Season One Wrap-up: What We Learned
We've just wrapped Season 1 of Stayin' Alive in Tech, and I've already been asked about emerging themes. Here's what we've learned so far.
1. Listening to others' stories calms me—and it will calm you too.
No matter how busy my day is, I emerge from podcast recording in a calmer, happier state. I can enter the podcast recording space rushed, and during the recording, I find myself eyes closed, intently listening to my guest's story, going with them on their journey in tech. When the recording is over, I am always at peace. I started looking into why this might be and found these: a Korn-Ferry article that summarizes some of the science behind it, and a Bustle article on the 11 Habits of People Who are Calming to Be Around.
I think you will have that same experience as you listen to these mostly unedited, long-form explorations into individual people's life experiences. Our last Season 1 Episode with Ellen Petry Leanse, Apple's first user evangelist, felt like the pinnacle of that for me.
2. "The Past Isn't Dead. It's Not Even Past."- William Faulkner.
As the season goes on you'll find yourself noticing how things keep referring back to each other, or how one guest will mention a phrase or concept and it will pop up again two or three episodes later. Here are just two examples:
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: Past Is Prologue
We started recording in April, and Larry Friedberg and I discussed Facebook's troubles and how they could have been avoided. As the news around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica kept growing throughout the summer, the subject came up again in May with Coraline Ada Ehmke talking about identity, yet again in June with Jim Long and Owen Thomas discussing their experiences with Facebook management, and finally just this month with Ellen Petry Leanse as we talked about why tech might have lost its way—and what the way back might be.
Flexibility, Openness, and Persistence: The Struggle Is Real
Over and over we heard stories of roadblocks overcome, surprises dealt, and creative solutions to life and career challenges that are the hallmark of those who not only survive in the tech industry, but thrive.
From Deirdre Straughn of Amazon essentially creating the CD ROM publishing space starting in Italy in the 90s, to Linda Popky joining Sun in the early days from the Boston office (in those days, without internet); everyone in this industry can get tired, frustrated, and feel blocked. But how they each overcame those obstacles are object lessons we can all benefit from.
3. Our Guests Surprise Us—And Themselves
One of the benefits of listening without judgment is that it creates a place of safety. Our guests have responded to that experience with incredible insights and surprises.
Here are just two examples:
Engineering Veteran Ron Lichty discovered in real time how engineering's ethos of "sink or swim" might affect women and men engineers differently. His awe and humility in that moment were a breakthrough for both of us.
Founder Jim Long, one of the first MBAs to work in Venture Capital, revealed to us that he's collected hundreds of pages of first-person anecdotes about Steve Jobs from mutual friends, believing (as we do) that contemporary accounts are the first draft of history, and it will serve us well to collect more nuance around Steve Jobs to help future generations understand who he really was.
4. People outside of the bay area can teach us all
Shane Johnson is an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, building a tech community in Eugene, Oregon. He talks not only about pitching to VCs, but how that pitch might be different in a smaller tech hub, and what the challenges are in that location. These insights shed light on the Bay Area tech culture in surprising ways.
I took some liberties with the kinds of guests I had on this season, and on a whim invited Kumar Garg to join me to talk about his now-famous whiteboard from his office in the Obama Administration's Science and Technology Office.
Kumar's episode rapidly became one of the season's most listened to, because he's the opposite of what some of us in tech might think of when we think of government employees. Kumar's brilliance, quick wit, warmth, and optimism were a perfect July 4th episode. I think you'll love the hope and practical challenges he lays out for all American citizens as we navigate the turbulent waters of change.
Thanks for your time and your interest in Stayin’ Alive in Tech.
We're hard at work on Season Two now, and we hope you'll join us beginning September 6. As always, find all of our interviews on iTunes and Google Play, as well as our website. We'd be especially grateful if you could leave a review for our podcast—Apple really does use these to help spread the word. Thanks for listening!