Meet Ildefonso Camargo: Command Prompt's Longest Serving Team Member

Welcome to our blog series: Meet the Team, where we will introduce you to the minds behind Command Prompt. This month we are talking with Ildefonso Camargo, Senior Sysadmin and DBA.

How long have you been with Command Prompt?

Almost ten years - My anniversary is in December.

What’s your background and expertise?

I’m mostly an infrastructure guy; I would normally do the servers and the basics but at a consulting company - and this is a small company - I usually have to step outside of my comfort zone and do some other things like more advanced database administration tasks. We wear a lot of different hats in this company.

When I was in college, I worked as a systems administrator and network operations administrator. I would manage some HBUX and Linux systems - some Sysco, some IBM - and then I moved into a small consulting company, mostly deploying Linux-based solutions. Back in the day it was mostly replacements for active directories based on standby LDAP integrated with a main solution, and also controlling how the traffic moved / how people browsed the web from their computers using a proxy.

I’ve also worked in authentication - that was the solution that a past company sold. I put together a solution for them and then in time, I moved into an independent consultant role. I was in that role for about two years and then I found an advertisement for a job at Command Prompt. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I do remember that it was pretty much describing me. I decided to apply and I got the job.

What’s your favorite project of all time?

Back in college I built a replacement switch out of a crappy PC. I had taken a really expensive piece of equipment that had failed and I replaced it with a $100 PC - literally - and this PC remained there for three or four years until they finally replaced the system because they didn’t feel pressure to replace it. What I had done was good enough.

When I look back on that, it was really something basic but at the time it was very impressive. But now I look back on it and I think that’s really simple. I believe perspective evolves in time - what used to be really interesting may not be so interesting today.

What’s your greatest motivator?

My greatest motivator is the realization that I actually work for God. It’s what keeps me going. It’s my understanding from my principles that the person who is my boss was put there and is meant to have certain power over me because God allows it. So then if I work for God, who is all good in my view, everything I do has to be good enough to be presented to God as an offering.

If you could recommend one learning resource, what would it be?

It depends on the person. If the person is green and doesn’t have any skills, I’d probably recommend the online courses side of EDX where you can get college level courses for free. If the person already has some experience, then it depends on the type of project the person is trying to do. In general EDX is probably one of the best resources.

What’s the future of open source technology?

The future is uncertain. Had I been asked this question two years ago, I would say that the future is brilliant and really positive. Some companies today have different licensing models, and as I read about them, I’m just like “why?” As it turns out, they’re actually trying to prevent these big cloud companies from using their Open Source systems, turning it into something proprietary, and not getting a piece of the cake.

With the behavior of certain companies - especially big ones - they take what they can from the open source world, and then they turn it into closed solutions. The future is uncertain because these companies aren’t really giving back to the Open Source community. I know for certain that many of these organizations have made improvements on Open Source solutions that they haven’t given back. I don’t think the future is bright, but how it goes will depend on a lot of things like how protections evolve over the intellectual property issue. It was really amazing to find out a few years ago that you could actually patent software - I’m not talking about the procedure or the algorithm, but the software itself. It was weird to find large organizations trying to sue others over the use of technology.

These things hurt the Open Source community, so if laws don’t improve then I believe that the future will remain uncertain.

As someone who has successfully worked from home, do you have any tips for those now working from home for the first time?

First, you need an anchor to start your day. You need something that gets you out of bed and going. For some people it’s their commute, but many don’t have that any more. They need to replace it - be it reading an article or doing a workout. I go outside to check on the plants and see the sun because I’m otherwise not going out and I need to wake up my metabolism so that it understands that the day is starting. When you are home, it can be really easy to forget that your body needs to move. It needs the sun.

Beyond that, you need discipline around when you start working, when you finish working, when you have lunch, when you resume working, and when you finish at last. These points in time need to be as close to the same time every single day or you’ll start feeling weird because of the metabolic effects on your body. You’ll feel tired all the time. I say this out of personal experience and working from home on a flexible schedule for ten years. There was a time when I was really bad at this. I’d end up working all weekend because I didn’t complete all the hours during the workweek because I was too flexible with myself.

Where can we find you on a Saturday afternoon?

At home because of the pandemic. I’m partially kidding but it’s true. Under normal conditions, though, on Saturday afternoons I’d be playing in the church choir: First the rehearsal and then the actual mass with the choir.

These days, I’m working on replacing the piping at home. Because of the pandemic I can’t hire someone else to do it, so I’m doing it myself. Other times, I’m in the yard and working with the plants.

Would you rather battle one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

The first question I’d ask is if the animal is initially upset and aggressive. If yes, then I’d probably run from the battle. Both options are problematic because I probably won’t have any weapons as I don’t have any weapons now, and it is widely known that human beings are not the strongest animal. We’ve survived because of our brains and using tools, not our strength. So I’d run.

Desert island food?

In the Lord of the Rings, there’s Elven Lembas Bread, which is supposed to keep you going for days even in small portions. It’s used for long journeys, so I think that’s what I’d take with me.

What book should everyone read?

This is a hard one because my first thought is actually the bible itself because whether you’re religious or not, there’s a lot of wisdom in the book. This occurred to me when I was taking a financial education course that was actually based on the bible. I was kind of surprised to find that there was so much information about using money. It was like, seriously? What else is in here? I’ve been surprised to find so much practical information there. It’s a practical document as well as a religious text - that’s why I say that it can be used by anyone.

In the Bible, you’ll find information on how to do business, how to deal with other people. Some of the ideas are rather antiquated, but if you actualize it and bring it into your current time and culture, it has a lot of practical advice. I would suggest specifically a Catholic bible because it includes the Wisdom books like Proverbs and Ben Sira. Ben Sira was actually a businessman, and even though he had a lot of machismo - which is to be expected as that was the norm when he lived - if you change the tone of the writing and just take the advice he gives, he actually gives great advice on doing business and not getting into trouble.

I will say that while there are some people who believe that the Bible is literally the word of God, they forget that it is written by men. You have to understand that the Bible is inspired by God, but it is not the literal words of God. You have to understand that it was put into words of men, and with that you can start forgiving when you find discrepancies. It should be expected as it was written by humans. Humans are flawed.

Before I took that finance course, however, I would have probably said the Lord of the Rings anthology because it is a really nice fantasy world - so is the rest of the Middle Earth writings. They speak of good and evil, of bravery, of how sometimes the smallest people can be the most important. It speaks of how sometimes, someone you hate can have a really important role in the grand scheme of things. It makes you wonder about the value and necessity for someone to exist - who are you to say that someone cannot exist? Maybe that person that you don’t like is very important in the grand scheme of things.

Other than Postgres, what topic are you an expert on?

Probably replication - I have a lot of experience with replication in Postgres. I can generally understand most replication problems.

Early bird or night owl?

I’m more of a night owl, but I’ve been slowly switching to becoming an early bird because of a few factors. I used to feel like I functioned better at the end of the day, but it was basically because I was lacking an anchor at the beginning of the day. When I started at the beginning of the day, I wasn’t ready to work - I wasn’t in the mindset of working, so it would take some time for me to get up to speed.

I’m kind of questioning if people can really be called night owls or early birds. Maybe it’s because of what they’re used to. I was very sure that I was a night owl, but I’m beginning to question it.

What subject should be taught in schools but isn’t?

Decision making as a life skill. When you come out of school and out of college, you have a lot of technical knowledge. You know how to solve equations, how to design an electronic circuit or an algorithm, but you may not proficiently communicate it clearly. You come out of the education system prepared to serve someone else, to be a piece of the machinery, but you do not come prepared to be an effective leader or to be a professional. I believe this is important when it comes to life skills.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An electronic engineer with a specialization in robotics and at the same time, I wanted to be an orchestra director. I was very clear and would even dream of building a robot who could cover for me if I couldn’t go to a performance.

Everything is possible when you’re a child.