Employee Spotlight: Beef Bourguignon with Blake Henderson
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Intelligent, confident, bold, and quick-witted, Blake Henderson is a force to be reckoned with. As a Senior Support Engineer at Kenna Security, Blake’s impact on his colleagues and our customers over the last two years has been profound. So profound, in fact, that Blake won the Kenna Q3 Crush-IT award by a landslide, with glowing nominations commending his incredible work ethic and positive attitude.
But work isn’t the only area of his life that Blake approaches with passion and dedication. It didn’t surprise me to learn that his interests and talents span the gamut. And as I perused through the extensive repertoire of R.A. Salvatore (a fantasy fiction author Blake mentioned during our chat), a few words of his caught my eye:
“A world without dragons is a world not worth living in.”
For some reason, I felt Salvatore’s remark resonate with my impression of Blake: Intention, a clear sense of purpose, and just a bit whimsical. And I couldn’t help but picture the dragons in Blake’s world. Are they the challenges he’s overcome? The obstacles still in his way? Or perhaps Blake’s dragons are not difficulties but opportunities—his work, his friends, his city, his passion. Perhaps they’re the many mysterious things that keep him engaged and taking the next step forward.
Perhaps they’re all of the above—only Blake can decide for certain. The rest of us just are along for the ride, eager to see what he and his dragons get up to in the next chapter!
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up all over the Midwest. I was born in Kentucky, and I spent a lot of time in Ohio and Wisconsin (my family moved as my father developed his career in the finance industry). But I’ve been in Chicago for roughly the last decade.
When I was growing up, I had a dream that by the time I was 25, I would be living in Manhattan and making a certain amount of money. Over time, that dream started shifting towards Chicago. I moved to Chicago after dropping out of college and began working at a hotel—it was the only job I could find at the time. A decade later, I still truly love this city. It’s big enough to have a population of like-minded individuals for any interest in the world. You can find any community here, and that kind of community brings a lot of comfort.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: I started programming when I was 12 years old on a website called byond.com, which is a game-building engine. It really allows someone who’s just picking up scripting languages to run with it and make a full-fledged video game (albeit non-performant). I dabbled with this from the age of 12 to 16 and contributed to a number of projects there—even made some playable games.
After that, I tried to become an actor. I went to the University of Wisconsin—Madison and then transferred to theater school. I eventually dropped out because I wasn’t a fan of paying money to an institution in that capacity. My theater dreams themselves never disappeared, though.
In my early days in Chicago, I worked in hospitality while looking for a job in tech. I think I put out my resume to upwards of 80 companies—pretty much any job req that mentioned Visual Basic. I finally got my break at a company called Big Machines (now known as Oracle CPQ) in a support engineering role. Eventually, I became a consultant for them. After about three years, the former CEO of Big Machines purchased a company with similar technology and pulled some of the top Big Machine talent over with him. I moved over with that team as a quality assurance developer.
In a nutshell: I taught myself to code as a kid and knew that I was proficient enough to contribute meaningfully to an organization without a college degree.
Q: What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?
A: I would love to be in theater, but it’s a really difficult profession. I have some friends who are in the field with varying degrees of success. I try to be involved when I can; I do stage readings and things like that from time to time. Like I said before, my theater dreams have always persisted, but artistic pursuit ended up taking a backseat to financial reality.
Q: If you could magically learn any skill in a day, what would it be?
A: I would like to indefinitely sustain a handstand. I imagine it would be a good way to wake up. Plus it would be very entertaining.
Q: Is there anything that’s super popular that you just don’t get?
A: I’ve always been a technophobe; I didn’t get a smartphone until 2018. In fact, I was developing mobile applications before I even had a smartphone. So, one thing I just don’t understand is the app craze—needing to have an application for everything on your phone. A lot of apps are just reserved websites on mobile. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t get the benefit to the user, especially since you’re giving the app access to your phone and data. I supposed people like quick fixes.
Q: What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
A: It used to be doing the dishes before I got a dishwasher. Now I’d have to say laundry. I’m in a three-story walkup and it’s a walk down to the basement.
Q: What story does your family always tell about you?
A: When I was in kindergarten, I got called into the principal’s office because I was being precocious and whining about some or other anachronistic point. But I wasn’t bothered by the punishment. In fact, I started talking to the principal and commented that her desk was really “fastidious.”
She asked me, “Do you even know what that word means?”
“Yes, it means you’re neat,” I replied.
The principal was very taken aback by my response. She immediately shared the exchange with my mom as she tried to explain why I shouldn’t be interruptive when I think the teacher is saying something incorrect.
In fairness, that story is a pretty good indication of who I am. If I see something wrong, I’ll say it. And I’ll likely be fairly blunt about it.
Q: What fictional movie/TV/literary universe would you most want to live in?
A: There’s a fictional setting called Forgotten Realms, which is a world from Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). There have been some novelizations around it. My favorite author, R.A. Salvatore, has written upwards of 30 books about a character who lives in this universe, and I’ve read around 28 of them. I’m a huge fan of high fantasy, and these books are definitely that. It’s a very magical world where every permutation of any high fantasy creature you can imagine is detailed in some capacity.
Q: Top 5 songs for your road trip playlist?
- Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa
- There Will Be Blood by Kim Petras
- Hunter by Galantis
- High Road by Kesha
- Demons by Hayley Kiyoko
Q: No food or no sleep?
A: No sleep
Q: 90s or early 2000s?
A: Early 2000s
Q: Talk to animals or read minds?
A: Read minds
Q: M&Ms or Kit Kats?
A: Kit Kats
Q: Live in a haunted house or work a cemetery?
A: Live in a haunted house