172. Hero: Richie Fortenberry – Consulting Engineer / Operations Manager at Prism Systems Transcript

00:00 Chris: 

Welcome back to our holidays with our heroes series on EECO Asks Why. I hope you’re enjoying these as much as I am and just hearing these hero stories. Each week as we get ready for this wonderful holiday season together and the week of Christmas, get ready because there’s going to be a surprise nobody’s expecting, and I know you’re going to love it.

Now this episode, I sat down with Richie Fortenberry and you may remember Richie from episode 141, where he talked about safety and security. Remember he had that really cool traffic light example. Well, Richie, he came back and he shared his story for us. And let me tell you what he is full of passion about his career, and you go quickly see why he is a hero as he unpacks his amazing story.

And you know what? Speaking of stories. We’re still getting those war stories and I’m going to tell you what they have been pretty incredible. The stories have been funny. They’ve been inspired. They’ve been outright unbelievable. So it’s not too late, you can go to Instagram or Facebook and DM us and there’s links right in the show notes on how to do that.

So if you have any questions, just hit us up. We’re here to answer them. We want to make that super easy, but those war stories are going to be amazing. Now it’s time to get some insight into Richie Fortenberry’s journey. Que the music.

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero episode and I’m very excited to have with me, Mr. Richie Fortenberry, who is the consulting engineer and operations manager at Prism Systems. So welcome Richie. How are you doing today? 

01:50 Richie: 

I’m well, how are you? 

01:51 Chris: 

I’m good. I’m good. Now you’re out of Alabama, right?

01:54 Richie: 

Yeah Birmingham.

01:55 Chris: 

Birmingham. Now you a tide fan? 

No. My wife is. 

Okay. Okay. So I just get us going. Who do you pull for if you’re not a tide fan? 

02:05 Richie: 

I’m more of a troll. So I pull for whatever team that enables me best to make fun of my friends. So it’s often whoever’s playing Alabama. You know, that type of thing. 

02:16 Chris: 

I hear you. That’s at least you’re honest about it, man. Well, we love these hero conversations, Richie, just to get started to hearing about everybody’s journey. So what can you tell us about yours? 

02:29 Richie: 

Yeah. So journey is in how I got where I’m at professionally and that type thing? So I’ll go way back. So I played in bands you know, a guitar player and in my teens and twenties and I operated a small home recording studio for recording demo tapes and such in a rural Mississippi town that had no need at all for a recording studio, but that sparked an interest in me and I wanted to go to school to learn more about audio engineering. And this, I had actually gotten accepted into a trade school out in Arizona was gearing up to go and 9/11 happened and I started thinking about the wisdom of a going all in on a trade school that was based on entertainment, exclusively not knowing where the economy and you know, what uncertainty was going to follow the attack.

So I started looking into actual degree programs. I found out that the first degree audio engineers came out of the electrical engineering program at the university of Miami. So I started working towards electrical engineering. Courses started at a community college and started working towards and ended up at University of South Alabama, which was just over the line in Mobile, Alabama. I got in state tuition. So that’s why I chose that school. 

I found the topic of engineering enjoyable in and of itself particularly classes that we’re at a deal with logic and writing code. And, you know, starting to realize that there’s a difference in a well-written code and poorly written code or a well-architected system or one that’s just thrown together. And these differences can be irrespective of function. I mean, it’s true that a well written piece of code often performs better than a hacked piece of code or certainly more supportable than a poorly written one. But aside from that I became interested in designing things well, for the sake of designing things well there’s such a thing as beautiful code.

So it’s a little bit of an art, a little bit of a science, and it’s really something that appealed. So I wound up with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the University of South Alabama. I went on to get a master’s in computer engineering at Syracuse. And neither have neither of those degrees have anything to do with recording demo tapes in my basement any longer, but Syracuse in particular pointed me further into the topic of cyber security. Syracuse offers master’s degrees in computer science, computer engineering, and cyber security out of the same school. And there’s a great deal of overlap between those programs, depending on how you structure your electives.

So my masters in computer engineering wound up having a one class difference from their master’s in cybersecurity, just because of the electives that I took. So it’s more of a computer engineering degree with emphasis on device and network security. That’s driven a lot of my you know, over the last five or so years interest in insecurity of, control systems and devices.

05:20 Chris: 

Did you go to Syracuse on campus, or was that online program? How did you do that? 

05:26 Richie: 

I’ve never been to campus. I don’t think I’ve been within a hundred miles of it. It was all online. That was while I was still working at Prism Systems, the company that I currently work for. So I actually interned with Prism in my last year of undergrad and hired on full-time about 14 years ago, I think some something close to that. So I had jobs throughout my undergrad before then. But Prism was the only place I’ve ever worked in my professional career. And I currently serve as the operations manager for Birmingham which are a fully remote office at this point, as well as consulting engineer.

06:04 Chris: 

Wow. Okay. Well, man, it sounds like you had a fun time there at Prism. A long time. So you’ve been there your whole career. I’m the same way at EECO, I guess when you find a place that you like and they treat you right. You stay there, right? Yeah. 

06:17 Richie: 

And it’s not an uncommon story at Prism. A lot of the guys that were working here when I hired on still worked there. So it’s an indication of health and a positive culture within a company.

06:27 Chris: 

I was getting ready to say that culture has got to just be, you know, top notch. Outstanding. So we’re going to unpack more about the band and the studio and the music stuff at a little bit later because I definitely want to learn more, but let’s stay on the professional track. You serve a lot of industries, you know, we’ve talked to you. We know your passion around cyber security, OT safety, you know, what are you seeing out there? Because you touch so many different areas as some of the biggest challenges in industry.

06:57 Richie: 

There’s been a, there, there is, and there has been a lot of hype around it. Well earned hype around the industrial internet of things and industry 4.0, you hear that term thrown about. So it’s exciting to be an industry right now. You know, some are likening it to being on the verge of a second industrial revolution.

So, and I also think there is there is and will be continue to be a much greater demand an appetite for remote work. The pandemic showed us that, you know, while many jobs do require a persistent presence on site and will continue to do so, many don’t, but there are more jobs than I think we recognized before that can be performed fully or partially or remotely without substantial reduction and effectiveness.

So with this industry 4.0 concept, we’re talking about connecting a lot more things in our facilities or our distributed systems up to the internet and with the possibility of a continued and larger remote workforce. We’re talking about connecting more external resources from the internet down to our internal networks.

So we’re connecting more and more things to our network and that offers exposure. Both of these things this people connecting to our network and connecting our network up to the internet, more devices up to the internet. They’re both train wrecks in the making if we don’t get more serious as an industry about cybersecurity. So I would, point to that as globally cybersecurity securing our systems better as the greatest challenge facing us right now. 

08:31 Chris: 

No doubt. I mean, we see it all around and, you know, thankfully we have people like you are heroes out there, Richie that understand the topic and can help industry get safer, get more secure. So I just thank you so much. And we also love to try to give advice to people that are new to industry, and maybe they’re considering coming over here and starting a career path. So speak to that young person who may be thinking about that. Any advice you would give? 

08:59 Richie: 

Yeah. So I guess I’m thinking of. I have in mind, you know, college students that are working through, you know, there’s a lot you can do with an electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science degree. So I guess with those people in mind, I would say if you’re thinking about controls which is, you know, what I do focus on proper software design and treat writing code for PLCs and DCS is with the same core principles as you designed a traditional software application. We used to have these big walls of relays, this relay logic, which is why this is why a ladder logic looks the way it does. It’s a simulation of the drawings that described relay logic. So rather than that very large wall of relays. Somebody had a great idea. Hey, let’s make this specialized device it’s PLC that, that that serves as a small version of doing what that wall can do. Well, those days are gone PLCs and DCS and stuff. They’re there they’re much closer to a specialized industrial computer. That’s capable of executing complex software now than they are the PLCs of old that are just a replacement for a big wall of relays. They’re highly capable devices. The lines are blurring between PLCs and industrial computers.

They have been blurred for awhile and the people that will be more successful in the next generation of controls engineers will be those that are more oriented in traditional software development. I think we’ll see more and more hardware manufacturers allowing the user base to extend the capabilities of the off the shelf software products that are used to connect and program to controls hardware. So being grounded in software development helps that as well, if you’re able to work flow and automate your own workflow regarding how we treat development on these controls devices. 

I also think it’s important in a small, you know, Prism is a, it’s bigger now than it was, but I think we’re at like 70 something people. So we’re not a huge company. We’re still a small company. And in that type of environment I think it’s helpful to take everything that your company tries to do well and try to understand that every piece of it on some level. So, try to become an expert in your specific role, but also try to build aptitude and be at least conversational and other technical roles.

At Prism, we have controls engineers. We write software applications. We have a small group developing hardware and then we have you know, a quickly growing industrial networking and cybersecurity presence. These disciplines frequently intersect and to varying degrees, depending on the projects we’re working on. And I think it’s important for everyone in such an environment. And particularly for people newly entering the industry to have some proficiency across, you know, whatever skill sets are available to you and your company. 

I think we need to be telling our younger engineers, this as part of our onboarding process, that it’s important not to run yourself into the ground. Especially as a new guy, it’s important to work hard prove your worth to the company. But you know, sometimes it’s hard to regulate yourself and not go overboard with that such that you’re miserable or you’re doing things like neglecting personal relationships. Some industries are worse than others about burnout.

The sad fact is that there are companies and industries out there that will run you into the ground, that intend to run you into the ground and then just replace you with the next guy. And then when they burn that guy out, they’ll replace them with the next guy. But there are also good companies out there that want to see you successful and balanced, but even those companies rely on you to recognize and communicate when you’re hitting your limits. So understanding and respecting those limits as important as it’s contributing, you know, alongside contributing as best you can to your company while also being mindful of your mental health and the health of your relationships.

12:33 Chris: 

That’s great advice. And I’ll tell you the last piece is not something we’ve heard. I don’t think we’ve heard anybody talk about that. That self-awareness to really check in and I guess you feel like if you’re young and you get a new job, you want to make that good first impression, and then you want to make that good second impression. And you find yourself saying yes to everything. That’s not always the right answer. That’s not always the best path forward. So, you know, kudos to you for recognizing that and calling it out. 

13:00 Richie: 

Yeah. And it, you know, it’s we get awfully profit focused and you know, I manage people to the degree that I managed them. I do rely on them to tell me if you’re a type that likes to work 80 hours a week, or you’re a phase in life, or that’s just that fits you, you know, by all means it is important to make a point and to demonstrate your importance to the company. So if we care about the industry and care about maintaining the talent in our industry then we need to care about the health and the wellbeing of the engineer’s that were training. 

13:30 Chris: 

No doubt. And I mean, one thing we’re hearing see Richie is not just taking care of the talent, but attracting talent. And that can be so hard that workforce attrition, the skills gap that’s out there. And sometimes maybe, it’s just people have perceptions about industry, right? And they’re not always right. So, you know, you’ve been out there, you’ve been supporting it. Any myths out there that you just like to destroy right now, just to get them out the way to maybe help explain to someone who’s considering. Hey this is what people say, but this is reality? 

14:01 Richie: 

Yeah. So yeah I’ll refer back to our last talk together on the topic of safety and security. Most of what I’ve done over the last you know, it’s been years, I guess, that I’ve been working pretty heavily in themed entertainment environment. And that industry in particular is very safety oriented. You know, you’re putting people on vehicles that are running at very expensive pieces of animatronic and also vehicles, other vehicles full of people. So you have to be really serious about and really thorough in your evaluation of safety.

So a big part of the design of the, of those attractions are centered around not so much the function, but the functional safety. So, but on the topic of safety and it’s true of other industries as well, we put all this thought and all this dedication to designing the safety of our systems. We put very little thought into the security of our, you know, a relatively small amount of thought towards the security of our systems. And I’ve, I talked about it in the last podcast we did. And, you know, I’ll reiterate now that if a system isn’t secure, then it can’t be said to be safe because we have to break out of this understanding of safety within the context of what the PLC and safety standards that drive our safety process. We have to break out ourselves out of that box that’s that world that the PLC and the safety standards understand is there’s a as an approximation of our own world.

But the true safety that we care about is our own world where we don’t want to be injured. We don’t want to be killed. And so we need to be thinking more about the impact that failures and security have on our safety. And I’ve demonstrated that with attacks that I’ve written and demos that I’ve built to demonstrate that there are ways that when you start dealing in the context that the PLC doesn’t understand, there are ways to affect the safety of a system in a way that a PLC can’t understand or can’t anticipate or can’t respond to. 

15:52 Chris: 

Right. I’ll tell you one thing, Richie, it’s very clear and I’m sure our listeners and our viewers they’re picking it up. You’re passionate around this topic, man. I love it because it’s your type of knowledge and wisdom that you’re sharing with others just really walking through those myths right there. That’s going to inspire that generation to want to come in and join industry. And I’m just curious, when are you the happiest at work? What work are you doing that gives you that fulfillment? 

16:19 Richie: 

Well I think that’s, you know, my answer to that would have been different at different points in my career. I think it used to be when I did something well on my own. My first solo project was on a Modicon 984. Our controls manager, Ron, who is like me early in his career, came into Prism he was my manager when I started on and he’s still the engineering manager at Prism, but he came to my cubicle one day with a Modicon book said, Hey, you’re the new Modicon expert.

And so it was a fairly simple machine control on a on a device in an R and D a unit at a food and beverage manufacturer. And it, so it wasn’t a major project or anything, but I remember feeling like so proud of getting through my first one without help. I stuck with the things I was struggling with and I figured it out and I got there on site kind of work and it kind of didn’t, but then I made it work.

And so yeah, it was that point stands out as you know, in the early years of my career. And I’m still in my thirties. It’s not like I’m a you know, a seasoned vet but those were the things that kind of stick out to me in the early parts. And then, but, you know, I remember a couple of years after that, you know, I was so proud of that job then a couple of years later I looked back to that as a reference for doing another Modicon project.

I was just like, man, I wish I could sneak back into that facility and fix all my bad practices. Your perception of the things that, that made you feel fulfilled before kinda changes as well, but anyway it used to be solo projects that went well or a particularly difficult problem that I solved or something novel I contributed to a code base that a lot of us were working on even. I think now for me I’m more fulfilled when a team effort goes well. There’s added complexity in a team format. It’s kind of like an engineering problem in itself. When a team kind of comes together and figures out how to work with.

And it’s a really rewarding experience to be a part of a team that supports each other well and works efficiently and doesn’t think too highly of themselves and feels free to be direct with one another and graceful ways. You know, that’s a harder state to achieve in a you know, a properly functioning code base.

18:23 Chris:

You got that right. And I could just tell by your answer, your evolution has over your career. So many hats off to you. It sounds like you had a lot of things that make you have made you happy. And these things are different now, but you’re helping so many people, man. That’s awesome. And it also speaks to the culture of Prism, again, just by your answers, that says a lot about the company you’re at. 

So, how about we talk a little bit outside of work for now because I’d like to circle back to some of the things that you mentioned at the very beginning. So any hobbies man? What do you enjoy doing for fun?

18:53 Richie: 

So yeah, I mean, music is still a, it’s still a hobby. It’s not a uh, like the defining passion that, that it was in my younger days, but it’s just, you know, it’s something I do around the house, but yeah, I think probably the more prominent and one of the most longstanding, but my hobbies would be woodworking.

I spent my summers, the latter part of high school working with the crew framing houses. And then in college, the the pastor of a church that I went to at the time was also built cabinets. So he had a little cabinet shop that I started working on cabinetry and some finished carpentry, but I was in college and I’m getting kind of more and more detailed in my carpentry and woodwork.

And since then I’ve moved to under more detailed pursuits of building furniture. And I have a well-appointed wood shop at this point. I tried to get some time in there at least once a week or so. When you’re, when you work primarily in a job like programming taking time to work with your hands and create a physical thing can be balancing kind of getting in a groove and, you know, letting giving your mind some space to think while you’re doing this kind of deep work it’s all those are good fits for the woodworking.

There was a guy I don’t know if his name will ring any bells for anyone, but there’s a guy named George Nakashima. That was a, he was a Japanese American architect. And he was interned in a an, a camp during the second world war. And this is, you know, he, I think he went to MIT for architecture and he’d gone to France and done a good deal of work was a respected architect came back and then got put into an internment camp, but while he was in that camp he met a carpenter that was skilled in traditional Japanese carpentry techniques. And George learned from this guy a while and interned. 

Well, traditional Japanese woodworking. You should look that up on YouTube if you have any interest in some of these things, but it has some of the most beautiful and intricate joinery that you’ll find. And a lot of it’s hand-cut and just really patient beautiful work. Anyway, so Nakashima once released from his interment camp, went on to combine his architectural skills with his newly found woodworking talent and became one of the more influential furniture makers of the last century. All this live edge furniture where it kind of looks like more natural. Those are techniques that he pioneered, but are, you know, he popularized in America anyway, but he wrote a book. 

I say that to say he wrote a book called the Soul of a Tree that romanticizes and spiritualizes woodworking in a way that I wouldn’t, but gives some insight and useful opinions on woodworking. And he discusses woodworking as a way of giving a tree a second life. And I think that’s kind of beautiful. So you know, you’ve got, you know, our domestic hardwoods, in some cases, these trees were present of the nation’s founding, you know, in, during the civil war, maybe with some scars as a result only did it get a disease later and come down. So it’s nice to think about giving those trees a second life as something beautiful and useful for generations to come. So I’ve tried to do that. I’ve made pieces of furniture and various trinkets for many of my friends and it’s always nice to go to someone’s home and see an item that I built in use in their everyday life or in their home. I guess another object that makes woodwork and kind of a solid hobby for me. 

22:09 Chris: 

Very cool, man. What’s the coolest piece of woodworking equipment that you have in your wood shop? 

22:15 Richie: 

Well, the ones that when someone comes and hangs out in the shop with me and watches me, build something.

The ones that tend to be popular for people to watch, are my wood lathe where I’ll turn a bowl or some sort of vessel or I have an electric planer that most of the things that I build, I buy lumber from that’s, you know, seasoned from a saw mill, but it’s still rough, a rough cut lumber. And then I mill it all down to two dimensions. So if you buy a one by four Poplar at Home Depot or Lowe’s. The one by fours is what it was approximately when they started building it down. But it’s really, it’s not one inch thick, it’s three quarters. I do something similar.

I’ll take a quarter, a piece of lumber and I’ll cut it to the dimensions I need and plane it. So, but that the whole process of planning something down where it’s, it looks like this, you know, there’s a rough piece of lumber and then you run it through the planer and then suddenly the grain is exposed and, you know, one pass through and suddenly you see some of the beauty that was hiding underneath there.

My favorite tooI is, I have a soft stock table saw, and it is my favorite tool because I ran my thumb through my previous table saw. Wow. You know, luckily, I mean, I kept it, but you know, there’s some more dexterous tasks that I don’t do as well with it anymore, but just because of the nerve damage, but it was also all soft tissue damage, but it’s you know, there’s a, there’s an interesting safety lesson to be learned there too.

It was really fortunate situation if you’re going to run your hand through a table saw. So, I was making some shaker style cabinet doors for a friend of mine, and he’s a surgeon. He was standing beside me while I was running my table saw. And I was literally talking to him about safety procedures on the table saw. You never take your hand this way. You use your blade guard, you all these things that, that, you know, our agenda to keep the table saw safe while I was talking. So it’s not like I was absentmindedly working and not thinking about safety. I was talking about safety when I ran my thumb through my table saw.

So, I pushed my non-dominant hand and slipped and it made it underneath the guard. Luckily I had the blade not too far above the stock that I was cutting. And my surgeon friend had a kit and he stitched things back together best he could at the kitchen table. And, you know, I didn’t even have to go to the emergency room, but it was gruesome.

There was a pretty gruesome injury, but so my favorite tool is saw stop because if you touch it with the blades going, there’s an aluminum component that jams up into the blade and the blade drops down into the table. So you’ll get a little nick and not a gruesome injury. So the safety lesson to be learned there is pay attention to your safety functions because knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing, you know, accidents happen regardless of knowledge and regardless of care. So the human component should be regulated out the best, best as possible. 

24:57 Chris: 

And then also, you know, if you don’t know what you’re doing, have a surgeon with you and your wood shop, right? 

25:01 Richie: 

Correct. If you can afford a surgeon, this is the most important thing to have in your wood shop.

25:05 Chris: 

Okay. Now what about your family, Richie? What could you share with us about that? 

25:08 Richie: 

So my wife and I have been married for about seven years now. She went to med school down in Mobile, where I was working with Prism at the time and she’s from the Birmingham area. So we had a coworker’s wedding my plus one that I was going to take kind of fell through. It turns out after I learned after the fact that I had never seen it in the RSVP. So I didn’t even officially have a a plus one to begin with, but sorry, Paul and Jessica, but anyway, so we had a co another coworker whose husband was in school with Elaine. And she said, Hey, I’ve you know, sorry about you, not your plus one anymore.

I’ve got a friend of mine coming in town can she take your plus one and go to the wedding with us so that I can still attend the wedding, but I don’t, but I can still hang out with her while she’s in town. So I said, yeah. So I took her to the wedding. I think the next wedding we attended was our own we had hit it off well at the wedding. She had actually just moved back up to Birmingham. So she had been in Mobile for a long time, but I didn’t meet her in earnest until she’d moved back to Birmingham. Right. So we it’s, you know, it’s a four hour drive or so, so we dated you know, she would come in town and how it could go to visit her son.

We dated remotely for a while or a long distance for awhile. And then we were getting more traction with one of our local clients here in Birmingham. And there was an opportunity for me to move up and felt like I needed a change of pace anyway. So it moved up to Birmingham, ended up getting married. So yeah, that was seven years ago or so we had our first son Thomas pretty early in our marriage. I was content to stop there. One was fine with me. We’d actually talked about adopting a second. So that was, but my wife, you know, she really wanted a second one. And I suspected if the second one, wasn’t a girl that she was going to try for a third.

So I was I attempted to cut that off and said, all right we’ll do a compromise. I’ll agree on the second under the terms that under no circumstances will there be a third. And so she agreed. And then she immediately violated the agreement by having twins. They’re two years old now, a boy and a girl, and I’m a big fan of them. So I forgiven her for breaking our agreement. I’m on board with it now. yeah, and so you know, the house we rented we had bought saying, you know, we have just enough room here to grow one more. We can have this other child. And then we found out at our ultrasound that it was going to be two.

And my parents also moved in with us. So we went from having, you know, we bought a house and said, all right, this is going to be good for us. And one more, or that one more turned into two more plus two more adults. So, so, I bought the house we’re in now. I built a studio apartment down into the basement and my parents live in. And you know, that’s another positive about woodworking is that you accumulate all these tools. They all pay for themselves if you use them well. So I remodeled the last three houses we’ve been in. I remodeled this one before we moved into it you know, contracting out some of the stuff and then, you know, doing the more detailed cabinetry and the vanities have built all of our vanities out of Walnut.

I did all of our balustrades and stuff like that. I did. So it’s a hobby that kind of pays for itself anyway. So yeah finished the remodeling here while we were still making it work in our old house. Finished a studio apartment down in our basement where my parents live in and that has its own challenges, but it’s also been an overwhelmingly positive experience, especially for my kids. I’m not sure how we’ve navigated working from home during the pandemic with kids without that extra help in here. So yeah, that’s the family.

28:34 Chris: 

Sounds like a great family. Now we also do one thing that I love to do is just get to know our people a little bit. Quick, lightening round. Just a couple of questions I’d like to throw at you off the top of your head. Just a whatever comes to it. Okay. Favorite food man? 

28:51 Richie: 

Probably sushi. 

28:52 Chris: 

Nice. Adult beverage? 

28:55 Richie: 

Adult beverage. Blanton’s bourbon on the rocks. 

28:58 Chris: 

All right. I’m coming to hang out with Richie in Alabama. All right. All time favorite movie?

29:04 Richie: 

Never had one.

29:05 Chris: 

How about band? 

29:08 Richie: 

Band? Never had one.

29:10 Chris: 

Well, what type of music do you enjoy then? Because you’re a music guy. 

29:13 Richie:

Yeah. I mean, I’ve never had one because I enjoy different people at different stages and, you know, enjoy bands for the contribution they make. So it’s, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever really had a, okay. 

29:24 Chris: 

What’s your favorite app?

29:26 Richie: 

Favorite app? I’m not really, you know, I work a lot in tech and I try to avoid it otherwise. So I my phone screen is, you know, my I’ve got an iPhone and it’s, there’s one screen. I don’t have a lot of apps and stuff like that. So I’m not really an app guy not having. I do have a favorite app.

It’s Reddit, Reddit is my favorite app. I’ll go there. 

29:47 Chris: 

All right. Sounds good. Now what’s on your nightstand? 

29:51 Richie: 

What’s on my nightstand as in what devices or books or whatever it is. Well, I have a C-PAP because I hit the genetic lottery and have a obstructive sleep apnea. I have it’s on my nightstand now. I have a phone charger and a watch charger and a couple of books.

30:10 Chris: 

Okay. How about last question, dogs or cats? 

30:14 Richie: 

I like them both. You know, my favorite pet, it’s usually my current pet. So, you know, I just liked the one I’ve got at the time. Our current cat Leonard is a fat, useless exception to that rule. But uh, yeah. I like them both 

30:29 Chris: 

Oh, there you go. Well, thanks for playing the lightening round Richie that was a lot of fun, man. It’s been a great hero of, so getting to know you, we wrap up EECO Asks Why with the why Richie. So somebody wants to know what your what’s your personal, why is, what would that be? 

30:42 Richie: 

What drives me as Richie. So, I think underlying all of it would be faith. What would describe it? Would it drives me. I guess it particularly in, in the work and context, I think in short it would be people like I used to be like dogmatically, minimalist.

I had a set number of each article of clothing of at on, and if I bought a new one, it was, I had to throw away one of the old ones or donate one of the old ones. I had two towels that I washed in rotation. I had a, and this was up to basically when I met my wife had only a bed in my bedroom because I didn’t have any clothes or many articles of clothing. I just had a little hanging unit in my closet. I didn’t need dressers and stuff like that. And I think in my living room, I had a love seat and small chair and a TV and no other furniture in my house, no dining room table or anything like that.

So I lived really lean on my clothing then and now fits into a large suitcase or a single hamper. Cause I, you know, I went through a year where I did I think I traveled about six months out of the year. And I’d just come off of like a string of assignments. And I came back in my house and I had all this stuff sitting there and I’d been living in a hotel room, which is sparsely appointed, but everything has a place and everything has a as a thing has you know, has a reason.

And living out of the suitcase and then I walked into my house and it’s like, why don’t I have all this stuff? I’ve never sat down at that table and eaten a meal, you know? So anyway I used to live pretty lean marriage and kids have made me less dogmatic. Yeah. I still have my set number of each article of clothing and such, and I have a dining room table now, and I have a house full of toys and knick-knacks nobody uses that previously would’ve eaten away at me. There’s usually more clutter on my countertops and I’d like, but you know, I know one day that I’ll walk into our toy room and my kids will be older and there won’t be any more toys in the toy room to pick up. And that’ll be a sad moment for me. Yeah. If I ever lost my wife, I’d be pretty bummed about the cleanliness of my countertops because it would remind me of what wasn’t there and why. So I’ve learned to manage and appreciate without otherwise understand as clutter and unnecessary things because of who those things point to while still trying to maintain my own personal perspective on things as they relate exclusively to me.

So I say all that to say, that on my own, I don’t really need much. So there’s not a lot that drives me you know, other than just the ideas of, you know, creating something beautiful and things like that. So I prefer to have a few things, but I prefer to have to really enjoy those things that I have.

And in retrospect, the work that I used to do and the things that used to drive me it kind of feels empty in retrospect, I don’t really know why I was kind of churning forward and with any kind of determination or any kind of, because it, I couldn’t identify then and I couldn’t identify now the point of it but now my personal, why for most things would be some person or some group of people and that’s often my family, but it covers others as well. 

And paradoxically, I’m the person who covets alone time as well. So when I do things exclusively for me, those things involve me retreating temporarily from those very same people that I talked about before. So I think, you know, the balance there is important.

33:55 Chris: 

No doubt. All right, Richie, this has been a lot of fun getting to know you. Wonderful hero conversation. You definitely are a hero. Thank you for this for just so much you shared just a wonderful insights you gave to others as well. So the advice that you pointed to earlier in the conversation and just had a lot of fun with you here on EECO Asks Why. 

34:14 Richie: 

Yeah. Thanks for having me. 

34:15 Chris: 

Yes, sir. Thank you.