February 8, 2023Stories
Road Less Traveled: Alex Latzko
"Behind the Scenes" Look at a Career Before Tech
by Elizabeth Drolet
Principal Network Architect at Deft, Alex Latzko, first attended a NANOG meeting in 2013.
For the last four years, he has served as a member of the NANOG PC (Programming Committee) and has been a regular at NANOG meetings. Theatre, however, was Alex's first passion.
A Self-Proclaimed Theatre Geek
"I didn't choose theatre. Theatre chose me," he said with a smile.
Alex graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from Rutgers University in 1983. He describes himself as a theatre geek in high school. However, it was not the stage that caught his eye, but what went on behind it.
"I never acted. I was always part of the stage crew," Alex said.
His enthusiasm for the audio engineering industry eventually led him to get hired at the university's recording studio.
"Rutgers had a recording studio T.V. complex that they used internally for educational and industrial T.V. during off hours. So it could be booked by anybody who wanted to pay the freight," he said.
The Legend of the Razor Blade
In those days, audio producers edited with an actual razor blade.
"Physical multitrack tape recorders were half inch, one-inch, and two-inch tape. When you mastered down to two tracks and wanted to edit the final product, you used a razor blade and splicing tape," Alex said.
Technology has launched media production into the digital stratosphere at an incredible rate. For any producer born after 1983, the idea that editing once required a physical razor blade, instead of a software tool is surreal.
But for Alex, this history is very real. A history that surprisingly set him up for success in his career in tech.
"I found a huge crossover between community theatre, the music business, and computers," he said.
He recalls the largest gig he worked on. It was 1996, the stage at the base of the Washington Monument was home base, and there were 400,000 people spread out over the National Mall listening to the NPR produced “American Roots 4th of July.”
"There were 10 acts, and we had to choreograph them on and off stage. We worked with the sound team. We got the people on. We got the people off. It was theatrics but also project management, gaffing them on stage. We did the set tear down, and we did the lighting, we did everything, but sound," Alex said.
This experience, and many others like them, would come in handy for future tech projects.
"The things I learned doing power for theatre lighting held me in good stead when I was building data centers back in 2002 - 2005, because I knew the theory behind low voltage data distribution," he said.
It's the gift that continues to give to his current career and hobbies.
"I have a credit on a CD that came out in December of '21 for laying down the original tracking, all the way back in 1998," he said.
A Family Affair
Furthermore, all three of his children are musicians. He even has a home recording studio.
"My oldest plays saxophones of various types; the middle is a clarinetist, and the youngest is a piano player with percussion. None of them sing, I'm safe there," he laughed.
It does pay to have a parent in tech who has a professional ear for lousy equipment.
“As a band parent, I was very aware of how horrible the school's mixing console was, so in time for the Christmas concert, a new mixing console magically showed up at the school with a note saying 'Merry Christmas' because I couldn't deal with what they had anymore," he said with a grin.
His greatest advice? "Stay passionate, and don't lose your edge."
Alex is an active member of the NANOG Community. He is also a volunteer mentor for NANOG's newly formed Mentorship Program. Are you Interested in serving as a mentor or being mentored? Find more here.
Elizabeth Drolet is NANOG's Multimedia Story Producer
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