Episode 56: Tech Maven Shona Bang

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to the world. Where we talk to them about technology and brand and origin stories. And today I am so excited to have Shona Bang on a good friend and colleague from Microsoft. Say hello to the listeners.

Shona Bang:  Yay. Hi everyone. Thanks for having me, Heather.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Uh, she is a product marketing manager at Microsoft and she and I did some work together, uh, over the last couple of years working on diversity and inclusion, diversity in tech at Microsoft and she has got a brand new, uh, launching piece in our community that I wanted to talk to her about and also Microsoft Ignite that's coming up. So, why don't we just launch into humans in IT and tell us about that.

Shona Bang:  So, we call it Humans of IT, like Humans of New York, if you're familiar with that series. So it's very much about storytelling, right? Helping people really unlock their tech superpowers, as they call it, to do good in this world. So as you know, we love the diversity in tech things that we've been doing over the past couple of years, but I think now is just the right moment for us to up level this to a whole new level and talk about how do we use technology for humanity and how do we use it for good to solve some of the world's biggest problems, whether it's helping people, um, you know, in under-represented situations. Uh, you know, uh, refugees is another big one that we try to look, um, look into. Um, so you know, it's really how do we use technology to really solve world problems is our key goal with this.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. And where can everybody find that?

Shona Bang:  So, we have a brand-new community page, aka.ms/humans of it. So check that out. And I think Heather, you can provide a link on there. You know, it's an all new page. We are trying to get new stories. So if anyone is interested in having your story featured, we actually have a call for content now that you could apply to be a guest blogger. Just go to AKA. Dot. MS slash guest bloggers and we'll get in touch.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. That was so exciting to see and it kind of goes hand in hand with the community mentors program, which started like last year, right?

Shona Bang:  Yup. It started, you know, it's been a journey with the community mentors program. When we first started, we literally had an Excel sheet that we matched everyone randomly and you know it was going good till we got 1500 applications and we were like, okay, we need to scale and scale big. So that's why we partnered with a local Seattle startup called Tribute to build an all new app that's running on Azure, by the way, we're trying to build Power BI in the backend for our analytics portion, but really the app is meant to, you know, empower people to find their own mentors wherever they are at any stage of your life. And you can have up to five mentors at each time. So whether you're trying to pick up skills on public speaking or technical areas, that's absolutely where you would go to connect with people.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah, I think that's the cool thing is that I actually just got a mentor at a podcasting conference and I, it's been a long time since I've had a mentor, I will say. And I was so happy and she came, she was, she's a from the LA Times and amazing, you know? It was just so great, sometimes that outside in you don't always see things, you know, and to have someone look at your stuff. She was looking at my podcast and gave me some great feedback and I was just like, Oh, this is amazing, you know? And so I, I'm on Tribute. I went and I was like, I'm, I want a mentor and I want to, you know, have mentees and be a mentor and all of that stuff. So y'all, you have to check this out. Um, the Tribute app and we'll put it in the show notes as well. It's a really, really cool program.

Shona Bang:  I think the best thing is mentors can come from anywhere, right? Like sometimes most unexpected places. And what we really try to do with our mentorship app is storytelling based, so it gets really personal when you can read people's life stories.

Heather Newman:  Yup. Agreed. Yeah. And yeah, it's not just chuck a bunch of skills and stuff like that. Right. It does go deeper and I

Shona Bang:  Life experiences.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Which is really cool about that app. That's awesome that it's a local Seattle company. That's super cool. I love that.

Shona Bang:  It's totally free, that's the other thing. aka dot MS slash community mentors is how you would join and yeah, you would have to be a member of the Humans of IT community to get on there. But it's a great place to connect with thousands of people literally at your fingertips.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And those of you who are, you know, are, aren't necessarily a part of the tech community yet. It's super easy. Um, it's Microsoft tech community and you go and you sign in and then you can, you know, be a part of Humans of IT. And then also, you can, you know, look at, you know, SharePoint and events and training. There's so much there, you know, so that's a giant, beautiful website that's got so much to offer for everybody. You know, um, it's at anybody and everybody who's working in and around Microsoft products and has an interest and, so lots of really cool things, conversations, blogs, mentorship, all that stuff. So that's awesome. So I want to know, um, I, you, you and I are both, uh, Huskies. We went to UofDub, so back in the day.

Shona Bang:  I went there briefly, just for a certificate for that, but yes, I would call myself that.

Heather Newman:  I went a little bit further back than you did, but, but you also, um, I'm from Chicago, uh, the, uh, Midwest originally. And so you also, you went to Northwestern and you went to Yale. Talk about that. You've got awesome degrees.

Shona Bang:  They're not degrees. They're more like certification programs. Rewind like years and years back, so I'm originally from Singapore. I spent about over five years working at Microsoft Singapore before I finally transferred over to the US. So, it's been about three and a half years here now. And when I got here, I really wanted to learn, you know, on a global level, like tap into these amazing Academy institutions that have all these programs so I did a strategic comms course at UDub. Um, I did a diversity and inclusion certificate with Yale. That was interesting. It was fully online and you would connect with people working on D&I stuff all around the world. Um, they break into groups so it was super interactive. I think they still offer that program if anyone is interested. Feel free to check that out. But yeah, I think, you know, like I'm all about getting new experiences and continually learning from people. So that's something that I've always been passionate about and that's kind of how I got into those.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that's super cool. I've been to Singapore once, I loved it. It's so beautiful and clean.

Shona Bang:  Well, have you tried our food? I mean our food is the best.

Heather Newman:  I have. Yes. The, what is it? The chili crab

Shona Bang:  Chili crab, chicken rice, like all of that, I think, you know, Crazy Rich Asians movie definitely spotlighted Singapore quite a bit. But you gotta go there to experience it yourself.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I actually went to, um, TJ from AvePoint I went to his wedding and uh, yeah, there. And so that was really a special occasion to be there. And they got married on the Island and it was just, uh, yeah. Fantastic. So yeah, it's uh, and I can't wait to go back. It's a good, it's a great place.

Shona Bang:  We have Microsoft Ignite the tour in Singapore happening February. So that's definitely one of our stops if you’re interested check it out.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Do you get back much?

Shona Bang:  Um, not really. Maybe once a year just to see family or go on the Ignite Tours. Tours, you know, it's very consuming as you can tell 30 cities that we're going to cover this year, but very exciting.

Heather Newman:  Wow, that's amazing. So yeah, so will you tell everybody a little bit about what your charter is about, what you do?

Shona Bang:  Like right now?

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Yeah. Your job.

Shona Bang:  Um, so right now I lead the Humans of IT community. It's Brand new. Humans of IT is really focusing on tech for good and tech for humanity. So we're all about spotlighting stories, people, um, you know, examples of how you're using technology to solve world problems. Um, it's kind of a role that kind of, we carved it out ourselves. You know, it's not something you find in the JD. It's literally something that came about because we see that there is a great need for it and Microsoft is a huge proponent of that. Um, a lot of examples are in the media recently as you know, Brad Smith published a book called Tools and Weapons. Uh, it's really all about how do we help people around the world get access to technology because technology is a huge leveler, right? In terms of giving people access and opportunities. Um, and that's something we want to showcase. We want to showcase whatever people are doing in their home countries, whether it's in France or in Tel Aviv or Mumbai, you know, there's huge opportunity and I think, you know, giving them the space to share that is really important.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And so talk about, um, Dona Sarkar and Annie Parker. I know I saw the, when you were, um, announcing this that, uh, you mentioned both of them with a thank you. How were they involved with the, with the, the movement?

Shona Bang:  Yeah, that's a funny backstory to it. So as you know, like they've always been huge supporters of our D and T work that we've been going around D&I. So when we were, you know, re pivoting to this new tribe, they were the first to sign up to be like, I want to be on this. And Dona has been a huge supporter. Like literally even in the early weeks before we got to creating this new thing. Like I met up with her and we talked about the concept and whether this would land with both our IT pro and dev audiences and she was a hundred percent onboard. Any she dragged Annie Parker in, and the next day I get an email saying, Oh yes, Annie Parker's also an exec sponsor. Can you just put her in? Um, and Annie does great work with the Microsoft startups portion of things over, she's based in Australia, but she really does global startup work and you know, we, we see a lot of opportunities in terms of what the startup space is doing. Our Community Mentors program as mentioned, it founded by a Seattle startup. You know, it's women that start up too. So you know, we really want to bring all of these stories to light and giving them that safe space to share that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's awesome. That's so, that's so great. What, what, where did you sort of get started with the D&I? I know your, you know, your, your certificate and all that stuff did, was that something that was, you know what I mean? I mean, I know it's like, okay, it's a sort of silly question, but

Shona Bang:  No, it's not. This is actually a funny story how I got into this. So I have no like professional D&I background or anything. Like I don't have an organizational behaviors cert or whatnot. My background was actually in crisis PR.

Heather Newman:  Okay.

Shona Bang:  So, I spent, well, so before that I was managing technical crisis back in Singapore and went off the technical account manager, moved to the US because nobody wanted this job that was focused on crisis PR management. I did that and I've seen, you know, everything from humanitarian issues to cybersecurity cases. Like you name it, like we've probably dealt with it. And one day you met Anna Chu my coworker who runs community. She came over and she said, Hey, you know, we have this role called women in tech marketing. Would you be interested? I'm like, women in tech? Like, no, I can't just do women, it's gotta be all of it. You know, we're not just one dimensional. We are all of the different identities that make us who we are. So I went to our hiring manager at the time to say, Hey, I'm interested in this, but I want to do it holistically. So let's talk about the intersection of diversity and technology. And that's how diversity and tech came about. Um, and we've always been looking at the D&I from a holistic lens.

Heather Newman:  Yeah.

Shona Bang:  Not only as gender, but also accessibility, you know, um, all the different things we identify with. And that's been my passion from the beginning because, you know, I'm a woman of color. I'm a new immigrant to the US the only one in my family to do it. Um, you know, so all of us have unique stories that just help us, help shape us into who we are. And you know, that's something that I love doing. We did that for almost two years and now I think the time has come for us to take it to the next level. Just talk about humanity as a whole. I love things that have a purpose. You know, work in itself as busy enough. Right. You know, work can be very tiring and exhausting, but I gained a lot of strength working on, you know, issues or things that can help us solve problems in the world. And I think that's something that's a huge motivator for me and my source of energy.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Multilevel multifaceted for sure. Yeah. That's cool. You know, it's so funny. I worked with you for such a long time. I didn't know that origin story.

Shona Bang:  Really?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no I didn't actually.

Shona Bang:  I feel like a lot of people do, but yeah, I mean it's funny, like I personally have had encountered all kinds of stories. Like when I first moved to the US like I would have people say like, Oh, like how come your English is so good? You know, things like that. It's all based on bias and perception. Like most people don't even know that in Singapore we are bilingual. Like everyone speaks two languages, you know? And it just an assumption that when someone looks at you as a person of color, they immediately assume you don't speak English fluently or things like that. I was on the PR team at that time and I was like, are you kidding me right now? So it's been a huge learning journey and you know, I feel like there's so much opportunity and space right now. Issues need to be addressed. Like we can't just sweep it under the rug. Like we need to give the community a voice and be real with each other so that change can happen.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. I agree with you 100% so, so you're a busy gal with a lot of demands and how do you unplug? Where do you, where do you, how do you unplug?

Shona Bang:  I love hiking trips. So going out into the nature, just kind of unplugging from technology and you know, a good spa day never hurts. I go to the spa and like sometimes I drag Anna with me, I'd be like, Hey, we need to like seriously unplug and have a self-care day. So that's what we'll do.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Wow. What's the last place you went just for fun?

Shona Bang:  Just for fun. Oh my gosh, that's a, that's a good question cause I tend to combine, you know, the work I do with my passion. So I dunno, where did I go? Well I went to the Canadian Rockies with my husband. Yeah, it was fun. We went to see, um, Lake Louise, Banff and just soak in all the nature. I think it's a beautiful time. Oh, we also went up to Vancouver. It's really nice right now in the fall season. We don't get four seasons in Singapore, so that's something I really appreciate.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. How long have you been in Seattle?

Shona Bang:  Three and a half years.

Heather Newman:  Three and a half years. Wow. Okay.

Shona Bang:  Time flies.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Right. You blink and a lot of big changes for you, so that's awesome and exciting. Yup. You mentioned husband. That's fun.

Shona Bang:  Yeah. Moved across the world, got a brand new job with no PR background and took on a PR job. So anything's possible if you have the right attitude and sponsors and mindset.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. And so will you talk a little bit about um, Ignite, cause that's been a big piece of what you've been working on as of late and there's a giant program. And would you tell our listeners a little bit about what's going on there too?

Shona Bang:  Yeah, Ignite has been my life right now. It's 20 days away. So as you can tell we are in full steam ahead mode for it. Um, so I am currently leading the diversity and inclusion track. So kind of the last one I'm doing before I fully pivot over to humans of IT. We have a lot planned and a lot going on for this track. We have over 40 sessions. I think it's like 43 at last count, including breakout sessions, theaters, un-conferences. Um, you know, all the topics range the gamut from parents, parenting and tech or you know, women IT pros or you know, neurodiversity like how was it like living with autism or you know, with a diagnosis, right? Loryan Strandt, one of our MVPs is gonna do a session on that as well, living with ADHD and you know, supercharging your career. So, you know, there's just a lot of topics and you know, we just want to create an opportunity for everybody to be able to add it to their session schedule no matter where they are. Because you have no excuse, right? There's five days. We have sessions going on every single day, including daily empower lunches. On Monday we have a CVP panel, it's called future-proofing against bias in tech. I highly recommend that one. Um, on Wednesday we have Haben Girma who is Harvard law school's first deaf blind graduate. She is talking about how she has overcome adversity to become a disability rights lawyer.

Heather Newman:  Wow.

Shona Bang:  I feel very excited about that. We're giving away a copy of her book to the first 400 attendees. So West 224 is our room and all the D&I sessions will be on there. So, make sure to mark it in your calendar. And then we also have unconferences. So, the unconferences are a more interactive, hands-on format in a smaller intimate setting. Um, and we really just want to get people to get together and share best practices. Like how do you survive having a job and parenting, you know, full time. Um, well, what are the mistakes you've made in your career as women in tech, right? Like, how do we get past it? How do we help support one another? So plenty of connection opportunities. Um, I always tell people that, you know, at conferences, a lot of sessions are livestreaming recorded, but the community part is something you can't get on demand. You have to make time for it. So be sure to, you know, pace yourself at plenty of time for networking and meeting people because these are the friendships and the connections you'll take away with you long after the event is over.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I agree with that. That's amazing and awesome advice. And I also saw that, uh, the student ambassadors are back in full force and there's, I think two, I think that were last year and that are coming back as well. Is that right?

Shona Bang:  Yeah. So two of them were from last year's batch. They will be student advisors to the incoming batch and we've actually expend our student ambassador programs three fold. So we had like five last year, this year we have 15.

Heather Newman:  Oh, my goodness.

Shona Bang:  Um, so yes, and they are from all the local universities in the Orlando area, so university of central Florida, university of Florida and Valencia college. Um, we're really excited because this gives students a firsthand look at what the tech industry is really like, you know, beyond your textbooks. As you know, it's so different when you go into the industry. You know, we're so excited because a lot of that, the, the ones that we invited last year, they actually came back to Microsoft for their summer internship.

Heather Newman:  Oh wow.

Shona Bang:  And yeah, so Rachel is one of them, Chantel's our new ambassador this year. She was also a summer intern this past summer. Milena is another one. She's going to be on the Friday panel. So, you know, I think we really want to make sure that they get a chance to see what it's like for themselves right before they graduate and get to see what working in tech is like. How connections can really help them. Finding the right mentors, you know, people to support them. And you know, there's a lot of companies out there, let's be honest, right, the demand for tech talent is huge. So what can we do to help give them, you know, a good set up so that you know, they know we're here for them.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely.

Shona Bang:  And then the other one that we're really excited about too is the tech women program. I'm not sure if you've heard about it from last year, Heather.

Heather Newman:  Tell me all about it.

Shona Bang:  So, we ae actually working with a nonprofit, it's a, it's called Tech Women and they actively sponsor women from developing countries to come to the U S for internships, learning programs and things like that. This year we're sponsoring, um, almost 20 tech women from all different countries. And they will be coming and fully engaging as attendees to see what is it like. We want to connect them with people who can then help amplify their profile. In fact one of them was here last year and she really wanted to be back this year. We've invited her to all Microsoft Tour Paris, cause she is from Algeria, she also speaks French. Um, and we just want to give them that platform to share their story. She's an assistant professor in computer science and outside of her day job she does a lot of volunteering for women in technology. And we also had a really happy story last year. One of the tech women we brought over to Microsoft Ignite, she became a regional director this past year simply because of the, you know, the people she got to meet and they helped to raise her visibility cause she was a CEO of an IOT company doing amazing stuff but nobody knew her. Nobody knew her outside of Algeria. So when she came to a big global conference, she met all these amazing MVPs who are like, Oh, you should absolutely be on this program. And it just happened.

Heather Newman:  That's so cool. Yeah, I think so. Like I interviewed all the, um, most of the student ambassadors last year on a podcast and I want to catch them again this year for sure. Especially with Elizabeth and Genevieve and saying, Hey, you know, like what's happened in the last year since you did this? You know? So that's super, super cool.

Shona Bang:  Yeah. Some of them are doing really amazing stuff, like one of our student ambassadors actually built prosthetic limbs for her father because there was nothing in the market that could suit his needs. So she just went on and built it. Like that's how amazing it is. In fact I should connect you with her because I think her story is a pretty incredible one.

Heather Newman:  Cool, yeah, no, I'd love that. Yeah. I plan to, and I think many of you already know this already, but I will be a computer community reporter at Ignite, so I'm going to be running around and probably.

Shona Bang:  Be busy.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, running. Catting around the a diversity and inclusion lounge for sure. Cause it's a passion of mine as well. And I've loved, I loved working with you on all of this as well.

Shona Bang:  Likewise, get your comfy shoes on.

Heather Newman:  I know, right? No, I actually just bought a couple of pairs. So, um, so that I'm ready to go. And um, the pre-day, will you talk a little bit about the pre day?

Shona Bang:  Yes. So the pre-day is a full day program. Last year we started from noon, this year we're starting at 8:00 AM.

Heather Newman:  Whoo. Okay.

Shona Bang:  Yes, we are, you know, having a full day of jam-packed sessions. Just there's so much content we would love to showcase. So it's a full day from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM and then we have the evening reception. So let me just kind of tell you what is some of the core content we'll be featuring. So, one of them involves a speaker Deena Pierott. She's the founder of iUrban Teams, a nonprofit that helps underrepresented communities gain access to technology, especially youth. Um, I met her at um, a women in tech event in Portland. And she invited me to speak at Starbucks and it's kind of interesting how the full circle has come about. And I was like, your topic is great. And she's actually gonna talk about the intersection of race and gender. That's powerful because a lot of people tend to think of these categories as linear, like you're either a woman or someone of color like that, but no one ever really talks about this, you know, it's an intersection and what that means for people who cut across both those categories. Right. And she's gonna have an amazing panel that we pulled together. There was just a prep call this morning. Um, and everyone's is going to share their true story, you know, like real authentic stories about how, what is it like being a person of color, female or gender non-binary even, and you know, what is the environment that we need to create so that we're all included and have a voice.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely.

Shona Bang:  So, that's going to be the full morning part. And then we have Dona Sarkar, of course doing a neuro-diversity as a super power panel. Um, a lot of amazing panelists she's invited to kind of talk about neuro diversity as a whole and how that's not a disability, but really a superpower if managers just know how to work with that, right? To bring out the best in these individuals. And then we port over to another speaker Kyla Mitsunaga, she's a TedTalk speaker and also a published author. We'll be giving away a copy of her book to every attendee as well. Um, she talks about, you know, communication skills with versus at somebody, how to collaborate. And she did a session at Microsoft Ignite Tour Amsterdam last cycle, and she talked about the pursuit of happiness. Like, you know, this is something that's elusive. Her session was packed because I think in tech especially, everyone's trying to look for happiness. Like what is our meaning and purpose here? How do we use our skills for good? And that's just something that she'll be doing in her session. So really looking forward to that. It's going to be great.

Heather Newman:  That's cool. Wow. Uh, how, how close are, well ignite is sold out.

Shona Bang:  Ignite is sold out, but you can still add the pre-day if you're registered. I think we have a couple of seats left. If people do want to join in, um, it's not too late, just do it ASAP. And then for the evening reception, we have, you know, um, our DJ from last year, she's a violinist who also does deejaying together. I don't know. It sounds amazing.

Heather Newman:  She was awesome. Yeah.

Shona Bang:  Yeah. We invited her back. Oh, we also have a Disney caricaturist who's going gonna draw your superhero alter ego. Not even kidding we hired the caricaturist from Disney.

Heather Newman:  That's fantastic. Why not? Yeah. Last year it was a calligraphist. Right. Um, that was, and you could give any quote and yeah, it was, so that was, I still, I have mine, I'm looking at it, it's on my bookshelf over there.

Shona Bang:  Me too. We loved that. But I think this year wanted to do something different and just have people think about what will your alter ego be if you weren't afraid, you know?

Heather Newman:  Mmhm, yeah, no, absolutely. And I bet I'm, I'm sure that there's going to be some lovely giveaways and fun stuff like that too. Those are always pretty, pretty yummy from, uh, uh, from what I see from what we had last year. So

Shona Bang:  I have to tell you this year's like top giveaway is going to be a custom Lego set called the modern inclusive workplace. So I custom designed, it to me three months. Yes. And we have limited sets that we'll give away. There's an interactive game at the humans of it lounge, it's called the humans of IT race, kind of a play on the word human race and it's an interactive, um, AR VR game. And you would form a team of four, go to that game lounge and you have to race like with your arms, so that's inclusive of, you know, people who are in wheelchairs, they can participate as well. Um, the, the, the top five teams with the fastest timing per day will get this limited edition Lego set.

Heather Newman:  That's fantastic. Oh, I can't wait to see it. That is,

Shona Bang:  Oh, you have to win it, Heather. Get your shoes on.

Heather Newman:  I know. I'm like, yeah, really. I'm like, yeah, well we'll see if I get in there, I'm going to be running around a little bit. But yeah. Oh that's so cool. It's not, I mean, it just, it keeps building, you know, which is so wonderful and thank you for all your beautiful work that you've done on this, uh, with the teams and, and in conjunction with the events teams. It's really cool to see and it's really cool to see how the entire, all of Microsoft, you know, just from the global D&I perspective from the IT pro community and everybody coming together to really put a lot of these issues, mental health, burnout, you know, tech and intersectionality, all of these things out in the forefront for all of us to talk about together. You know, creating that belonging that we all really want. Right?

Shona Bang:  Yeah, we love it. I think, you know, Ignite, it's kind of like a one big party, you know, you think like everyone around the world coming together and just really celebrating this amazing community. Like you're a part of community, Heather. Like, I love the tech community just cause there's so many passionate people doing amazing things and you know, the one time in a year where we all get together and just celebrate each other.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. It's, and it's huge, you know, and, and so much of it is also, you know, those who can't come, you know, there's somebody was saying, you know, don't have FOMO. And I was like, you know, there's probably some people who have what JOMO like the joy of missing out cause they're going to get to watch in their bathrobes, and not having hurt, hurting feet. Um, but you know, yeah, it is a big wonderful event and a, it's going to be awesome. So I also, you know, so um, growing up in Singapore, I wanted to track back to that for a second and you know, for you growing up there, um, how, how did, how did you get like the, like into like the decision for tech for you?

Shona Bang:  Oh, you mean like when I graduated, how to I decided to join tech? That's an interesting story. Like, I was going to join a cosmetics company cause I participated in marketing challenge. And they were like, yeah, you should join us. And I told my dad, my dad's a long time IBM executive, way that when he's now retired. But he was the one who told me like, why would you join a company? And you know, like why would you join a company that doesn't directly work in tech because when you do work in tech, you get to influence every other industry out there. And that just like really sunk in for me. And I felt like, wow, like that's true. Like I could be at the forefront and helping build solutions that will impact every organization no matter where you are. Um, and that's not to say there's anything wrong with working in any specific industry. But I just personally love being in tech because we're at the forefront of cutting technology and we get to help have a say in what, what gets built, you know, how do we use our solutions. How do we communicate that to people. And it's just been so rewarding for me. I feel like I'm learning something new every day. And the biggest draw for in tech for me that I think would apply to most people is that no matter where you are on this journey, you can always join in because tech is always evolving. You're never too late to join tech.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, agreed. I mean, if I can teach my mom how to use Instagram, anything can happen, you know?

Shona Bang:  Right. Or be like the tech support back home with everybody, no matter what your role is.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah, absolutely. The phones and the printers and everything get shoved my way. But I'm sure that's any of us in tech for sure.

Shona Bang:  I know, I'll be like, I don't work in that area, but okay, fine. I'll try. I'm sure I can help you pair your Bluetooth to your laptop.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Oh my God. That's funny. Well, so my last question is always, you know, a what if, what, what's that spark or a moment or person or you know, that really got you to be where you are today. If you can pinpoint one that you would share with our listeners.

Shona Bang:  I think, you know, I want to say there isn't one specific person. I think there's always been a group of people just throughout my life and career so far that have really helped me. I think if I trace it way back when, like when I was in high school, I remember one of my teachers that the biggest thing he said was, there are many routes to the same path. So you know, there's not one way to success. Like there's so many ways you can get there, right? And nobody has a fixed path. Like your life is always evolving and you just don't know what's going to happen. You just have to make the most of it and just be earnest and sincere when you live. That's something that I've always taken throughout my career. When I think about, you know, what is the thing that I want to do? I want to do something with purpose, with meaning. I want to leave a good impact on society, right? We need to leave the world a better place than when we first found it. It's one of my personal mantras too. But you know, like starting out in Microsoft, I joined Microsoft through their graduate program so back when it was called the mock program, I think some people might be familiar. Um, I had an amazing manager back then who really believed in me. And when I said like hey, you know, I love Singapore, but I've been born and raised here. I think I'm ready to go onto a global stage and do something like large, like massive scale. He was so supportive, like every time we had a business trip he would send me and be like, Hey, go there, go meet people, go find the connections you need to make it work. And like it did, it paid off and you know, when I came here, you know, doing a job that was really hard. Like I didn't know anybody when I first moved here. You know, I have to learn everything from scratch, build a network, build a community. Um, you know, it's kind of ironic like coming to a place where I had no community and then building one.

Heather Newman:  Your DIY, DIY community,

Shona Bang:  Right? Like the number of people I knew in Seattle was like, I could count with one hand. Literally, um, and you know, coming here and getting to meet so many people since I will say Twitter is a huge help. Um, I wasn't even a big Twitter user way back when, like it's not a big thing in Singapore, but apparently everyone in the U S here is huge on Twitter.

Heather Newman:  Yup.

Shona Bang:  One time I asked my husband like, why does everyone in the U S have like so many things to say? And we didn't want to say it publicly, but I see, I see value in it. I think there's a whole reason why, because you know, it's a platform, right? It's, it's a way to share your voice, your principles and meet tons of people from there. Um, so yeah, I think, you know, having managers that are supportive, and right now my manager, Jeff, shout out to Jeff, he's probably gonna listen to this, cause he listens to all our content.

Heather Newman:  And he's awesome.

Shona Bang:  You know, he's, yeah, he's been so supportive, you know, in terms of, you know, working through the repivoting and transition and really supporting what we need to do, right. To make this real and authentic for our community. I think this team, if anything, and you've worked with many of us, Heather, you know, our team loves the community. We love people. And the work that we do, like we, it's draining. I mean, it's exhausting, but we get energy from it because we know the people who will benefit from it. And that's what we're here for. We're here for all of you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's uh, yeah, I mean, all of you and you, you're so effervescent, you know, and just so passionate and, yeah, no, it's true. And everybody who works on that team is that way as well. And I, you know, I'm not going to speak for the entire community, but I'm going to say thank you, but I'm going to say thank you because when, when we all talk about it, that's what we talk about is the passion and the goodness and yeah, we, I mean, it's about helping each other. And, and trying to figure out stuff together. And I think we do, we all do that really well and you all lead so well and listen too, you know, um, and that's a big part of it, you know?

Shona Bang:  Yes. Team effort and, you know, I think there's just so much we can learn from each other. I would say maybe connecting people is one of my superpowers. I should write that down somewhere. What's your super power? Right. Everybody has superpowers.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, definitely. I, yeah, I think, you know, for me, connecting is one of them for sure. And, and just sort of being able to sort of understand people fairly quickly, you know? Um, I think that's my background in theater.

Shona Bang:  And you're a good listener.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I try, you know, I, that was something I work on deep listening, you know, sometimes you need to just be quiet, you know, and take it in.

Shona Bang:  Yeah, actually, take it in, not just kind of letting it just swish by you. I think that's a huge skill that's getting lost today. Right? Everyone's like bombard information all the time. But you know, taking time to really process what people are saying and internalize it and come up with a thoughtful response. That's a huge, like humans of IT skill.

Heather Newman:  for sure. For sure. We're going to have to get more buttons so you know,

Shona Bang:  Oh yeah. I'm all buttoned Out. Like I'm telling everybody, no more buttons cause we ordered it like 40,000 buttons. It's the last cycle. I have had enough of buttons. We made it digital so we partnered with this artist, you can go to AKA Dot MS slash diversity superpower. You can have your own AR filter with the button wall.

Heather Newman:  That's right. That's awesome. I'm looking at the ones on my refrigerator right now, so I have mine up for sure. So that was a cool, cool thing last year. So, awesome, yay. Well you are, like I said, an effervescent force of nature and I love working with you and I love talking to you. So I really, Shona, I appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing all of that of what's coming on, uh, for Ignite and humans of IT. It's so exciting. So thank you so much for coming.

Shona Bang:  Thank you! And we'll see you in Orlando.

Heather Newman:  Yes, I will see you soon with bells on, as they say. So thanks so much.

Shona Bang:  Thanks Heather. Talk soon.

Heather Newman:  Alright, you're welcome. Folks, that has been another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast, and here's to a big beautiful day on this blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Episode 55: Tech Maven Maarten Visser

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world, mavens in our world today. I'm super excited to have a wonderful colleague on, uh, Maarten Visser who is coming to us from, are you in Den Hauge in the Netherlands? Is that right?

Maarten Visser:  Yes, well actually very close to the Hauge. It's just this, you could say like a server. Yes. The Hauge, the Netherlands.

Heather Newman:  Yes. I've actually been there, believe it or not. So, um, I took a driving trip on a site visit and I drove there and I went to Gauda or Gouda as we say here, the place that makes the yummy cheese. So I know your area very well actually.

Maarten Visser:  That's good. Yeah. Well, I'm, I'm super excited to be here in your show and, uh, have a, have a nice conversation.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. Uh, Maarten and I have known each other for a long time now. Um, both working in technology together in SharePoint land together. And, um, I would say digital transformation land together, uh, seeing each other at many events. Um, I can't, I'm trying to figure out when we met, it's been awhile. I'm trying, I was trying to think about that and I know it's at some event, but it must've been somewhere in Europe. I'm sure. So yeah.

Maarten Visser:  But it could also be like a SharePoint, um, a SPC event in the US, that, that, that might also be one of the first acquaintances.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. So, um, so yeah, so, and, and something else to announce that's really fun, uh, is that Maarten and I are both, um, community reporters for the upcoming Microsoft Ignite Conference, which is the largest conference for IT pros in the world. And that is coming up, uh, starting on November 4th and Maarten, will you tell everybody what, what the community reporter uh, dealio is? Will you tell everybody about that?

Maarten Visser:  Um, you mean like what the story is about us being called Ignite community reporters? Yeah. Well. Um, I guess we're, we are part of the live stream, um, where, uh, it's multi day and we will be interviewing people about certain, uh, technologies and, and, and certain things happening in the community or specific Microsoft events happening. And, um, we are out there doing interviews with Microsoft employees and MVPs and getting some quality content out of whoever we're talking to.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And attendees and sponsors and all as well. I believe. So it's, it's sort of a, we'll, we'll have, um, scheduled things that we're doing, uh, during the live streaming and, you know, catching sessions. But, um, it's also, um, part of the community reporter charter to, you know, capture as much content and talk to as many people as possible. And, uh, uh, Maarten and I, uh, so gosh, I think that was SharePoint conference maybe when you brought your kit. And we were at, uh, Microsoft Teams mixer and, uh, Maarten grabbed me and said, Hey, do you want to be on a video? And I said, sure. And I was so impressed with your setup, um, and how you do things that you made it look effortless. I thought. So how long have you been doing video and that kind of thing?

Maarten Visser:  Uh, well I've, well if we go back down that road, I would like be an 11-year-old getting a camera from my father. And uh, just, um, back then when I was 11 the video cameras were the size of uh, wow. Uh, like the, of the, almost the same size as the professional ones now that you have, that you're using TV. So, so as, as an 11 year old, I would hit the streets with my friends and we, we put stickers on the camera from a famous TV show, uh, locally. And then we, we, even then, it was so funny. It's, so I'm talking early eighties here. Where we were interviewing people and they actually thought that we were the real deal, uh, interviewing them for the show. Because it was also a [inaudible] show and just walking the streets with a big camera made you look authentic and being from TV. So it goes back that far. And then when I was a teenager, I, I was always the funny guy who was traveling with a video camera when we actually went, even with that, like for parties or, or specific events. So I have a long range of, of videos that are, I was doing. We were also making fun. So like we're, we're like recording sketches and these kinds of things, but regarding video like doing videos and, uh, recording videos for, for Microsoft events. It started in 2015 when I took that, I started to, to, to trial and then do that seriously. Uh, but, um, I, I tried some, some stuff, but it didn't really took off and I, I ignored it again. And then about three years ago, um, yeah, it was it or two, two years ago when, when LinkedIn video was announced, I thought, this is gonna be my platform. Um, two, two years ago, and that was like Ignite 2017, uh, then I really started doing that actively and since then I am also having a weekly or monthly videos or, and when there's an event or was something an important announcement happened, uh, I started doing the recording. So, yeah, more seriously for the past two years.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's super cool. Yeah. My dad had a VHS camera that he would carry on his shoulder and he recorded all of my, you know, plays and you know, musicals in high school and I give it up to that man and I, it's probably the reason his shoulder hurts him to this day. Oh my goodness. I know what you're talking about. Yeah, yeah. That's super cool. Yeah, I it, it was just, it was neat to, it's always neat to see how other people, you know, do capture and set things up and whether you're podcasting or whether you're capturing, you know, videos and, you know, the, I think in, in marketing and in the world, like these bite-sized videos are de rigueur, if you will. Um, you know, just to grab some awesome content and put it out there. Um, that's, that's super cool. And, and your background, um, you were a communications major in business, back in the day as well, right?

Maarten Visser:  Yeah, that's correct. Yeah. So, I, as like I told today to some, uh, I was at the Microsoft Teams Airlift event today, the first day here in Amsterdam. And, um, for some reason I started chatting with one of the mics with one of the employees who is responsible for the design of Microsoft Teams and all the interaction, UX, and, and, and for some reason, I also started talking about my, my original university that I went to. And, um, the funny story there was that the year that I got in, uh, was the year that that HTML and World Wide Web basically, uh, was announced when it was, became available, HTML 1.0. Uh, so that, that was related to, so, so that's, that's a long time ago. But communications like the first year I started to do that, that, that at, uh, the university. It was a very modern school and, and they changed, um, the module about, uh, developing video texts systems. I don't even know if that would resonate in the US. But these were these systems we could, you could have on your TV or you could dial into them with your modem and you had the number system to navigate to pages. And that, that, that first year they changed that to developing HTML pages. So I always refer to myself as like 50% geek, 50% businessperson, so, so that, that will never leave. So I, I love technology and then finding the boundaries and what can be done and achieved with cutting edge technology that the I, that, that will ever go away.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And you started in SharePoint land, what, around 2001, 2003? I'm not sure. When was your start in the SharePoint world?

Maarten Visser:  Uh, actually 2000. Yeah. I, I my, so my first job was in 1999, uh, when I left school and I started to work at, um, a Microsoft System Integrator. And actually my, my first job there was to develop their internal intranet. And so I, I digged into what do I have with this Microsoft technology that I can use to build an intranet? And all through some months we, we build the system or I mostly build the system using site server and web access like 5.0 or something and I combine those two. And then at that some point, uh, I became a, well, I, I business consultant, technical consultant uh, building, uh, these kinds of things like workflows on Outlook and, and, and, and portals using this. And then in 2000 like a year later, I got my hands on the Tahoe, the SharePoint 2001 BETA. And then that's when it started.

Heather Newman:  Right. And you've been deep ever since.

Maarten Visser:  I do really have like every imaginable role in the SharePoint project. Uh, and from, from, um, mostly of course the most value I can provide as a, as a business consultant, really transforming organizational needs to, uh, to, to the, to the technology that could be used to, to support those needs. But I've done deep IT pro, farm, multi-farm, clustered sequel installations. I've done project management, I've done, um, solution architectures, migrations, any possible thing. Um, I stopped doing most of those because yeah, like most people, some things you can do pretty well and some you're not that good at. Um, but yeah, it's been a while and it's been an amazing journey. Most of the time it was not feeling like work, but just building cool stuff with, with nice technology. Um, of course we are surrounded with SharePoint workflows or InfoPath, uh, there's, there's always multiple loads attached to it, but yeah, SharePoint has been the North star in almost everything I've done for the past 20 years.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I hear ya. It's definitely been a star in my life as well, for sure. So, and you and I have a, a mutual love of music, dance music specifically. And I was seeing that you were building an eCommerce platform for dance music. What was that all about?

Maarten Visser:  Yeah, so, so I was talking 1993 when I had my first year of my, uh, a communications, communication systems, uh, major, uh, after doing one year of marketing, commercial economy. Uh, which, uh, I didn't like because I also had to do business administration and that's not me. So, um, so in 1994, um, we had this, well I was reading Wired and, and, and, uh, getting all psyched up about this global village and what we could do with it. And, and back in those days, I was part of the, what we called house music. Um, when I was like 15 years old, house music here in the Netherlands was, was, was really like the underground, uh, movement that just really like, it had the feeling like it was like an alternative movement. And it was, was a great time to be as a teenager where we were, we had these, uh, illegal raves and we had these big first parties.

Maarten Visser:  Uh, and, and of course I had these beautiful computers sitting at home. I, I was a Commodore guy. So, uh, back in those days I had a Commodore Amiga and I was listening to that music since 1988 when first we had a New Beats coming from Belgium. And then we got these, For the Vibes from Chicago. Uh, yes, so much great music. So that, that's the music I loved and I grew up with. And of course when I was like 15 years old, I go to my first parties. I was hooked from the start. Um, but then of course you had these trackers, these, these, these, uh, uh, sequence, uh, where you could load in samples on your, on your Amiga and you could start making music with them by, uh, sequencing those, uh, those beats and making your own samples. And of course sampling all the records and the old hip hop and all those kinds of these kinda things.

Maarten Visser:  So, um, at one point we, I think, I think it was like 15 years old and we had this party at school and, um, I, somebody said, I heard you talk about doing music with your computer, could you make like a theme for, for, for the school party. So then I, well got a little bit more serious about it and I made this, this, this track, this, this well house music track on with some samples, Mellow Yellow about the name of the party and some funny things. And, um, and then they, of course, they played it during the party and everybody was like, wow! And you, wow, you have to do more of this and the good. And well, OK. So then, um, at some point I start doing that more and more and that, uh, people were dragging me to clubs and with these tapes, you know, the old, the real TDK, um, well, what is it?

Maarten Visser:  Cassette tapes. And we, we get those two DJs and at some point, yeah, I even landed a record deal and that was like, yeah, I was in this industry for a couple of years doing techno music and then later you like the, the harder, I actually had a one song which is, but at some point in 1994, um, we were like looking at how hard could you make this music? Like what are the limits, how much BPM can people take? And we were, we were heading to this like 200 BPM, which was like hardcore house music or gabber it was called. And um, I had friends of mine really got into that and then I also started experimenting with it and actually the track I'm most famous for is really a hardcore track. That's funny. That's a funny story.

Heather Newman:  That's hilarious. That makes sense to me knowing you and when we are at these events that we definitely enjoy a dance floor. So yeah. But I didn't know the whole backstory. That's amazing. Wow.

Maarten Visser:  Yeah. I have a lot of friends who are DJs and it was very bad for, for, for, for my, the 1994 I have failed school miserably, uh, because I had all these, uh, DJ friends and they, I got like, like from, from Thursday to Sunday, I got calls like, Hey do you want to, join us at this party? I have free tickets or come and join me to Germany or Austria. They have to play everywhere. And they're always like, do you want to join me or have some fun? And that's pretty hard to say no when you're a 16, or 17 year old by then.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. No, I, I definitely, um, yeah, I've been to my fair share of those parties and raves myself. So yeah. But yeah, I think my, my, I think my influence definitely was the deep house that was coming out of Chicago cause I went to high school just outside of Chicago. And so I was exposed to that music fairly early too and just loved it, you know. Um, I think, uh, so Miguel MIGS was here recently and Mar, um, is it Mar, I think you say Marquez Wyatt. Um, he was here as well playing, so yeah, I, uh, they're resident DJs here, which is kind of amazing, but you know, that's kind of Los Angeles if you will. But uh, yeah, it's super cool. Um, wow. I didn't know all that. Thank you for sharing that with everybody. That's cool. Um, you know, I always like to ask folks about technology and obviously we've been talking about tech anyway, but I think, um, what is something that like, uh, I don't know, maybe, and maybe we should talk Teams for a minute because that seems to be the hot, hot new thing, um, that's coming out of Microsoft, but, you know, what is it that you really like about Teams since we're sort of all up in that right now as is it, is it, what strikes you as the best thing about it?

Maarten Visser:  Well, can I, I'm going to say three things just to, because yeah. Um, so, so the first one is always being into SharePoint there's this, there were user adoption limitations to SharePoint due to the fact that like the average user had serious problems navigating multiple sites, through the web browser. So, one of the success points of Teams is of course the ability to have a desktop app with, um, a, a more clear way of navigating multiple collaboration environments. And now that people are used to, uh, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and navigating multiple group threads and, and, and, and conversations, they, they got this, this, this, um, way of navigating, uh, multiple contexts, a context to collaborate in their school context or work or family. Um, so that, that grew over the past years. And there's, there's, there's volumes of people on both Facebook and WhatsApp, so it's like everybody in the Western world at some point has now currently has a smartphone and is using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp or maybe a similar, if you're in, in China, it's, uh, one of those, uh, Chinese platforms, WeChat, I think is very big there. So everybody knows how to navigate group conversations now and now we have this brilliant desktop app which allows us to, to, to navigate those, those collaboration environments. And of course these are still in the leaf. Everything is SharePoint. All your files are stored in SharePoint. Then of course you have a persistent chat put on top of it, which is great. So, but that is a very important from a UX perspective that that brings a lot of adoption and that's, that's why it's the most successful application ever for Microsoft regarding growth. Basically due to this number one fact. And I'm really was naming the second point I want to point out which is mobile. So the fact that we haven't or have this, this, this application in our, in our pockets and we can do the same quick navigation and jump towards a specific collaboration context and, and, and, uh, open a document, have a conversation. I, that's extremely powerful. And sometimes even, um, not being given enough attention, how important it is to have this great mobile app that that does it. So, and the third thing would basically be the fact that we're now able to, to collaborate into contacts, which is project contacts or a campaign or a department or a knowledge area to have those key collaboration dimensions basically and have everything like chat and files and applications in that context.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I agree with your three points whole heartedly. Yeah, I do. I love it. I, I, it's one of those where, um, I was, I was having that, that fatigue of trying to figure out who was communicating to me where, because you know, there's just like, you don't know who uses Skype, like desktop, versus Facebook or I used to use Skype desktop for so much because I could, you know, you know, talk to someone like you that I, we weren't using our cell phones to call, right. So we could get each other on Skype and people were talking to their families or, you know, people from far away. And then WhatsApp came and totally helped that. And, but I, I mean, I get business conversations happening on Facebook Messenger, on WhatsApp, uh, you know, all over the place and, and used to be messenger and all of that. But I love that the, even like sort of, I, I tend to push people into Teams because that's what I, what I use. And even folks who are sort of fairly, you know, say Google centric or other things, like they're willing to join a Teams as a guest, you know, and interact with me there and have the chats there. And it is the mobile experience for me as well. I mean, you, you're a consultant and I'm, I run a consultancy and a software business and for me, when I travel, I try to do as much as I can on my phone. I have a Surface Pro 6, but which I love as well. But to me, if I can run my business mostly from my iPhone X, I'm very happy, you know. Uh, what do you travel with when you go, um, traveling? What's, what is, what's your, what's your phone and what's your, um, like laptop?

Maarten Visser:  So, my, my laptop actually is an HP Spectra. Um, and I, this is actually my third one, I think. Yes. Um, I like it. It's, so it's a 13 inch. Um, currently it, I know it's always the i7 and, and 60 gigs of Ram and that, but it's, it's, it's very, I like it also for the looks. So I'm also like the geek who chooses his devices sometimes based on the looks. Um, but of course it's also splendid, very reliable machine because the last one, if a laptop last for almost three years, that's special. That's, I, I, I in the past, I have laptops that were done in, in, in, in well, uh, one year, one and a half, but for, and of course what we do to do our office DOSC, um, with current, um, chip technology, uh, it, it's makes more sense that they last for three years. But, um, yeah, it's very valuable and I liked them. I have a black one with, with copper on it. It almost looks like Rose gold, but it's copper. Uh, so, uh, yeah, that's my laptop. And currently I'm actually carrying with me two iPhone devices. And, and that's, that's that of course that, ooh, that's actually an interesting story to share. So I have the iPhone X, iPhone 10, for two years now. And uh, two weeks ago I got the iPhone 11 Pro Max as a new friend and of course I took that for, for the camera abilities mostly being, so it's having this great camera in your pocket. And I nowadays always travel with um, um, like, um, what's the name? So I a thing, a rake that I can put it in my camera with a tripod, so I just carry now a tripod and a, and a rig that I can put in there and start instantly record whatever I'm doing. And of course having this camera is great to do so.

Maarten Visser:  And now I have a bigger screen, so bigger view finder because a lot of videos that I've done was just using the front face of the camera, which if you're doing YouTube videos at a thousand ADP, that's most, that's fine enough. Or for LinkedIn that's, that's good enough. And having the viewfinder, like, like you said, like I liked your setup because it looked so easy, is that one of the things that I have been doing through trial and error is, is finding a setup, which if I just hit record, it would work. So within one minute I haven't timed it, but in one minute I can put my phone in the rig, put it on the tripods, uh, put in, uh, uh, wired lever to put on my, uh, on my coat and it will work flawlessly. There's, there's not so much things that can go wrong and I can see myself on, on the screen. So I know my positioning and I'm off to go. So in a minute, two minutes, three minutes, I'm ready to, to go and have a semiprofessional recording. Uh, and that's, that's important. That's why I also use these, these phones. But the funny thing is, of course, I was planning to replace my old iPhone with the new one. And, and pretty quickly after a couple of days, I felt like, no, I don't want to let go of this one. I want to keep both. And, uh, one of the funny reasons is the app that I'm using to do recordings, Filmic Pro also allows to use a second phone to do a secondary screen. And I've been doing that with an iPad, but then I have to get out my iPad and now I have just the phone, which can also be the viewfinder. So I can use the, the camera on the back, which would even have more quality and use the view finder on my, on my second phone. The second thing is that I'm starting to use the big one, the Max, the 11 Pro Max as a, as a PDA. So in the past I have always been traveling with a phone and a PDA that even goes back like, like 25 years, maybe even longer when I had this Scion 3a. Um, which, which was like this foldable, uh, device that allowed me to do note-taking and have my agenda and contacts in it. Yep. And ever since I had it at some point I had these were replaced by Microsoft mobile devices. So I had, I had multiple of these, these Microsoft, uh, mobile devices to do the same workload and like taking notes. And at some point they had pens and I did writing on it or, but mostly it's just note taking and agenda, uh, which was pretty crappy in the beginning days. Of course, if you had a traditional Nokia phone, these agendas were very crappy and forget about note taking. Um, so of course we, we with iPhone, uh, at some point you could do note taking there. But so, the interesting thing that's happening now is that I'm traveling with two iPhones and I'm usually using one primarily as a PDA and a camera.

Heather Newman:  Right. Wow. That's so interesting. Yeah. You just, I'm like Hmm. You just made me go Hmm. Cause I, yeah that 11 does look pretty sweet. So yeah, we'll have to see about that. But um, no, that's super cool. Thank you for sharing that. Cause I think we're always sort of looking for the better way. And I know that, you know, I, I haven't really dug into the whole Microsoft Surface announcements that came out, but all of that was really exciting as well and puts another beautiful wrench into, um, what we all have, I think coming into the holidays for sure .

Maarten Visser:  For sure. Yeah. And I can imagine that one of these phones will get replaced by the Neo or Duo that does make sense. So yeah, probably one of these phones is going to be replaced next year by the Surface Duo.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I, yeah, I know. I can't wait to kind of get my hands on some of that stuff too. So. Well, and so one of the other things that Maarten and I were talking about and kind of going back to our positions as community reporters is, um, you know, we, he and I both I think have been talking to other people who've done in the past and watched other friends do it in the past. And, um, it's a, it's a job where you're running a lot, uh, during the week. And, um, we decided, we talked the other day and, um, we said, hey, you know, we're both doing this and we both enjoy each other's company. And so, Maarten and I are gonna do some teaming up, um, for the community reporter, uh, positions we have and see if we can help each other and, you know, with setups and, and, you know, interviewing people and all of that stuff. And I'm really, thank you for saying yes to that I'm really excited about it, by the way.

Maarten Visser:  Me too. Yeah. I'm really much looking forward to it and, uh, whether it's just one primary goal in this is to make it a good show. Right? And that's a, also having a buddy to, to, to do some, uh, psyching up before the interview. Yay, you can do it! Go Wild! So that's kinda fun for sure.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I'm excited about that. And working with all of our community reporter buddies. There's 10 of us, by the way. And, uh, if you follow myself or Maarten on social media, we've posted, um, lots of information about the other community reporters and there's actually a Twitter list on my, uh, @creativemavens account, so you can just easily follow all the Ignite reporters for 2019 if you are a Twitter person. So that'll be kind of fun. If you want to catch us all, they're all 10 of us in what we're doing and people are starting already. There's interviews up, already on many folks YouTube channels and, and people are catching them at both the Teams airlifts that are happening, the one that was in Bellevue and the one that's in Amsterdam this week. And there's probably going to be more content coming out before the show as well as live and at the show as well. So that's going to be really cool. Um, you know, Maarten, the last question of all of our, uh, podcasts, um, is talking about sort of looking at, you know, your career and you're a consultant and gosh coming up in the music scene and all the things you've done. Um, I'm wondering if you would share with our audience something, uh, someone or an experience or you know, that really sparked you or inspired you to get to where you are today with us.

Maarten Visser:  Yeah, I gave that a little thought when, when you mentioned that you would be asking this question. And actually the funny thing is here that, that I've, I've been, I'm getting sparks every week. So, so the funny thing is I was thinking about it for a minute when you, when you mentioned this and there, there was no particular occasion or person that came up, but I get inspired by people on, on a weekly or a monthly basis. So when I was doing music, it could, could be like Underworld as a, as a UK band that I was seeing live for the first time and was amazingly inspired by the music they were producing live. And I just said like, wow, these guys understand how this is done. I want to try to go closely to whatever they were doing. Uh, and I was very much inspired by, by their music.

Maarten Visser:  And when I was at my first Microsoft conference, I saw people speaking about a certain technology and I thought, wow, these, these, these people really know how to give a quality presentation. I want to learn how to do that. And, uh, so it, I, I'm not like having a real particular hero that I, that I had, but I had multiple mid-level heroes throughout my life, which sparked my, my energy to, to push myself to, to the next level in, in, in whatever, I felt like that was something that I wanted to, to do or be, become better at. Um, so it would also be books, just this authors of great books who helped me become aware of certain things since I like, yeah, this is the way that I want to lead my life or, or change certain behaviors or, uh, so, and, and that, that, that's funny enough. That's a certain period, uh, where, where that's like a center and at some point something becomes a habit or doesn't or I changed direction. Then it could be the next thing. So, so that would be my answer. So I've, I, I've picked my influencers and, and, and I throughout my life and, and, and many of those have decided certain change points in, in how I approach life and behave during the day.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Sparks and inspiration all around and as they come, I love it. That's great. Awesome. Well cool. Well Maarten, thank you and thank you for being awesome and being such great friend. Just personally, appreciate that very much.

Maarten Visser:  Right back at you. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Thank you. Thank you. So, um, Maarten and I, Maarten and I will be community reporting and um, soon and starting up some more of our own stuff, probably preshow and then definitely at the event. Um, he's on Twitter at M V I S S E R and I'm Hedda, H E D D A N E W M A N. and uh, yeah, we're gonna go have a really good time in Orlando, Florida and uh, help each other, um, make some beautiful content for everybody. So, Maarten, thank you for joining us today. I really appreciate it. And sharing with our audience.

Maarten Visser:  I was very, very happy to do so. And I'm very much looking forward to, to the Ignite show.

Heather Newman:  Awesome. Awesome. Well, and say hello to everybody there in, uh, In Amsterdam for me, give them a wave. Give them a Heather Hello if you would. So that's great. Cool.

Maarten Visser:  I will. Good.

Heather Newman:  Awesome. Yay. All right, everybody that has been another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. And we are coming to you from many different channels, your favorite podcasts. Uh, go check it out. Please give us a follow. We love five star ratings on iTunes, if you happen to feel so moved, and here is to a, another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere.

Maarten Visser:  Oh yeah.

Heather Newman:  I love it. We're out.


Episode 54: Journaling Maven Mari L. McCarthy

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. I'm super excited to have on a wonderful gal today. Uh, Mari McCarthy, L. McCarthy, who is the founder and chief empowerment officer at CreateWriteNow. Mary. Hello.

Mari McCarthy:  Hello Heather. How are you going?

Heather Newman:  I am good. Better now that we're on the phone. So it's wonderful. Um, Mary, where are you coming to us today from?

Mari McCarthy:  I'm coming from a small town called Green Harbor, Massachusetts and it's halfway between Boston and Cape Cod.

Heather Newman:  Awesome. Yay. So, and I today am in my home office here in Marina Del Rey, California. So, um, yay. So Mary and I, uh, had met, you know, kind of online and she just has this beautiful business and um, uh, some great methodologies and I wanted to have her on to talk about them. And so, Mary, will you tell us a little bit about CreateWriteNow?

Mari McCarthy:  Yes. A CreateWriteNow is home of Journaling for The Health of IT. It's, uh, an opportunity, a place for where health conscious people come to learn and discover how Journaling for The Health of IT can help them heal the issues in their tissues and grow and transform and empower themselves to do whatever they want to do or meant to do and then go out and take on the world and share all of their talents with the world.

Heather Newman:  That's amazing. I love it. The wow, that's so much. Will you, um, I know that you know, we always have, uh, an origin story. Uh, would you share with our listeners a little bit about the origin of the business and, and, and the methodologies that you've been creating?

Mari McCarthy:  Yes. Um, about 27 years ago I had, uh, an MS, uh, multiple sclerosis exacerbation. Where I lost, uh, feeling and function on the right side of my body and I needed some physical therapy asap to teach myself how to write with my left hand. So long story short, I, uh, always goal oriented. It's like, okay, I need a procedure cause I was a very high powered business woman. Of course, you know, you have to have everything yesterday and you have to have results instantaneously. Um, I universally or serendipitously or what the hell, whatever, I, uh, met up with a woman at a party. She was hypno-therapist. I told her about my, my goal and she introduced me to Julia Cameron’s Artist's Way. Uh, and in that book, she has a procedure called morning pages. And I got the book and looked it up and I thought, wow, that would be a very easy way to become a left-handed, a good procedure and very logical and easy to do. So I got into that. Well I got into that and it was like, Oh my goodness, Heather. Like, Oh my gosh. And I started hearing rhymes. I started writing poetry. I started getting into my childhood because, I mean, you know, we all had childhoods, but a lot of us it was very emotionally traumatic. We don't tend to remember a whole lot of things. Uh, but I was finding with the morning pages, Oh my goodness, as I'm writing it down. And just writing whatever the, you know, the three pages of stream of consciousness first thing every morning. Oh my goodness. I started remembering all kinds of shapes and sizes and things from my childhood. And, uh, one of the things I, uh, I remembered the process was that I was always left handed, but the nuns changed me when I was a little girl saying to a schools, I was, that's like. Though, it's the, uh, but the purpose for starting the journaling, uh, was physical therapy, uh, purposes but it got me into my emotions, my spirituality, the, the rest of my story, if you will, of Mari McCarthy. And it was like, Oh my goodness, I had to keep going and keep going. And I, you know, then it recovered my, my love for music and always wanting to be a singer and I pursued that. Pursued that. And now I, I'm working on my, my fourth album. So it was a very, it's really interesting. So, uh, I, I say, uh, things happen for a reason. And how interesting, once again, MS pointed me into a, uh, an area that I never ever dreamed I would be into. I always thought that I was a very hardened, a career, a woman, a left brain and all that kind of stuff. But the morning pages and the journaling got me into, um, the rest of my stories I, I said before and it's just like I'm, I'm creative. I'm intelligent. I can, I could write, I can say all this wonderful thing. And then that was my whole thing that, Oh, I have to share this with the world. And just, uh, through all my, my journaling, literally I get universal messages and one day Journaling for The Health of IT came up, and I thought, hmm, isn't that interesting? Cause I've, I've always enjoyed playing with words and having fun with words Journaling for The Health of IT and then I thought, well, I need the name for my company and you know, continue to do more and more and more, uh, writing. And then that's when they came up with CreateWriteNow. So that's all. That's I guess a little bit of a long story of how CreateWriteNow came into being. So an idea that it was also interesting cause one of my, my goals had always been that, um, cause like as I said, I was running a management consulting business, I was traveling all the time. But now I found my house on the beach, another goal. And so I decided that I wanted to run a successful internet company out of my beach front home and boom, it all came together through the help of, of journaling. So I just keep doing it and keep doing it, keep doing it. And it's just like, it makes me where I need to go next as far as coming up with all the, uh, numerous workbooks that I, I've come up with. And it's really a true self-empowering, empowering tool, self-care tool, ultimate holistic health tool, Heather, to help people, uh, understand who truly lives in their, their body, find out who they truly are, and then lit the light and create the life that they want to live for themselves.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Wow. What an amazing story. And I, I love it's, and everyone it's CreateWriteNow and it's the word create, but it's W R I T E now. So a play on words. It's just fabulous and get going right now. I love that. It's so great. I love your logo. It's so cool. Um, yeah, and I, I, you know what, so I know that my mom was, is left-handed and I believe she had a similar experience in school, um, with nuns, uh, that were trying to change her from being a lefty to right handed. And that's amazing that you figured that out, you know, in the middle of journaling. But I think that's huge. We don't take the time to sort of go back. And I think that, I do, uh, I talk a lot about fear and how a lot of the times we're led by that and that usually there's one thing back in our childhood, maybe more than one, but that is really sort of the trigger for how we live our lives. And when those things go sort of unlooked at or undealt with that they can color every relationship and everything that we have. Um, do you find that people figure those things out when they're working with you on your program? Is that, I'm sure that's gotta be part of it.

Mari McCarthy:  Oh, definitely. That, that is the intent is so, uh, someone said to me, Oh, what you're talking about Mari, you're Journaling for The Health of IT is like we're not talking about, you know, how I spent my summer vacation, we're talking about what really happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away called our childhood. And how did we, being the young sponge that we were, we just sucked all that in. We misinterpreted, it's all our fault and all that type of thing. But now as consenting adults, we have the opportunity with journaling to go back into understand, not to relive that the trauma or the tragedy, but to revisit that from an adult observer perspective and understand, Oh, that's what happened. That's where that came from. That's what I thought. Oh my goodness, that's my mother. That's not me. So that's specifically what journaling for the health it is all about. It is therapy. It is having a loving kind guide. The pen, the pen and the page, to take us into the uh, the secrets of our soul, if you will. And all the things that we've been carrying around like, you know, the like I think back to uh, my childhood and, and, and, and realizing how all those things that we were told to stuff down and emotions aren't good, and good little Catholic girls do that. All those things that, and they came with, we have literally, we're literally carrying them around with us in our subconscious in our, as I call it, our issues in our tissues and journaling gives us the opportunity to really do the heavy lifting, the digging and understand where is that coming from, why has that happened? Oh. And then be able to say, Oh okay that was then, this is now. I choose not to carry that or I mean like we can't get completely utterly get rid of it. It is like I am now in charge and I choose not to go in there and keep repeating, repeating, repeating that craziness.

Heather Newman:  We have deep grooves, you know, I call them deep grooves that like they're hard to get out of. You know, it's like the, that deep groove where you think that you've gotten past something and then the universe or you know, whatever you believe in, higher power, you know it seems to me that if something presents itself and you're, you're like, have you really dealt with it?

Mari McCarthy:  Oh, that message is just like, and that's why it's so valuable when you go through that process. It's like, well, it was time to get out the old pen and page and start asking some questions and start figuring out, Oh, what's going on here?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And I think,

Mari McCarthy:  It's back.

Heather Newman:  it's back in and how are we dealing with it? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Excuse me. I give out, um, I, I'd switched that, you know, the how they soft skills on your resume. And I recently did a webinar about how I want to call those power skills. And those are things to me that are, you know, it's leadership and creativity, but I spent some time on self-care, self-love, drinking water, being hydrated, getting outside and you know, and journaling I think fits right into that. Something as a, as a tool or a practice. Um, this is what I, I love, I loved reading about, so you, because you have different, what you call power journaling courses and will you talk a little bit about your different courses that you have?

Mari McCarthy:  Yeah, they're very practically based. They came out with, you know, um, things that, problems that people have is like, Oh, how do I deal with that? Okay. One is love your body and it's all about learning to develop a relationship with your body. I think the whole premise on a lot, lot of the workbooks, another one is take control of your health. Another one is heal your life. Another one is money management. Uh, and I think that, that they, they're really a practical, I mean they're issues that we have to deal with in life, but we just don't know how to deal with them. And one of the biggest issues is, is us, because we're just so externally focused on saving the world, taking care of the family that, you know, the whole laundry list. This is all about going inside, turning the, uh, uh, the focus, uh, internally. And, uh, these are, uh, tools to help you deal with, uh, issues such as, you know, how do you learn to, to, to love your body? How do you set goals? How do you empower yourself? Those types of things that we certainly never were, uh, taught how to do or even, you know, they never even entered the conversation growing up. it's just like, study for your test, get a good grade, you know, the degree that all that, those type of things. It's not about, you know, to the extent that those of us who were in a very strict religious backgrounds like, again, like sacrilegious to even talk about yourself. It's like your job is to save the rest of the world. So I'm just, uh, I create, uh, uh, workbooks for, uh, for issues that people have to, uh, to deal with it in life. And one of them is, uh, another one I just came out with earlier this year. I on Valentine's day, uh, detox your relationships because, again, we're so, so focused on other people. What will other people say? What will the people do and all I was supposed to take care. All those types of things that we really realized that, you know, people, even family members can be detrimental to your health. And it's all about as a, uh, you know, the whole thing. That's why I call myself the chief empowerment officer. It is really doing the heavy lifting and the digging and dealing with the issues in your tissues. But it's basically once you get uncover the diamond that's been there all the time. It's like going forward and, and using it to just, you know, share your light with the world.

Heather Newman:  Oh, it's wonderful. I mean, even looking through Mari's courses, it's, you know, there's self-healing, self-improvement, courses for writers, self-growth. Um, and I love it. Yeah. I mean you have, I think you're at what, 300 and, in journaling prompts alone and I think you're at, what is it, 378 journaling prompts that you just put on your website, you know, for people to help them in that way. And then I love it that, you know, her, her books and her workbooks, they're, you know, they're at a great price point as well. You know what I mean? Like we spend, you know, 30 or 25 bucks without blinking, you know, on a, on a meal that might not even be good for us. So I love that, uh, the, your title, you know, the chief empowerment and, and that there's all, and that you're specific too, you know, I mean, I think. You know, the Artist's Way is wonderful. I've gone through that myself and you know, that's been around for such a long time and it's so inspiring and, but what I love about what you're doing is really getting into kind of like what you're saying, love your body. I mean, the world does not teach us that for sure. Right. Bombarded by all these images of all kinds of things. And so what Mari has here is just that I love your specificity in, you know, different aspects of loving your body or easing transitions or care for the caregiver. I mean, that one I just wow that so many people don't realize that the caregiver is, it's a hard place to be. Where did that one come from?

Mari McCarthy:  Um, I say it came from, uh, uh, my experience. I broke a couple bones in my foot a couple of years ago and I, I had, uh, I was really, I needed 24/7 nursing, uh, assistance, the process and, uh, and the nurses wanting to saw all these, these wonderful women, they were fantastic and they took really good care of me and all that type of thing. They, the running thing was that, you know, they were taking care of everybody in the world but themselves. And so it's like, they were great, wonderful, uh, nurses and caregivers. But yeah, they weren't given any care to themselves. So that's what was the impetus for that one.

Heather Newman:  Oh, I love it. Wow, that's amazing. And so will you talk a little bit about the recording? Fourth album, that's so inspiring. I was a theater major and sang all through my life and all of that and said, it's a part of my life that I scratched the surface on sometimes. I mean, I use it every day, right? If you're an artistic person, and I think everybody's artistic and creative in everything they do. But talk about getting back into that and what that was like. That's so cool.

Mari McCarthy:  Well, again, it was a very funny, and it was a morning pages got me into remembering my childhood that I always enjoyed music. My mother, uh, not trained me, but introduced me as the great American songbook because in her generation that's what their Saturday nights were, going out dancing and singing and goofing off, so that was the influence. And my father introduced me to classical music and I can remember, uh, that they, uh, was one of our presents growing up, got the family a piano and it's like, I was really excited to get to take piano lessons. So I went to school and there was a try-out, I think around fourth grade for the choral group. And I thought, oh yeah, I'm going to be a real singer and enjoying that choral group. Well, they didn't want me because they told me I was tone deaf and I sang off key. So, uh, and so I just really shut the door on that and just thought, okay, so not good enough. And just carried with me all these, these years, Heather, as I said, thank goodness for journaling because, uh, and the morning pages like, Oh my goodness, like, wait a minute. That was them. That wasn't me. It's just like, of course when you're, you don't have everything to go on stage at the metropolitan opera instantaneous like, but it's like, wait a minute. That's their job. They're supposed to be teachers, they're supposed to help us. So I got all these wonderful insights and understandings by, uh, by doing the journaling. It's like, Oh, I, I get it. So I thought, wow. So again, my goal was to take singing lessons and become a real singer. And less than a month, uh, passed by and in my local newspaper, there was a story about this 30th anniversary of the Kingston school of Music, which it was just a couple of towns away that catered to a students of all ages. That's where I went and I started taking lessons probably about 15 years ago. And then I just thought, and the my first time being on stage, Heather I thought, Oh my goodness, it's like this, this is where it is at for me. So that was just, and I just for this pursued that. And I'm working for the last probably five or six years for, with a gentleman who runs the New York vocal coaching and he's all about, uh, he calls, uh, singers, vocal athletes. And it's all about using your body the way it was supposed to, to get your voice out. And it's just, yeah, unstressing yourself and certainly the breathing and all that, but it's really just helping you, uh, really retrain your, your muscle memory. I'm very pleased to say that I can, I can sing from my body voice from my head voice, form my whistle voice. So it's, and like you said earlier, we all have a talent, artistic, creative talents in us. It's just, you know, a good question we just need to, uh, work with a teacher and practice, practice, practice, work, work, work and get to all the good stuff that's already there inside of us. And so that kept us going and connected with, uh, uh, a guy, working together about 10 years or so now, uh, he has his own recording studio. So I've been doing, recording with that, uh, with, with him. Uh, and now I'm embarking on my first, uh, uh, album that I'm writing the songs myself. So it's like I'm finally combining my love of writing with my love of music. And I, and I, the working title is Practically Romantic.

Heather Newman:  I love it practically, that has, that has so many wonderful meanings, I think. That's so great. So would you, so w for the most part, from the beginning, you've been writing the lyrics yourself and then working with other musicians, is that right?

Mari McCarthy:  Right.

Heather Newman:  Okay. And now you're not only, you're writing the lyrics, but you're also writing music along with it.

Mari McCarthy:  Exactly.

Heather Newman:  That's amazing. Wow.

Mari McCarthy:  Well, certainly a lot of adult supervision needed, but I, I think that, I believe it's because of my work with Justin mind, my voice teacher. I just really, I feel this like there's so, so much inside of us and there are things that, Oh, I'm now really hearing the notes that were there, it's just a fantastic opportunity to just like, Oh my, the notes, the music, the feelings there, now I'm just lending it, letting it rip Heather and let it, let it get going. And it's like I still need some help, but there's, it's, it's more of a 50/50, or less situation as opposed to, uh, uh, you know, my, my musical collaborators having to do all the music.

Heather Newman:  Let her rip. I, that's awesome. I think that's something my mom says too. You know, let her rip or, you know, or what's the other one? It's just if it, if it's not now when, you know?

Mari McCarthy:  right. Well, my favorite is from, from the guys at Nike, you know, just do it. That's what I tell people cause they, Oh, we, you talked earlier about, um, fear, and that's the biggest thing. That's why people don't get into journaling or you know, they say that they're too busy, this and that. But no, it's, it's, we're just carrying around so much fear. And the way you do that is like, you just, you just get the pad just to get the paper. You write a question and then you sit down and you just write, write, write, write, write from your, from your heart and this is something that's new and exciting. But just

Heather Newman:  It's, and don't you find that it's amazing with journaling. This is something I found with a writing coach that I worked with for a long time, Rachel Resnick, was that you don't realize how much you can actually write in a very short amount of time. Like, if you set a timer for like five minutes and write a question and write, you'll be amazed at the amount of pages you get. You know? Do you find that people are surprised at how much they can kind of output through when they're, when they're using your journaling and your books and your courses?

Mari McCarthy:  Yes. It completely blows them away. So it's like, I was having a problem, something I needed to deal with. And it's just like 15 pages later or whatever. They said, and the, they say, yeah, you're right Mari, if you just let her rip and just let it go, just, you know, deal with how do you feel, not, you know, censoring yourself and judgment and the listening to the crazy inner critic and all the kinds of stuff. just do it. Just take a leap. Just do something different. Just go for it. Just think of how you were as a child when you saw that big slide just ran up the top of it and then got down on the slide. So you're, you're right. It's just like once you get into it, and this is not, it's does not have to be a, have to be X number of words or whatever, it's whatever, wherever you are at that point in time. So just go for it. See where it takes you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Do you find also that I, I really believe in the power of pen to paper. Um, we're such a digital society and I do a lot of writing. OneNote is my favorite, I'm a Microsoft geek and OneNote's been my friend for a long time. Um, but there is something different about I think taking a pen to paper. And do you find that with your clients as well in your courses, that's a recommendation that you give them of that pen to paper contact?

Mari McCarthy:  Oh no, it is the rule. Journaling for The Health of IT is pen to page every day, end of conversation.

Heather Newman:  Ah, okay. So you're a believer. Yes. Well, and that's what you teach obviously. Yeah, I do. I really do. I think that there's something different about it, right? There's a detachment that comes with technology and, uh, and then just the ability to go back and read it. I mean, I'm, I'm staring here at my bookshelf and one of the bookshelves is all just journals, you know?

Mari McCarthy:  Wow. Great!

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And I don't do it enough. I don't do it every day. I will admit it. Um, I, it's something that I need to put back into my own practice, but, uh, I do, I'm, I'm glad to hear that. Cause I think that's really important that there's that pen to paper, pen to page that just, it's, it's a different connection, you know? For sure.

Mari McCarthy:  And again, yeah, I think that's, and that's what I found when I got into, uh, uh, in the morning pages and started journaling, it's like, Oh my goodness, this is like, this is spiritual, this is emotional, this is everything. This is me. Sounds like. And I am a process as it's like you said. So I was like, Oh. And they essentially, early on, I had the experience once I, before I knew anything about inner critics and things like that, um, I guess I got scared. And so I went back to, uh, keeping it on my computer and I thought this is nowhere. When you've been with the best, you know, you can't settle for the rest. So I just, I got myself in that. Okay, I'm going to have to face my fears that I don't know what's in there, this scaring the living daylights out of me, but I just, I have to get back to it cause I just see all the results. Personally uh, from doing it so it's like, so I don't, it doesn't even mention the conversation. So I just, I just tell people when they talk about Journaling for The Health of IT. It's like pen to page every, every day. But the good news is there's only one real right way to journal. And that's your way. So if you wanted to do it in the morning, if you wanted to do it at the beach, if you want do before you go to bed, whatever, if you want to just do, whatever.

Heather Newman:  That's great. Yeah. Uh, I agree with you 100%. That's awesome. So, you know, the, usually the last question I asked folks, um, and you've shared a lot of this potentially already, but I'm, I'm very interested in moments and sparks that move us or change us or bring us to who we are today. And um, can you maybe share one of those with our listeners? Um, and I know you've shared a lot of your origin story, but is there something or someone or a moment that stands out that you're like, you know what? Yes, this is, this is the one.

Mari McCarthy:  It was the, uh, afternoon of July 19th, 1991 when I was diagnosed with MS. And I, the doctor assured me and showed me my MRI and there was not an inoperable brain tumor. It was only MS. So I thought, phew, it is only MS. I can deal with it. It's time that, uh, so now that my beautiful beachfront home that I, I bought for me to get off the road and change, change gears and find out the rest of the Mari McCarthy story. So I would always say that my inspiration, my gifts, my thank you would always go to my MS diagnosis. Thank you MS.

Heather Newman:  Wow, that's amazing. And, and it does the life gives us things sometimes that, you know, those moments of, of dealing with health or dealing with, you know, trauma and all of that that really do move us to a different plane, to a different, to a different chapter if you will, you know, to keep with the book analogy. So thank you for that. And uh, I know folks can find you at createwritenow.com. And um, that's where all of where Mari's wonderful courses are. Um, her blog and she's got guests, uh, blogging on there as well. Um, Mari, what a joy to talk to you. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for what you do in the world. It's absolutely wonderful. I appreciate it.

Mari McCarthy:  Well, thank you so much for having me and thank you for giving me the opportunity, Heather. Have a great day.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Thank you so much, Mari. Everyone.

Mari McCarthy:  Bye.

Heather Newman:  Bye-bye and thank you. Uh, that has been another wonderful episode, I think of the Mavens Do it Better podcast. You can find us on iTunes, on Stitcher, on Spotify, on Google play, and all those places where you listen to podcasts. We love five star ratings if you happen to give one, and here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks everyone.


Episode 53: Event maven Allison Gerlach

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. And I couldn't be more excited today to introduce all of you to someone who brings a lot of light to my world. Um, my dear friend and colleague Allison Gerlach coming to us from Chicago. Allison, say hi to all of our listeners.

Allison Gerlach:  Hello everyone.

Heather Newman:  Um, ah, goodness, Allison and I, I'll tell you a secret, we're pretty good friends. We've known each other since about 2004, uh, which it seems like it's been longer than that, but um, yeah,

Allison Gerlach:  Yes. I can't remember us not knowing each other.

Heather Newman:  I know, I agree. Um, so hey Allison, will you tell everybody about your cool parade and what you do there in Chicago, working in the arts and doing fabulous things?

Allison Gerlach:  Of course. Um, well I'd moved back to Chicago to be closer to family oh about the fall of 2014. And then I was, you know, just coming off of doing events with you, with Microsoft and Microsoft partners. And so I think that, um, I immediately started working with events and I worked briefly for Columbia College. I produced an event for them called Portfolio Day. But while I was there, I met a gentleman named Mark Kelly, who at the time was the, um, the vice president of student success. And, um, he liked my work on Portfolio Day. I invited a bunch of professionals to come review students' portfolios and it was really well attended. So through that he asked, he said he was art directing a new parade that had never been done before, called the Halloween Gathering, um, with a company called the Chicago Cultural Mile. And he asked if I would like to join that team and work with them and um, and I said yes, I would, I would, I've never produced a parade, but you know, I'm always up for a challenge. And so 2015 was my first Halloween parade. And, um, yeah, I might, you know, and I loved it. I loved being able to contact, because our parade is, is different. There's no politicians. There's um, no corporations, you know, with their logos everywhere. It's a, it's all arts organizations. So we try to use Halloween to shine a light on the artists in our city and kind of proclaim Halloween as, it's the artists' holiday and let's look at all these great organizations, um, in the Chicago area that you might not know anything about. So our parade has grown and grown and grown each year. This year I have over 80 groups that are going to be in the parade on October 19th. We have everybody from, um, Afterschool Matters to this year is the year of Chicago theater. And so, um, the department of cultural affairs and special events have, um, have, uh, donated money to, um, groups that will participate from theater companies. And so I have 14 theater companies leading the parade. So I have everybody, everybody from Black Ensemble Theater to Lookingglass Theater to after, to Synapse Arts About Face theater. Just the list goes on and on.

Heather Newman:  That's a who's, who.

Allison Gerlach:  A whole bunch of great groups. Um, and we, and our parade is really great about bringing in cultural groups. So I kinda have, everybody from the Brazilian Culture Center has been in every year. So has Columbia Fest, um, I've got a really great group that was new last year that's called the Chicago Balinese Gamelan. And if you've never seen those kind of musical performers from Indonesia, they have these, um, these metal-a-phones that they play with mallets and all of these crazy instruments. But they walk down the street and it's, it's really amazing. They had stilt-walker dancers and all sorts of crazy things with them. But it's a fun, it's a fun parade. I mean, Burning Man Chicago is in it. We have fire dancers, we have, we have Playa bikes, um, and all sorts of things.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah. I, I, I've been to two of your parades, uh, and loved working on it. Um, it's such a fun event. It is a different, you know, it's all arts and it's at night, right as well?

Allison Gerlach:  Yes. It's a nighttime parade. And we've moved, we started it on Columbus Drive, which was kind of had its own charming quality, cause we, we strung, there's no buildings over there. It's like right by the parks. And so we had cafe lighting strung down the streets and kind of gave it a really nice, you know, vibe. But we've moved it now because it's so popular and people, you know, a lot of times people would come downtown and be like, where's the parade? And they didn't know to go East all the way almost to the Lake. So we moved it now to State Street. So it gets a lot more action as far as, um, you know, the people in the audience. But we have to compete with the buildings on state street. You know, they have their lights on and their business lights on, so, so there's a tradeoff. But, but you know, all is good. Everyone loves the parade and they really enjoy being a part of it.

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. And you mentioned, um, Burning Man, which we just came back from, um, you and I. And is where we actually met. Um, will you talk about, uh, can we talk about Everywhere a little bit? How cool that is?

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. I got involved with Everywhere. I was brought in by a friend of mine and I started camping there and volunteering. Um, first as a volunteer. Um, I mean I'm still a volunteer but um, I would just like bartend and such in Everywhere. But then I moved on and this year, I was the volunteer coordinator for Everywhere. Everywhere is a space that really, um, it is for kind of telling about what Burning Man does year-round and different, um, types of ways to be involved in Burning Man when you're not, you know,

Heather Newman:  On the playa.

Allison Gerlach:  A lot of people, a lot of people are going to Burning Man events in their own region, in their own town, but some people don't know that they can, they don't have to go all the way out to, um, Gerlach, Nevada. They can actually go to, um, a Burning Man a couple hours from their home and it might be actually, you know, more economically feasible and they can actually, you know, be a part of big art projects that maybe it's not possible for them to do because of geography. And so, we would like to encourage people to, to find their, they're regional burns and people with like-minded, you know, people in their, in their area. And then, um, there are other initiatives that that get taught in Everywhere as you know, as well now. But there is Black Rock Labs where people are talking about, you know, um, ways to um, make a smaller footprint to, you know, sustainable ideas. And so people share ideas of, of innovations that they've come up with. We have, um, uh, we have Burners Without Borders, which is a great organization that helps, that started, you know, with Katrina, that helps, um, you know, using the skills that have been learned by camping in a remote area and creating a temporary city like Burning Man. Um, they are able to use the skills learned to, to help in crisis’s when, when things happen and people need to rebuild and need to create a temporary city because, uh, there's been an incident that's occurred in, in different cities and areas around the world. Um, I don't know what else would you like to know about Everywhere?

Heather Newman:  That's great.

Allison Gerlach:  It's a fun space when you visit Burning Man to go learn about these types of things. And we, we have the, um, we tend to do a kind of variety show daily where people from all over the world can come and perform and share their talents. But, um, but it's connected to the Artery, the artery is the space, which actually, you know, takes care of all the artists that bring the great art out to Burning Man and places them on the playa. It's kind of their art support, um, hub. So we're, we're in a really cool area being, sharing a space with them.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's, you nailed it. Uh, again. Of course. Yeah. No, it was really fun everyone. So, Allison, I've been to Burning Man, this was my 11th burn, although I hadn't been in five years. And Allison asked me to come and be a part of the camp and be a part of Everywhere Pavilion this year. And so we just got done doing that and it was terrific. And the folks who run the, you know, Josh and uh, it just Jenny Kay and our camp, it was just great, you know, and it was really fun to be a part of. Um, I was one of Allison's volunteers, so she was my boss lady for the week at, uh,

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. You know, I kinda like it when you’re my boss, but I was happy to be your boss for a week.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Um, do you remember the first, so, you know, Burning Man is such a beautiful event and you know, it's like when you and I both grew up, we were theater majors, you know, and we got into, you know, doing meetings and events and Allison is a beautiful videographer as far as like, she would do a lot of art direction for me, back when we were doing videos for, uh, for Microsoft. So, we, we started working together after we met actually out at Burning Man in about 2004 and five. And so she was part of the, sort of the Maven crew that went around and helped do all of the events for the Office and SharePoint teams. And so she was part of that. Do you remember your first one by the way? I was, I couldn't remember.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, I remember it was, it was the one, there was a launch of, I think it had to been a new Office product because I remember it was the one where there was, there was a hair incident on stage and you know, you know what I'm talking about. I think it was like 2000 and five.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, but that would've been Office 2006 may, I dunno. Yeah, it must've been, it had to be a tech ed or something. I'm not sure. Or

Allison Gerlach:  It was a long time. It was an Office launch at first cause I think I came there. And then from there on you brought me on for tickets.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I think it was actually the Office Developers Conference and yes, because they started and that conference only like when a couple of times, I don't think it got, it didn't really go, but we worked on all the other SharePoint stuff together anyway. Oh my goodness. That's so funny. So, so theater major. So where are you from? I know this, but tell everybody where you're from.

Allison Gerlach:  I am from Louisville, Kentucky. You know I'm from Louisville, if I say LOO-a-vul.

Heather Newman:  Yes, shout out to KFC, uh, folks and your sweet parents by the way, who I adore. So that's fun. Um, so then, so grew up in Louisville and then off to where for college?

Allison Gerlach:  I went to Denison University in Grandville, Ohio. Where I desperately wanted to be an actress. I was, I started as a theater major, only a theater major. I completed most of my requirements my freshman and sophomore year because I was such a theater geek. And then I was so excited for my junior year because I knew I was gonna be getting lead roles cause I'd done all the leg work, I'd done summer stock theater, I had worked in every department and my junior year there was a new freshmen in town and it was Jennifer Gardner, and she got all the parts.

Heather Newman:  Jennifer Garner moved into town. Oh my goodness. Yeah.

Allison Gerlach:  And then I, you know, I, I realized that, um, you know, the place I was always welcomed was over at the, the cinema department because they always needed someone to be in their movies and they always cast me. I never had to audition. They just said, who can we get? Anybody will do. And I, I, you know, I kind of became the B movie queen of Denison for a while. And then I so, I decided to double major, so I became a double major in theater and cinema.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And then, and then you were in Chicago. Yeah? Which you're in Chicago now.

Allison Gerlach:  I moved to Louisville, Kentucky right after college and I actually used to produce educational videos for, um, American Guidance Service up in Circle Pines, Minnesota. And I actually made educational videos like lying, cheating, stealing, gossip, teasing, prejudice. We would do these little series and we do an elementary school version, a middle schooler version, and a high school version. So I did those and we put them out on CD ROMs. That's how long ago was. You know, you know, I'm turning 50 when I started talking about CD-ROMs.

Heather Newman:  I know, I said CD-ROM and I was talking about, I dunno, corded phones the other day and I was like, Oh my goodness.

Allison Gerlach:  We're old, yeah. So I started there and then I moved up to Chicago and my first job was working as a post-production producer for a company called Editell. And I used to produce the Danny Bonaduce, um, promos for his TV show and we would vivex them. So that was like old cable, coaxial cable wire. We would send the videos through that way to Los Angeles, for them to put, to send out. So that's, that's old technology. We had D2 tapes that were like the size of a suitcase that we had all of our elements on. Yeah,

Heather Newman:  I remember that. What do you think, as far as, you know, like we, we've talked about this a lot, but you know, you, you're talking about this kind of technology and then now you know, I'm sitting here, you know, I have a zoom, you know, H6, four or whatever, you know, and we're on our computers and when we get done this file will be like this big and I can flip it up to this place and you know, Annelise who produces all these, you know, it gonna, like what have you seen or how has it affected, do you think the industry of all of these changes from sort of all the big stuff to like being able to do things on your phone?

Allison Gerlach:  I think it's really exciting. I mean, I really, as much as I love the fact that when I went to film school, I actually shot 16 millimeter film and got to edit on an old Steenbeck editor because we didn't have an Avid to edit on. We didn't have that technology. I mean, I didn't have that. So I just think how exciting to be a film student now and be able to just do it. Like I like, I think that I would have been more confident in those kinds of skills had been, you know, a lot easier, like had it been able to be done on my computer like that. I think there wouldn't have been, you know, I think that, you know, learning it when you're learning it is very important. So I think that, you know, I think just how great. And when I went back to Denison, just recently, my, my film professor retired. And there were more women than men that were majors, you know, like when I'm, I, when it was like eight guys and me, there were like nine of us, you know, and now there's like a hundred in the department and that just is a Testament to how things have changed and, and where things are going.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. That's super cool. Yeah. And I think, I think people have had to, you know, we've talked about like shifting, when technology shifts or things shift around us, you have to shift too, you know? That uh, I've found that, you know, remember, I dunno, you probably, we would get, people would get paid a lot of money for like a two minute movie or film or you know, or advertisement. And I think that, have you seen felt that shift in the world too, as far as like what people will pay for content?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh my gosh, , yeah. I mean, it was crazy time and like the late nineties. I mean, if you didn't have a half a million dollars, you weren't doing a commercial. Like it, it was mad like they wanted to do them for $10,000 maximum. Even if it's in France, you know, like it's like no money. So yeah, that was, they, it changed a lot for sure. Yeah. I mean, yeah, when editing, when you went to pay $1,000 an hour and it goes down to like $50 an hour for an editor and you're like, great. Like what's the difference?

Heather Newman:  Completely. Yeah. No, I, I feel like, you know, and, and everything changes that, you know, there's the gig economy and all of that. Like, it allows for, you know, you can get somebody on Fiverr or you know, some of those others to do that sort of work. And it's definitely changed how I think we all interact with each other to do marketing and, and all of that. Um, you know, I wanna I wanted to ask you about will you tell everybody about, um, Figment, as well?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, sure. I mean, Figment is a project that I've, um, that was started, um, by David Corrin in New York city. Um, I've um, produced a couple of them here in Chicago and last year I just, I helped with it. But it's a cool, it's a cool arts festival that takes place, any city can have a Figment project, they just have to, you know, uh, correspond with, with David and their initiative what they're doing in New York city. But it's kind of a, it can either be a weekend or a one day event, which is kind of a, um, it's an arts festival. Um, uh, with no commercialism that's kind of um, you know, donated, I mean you can do it different ways. You can do it as a neighborhood association. You can do it as, I mean we, you know, in Chicago it kind of went through a Burning Man Chicago, cause those were the types of people that would, you know, bring the art projects and bring it. But it's, but it's meant to be a community builder where you invite the community to come up with stations and kind of, um, activities, um, that are, that are, you know, all ages, family friendly, and you just spend the afternoon just kinda playing in a park and it's a great kind of concept and idea. Um, they've had some really great ones in San Francisco and other, other big cities. I mean, they do them, I think they're, um, global now. Like they have them in China and other places, but yeah, but it's a cool project. It's called Figment project.org.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's so cool. So what do you love about producing events?

Allison Gerlach:  I don't know. I think that I have, I am, I like networking with people and I like making people's ideas come to fruition. That's kind of what, so even with my Halloween event, it doesn't seem very hard to come up with 25 people and come up with a creative concept for walking less than a mile. But you know, when you are busy not for profit and you have a million other things going on, just coming up with the little tiny idea that makes your group look so much cooler is, you know, means a lot. So I think that was, you know, part of what my job is to is to contact these groups and make sure that they have the resources they need and if they, you know, they want to add something that, that we, we find a place that they can resource it and, and have it, you know, be affordable and that type of thing. So it, it's been nice like networking with people and having them think outside the box and think of, you know, you don't have to have $1,000 float. This year we have Chicago Children's Theater is one of our grant recipients and they're doing these huge mouths made of cardboard, that open and close. But that's going to look amazing going down the street, you know. But that's, you know, that didn't cost them $1,000, like it cost them everyone, you know, taking recycled boxes and, and some paint and big and getting creative. And so I think that that, that's the exciting part about working with arts events is facilitating artists and helping them, you know, come up with things that work.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. No, I think it's a bit when you, when you're in the producing side of things, um, you know, the backstage right, or the back of house or you know, walking through the kitchen, you know, with the servers and all of that, there's an element of um, uh, MacGyver, uh, plus, you know, just thinking on your feet and um, just being able to come up with those ideas. And I don't know, I think that, I think those theater degrees serve us well for that sort of thing. Right. I don't know

Allison Gerlach:  That comes back to, I used to always be, I mean, poor Dennison when I was so furious that I wasn't getting cast in any of the parts I auditioned for, I kept getting cast as stage manager. I think I got, I kept getting cast for a reason because they were trying to tell me that that was something that I do well. And that's something like when I did corporate events that I liked doing. I liked interviewing people because I like making them feel comfortable talking to me. I really enjoyed being, you know, introducing people who are getting ready to speak and do their PowerPoint presentation and then making sure that their PowerPoint's working and micing them and getting them comfortable before, you know, performing on stage. It's just all of the things that I think come with the territory.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. And yeah, I don't know. What do you think, how many events do you think we were doing a year. Back when they were like kicking it?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, I know for, I know for a fact that I always did. I don't know. It was like I did like three to five for sure with you. I mean, we did every pick ticket and every world partner conference for sure. And then we would, do you know the one in Boston? The SharePoint there.

Heather Newman:  SPTechCon, yeah. I was trying to count the other day about how many events, like we did sort of at the height of that, and I think it got up to 20, um, one time, you know, if you sort of count everything that was going on and all of the events within events.

Allison Gerlach:  I think that when we worked with other partners, like when we were doing other activities, they weren't, you know, a lot of them, you know, when we were doing video and those types of things. I think we were, we were hitting a lot more than, you know, other years. But, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Mmhm. Yeah, for sure. Um, what's your favorite party that we've ever thrown?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, of course I'm going to say the AvePoint red party.

Heather Newman:  Yup. Yup. That was a good one. Miss. Ariana did that.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. We had really good parties. We had some good ones.

Heather Newman:  Do you find that people are still throwing big parties like that in Chicago?

Allison Gerlach:  You know, now that I've mean the last five years I've been in my, you know, my parade world, so I am not sure exactly, you know, what kind of parties people are throwing. I don't even go to the, you know, the AACP or AIC ones anymore. But, but yeah, I still think so. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I think so too. I think there's like, um, there's a, it's about experiential, you know that word. You're, are you hearing that word a lot? Experience and experiential.

Allison Gerlach:  Oh yes, in fact, you know, I think that, you know, cause it might, you know right now it may my parade job is a contract job, so I work kind of, you know, spring to October on this particular job. But I think that a lot of the jobs that I've been, you know, working with and you know, even when I worked with Sony and I did pop up stores, a lot of experiential event work is, is where people are going out cause they like having social media moments and things that people can, you know, fall, you know, chance into and fall upon. And that takes a lot more planning than something that is staged and can be controlled.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I agree. I, that's some of the things I saw this year that Microsoft did is like there was a, you could walk into what looked like a Starbucks and you could see how all of the machines were hooked up to that sort of BI tracking behind them. And there was another one that was like set up like Kroger and you could see where they'd put up the AI cameras that would tell you if you pulled something off the shelf. And, and that's a lot of that stuff you did with Sony I think too. Right?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, the Sony, I toured, we did it, we had a competition. So I went to every camera store around the country giving demos for the 87 camera. But we were, it was in Alaska. Like they'd walk in and it was an Alaska scene and they'd take pictures of a model, you know, sitting in front of a mountain in Alaska. And yeah.

Heather Newman:  I like that approach. You know, I keep seeing more and more of it and I think that allows, um, for better storytelling. You know, like, I've been writing and reading about, you know, storytelling and, and uh, I just, I came across it, it's like 22% people respond, uh, and comprehend 22% more when you actually add story into sort of the facts, the figures and the like, I dunno, uh, features of something and I think, I dunno how, how, how do you find, do you find people want to build narratives? I think you're doing that with your parade obviously. I'm seeing it a bit. And do you guys do a theme for the parade besides Halloween?

Allison Gerlach:  We've, we've just started doing the theme the last two years. Last year and then that's a way that we kind of, um, reach out to our groups. Last was the, the year of Chicago Youth.

Heather Newman:  Okay.

Allison Gerlach:  We had grants that went to youth organizations that really had never participated in the parade before. And a lot of them, even though they're not getting a grant, of course they signed up again because they're students had such a great time. So this year we are Chicago theater. We had, you know, we Lookingglass has always been a great supporter as well as the Broadway in Chicago, but we didn't have a ton of other theater groups. This year we've got over 20 theater groups, you know, all over, you know, being a part of our parade. So I'm very excited. You know, it, it, it kind of gives us, next year is the year of Chicago music. So, you know, I’m going to be loving that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. Yeah.

New Speaker:   That's my favorite.

Heather Newman:  I think you probably have one of the most eclectic music tastes of anybody I ever known. And I always love it. You know, you definitely

Allison Gerlach:  I'll blame it on WDUB 91.1 FM in Granville, Ohio, where I was a DJ for the first time. I love music, I do. I Kind of feel like I should have had a career in music, but you know, I'm not dead yet.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well. And you did, um, this was what, the second or third year you were on BMIR radio at Burning Man?

New Speaker:   I've done it more than that. I think it’s probably been at least five years.

Heather Newman:  Oh sweet. Okay. Yeah, that's super fun. So, everyone who doesn't go to Burning Man, there's a radio station that happens, um, at the event and uh, at BMIR and Allison did a couple of sets and she's done them for years now too, so yeah, she's great on that. You had a

Allison Gerlach:  It's really fun, I love of being on Burning Man information radio. It's a kick.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's super fun. I like that cause with the going after sort of like youth or theater or whatever, it's, it's uh, yeah, it's a great way to target to get more people to one know about the festival and then, you know, they probably want to hopefully be a part of it after they've, you know, so they'd come on with that focus and they stay with you probably because they have a good experience. Cause you're awesome at what you do and it's a really cool event.

Allison Gerlach:  Well the, the event, it's, you know, it's, it's easy. It's, it's on state street. It's only a two hours long. It's from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, which is a great time for, for parents to take their kids because even if they're young, you know, bedtime at 8:00 PM we're done by 8pm and then get home. But uh, but the, the groups who participate, what we really like is having major institutions walking with youth organizations. So I love the fact that, you know, that the Joffrey Ballet is walking with, you know, these little dancers from Volta Art or from, you know, dance, um, you know, Bance Chicago or by Pally Chicago, like a different groups inspired different groups like, and it's just nice that they're adults walking next to kids and kids can look up and be like, wow, that's really cool. I'm in the city parade with them.

Heather Newman:  right. That's super cool. Yeah, I like that.

Allison Gerlach:  Encourage children to have careers in the arts.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's fantastic. So you're a busy woman. How do you chill out?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, my goodness. I don't think I do. Not the not in the month of September. Ask me in November.

Heather Newman:  Right. I guess. What do you, what do you love about Chicago? You've lived there a long time and,

Allison Gerlach:  You know, when I, I, I love Chicago. I think that when I moved, um, back, you know, in 2008 and when I moved out to California, I kind of thought, Oh my gosh, I'm never going back to that snowy place. And no, and I think that when I came back to move to be closer to family, like I really have loved being back and I kind of realize that, you know, that these are my people, you know, that these, the Midwest people are my people and, and I, and I feel like, you know, I have, I've, I've re-found my home that I just forgot was my home for eight years.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that happens. It happens for sure. Yeah. I love the Midwest too. And, um, it was fun going back to Michigan this summer, you know, for, for a brief visit to see my people as well. So I'm hoping to spend a little bit more time with you there.

Allison Gerlach:  Well, you're welcome anytime.

Heather Newman:  Thank you. Um, this has been awesome. I just, I love this parade and I've loved being involved with it and I just, it's, it is so different and cool. And um, I love the connections that you have sort of from all of that, like into the Burning Man community and the arts community and how you're just, you always are bringing people together. And that's a, that's a big cool deal, hun, and you’re so good at it.

Allison Gerlach:  Ahh, thank you. I mean, I feel like this year, well this year we tried, like the last two summers we've tried something new because like we really want to get like regular people in different neighborhoods to jump up and participate if they feel like, and so we've been doing these Lantern Walks along the Chicago river walk in the summer, so we have been teaching people how to make lanterns and trying to get other things going. So I just think that as much as we can tell people that even though you're not professionally trained in the arts, that doesn't mean you can't express yourself. And that's one of the things I love about Burning Man is that, you know, you see so many people that go out there that they might be a lawyer in their day time, but they have made this rock outfit like, you know, rock star outfit that they come out in and they really are showing, you know, their inner artist. And I think we all have that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, I agree with you. I mean, yeah, people that are I'm not creative or I'm not this and I'm not that. And everything we do has artistic quality and merit, you know, some, some more than others. But yeah, I love organizations and events and experiences that let that fly free, you know, which is really super cool. Um, well I adore you one, and, and it's so funny talking to somebody, you know so well on a podcast in a way. So it's quite lovely. Um, but I always ask, uh, for the last question, uh, what, if you can point out, uh, uh, person, place or thing or time or something that really sparked you to do what you do and you know who you are today. If you could pinpoint one or two that you would feel free sharing with our listeners?

Allison Gerlach:  Wow. No wonder you didn't give me the questions in advance.

Heather Newman:  That's the only question!

New Speaker:   Well, I know, I think that, um, I do think that my very first time, like when I went to Burning, when I read about it in Wired magazine, when I read about Burning Man with my friend Denise Gerhety, who got me to go my first year, um, I had no idea how much going to that festival in 1998 would change kind of the, the scope of the type of work I do and, and, and what I do. But it did, I think that it had a really big impact on me. Um, you know, I'm sure there's many things in my life that had a big impact on me. Like, you know, switching from theater to cinema and then working in, in film for most of my career. But I think that when I went out and saw Burning Man and I saw these large-scale art and spectacle type pieces, I think it kind of led me to what I'm doing right now. Where it'll take me, you know, after those who knows, but, but that's, that's where I am now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. Well, Denise Gerhety, uh, gave me my tickets too, so as we like to say, it's all her fault. So

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, we'll blame her. And we'll toast to her. So, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yes. A big cheers. Love to Denise. For sure. So, and all of our campers out there, so we've got this, uh, beautiful parade coming up in less than a month. Yeah?

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. It'll be October 19th. If you're in the Chicago area, you're not gonna want to miss it. We got some great groups.

Heather Newman:  And its a, so is it something, um, I know it's changed, but like five o'clock, six o'clock?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, it steps off at 6:00 PM. So, you probably want to get down there around 5:30 and find a spot or earlier, you know, there'll be people you know, clogging up state street, but it starts at Lake street and ends at Van Buren.

Heather Newman:  Awesome. That's great. Oh, you know who else? You know, I, I had on, um, your beautiful poet friend that, uh, she is, she made me cry. Carron Little. Yeah. She just was amazing and read this beautiful poem and yeah, we had a great chat, um, on one of the pods a couple of weeks ago, so it was kind of fun. So thank you for that. She's a Chicago based artist, folks that's a poet and she does a lot in arts, uh, grants and um, arts advocacy and stuff and Allison connected her with me, which was really good.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, I thought you guys would like each other cause she's working with the women's March here and that type of thing too.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, it was super awesome. So that's great. Cool. And then, um, you know, a little bird knows that you're gonna be with me for Ignite in Orlando.

Allison Gerlach:  I'm very excited to be your official handler. Make sure that you get all the interviews down perfectly.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, probably that's a good, need some help as a community report running around, so, but yeah, so Allison will be there with me, which will be great. So

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, it will be great to see all the people I've, I've missed seeing everybody.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. That'll be super fun. So, and then we round into the new year and I don't, I don't know. Do you have any big plans for the new year?

Allison Gerlach:  You know, I am. I don't have any big plans for the new year. I just, I plan on, um, celebrating the entire year. It's my 50th year. I think that I should, you know, do great things in 2020.

Allison Gerlach:  I know. I was kind of leading you along that since it is your big five-0. So, yeah, it's like we're going to celebrate all year long, so that's awesome. Cool. Well great. Well, honey, thank you so much. I, I love you. I adore you and I've been wanting to have you on for a while to tell everybody about all the cool things you do in the world. So.

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, well I really appreciate it. And thank you for promoting our little event, our little big event here in Chicago. And yeah, I really feel free to cut out whatever you want.

Allison Gerlach:  Not a, not a word. Nary a word. All right. Thank you, honey. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Awesome. Yup. Uh, so everyone that has been another episode of our Mavens Do It Better podcast. Uh, you can find us on Stitcher, on iTunes, on Spotify, on Google play, all of the great places where you normally find us. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Episode 52: Johnny Crockett Lopez Tech Maven

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Okay. Hello everyone. And here we are for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. And I could not be more excited to have a wonderful friend and colleague on today. We have Johnny Crockett Lopez coming to us from Houston. Yes? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Hey, yes, good morning. Good afternoon. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Awesome. Yay. Uh, yeah, so, uh, Johnny and I were together couple months ago at, uh, the SharePoint Saturday New York City. Uh, that was amazing. Tom Daly and crew put on a great event there, so we had a chance to chat a little bit and um, also go to a dueling piano bar. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  That was interesting. Yes, that was fun. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, absolutely. So, I don't know, I'm like trying to think about how long we've known each other. It's been a while. It's, I don't know. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Three plus years? Three maybe four years. It's been a good while. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, that's three or four years. And so you are currently working at, and we just talked about this Schlumberger. Yes. See if I pronounced it correctly. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yes. Schlumberger. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. And what do you, tell everybody what you do there? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, so at Schlumberger, um, which is an oil and gas services company that spans over about 185 countries and has over a hundred thousand employees. Um, I am an Office 365 and SharePoint, um, architect slash engineer, slash evangelist, slash just doer. Um, I focus mostly on the Office 365 suite of things. Um, I come from a SharePoint background and I also manage the Power Platform here at Schlumberger. So 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  That's amazing. And, and slash you're an awesome, sweet person. So let's put that in there too. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Well thank you. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  You're welcome. And so, you know, you, looking at, you know, obviously knowing you a little bit and getting to know you over the last bit, but you've also like you, you've really been in the either oil and gas or energy world forever. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  I have over 10 years of experience with the oil and gas energy. Um, and then also some experience in the military. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yes. Thank you for your service by the way. Thank you. The navy right? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  My pleasure. Yes. I was in the navy for 10 years. Um, collectively, some active duty and some reserve. I served on two aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Nimitz. Um, I've been on two deployments and, uh, I was actually an electrician in the navy on aircraft carriers. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Wow. That's amazing. I've been on the Midway down here in San Diego before and they're just, they're so big and crazy and amazing and just, yeah. Wow. How was that? What was that like? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  It's a floating city. 5,500 people on ship. Um, and um, there's, it's just, it's, it's, it's just amazing. Uh, watching the planes fly off and land on, on the aircraft and watching the helicopters go to and from. And it's just amazing the amount of, um, manpower it takes to run these ships. You get three square meals a day. Um, and then they also have, you know, hot dog bars and certain types of things. So the food is kinda different cause they, they cook for bulk. I think that's my biggest experience of the food. You can't just go dine out and, you know, eat those fancy dinners every night. You had to get what was served. So it was, um, 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Wow, that's amazing. And I, I don't know enough about this, but as far as the other two aircraft carriers, do they deploy out of the same places all the time? Like are they like they have like their place and then you get deployed from there or do they move around a bit? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, so there's home ports, um, I think they relocate the home port probably every five to 10 years. Um, from an aircraft carriers perspective, uh, I haven't been on a, an aircraft carrier that moved their home port, but I know like the Nimitz has gone from San Diego to Seattle, you know, could go sometimes on the east coast. It just depends on, it depends on what's needed by the country. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, yeah. The missions that are happening. That makes sense. Wow, that's such a cool experience. Um, and I know that you and I share a bit of community leadership and that, you know, I work here on Los Angeles on a lot of things, our SharePoint Saturday and our user group. And you've been the head of the SharePoint Saturday and the user group for a long time in Houston. How, how have you seen that grow from the time you sort of took things over? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  It's had its ups and downs. When SharePoint was really popping, you know, in the, uh, late two thousands and you know, 2010 timeframe. Um, we had, we would get anywhere between a hundred and hundred and fifty per session, um, which is a 150 people each month. So we meet on the third Wednesday of each month at the Microsoft Center here in Houston. Um, it's grown, it's gone down. We're about 60 to 70 people. Um, so it, we renamed ourselves, uh, last year, uh, we used to be called the Houston SharePoint user group. Now we are the, uh, Houston Office 365 community. So we just went from a user group to more of a community based focus where we can, um, we have a more wider range of, um, technologies that we can speak about. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. I think everybody, like a lot of us who are in, in this, you know, who have been involved in user groups or their SharePoint Saturdays are feeling that too. Right? Like SharePoint still as wonderful as it's ever been going like gangbusters. But I think obviously with the onset of Microsoft teams and some of the other technologies and just Office 365 in general as a productivity, technology platform, it makes sense, right? The brand is so strong for SharePoint though, right? And the community is so strong, it's kind of hard to go there, but I think that people are making that transition. You know, a lot of the different user groups. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Absolutely. SharePoint is definitely has a strong awareness. It's pretty much the backbone to a lot of things like teams and one drive and the different types of technologies. So, um, definitely there's a user, there's a user presence there, a technology presence. But because of the larger ecosystem of Office 365, Azure and Power Platform, um, you know, it's just going to be, uh, you gotta keep SharePoint in there. So, we also changed SharePoint Saturday. Um, it's Aka SharePoint Saturday. It's the Houston Office 365 Saturdays. So we've, we've brought in more, uh, we bring in about 10 to 15 Microsoft MVPs from across the country, sometimes across the world. And we have about five Microsoft speakers that usually speak at our events. So, and then, yeah. And we try to get some local up and coming speakers. I always save slots for them because we all, we've all started from somewhere. Um, and you know, we have to make sure that we're getting fresh faces and fresh topics in, um, the communities to present, um, to our user base here in Houston. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, I believe in that too. I think that's super important. I, we worked on this year for ours because it's, ours is coming up September 28th. Um, and Oh my gosh, I can't even believe it in like two weeks. And, um, or like less than that. And, uh, uh, like kind of even a more like 101 track. You know, cause I think sometimes we forget that, that, you know, we may have been doing this. I mean I've, I, I realize it's been 18 years for me since I started on the team, way back in Redmond, you know, when it was called the code name and all of that. But there's still people that are new to this and haven't had, you know, all the experience. And so like having some more of those 101 tracks and, or first-time speakers giving those. I love that too. I love that you're doing that. That's super cool. Um, oh, I have a question. So when, I know you're a beautiful speaker, by the way, I love your sessions so wonderful at all of that. And what was your, do you remember? What was your first speaking, and it could be in the tech space or wherever, but when did you like step on the stage for the first time? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, so I actually did a Share conference. I don't know if you remember Share. So, yeah, my first speaking was at a Share conference. I want to say it was back in like 2008, 2009. Um, I met Dux Raymond Sy during that time and you know, since then we've always stayed in touch and become friends in the community as well. So, um, I think it was, that was the first time I spoke, and it was about SharePoint, so I did a lot of that SharePoint training back, um, in oil and gas. So, doing a lot of, um, how to use SharePoint, when you use it, you know, building lists, building library, SharePoint sites, permissions. You know, the whole gamut of SharePoint 2007, 2010 and then 2016 and 2013 and 2019 and whatever flavor they come out with next. And that's my passion and my passion is, you know, educating and helping people become more proficient in the technology to better, um, their workload or better their lives in general. So, um, and that's why I do this. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Right. Yeah, no, that's totally awesome. Yeah. And you were just at a SPTechCon too, right? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  I was, I did a couple sessions, a couple of workshops, uh, did two workshops and I did a session. Um, I've been doing a lot more around Microsoft search. Uh, I think it's a really good technology that could help, um, tremendously improve search, uh, in organizations. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. That's cool. I love that show. I, it's, you know, it's like, remembering when all of these things happened, you know, when first started it was, you know, it was like SharePoint TechCon and SP Fest, you know, and I think, gosh, it was like some of the, even the E2.0 and some of those things, you know, and like to see them have blossomed into what they are is super cool and that they're still around, you know, and that their drawing people, it's pretty cool. I have a question about your hashtag learn it all versus know at all. Where did that come from and will you talk a little bit about that? I think that's so awesome. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Absolutely. So I stole this from someone else. This was a speaker at, um, uh, it was, I can't remember exactly who it was but she was talking about the learn it all mentality versus the know it all mentality. And I think it's very important, especially in today's technology with the combination of, you know, you have a lot more IT pros slash business analysts slash, I need to work with a business to get a common task done so you, you see more personality in IT than you did 10, 20 years ago. Um, so I think it's very important to learn it all. So you're always learning. So once you stop learning is when you, you start turning stale. Um, instead of having the know it all mentality where you walk into a room and you just, you know, you just think you know everything and then it just becomes a very, uh, a very difficult situation, you know, with other people as well. So always willing to learn, always wanting to learn, um, and you know, makes it a lot easier to work with people when you're constantly learning with them and it builds rapport, right? So if you can learn something from them, they feel empowered. And that's the other thing is you want to empower people. You want to make them feel, um, like they're, they're contributing just as much as you are. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean I think it's about empowerment and value. Right. And I, I, it's funny, I giggled cause I used the Hashtag always learning a lot as well. And I was like, you know, like great minds, peas in a pod. So that's super cool. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, I liked that. I just, I just gravitated towards it cause that's my personality. Like I'm always, I'm always looking to learn something, whether it's a SharePoint, more SharePoint or PowerApps, Flow, you know, those different types of things or just learning about the business. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And um, you, so tell me about, let's go back. Let's go way back to the way back, like in the station wagon, which millennials, a station wagon is a very large car that we all used to ride in the way back facing out, which was, I don't know, kind of silly if you think about it, cause when you put the kids back there and it's like, well if you get rear-ended, that's trouble. But anyway, you're way back. Like where are, where are you talk about where you're from and where he came up and all that fun stuff. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  So, I came, um, I actually started out as a user. So, one day, um, many moons ago, I guess 10 plus years ago, uh, we had this thing called SharePoint 2003. And, uh, I actually learned it in the military. So, we would use this to manage some of the, kind of like our standard operating procedures or task work orders in SharePoint. So I was like, Hey, this is pretty cool. I like this. Um, so I started doing, you know, started learning this or doing more research, and then I got interested in like, hey, there's a free training for learning how to be an administrator on SharePoint 2003. So the CBT the military provided, uh, it was like a 10 hour, you know, self-paced course. Took it, passed it, got that badge and just from there, just decided this is what I wanted to do in my career. I was already going to school for business information systems, so I kind of had the business savvy, uh, and then also a little bit of IT. So I decided just to go full fledge. Hey, I'm going to start my way through working as a user to a business analyst, to, uh, administrator to IT pro to architect. And that's kind of where I come from. So, um, I started at SharePoint 2003, so, and I've kind of grew up with the evolution of SharePoint and how it's helped and how it's hurts and how it's come in between. So, um, very good platform. I think it's very, uh, very collaborative. And, and, uh, user friendly, um, as we can see it. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, absolutely. And so you're a busy fella, you run around and you know, do all these speaking engagements. You obviously have a full time job. And I love seeing on Facebook all your pictures of your, your sweet breakfast crew a lot of the times and all of that. So how do you balance being a dad and doing all this, all this amazing stuff that you do, you know, not only to get paid for it, but for free and all of that. What's your balance? How do you do that? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, for sure. I mean, cause you know, managing the, the user group and the SharePoint Saturday and then I also, uh, operate, I'm a CO owner for the Houston PowerApps and Flow user group, helping them get started. Um, but yeah, you know what? I surround myself with good people. Um, you know, we have a good, a good support crew. Um, not only from, um, the community perspective but also from my home life. Um, you know my, I have two, two beautiful kids of my own. Um, and then I foster my nephew full time. So, um, it, it, it can be challenging sometimes, but it's a lot of late nights. So kids go to bed at eight, you know, I plug in and get some stuff done in the evening time or you know, early morning, those different types of things. But I always find a good work life balance. I don't work too much. I want to focus on family. I'm to that point in my career where I really want to focus on my family. My, my son's four, my daughter's going to be seven. Missing her second front tooth. So I want to make sure that I'm there for those memories and there for their pickups at school and drops off and those different types of things. Cause I'm heavily involved. I love family, very family oriented. I think I look at the community as a family as well. Um, you know, so, uh, I, I really make time for that and to make sure that yes, there's work on the desk, but at the end of the day that it works going to be there when you get to the next day. Um, and it's not as critical as time with your family. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Absolutely. I think that's a thing I love about our, our SharePoint community, our Microsoft community in that, you know, we know each other. You know, it's, it's not just that we like pop in and speak and take off or whatever, but that, you know, I actually know that you have kids cause we're connected and we've talked, we talk about those things or, or you know when things happen and we need each other. Yeah. I've seen that in my own community recently here with some things where people needed some support and I love that we feel brave and, or vulnerable enough to say, Hey, you know, I need some help or could you give me a shout out or I just put all of this stuff together might you just hit the share button once or whatever it is. You know what I mean? And I, I'm glad that, that we have that and cause not every place does, you know, 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Not every place does. Yeah. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. And how, and how has, so you've been at, um, Schlumberger for I, I kinda just want to say that word over and over cause it sounds so fun in the mouth. Um, you've been there almost a year. Yeah. It's a big company, right? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  It's huge. Yeah. Um, you know, I really like working for the larger organization but I also like working for the mom and pops. Um, Schlumberger has been really good to me as far as allowing me to advance in my, and my personal and also my career growth. Um, and that's really hard to find. So, you know, when you go interview for a company and you go work for a company, they're evaluating you, but you should also evaluate that company. Um, because of the fact that this is where you could potentially work for the rest of your career or this could be a learning, um, uh, stone for yourself to be able to, um, move up and out. And that's when I had to do early in my career, I had to learn, okay, is this something that yes, I can probably stay here for 20 years and just do the same job, but I needed to move up and out to in order to, to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. And you know, I worked for, you know, a fuel and gas companies, um, you know, like Halliburton and Anadarko, which is now Oxy, um, and you know, energy transfer, large pipeline company. And I've been in management from manager to director, those different types of things. But you know, I really have passion for that daily contributor kind of architect, uh, role. And again, this company has allowed me to do that and allowed me to grow and, and just be more productive in my career and have a family life. And that's what I looked for. That's what I've been looking for the last, you know, five plus years, um, to be able to do those types of things. So, um, 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  I love it when companies connect that sort of trust-based, positive culture into, you know, of course we all, you know, we all need to work and pay for our lives and all of that stuff. But it also, it's like when it's a good place to work, we spend what a third of our lives at work and if, and if they're actively creating programs and, or just trying to connect people on a larger level. I love that. And it's nice to hear that a company that big does that sort of thing for you. That's super cool. Cause that's not always the case. Yeah. Do you, um, do you find that, uh, let's talk about Texas for a minute. Um, I, I lived in Texas for a little while. Um, I lived in Dallas for three years when my ex-husband was in Grad school. And, um, it was interesting because coming from, I was from the Midwest and then spent a lot of time on the west coast, which is all very, you know, kind of crunchy and, you know, uh, like all of that. And then living in Texas, I was just like, wow, everything's so big here. Like everything's big, big cars, big hair, big teeth, big ideas, big, big, big. And you’re a Texan and you, you're, you're from Houston, right? Originally. That's your hometown? 


HEATHER NEWMAN:  What's, what's Texas like for everybody, I mean like what's your, where's your heart about that? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, so, um, you know, I was born and raised in Texas, uh, born and raised in Houston. Um, I've lived outside of Texas for a number of years, you know, being in the military and kind of traveling a little bit. Um, Texas is, you know, it's my home. It's a great place to be for me. Um, you know, the, the state and the communities take care of each other. I mean, as you see in the news, we have natural disasters, like hurricanes, like just like you guys have, you know, the earthquakes and mudslides and fires. We also have that, the disaster here, but there's a really good community that comes together. Um, you know, we're Houston as the fourth largest city, I think. I think it's fourth, maybe third now, largest city in the country and it is growing. So, I think at one point in time there was a thousand people a week coming into Houston, um, each week. And yeah, it, the growth here is just tremendous. Um, you know, it's, it's, it's historic too as well, so I can drive three hours anywhere in the state and, and see history, um, and be part of it, be at the Alamo in San Antonio, go to the hill country, uh, you know, in Austin, um, and go up to Dallas and, you know, look at, hey, the cowboys are up there, right. So, um, go down to Corpus and we have, we, we have the battleship of Texas that's still there for now, supposed to be moving in November, but there's so much history here and so much culture and its diversity and I really enjoy that about Texas. I've been to other places. I've lived in the Midwest, I lived up in Michigan, I lived in near Virginia, um, in Chicago. I've been on the east coast. I actually played baseball on the east coast in San Diego for a while. Um, it's just, you know, it's just the home, you know, you get rooted and you get grounded and um, yeah, you can drive in Houston for an hour and still be in Houston. Um, it's very nice. Uh, you know, I have family here, so my mom’s here, um, siblings live here, uh, you know, cousins, um, out the woodworks. But uh, so it's very, again, it's just diverse and I really enjoy Texas and being here in Houston. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, I love that too. We did a bunch of sort of day trips and different things out to different places. And I've, I've been to a lot of cities in Texas and you know, you're right, the history part of it is so grand and so cool. I definitely loved that about the state, but yeah, driving in Texas and you're just like, when I'm trying to get somewhere, I'm like, and I'm still here and it's eight hours later. It's just like, it's so big. It's so awesome. Yeah. And I remember in 2005 when Katrina happened, when, um, you know, so many people, you know, lots of people stayed in New Orleans, but lots of people did leave and, and Houston was a city that really embraced people and said, you know, groovy, come on, you know, and that was really cool. Um, yeah. How was the, as far as, you know, having, I know that there's been many hurricanes, but the last one, um, how is recovery going for all y'all there? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  I think we're pretty much recovered from a point I; a Houston had a lot of flooding that it happens when you get dumping rain. Um, so in the last, the last year or so, it's not really, you know, when I really worried about the hurricanes is we've had, um, downpours that just kind of flood the city because we're growing so fast and there's a concrete, you know, city stove, um, there's, there's nowhere to go with the water. So we tend to flood a little easier. But, uh, I, I think the recovery is great. I think the economy is strong here in Houston, you know, the barrel, the price of the barrel, um, runs Houston. Cause we're, we're an oil city, so I think that's been, the price of the barrel has been at a good midpoint where it's thriving for everyone. Um, yeah, there's lots of companies moving here. We had Chevron and Slumberger, Occidental, we have a large, uh, presence here. Uh, even for, from a financial perspective, um, there's, you know, hospitals, there's lots of hospitals here for, you know, cancer patients burn patients and stuff like that. So, um, yeah, definitely have a, a huge, um, hub here in Houston. And, we have two airports. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  And a lot of good food. I love that Montrose area of Houston. It's very colorful and also a lot of good food. But I tend to kind of hang out there when I've come to the city before and visited friends. It's kind of fun. That's awesome. Um, so with what you're doing in oil and gas and, and all the, you know, you, you're, you know, you, you mentioned search. Is there anything else that you feel right now is sort of that top of mind tipping point for companies as far as technology goes that you're seeing maybe a trend of like, oh, you know, everybody's doing this or everybody should be doing that or that sort of thing. Is there anything that pops up besides the search? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  You know, Microsoft Teams is, uh, Microsoft is pushing Microsoft Teams. So you're going to see a growth in collaboration, but also you're going to see a growth and support on the infrastructure side. And when I say that, it’s mainly your day to day operations, um, you know, our environment, we have probably 30,000 plus sites and it grows, um, frequently because, you know, we add more groups. We had more teams, we had more yamm, we use Yammer as well. So I think, um, search is definitely a hot topic. Microsoft Teams would be up next, but the Power Platform is, is the main one that I, I see, um, especially here is just getting so, so large. Um, you know, there's, our numbers are just, um, tremendous, uh, of what we support for a hundred thousand plus users. So we have, you know, a thousand apps probably created a week. Or, yeah, it's, it's amazing how quickly we're, um, we're growing. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. Will you talk a little bit exactly like tell our listeners like what the Power Platform is and what that means? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Absolutely. Yes. So, when you hear PowerApps, when you hear Microsoft Flow, when you hear Power BI, um, the Power Platform is the, the backend that kind of manages and runs those workloads. Um, so the Power Platform is comprised of those three things. Um, some people say logic apps and Dynamics, uh, Dynamics is also part of the Power Platform, but it depends on how you consume it. Um, so that's being used as a way to enhance citizen development. So, what that means is that citizen developers, non-IT pros, can come in and quickly spin up an app, create a workflow for themselves without the help of a developer or, um, an IT organization. So, there it's empowering, um, the, the business to be able to build their own, um, applications or, or workflows or reports and dashboards, um, within a, uh, one area and be able to manage those. Right. So, um, let's talk about governance. So with governance, we have. Let’s talk about governance. Yeah. It's the biggest elephant in the room all the time. When you have that capability of empowering citizen developers, you also have to have governance around it. So, um, you know, data loss prevention policies, you have to make sure that your permissions are being set up where, um, you won't lose data, company data cause it's so easy to hook something up to a PowerApp and potentially lose, you know, the integrity of the data. Um, so there’s a lot of things you have to think about. How many, who can create apps, who can create Flows and there's limitations on licensing and all this other stuff that you have to think about. So, um, yeah, definitely the, the Power Platform is something that um, can, can benefit to the business and also, they create more, um, empowerment around creating solutions to solve business problems. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Absolutely. And I see the hashtag power addicts all over the place all the time with tons of colleagues. And I know that you, I see that with you too. Will you talk about that and what that is and how people might be able to get involved with that. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah. So there's a tee shirt for that. Just letting you guys know. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  I've seen the t-shirt. Yes. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, for sure. And it's not as it's not snowboard apparel. Just to let you guys know that because there's a, there is a, uh, power addicts, uh, apparel line. Yeah, it's pretty interesting. So, power addicts are, um, it’s a bunch of Power Platform enthusiast, right? Or, or evangelists that are, that's creating, um, buzz and, um, educating folks and showcasing their work. So, it's almost like what we're doing, um, in SharePoint Saturday is like, hey, you have an idea, you put together a presentation, you can go to SharePoint, you can go to SharePoint Saturday and show what you did on this migration. Um, that's what power addicts is. It's a small, you know, it's a group of folks that, um, uh, come together just like a community, from communities across communities, um, that can showcase, uh, anything from PowerApps, Flow, uh, Power BI. So, it's a really nice, uh, community that's built to, again, educate, um, folks on the Power Platform. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Right? Awesome. So if you're looking up Hashtag power addict on Twitter and other things, you can get involved that way. Because people are putting on different webinars and hangouts and I, there was one, uh, like on the third that was like come to a power addicts hang out. And those obviously seem to happen a lot. I keep seeing more and more. Okay, cool. That's awesome. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah. So thatAPIguy.tech/poweraddicts, they host, um, they host the hang outs. So it's a hang out once a month. Um, I, I'm not sure exactly when they meet, but they meet, I know they meet once a month and um, actually my colleague was on the previous month, uh, with the, with a couple of other folks, but they were talking about governance on Power Platform and all that good stuff. So yeah, it's a good community. If you want to, um, talk about power, power out Flow, give questions or you want to hear what other people are doing, it's really good community to be part of. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Cool. Yeah. Well everybody we'll make sure, and I'll get the information. I'll put it in the show notes for sure. So people can follow up on that. That's awesome. I have, I have another question. So I'm, I think from the learn it all know it l and then my always learning, I'm kind of obsessed with, you know, digital literacy, learning paths. Obviously, that's what I do with Content Panda, but I also do it in conjunction with just marketing and how do we see again that create those positive productive places to work. Um, I'm curious what you think about as far as, you know, you obviously work in this every single day and you've come up, you know, working on it for a long time. Um, do you feel that it's, you know, to really get in, one to keep up, I'm gonna ask you 14 questions in one. So hang on. To keep up with everything that's happening. And then also for somebody who is trying to get ahead on learning, is it about like go take classes, go do that or just go get a job, learn on the job? Or is it a combination of all things? I Dunno. What do you think that learning path or a learning path looks like or what's worked for you? There you go. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean, from a learning perspective, you know, uh, I'm no expert on, on training, but from my years of doing training and being trained, you know, there's different types of people, right? You have your doers that need to kind of learn and build, and you have people that can just watch a video and say, oh, I know how to do that. I can go do it. And then you also have the people that need a little bit of handholding and more courses. So I'm seeing a lot now that there's so much self-help out there right now that people are going out and doing it on their own, whether they're taking a class, whether they're doing, going it, you know, looking at Daniel Christian's, uh, PowerApps, you know, videos on YouTube or Shane Young's PowerApps videos on YouTube or going and taking a traditional class. Um, you know, or you know, Pluralsight, those, you know, Wonder Laura's stuff. Um, there's so much in even Content Panda, how about we build this cool intranet or this collaborative space. How can I get contextual hints on my screen to help the users get where they need to go? Right. So, you know, it's really, it's a lot of mixtures of a bunch. But it depends too as well. Like it depends on where the organization's journey is in Office 3`65. So if they're early in their journey, um, they might bring in some people to help training. They might buy a training platform, you know, like brainstorm, um, ```does all the office training for them, um, and construct that stuff for them, you know, Content Panda that can help out as well. Um, so it just depends on where they're at in their journey and this organization is all self and helping each other. Um, I can't tell you how many times, you know, I don't have an office. Um, I sit in an open cube area. People will walk by and see me sitting down at my desk and come ask me a question. Um, and it's just because, you know, they, we help each other and I've done the same thing. I need this to Flow the pull data from SQL and read the specific table and put it in the SharePoint list, um, and be able to put some filtering on it. Well, I know this guy knows some really good o data queries, so let's go talk to him. So stuff like that. I mean, it's a, it's a community. If you keep the community mentality in your organization, in your, um, your user base, you have, um, a better success rate. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, no, no, totally. No, I agree with you. I also, it's like I, I love connecting with other people in this space. You know, like I know the brainstorm folks and the storyal ladies and uh, you know, vitalist and we all sort of have come together under the auspices, Microsoft brought us together for the, that new learning pathways offering that they put out, you know, and they brought us all together as partners and we've been sharing like, here's how we do what we're doing and how we're leveraging it and stuff. And I love that about it because, you know, the world is big, there's a lot going on and there's, there's enough pie for everybody in my opinion, you know, and on the end user adoption level, like I love, you know, like the, we partnered with Combined Knowledge, but you know, I was just in Australia with, um, lovely Debbie Ireland who does that kind of stuff. And Darryl Webster, who is from adopt and embrace and Sarah Hasse and, and I go see a lot of the presentations, you know, cause I'm like, I talk on that, what are they talking about? And we're all very close on at least the pillars and, or like the 10 steps of Xyz to do it. And I love that we're kind of coming together more and more on that and you know, and then clients have the choice of, you know, it's like maybe I want somebody in my geography because it makes sense for it to be a New Zealand New Zealand thing or whatever it is. Um, but yeah, I really, I am enjoying learning from the other colleagues and the other people who are building cool products, you know? And I, I like that it doesn't seem like as competitive, I guess maybe, or maybe that's just me or I don't look at it that way, you know? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Well, I mean, you have to, you have to know your competitors too, right? You have to know. But I, you know, every conference I go to, I sit, I will sit in sessions and sit there and like you said, listen to what they're saying, listen to what they're doing. Even if I don't want to speak on this session, you know, or I go into a session, yeah, I spoke on that last week. What are they talking about? It's always properly educating yourself. Um, and competition is good. It's healthy. As much as I would love to see Content Panda, just like being at every everyone's internet in the world. Yeah. You know, it, you know, there's, again, there's a piece of pie for everyone, right. That's just, you have the right attitude and I think that's excellent. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. Thanks. I try for sure. Um, so, uh, what is the one thing that you love doing that has nothing to do with your work? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  I love spending time with my kids. I think kids are our greatest investment. You know, some folks, yes, they don't have kids, you know, they, they find other investments. But I think when you have kids, that's your greatest investment and in shaping, um, helping shape their legacy and, and coming up into the world to be prosperous and to be, um, to make a difference. Right? So, that's, that's one, that's the most enjoyable thing that I do outside of work. The second one would be, um, would probably just be running, going out for a run at a different park. In Texas when it's 110 degrees, you know, I'm not going outside. I'm going from my office, to my truck, to my house, to my, in my house. Um, but it's, you know, running is enjoyable for me. Um, I, yeah, it's a, it's one way to disconnect from everything cause being so busy. If you constantly stay connected, um, you know, gray hair starts coming out on my beard and I don't want that. Not yet. Um, but yeah, I just, yeah. Um, you have to find a physical and a mental release to be healthy. Um, and I think in order to be the best you, you have to go find that mental and physical release. So when you, when you, when you're with your family or you come to the office, you can be the best you. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah, I agree. It's becoming, I give, I've been giving a presentation about becoming the expert of yourself and I was like, I put that together and there was some of it that's like, be hydrated, get outside, self-care, you know? And it's people who are like, I know that. I'm like, yeah, but do you do it right? And I think we all sometimes need reminders of those things. So that's why I love that question. So thanks for answering that. Um, oh, I'll hit you up with my last one. And, uh, it is, uh, what in, and I love sharing this with our, with our listeners. So something that someone, an experience, whatever comes to mind, but that's really sparked you, that was a real big force and an influence on where you are today and makes you who you are. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  So, I can name, I can name two people, um, for, you know, especially those, and this is one of them is not a general person. It's one of those, uh, it's the person that really took risk, um, of hiring me at a young point in my career and let me prove myself. And I've had a couple of those folks that did that. So, um, as you know, coming through your career as an intern or you're, a recent Grad, you're a new hire, um, who's going to give you that chance? So I've had a couple people that have given me that chance to prove myself and for me to show, um, how I can, you know, benefit what we're bringing to the table. Um, another one is a person that's one of my uncles. So in high school, um, I lived with one of my uncles up in Michigan. I mean he really pushed me to become a better person, become a better athlete. Um, he really pushed me to, uh, become who I am today with hard work ethic and inspiration to not only make yourself better, but also make the people around you better. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. That's awesome. I am from Michigan. I don't know if you knew that I was born there. Yeah. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Go blue go blue. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  I've got go blue in my family. Yeah. But I also have go Spartans. So, um, and then I have some that are, that were boiling that popped down and we're boilermakers too. But yeah, Michigan's a beautiful place. I was just there for my aunt's 80th birthday and you know, when we live in these big urban centers, um, you know, here I'm in Los Angeles you're in Houston. And you don't have to go for a foot outside our cities to have big changes of the way people, you know, socioeconomically and all that stuff. And it's always really good for me to go visit my family and remember, you know, that I'm from a small town, and the values and also just the struggles that happen there are different, you know, and I think we forget that sometimes living in our bubbles, me sitting here in, you know, Marina del Rey looking at the boats or whatever, you know, and I, I love that, you know? And where were you in Michigan? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  I was actually, I graduated high school, the class of 2000, um, with about 70 people in [inaudible], Michigan. So if you're familiar with that, um, it's, no, it's south of Holland, Michigan and north of Kalamazoo. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Okay. Gotcha. All right. I know where the, I, yeah, west side and that, Holland, Michigan is one of the coolest places in the world. It's with all of its windmills and everything. My grandfather actually created a windmill in the backyard. We were in Bay City, Michigan and he created a like working actual windmill because of Holland, Michigan. Funnily enough. Yeah, it was pretty cool. Well, awesome. Well, you're a love. I love talking to you and, and listening to you speak and talk about all this stuff. I really appreciate you being on and sharing your story with everybody today. It's great. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Yeah. Thank you for having me. I appreciate you taking the time and I appreciate what you do as well in the community and thank you for your contributions to making SharePoint great again. Right? 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  SharePoint's always been great, but, but you know, it, you know, everything can always be better. Right. Another level, uh, on it for sure. So awesome. Well, Johnny, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. So, and where am I gonna see you next? 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Um, so Cincinnati is my next stop. I was going to do Los Angeles, but it just didn't work out with my schedule cause I have my kids every other weekend. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Yeah. We're sad, but we understand. So, 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  yeah, I'm always said that I can't go to LA, but, or San Diego or you know, Seattle or anything like that. Um, so yeah, I had, I signed up for Ignite, um, they sold out, so I'm on the wait list just like everyone else. Um, but I have Cincinnati, I'm thinking about doing, um, San Juan if they have it. Um, and what other ones that I have on my list, I have to look at the sps event site. Are we still, are we still on? 


JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Okay. Yes. So, so if you are interested in SharePoint Saturdays, um, they're, they're global. So if you go to s, Sam, Papa, Sam, events.org, um, you can find out when the next event is and one close closest to you. Um, as you, as we spoke,, Los Angeles is a September 28th. Uh, we have Boston in October, Ottawa, Cincinnati, um, Denver. So I will be in Cincinnati next and I think that might wrap up my year. Um, I'm looking at Charlotte. Um, yes, I think you're going to be in Charlotte. 

HEATHER NEWMAN:  Uh, I'm not sure yet. Not sure. Yeah. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  So, yeah, so I'm looking at Charlotte, um, in December, but other than that, I think I'm done for the rest of the year. Um, and then San Francisco, um, in 2020 in February 2020, um, SPTechCon will be in San Francisco in February, 2020. 

JOHNNY CROCKETT LOPEZ:  Right. Okay. Gotcha. Lots of opportunities. Probably say hello and give you a hug. All right, cool. Well, again, thank you for being on and folks, that was another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. You can catch us on a iTunes, on Spotify, on stitcher, on Google play, all the normal, wonderful places. And here is too another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks everybody. 


Episode 51: Women in Tech Mavens Lise Rasmussen and Christina Gibson

Heather:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. I could not be more excited today. I think you may be my first two-fer, two people on a podcast. Very excited. Um, I have, uh, the hosts of a wonderful podcast, the WIT Girls podcast. I have both Christina Gibson and Lise Rasmussen here today who are coming to you very late in their evening across the pond as it were. And so ladies, yay. Say hello and thank you for being on. 

Christina:  Thank you very much for having us. 

Heather:  You betcha. We've been trying to schedule this for how long? I don't even know. 

Christina:  Um, maybe like a year or something. Since the last ESPC conference in Copenhagen. 

Heather:  I think that's true. Oh my God. I was like, we're not waiting till Prague. We're getting this done for goodness sakes. Right? Oh my goodness. So, so where are both of you right now in the world? 

Christina:  Stockholm. Sweden! 

Heather:  Yeah. Me Too. Stockholm, in Hammarbyhöjden, which is in the city center almost. 

Heather:  Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah, I have been to both of those cities and loved them very much. So, uh, I think when I was in Copenhagen for the first time in 2004, I was determined to get another passport stamp. So I took the ferry over to Malmö just so I could say I've been to Sweden. 

Christina:  that's actually my hometown, Malmö. 

Heather:  Oh, it is? Okay. Yeah. It's beautiful. 

Heather:  I know, but you must come to Stockholm also, Heather. It's even more beautiful here I must say. 

Heather:  That's, yeah, I actually, I went to Stockholm for ESPC, goodness, three, when was it? Three years? Four years ago? 

Christina:  Four years, I think. Yeah. 

Heather:  Yeah. So that's, yeah, that's awesome. It was a European for the, for listeners, that's the ESPC is the European SharePoint Conference is what we're talking about. And um, yes, yes. We've all been going to that show and um, uh, love, you know, Tracy and all the folks who put that show on. So thank you. Love being a part of that. That's been great. I, I've had wonderful time being at the, um, I did the first keynote for the women in tech lunch there back, I think that was actually in Stockholm. So my first one. 

Christina:  I went to that as well. Did you Lise? 

Lise:  I think so. It was quite many years. I'm just thinking about the former with lunch we had at the ESPC in Copenhagen last year that you also held there, Heather, or you were, you were, yeah, you were there. So we tend to meet that ESPCs, right? 

Heather:  Yeah, pretty much, you know, I mean why not? I love coming to Europe at least once a year. So it makes me very happy. So 

Christina:  yeah. Are you coming to Prague also Heather? 

Heather:  I am, I am. My hotel is booked. Yay. So, and I've never been. Have you been to Prague before? 

Lise:  I've been to the city. I love it. I've been there several times. They are great at beer, chocolate, and just a beautiful city. 

Heather:  Oh awesome. I know, I love, I love the art deco or not art deco, Art Nouveau Movement. I can't, I want to see all the Alphonse Mucha stuff. I am obsessed so I, yeah, I'm excited to go check that out for sure. And I will definitely go have a beer with you ladies. Absolutely. So that is awesome. So 

Christina:  I used to be a flight attendant, so I flew to Prague, but I was too close to be holding a stopover because it was a turnaround, a fight for us, unfortunately. 

Heather:  Yeah. So It was a tease. 

Christina:  Yeah. It was a tease. 

Heather:  Oh my God. That's awesome. So you two have a wonderful podcast. Yeah, I love it. WIT Girls at and. 

Lise:  You too. 

Heather:  Thank you. Thank you. Ladies doing podcasts is awesome. Right? So, um, so will you tell me about the, tell me the origin story of the podcast and I don't know which one of you wants to go first, Christina or Lise, but tell me, tell me how it happened. 

Lise:  Yeah, so I guess I'll start, I'm the, I'm the guilty one in this. So, um, it all started with actually that Christina and I met at my former work, uh, in 2017 in the spring time. Christina, right? 

Christina:  Yeah. 

Lise:  She came for an interview there and I was the one holding the interviews and it ended up with my boss leaving the room so that she and I could talk because we found each other there. 

Christina:  Soul mate. 

Lise:  Yeah, it was really like a perfect match there. And uh, later that year, um, I have always wanted to do a podcast. I'd been blogging and so on. And uh, I think it takes so much time to blog. So I thought why not dig into podcasting and try to share the information out through a podcasts. So I always wanted to do that. So I started that in a, I think the Autumn of 2017 and then I literally forced Christina to join me as my co-host. 

Christina:  Not really forcing but I mean we are very different. I mean we are very alike but very different because Lise, she's so organized and she writes all the texts and every stuff, everything that we are going to talk about in the episode. And I have so much going on everywhere. So I'll just bump into the show and babble. 

Lise:  With grace. With grace Christina. 

Christina:  Thanks. But we can babble together. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah. That's awesome. And we were just talking before we all jumped on. How many do you have, um, out in the world now? 

Lise:  Um, I, I looked at the list actually today, just the top countries in the last seven days. It's insane. It's like 24 different countries. These are all from Malaysia to Hong Kong to Japan, to Australia, to Canada, to India to all over the world. And the US of course. Um, I'm amazed how it has spread and it must be the same for your podcast, Heather. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah. I, I think well, you know, you all live in Europe and stuff as well, but, but you know, but to get people in Asia, that's amazing, right? You know? And I think we all travel a lot, you know, around the world and speak and have clients and all of that stuff with our technology and all of the, with our businesses. And so, yeah, I think it's also because of that, that, you know, you get, you get a global audience, you know, and you know, I think you do it too. I host people from all over the world, right? On the podcast as well in many different industries and all of that. So yeah, I, I, I'm always blown away. You know, I'll get, you know, a DM or somebody from some, you know, somewhere that's, you're just like, wow, okay, awesome. Sri Lanka! 

Christina:  I just got the other day on Twitter, on Twitter, there was a girl from Norway, who said, oh, thank you so much for, uh, bringing up the struggles. I recognize them. I also have them, you know, with the things that we talk about because we, we want to share challenges and experiences and you know, struggles we have in our daily work as consultants and just share it and discuss it then it's so much, it's, it's very nice to hear the feedback that people recognize what we talk about. So that's really cool to hear. 

Heather:  Absolutely. And can I talk about your Instagram account for a second? First of all, I love it. 

Lise:  What about it? I'm so nervous. 

Heather:  No, It's wonderful. I love it. I love. Awesome. And so, everybody, um, so go on Instagram and it's wit w I t girls pod, p o d, witgirlspod. And then they have both of their handles up there too sharepointbabe and bananas. Banana Bananas. How the hell do you? 

Christina:  Bananvaskan. It's like the banana pouch. You know like the, the pouch you had on the, on your belly when you're out traveling a savings the money. 

Heather:  Oh my gosh. 

Lise:  From 20 years ago. Just kidding. 

Heather:  That's what it's called? Bananavaskin. I'm saying it's totally wrong. Say it again. 

Christina:  My kids, they call my stomach the banana pouch. 

Heather:  Wow. That's hysterical. We call those a fanny pack here. And I know that. I know. And the word fanny in many languages means another body part. Right? Cause you both laughed. I know. 

Christina:  It's not something you want. 

Heather:  Yeah, I know. Well and the fanny pack has come back. I like your word for it. Much better for goodness sakes. I mean, you know, cause I've been seeing all the advertisements because you know these front pouches are back, right? Because of all the rave culture and festivals and all that stuff, especially here and, and so like you see all the advertisements of fanny pack and anytime I'm with somebody who is not from the United States, they're all like, ha, ha, ha, ha, fanny pack, you know. 

Christina:  It's just extra funny. 

Heather:  Yeah. It's funny for sure. No, no, I love, I love your Instagram cause like you just, you both are so gorgeous and happy and always smiling. And I always see a lovely beverage in front of you too. So like, you know how to have a good time. the two of you in the mat or no, it's not both of you. But the one with the masks too. That's hilarious. But that's not real is it? And that's not you too. I was like, that's you and somebody else. Oh my God. Yeah, 

Lise:  It was of Christina and Christian, actually it happened by accident. Yeah. And so I took a picture of those too. And then we send, we sent that picture to someone who wasn't in the conference just to tease them a bit. And then the filter had automatically added, been added to make like small faces all of a sudden with a towel on their head. 

Heather:  Oh my gosh. That's hysterical. That's great. And the podcast is on all of the usual suspects, right? I think you are on SoundCloud. Yeah? 

Lise:  Yeah. SoundCloud. 

Christina:  Spotify. Stitcher and all those. Yeah. Every podcast platform you can think of. 

Heather:  I know, right. We got to get them on everything for sure. And you've got about 25, 27 that you have out in the world. Yeah,? 

Christina:  27 episodes. And I was like, what? Haven't we done more, we've been going on forever, but it's like we just release one episode a month, so be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out. Yeah, 

Heather:  absolutely. Everybody do subscribed. So once a month. Okay. That makes sense to me. Yeah. 

Lise:  We try to help to keep it down to 30 minutes. But it's hard. 

Heather:  I know. 

Christina:  It's hard, we can't stop talking. 

Heather:  Yeah, I hear ya. You know everybody's all like, I look over and I'm like, oh my God, we're at 45 minutes. Oh, and we still have things to say! Yeah. It's, that's hilarious. You know, and so it's a, the podcast is a combination of, you know, SharePoint and office 365, that's your focus, right? 

Lise:  Yeah. 

Christina:  True. 

Heather:  And how do you get your, uh, how do you get your folks to, to say yes when, you know, where do you get your, your guests from? 

Christina:  Oh, we hadn't had a guest in a while. Now we have lovely Sandy we've had and uh, we had some, but we, it was long time ago now, but that wasn't hard. I mean, people in this community loved to talk and share. 

Heather:  Well, and for the most part it's you two obviously talking about different aspects of technology. Um, is that, do you kind of see it's for that, like how do you choose that? Is it like something that's hot and new or something that you really love. And you know, I, I know some of this, but explain it to our, our listeners, if you will. 

Christina:  I think we try to talk about the new stuff that we see in the message center and whatever had turned up in our tenant. And also, uh, we talk about, uh, getting almost, I mean 80% out of the product, that 20% is not nearly as good as it should be. So it's the struggle. Struggles. Yeah. Because, uh, if, if, uh, there is a new feature release, there's always something that we need to tweak to get it, uh, the best for the customer. But we love, it's like having a Christmas every time we open a tenant really. 

Lise:  It's only in this world, we would look at it like that. No, but I mean it's like, you say, and we, I think what me and Christina often talk about is because we work with these products daily and we want to really discuss what have we been working on lately. Maybe someone who listens, can get some input or get some feedback for us to learn something. And that's one of the feedbacks we've also gotten is that people actually have learned things through listening to the podcast. So I think we, we try to mix that with a bit of a sense of humor. I mean, we joke a lot about things, but we can also criticize things, things that honestly, our honest opinions on what works and what does not. Like I said, the 80 20 is there is always a constant struggle. 

Heather:  Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, I, I, I agree with you and I, you know, I love it. It's always just nice to get a different perspective, you know what I mean? I think that, you know, and especially perspectives from all over the world, you know about, because you know, I guess so you both, uh, have, have, you know, you both are working and you have different jobs and you've had different jobs, you know, at different times and, but for the most part you're working with clients on architecting and all of that, right? For the most part, 

Lise:  Yes, correct. We are both consultants and I think we are quite similar in our work roles as Solution architects. 

Christina:  Yeah. Solution architects. And, uh, I'm always, uh, I'm working with government issue, and the governance and stuff like that as well. And Eh, you are better at the server world, Lise. 

Lise:  Yeah, but not, I think since, sorry you what did you say, Heather? 

Heather:  Nothing. 

Christina:  Server Admin, 

Lise:  yeah, I thought I heard Heather say something. Sorry. No, but I mean um, I'm not seeing some and obviously we're in the cloud so we don't need to focus so much on the server administration anymore and that I like that because now we can focus more on the product. What can we actually do with SharePoint, with all the other applications we had and Office 365 and the best part, how can we make people's days better and more like use these apps in an efficient and smart way and help their day become easier with these products. And that's something I burn for. I love that. And also working on prem of course. Um, because they all have hosting partners right. I'm not allowed to touch the server anyway cause I can just focus on the good parts. It's like building stuff and yeah. 

Christina:  And I've been working, I started out with SharePoint quite late or as a consultant because I've only been working as a consultant for about four or five years. And before that I was in business and I was doing a lot of digital transformation from paper based processes. And I've been seeing the demand, I mean, longing for something that would get rid of the papers, automate the processes and all of a sudden, I was working with a fantastic product, which is like a smorgasbord of automating stuff, flow, PowerApps. So yeah. So I like, yeah, because I can understand the businesses need and now I can even do something about it. 

Lise:  And I bet I've worked with SharePoint for more than 15 years now. So, I, I felt when the cloud came and SharePoint online, that was very welcome because for me it was something totally different than I'd been working with before. And all the new things constantly coming and I love change. Change is good. So for me this is a beautiful product to work with. 

Heather:  Yeah, absolutely. No, I love it too. I mean, I, I started at Microsoft, uh, in 2001 and we were still calling it code name. And I've always been a marketer first, you know, um, and technologist second and, uh, yeah, I've, you know, I got to watch it change over many years. And also when, when we were kind of a startup, you know, inside of Microsoft. We have a little bit more money than most startups, so I got to do all kinds of crazy things, you know. Um, but, uh, but yeah, it's been amazing to watch the journey of the product. And I think, I know you've, I'm sure you probably feel this too, but I, I think that the, I believe our community is just one of the strongest technology communities or just communities in general I've ever been involved with. Yeah. 

Christina:  Agree. Yeah. 

Lise:  And that's why it feels so good to contribute to something, Eh, I hope we do that sort of, that’s our goal with the podcast, at least. 

Heather:  Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think everybody has a voice and chooses to use it in different ways. Right. And I agree with you, you know, I love to write as well, but blogging, woof, you know, it's a lot of work and I give it up to people who do it. You know, there's some people out there who write the most amazing technical blogs and I'm always like, holy cats, that's all, that's a lot of work. Um, you know? 

Lise:  it's a lot of work because it takes longer time to make all the screenshots to write all the steps and to think about, okay, you can't miss out if you're going to do a good, a really good blog post, you can't like miss out on information. It needs to be packed with facts and it should also be fun to read maybe or something. So it's not that just points or something, it needs to be like readable. 

Heather:  Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, yeah. You know, and I think people do such a nice job with that. But we almost have too much information. Sometimes I'm like, who do I look at? What do I read? Like, where do I go? You know, I have my favorites, of course, but, you know, definitely it's super fun. So I want to go, I want to talk, I'm going to sort of go backwards a little. And you know, I was looking at, you know, it's so funny, you know, we've, we've talked a little bit, but like it feels to me like every time we see each other we're like, hi, oh my God! And we're like, hug. And then we all were like, okay, I'll see you sometime, you know. So I'm like, we're going to no, right. So we're going to sit down and Prague and actually have a like face to face Chit Chat, we're going to schedule it and everything. But um, so I was looking at your, you know, LinkedIn's and some of your bio stuff and I was looking at um, Christina and were you, so what's the to fly Nordic where did, where did that, what is that you are, do you, are you a pilot? Cause I've seen it cause you, you just like what's going on with that? Cause I was just looking at the other podcast and I was like, what's happening here? So 

Christina:  no, TUI Fly Nordic is actually one of the biggest charter companies in the world, I mean it's TUI really. It's a, it went from Germany, England, Scandinavia, all over Europe really. And, um, well it's a large company. And I started out as an airline hostess, well that was 1987 in Copenhagen and I was working as a flight attendant until 2000 and then I started to work in the office instead. And I was trying computer for the first time in my life. And I wrote, Word document with comics sans font. And I'm so ashamed. But then I continue onward in the company. And I ended up at the technical department and that's where one of my, uh, well sweetheart bosses, uh, sort of thought I could do something with a computer and he sent me to a course, uh, for Access database to start building databases and yeah, and Excel. And I, I, I've always been, uh, into logic stuff and know how to organize files in a certain way . naming conventions. They always had it inside on me. So having tools and the, and the skills like I got from the database, it was, um, I mean it's fantastic. I just loved it. So I built, um, a little database for our company, uh, keeping track on all the aircraft documents and, uh, the maintenance documents, uh, and, uh, the manuals and stuff that was all over the world and keeping track of them. And then I continued onwards in, Eh, for a couple years later I went on to flight operations and, and started to implement a digital occurrence reporting system and, uh, communication and Lotus Note. And then we had SharePoint 2010 and, and it went on and on. And all of a sudden I said to myself, maybe, maybe I should go back to school. So I asked my husband, can I go back to school? And he said, yeah, why not? And then I found this, um, it was a two year education where we had a lot of practice as well. And the tool was SharePoint, but it was SharePoint development. And then I fell in love with the product and I couldn't stop myself from work with for it. So after the school I went to, uh, uh, I got a job at Johann Husman. It's his place. Um, there, then later on I went onwards to consulting business and that's where I am now. 

Heather:  Wow, that's so cool. It's always, I always love the sort of origin stories. Cause I was looking at yours Lise and I was like, did you get started working on a help desk? 

Lise:  Me? Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. Wow. I mean I went from theater school when I went to high school or what do you call it when you're like 16 to 18 or something. Yup. Yeah. And then thought that was gonna work within that. And then, um, I went on to working in the university world and then someone discovered I was good at computers just like with Christina. And I ended up in the help desk for Volvo for two years. I learned, you know, how to ping a printer and re reboot it through, all sorts of, you know, excel formula stuffs. And they had Lotus Notes, I, I actually studied and become a Lotus Notes developer. So I ended up building their intranet on that. And then, uh, I heard about this product called SharePoint and my boss said, you need to, you need to find out what that is. And I'm like, okie dokie. So I went to Stockholm and had the training at Jurgen Huisman again. His name. His name is famous here in Sweden. Yeah. And then I went on the training there and since then I've not looked back. I've quit. I change religion from notes to, to SharePoint. 

Heather:  That happens. Sometimes you convert, you know? That's awesome. 

Lise:  So, Yeah. That's the story. 

Heather:  Yeah. And I, you worked at for Carlsberg. Yeah. You both have had such interesting, that's so cool. How was that? 

Lise:  Oh my God. To hear my boss say let's go to the kitchen and a have beer and cookies. I was like, what? It's work. Everybody just ran to the kitchen. So yeah, we had free beer and fantastic workplace. I mean excellent developers there at Carlsberg, yeah, the SharePoint people who was quite a big team, were like 11 people or something. And the funny thing is I met some of them ESPC now in Copenhagen, of course they were there. I was so happy to see them. 

Heather:  Oh, that's so awesome. Very cool. Yeah. I, I've been through the Carlsberg experience, uh, in Copenhagen. That was super cool and yeah, it's nice. My first trip there was, I think it was in 2004 and, uh, we were producing the first road show in Europe and so we did a five city tour. Uh, it was London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, um, Madrid and Frankfurt. So that was my first trip there. Oh yeah, it was amazing. And, uh, Copenhagen, I mean, Copenhagen and Stockholm are such walking cities, you know, it's like, I love that you can just, you know, plop yourself somewhere and just walk around and see beautiful things everywhere you look. It's ridiculous. So, yeah, it's a lot of fun. I'm sure. So, yeah. 

Christina:  So, what time of the year were you there? 

Heather:  Uh, I've been in Copenhagen in April, I've been in Copenhagen in November. I've been to Copenhagen like five times actually. So, um,. 

Christina:  it's a favorite city. 

Heather:  Yeah, it's a good one. So I think for me it's been actually spring and winter, um, have been the times that I've been there. And then Stockholm was a kind of fall, I guess that was fall, winter. Um, yeah. Yeah, I know I have to get over there in the summertime. 

Lise:  It's Beautiful. 

Heather:  Yeah, absolutely. Um, so, uh, I think, you know, it's, I, I was in looking at all of this stuff, I was like, we're kind of, we're in, we're same, similar age. Um, as far as like where we came up in the world when we're, you know, actually talking about like Lotus Notes and printing pin, uh, pinging printers and all that sort of thing. Um, I guess you sort of being, you know, all of us gals in technology, um, how have you seen things sort of progress or change just in technology in general or things that you've noticed about either women in technology as well? Um, kind of over the years and like starting up in Sweden, were you encouraged to get into tech? It sounds like you both were at a certain point, but was, you know, as is, is that, I just asked you like 14 questions, sorry, but, um, whoops. You can handle it. Just this, what do you, what do you think about sort of the changes that’ve happened since you started and maybe, uh, Christina, maybe you start. 

Christina:  Uh, yeah. Well, I think, um, I think it was quite easy to get into, uh, the tech in Sweden when I started because it was a big demand and, and the companies wanted to employ girls, really, ladies. And also when I, when I was in the technical department at the airline, uh, I mean, being the only girl there, it was also fantastic. Of course. So I, I've always had like an equal, uh, feeling of equality. But of course, I didn't know how much the guys were earning at the end of the day, but, uh, but everybody was treating me really, really like an equal. So I have, I have a really good experience. 

Heather:  Yeah. How about you Lise? 

Lise:  I feel the same. You know, I started in the IT business in 1997 and uh, I always felt the guys have felt it was so cool that a guy, uh, girl, I was talking to myself as a guy. That a girl came into this guy dominated like business. I thought, Eh, they really appreciated that. I have never felt like outside or that I've been treated different never, but it's like this with salaries. I'm still not sure that they are equal yet, but I mean Sweden I think has been quite far in this equal thinking quite long. And uh, but still of course there are, there are things that still aren’t as good as we could wish. But I mean I've never felt anyone looking down on me cause I'm a girl. It's like the opposite. They have like always encouraged and they think it's cool that I'm interested in this and I, I've been working really close with IT pearls, infrastructure and I love all that. I'm so happy to have my background with all this technical stuff because that helps you get the bigger picture and it's easy for you to understand how you can deliver something when you get that whole picture. So I'm very glad to have been working closely to these technical teams and uh, always loved it and learned so much from it. So yeah, that's my take on it. Yeah, 

Heather:  I feel that way too. I mean, I've had, I've had many wonderful mentors and I have had great experiences in the tech world as well, you know, and I've always been treated very well and all of that. And the thing is, for me, the big thing, the big thing is the parity on salaries and pay, you know, it's like, you can treat me nice, but I want you to pay me nice too, you know? 

Heather:  Yes, exactly. And equal. 

Heather:  Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So, and I think a lot of the work that's being done around diversity, inclusion and, and gender equity and gender pay, gender equality, all of that, you know, is just lifting that conversation into a place where we're having that conversation more, which I think is great, you know, and as it should be. Right. So, yeah, that's a really good thing. Um, so you too work a lot. Um, I bet you’re both smiling and uh, you know, you're busy, you do a podcast, you've got all kinds of things going on. How do you, what do you like to do when you're not working or podcasting and you know, how do you, how do you stay balanced, you know? 

Lise:  Well, I, I go out. 

Christina:  Oh my God, we do have a life also. 

Lise:  No, but, Christina, come on. No, but I mean, I can only speak for myself and Christina and I go out and have fun a lot of times. I love hanging with her outside of work also, so we are good friends. But I mean, I want to go out. I love, culture, music. I go to lot of concerts and Stockholm is a fantastic city to have a life. If You want to have a life. It's full of clubs and it's like always something, concert going on. I went to the Ramstein the other day. That, that was an amazing concert. And even if you don't like maybe listen to the music anymore, it's like a fantastic experience to go to one of these huge concerts. So that's a big interest. And we went to see the Tarantino movie the other day, Christina and I and her husband. Have you seen it Heather? 

Heather:  I have not. No, I haven’t seen it yet. 

Christina:  Oh, you must. 

Lise:  It was really good. 

Christina:  Yeah. Just hang out and uh, I travel a lot, but not as much as you have Heather. I Follow you. You went to Sydney recently, weren't you? 

Heather:  I did, yeah. I was at a, the digital workplace conference for Debbie Ireland. It was lovely. I had a great time. 

Christina:  how long did, how long were you there for? 

Heather:  Um, I would say about it. I was about a week. Um, all told, yeah. 

Christina:  Isn’t that a huge, huge trip to take to. 

Heather:  It is a, it's a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles nonstop luckily. Yeah. So I just, you know, I should've watched that movie on the plane, but I don't think it was out yet. So, not yet. Yeah. I need to, I need to watch something a little bit lighter. I've been watching a lot of documentaries lately that have been making me angry and so I think I need something. 

Lise:  You need some entertainment. Something for entertainment. 

Heather:  Yes, for sure. For sure. Oh my goodness. And so, uh, so Malmo and what, where, where, where were you both born? So Lise, you're from? 

Lise:  Yeah, I'm from the south of Sweden. It's really a little bit higher up than Malmo, but around there ish. Yeah, 

Heather:  Right. Oh my goodness. Sweden is so cool. And it's like, but do, cause people are like, oh, does it, is it really sort of dark and all of that in the winter time? Like I haven’t been. 

Christina:  Yeah, it's really dark. And you know, in the north the sun never goes down. So you have to have those really, really black curtains. Otherwise you can't sleep. 

Heather:  That's wild. 

Christina:  That is wild, literally. Yes. But I also want to say, um, I'm working on a bucket list so I have things on my bucket list that I'm trying to, I know you have that too, but I, I really want, cause I heard you, your podcast where you were talking yourself, I think it was number 41 or something like that. Where you talked about the bucket list things. You did something in Los Angeles there. And I also have the same, you know, like things I need to tick off that I want to do before we go. So that's something to work on. 

Heather:  Yeah, absolutely. Spend the night, you know, in Sweden with the blackout curtains. 

Lise:  That's totally something. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. So what do you two have coming up, I mean, I know we talked about Prague, uh, are there some things that you are excited about that's coming up this fall that you're going to be doing? 

Christina:  Well, hopefully we will be podcasting in Ignite. Right, Lise? 

Lise:  At Ignite (deep intake of breath). 

Heather:  Right. Right. 

Lise:  We send application and, yeah. That'll be Lovely. Yeah. 

Heather:  Oh, good. Yeah. I think everybody's supposed to find out this week. Right? 

Lise:  Wow. Because I've never been to Ignite, I've only been to New York in US so it will be cool to go to Ignite, to a conference in the US. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Listeners, yeah. A lot of you are familiar, but Microsoft Ignite is, uh, in, uh, Orlando, Florida. It's the first week of November. It's one of the largest technology shows that Microsoft puts on and IT pros, technical learning. There's podcasts. We do a whole diversity in tech extravaganza, tons of keynotes and all the different Microsoft technologies are featured there as well. So that's, that's the show that we're talking about. And um, yeah, that would be super cool. I hope you, I hope you get to podcast there. That would be amazing. And uh, Orlando in November is not bad. It's nice weather, you know, so, 

Christina:  okay, cool. I love it. I love the states. I used to live in Los Angeles. 

Heather:  Oh, where in Los Angeles? 

Christina:  At Westlake village, Thousand Oaks then Venice beach right next to the Sidewalk Cafe. 

Heather:  Get out of town. Really? 

Christina:  Muscle beach. Yeah. 

Heather:  Yeah. Oh my God. Well, you know, I live in Marina del Rey. 

Christina:  Oh, I love Marina del Rey. 

Heather:  Yeah. Yeah, I was, I'm, I'm in Venice all the time. The front of my building is Marina del Rey and the back of my building is Venice. It's so weird. Um, but yeah, I actually, I live very, uh, yeah. I, I love it. Oh, that's so fun. I had, I know exactly where you lived then. That's so cool. 

Christina:  I started as an au pair in Westlake village, Eh, I was guarding kids for a guy that decorated the Olympic Games in 1984. That was a long time ago. And then, uh, I moved out and was living together with four other girls cleaning houses and having just so much fun. And we just,. 

Lise:  That sounds amazing. 

Christina:  I want to go to LA too. 

Heather:  I know well, you have to come visit me, so yeah, that would be super fun. Yeah, I'm sure you had no fun living with four other girls in Los Angeles. Uh Huh. 

Christina:  Ohhh. 

Lise:  Sounds like boring. 

Heather:  I know. It sounds terrible. Never wanna do that. That is so funny. Yeah. That's awesome. Um, so, oh, go ahead. 

Christina:  Yeah, I just want to say I'm in between jobs right now. I quit my former job and it's a consultancy company, I'm joining another consultancy company in the beginning of September is, I'm quite in between jobs now, but I was so happy when I went in to see and I read information about this new company because you always talk about diversity, Heather and which I think is really interesting and they have an initiative relating to diversity and equality and uh, I was really happy to see this because they have a female network that wants to like highlight WITs like we all are WITs, women in tech. So this is very cool. So they want to rise awareness around this. So I look forward to starting this company and they are only like 400 people. So a bit more to grasp rather than the huge companies I've been to before. So I really look forward to starting this new position. 

Heather:  Congratulations. That's exciting. Yeah. 

Christina:  Thank you. Yeah. 

Heather:  Absolutely. Yeah, I love hearing about that. I was, um, the couple, was it two podcasts ago? Maybe when I, uh, uh, um, Alcia Loach from, uh, the UK, from London. She works for, um, HPE and was telling me all about their programs that they have. And really it's just exciting to see that, you know, we all need a place to get together, you know, and talk about certain things. And I love that, you know, it's, it's, there's, there's the women in tech stuff, you know, there's, and then there's diversity and inclusion in tech and, and then, you know, you're having more conversations also about wellness and mental health. You know? 

Lise:  Yes. Absolutely big focus on that. 

Heather:  Yeah. Yeah. You see that obviously in Sweden. Yeah? 

Lise:  yeah. Totally. Many people here, or like, I don't know what the proper word is, but you know, when you, they burn out, you know, and, yeah. And then the, we all seek to wellness and, uh, it's a lot of trend right now to go like, you know, on travel with the theme, you know, so yeah, you could do a yoga trip or you do like just a, uh, wellness of wellness trips as well. So I think that's a big trend in Sweden. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah. I think it's starting to be a trend all over the world. I mean, here in LA, I mean, you can't look sideways and, you know, there's a yoga studio or you know, somebody is drinking a green drink or getting a, you know, coffee enema, or I don't know. Whatever, you know, but yeah,. 

Lise:  It's getting to be like that here. It's growing really large here. 

Christina:  I'm so hyper. I went down to a Santa Theresa in Eh, um, oh, I lost it in the Central America. Oh yeah, yeah. Costa Rica. 

Heather:  Costa Rica. I had to think for a second, she's talking about, Costa Rica. Yeah. Yeah. 

Christina:  And it was absolutely fantastic. It was like living on a dirt road and with a beautiful sea. And there were yoga studios everywhere and I took yoga and I was, there was this white curtains blowing in the wind and the sea. And I kept on looking at the watch, when is this done? When can I go out of the studio. And it was all set for being soft and nice and calm and yoga. And I was, my body was all stressed, wanted to get out of the studio. 

Heather:  I know we have a hard time slowing down, you know, and turning off our brains and it's so, self-care. I know that's a word right now. It's sort of a buzz word, but I just, it's so important, you know, like yeah. I'm about to go out to the desert for about 12 days myself. Um, and it's a bit self-care. It's a bit rough though as well, but it's definitely something um, I love and I'm very excited to go back. 

Lise:  That sounds so exciting. Can you tell a little bit just about that Heather? 

Heather:  Oh, but about Burning Man? Um, yeah, sure. Um, um, uh,. 

Lise:  I'm so curious about it, yeah. 

Heather:  Um, I, I went for like seven years, starting in 2004. And funnily enough, my friend Denise, who I worked with on the US partner team, that Microsoft was the one who got me the tickets. So, the reason I go to Burning Man is from a Microsoft friend, funnily enough. Um, yeah. And I gotta say that year and the years past that, um, I made some of the closest dearest friends that I have in my life. Um, and my friend Alison who, uh, lives in Chicago, she was like, you stop flying over me because like, you know, she goes, she's mad. She's like, you keep flying over me. And so yeah, she was like, you're coming. And I was like, okay. All right. All right. So I literally, my house is a disaster right now, getting ready for it to be honest. Um, but Burning Man is, um, it's an event out in the middle of the black rock desert. It's two hours north of Reno, Nevada. Um, and it's a prehistoric lake bed and a city is built out there for one week out of the year. Um, people have been out there for the last, you know, couple of like six to eight weeks or so, even longer, building the infrastructure. Um, it's been going on since 1996. Uh, it started in San Francisco when founder, Larry Harvey, um, burned a wooden man on the beach, um, and it kind, people gathered and, um, you know, burning the man can mean a lot of different things, you know, it's like,. 

Lise:  The "man". 

Heather:  Yeah. Um, and yeah, and it's grown and grown and, um, I haven't been in a while. My last one was 2012, I believe. What's crazy, I went and watched a documentary called Spark about Burning Man, which you can, it's on Amazon prime. Um, and that's the last year I went and I'm in the film, which is hilarious, like for a minute, my friend and I was like, oh my God. And I forgot, you know. Um, but yeah, but it's beautiful. Yeah. It's art. It's music. It's, um, the, there's, you know, 10 principles about, you know, radical, uh, uh, like radical self-expression and also, you know, decommodification and participating in a community. Um, leaving, no trace, taking, you know, you gotta take everything in and um, take everything out. And uh, it's my favorite week of the year and I haven't been in a while. And so, um, when we go back, uh, it's called going home, you know. Um, and so I'm very, very excited, um, to get back. 

Lise:  Sounds awesome. 

Heather:  Yeah. You know, when some people dress up in costumes and there's these big dance camps, you'd love it for all the clubs and the music. Like you both would love. 

Lise:  Yeah, I've heard about those. 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. And I've seen many DJs like way before they were, you know, before the EDM craze went nuts. Like I was like, oh, that was Skrillex or oh that was whoever, you know, I know, I actually ended up, I watched Skrillex sitting in a camp chair with like a giant sleeping bag around me cause I was tired, but I wanted to hear it and I pulled a chair out and I sat and like literally then like six other people gathered around me in their chairs while everybody else was like dancing up front. And I was like, I was like, this is awesome. And they're like, yeah, we should start a fire. And I was like, we were just like, very funny. So, yeah. 

Lise:  You must make a lot of connections there, I guess? 

Heather:  Yeah, yeah, you do. Um, you know, it's been awhile since I've been, so when I went, there was no connection out to the outside world. Like there's no WIFI, there's no cell phones. So you're really truly off the grid, which I love about it. Yeah. And you know, like people talk about work but not, it's not, you know, it is networking. 

Lise:  Oh, I didn’t mean about work, I mean like social. 

Heather:  yeah, yeah, yeah. Completely. Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. And um, yeah, I mean I, I will get to see friends from all over the world, uh, when I go, you know, and that I only maybe even see at Burning Man or once, you know, like, you know, sort of like seeing you too, you know, we see each other, you know, at the European SharePoint conference. And so, yeah, I am, I'm so excited to go and, um, to do that. You two would love it. You should go sometime, you know? 

Lise:  Yeah, I will. Totally. I love adventure. Also. Always the things I don't know of. I love that. 

Heather:  Are you both, are you both PADI certified? Are you both scuba divers? 

Lise:  I am. 

Christina:  No, no. 

Lise:  I took it in the Indian Ocean actually. It was really cool. And I saw a shark there. This blacktip reef shark while we were diving was like so amazing. I'm like what I can’t believe how lucky I was to see that actually at the same time. 

Heather:  That's amazing. Yeah. Yeah. 

Lise:  Do you have also PADI? 

Heather:  I do. I do. Yeah. I, yeah, I haven't been in a bit, but I, I learned in Maui in Hawaii, so, aw. 

Lise:  That's one of my bucket lists. 

Heather:  All right, well I know people there, so when you go, let me know. For sure. Yeah. Um, well I'm going to take us to our last question. Yeah, yeah. Okay, cool. So, um, I, as you know, I always ask people, and I'm interested in what and for, to share with our listeners, you know, what person or occurrence or something that sparked you that led you on the path you're on today. So if you wouldn't mind sharing love that, uh, Lise, I'll put you on the spot. Do you want to start? 

Lise:  Yeah. Okay. Sure. Well, for me, I don't think it has been a particular person. Uh, for me it has always been my own energy, my curiosity and also a lust for adventure and the drive. You know, I, I kind of do things first and then I think after what's happened there. So I, I'm not afraid to put myself in a little bit difficult situations and a few things excite me more than when I have no idea what's going to happen next. Like when I moved across the world to another part of the world and that was scary. Cool. And totally exciting in one and I mean, it turned out just fine. So I can't say. And then I meet people along the way who gives me a lot of energy, you know, Christina and all these lovely people I have around me. So they, they kind of give me a spark. But I think when it comes to the end of the day, it's like your own path, and your own energy that makes things happen. 

Heather:  Cool. Yeah. I love that. Fantastic. You're a spark. How about that? Ah,. 

Lise:  Thank you, you too. 

Heather:  Thank you. Christina, how about you Q? What's your spark? You're welcome, Hun. Yeah. 

Christina:  Um, I'm a little bit like Lise. It's not, just an occurrence or anybody in particular, but, um, I sort of change track every seven years, but it's not like, like a told myself to do it, but I've always changed track before I get a grumpy and then, yeah. And so. 

Lise:  that's a good thing. It is a good thing. 

Christina:  Yeah. And I dare to change track as well rather than to stay safe. I also, I think possibly it could be my energy that sort of gave me all these opportunities and uh, yeah. And I had just met some body, uh, like Lise for example when I was applying for a new job than I thought I said to myself, if we are getting along, I'll, I'll take the job. And, um, we were, so that's one person that I met and also my bosses I told you in, in the technical department who believed in me that I could do something else but pouring coffee or so, uh, uh, yeah. Yeah. 

Heather:  You're a spark too there. Okay. You know, I love it that you both looked inward towards yourselves for that. That's so, that's super cool. You know, like, we don't, we don't always do that, you know, I mean, we all are influenced by tons of people and we, you know what I mean? But we also like, uh, recognizing and celebrating yourself I think is really, really cool and really important. So thank you for that. That's, that's really, 

Lise:  Thank you. And that's what you're going to do at Burning Man, isn't it? A little bit like, 

Heather:  yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, there's a really, there's a famous 

Lise:  Sorry, I can't, I can stop talking about this Burning Man. I'm so fascinated by it. 

Heather:  That happens a lot. That does this a lot. 

Lise:  Heather, can you promise me to talk about this? Your experience there in some podcasts, moving on in the Mavens Do It Better. 

Heather:  I promise. Yes. 

Lise:  Cool, I look forward to the report. 

Heather:  Okay. Yes, I will. I will write up the report for sure. No, absolutely. Yeah, no, I think, I think we all need, Oh, I don't know, renewal, right. Where, you know, we doubt ourselves and we get down or something happens or whatever. And you know, it's like looking, I think you can look inward, you can look to other people and look to the like beautiful places like Costa Rica or whatever. Right. To reignite, reignite ourselves. Right. And, and I think it's about making choices to do that. Right. Because a lot of people just don't, and they sit, and I don't know, it's like, who wants to be sad and depressed all the time? I mean, you know, I get, I have my moments, right. We all do, but it's just, God, it's a, life is short, right? 

Christina:  Yeah. I believe of the inner power and being your own Goldsmith, you know? 

Heather:  Oh yeah. I love that. Wow. Yeah. I can talk to you too, for like another, like three hours. 

Christina:  I know. I don't want to stop talking actually. It's a great conversation. I'm like, I want to go, but you are welcome to our podcast also, Heather. 

Heather:  I would love swapsies. Yes, let's do it. I would love that. Yeah. I wish I was there so I could come meet you somewhere. But I think it's Kinda late at night for that, isn't it? 

Lise:  It's 12 o'clock in the night here now. 

Heather:  We've just reached the witching hour with you two. Hahaha. It's kind of perfect. 

Lise:  A lot of things can happen. 

Heather:  Yeah, I know. I know. There's a lot of trouble to be had with this trifecta of women. I think so. That's for sure. But anyway, well, cool. Well, I just wanted to say, uh, thank you both for, um, for us chasing each other to get this done. Yeah. And, and then also just your being awesome in what you bring to the world and being sparks and sharing a podcast with everybody. It's super cool. Really. 

Lise:  thank you so much for having us. It's been great to be on the show and I love your podcast too. So, I mean, I subscribed to it and you got to do it. Yeah. So thank you very much. 

Christina:  Thank you, Heather, and thank you for being such a lovely, uh, ambassador for us and the community. yeah, thank you so much, 

Heather:  You bet, thank you. I, I appreciate that. So you welcome and yay. So awesome. All right, well that was wonderful. Christina Gibson and Lise, Lise Rasmussen. I gave you a Lise, Lise, ha ha. From the WIT Girls podcast. And so do check out the WIT Girls podcast, subscribe and follow them on their fun Instagram. And this has been another Mavens Do It Better podcast and you can find us on all the usual suspect places on iTunes, on Spotify, on stitcher, and Google play. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks everybody. 

Episode 50: Tech Maven Sasja Beerendonk

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. I could not be more excited to have a colleague and friend on today, all the way from Amsterdam, not Amsterdam, Rotterdam. I almost messed that, up from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Sasja Beerendonk, and maybe you should say your gorgeous name for everybody.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Hello everybody. I think you, you did it really well, but yeah, Sasja Beerendonk. Maybe a bit, a bit of slightly different accent.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Awesome. Are you actually in, in Rotterdam today?

Sasja Beerendonk:  I am, yeah. I actually live in Rotterdam. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yep, that's right. Yes. So, so Sasja and I, funnily enough, did not meet there. Uh, we met in South Africa, so

Sasja Beerendonk:  We did. Yeah. We did. Where they, where they also speak sort of Dutch.

Heather Newman:  Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, Sasja is, um, she's a digital innovation evangelist. Uh, she's an expert in user adoption and change management. So we know each other through the tech community and I got to see her speak in South Africa and I was blown away. Um, you are an amazing speaker. Truly. I was so,.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Thank you.

Heather Newman:  You're welcome. I was, I was so impressed. Yeah. Um, tell everybody a little bit about that session will ya? Um, that you gave in South Africa, cause it was super cool.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Sure. Um, yeah, I did, I did a session, um, in South Africa and uh, and folks were just sort of, uh, blown away that I would just come over for that. But, uh, it was, uh, it was a great, great SharePoint Saturday, I have to really say. One of the better ones I've been to so far. Um, yeah, but my session was, well of course everything is always around the topic of Office 365 having people use it more effectively. But this particular one was around, uh, co-authoring documents, um, using modern technology like Teams, OneDrive and also Office, um, features that a lot of people are just usually not aware of. So, um, what I tried to do there is showing people how you can, um, you know, get, get better at doing something, a process rather than, than doing a tool. So that's why it was a combination of tools and, and particularly changing behavior.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I think that's what I liked most about it is that, you know, we often get into these technology discussions and it's about, you know, features and it's, um, about, you know, the technology. And what I loved about it, and I try to do this in my presentations as well, is really showing that human side, the behavioral side of looking into people how, how they actually use software with use cases. And I loved how you did that. Yeah. Um, and let's see. So, we, uh, so after we met, uh, and had that great experience in South Africa, thank you all to everyone who put on that SharePoint Saturday, um, we, uh, Sasja said, hey, you want to come to Rotterdam? And I was like, well, yes, I love the Netherlands so I would love to do that. And, and you work for a company called Silverside and so she invited me to come to an end user adoption workshop, um, where they went over their pace, uh, methodology. And I, I was blown away by that too. I mean, you just have such a neat way of sort of thinking through things. Will you tell everybody about Pace a little bit and what that's about. The workshop was amazing.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Sure. Well, thanks again and I was really so, so thrilled that you said yes I'll come and joined us and provided us with, you know, lots of, um, interaction and, and fun and, and feedback. Pace is the methodology we developed at Silverside for doing user adoption. And it's, it's, it's particularly linked to technology and aimed mostly at Office 365, but it's, it's really not so much about a specific technology that, you know, that's, that's all the, the, that the end results of things of course will show up things using things in Office 365, but it's a, it's basically a methodology. The acronyms, p a c e stands for prepare, activate, capitalize, and enhance, which is just four stages across time, that combines a combination of eight different streams, um, around particular, um, expertise that you need to combine together across those four stages to really, um, have people, uh, in, in an organization adopt new technology.

Sasja Beerendonk:  So, it's got, it's got all kinds of streams basically in entwined. None more important than the other. Um, but all equally important. Um, and, and the, and the, and also interdependent to each other. So for example, there's of course the technology to consider. There's communications to consider. Um, there's a, the, the project guidance to consider, but we also combine a lot of stuff around culture and behavior, in those, uh, in, in the model as a stream that all interacts together to, um, yeah, for that one result. Help people embrace new technology in an effective way.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And you all, you've been at Silverside a long time now, so like about seven or eight years, maybe?

Sasja Beerendonk:  A little less. Five and a half. Yeah. But yeah, but good, but still quite a while. Yeah. We've, we've been doing this, this methodology for a while, um, mostly at our own clients and, um, and we felt it was time to make it more broadly available and also, uh, expand to, to train others in, um, in embracing that same methodology to be applied to their customers or, or even and customers that have their own change practitioners in house.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And it, and it marries so nicely with what Microsoft is putting out, you know, around user adoption. You know, I think, you know, the pillars or the, I guess acronyms may be just slightly different, but I think like as far as just sort of the phases, I definitely think that the, it marries and maps so nicely, you know, so that folks can, you know, continue to leverage what Microsoft is putting out, but also just what you have. It's just so, it seems so comprehensive to me, which is what I loved about it. We did this great game where we, um, took a little kind of poker chips or, you know, play money and we put it on this large grid to see where we would spend in the different sections. And it was so interactive, you know, everybody was out of their chairs and you know, discussing, you know, where you would spend on the different areas. I loved that piece of it. I love the interactivity of what you all bring to the table. Yeah.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah. I love to do it. I really wanted to not just, just, you know, give people lots of information but really make it, make it as interactive and fun as possible. Cause it's a long day to be otherwise just learning new stuff. And I still, I think, it was still maybe pretty, pretty tough for some, maybe more than for others. Um, but yeah, you have to keep it fun and interactive.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. That, and there were cards, like little flash cards for it, so yeah. It's really, yeah. So for those of you in the, in the technology space, um, the methodology is super cool and it'd be something to check out on their website and we'll make sure and put that in the show notes. But, uh, it's silverside.nl, is that right? Or is it.com?

Sasja Beerendonk:  It's both.

Heather Newman:  It's both. Okay. Yeah, I figured. Right on, that's great. Well, I'm gonna pitch around a bit. Um, so I know from your background, um, you know, I was a theater major turned, you know, into technology and, uh, you started out, uh, in history.

Sasja Beerendonk:  That's correct. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Talk about that. Talk about your humble beginnings. How did history merge into technology for you?

Sasja Beerendonk:  It may not sound very logical at first, although I do see a lot of trainers and people in the more, in the, what they tend to call the softer sciences. They tend to come from, from all kinds of backgrounds, uh, and, and, and hardly ever from, from, uh, from computer technology, kind of, um, studies. Um, yeah, so I, I studied, um, to become a history teacher. I thought that's what I wanted. Um, and I finished it. Um, but there were really no jobs at the time when I finished studying for that field. I mean there was some jobs and it was like, you know, replacing somebody who was on pregnancy leave and then there would be 500 applicants and at the same time I'd already started during my studies and this was like, I can't even remember when it was like in the 90s. And, you know, computers, for young people listening, they may not understand this, but the Internet was new. We just had www, you know, I mean, we don't have that even anymore now, but that it became visual. That was a new thing.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. I, you and I are around the same age ish. So like I like I was looking at your history of your college. I was like, yeah, I remember doing about the same time. So yeah.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, I think so. Yes. So, it was all very new with, with IT and basically I saw great things happening with IT in the field of history as well. Like museums were trying to open up virtually and libraries were becoming available online, um, you know, all that sort of stuff. Archives. So, so I sort of enroll into, into that a little bit, trying to do my thesis around how to use IT for education. And I also did something with, with some schools in a, in a city called Delft, which is a rich historical city. With the, you know, with, uh, lots of places to visit. So we, we did things interactively building things online with the children around history. So I'm basically rolling to IT a little bit. And then when there were no jobs for history teaching, there were loads of job for training in IT. So that's how I sort of stumbled into it. But mind you, not the kind of training that I'm doing today. I mean, this was like teaching people Windows and PowerPoint and Word. They still probably should be teaching folks those things. But we're not.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah, I know. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean kind of the, it leads to sort of the, you know, you and, um, myself and Tracy van der Schyff, uh, talk a lot about digital literacy and PC literacy and your presentation I think really sort of touches on that of like, you know, she always, she always says, uh, about the Windows logo on the keyboard, that that's not just like a pretty button. You know, that, that actually does things, you know, and I do think that we, we make assumptions about, you know, people's just computer skills, you know, and most of the time we, we, we barely scratch the surface of sort of all the power that's there for us because we're so busy just trying to get the job done. That Like trying to take a moment to like get there is really tough. Yeah. And Yeah.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, absolutely. That's what I tend to choose to also joke about to people who come to my sessions that IT people think that other people love their computers and IT, but, but they don't. They, you know, they're not, they may not even hate it. It doesn't have to be like that, but they're not like, oh, wow, a computer and let's, let's try and find out things. It's a means to an end and they've got other things to do.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, all the time. Yeah. So when, so, you were looking for work, what was your first job in IT?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Um, well if you consider that training then that, that was my first job. Doing training in IT. Um, but then after that, doing that for a while, and then you had the whole, um, Internet bubble. So then the jobs became less in the, in the IT world actually. But, so, I didn't make the best bet, I guess. Um, no, but then, then I moved into, into a company, which was great, and I've been there for 10 years, E Office. Um, and, and there we really started working on user adoption. Um, so that, I would consider that to have been my really first job in IT was an IT company. Um, but I, I was specializing in user adoption and that was in the days that hardly any other organization was doing, it was a very new, new, new field. The only work person I knew who was doing something around user adoption was Michael Sampson who wrote about it.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yes. And you gave us copies of his books and I, I had heard that name before, but that's, yeah, I mean, he's kind of the Grandfather of that, not that he's a grandfather, but maybe he is.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yes. I think he is. Sorry, Michael, if you're not.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Right. But the grandfather of end user adoption for sure. You know, I mean, yeah, he was definitely the first person that was, that was, uh, doing all of that stuff. And, yeah. And, and, and uh, yeah, it's interesting that, you know, after so many years of just sort of like, let's renew licenses that we've sort of gotten to a place where it's like, no, actually let's not just renew licenses or add seats, but let's actually really make sure that we're productive and that you're, you're not wasting money by bringing in a piece of software and then not teaching people how to use it. That's I, I find that so exciting as well. You know, I think it's a really good thing.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Absolutely. And I think, I think, um, you know, the last year or two we've really seen an uptake in that where, where Microsoft is really understanding it, that that's what it's all about and it's, it's a very mature world in, in the meantime, in the field of user adoption. Yeah, that's right.

Heather Newman:  So, I know you're a busy person in, you know, running around speaking and you know, dealing with clients and you know, you have a life and all of that. How do you, you live in such a beautiful place and thank you again for the invitation. It was so nice to be there. Rotterdam, if you haven't been, it's just, it's, you know, it's surrounded by water and it's just boats and great places to eat and all that. How, how do you, you know, unplug and, uh, find some balance? What's, what's your, what's your ways of that?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, I'm kind of a, a run or stop kind of girl. So there's sort of no, no in between, for me. And so I either run or I'm completely still and flat, but uh, yeah. So, so what, what I do like a lot is, uh, is, is, is going outside with my dog. So that's the best unwinding that, that you can have because, um, you know, you just, you're just not dealing with anything else when you're just walking outside and, and making a connection. So for me, that definitely, yeah. Going out with (dog's name) in the outdoors.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And where did you grow up?

Sasja Beerendonk:  I grew up literally under this smoke of Schiphol airport, in a place. I grew up in Hoofddorp. So whenever you, whenever you've landed in Schiphol anybody, basically they say Amsterdam Airport, but it really is Hoofddorp airport, when it's geographically located. So yeah, that's, that's a tiny place, um, where my mom also grew up and my dad grew up in a village next door. Um, so yeah, small village. Um, but, but still, you know, it's not, not far away in it was a densely populated area. Close to, to Amsterdam. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I think Schiphol is a small, a small town. Yeah. I think Schiphol is probably one of the cleanest airports I've ever been to in my life. Like it's so well signed and it's such a nice place. And I, uh, for a while when I was living in Seattle, Continental Airlines, uh, that does not exist anymore, had this great flight from Seattle to Amsterdam. And so I, uh, seemed to, whenever I was coming over to Europe for Microsoft events, I was, uh, it was just easier for me to always stop in Amsterdam and, and then go on. And so I think out of all the cities in Europe, I think I have been to Amsterdam the most because I always did at least like a day or two in out to get sort of like acclimated on the end of every trip.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Okay. So then you actually also go into Amsterdam.

Heather Newman:  Yes. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I spoke.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Not just the airport.

Heather Newman:  Correct. Yeah. I would go in and either stay with friends or whatever. It's just such a rich, beautiful place. I think I saw the Banksy exhibit the last time I was there. Which was super cool. Um, yeah. Do you, are you, are you a, an art person or, or theater and music and all of that stuff? Is that something that's in your wheel house in Rotterdam?

Sasja Beerendonk:  I wouldn't say I'm a big art person. Um, um, I do like, uh, I do like music, I mean who doesn't like music. Um, and I, I used to play guitar and I play a little bit of drums. I don't do that too much, but, uh, but I, I do like making music for sure. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah. And you know, I, we, uh, we've sort of talked a bit about, you know, I, as you know, I speak and talk a lot about the diversity and inclusion and, uh, I know that, uh, you've been, we've had conversations about that and I was curious how you feel about sort of in Europe, the state of diversity and inclusion today, you know, of what you're seeing and any trends that are coming out or, um, anything that you feel is like, kind of top of mind in that area.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah. I'm not sure if I can speak for the whole of Europe. Let's try the Netherlands.

Heather Newman:  Fine, fine, fine, the Netherlands. Okay, I was reaching a little far, but you're an authority.

Sasja Beerendonk:  It's funny because, um, if you look at any American based company for any, um, um, job ad or, um, events, this is a topic, you know, um, even in job ads, it says that they're, they're, they're inclusive. Um, and it, I don't think, I mean, I don't think most Dutch people actually even know the term very well unless they maybe deal with, with America. Um, it, it's not a, it's not a thing that is so, um, as a, as a concept is on top of mind. Um, I mean it may be that the more of the what it actually is about of course is happening, but it's not so much of a topic as it is, I think in America. We're probably going to be, you know, we're probably just lagging behind, which, which often is the case with these things. These, these trends tend to come and then, and we'll probably catch on in a few years where it's becoming more, but you definitely would not see a Dutch company, uh, jobs, ad post, anything like that. That's not to say we are completely not digitally, not inclusive, but it's not on, you know, there's not screaming about it. And I also think that American women are more into careers than it is the case in the Netherlands. I think we're also lagging behind there.

Heather Newman:  Hmm. Okay. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it depends. It's, it's all very, I mean, I asked you about Europe, which I think is silly, so sorry, but like, but, but it is, you know, it's like, it's like your own neighborhood or your own businesses or your own friends. Is where you kind of see all of those things happen. So thanks that view into that. Um, I know you're also, you're, you are a writer and author as well. What, what, what, where can people find you? Do you have a blog and, or are you, do you have other books in there? I know that you produce content as well.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, I do. Well, you can find things of course, through my social media channels on Twitter or LinkedIn. Yeah. Um, um, and, and I've got a blog, um, on, on, on the silverside.com website that you can find lots of eBooks and blogs. Um, I don't actually have a personal one. I tried it for a while and then, and then I stopped because it was just, you know, posting double things. So yeah, most of them are probably just on the, on the Silverside website. Yeah. And I do love, um, I'm creating content in that way as well and trying to engage people and trying to, to find a different angle, maybe to things then what others may be doing.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And where, um, where are you speaking? Coming up or, or you, are you hosting more workshops or what, what's sort of the future look like for you in the next bit?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, so the, the future is I'm going to make some trips. I'm going to be in Germany in October, November. I've got, um, what Paris coming up in December. One Workplace. Uh, I think I'll be in Barcelona in September. So there is a few things that, um, they are coming up.

Heather Newman:  How about vacation? Are we taking any vacation?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Ha! I just had a week and a half off. But I have actually been painting my house so I had to, so I didn't go away.

Heather Newman:  Right. You did a staycation or a work staycation. Huh?

Sasja Beerendonk:  I did. Yeah, I did. So, but I had some help and it was, it was, it was fun, but it was very, it was very due, so yeah. So it had to be renewed and, I don't mind it. I mean, so yeah. So I had a week and a half off and I think I spent four days painting.

Heather Newman:  The rest with the dog outside. Yeah.

Sasja Beerendonk:  The rest with the dog outside. Correct. Yes.

Heather Newman:  That is awesome. Yeah. And I'm excited, so Sasja and I were talking and uh, so she, uh, very generously invited me to co-speak with her at, uh, the, the Paris event, the Modern Workplace event in Paris in December.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yup.

Heather Newman:  We're going to work on that. What's the name of our session? How about that?

Sasja Beerendonk:  So maybe when I get, now they think that I'm all in charge of something, people are going to get wrong idea. Um, so what happened here was I had a session accepted and you were like, yeah, and I was supposed to submit something, but I wasn't in time. So that's why I said, just join my session. And we'll just change it and make it to uh, yeah, it is both of ours.

Heather Newman:  Yes. Okay. Fair enough.

Sasja Beerendonk:  But it's called Facebook Never Needed Adoption - Why Does Office 365? So, yeah, so we need to, um, we need to see, um, you know what you have to say about that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, well, you know, I love, yeah, I know. And I, I had seen, I had looked up the topics so I didn't not know exactly, but I wanted you to say it cause I don't, I didn't have it in front of me, but, um, but yeah, I love that. I mean it's kind of, um, Facebook didn't need adoption. You know, Google has no, you know, instructions on how to use it as a search engine. And I, I do love that. I think, um, it'll be fun to talk about sort of, you know, how it's kind of like how people put things out into the world, you know?

Sasja Beerendonk:  And what I find interesting is, um, because the title is the way I normally do the session. I mean, we can do, of course whatever we want it to be, but the way I normally do the session, it's also a bit of a double title because does Facebook really not need adoption is also, you know, you can also question that. People may not always be using it wisely, but also I think these, these public consumer based tools, they do adoption, but they call it marketing.

Heather Newman:  Yes, we do. I'm speaking with my, my, my CMO hat on. Yeah, no, that's absolutely true. I mean, I feel like, you know, it's, it's, uh, it's cloaked, right? Instead of calling it end user adoption, you, um, you know, put together a content marketing plan and ads and all of that stuff and get people, I think it's more, it's about excitement of what you can do with something. Right?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah. That's a big part of it. And then, and that marketing part, which we tend to then call the communication part in adoption, but that's really also partly, it's also marketing to the employees, um, you know, setting certain, certain stage and certain mindset and certain need. Yeah. So it's definitely, there's definitely, um, you know, similar aspects to it. And I also think in marketing, especially in online tools, a lot of them are of course brilliant, especially when you, when you look at mobile apps. They're actually brilliant at behavioral science, which is also a big aspect of user adoption. You know, there's many things that I see the same there because Facebook is making me addicted, um, by having these badges that I see others, that's again something new. And I'm, I'm wanting to scroll down the newsfeed and see if there's anything more new. So it's, it's, that's all based on behavioral science. And I try to do that also in the user adoption to try and see how can you make people want to use it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I, you know, uh, I had, uh, a customer recently, um, because when we deploy Content Panda out to customers, we will, you know, we obviously train them, but you know, it's, it's pretty much you click the panda, you know, it's really, it's kind of one or two clicks, right? To get that in context help and training and, um, but you know, some people are like, why is there a panda on my screen? You know what I mean? Like, like a panda all of a sudden it shows up and they're like, what the heck is that right? So, you know, there is a bit of, you know, rollout that needs to happen with anything, right. A bit. I mean, you could also just roll it out and have somebody click it and be like, oh, that's super cool, but that doesn't necessarily drive that usage and adoption that you want. I do find that some of the most innovative ideas around that often come from our clients. You know, where they'll all of a sudden be like, hey, we, we just, you know, we did a campaign and I'll often, um, work with folks in or if, if they want to, you know, we have all those templates and stuff up on our site, but like, people will create their own videos, you know, and share them with us and be like, hey, we created this, you know, around the panda and it's this or that. And like some of that, it's the, it's like the fun stuff, it seems to me. Or the gamification or the, that group think of like, I want to be included in this, that's some of that behavioral stuff. I mean, do you find that, you know, when you're going through the Pace methodology and stuff that like that people will sort of take it and then run with it and, and do they, do they then share with you like some of those fun ideas that they, that they come up with?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, they do. Yeah. Through the workshop, the Pace workshop, but also through sometimes through presentations. People tend to sometimes really get completely blown away with certain concepts on a slide and then there'll be saying like, oh yeah, I've been using it at my client, or clients saying that , yeah, no, I'm using, I'm using it, but I'm mentioning you, that it's yours. So yeah, people tend to run away with things and then, and then, you know, I get, get excited about it and, and start using it and that's fun.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I love that and I really love that you all as a company decided to share, you know what I mean? Like I think that there's all kinds of, I guess what I would say coopetition you know, where we're all, you know, working in a similar space, but I love that about you all inviting people who do this do similar things or, or who have products that are in the similar ilk so that we can all share and help each other and use best practices. I really, kudos to you all for doing that.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, you're welcome. It's, it's sort of, I, I feel that way, you know, about like adopt and embrace with Daryl Webster and other folks, you know, um, in the, in the space who are just so willing, like we all talk to each other, you know, that's what I like about it. And it's like, oh, well that's super cool. I'm going to bring that in. And, and often, you know, like we give shout outs to each other too, which I think is super cool too. It's like we're all in this together, you know?

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, it is. Yeah. Yes, that's what I meant with it's so mature, this field, um, within the technology sectors and that's, so there's so many great people now, you know, wanting to talk about this and share and that's just making it, it's just making it go to a higher level. So that's cool.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Absolutely. No, I really like that too. So, yeah, again, big thank you. It was, I really enjoyed my time there and I got to stay in that beautiful hotel that, uh, the, the old Canard building. That was amazing too. I was like, this is one of the coolest hotels I've ever stayed in.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah. It is a cool hotel. Hotel New York, which is a very old building where the ships used to go sail to America for all the people who are seeking new dreams. So that's quite panicle.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, it was a, it had a really good energy. I really liked that place, so that was cool. Um, so you know, for you, uh, there's always I think a spark or something that led you to where you are, be it a person or a situation or something. And I always love to know kind of what, what maybe one, I know it's hard to pinpoint one, but one maybe spark that kind of led you to where you are today, that something you would share with our audience.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Wow. Yeah. That's, that's, I was dreading this question. One spark that where you are today. There's, of course, many, many, many of these moments in your life. Like turning moments.

Heather Newman:  Yes. You can share more than one, it's all good.

Sasja Beerendonk:  We mentioned it before, but I think when I read the user adoption strategies by Michael Samson was definitely a defining moment in my life. So, when it comes to my work field, having read that book that was, it was just sort of finally someone is putting some thought in this and, you know, it's, it's, it's based on research and um, it seems to make sense. It really was very new at the time. Yeah. And that was a turning moment for me, reading that and then starting to apply whatever he wrote into, uh, into my work and it's definitely, it's definitely helped me to get where I am today.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. How about another moment, like a non-work one? Anything come to mind?

Sasja Beerendonk:  A non-work one. Well, you know, it may sound silly to folks who are not into dogs, but, but definitely Logic coming into my life has been a defining, uh, point. So, my dog. Um, because, um, she, she's taught me so much about being patient and about being sensitive and cause it's, it's a very particular dog. She's got lots of fears and since she, you know, she's, she's, uh, she's, she's, she hasn't had a, a steady start. Um, so, you know, we adopted her. Um, but um, yeah, so, so she taught me, she's basically everything that I am not so, um, except for slim and beautiful of course.

Heather Newman:  You are, all of those.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Definitely know what I am. She, she, she really taught me a lot and it's ended up, and the nice thing is, of course, she didn't want to teach me. Um, you know, it wasn't a conscious thing, but it's, it's how you have to really go down. So just to give you an example, she's, she's very much afraid of things and her trust can be very easily broken. So there were times where it was difficult and getting her back on the leash again. She listens perfectly, but when there's like a little tension or she's not sure what is the meaning of something, then you may not be able to get her back on the leash. And I remember this one moment, so when we're talking about defining moments where I was remembered there's one moment she, and again, she didn't want to, and I remember thinking to myself, okay, Sasja, just let it go. Right. She's not coming now. Just let it go. And the moment I decided that for myself and I took a load off, she came down next to me, sat down and I could put her on the leash. It's, you know, the moment that you don't want it, that's when it happens. When you can let go and just be with the moment.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That is sage advice. And it applies to so many things. And I think, I know I have a dog as well who's, um, who was not living with me right now, but, um, and I've had two, well actually I've had three dogs in my life and yeah, they're huge teachers, you know, and, and they're, so like I, I would, I would put a pivotal moment for me of, of different moments with the dogs I've had too, you know, for sure. And I love that letting go, cause man, we hold on to things, you know, we just, you know, sometimes we have a stranglehold, so much on so many different aspects of our life. And sometimes when you do let go it, it's like, oh, wait a minute, there's the answer or there's the thing. That is awesome. Oh my goodness. Those are, those are awesome. Wow, very cool. Um, Gosh, well, so you and I are gonna see each other definitely in December in Paris, which I'm super excited about. And, uh, yeah, so folks we'll have a session there. So, uh, come see us. Uh, pretty please. Um, well, uh, do you, do you speak French? I don't speak French.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Not, no, not much. I mean I can probably get by ordering something in a restaurant and that's about it.

Heather Newman:  Me as well. Okay. All right. Fair enough. You know what's so funny, I've been playing with a pen and it, it is the, it is actually the new, the Hotel New York pen and I didn't even realize that. That's so funny.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Oh really?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, totally. I was writing and I was like, oh wait a minute. Look at that. That's hilarious. That's awesome. Well, cool. Well I just appreciate your time and your friendship and your colleague-ship and um, it's, it's such a delight to talk to you and share some of who you are with our listeners. I appreciate you coming on today.

Sasja Beerendonk:  And I want to thank you for having me and I think it's a, it's a great job that you're doing with the podcast. I've listened to several and it's always a lot of fun and uh, it, it's awesome.

Heather Newman:  Thank you.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Yeah, thanks.

Heather Newman:  I appreciate that. Okay, well Sasja Beerendonk. Yay.

Sasja Beerendonk:  There you go. Yay!

Heather Newman:  I had to say it with a little oomph, so there we go. So thanks again so much for being on.

Sasja Beerendonk:  Thank you, Heather.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Everyone that has been another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. You can find us on iTunes, on Stitcher, on Spotify, and on the Mavens Do It Better website. And uh, here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks everyone.


Episode 49: Poetry Maven Carron Little

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts that bring a light to our world. I could not be more excited to have a wonderful, wonderful artist on today. Carron Little and she came to me from dear friend Alison Gerlach out of Chicago. And, so we've been sort of chasing each other a little bit and I'm so excited to, you and I are busy women, so we're trying to get on a podcast and hello and thank you for coming on today. 

Carron Little:  Well, thank you for inviting me, Heather. Thank you so much. 

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. So you know, I know that, you know, Alison works, you know, in the Chicago cultural world and you do as well and you know, you're an artist in your own right and an educator and all of that. And how did you and Allison meet? I think that'd be fun for folks to know. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. So, actually it was at a conference that the Department of Cultural Affairs organized called Public Heart. And we were both attendees. But I had, I'd heard of her through a mutual friend of mine and, and the work that she's doing, so I was already familiar and I think, you know, because we both work in public performance as well, you know, there was, uh, a synchronicity there already in terms of the work that we're doing and our philosophies as well. So yeah, that was the, the spark to the beginning of the friendship. 

Heather Newman:  That's wonderful. Yeah. She's one of my dearest friends in the whole world and we're always saying, oh my goodness, you need to meet this person or have them on your podcast and all of that. We do a lot of sharing of goodness. So it's always, a big shout out to you, sweetheart. Yay. And you're the founder of Out of Site Chicago. Will you talk about that a little bit? I know that's your company. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. So, I started Out of Site and 2011 as a means of, um, really taking culture, uh, to the streets and, um, bringing, taking culture out of the museums and into public space and, and engaging the public and dialogue, in critical discourse. So we create, we prioritize interactive public performances because we're interested in like really facilitating a direct conversation with the public and people that wouldn't normally enter a museum context and really thinking about. And, and the other thing that I did was also to think about creating a funding structure, uh, to support artists in their practice. Because at that moment in time, a lot of performance artists in the city were working for free and not feeling, um, very supported. So, so it was also to create a support structure and then as part of that funding structure to also invite international artists so we could really build the performance dialogue, um, beyond the city and create opportunities for local artits and, um, facilitate more diverse conversations about practice with relationship to performance. And, um, yeah, really thinking about how public, you're breaking. I mean, what's quite unique about Out of Site is the methodology that I've used to facilitate the public performances. So we have a steward team who are in place to facilitate a critical discourse with the public. And, um, there, there as a support between, like a mediator, between the artist and the public because often, you know, when you come across performance art, it's like this weirdest thing happening on the streets. Um, so, you know, we really wanted rather than just confront people with the shock of what they are seeing, we really wanted to create space where they would unpack it and uh, create, you know, create a conversation to go deeper, um, into the ideas that the artist is thinking about and investigating. 

Heather Newman:  Right. That's great. I mean, so you're, you've created a methodology and I love it that you're advocating for, you know, fair wages and, and that's part of, you know, you're, you work in sort of public art policy as well in the city of Chicago as well. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. Yeah. So I sit on, I was invited on to the arts committee for Wicker Park Bucktown in 2010. And I've really, you know, from the get-go, I, um, created policies, um, and advocated for all the money to go directly to artists. Prior to that, often the money that is allocated to the arts and the neighborhoods was going to like one consulting firm. And, um, so we, uh, so I really like, we started creating RFPs so people knew we had the money. You know, so really putting in the basic infrastructure to make sure the artists knew about the opportunities and could apply for funding, but then also creating, um, minimum amounts. So, um, thinking about what does it cost for a muralist to, to live and produce the mural that might take two weeks or a month, you know, it's not just about paying for the materials. You've got to pay for the labor time and for their living expenses while they're doing the work. So really kind of, so I lobbied a lot in the early days, um, to create a minimum, um, in terms of our budgeting, uh, which, uh, we've raised over the years, I'm happy to say, cause that's an ongoing conversation about how we, how we kind of increase our wages with the rise in living standard. You know, and um, so and then also, and then when I was artist and resident for the cultural center, I thought, well, as artist and resident, I should, I could actually kind of write some policy. Although I was doing my work. I was like, oh, I could also like advocate for others so then I, one day I just happened to sit down and write this paper of all the policies that I'd created for the neighborhoods. And then quite, um, accidentally I went in to rehearse that evening at the cultural center and the deputy cultural commissioner said to me, ooh Caron, could I have a paper with all the policies you've written for Wicker Park? On my desk by tomorrow morning. And I was like, okay, actually I just wrote it today. I quickly went home after rehearsal, edited it and sent it over. And then they adopted those policies, you know, within the next, you know, within months. So, you know, I do think it's really important that artists sit on funding committees. I'm the only one sitting on our committee. And so often now I'm in the position where they'll look to me to actually decide how much something is funded. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I mean, yeah, even, you know, art is, I, uh, I was a theater major in Seattle, but I think, I think we talked about this or you know this from Alison, is I grew up outside of Chicago. And so when I was a teenager, I would, um, tell my parents I was going to go to the mall and I would drive into the city and I would go to the art institute and I would sit in the impressionist room and stare at that Paris Street, Rainy Day, beautiful painting and the Chagall Windows. And I, you know, like I wasn't, you know, back in the alley, I was at the art museum. Um, but I do think, you know, there's a, 

Carron Little:  My kind of woman. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. There is a business to art, you know, and there's policy and all of it. And I do think I agree with you 100% that, you know, if we're not in positions to make the rules and make the, you know, policies, then that's left to other people's hands. And we know what happens sometimes when it's left to other people, you know. So I love that, you know, you're an artist, but you also obviously, you know, it's another gift that you bring to the world as an artist of the business of the art, right? Or the business of being an artist. And, and I'm sure in part of your education and teaching and all of that, that's something that goes along with writing poetry and doing, you know, performances and all of that. And that's, that's really cool that you found your way into that, you know. Even with like all the sudden somebody asks you, do you have it? And you're like, I wrote it today. That's amazing. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. You know, I am, I was either going to be a politician or, or an artist when I was growing up. And I think I was, you know, I was trained in public speaking when I was 10 years old, which was kind of crazy. And I think, you know, my parents, you know, really wanted me to go into politics in some form and, you know, but I was never happy with the didactic nature of politics. And then I saw that art was something and culture was something that could really kind of engage in this mutual conversation. It wasn't about converting, but it educated people, or it was, uh, a more, um, you know, gentle invitation to go deeper into ideas. And I think that's why I kind of decided to be an artist because I didn't want to go down the didactic road and be in the position where I was having to persuade people to agree with me. But I kind of believe, I do believe in the power of art to fundamentally change culture over time. You know, it is, um, it's a long road. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's for sure. I mean, and we stand on the shoulders of many giants, you know, in those, in that change, in that revolution, in the, you know, hearts and minds of people. For sure. I want to, um, I want to ask you, you mentioned your parents and, you know, I can, first of all, I could listen to you talk for like a week done. I am an Anglophile of epic proportion and a will you talk about, um, where you're from? 

Carron Little:  So, it's a long story actually, but I'll try and keep it brief. I was born in North Carolina, believe it or not, to Scottish parents. My father was one of two people selected to take an exam and the person that got selected from Scotland would do their PhD at Duke University. So my father, um, was selected. He was a theologian. And, um, I popped out the day after my mum finished typing my dad's PhD. And so yeah, 

Heather Newman:  Like one does because all those, every marriage and partnership and relationship, right. It's all, you do it all together. That's super cool. Wow. Okay, neat. 

Carron Little:  And then, uh, we moved back to the UK, to Scotland and then, then from Scotland, we moved to Devin and then to the north of England. And then I got into Goldsmiths in London, so I went to London. . I've only met one other person who speaks exactly like me and she grew up in America, lived in Glasgow, and then lived in London. So, we've kind of done the same, but opposite. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Well, cool. Yeah, I love, I love it. I was like, ahh. Alison was like, you're going to love her accent. You're going to like, I know, I know, I know, I know. I love it. Music to my ears. Um, and, and you know, you, uh, we were talking earlier before we jumped on recording and we were just starting to talk about, um, this really cool project that you're working on The Spare Rib and then some, some of the pieces of it. And I would love it if you would share with our listeners what that project is about. I think that would be great. I think they would love it. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. So, um, for quite a while I've been writing poetry inspired by interviews with the public and, um, so I'm currently working on a project called Spare Rib Revisited where I'm invited by different cities to, uh, visit and interview women between the ages of 20 to a hundred. And, and after interviewing the women, I write poetry inspired by the interviews. And you know, I think when, when you're working in the way in which I work, it's really, so whenever I arrange with a city to go and, uh, do Spare Rib Revisited, I always ask the hosting producers to organize a performance because it's really important that I first share, um, the personal stories and, and the poetry that comes out of those conversations and that, um, future participants, um, actually get to see how I share people's personal stories and the kind of combination of how that transforms into poetry because it, it is, um, it's kind of, it's unique and it does take, each poem is constructed in its own lyrical form. So 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I mean, you're writing something based on, um, a person's life and their story. That makes tons of sense. Right. So that's so cool. And, um, you had recited a poem, uh, to me earlier and I was wondering if you would talk about that experience and that poem a little bit and maybe give it to us for our listeners to hear too. I think that would be amazing if you would. Yeah. 

Carron Little:  Yeah, sure. So this poem was written for our Sylvia Hickens and Sylvia, uh, designed the pattern for the pink pussy hats that went viral for the woman's marches. And she's a long term activist and she's really focused on the health of women's bodies. And, um, she's a poet and writer. And part of this poem talks about a performance that she organized, um, to protest the potential closure of the only hospital that is dedicated to women, uh, that is in Liverpool. And it's the only woman's hospital in the whole UK. And Margaret Thatcher, um, tried to close the hospital in the 1980s. And Sylvia Hickens was really important in terms of, she organized the protest to keep that open. And, um, and she's also, she was also part of, um, so both Reagan and Thatcher had these lists and I know they existed under McCarthy as well, of people that were, um, you know, on the far left or radical. So Sylvia Hickens was also on Thatcher's list. Uh, so you know, it was, I think a Tony Blair, uh, revealed all the names on that list in the early two-thousands. But, um, this, this poem is for Sylvia Hickens and it's called The Long Road. 

Carron Little:  If my body were bound between two sleeves of book jacket, what would it see? Would it perform out of the page or would it remain stitched between the sleeves hoping to reach persparity stamped in different languages? If my body were you, what would you see? Would you dance on army tankers in the fresh morning dew or chant harmonies at Greenham Common and write dreams on pillow slips. Would you look the policeman in the eye who defied humanity as he stabbed me in the left shoulder with a sharp metal fork? Would your body be a witness to history stitched with the scars, marking the deep, sending viral news stories across media channels? Would your body listen to that visible spectacle wearing an orange jacket, flashing alarm bells marking the targets? Would your body bear witness to the violence of history past down the line of a ring tone written in Morse code the war won the war lost. It's all the same when the bombs drop. Killing our children, destroying our homes. Lives lost in the wreckage. Would your body, listen to the ghosts in this city. Would your body listen to the needs of this city. Walking and numbers, performing in silence. Wearing white doctor's coats, counting hospital beds. What does your body need? What does it need? Stitched between pages and words, if not liberty, a life dedicated to tomorrow. Tell me, what does that look like? Tell me. Speak it, tell me. Speak it 

Heather Newman:  you made me cry again. 

Carron Little:  Oh, that's really moving, thank you. 

Heather Newman:  Oh, thank you. Oh my goodness. It's like a, it's so drippy and dreamy of, of, of and so powerful. And then liberty. Oh my goodness. Okay. Um, wow. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. Well I think really I was really thinking about, um, you know, how writing is also a form of liberty. And I listened to, I listened to the Women's Hour daily podcast on the BBC and, um, they were talking about, how we're not going to reach pier equality until 2167. So I was like, oh gosh. A lot of work to do. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Wow. That's, that's too far off. I mean it's always been too far off, I guess, you know, but, um, wow. Yeah. I, and your process around this and these, so you sit down with someone and you have an interview and you speak with them and then you create the poem. Yes. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. So I, um, I've developed a process. I've noticed that if I take written notes, um, I actually am able to formulate the structure of the poem. It starts to kind of build in my head. I mean, some take, you know, some take days to write, I mean, every poem takes a while to edit, you know, and they go through and you performing the pieces actually kind of helps refine. That piece was actually a lot longer. And through performance workshops, I've kind of trimmed it down. But, um, yeah, there's, um, you know, definitely writing notes during the interview helps me formulate the structure of the poem. And then because there's this direct relationship between the hands and the brain. I think Albrecht Durer talks about drawing being linked to the precision of thinking. And, you know, I'm really interested in how this kind of, I always use a pencil and I have notebooks, special notebooks with special paper, you know, and it's, uh, yeah, definitely. And then after that process I do a lot of research, and then often in the morning I'll wake up and I'll have a rough draft and then I'll be able to work on that for the rest, you know, for a might take a day or it might take a week. 

Heather Newman:  I, yeah, I, I, you know, I have my own quirky things that, you know, I don't even know if it's quirky, but it's just if you're a writer of like the pen, the paper the you know, and I actually have found, I do both with, I write on my laptop, I love a program called OneNote. And I write there and I write in different things. It sort of depends, you know, but we all have our, I don't know what feels good. I love it that you mentioned Durer because uh, there's a, the, do you know the, his drawing, uh, the hare, it's about the rabbit. The one of the rabbit. 

Carron Little:  Yes. 

Heather Newman:  That uh, that's always hung in my parents' home and it was one of the things and I told my mom, I was like, do not sell that in a garage sale one cause I want it, you know, cause she's a big garage saler. But I was like, but I was like, how did you pick that? You know? And cause she's, you know, she likes art and stuff, but, you know, she was like, I don't know, I just thought the rabbit was cute and I was like, okay, perfect. You know? And it was always something in my, in my home when, as a kid, you know, and then I went and found it so I could, you know, see it, um, in the flesh one time too. So that was kind of cool. But yeah. So, wow. I think it's so cool what you're doing. Um, and uh, so with the Spare Rib Revisited, how many cities have you actually done this in? 

Carron Little:  Um, so I'm, I was in Lucerne, um, in Switzerland in 2016. And, um, then they invited me back last year to perform in, their spoken words festival called Words and, and then I did it in Liverpool last year. And then I'm hoping, I've just received an invitation to go do it in Athens this year. So we'll see what happens with that. So 

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. That would be awesome. And obviously, have you been, you've been doing it in Chicago as well? Yes? 

Carron Little:  Ahh, well Chicago, I'm still waiting for Chicago to fund me. 

Heather Newman:  Well Chicago. We have a message for Chicago, my hometown get on it. 

Carron Little:  So, I'm hoping 2020 will be the year. You know, because it is, um, a special year for women. So it would be amazing if we were a go for that, 

Heather Newman:  I know I've been finding, you know, I, um, I, I was in England, um, last month and I took a trip to visit a friend in Manchester and I hadn't been there before. Um, and I got a moment to go over and, um, go to the Pankhurst's house there. Um, the, you know, started the suffragist movement and that was pretty special. Um, and I don't know, you know, it's, it's interesting. When you talk about story in poetry, I think, you know, it's like the artist's job and writer and theater, you know, is to one to tell stories but also preserve stories. Right. Um, do you find that you feel like in the last bit with everything that's been going on with all the different movements, you know, are you feeling that sort of women's stories bursting out in Chicago and there's more call for that sort of thing? Or what are you feeling about sort of that whole movement, um, as an artist? 

Carron Little:  Um, well I think it's, um, you know, it's still, um, a struggle, you know, in terms of, you know, really, um, creating this space for a women's voices, and women's stories to be heard. I think we're still, I mean, there's a lot of phenomenal organizations in Chicago that are doing great work. And, but I did ask, you know, we, uh, lobbied the, the cultural commissioner to like, you know, really get behind next year's. You know next year is the centennial of women's suffrage in America. And we really, we're hoping that this becomes a big dialogue, you know, across America as well. You know, but you know, at local levels in cities, uh, because I think, you know, there is, um, systemic inequality here. And you know, there's the pay issue, there's the economic stability of women, but then, you know, that that also kind of manifests itself into a whole other, you know, whole other realms of, of issues that, uh, women are facing in their personal lives. So I think we really have to, um, you know, the whole idea of equality really needs to be, um, looked at, uh, at local levels and institutions need to personally reflect on how they are on the pay equity issue. And I think if we can start getting that right, I mean, I know in the UK that they just, um, had this, um, survey where they're, they're forcing all the companies throughout the country declare the salaries of women, of everybody in the company so that they can analyze where, you know, where there is inequality. And the BBC were the first people to do that. And they were, they were very embarrassed. 

Heather Newman:  I know, I saw that. So, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's, when you don't, when you can't see something, you can't address it necessarily. Right. I mean, and kudos to them for coming forward and, and doing that and hopefully that'll bring more, more people, you know, and watching the US you know, or watching the FIFA, watching the World Cup, watching the soccer team, you know, there's all of it. It just, um, hopefully more and more of that will come, especially with next year coming, you know, it should be a celebration and also at time for us to have a bit of a reckoning I think of how we treat each other. And I speak a lot in the technology world on diversity and inclusion and women and I find that, you know, like people do want, are looking to help and looking to change and there's ally ship all over the place. But I, I do feel like one, it starts with each of us as an individual, but it also starts with companies stepping up, you know, and saying, we want to address it and look at this. Right. 

Carron Little:  Yeah. And it's not about like placing blame or, you know, being negative about it. It's just like, okay, we need to address, you know, we need to move forward. We need to, um, you know, create a world where, you know, people are thriving and striving. You know, I mean, it's not about. So, you know, and I think there has been a collapse, you know, especially, you know, when we look at academia, I think there's a, a large conversation happening across the country about how the majority of the part time labor force are in fact female or woman academics. And um, you know, there's a college in California that has 92% that are part time. And you know, where I worked at the art institute, you know, it's 70%, and you know, the rise of the part time labor force, you know, is having, uh, you know, we really have to be realistic that this is having a detrimental impact on the stability of the economy as well. Because when people, you know, I mean there's so many ramifications that are happening, but on the good point, I mean I could,. You know, I sit, I also sit on the National Women in the Arts Committee and we were able to, for the College Arts Association, which is an art history organization in America. And we voted unanimously for the conference next year that comes to Chicago to dedicate 50% of its programming to women and women identified scholarship and artistic practice. And we just found out this week that that's happening and that's gone through. So that's a huge, the fact that the organization supported that petition to move forward with that policy is, is wonderful. 

Heather Newman:  That's so great. 

Carron Little:  Step-By-Step. 

Heather Newman:  Yes. Inch by inch, step by step for sure. And what a, I just love what you're doing and what you're bringing to the world. It's so cool. Um, you know, I, I usually ask at the, at the end about, um, sparks, I'm, I'm very interested in moments, micro moments and the macro moments of our lives. And, and also what if there was a moment or a person or a, something that, that sort of led you down the path of like, yes, this is what I want to do with my life. Is there something that comes to mind that you wouldn't mind sharing with our listeners? Your spark? 

Carron Little:  Wow. Gosh, there's, there's 

Heather Newman:  I know there's always a lot, but you know, everybody's like, are you, are you kidding me? It's like asking me my favorite food. But you know, like, 

Carron Little:  Yeah, you know, there, I guess, you know, my, both my parents, you know, my where, you know, political activists and, you know, were very influential in terms of, you know, my life, both brilliant people. And so I think, that there was a moment, um, where I was, I've been still in touch with, um, all of my professors from Goldsmiths in London and they've been super supportive of my career my whole life. And, um, I used to live down the road from the critical theory person, Peninnah Barnett. And she said, she rang me up one day and she said, Carron, I've got a ticket to a conference called Sex, Shame and Sexuality at the Tate Modern do you want to come? And I was like, Oh yes, that sounds interesting. Sex Shame and Sexuality. Wow. It's organized by the Freud Museum. That sounds interesting. I went along. And then, you know, it was really one of those, the Tate does some great conferences and then I was invited to a lunch with Grizelda Pollack, Peninnah Barnett, and the director of the Freud Museum. And I think maybe there was one other person and it was one of those moments where I'm sat around the lunch table with these like phenomenal women and I'd been teaching, I'd done my degree, my masters, and I'd been teaching in London for, for like seven years, maybe at that point in high schools. And I said to myself, wow, you know, I've been educated by these women. I've been brought up by feminists even, you know, the, I take that I go out into the world and, and do things. So that was a moment. And then it was wonderful because I was walking across the Millennium Bridge and Jenny Holzer had a public art work projected onto Saint Paul's Cathedral. And there was the words, um, there was, um, the text, um, in Urdu, that means peace and you know, there was like god, you know, and she, and there was just all Allah and just all of these, um, these words that, you know, were speaking about peace. They were speaking to different religions. And so, you know, that was a critical moment. And actually what was special, uh, when I went and did the Spare Rib project in Liverpool, it was right after the, the bombings, um, at the Ariana concert in Manchester. It was, it was very, it was like within, like, I think I arrived like 10 days after the bombings and I was invited. And then when I arrived in Liverpool, I was, um, speaking with, I met some Asian women at an event, at a luncheon or a dinner, and they invited me to a meeting at the local mosque. And so I'm sat around this table and the table was like 50 feet long, you know, I mean, it was a long table and five women were sat at one side. All the men were sat at the other side. And I sat myself in the middle and, you know, I just listened. I was there to observe the conversation and listen and you know, at the end of the conversation, um, you know, they wanted my, uh, perspective. And everybody who spoke, spoke with intelligence and thoughtfulness. And because I grew up in the north of England, I'm various astutely aware of the hatred that is perpetrated to, uh, young Asian children growing up in the schools and the systemic racism that is so prevalent. Um, and particularly in the, in the north of England where there are large, um, Indian and Pakistani populations. And, you know, I spoke, I just, you know, I spoke about this at this meeting and you know, and I, you know, to share my perspective that, that if we, when we treat others with so much hatred from a young age as they're growing up into the world we're going to inspire angry young people. Who then do join ISIS and become terrorists. So we really have to think about, you know, how are we putting care into our institutions to care for young people at an early age as they grow up through the systems. Or through our societies. You know. 

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. It sounds to me like there, there was some sparks, but there continues to be and it's great to hear that you're a person that is one providing a table, you know, for people to sit at and to learn and to hear different stories and that you are also, you know, being asked to be part of tables where those kinds of dialogues are happening in our world. You know, that's, I think that's really important. Ah, wow. Um, I'm so blown away by all the good things that you are doing. So, great. Um, and, and maybe to close out what's, what's next, what's next on your plate, speaking of tables? 

Carron Little:  So, I, I'm doing Out of Site, um, at the end of July and in Chicago. And so we've got the Swiss artists, uh, Patric Gehrig & Saskya Germann and Sojourner Zenobia and, uh, Wannapa P-Eubanks and um, Anna Brown and um, Erin Evans Delaney who are doing, and it just kind of so happens that all of their interactive performances are really thinking about these ideas of care and how we, um, the, the Swiss artists are going to be singing the public's, uh, blessings in, uh, in this ancient Swiss tradition of the Betruf. So that's going to be fun. So, um, creating public performance and then hopefully off to Athens and I've been invited, um, to Budapest in August and I'm going to be running a whole series of workshops on interactive public performance and performing and giving artist presentations. And then after that I'm going up to Riga, Latvia, to do a public performance there and give a presentation. 

Heather Newman:  So, you're a busy lady. 

Carron Little:  A lot of travel and meeting fun people. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, I am a, I am a traveler myself, so I have friends in Budapest that I'm going to make sure and connect you with too, so that, 

Carron Little:  Ooh, that would be lovely. I'm actually, I do want to go to, I've got 6 days between, um, Sofia and Riga, so I do want to stop in Budapest and Prague on the way. 

Heather Newman:  Oh, lovely. Yeah. I'm going to go to Prague in December for a technology show and I've never been, I mean, I can't wait to go see the, all the Mooka, you know. Yeah, absolutely. Well, cool. Well, um, Carron, thank you so much for being on today and sharing your story with, with all of our listeners. I really, I am so, and that poem, my goodness. Thank you so much. 

Carron Little:  Well, thank you Heather, for inviting me. You know, it's special to have the opportunity to talk to you and uh, yeah, thank you so much for all the work that you're doing, you know. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah. It's, um, we mirror, we mirror goodness in each other I think, you know, when we're doing this kind of work and I just thank you for that and, and thank you for what you do. And, and you'll probably see Alison before I do, so you have to give her a hug me, so 

Carron Little:  I will give her a big special cuddle. 

Heather Newman:  Perfect. I love that. Even better. That's awesome. Okay, well thank you Carron. And um, yeah, absolutely. So everyone, um, we'll put all the goodness, um, in the show notes, links to things, and so you can find you on the Twitterattis and LinkedIn's and all that kind of fun stuff. And, uh, this has been another Mavens Do It Better podcast or you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher and Spotify and our website and all the great places where you listen to podcasts. So here's to another beautiful big blue day on this spinning sphere. Thank you.