10 'geek dads' share tales and tips from the IT trenches

Tech pros weigh in on fatherhood, workhood and how they balance the two. (Hint: Make time for fishing trips.)

Back in the day, geek dads wore plastic pocket protectors, taught their kids long division on the back of mainframe punch cards, and worked long, long hours. Often, they couldn't be there for baseball games or bedtimes.

Today's tech dads are a different breed -- still putting in long hours, but working just as hard to be there for their kids' milestones, large and small.

To celebrate Father's Day, Computerworld asked young dads who work in IT to share tales from the trenches and reflect on how having kids has affected their careers.

Their message? Family comes first, but your career doesn't have to suffer -- so long as you stay close to that mute button during late-night conference calls.

Christopher Bellevue, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Career plus kids: Being a father pushes me every day to be and give the best in my career and personal life. I'm my child's role model and I have to set a solid foundation for my little one to follow and exceed.

Tales from the trenches: Recently I performed a large manual deployment that required after-work hours to complete. The best thing was getting calls from my 3-year-old while working late. Those made me smile every time.

Advice: It's OK if you can't go out with your single colleagues after work -- many times I can't because I have a child to help take care of. Some may say it's a tradeoff of being a parent -- I say it's a trade up.

Rob Sterner, AdHarmonics Inc.

Career plus kids: Since having children, I've been at work before 6 a.m. most days -- I used to roll in between 9:30 and 10:30 -- because I want to spend time with my kids at night. I'm fortunate to have found a career that affords me flexible hours and the ability to work from home when needed.

Tales from the trenches: There've been occasions when a kid in a dress-up costume has walked into a video conference, which is usually hilarious. The highest stress on the work/life balance comes during sickness at home, but we make it work.

Advice: Be collaborative at work. Since becoming a parent, I'm more flexible about my responsibilities, and I feel better prepared to work out a compromise with co-workers on architecture decisions.

Will Lassalle, Study Group

Career plus kids: When I can, I work from my home office, where the kids can sneak in hugs and kisses, and I take mini vacations with the kids after long business trips.

Tales from the trenches: I was taking a conference call from my home office when my then-3-year-old came in to hug me before bed. Thinking I was on mute, I told him, "Daddy loves you so much, baby boy." I wasn't on mute -- the call erupted in laughter and awws.

Advice: Be calculated in the opportunities you take on. Being a parent has made the ability to "move to the job" difficult, but my work aspirations are as strong as ever because I want provide better opportunities for my children.

Matt Durgavich, Kayak.com

Career plus kids: I plan life choices to avoid dramatic changes. I've turned down opportunities to work in areas like Silicon Valley so my daughter can experience school, town and friends from a position of constancy.

Tales from the trenches: Before my daughter was born, I arranged to work from home temporarily. As my wife recovered from labor, I worked from her hospital room.

Advice: Find work that accommodates your choice to be invested in family. I spent five years working in video games, but couldn't make it work with the kind of dad I wanted to be. I don't want to travel away from my family for extended periods or spend tons of time in the office in service of climbing a corporate ladder.

Josh Jenkins, Howard County Government, Ellicott City, Maryland

Career plus kids: I have a good balance with my career and my family life. I have a regular schedule and employment close to home, which meshes well with family-related duties. That said, my wife of nearly 15 years is really the cornerstone of our family.

Tales from the trenches: Family has always been paramount to me, and I have been known to call in sick if the weather is ripe for fishing. I believe showing my children how to bait a hook and catch their own food trumps unjamming a fax machine. Kids are not kids forever.

Advice: Being a father doesn't have to change work aspirations – I've even taken on additional employment opportunities so long as they don't overly complicate my familial responsibilities.

Jeremiah Jenkins, Neustar

Career plus kids: Being in IT allows me the flexibility to be with my kids in the evenings (barring a system outage), and flex time allows me to have breakfast occasionally with them before they go to school.

Tales from the trenches: I was traveling to the West Coast for a week. The kids at the time were just starting to talk, and when I returned home, it seemed like both kids were using full sentences! It made me feel like I had missed some key times with them; they had grown up seemingly overnight.

Advice: When it's time to take vacation, make specific father-son and father-daughter time. I try to not take my work with me and just focus on the adventure at hand with the family.

Edgard Mota, Universo Online

Career plus kids: I'm a very involved father. I try to avoid overtime and working late so I am available to help my wife take care of our daughter.

Tales from the trenches: When my daughter was born, I was overloaded at work, and my vacation wasn't scheduled to start until two weeks after her birth. Due to the stress, I even fainted -- the first and only time. Fortunately, everything returned to normal after my vacation. But the situation made me realize being an effective full-time employee and a present father would be challenging.

Advice: Focus on spending time your family and seek out positions that give you more flexibility. For me, when considering new jobs, finding one with childcare benefits would be a huge plus.

Clay Fuller, FirstBank

Career plus kids: I’ve tried to always put being a father ahead of work. It’s tough -- sometimes impossible -- and my workday often continues through the night via laptop, tablet and phone. But my daughter has never once made me feel guilty.

Tales from the trenches: I used to travel to Chicago on a near-weekly basis. Whenever I came home, the first thing my daughter asked me was if I'd seen anyone from Good Luck Charlie, her favorite show, while I was away.

Advice: Being a dad can bring you closer to co-workers. Before having a child I couldn't relate to a lot of issues that were regular topics of conversation among the parents. Now I have my own horror stories to share with the team.

Adam Singer, Duke University Health System

Career plus kids: I work for a company that has a healthy understanding of work/life balance. I'm home for dinners and am even able to leave early some days for music classes or other activities.

Tales from the trenches: In 2013, the primary tool my team supports was replaced with a centralized system another team managed. I was worried about my job security. The hugs and smiles my girls always greeted me with when I got home helped me through that time.

Advice: Weigh the commitment of leadership with family life. I used to think about being an upper-level manager or owning a small company. I still hope to move up the ladder, but now to a technical leadership role rather than a managerial one.

Dustin Harper, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Career plus kids: I take great pride in my work, but I always put family first. I go to school events and volunteer for school activities. I'm not sure if a perfect balance really exists; I just try to do the best I can.

Tales from the trenches: My son had a school band concert during a week when I was working 16-hour days. I took a few hours off and nearly dozed off during the concert. But I was there.

Advice: Spend as much time as possible with your kids. Before I had kids, I would work any shift; now, I work the day shift. I work overtime if needed, but it's not that often.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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