on and so forth. And those are the things I, you know, might build a Slack bot for, or some kind of automation or a ticketing system handle so that, you know, I don’t have to be paged or hop on, um, in the middle of a vacation to help someone with something mundane. Um, and it also gives whoever is running back up for me some breathing room as well, knowing that the most basic needs that our users have are taken care of. And everything on top of that is, you know, a nice to have that they can live without for a few days.

Tom Bridge (24:55):
Well, and that takes us to a really important question. You know, I always think about, you know, I I I did a lot of, uh, you know, support for small organizations, uh, prior to May becoming a product manager. But one of the things that we oftentimes ran into a challenges, if you’re a, if you are a solo, uh, within your department, how do you go on vacation or how do you deal with sick leave? How, uh, what’s that process like for you?

Ylan Muller (25:19):
I think I’m lucky because the person who is quote unquote running it for the organization before me is still there. He just works at a completely different capacity. So, um, by and large, he keeps a tab on some of the stuff I work on and has enough background to keep things afloat, but I handle it the same way as other people might handle it. Um, I have an out of office that kicks on in Jira service management to let them know that things are delayed and we’re probably not gonna hit SLA this time for the week that I’m out, but that’s okay. Um, and here’s an escalation point. So, um, they have some avenue to work with, but I also make sure that we have all of our help answers tuned. So the most common questions we get, they might get an auto response force so they can self-serve and that we’re linking to the appropriate documentation that they can get access to. In my absence, there are naturally some things I will have to do when I get back, but I’ve yet to go on a vacation where someone had to ping me urgently for something only I could do. I think we’ve put the, the proper backup mechanisms in place, fortunately, hopefully I didn’t just jinx it for myself, but we’ll see. An all time ago. Yeah,

Marcus Ransom (26:26):
, well, it’s, I mean, it’s awesome actually hearing that, cuz I was gonna follow up with, okay, so every time you go on vacation and you get a message for something that they weren’t able to look after, does that make it to the top of the list of what we’re gonna automate? But you know, clearly that list is very well if, if that hasn’t had to happen.

Ylan Muller (26:46):
Yeah, I find that, um, if I tell people maybe a few days in advance I’m going on vacation, like I’ll just pop that into our IT help channel and typically it’ll, they’ll let them surface the things that they were maybe holding onto, um, because some tickets people will send in because now it’s urgent, like the very day this admitted it, but it’s actually been stewing in the back of their mind for a few days now. I think we’ve all seen that happen. Um, so that helps somewhat. Um, but we, we’ve done a lot of work around building automated bots and things that people can interact with to do, um, like account unlocks and password resets and things like that. Um, the stuff that would be actual blockers for them continuing to work in my absence

Marcus Ransom (27:33):
Is, is this your background as a, you know, trained as a therapist and psychology working to try and resolve the issues before they become a problem rather than leaving them because you know, that that sounds very much like a non-technical solution that’s making, um, great inroads into preventing technical problems.

Ylan Muller (27:52):
That , that’s a, that’s a very apt observation. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. I’ve forgotten a lot of my psychology training , um, , I think more so what it is is experience just working with people in general. Um, you know, I people see it is a very like technical field people go into, so you don’t have to interact with people, but I think it’s the opposite. A lot of the work we do is supporting humans who are having interactions with things that they may not completely understand or have trouble with. Um, and so I just try to be as human as possible and like think of how people react to a situation and try to,

Marcus Ransom (28:32):
Computers by the most part work, it’s the people using the computers that are, or or writing the software that are the ones that introduce the problems. Isn’t, isn’t that right?

Charles Edge (28:42):
So yeah, speak. Speaking of writing the software, I, I find Jira service Management is typically mostly used in places that are running a full Atlassian stack cuz they have a boatload of software developers. So, you know, based on that we can kind of deduce that you manage a lot of software developers devices. Um, do you find that in those kind of scenarios where they need, you know, admin privileges so that they can compile software, do all that type of stuff, does that make it harder or easier than, let’s say the people in account management or go to market teams where, you know, they just need access to Salesforce and email and all the other things that they might need access to?

Ylan Muller (29:30):
It does in the work that our engineers do lens some complexity to support as well. Um, I’m sure, as you all know, when you work with engineers, they’re acutely of when any little thing is incorrect in their machine, you deploy a rogue policy immediately, , they’re like, hang on, this popped up and I don’t know what it is. It’s consuming way more resources than usual , so on and so forth. Um, and that’s cool , but it, it does add a layer of difficulty in that regard. We try our best with things like conk to have self-service items available so that they can escalate their privileges or maybe they can install the software they need without intervention from us. Um, but that is the nature of the beast. I appreciate the collaboration though. And I think, um, the biggest challenge with engineers both in this environment I’m supporting today and in previous ones is, um, how to optimize the developer experience so they don’t need laptops that are quite as powerful as what they’re getting today. So that’s, that’s the next challenge I’m gonna deal with.

Charles Edge (30:35):
Interesting Cloud DevOps . Yeah,

Ylan Muller (30:38):
, that’s,

Marcus Ransom (30:39):
But the Apple will go and release laptops that are significantly more powerful than what they’re getting today and they’ll decide that.

Charles Edge (30:46):
But it’s not just the power of the machine, it’s also like, I just don’t want some of those certificates that are required to compile software on 200 developers endpoints, you know, or 50 or however many it might be. Like some of that stuff is

Tom Bridge (31:03):
Just, or, or worse, you could put it in Circle Ci

Charles Edge (31:07):
or worse you could put it in last pass and then after reset. Nevermind , sorry, too soon. too soon.

Ylan Muller (31:16):
Uh, the pain of Circle CI is still with us, unfortunately.

Tom Bridge (31:20):
Yeah, no, no, it’s, it’s there. I, I feel it, it hurts.

Charles Edge (31:24):
Um, they, they were a last pass customer, right? So

Tom Bridge (31:26):
I’m sure they were

Charles Edge (31:27):
Fruit of the Forbidden Tree

Tom Bridge (31:29):
did not allow, I mean, many ways, in many ways have caused that problem. But, uh, I will also point out that, uh, Tim Pertz two canoes signing manager is excellent, um, and very nifty. So go take a look at that. If you’re having trouble sign deciding where, how to, where and how to sign your code safely,

Marcus Ransom (31:47):
As long as it’s not if to sign your code, you’re trying to work out, because there is still a few organizations trying that and it’s,

Tom Bridge (31:53):
It’s when and how. Yeah, should not be if this episode of the Mac Bins podcast is sponsored by Data Jar creators of Data jar.mobi, a cloud-based managed MDM solution that redefines Apple Device Management developed from the ground up by Apple admins for Apple admins Data jar.mobi is the first solution to truly extend the capabilities of Jam Pro. The undisputed leader in Apple device management data jar.mobi Superchargers Jam Pro through a managed MDM service that delivers simplified zero-touch workflows, fully automated patch management, centrally managed E D R and a scalable multi-tenent view with centralized reporting for global and distributed fleets designed to provide IT teams with the best of both worlds. We have developed a true MDM as a service platform for Apple admins that is fully managed and scalable, but can also be controlled through a rich but simplified web interface. Backed by the unmatched experience of the award-winning data jar engineering team.

It is no surprise. Data jar.mobi is consistently ranked in the top 10 highest rated solutions in the G2 grid for mobile device management. Wanna learn more? Come and say hi in the data jar channel of the macin Slack, or visit us at data jar.co.uk/mac admins podcast. Thanks so much to our friends at Data Jar for sponsoring the Mac Men’s podcast. You know, I, one of the challenges that I always found when, you know, running on a small team or running as a, as a solo out as as the solo max specialist in a larger team, you know, people are always kind of hitting us up with RA issues and, you know, I always found that at the end of the day, I still needed some boundaries. Um, I didn’t give out my cell number except to certain people I did not give out. You know, I didn’t have Slack turned on 24 by seven. Uh, so how do you stay within your boundaries and still be, you know, there for your coworkers? What’s what’s your process as as you measure that out?

Ylan Muller (33:51):
Yeah, I’m the same way. I don’t have Slack on twenty four seven or have my phone on twenty four seven even or within Reach. Um, but I do wanna make sure that our users feel heard and they have input into my prioritization process. So typically when I’m getting hit up with something that I maybe don’t have time for, I try to be very transparent about it. I think a lot of times people are frustrated with how opaque that process is when they interact with it, or even other teams. Like you’re asking for something that you think you need and you’re like, great, I get to hear from ’em in 72 hours or whenever they get to it. I try to take the opposite approach of, you know, we have a discussion, you know, Hey, we got your ticket, is it urgent? If it’s not urgent, when do you need it by?

Okay, great. Based on that, I think I can get it to you by that time or even maybe a day before. And then we have that conversation and we are all on the same page together. Just wanna make sure that they know what to expect. Outside of that, I keep a pretty healthy to-do list. It gets a little bit overwhelming to look at sometimes, but it’s literally a running checklist I have of all the things I need to look into. But what I try to do is periodically comb through it, move things around to different priorities, and then only focus on the things that are high to medium from medium to high, if you would. Um, and that way of keeping myself sane by moving all the crufts, the, the nice to haves that I spot along the way in my day-to-day off to the side and not looking at it until I have more time.

Charles Edge (35:16):
Speaking of Atlassian stuff and Trello, I guess at that point, , you know, we, we use Trello to manage the podcast. You wouldn’t have seen that luckily, um, in the show planning side because we keep that away from people so they don’t see how crofty we are , but I,

Marcus Ransom (35:37):
I do, it’s a good practice.

Charles Edge (35:38):
Yeah. Um, I I do find that larger organizations usually or should have robust change management processes. How do you make sure you don’t air gap the fleet on a Friday afternoon? Or if you do, how do you make sure that it’s documented that a change was made?

Ylan Muller (35:55):
Uh, that’s a really good question. Uh, I try to run change management as though I’m still working on a larger team because at the end of the day, um, I realize that, you know, I sometimes forget things I’ve done three months ago or five months ago. And so change management is not only important for people working on a larger team where everyone needs to stay informed, but also get as a documentation measure for myself. Um, so I actually used your service management change request module and everything that is a big systems change or even a medium systems change, I’ll get into there, have my implementation plan written out, how I plan to back out of the change and how I tested it. Unfortunately, because I am a one person team, I don’t have a lot of testers. What I’ve actually done is built out a beta testing program internally where PE people can volunteer to receive, um, new updates from us, things that the IT team is rolling out where we want to gather more user feedback cross-functionally. Um, and I’ll, you know, kind of park stuff onto that group first and then roll out to the rest of the organization after that if it clears their testing. Um, but by and large, I try to adhere to the same change management processes that we had at a larger organization with a little bit less separation of duty since that’s, that’s just not possible. But the way we’re operating today,

Charles Edge (37:18):
It’s almost like it’s fully automated incident management. There you go.

Marcus Ransom (37:23):
. Even, even in terms of just being able to realize that you’ve added so many things to your to-do list on, you know, the last Friday or the month before a big product release and then going, actually, is that really the right time to be doing all of these? Am I setting myself up for failure? And it’s, you know, it’s something seeing, seeing CanBan be, you know, a really big, wonderful, shiny idea for software development and moving into other teams. But when you drill it down into the fundamentals, just being able to step back and see everything you’ve committed to doing and going, if I’m struggling to see all of that without moving my neck, then . Maybe that’s a, that’s trying to tell me that it’s a, it’s a bad idea even with a large team.

Charles Edge (38:10):
Well, you should roll out the biggest updates the day before you go on vacation.

Marcus Ransom (38:14):
Exactly. , that’s someone else’s problem to deal with the repercussions, which if that’s someone else is you on vacation, then it kind of, kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

Ylan Muller (38:24):
That’s one of the main reasons I choose not to

Marcus Ransom (38:27):
. Yeah. You

Charles Edge (38:27):
Know, I don’t know that the size of the team matters as much for being able to take vacation. Sometimes it’s just better planning. I’ve had 45 or 50 people on my teams and I get eight phone calls a day when I’m on vacation. You know, it’s because I don’t plan. Well, I’m, that’s a self effacing comment. to be clear, , you know, . But, uh, I feel like when, when we booked this, the PDQ survey that we mentioned in the beginning had had kind of just started making its rounds and it’s like, I, I don’t know that most of the people who we’ve had on who were parts of teams of three or 10 or 50 or hundreds n it organizations realize that such a large number, like over 80% of people who manage things are a team of one. And that’s just a lot, especially as the org grows and then grows and then grows. So how do you stay calm with all that going on, given all the time constraints around everything you have to get done in a given day?

Ylan Muller (39:41):
I wouldn’t say I’m, uh, staying calm per se. There’s a lot of coffee and Red Bull involved, , but

Charles Edge (39:46):
I think hopefully not together,

Ylan Muller (39:49):
Not together, maybe one earlier in the day and one leader. Um, but I think organization to me is the way I stay sane if everything is coming at me all at once and I don’t have a system for prioritizing it or understanding how all of it looks in aggregate the way you were all just talking about the con bond board, that to me is more chaotic and I get more panicky that way. And so my way of staying calm is having the to-do list, having a change management process, knowing that my ticketing queue is under control and that I have the appropriate measures in place to be notified if it doesn’t. And that’s kind of the best I can do. I think something that is calming for me as well is just having like quick chats with my colleagues and maybe commiserating a little bit on all the craziness that’s going on and then getting right back to it. Um, I think it helps even if those people aren’t working on the same thing I’m working on because they’re on different teams, um, building that comradery and understanding that we’re kind of hunkering down together as fellow operational folks. Working at a startup, um, has helped me a lot.

Charles Edge (40:53):
And I have to say you speak like a, a classic cio, you know, just the maturity of how you deliver some of the terminology that you’re delivering, if that’s fair. So, you know, looking at a little longer term, what kind of career path do you see in the future? Like veering into management or engineering or bi ops or something entirely different back into White cha

Ylan Muller (41:27):
, , please know, ,

Charles Edge (41:30):
H r I s, that’s a whole other thing.

Ylan Muller (41:33):
I moved out of HR for a very good reason. I think my sweet spot is smaller companies and role wise, I do really enjoy mentoring and helping people grow their careers and providing advice along the way for not only technical questions, but how they want to grow as individuals. I would love to manage a small team at some point, but I think, um, something I personally really enjoy is getting in the weeds and getting my hands dirty. That’s why I do this and why I’m okay with being a team of one. And so, um, I’d like to continue doing more of that, but maybe adding on a management layer to it. Just so you know, I have the opportunity to spread the good word of how, um, I kind of think IT teams at smaller companies should operate, which is, um, as very versatile teams who act as technical business partners.

Charles Edge (42:27):
That’s a that’s a great answer. Yeah. I, I feel like I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. So that was more of a self-serving question. . No, I’m kidding. . Um, you’re never gonna grow up Charles, are you? No. Yeah. . I, I mean, I do find that a lot of people who begin in that technical world, and it’s funny because when you’re in a software development company, a lot of times you feel like the hardcore developers are way more technical than you, and yet the people in sales might think that you’re more technical than them, in a way, as an example, or the people in HR or, you know, accounts payable or what have you. So it, it’s, it’s kind of a really interesting spot to be in and that kind of company. Um, because like you said, the developers are intimately aware of what you’re doing on their computer, and some of the other people are only infinite are are only intimately aware of what you’re doing if it impacts their ability to see, you know, the latest 49ers score, which sadly enough did not go their way.

But that’s aside from the point , we don’t

Tom Bridge (43:39):
Oh, just rub it in Charleston talk.

Charles Edge (43:40):
No, I, who was rooting for them?

Tom Bridge (43:43):

Charles Edge (43:45):
Screw you.

Tom Bridge (43:47):
That’s . Philly is a delightful city. Maybe you like getting

Charles Edge (43:51):
Beat up if you’re a robot.

Tom Bridge (43:54):
I mean,

Ylan Muller (43:55):
I still think about that news story sometimes it’s

Charles Edge (43:58):
Devastating. ,

Tom Bridge (44:00):
Please send all of, uh, all of your feedback to, uh, Charles Edge at, uh, I do not want that hate mail. Um, I’ll take you Or that brick. Um,

Charles Edge (44:16):
It’s not, at least it’s not Boston. Yeah, I was just saying alienate all the cities that I can’t. You have a least just keep going

Tom Bridge (44:31):
Here at the Mac Admins podcast. We wanna say a special thank you to all of our Patreon backers. The following people are to be recognized for their incredible generosity. S Stu Baka. Thank you. Adam sbe. Thank you. Nate Walk. Thank you Michael. Si. Thank you Rick Goodie. Thank you. Mike Boylan. You know it. Thank you. Uh, Melvin Vive. Thank you. Bill Steitz. Thank you. Anus Storyville. Thank you. Jeffrey Compton, M Marsh, Stu McDonald, Hamlin Cruin, Adam Berg. Thank you. AJ Petrek. Thank you. James. Tracy, Tim Pert of two canoes. Thank you. Nate Sinal, will O’Neill, Seb Nash, the folks at Command Control Power, Steven Weinstein, Chet Swarthout, Daniel McLoughlin, Justin Holt, bill Smith, and Weldon. Dod, thank you all so much and remember that you can back us if you just saw head out, out to patreon.com/mac ADM podcast. Thanks everybody.

Charles Edge (45:27):
You know, we have a bonus question not to change subjects, but

Tom Bridge (45:31):
, we do have a bonus question. I love a good bonus question. The bonus question is my favorite part. So what is the most unexpected thing that you have been asked to provide support for in your IT role?

Ylan Muller (45:42):
Um, this has not happened at my current job in case anyone from my current company listens to this , but in a previous job, um, I, it was also a small company. I was doing both IT and office management, and I was asked to get a Christmas tree for the office, presumably because it has lights and lights have electricity running through them. . Yeah, that’s my only reasoning for that particular request. Um, so I think that was most off the wall one I’d received.

Tom Bridge (46:10):
I love that. You know, we, we, I frequently said that if, uh, you know, if it plugged into power is my problem, and that was how I wound up supporting overhead projectors, you know, uh, for a couple of conferences.

Charles Edge (46:21):
If you bill hourly, anything can be my problem. Exactly. Just throwing that out there. I Hey, , how about you? Marcus?

Marcus Ransom (46:28):
, I, I think probably the best one, which just defeated all, all of that was, um, you know, doing a, doing a setup of F Jam for a school. It was like during a, during a jumpstart, and the person I was doing the setup with, um, got a call from her daughter who was at home trying to do a maths problem. And we all just ended up helping. And it’s like, so, you know, because you usually, the rule is not that it has power, but if it has an IP address, then yes, you know, then it’s that it’s your problem. But, you know, then there were times when I was having to go out and help jumpstart cars with dead batteries. But I think that one’s been my favorite, where it was solving a, you know, as we say here in Australia, a maths problem rather than a math problem. Um, and discovered that maths has changed since I was at school.

Charles Edge (47:18):
No, it hasn’t

Marcus Ransom (47:19):

Charles Edge (47:20):
It’s the way they

Marcus Ransom (47:20):
Describe it has, they’re using Agile or something like that to solve problems. What about you, Charles?

Charles Edge (47:28):
You know, I would say a long time ago I had this bizarre request to go help fix Crestron’s, and I’d never heard of this Crestron company. And, you know, it was kind of weird because they were like lights and the TV was on pneumatic tube, so you hit a button on the Crestron and the TV lifted up and turned on and played the history channel or whatever. And little did I know that, you know, over the course of the next 25 years, I would be automating every home. I, I bought it from then on trying to get, you know, uh, to the point where basically we are today, and I guess we’ll do an episode in a few weeks on home kit and we’ll probably make it into more of a panel because I don’t, I don’t think any one person can talk about it for an hour and stay sane, you know? But, uh, but yeah, I would say the, the weirdest thing that we ever connected to to one of those things was the portfolio, which is a piggy bank that never worked. Right. Um, that was supposed to tell you how much money you had dropped into the piggy bank, um, through the Crestron, and yeah, it never worked. Um, there’s

Marcus Ransom (48:44):
A, it’s like somebody went out on a tangent somewhere with one of those requests from a customer and went, yep, I reckon we can do this.

Charles Edge (48:51):

Marcus Ransom (48:51):
Yeah. What was the context for this piggy bank? It

Charles Edge (48:54):
Yeah, , it was, I, I mean, I think it was our Christmas present, but it eventually, it was just thrown at me when it would never work again. And I, I have it in a box somewhere because it was so amusing to me that this smart piggy bank was thrown at me that I’ve still got it, but . But yeah, those weird crestron’s though, they, uh, oh, yeah.

Tom Bridge (49:15):
Yeah. I, I, I dealt with a lot of those, uh, in our office environment at the very first job that I had. We put in a bunch of them and, um, you know, they would automate like the, the screen coming down from the ceiling and the projector turning on and a bunch of those things. Um, but the interfaces that they had were a lot in a lot of cases, just hard wires. Oh, yeah. You know, attached to relays and, you know, trying to figure out exactly how the, how to jigger the software to do the right thing on the right relay was just a mess. Um, very enterprisey.

Charles Edge (49:48):
Have you looked inside the door systems, the magnetic door wash systems? Oh, yeah. And most buildings, I mean, they’re, they’re literally 68,000 chips and a lot of them are 68. That’s right. Oh, oh two or whatever. And you’re like, these are 40 year old microchips, , . Mm-hmm. Hmm. , this is, you know,

Tom Bridge (50:07):
You know, I bought a ubiquity kit, ubiquity cells. Yep. A, uh, a, a door controller. Uh, and

Charles Edge (50:13):
I’ve never used that. I always wondered. It’s

Tom Bridge (50:16):
Neat. Um, so like, the pr I, I, I set up like a, um, I, I, a friend of mine in the neighborhood is a door salesman, and so, uh, he does doors and windows. And so the, I asked him, I was like, what’s the best way to like mock up a door so that I can, you know, have it on like a handle and, you know, attach stuff to it. And he was like, there’s no good way.

Charles Edge (50:39):

Tom Bridge (50:39):
, you can buy a small door and they sell like a door sales kit, um, that, that you can do it. It was, oh my God, it was almost a thousand dollars. And so I said, no, I think I’m good here. I’ll just do this with an open relay on, on my desktop and, and you can just, yeah. Mess with it there. But yeah, I was gonna say it was, I was amazed at, uh,

Charles Edge (50:59):
I have ubiquity, firewalls, and, you know, our system mm-hmm. , literally, I opened it and looked at it and I was like, these are 68,000 chips, like , and it’s like 15 of them. So it looks like a bunch of, uh, square centipedes in a row, , you know, mounted on a circuit board with a key that the lock has three pins. So it would take me about 30 seconds to pick. And I’m like, nothing that I’m seeing makes me very happy at all. Um, yeah. So I was thinking about trying, you know, a newer system or the ubiquity or something, but ultimately give a look.

Tom Bridge (51:36):
It’s, you know, it’s actually, it works out pretty well. I like the prox card system. You can set it up with a, uh, there’s a camera scanner, like a camera card reader mm-hmm. . And so when you present the camera it or present the card to the, to the reader, it uses the camera on the reader to take a picture of whoever’s at the door. Mm. And that’s been, that’s attached to the, the whole thing, Griffin,

Charles Edge (51:56):
From having a bad hair day.

Tom Bridge (51:57):
I mean, I am

Charles Edge (51:59):
Francisco. Delete it.

Tom Bridge (52:01):
. That’s exactly what you do. You know, you, you deal with it that way. Yeah. You know, I, I put together that whole kid, I, I had a lot of fun just tinkering around with it. It’s the, the prox cards are actually nice prox cards. They’re not bad. They’re, they’re not flimsy. They’re, they’re well constructed.

Marcus Ransom (52:16):
So, so Charles, I’ve just thought I’ve just sort of a business opportunity that maybe you can help me with , um, is like TikTok filters, but for photos that are used for signing in, so like when you look up at the invoice screen on there, if you’re having, you know, you can, I don’t know, have the strange things happening to the eyes and you know, my jawline is all different or something like

Charles Edge (52:37):
That. So if you’re rude to the receptionist, suddenly you go to the baby filter or the old person filter or the Yeah, I’m, I’m kind of, yeah. And someone

Marcus Ransom (52:47):
Would weaponize it, wouldn’t they? And

Charles Edge (52:49):
Oh, oh, yes. Yeah. I already have in my head, I, I got lost on an entire journey. during your sentence.

Marcus Ransom (52:57):
So, so Tom, what’s the, what, what’s the most unusual thing you’ve been asked to provide support of?

Tom Bridge (53:03):
Oh, I mean, without work, without re exception, it’s, it’s the overhead projector. Yes. And we would have to support those for, um, conferences all the time. And I used to work for an education nonprofit as a teacher. And so you had to learn how to readjust the bulb. You had to learn how to readjust the, the focal points. Um, and, and you had to figure it out real quick cuz they were not patient, um, when they were presenting. And so, you know, you got, you, you got in there, you, you learned how to work it and you know, you made it go and you, you, you had the scars to prove it. And I, I think that’s really what it came down to. So

Marcus Ransom (53:36):
Sometimes legitimate physical scars as well from touching the wrong bit of it.

Tom Bridge (53:41):
Exactly. Very hot. Turns out, um, turns out those really bright lights are really, really hot. Um, . Um, the other fun one was acoustic sensors. Um, we used to have to, for the concert venues set up acoustic for the outdoor venue at least. Um, set up acoustic monitoring, uh, equipment to make sure that, you know, outside of the property line, it was, uh, only a certain number of decibels. And when big bands would come in and with their extra sound systems and put out a hundred decibel, uh, you know, uh, a hundred, a hundred to 105 decibel, uh, you know, opportunities, uh, you had to, uh, you had to, you had to at least flag down the sound guy and say, Hey, if this strobe starts going off, you need to turn it down now because either the fire alarm is going off, or you have upset the cons, or, or the constabulary have been summoned, right?

Like, I mean, you’ve hit 70, you’ve hit 85 decibels at the library across the street, or you’ve hit 80 decibels, you know, a three quarters of a mile away. Um, and we built a whole system to do that. It was a lot of fun. None, all, all of it off the shelf parts, but we had to write the software to put it together. We had to create the physical equipment. It was a lot of fun. But Elon, thank you so much for joining us this week. It was so great to, to hear from you. If folks wanna follow you on the internet or, or talk to you on Slack, where’s the best place for you for, for them to track you down?

Ylan Muller (55:05):
Yeah, I’m on Twitter at, hey, it’s Elon. Um, and you can also find me in the Mac admin Slack under process this.

Tom Bridge (55:11):
Awesome. Uh, thank you so much for joining us this week. It was a great pleasure to, to talk with you. I really appreciate your time.

Ylan Muller (55:18):
Yeah, thank you so much. This is a lot of fun. Good to meet all of you.

Tom Bridge (55:22):
And thanks so much to our wonderful sponsors this week, uh, CONHI Collide and Data Jar. Um, and thanks everybody. We’ll see you next time.

Speaker 6 (55:30):
See you next time.

Marcus Ransom (55:31):
See Yato.

Speaker 7 (55:33):

The Mac Admins Podcast is a production of Mac Admins Podcast LLC. Our producer is Tom Bridge. Our sound editor and mixing engineer is James Smith. Our theme music was produced by Adam Codega the first time he opened GarageBand. Sponsorship for the Mac Admins Podcast is provided by the MacAdmins.org Slack, where you can join thousands of Mac admins in a free Slack instance. Visit macadmins.org. And also by Technolutionary LLC: technically, we can help. For more information about this podcast and other broadcasts like it, please visit podcast.macadmins.org. Since we’ve converted this podcast to APFS, the funny metadata joke is at the end.



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