IT pro has a hair-raising hobby: competitive bearding

Windows Server/Exchange admin Chad Roberts runs Virginia ‘beard league’

By day Chad Roberts, 35, is a Windows Server & Exchange administrator for Berkshire Hathaway Media Group. For play he's an award-winning competitive beardsmith and founder of the RVA Beard League.

At right is his Spiderman beard that won a competition in New Jersey last month.

spiderman

And here's a slideshow collection of his greatest hits.

Roberts and I chatted by email.

What is it with techies and beards?

I think since a lot of IT guys are behind the scenes, back in the server room, or off in some corner, the cultural expectations are different from, say, that of the sales staff who are a public face of the company and need to appeal to the absolute maximum number of potential clients. In IT, it's more about knowledge, results, and ability, than your choice of hair style.

That being said, wearing a great beard is a tremendous ice breaker. I think you'll find that most guys with beards are friendly and social (perhaps with the exception of Walter Peck from Ghostbusters). I can't tell you the number of times I've been out in public, and had strangers with no provocation, come up to me as if they've known me for years, and ask about the beard.

How did you get into competitive bearding?

I helped start our own group here in Richmond in the summer of 2011 and the Beard Team USA National Championships were being held up in Lancaster, PA a few months later. So a group of five of us carpooled up for our very first competition and jumped right in the deep end. I didn't even make it to the semi-finals, but the response of the people in the crowd was overwhelmingly positive, so I kept at it.

Without compromising competitive secrets, are you able to tell me what technologies are important to your success? (There's always a technology angle.)

work

 Since I compete in the Freestyle category, (and like troubleshooting systems) thinking creatively is the name of the game, but it's hard to implement a plan or design without the right tools. Extra strength hairspray (better living through chemistry) works the best for most applications. It's usually light and strong enough for what I need, and a hairdryer is crucial for setting the design in place.

I see you're a Windows Server and Exchange administrator. When you're working on a balky machine, how do you manage to keep all that beard from getting in the way?

Day to day having a big beard is no problem. If I need to open up a server and take a look inside, I'll just tuck my beard into my dress shirt between the buttons, like a tie at a luncheon. It stays put and out of the way.

What are the similarities between competitive bearding and IT work?

 Like any good IT shop, there's a level of maintenance involved with competitive bearding. Just as you need to run and test your backups regularly and keep a watchful eye on the server logs, diligence is required to keep a beard or moustache performing at its best.  A regimen of conditioning and overall good health keep your facial hair growing well and looking good. The GIGO principle works here too.

The RVA Beard League on April 27 will conduct the second annual Mid-Atlantic Beard &'Stache Championships to benefit Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Richmond.

Can't wait to see what Roberts will conjure up this time.

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