Episode 42: Startup Maven Gary Smith

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 am super excited today. I am here with my good friend, colleague, so much. Uh, Gary Smith. Gary say hi everybody.

Gary Smith:  Hello everybody. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, you bet. So, Gary and I are here in Marina del Rey. Actually in person than a lot of times I do these over a conference calls so we get to be in person today and uh, gosh, Gary and I have been friends for a long time.

Gary Smith:  14 years, or 15maybe.

Heather Newman:  14 or 15 years. Yeah. Starting out back in SharePoint days back in Seattle. So, and you were running a company back then.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. Echo Technology, it was a SharePoint company and ISV that we spun off. I even had an office.

Heather Newman:  I know you had those cool offices.

Gary Smith:  Down in Pike street.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Pike Street.

Gary Smith:  520 Pike.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah. So I, uh, Gary and I met during those SharePoint days doing events and then, uh, he was a client for a while and then gone off and done other things and we both ended up in Los Angeles at the same time, uh, which is pretty awesome and actually live in the same apartment building. So

Gary Smith:  in the same building!

Heather Newman:  In the same building. Yeah. It's so crazy. So, um, and Gary has a new offering, um, that he's working on. And I wanted to have him on to talk about that cause it's super cool. So, will you talk about Revealit?

Gary Smith:  Sure. So actually when I sold Echo Technology in 2014. Uh, it was a mildly successful exit, which is great. I certainly had the privilege of being able to take a sabbatical and go home and remodel, which was, and then I found during that process, there's just the sort of why I started Revealit. Uh, I found these beautiful pendant lights in House of Cards and they were the ones right there in Frank and Claire's kitchen. And it was, I was really frustrated. I thought, well, why can't I shop for these? Why can't I search for them? Why can't I share them with my wife so she will give me the tick of approval that I'm allowed to have them in the house. And I thought, this is just nuts, I mean people are pumping ads to me of stuff I don't want, but the thing I wants right there, I can see it. Why can't I do it? And I thought, well, you know, what if there was a way that, you know, that everything that you see inside video, you could shop it,, you could search it and you can be social with it and you could buy it right there. And I went off and formed Revealit. And that's what Revealit does. We make anything that you see inside of video shoppable.

Heather Newman:  So searchable and shoppable video with the technology that you put together.

Gary Smith:  Yeah, I mean, I like to call it shopping, but the easiest thing to think about is shoppable video, but if you think about what people do on the path, the shopping these days, there's some solid research around that. Most people spend, they'll watch two or three videos. They'll watch an unboxing. They'll look at, you know, what their friends are saying in their social network. So shopping, you know, is becoming very self-directed. Um, and, and, and viewers like it that way. Yeah. They like to do their own research. They like to do, they check in with their social network, they share stuff out, they get approval. Um, so you know, the whole idea of shoppable video, you know, you've got to facilitate that process. And you know, as far as video is concerned, it's very distracting to have ads popping at you all the time of things that you don't want. And, and broadcast video is pretty dumb. I mean, you can't do any of that stuff unless you've got Revealit. And with Revealit you can do it all there in frame, you know. Um, so people's attention spans Heather are so fractioned. They don't have time for this stuff. I mean, if you look at what viewers are, uh, are doing, they're installing, $40 billion of ads are locked every year. You know, there's 100 million new subscriptions of Netflix this year.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Those numbers, I saw those numbers too. Those are crazy. And you said 40 billion?

Gary Smith:  40 billion. B. 8 billion of ad fraud. Right? Like viewers are, 50% of people, of millennials have abandoned appointment TV. So there's like a clear message there from viewers, please respect us. We would like to be respected. Don't interrupt us with things that were not interested in. So, you know, the whole idea is that, uh, you know, and people think it's just about ads. Ads a more the symptom, the cause is that people want to be self-directed. All their other forms of media are self-directed. You know, they can, they can do whatever they want whenever they want,

Heather Newman:  Or are you can opt out? Right? So as a marketer sending email messages, you know, somebody can unsubscribe. You've got All those laws around can't spam. But yeah, you're right. Like what gets into our eyeballs. Is it necessarily, you know what I mean, policed in that way or, yeah, you can probably with remarketing too, you can, I mean it's amazing. You look something up on a search engine and then all the sudden or, or on Instagram and you like tag it or you know, do something or sit on it for a minute and then all of a sudden it shows up everywhere. So, you know, you've got to be careful what you're searching for, I guess. But you know, but that's kind of,

Gary Smith:  Well it is, it is spooky, but I consider that incrementally better than being, like, uh, you know, it's still annoying and spooky. It can be annoying and spooky if you're not interested in that ad. You know, sometimes you say stuff in a house and you wonder if Alexa is listening and then it popped, cause it pops up on your, like your web search. It's kind of spooky, right? But you know, I don't know what's worse that or having a broadcast ads thrust down your throat, like at the beginning in the middle and the end of something that you're truly not interested in. So I don't know what the lesser of two evils are. Um, I mean, the way that Revealit does it we don't do either of those things. I mean, it's completely zero interruption. You do not get interrupted whatsoever with any ad. You've got to stop, pause, like what you see, and interact. You know, so if you see Jennifer Aniston's sweater or the fridge, fridge in Friends, you can pause, you can get a, uh, you can, uh, yeah, I keep tapping. Sorry. I'm too passionate about Revealit and video.

Heather Newman:  He's like tapping on the butcher block. I'm like, stop it!

Gary Smith:  You can, you can just get that information in frame right there, you know, and then you can get an educational, like you could say, if you see a set of knives or wine, you can look at Wikipedia links for that. You know, you can watch a research video about how to, you know, maintain your car if you see a car like, or how to do a certain thing. So that's what Revealit does. And it's, it's, it's, yeah, it's exciting.

Heather Newman:  Totally.

Gary Smith:  It is the future of video. I, I strongly believe video is headed that way, you know, um, you know.

Heather Newman:  I want to hear, so I'm going to jump backwards cause very Revealit is super cool. And that's what you're doing like now, today. Let's go back and um, how did you get started in technology, IT, entrepreneurism and all that stuff? Cause this is, you've had quite a number of startups?

Gary Smith:  I have. Um, yeah, I have a business degree with a major in uh, computing. So it was, I'm a little on the older side compared to most entrepreneurs I'm swanning around with these days. But back when I did that, it was kind of a bit weird as a combo.

Heather Newman:  Where was that from?

Gary Smith:  The University of Technology in Sydney.

Heather Newman:  That's right. Sydney, Australia.

Gary Smith:  Sydney, Australia.

Heather Newman:  As you can probably tell Gary has got a great dialect.

Gary Smith:  So, thank you. I did that degree, uh, the last couple of years of that, I started at full time, but the last couple of years I, so I went out and I worked for a job for a couple of years before I went back to University and then I thought, aww I've got to get a degree, you know, like I can't do these jobs. Like I really need to go and finish my education. So I went back to university full time for a couple of years and in the last year, you know, the full last year of my bachelor's degree, I went to work for Microsoft and I did it part time. So

Heather Newman:  Did I know that?

Gary Smith:  No, I don't think you did know that, or I might've mentioned it, but such a long time ago. So in Microsoft Australia, I worked there and I was an excel support technician.

Heather Newman:  Oh, my goodness.

Gary Smith:  On the phone, like answering 50 to 100 calls a day about,

Heather Newman:  How do I do a SUM?

Gary Smith:  Yeah. How do I do this macro?

Heather Newman:  How do I do a pivot table?

Gary Smith:  Well I thought it was going to be super, super simple like that. But you know, then there's people doing all this imaginative stuff and all this programming and all these finance experts, it actually could get quite complex quite quickly. So that sort of, you know, that that floated my boat in terms of, well, I was doing a business degree with a major in computing and, and then like while I was at Microsoft a bit, I became, I think the first certified DOS person in the world or something like one of the first. Certainly in the first three months, which is kind of weird. And then I became certified in windows, then I became a certified teacher of developers. So I taught people how to in developing visual basic, I taught myself how to develop and then I passed that exam. And so, you know, you're on the phone call taking 50 phone, taking 50 to 100 phone calls a day and you're helping people out with these complex, uh, um, algorithms in a spreadsheet, you get offers to do consulting all the time. Well, you sound really knowledgeable, Mr. Smith. You want to come and help me? So then I eventually left Microsoft and started my own consulting practice and I became a Microsoft certified partner in Sydney and just started, you know, those relationships from being on the phone. Then I started teaching developers, if you teach developers, they've all got projects in their companies and that's a, and then we started this consulting practice called Livepoint Sydney that specialized in SharePoint and, uh, in the, in the, uh, in the finance area with banks. Uh, and we became a Go-to partner or a gold partner. I don't even know if that still exists today. And um, and then, you know, we built the consulting practice up and to be, I don't know, 30 or 40 and it was a pretty good practice. But, but consulting is hard work.

Heather Newman:  Yes, it is.

Gary Smith:  It's feast or famine and it's a, it's people management. And, uh, I always, I spun a hobby company off, you know, I, I seeded the thing with 50 grand, which I think I, I forced my aunt to give me, you know.

Heather Newman:  Thank you very much.

Gary Smith:  Thanks. And my business partner at the time was like horrified because we were doing pretty well in consulting, it was just before the financial crisis. And as I said our clients were in finance, in banking. And uh, you know, I spun this thing off. And when I sold the first two copies of my product Echo for SharePoint to the US Army in Fallujah and Booz Allen Hamilton were my first two clients. So, okay, well, Gee, okay. Well, and I said to my business partner, see? See, told ya. And then I kind of took that hobby company and came over to here to live in the US around, you know, started investigating around 2005, 2006 and then came here on a visa. Uh, and um, lived in Seattle for nearly five years, five and a half years with that company. So that's why it's, and then I've never, the only time I've had a job, I think I was 21 or something, I worked for Microsoft. I'm 51 now, soon 52. The only time I've taken a job is when I got bought out and I had to be handcuffed at that company for two years. So in that time, it's the only time I've, I've always worked for myself. Always. And um, I'm kind of like tortured by ideas. That's why I sometimes wonder why I do it.

Heather Newman:  No, I know. Well, I mean, I think that autonomy is so great, right?

Gary Smith:  Yeah. You're running your own race. I like running my own race.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I do too. I mean, we, Gary and I talk about all of this a lot. We talk a lot about business and and running a business and technology and bounce things off each other a lot. And uh, I, I love your brain on that, you know, it's cool. Yeah, absolutely. No, it is.

Gary Smith:  There's a saying, I think you know, might be a cliché now, but you know, the, the best day, uh, the worst day working for yourself is equal to the best day working for someone else.

Heather Newman:  That's a good quote. Yeah.

Gary Smith:  I think it's pretty true actually, for me anyway, I found it. I mean, I really love my former CEO, him and I are still friends and he's on our advisory board. But it was rough and tough and I mean we didn't like each other like, when, but we became friends in the end. But you know, working for someone else when you've worked for yourself, the whole of your life is difficult I think.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I don't know, I, people have asked me like, would you go and do that again? And I mean I, I have my hands in two companies, you know, my own with Creative Maven and then with Content Panda and it's, you know, I mean, never say never, but, um, it is an interesting premise of like, you know, cause people are always like, you can never go back to Microsoft. And I'm like, oh, maybe, I don't know. You know, I don't know.

Gary Smith:  Maybe. Well, people that don't work for themselves don't kind of understand it. They just have a little bit of a different risk profile.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that's probably true.

Gary Smith:  You know, I have people say to me, well, aren't you afraid of running out of money? And I go, well, sometimes, uh, yeah, especially running a startup, where all we do is spend money, we don't earn any. Um, but then I think the of, you know, there's a passage in the Bible, there's a biblical passage about the birds don't know where they're getting their food today. They seem to eat. You know, I think of that.

Speaker 3:        Yes. That's a good, I've never heard that.

Gary Smith:  I mean I don't do the passage justice whatsoever, but there is a very, you know, and I think about that when I'm stressed about where's my money going to come from and where's my food going to come from? And I'm blessed with a big family and you know, I often say to them, look, I'm, I'm headed for the men's hostel any day now if I don't like continue to raise and get this company off the ground, and they, and it's nice to know that you've got a little bit of family behind you that helps a little. You know, you've got a bolt, bolt hole. Um, it won't be the men's hostile. I joke about that and I think about the birds. I kind of have these kind of like mental things that stop me being fearful.

Heather Newman:  I think that's an a, an a an amazing visual. If you think about it, you know, really visualize that.

Gary Smith:  about the birds?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Gary Smith:  There's no plan for them. They don't have, no one's employing them.

Heather Newman:  You know, there's no guarantee that, you know, like I moved out of my house and I stopped putting stuff in the hummingbird feeder because I've moved. Like I hope the next person did it. I feel guilty about that all the time. I actually do, I think about those humming birds that I've left cause we moved and I'm like, I hope somebody is feeding them.

Gary Smith:  Well, I'll send you the passage so you can get to sleep.

Heather Newman:  You know, I do think, you know, speaking of, you know, having to hustle and that kind of thing. I do think that, you know, we all are, oh gosh, you know, some people are really good at saving, some people are really good at like, you know, retirement and all those things. And I do think that, you know, unfortunately most people are not really good at that stuff and that we are probably two to three paychecks away from really being in serious trouble. I have before, you know, I've, I recall not so long ago having 37 cents in my bank account, somebody decided, a client decided to not to pay me. Um,

Gary Smith:  Hang on. Did you say paychecks? You lucky, lucky bastard. You get paychecks?

Heather Newman:  No, but you know. I haven't gotten a paycheck in I don't even know. Yeah, right, right. Yes. No, I mean I get, I get paid for the work I do, but not, you know, I'm a W2 or so.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. You know, my, my mum said, oh, I didn't get a payroll recently. I said, I haven't got, I haven't yet issued an invoice for two years. Frightening.

Heather Newman:  It is frightening.

Gary Smith:  You know, the way, like running a startup this, this time I did it differently. It's super, it's, when you think, if you actually take time to think about it, I'm like a professional beggar. I'm like the guys begging on Venice, I just smell better. Right? I'm really, professionally, my job is professionally begging for money. And if I don't do a good job begging, then all the people that I've got on board in the company, all the people that are working in the company all the developer, well they don't get paid.

Heather Newman:  And they don't get paid. Yeah, yeah. Which is a lot of the problem with when you are working with startups, you know, and you're helping them, you know sometimes like you're like oh I'll do it for whatever and this and maybe partial this and da-da-da-da-da and then you know, a lot of people unfortunately don't always come through on that kind of stuff. Right? And you're left having done a lot of work without getting paid for it,

Gary Smith:  That's, I mean, yeah, I mean it depends on the type of startup. A lot of these startups, I mean I'm going to startup events at the moment because I am out raising but, and you know, I raise the first round in friends and family, which was pretty easy because I had an exit. But now I'm at the next level that I'm at this startup events. And a lot of these people, they've got these startups, they're bootstrapped with nothing but free work from friends. And uh, and you know, we did it a little differently, but we raised some money and you know, to date managed to pay out most of our bills. But yeah. But you know, these people are doing it on shoestring budgets and on the smell of an oily rag and it's hard. So, you know, they've got to try and, and get somebody to come and work for them. It's hard for them to get the right people necessarily, until they get money. It's just all donations of time.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Hiring is interesting too. And you know, I keep my business pretty lean as far as that goes and have. It’s ebbed and flowed over the years, you know, but I feel like for me, I keep it really kind of lean as far as employees and stuff right now. I didn't really want that for the business. But it is interesting when you're bring people on, you know, how much can you afford? What's your cashflow like and all of those things that I think sometimes people don't, people are like, I'm just going to start a business. And it's like, okay, it's not just, you know, putting up a website.

Gary Smith:  Well I have seen this. I've seen this a lot. And I try to help people when I can. Like I've helped a couple of people, I've seen this a lot in the like 20 somethings. They get together, they like each other very quickly. They form a company, inverted commas, which means that they don't form a company, they get a business, a website with a name. There's no legal advice. There's no contractual advice. I've seen this happen multiple times over the last three or four years in particular. There's such a, um, I don't know if it's a gloss about being an entrepreneur and running your own company at the moment.

Heather Newman:  Everybody wants to be a unicorn and

Gary Smith:  Right. I mean, you know, I call them wantrepreneurs.

Heather Newman:  Ah, oh. Like a one hit wonder?

Gary Smith:  Wantrepreneurs. They'd like to be an entrepreneur, but they don't really know how to do it. And they get together and they start working together, um, without any agreement about who's putting what in. All of a sudden they're putting their hand in their pocket and they're paying expenses for this entity that doesn't really exist. It's just a website. They are very focused on getting the logo right and the name right and the website out there. And then, they start working and no one agrees who's paying for anything. But they're out there like presenting themselves as a company and it just all turns to tears pretty quickly. You know, soon as someone pays too much at the event that they organized out of their credit card, they're trying to get it back out of the other two people. The business breaks down in about a heartbeat and they suddenly realize that they haven't thought about it. So it's kind of an interesting, I see this a lot now, you know, and, and even the thing that you mentioned of people doing a lot of free work, sometimes those people don't realize they're working for free. You know, they've been engaged and then it's all, and that comes after the fact. You know, that can sour a relationship, an important relationship very quickly. And, um, so I've seen a fair amount. I mean, you know, did a lot of travel, particularly in the blockchain space, which has lots of young people developing. I saw these companies, form and storm rapidly and dissipate just as rapidly, you know. It's fascinating to watch and, um, anytime anyone asks me, I'd say, no, you guys should talk about what the reason for this company is. Like, why are you creating it? And like who's paying for what, when, and where and how and why. I know it's a little ugly and uncomfortable, but it's way better than getting lawyers like six months from now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Those things tend to, it all comes out at some point anyway. You know what I mean? It's like somebody gets, and it comes down to money, you know, money and time when you're like, oh, wait a minute, wait a minute,

Gary Smith:  I'm paying for that?

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I need to pay for my stuff. You know, like, all of that that too. So it's kind of like, yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Gary Smith:  I mean, that's, um, you know, startup world is fascinating. I mean, I think it's really exciting when I go to these pitch events and I see some of these companies that are sort of, I really like being around entrepreneurs. That's one thing I will say. You know, I like risk takers. I like people that put it on the line. Um, they're exciting to me. Um, I like enterprising people, I like new ideas. Uh, so go to these events and hearing these pitches is, is, is, it's, it's, boy, it makes me feel buoyant anyway when I see that. I don't know why I like that. I just do, I guess I'm like that. They're my profile.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, completely. Are you doing most of the pitch events here in Los Angeles or are you going all over the place?

Gary Smith:  So, I, um, as I said, I raised the first amount of money with, which is, we raised a million and a half dollars in, uh, our first seed round, uh, over the last year and a bit. And, but now we've got to get strategic money. So, you know, I've started pitching to funds. And so what you asked, um, I'm kind of, I'm in kind of pitch training right now, so I'm a bit nerdy. So, my pitch was like super nerdy and I showed it to you, and you said, well, what does this mean? You were right. You know, like what worked for my first round is certainly not working out in the valley and at these pitch events. So I've, I've been in a bit of a learning, uh, um, in a bit of a learning phase over the last five or six weeks. I've been going to what I call, you know, pitch training events, small events that don't cost much. Uh, you know, we're entrepreneurs are pitching against each other to sort of be voted as the best pitch. So, and I have been doing that both in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley and I'm, I'm, and I've been getting my deck from 30 pages down to what is considered a Silicon Valley deck, which is 12 to 14 pages and quite formulaic about how they do it. And it's been very hard for someone like me that's nerdy and thinks that more information is better. And, uh, so it's taken me quite a while to do that, but, so I feel like I've been in pitch training now for about five weeks and I've got my, my first kind of, uh, um, pitch to a fund coming up this next week. So yeah. What I would consider a more, you know, it's game on now. Preseason is over. So we'll see how we go.

Heather Newman:  Rehearsal is over. Time for opening night.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean refining your elevator pitch and you know, getting all that stuff right. Uh, is, as you know, it's taken me five or six weeks of going to these events to work out what I was doing wrong and why and what and how to position it and what, what these funds require to give you money. So I haven't got any checks from them yet, so I, uh, I'm, I'm about to go out and try. So that's kind of exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah, absolutely. Both. But that's, you know, I love it that you are like, this is a learning thing, you know what I mean? Like you never, I don't think anybody ever stops learning and none of us have all the answers, you know what I mean? Like I, people are like, how do you, and I'm like, I just say yes to a lot of things and I also am curious. I think that's you and I share some curiosity, you know, of that if I don't know something, one, I'll say it cause I don't care about being, you know what I mean? And I'm like, you can go learn. There's so, YouTube whatever. There's so many things or just talking to people and going to a pitch event, like, that's awesome.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. I mean, you know, a couple of these pitch events are kind of like survivor, they vote you off the island and you don't necessarily get to the last round. I mean, that pretty clearly sends a pretty clear message to you that you screwed it up. Right? And you know, I took my EA, uh, to one of these events recently. She goes, oh, how do you feel, Gary? You okay? I said, look, you know what? Yeah, I'm okay. I mean, this is pitch training. I'd rather make the mistake here then later on. And the only failure is a failure to learn. So let's, and she says, right, so I'll come over, because she's my EA and she's like, keeps me in line. She said, right, I'm coming over tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to type the pitch out that you did today and then you're going to take what the investors said that you didn't do and you're going to put it in there and I'm going to record it and I'm going to type it again. She was fantastic.

Heather Newman:  She's hired. I mean, that's awesome. I've met her. She's great.

Gary Smith:  So just sort of taking what you, very rapidly taking what I, uh, I'm not doing and, and, and I'm kind of in that kind of loop, of, you know, I'm happy to admit I don't have all the answers and no one does, you know? Sometimes these investors ask me a question. I don't have the answers. Sometimes I say, I don't know. What do you think?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, I know. Answering a question with a question is awesome. So

Gary Smith:  Well, it throws them off. You're off the hook too.

Heather Newman:  Well, totally. I feel that way about technology as well and when I'm, you know, there's certain things I'm like, I don't know everything about Microsoft technologies. I don't, you know, but I don't claim to or profess that, you know, and I find that everybody is so awesome in the tech community in that way. You know, there's a little bit of like, Oh, you don't know, or Blah Blah Blah, you know? But I just, I kind of hate that. And I, those people aren't my friends.

Gary Smith:  What do you mean? The know it all, you mean? People who don't want to give up their information?

Heather Newman:  The know it all. Or it becomes like a, like a, like I'm cooler and smarter than you. You know what I mean? Like there's a little bit of that and that, that tends to be sometimes a little bit of the male thing with guys, you know, like I'm a smarter tech person than you kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm competitive and I totally like people who are ambitious and wicked smart and all of that. But I just also like I find that kind of stuff kind of boring

Gary Smith:  The best people are the people that share information. I think that's kind of fascinating about where I am now because particularly people in, the tech people are much more, I think, uh, likely to do that. And particularly the Microsoft community are very much like that. Given that I have a strong partnering culture. That I haven't seen necessarily in other tech companies, but you know, here in LA now and my business requires a bit of work with creatives and start to work with creatives and they're another whole kettle of fish. They can be very protective about who they know and what they know much more than the tech people. And so, dealing, one of the great challenges of, of running Revealit compared to say working with just technical people is you've got this different culture. And trying to understand them and make sure you communicate with them. And it's a, so that's kind of like an interesting challenge, you know, they don't give up as much information.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, and I feel like with, there's so many agencies and it's such big money, you know what I mean? Like ideas are gold. Right? And if you come up with the next like, just do it or whatever, you know? And you've said that out loud into the world or to somebody like, you know, good ideas are all over the place. It's just about who plucks them down and actually makes them happen.

Gary Smith:  They're a lot more protective about them here, you know, I've got 105 people have sign my NDA in the last two, three years. The only one that sent it to their attorney or the only two people that sent it to their attorney are Hollywood people, with changes.

Heather Newman:  Wow. Huh? Wow, that's interesting. Yeah, no, for sure. Yeah. I feel like, I don't know, I like, I, I'm enjoying dipping into Los Angeles. It's very different than what you and I like. We both lived in Seattle. You know, and sort of

Gary Smith:  It's super different. It's like another planet. In a good way.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, totally.

Gary Smith:  In a good way. But at first it's kind of like, who are these people? But after a while, I mean LA grows on you and, and I love it now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I do too.

Gary Smith:  I really like it.

Heather Newman:  I am a big fan as well and we do, but you know, we live in Marina del Rey, so we live close to the beach, can walk a lot of the places and all of that. But I still think you, you still complain about the not having a really good coffee shop close.

Gary Smith:  I do. That's why I have this thing behind you.

Heather Newman:  Gary just made me the most delicious latte ever. So, you know, he always does. You make good coffee.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. That's one thing that uh, yeah, Aussies are a little bit snooty about that.

Heather Newman:  I don't not hate that. Yeah, I love that. Yeah. Yeah. And I like, I think I've, the flat white has become a big favorite of mine too, which I didn't quite understand what that was at first. I was like, isn't it a latte? Oh no, no, it's not a latte. Okay, fine. Whatever.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. Australians and their coffee.

Heather Newman:  It's not just Australians though. I mean everywhere I go, I think people are very coffee. I don't know. Australians for sure though.

Gary Smith:  But it's also hard in LA, even like, you know, even if there was a great coffee shop here and there and there are a couple of great ones up on Abbot Kinney, but that by the time you get to your basement and get in your car, I mean there's a 40 minute round trip. Minimum.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And those places are always banging busy too. So it's just kind of ridiculous. Yeah, it's fun. So, um, one last question. Um, what kind of, you know, you talked a little bit about the beginnings of your career. Is there something that you can pinpoint that really kind of, aside from what you've already said, like sparked to you to kind of go forth on, on this journey? You know, like something like there, is there a moment in time when you were like, yes! And it can be about, you know, whatever business or Revealit?

Gary Smith:  I think the exciting thing for me is seeing people use my product and seeing, you know, um, I told you earlier in this discussion that I'm tortured by ideas. Like my roommate complains that I have very long showers and that's because I've just in, when I'm in the shower I'm thinking, thinking, thinking, ideas, ideas, ideas, and I think what are, you know, and this probably goes back to the two sales that we made for, you know, like to know that you something that was an idea in the shower one day, someone's using on the other side of the world. I mean that's kind of what does it for me. I mean, you know, there are different reasons, motivators. You could talk about, uh, why people start businesses. They, you know, I like to think that they do it either for love, money, glory or uh, yeah, they're the main motivators. Love money, power, glory. I mean, I guess I'm a bit of a power guy. As I said, I like running my own race. That's a motivator for me. But in terms of the creative. I'm a bit creative for a nerd and I'm nerdy for a creative. So I think the enjoyment I get is knowing that people are using something that I dreamt up in the shower one day. That might be a power motive as well.

Heather Newman:  I think that's a presentation right there and an interesting, uh, kind of nugget for your pitch.

Gary Smith:  I mean, I love that. Look, the current project, I believe we can change the world. I believe we can change how people are consuming video and I strongly believe that's where it's headed. So participating in what I know is going to happen is really exciting me right now. Knowing we can make a change and knowing that's where it's headed and attempting to execute that. Even the, I mean, just the process of attempting the journey of attempting it. It's stimulating, it's draining, but it's stimulating. And um, and I don't know, I'm just wired like that. I love doing that. I love implementing ideas and I have a high risk threshold. So, you know, that's, I, I'm just, that's genetic I guess. And so, you know, if I'm not going to do it who else is going to do it? People with a high threshold need to do this stuff. It's kind of like,

Heather Newman:  I agree, I agree. I say my job on this earth is to x, Y, z. You know, like when you start thinking about like, okay, what's my purpose? Right? And like you just talked about that, you know, it's about dreaming up ideas in the shower and putting them forth and implementing them in the world. You know, like,

Gary Smith:  Yeah, I mean I think that's something that I can do better than other people. I'm not saying I'm the best at it. At all. But I, you know, that's kind of like, uh, what I like doing and what I'm capable of doing. So that's what I need to do. You know, people, I mean, people that work with me and know me and my family, I mean they start hyperventilating when they think of what I'm doing. So obviously their risk profile is very different. And so, you know, this would never be for them, but their life would never be for me. And so that's, that's yeah. That, that's what does it for me.

Heather Newman:  I can dig it. I know what you mean about the product. And I think our first couple of sales with Content Panda it was the same thing. And like a couple of them are like, I'm like, I can't talk about it, but like there's a, you know, airliner, pharmaceutical or whatever, and then I'm like, I can't, you know, I can't believe it. Like, that's amazing. You know, and it's, it is that that gets you right in the gut and gets you super excited.

Gary Smith:  Yeah. Cause you know, you made a difference. You know, people, uh, you know they either save time or money or they got enjoyment from what you did. They got something from what you delivered to them. And it's not even just for them about writing you a check for it. It's like, well, they wrote me a check for it because they believe they perceive the value was higher than the money. That's awesome. I actually added value.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And it, to me it equates, like when you were talking about being creative as well, is that, you know, like that's like the ultimate thing for an artist or an actor or you know, being onstage or presenting or whatever. You know, it's like, it's, it's different. It's a different form of that same feeling, but you know that you create something that somebody enjoys, or it moves them, or it helps them or whatever. So, to me, entrepreneurs and people who create stuff, they all in the same bucket. You know, you may, it might be ones and zeros or it might be oil paint on a canvas, you're still creating something.

Gary Smith:  I agree 100% with what you're saying. That resonates with me because you know, like I'm the worst Pictionary player ever.

Heather Newman:  Pictionary?

Gary Smith:  Yeah. You ever play Pictionary?

Heather Newman:  Yes, yes.

Gary Smith:  If I had the draw to save my life, I'd just order my last meal immediately like, I wouldn't even bother.

Heather Newman:  Fair enough.

Gary Smith:  I'm creative, but like, you know, I can't draw. I'm the worst singer. I do sing of course, but I can't sing.

Heather Newman:  In the shower.

Gary Smith:  I sing in the shower; I sing all the time everywhere. Particularly if I've had a few glasses of wine, but I'm terrible at it. Like I can't paint, I can't draw. I'm an okay writer, but I'm very slow at it. Like, um, but I can create software, you know? And so that is a very, it's a creative outlet for me, for someone that has no creative skills elsewhere.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think we should end on that because that's super cool.

Gary Smith:  All right. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  You're welcome. Thank you for being on this show.

Gary Smith:  I hope it was interesting for your audience.

Heather Newman:  I'm sure. Yes, it's super interesting. Entrepreneurs are awesome. So, um, Gary, thank you.

Gary Smith:  You're welcome. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Everyone. This has been another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. You can find us on all the usual places on iTunes, on Spotify, on Stitcher, on our RSS feed, and the Mavens Do It Better website. And, uh, here's to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Episode 40: Feminist Maven Dr. John Erickson, Ph.D.

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. I am so thrilled today to have the lovely and talented and super smart John Erickson on with us today. John, do you want to say hi?

John Erickson:  Hi everyone. I'm so glad to be here with you and so thankful for you Heather to make time so we can chat today.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I am so super psyched. So, and John, are you in Los Angeles today?

John Erickson:  I am in Los Angeles today. Yes. I am busy here in LA toppling the patriarchy.

Heather Newman:  (Laughter) You know what, I'm here in Marina del Rey and I got my hand up giving you a high five on that one, so

John Erickson:  That's right.

Heather Newman:  Fantastic. Yeah, so everyone, I met John through a mutual friend and she was featured at the Women's March this year as a top speaker. And that was super fun. And you were involved with that, Zoe Nicholson, our mutual friend and I got to say hi and. Tell everybody how you were involved in the Women's March. Maybe we start with that.

John Erickson:  Oh yeah. Well obviously I love Zoe and so she and I go way way back. So, after the election of 2016 and the Women's March movement was really, you know, just beginning. Here in LA, I was able to meet two amazing individuals, you know, Emiliana Guereca and Deena Katz, the co-executive directors of Women's March LA Foundation and then you know, they put on the march and I got in touch with them through our, you know, interconnected feminist circles and they basically, you know, it was such a hodgepodge of people upset and wanting to do something and take action and we didn't know what it was going to be or how many people would show up. And I ended up programming the opening stage and running it and being a lead there. And you know, before we knew it we were on top of the bus in Pershing Square and like, I think it was like 800,000 people just like looking out at us, just completely swamped and you know, and I continued on with it the next year, in that official role in programming the opening stage, and again did it this year at Pershing and you know, just a part of that whole Board and team of really making a difference in organizing. I think it was over 1.5 million in the last three years. I don't know. But definitely one of the, the largest march in, you know, California history. But then I believe the Women's March total is the largest march ever. Period.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yes. With those foundations back a hundred years ago with the original Women's March, which I learned all about from our friend Zoe. So yeah.

John Erickson:  Yeah. The original march on Washington.

Heather Newman:  Yep, absolutely. That's so cool, yeah, I loved seeing you there this year and being a part of that along with Zoe, it was really powerful. And you have, an interesting day job. And I, I think it's gotten more interesting in the recent past and

John Erickson:  This week.

Heather Newman:  Especially this week as the Director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood LA. So, will you tell everybody one, maybe how you got into that role and then also what it is that you do for the organization? That'll be cool.

John Erickson:  Yeah, I hear, you know, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, you know, we as an organization have been fighting for reproductive healthcare for quite some time here in LA and making it a priority and providing the critical services that we see that are under attack currently with the attacks on Roe vs Wade, but you know, the state attacks, you know, banning abortion outright like we saw in Alabama or Georgia and other places. And so, I got involved through Planned Parenthood, honestly through activism when I was a master’s student and then through a lot of my feminist circles and got to know the team here and always worked and interacted with them, you know, and was involved. And they really approached me a few, a year ago and you know, offered me the ability to come, you know, work at my dream job and it really is a dream job. And so I sit here every day and you know, making sure, you know, our health centers our doors stay open, we have policy that is effective and pushes, you know, for further expansion of access to care and the services we offer. And then, you know politically on the (c)(4) side separately, you know, making sure that we, you know, elect women's healthcare champions up and down the ballot as well as across the country with the amount of power that we have here in LA. So my role is very multifaceted and it's never not busy, and it's never not interesting. And honestly, it's always, I always feel it's sometimes cliché to say this, but when you can really wake up every morning, even no matter how tired you are, and you can say you love what you do, you're very blessed. And I'm fortunate enough to be in that situation.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. And you know, I know most people, a lot of our listeners are going to have a very clear vision of Planned Parenthood, but will you talk about just a little bit about how Planned Parenthood, like a little bit more expansion on when you talk about reproductive rights and reproductive health, what, what that encompasses at say a Planned Parenthood facility. I think that would be great to know.

John Erickson:  Yeah, so definitely. So, you know, when we talk about access to reproductive healthcare or healthcare in general, you know, a lot of aspects can and can come up. You know, so since 1965 here at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, we have provided convenient and affordable access to a comprehensive range of really quality reproductive healthcare and sexual healthcare information through direct patient services, education and advocacy. And you know, we're really made up of those three areas, health services, education and advocacy. You know, in terms of health services, when you look at reproductive healthcare, abortion is reproductive healthcare and abortion is healthcare. So that is a service that we do offer. But in addition to the other health services that we offer, such as STI testing, HIV/AIDS testing, cancer screening referrals, cervical cancer tests, you know. The work that we do all across Los Angeles County because that's how much of our affiliate, what we represent to the educational pieces where we're in, you know, the schools and out there in the community providing sexual sexuality and Family Planning Education to, you know, almost over 50,000 men and women and teams each year. And then, you know, I think our advocacy side with what we do to secure and protect access to this full range of reproductive healthcare, often times, you know, people are afraid to talk about these issues or they're uncomfortable or, you know, if you look at it from a policy standpoint, the policies just aren't there yet. And how we actually talk about sexuality, gender identity, reproductive healthcare, and, you know, we help fight for that on the policy side to get really great laws passed. Like, you know, the California healthy, the sex education bill that passed a few years back that teaches all these things now and in schools. You know, to the way in which we have to reframe the question and when we look at, you know, what, what is abortion in 2019 with such all of the attacks. I mean, 73% of all Americans support Roe v Wade and access to these services. So, you know, we really have to think about what our role looks like in this and how it shifts and, but we're always going to be here, making sure that, you know, our mission continues and that we fight on because people need our services so much. People utilize our services so much. And we need to, we'll be here.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And in some places, and we live in an urban, a large urban center right? But we also have all kinds of people at all kinds of different strata of, you know, what they get paid and, and I think, and then, and then, then Planned Parenthood is in other communities. You know, sometimes that's the only game in town for folks, right? I mean, that's what we’re looking at.

John Erickson:  Exactly. You know, we provide low cost and no cost, affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare, you know, here in LA, you know, because we've been able to work and all of our affiliates across the state, because of all the work we've been able to do, you know, with our state government and with our local leaders and just, you know, being out there and how we approach all these issues and think really creatively and innovatively about them. People don't have access to these services. People don't even have health insurance because health insurance is still really expensive, right? Even though they're supposed to, but you know, how can we make sure we're serving those communities as well as communities that are directly under attack? How are we serving our immigrant communities that are afraid to go to doctors, are afraid to do certain things because of all the attacks on them? How are we servicing homeless individuals? How are we servicing members of the LGBTQ community that can't go to their regular provider and get an HIV test maybe because their parents pay for it and they don't want to see that on there. We're there to make sure that we provide that service to those patients because it is exactly what needs to be done. And that's why we do it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. There's so much of our lives that is behind closed doors for so many reasons, you know, and if you don't have a safe place to go, you will go to a non-safe place or you will just not deal with it. Right? And I think, that's

John Erickson:  Yeah, totally. I mean, I came to Planned Parenthood too because I was a patient. Right. You know, I'm from Wisconsin for example. Right. So, you know, it's not, it wasn't as bad as it is now, although we're trying to get better. In reality, you know, I grew up in a very, you know, small, not crazy conservative town, but I grew up in a small town where, you know, I was afraid to, you know, get an HIV/AIDS test. So I went to a Planned Parenthood because I knew I'd get the care and respect that I needed and I did, and I felt safe and secure and I wasn't ready to come out yet, but I was still able to take care of my body as well as other people. And so, you know, those are the types of things that are so powerful about all the work that we do.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, absolutely. I'm from Michigan, so I'm a fellow Midwesterner as well, and I come from very small towns and my family as well. So I know exactly what you're talking about. So, yeah. And you know, and the work you do for, the day job, but you, you have so many other amazing things that you're involved with that I could just like laundry list it out. But, I know that, you know, you're a part of Hollywood Now and Stonewall Dems LA and the ACLU SoCal and probably many other things that I haven't even listed. That's all part of this activism. And, I love how you, talk about feminist, the word feminist. You've used that a couple of times and I assume you would call yourself a feminist as well.

John Erickson:  I call myself a very proud feminist.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Right on me too.

John Erickson:  I am involved in a lot, yeah, we should all call ourselves feminists. I mean I would hope we would. In regards to, you know, feminism men need to be more involved in fighting for women's equality. I think as you saw where like with what's happening with these draconian laws that are getting passed, like men love to legislate women's bodies or bodies that are like non, that are not a part of this, you know, normative hegemony that's out there. So like, unless your life's like white, Hetero normative, patriarchal male, like, you know, of course these men love to like legislate the crud out of it. Right. And so we need more men standing up and saying, that's not right and I'm going to use my power, position, and privilege to make sure that these horrible laws, people, you know, you name it, aren't there. And that's not all of it as well. We need more men to understand that patriarchy, as I say it is itself a concept and a really restrictive force that impacts men as well. You know, Bell Hooks and The Will to Change really quoted this about how patriarchy effects both men and women. And we see that with toxic masculinity. And we see that with all of these forces. And so, and also we, we can't get to true gender equality if we're only focusing on, you know, 52 or 53% of the species, right? We need everyone there fighting side by side and working together to get those meanings, you know, but then also men need to check their privilege in the feminist movement. Right? So I'm the president of the Hollywood chapter for the National Organization for Women and that's great. And I'm so proud to be their president and all the work that we do, but my E-Board, you know, I try to make sure that they're the face of the chapter. I'm not the face of the chapter and they're out at events and I'm, you know, just there lending whatever support I can through whatever connections I have, you know. I always want to try to create a more equitable and just society and you know, we really need to work towards that. And I think having more men identify as feminists or just like progressive in general are so critical to the future of the movement.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I know, in working in technology as you know, I do. And you know, we, I've been working a lot in the diversity and inclusion committee groups and it is, the shift has been from the, you know, women in tech, women in IT, which is still there. But it also has, I think, I mean, I don't want to be on a panel or in a meeting or that where we're excluding anybody because if they're not part of the conversation, you're just not part of the conversation. Right? So also, as, so will you talk about the ACLU SoCal as well? I know you're a board member there.

John Erickson:  Yeah. Well we actually have a meeting tonight. So, the ACLU of Southern California, I love being a part of this board. They are so cracker jack smart. And the ways in which you look at the aspects of how much of our society that we come to think of like normal, right, are being attacked. So from access to care, LGBTQ rights, speech itself, like freedom to say and do and all, I mean all of these things the ACLU protects, you know, I signed up before the election of Trump and I got elected to the board and you know, ever since then it's just been one thing after another. And we're really on the ground here in Southern California doing so much work with all of our partners, not only from a policy standpoint, from the states, but also suing across the border with all of these horrible things that are happening nationally. So, and really drawing attention to a lot of critical communities, like our immigrant community that are being constantly harassed and attacked and just scapegoated for everything and we're suing and we're winning. And so being on that board, you know, we really serve as gatekeepers and protectors of the thing that we call, you know, I think one of our most inalienable rights, what we're doing right now, talking and, and, and being able to express our opinions. And, you know, some people, you know, give a bad rap to the ACLU for how and who we defend sometimes. But that speech is just as critical and important, you know, to protect. At times when we may not agree with it, now when it promotes hate and violence and misinformation and all these things, that's when we get into the nuances of the First Amendment of course, but you know, and directly if it's a call to action to be violent. But you know, the ACLU of Southern California really sets these big issues and we succeed at all the items that we do there. And, you know, I'm just so proud to be a part of such an amazing board. I'm on the (c)(4) Board. So the political board and passing laws, you know, making more police accountable and making, you know, types of transparency laws more visible, you know, fighting for women's reproductive rights both here in California as well as across the country. Fighting for our immigrant communities in LA, as well as in Orange County and San Bernardino counties where we all know that they're still being attacked because of how, um, you know, Republicans still have control, local jurisdictions there, to a whole host of other issues that are so critical that we have to fight for. I mean, so many organizations are suing and so many organizations are leading the fight. I mean, we can all name, you know, several of them, but you know, just to be a part of this board is very exciting.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that sounds like it. Will you, will you tell everybody exactly what (c)(4) is for those who might not know?

John Erickson:  Oh yeah. I love talking about this actually. So, you know, nonprofits are traditionally, called what we identify as, you know, 501(c)(3)s meaning, you know, they're non-electoral so they can't actually endorse or be really politically involved because it would make them a different type of organization that is something that they're not tax exempt from in all of the ways in which our lovely IRS system works. A 501(c)(4) is an organization that is allowed to be involved politically and lobby and endorse candidates and fight for bills and ask legislators to, to support certain bills. A (c)(3) can't do that, but a (c)(4) can. So most organizations that are really large are just directly (c)(4)s because they're involved in political work. But for example, like with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and all these other, um, organizations that are really powerful out there nationally, you see the differences in their name. So, you see the ACLU Foundation for example, and that's a (c)(3) versus, you know, the ACLU Southern California, I can't remember what that the (c)(4) name is. But there are various ways in which these organizations are structured so they can be successful on all aspects because as you and I both know, it's, you can only be able to go so far when your lives are on the line or when you're policies are on the line or what you need to do. You know, you need to be able to go the full, the full way to make sure that our rights are protected and the (c)(4) of many of these organizations do that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. That's great. Yeah, because I think that's sometimes like I people know about 501(c)(3)s, but I don't know if they know as much about the other side. So that's, thank you for that. That's awesome.

John Erickson:  It's really complex. I had to teach myself a lot. But yeah, it's really powerful. And right now we need a lot of them.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I want to, talking about, you know, being a feminist and I know that you have a lot of background in women's studies and you are very educated and you, you know, you've gone to school, your masters and your congratulations about to get your PhD and become a doctor. Will you tell everybody about in what that's happening?

John Erickson:  Yeah. So I will be a doctor I hope by the time this podcast airs. I'm finishing my PhD at the Claremont Colleges in American Religious History, focusing on the separation between sexuality and spirituality within the LGBTQ community from post-Stonewall to the fight for marriage equality. And I did this through interviewing major stakeholders within the LGBT community from all walks of life and backgrounds and you name it. I was trying to get those interviews and really shaping around a core set of ideas that I was able to, I think, successfully to portray. And so I will be Dr. John soon. It's, it's really weird to say that, but it's been a dream of mine and at certain times I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but here we are.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, and doing it while you're working, you know as well. Right. I mean that had to be a lot.

John Erickson:  Yeah. You know, I envy people in school. When I got my masters degrees, one in Women's Studies, Applied Women's Studies and then one in Women's Studies and Religion, you know, it was so structured. I had to be in class and I wrote my thesis. It was two years and it was done. And then, you know, obviously when you're in PhD coursework you're at school too. But you're also kind of living life a little bit more. I was fortunate I had a great fellowship and all these things and so I was able to pick up a job where I really started getting into all these policies, politics and government at the City of West Hollywood. Changed my life. And you know, and then I, you know, got done with coursework and I had to take my exams and my proposal. And when you're out of school and you have like no structure, like okay, I'm going to write from twelve to four and you're like running around like a crazy person that life is happening and all these things right. And you're like, when am I going to write this whole thing? But you, you, you make do and you find time. And it took me a year longer than I expected, but oh well.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Hey, whatever you're going to be Dr. John soon. So that's so exciting.

John Erickson:  New business cards are coming.

Heather Newman:  That's fantastic. I can't wait to have one. Yay.

John Erickson:  Also, I just want to say, like you want to talk about like the basic levels of like sexism within like academia. Like there was this whole amazing Twitter conversation where like, where all these male scholars jumped on this woman for like on Twitter, changing her name to like doctor something, um, you know, when they have it too. And so like, those are the types of fights that like are even still going on. So, like if you're a woman and you have a PhD and you don't have it listed on any of your social media profiles, do it, you earned it. You worked for it, you're a doctor.

Heather Newman:  MmHmm, yes. Done doctor. Doctor, yes. Wow. That's

John Erickson:  Right?

Heather Newman:  Yeah! That's crazy. Okay. Yeah. Wow. Um, you know, so you've been, like when I was looking at, you know, I was, I've been doing my research, you know, and I was looking at

John Erickson:  You we're sipping all the tea and looking at my background.

Heather Newman:  Yes, I was looking at the tea. So you've been in, you know, with the Women's Center at the University of Wisconsin. I'd love to know what, maybe there was a spark or a something, a book. What was it that lit you up to go, you know what, this is where I want to go with my heart, my career, all that stuff? Can you go back and pinpoint maybe one or something that happened or a couple of things that happen that you could share with folks? Your spark? Yeah,

John Erickson:  yeah. The spark probably really was my grandmother. I mean I grew up with a kick ass, both of my grandmothers are amazing, but my maternal grandmother name is Gladys, Ritzgo, people call her Sarge cause she was in the army. She was a staff sergeant in the Women's Auxiliary Corps after Pearl Harbor. And you know, when that influx of women joining, you know, the WAACs as they call them, happened, you know. And she, she set out on this whole life that I don't think she ever realized she was going to do, but she existed in such male, Hetero, patriarchal spheres. And, and she conquered them. I mean, you know anything about the army, you know, she rose up to many levels and you know, was in charge of many sensitive aspects. And, you know, even on when she was older, she was such an advocate for older adults. And how she, you know, was the first, I believe, female president of the Wisconsin Veterans of Foreign War, she had, you know, very close connections with all of these men in the army. And then, you know, the governor, you know, the old governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson actually coined her nickname because of her involvement and he called her Sarge, that's why she got her nickname. And so, yeah. And so, you know, but she was a pillar in my community of Ripon, Wisconsin. And, and so I saw this woman without realizing it, right? Cause young and naive and watching Dawson's Creek or whatever I was watching. Um, and, and I see this woman overcoming the world, right? And so like gender, and this sounds really naive and but like, so when you look at gender parity or gender equality, like I didn't see it, but like those, I obviously was coming from a position of privilege because I existed in a world where like women in my life like rule, like they ran the roost. My sisters are incredible. Like they are, I mean better people than I could ever hope to be. My aunts are incredible. I mean, my mom is kick ass. I mean, you name it, I got it right? But, you know, I mean, we all have that story. We all have those people in our family that are so critical that shape us. That's why like, you know, you know, matriarchies and how they pass down this knowledge is so important and why we have to honor our mothers and you know, everyone that comes before that. And you know, so I think my feminism roots we're always there and I wanted to actually be a doctor. Another type. I wanted to be a medical doctor when I was growing up because I have asthma. So I wanted it to be a pediatric pulmonologist, which is basically like an asthma doctor or a doctor that deals with kids, you know, lungs and all that stuff. Cause I went to them my whole life and you know, I was at college and I was taking all these classes and I was doing great. And I had to take like an English class and we read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and it sounds so weird, but like that did it, like that was like the spark. I was like, wow, like I'm done with this and activism and all these things and getting involved in my campus and you know, being active and paying homage to all the work that was done. And I grew up with such a respect for suffragettes and women's history because Carrie Chapman Catt actually lived in my hometown of Ripon, Wisconsin. And so, you know, I think of all these symbols and all these things that really kind of played this route to like get me to where I was and they were just all there. So that's kind of the spark that lit the fire. And then after that, you know, I think everything just toppled down successfully.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And you worked on the Margaret Sanger papers project as well?

John Erickson:  Yeah. Yeah. So when I got done with my master's degrees, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I applied to doctoral programs and got in and you know, but I was with a former partner at the time and he wanted to move back to New York, but I got this great internship at NYUs Margaret Sanger's papers project where I worked and helped edit and write on the fourth volume of her letters, I believe it was the fourth volume. And be there and work with the students and everything and really read her letters that were just incredible. And because I had such a drive for women's history and one of my master’s thesis in Women's Study's and Religion dealt with women's suffrage and women's history and radical women's activism in, you know, the 19th century. I was so drawn to Margaret obviously for many reasons, but so this just appealed. And so when I worked there over that summer and then decided I wanted to go back to school and move back to California, that's something that just led a part of that. And you know, that's also why Zoe and I love each other so much cause she loves Margaret Sanger and I love Margaret Sanger.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. And for those of you who don't know, Margaret Sanger was one of the forefronts of, you know, the organizations and foundations that became Planned Parenthood as well. Just to put a point on that history, herstory, as well. So, yeah, that's so cool. I just, I love watching all the, do you sleep?

John Erickson:  Um, no. Actually I do. Not right now cause like I have a board meeting tonight and I have to go home and write my diser, I have to continue editing. I'm fiercely editing as we speak. You know, the project and getting it done. And you know, my whole family flies in tomorrow. And then, you know, work and everything else that we do. I do sleep sometimes, but you know, I think that as activism and the legendary Ivy Bottini said this to me, she was one of the original founders of the New York chapter of NOW, like when you think about radical feminist activism, Ivy Bottini always comes to the front of the line. She designed the original NOW logo, which is iconic and is on all those rounds that you see, I mean it's just incredible. She said something to me before she moved to Florida that, you know, um, sometimes, you know, in life we only get one great love. And if you do it wrong. Mine is most likely activism. And, you know, sadly other things take a backseat. And I think that's where I'm at right now with this love affair. With all that we do. I mean, fighting for change is not easy and we sacrifice so much of ourselves and we're so tired, but we get up every day because we have to. And I think that, you know, hopefully long, long, long down the road, you know, if, when I pass on into the realm of the goddess, you know, if I don't, I wanted just to know that I did everything I can to make the world a better place and better place for my nieces and nephews who live in Wisconsin, for my sisters, for my friends and people that I meet and, you know, and I think if I can do that, I guess that's a life worth living.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. I think, I just, I feel an urgency, you know, like I feel an urgency and something Zoe said to me, she was like, you know, you're a member of the, what is it, the divinely discontented club, you know? Like you, you just, you have, you have this drive that you want to make change and that it, it, yeah. You know, I like sleeping, but you know, I like all this other stuff a lot more.

John Erickson:  I still sleep every now and then. I think right now with activism, like there's so many people jumping on the bandwagon. Activism nurtures your soul. As I explained to everyone at the women's march that after that first year, you know, it gave everyone this momentum for like, you know, the rest of the year to do something. I think back about that moment. And it's powerful. Right? And you know, people come to me and they ask, or groups that we're in and, you know, they're all worried, like everything's immediate now, you know? But like we get to say, I mean maybe it's my age, you know, and I get to say no, like, okay, hold on. Like, let's figure this out. Right. We don't need to act right away, you know? And so being smart about it, you know, I guess that comes with age, but you know, it's a time right now I think when we see our rights being completely taken away, you know, when, when someone, when you feel the need to be militant sometimes maybe you should listen to that. What it's telling you. Sometimes we do have to take to the streets.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Listen to the ice pick that is forming in your hands, right. Yeah. You know, and I was talking, I was actually just talking to someone in the gym and we were talking about, I was actually telling her that I was going to interview you and that I was so excited about it. And she's like, oh my gosh, what are you going to talk about things are so hot right now? And I was like, I'm sure we're going to talk about all kinds of things. But, and we were, a couple of other women were standing there and they're like, yeah, they're like, you know, you know, I just, how do I get, how do I get more involved? You know? And, and I was like, well, I said, you know, on a base level there's, you know, you can always help with money and funding, you know, ACLU and Planned Parenthood and those kinds of places and stuff. And they were like, you know what else? And I was like, well, I said, you know what, I'm going to pose that question to John. And I had a couple of things, but I'm curious like for the listeners, you know, and also two points, that question, but also I know that people, people are afraid sometimes to bring up these topics because they are very volatile and they are worried about their jobs. They're worried about, you know, not losing, losing clients. And, I just, I'm like, I want to have us be authentic. I want to have us have integrity. How do you talk to people about balancing how your passion and not losing a job and, and those sorts of things? You know what I mean? For people who want to get involved but are like I'm not sure how, so I know that was a lot, but I know you got it.

John Erickson:  No, so number one how you want to get involved if you're asking yourself that question, you're asking yourself the right question. And let me tell you some things that we can do. There's always, if you live in LA, there's a zillion democratic clubs that make it so easy for you. Join Stonewall if you want, you know, or you know, or Heart of LA Democratic Club. If you love feminists, it's the only feminist Democratic Club in Los Angeles County or you know, start your own crew. I mean, Moms Demand Action was something that wasn't there until you know it needed to be. And that's why it's so powerful because it's people that come from all walks of life around an issue that's bipartisan, gun control, that doesn't have a democrat, I mean, I know people like to think of it that way, but it's not. So how do you get more involved is you know, you've got to do a little bit of research too. I mean, we, I'm getting, you know this, we meet people all the time that are like, I'm mad about this and I'm mad about that and I want to do this and I want to do that. It's like, okay, you know, my academic side, what do you actually want to do? Oh, so you want to, you want to fight against police brutality? Well, you should go to a local Black Lives Matter meeting and really sign up and learn about white privilege, institutional racism, and get involved and be a supporter and an ally, and stand in solidarity and your life will be changed forever, right? Oh, you care about reproductive justice? Well, let me introduce you to Planned Parenthood or Naral or you know, all these organizations that do all this type of work. I mean, there's, there's so many out there. It's not just always the big ones. Right. And it's also just sometimes showing up to a meeting. Activism is about showing up and being there. And then it is also about doing stuff, don't get me wrong. But people that are activists aren't always the loudest in the streets. They're not always, you know, the most crazy on social media, posting every five seconds, you know, like some people are. But activists are sometimes those silent types that change life with their words, you know? I don't want to out my friend that this story belongs to, but you know, uh, I think after the 2016 election, they weren't really a take to the streets and march person, but they're an amazing letter writer. And I remember, do you remember that whole electoral college thing where people were writing to all of those individuals? Well she writes a mean letter. Mean as in like amazingly wickedly worded perfectly. That's why she's so incredible. And that was her activism and that's beautiful. And I think that that's the type of activism that we need. And also we need activism happening all over the country. We need it in Alabama, we need it in Georgia we need it in Wisconsin and a lot of the times it starts with a conversation. So who do you know that the 2016 election maybe in your family or in your friend group caused a great rift? Right? I know it happened to me with my family and that's, you know, bringing up your second question of how do we really talk about this stuff? They don't want us to talk about this stuff. They don't want us, I say they as the proverbial other side of the coin of people that are doing these awful things like Trump and his cronies, right? They don't want us to talk to each other. They want that line there. Now, I'm not going to lie, I too have stopped talking to people in my personal and professional life. And because I believe a line was kind of drawn in the sand and the people that really chose to jump over it, it's really hard for me to see them in a different light now. And I think we have to be, we have to stand in that light and honesty because if we don't, we forget the past and we forget really how hurtful all the stuff that's been done since then really comes about. So we need people to talk to people and not be afraid to bring up these issues and maybe they haven't before. Maybe they did. And how can we mend old wounds and how can you also, you know, do self-care at the same time. Don't, don't bring it up at Christmas usually, or Thanksgiving. Maybe sometimes it is and it's okay to, you know, if someone says something horribly racist at your Thanksgiving table, you should say something, first of all. But you know, I think what we need to do is we need to make sure, you know, it would be great to bring back this divide and come back together. I mean, I've often times thought about reconnecting with my family members, but you know, I don't know how much I can sacrifice my morality because they haven't seen the error that they caused. So, you know, there are things that we have to grapple with, but I think that, you know, obviously don't bring up politics in a work setting is really hard, especially if we work for a corporation because you never know who voted for who. And also sometimes like there's whole legality issues, but you know, there's nothing wrong with setting lines and boundaries and saying like, I'm not going to work with someone that I'm seeing do x, y, or z. That's completely fine. You just have to be wary that, you know, that it's a different world right now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean activism, like you were saying, can be on so many levels, you know, writing, writing a letter up to being front and center at a march or helping with policy and all of that stuff. I think, you know, I love what you said, especially, you know, I had some of those family and friends members as well. And I think that there's so much, and it's like how you as a person hold yourself in the world and put yourself out there in the world. And you know, sometimes it's even, it's like how do we, if you're, if you happen to be a parent, you know, what's going on at your kid's school and being an advocate there, you know, when our kids are young is, is huge or it, you know, at your Curves workout class or whatever, you know, like all of those things. I think you're right. If we don't have these conversations, if we don't reach across the divides, then we're never going to come together. We're just going to continue to be split apart. And I agree with you that that's, um, keeping people not talking, apart and at each other's throats is attack is a tactic. It's a smart tactic, you know?

John Erickson:  And it works, sadly.

Heather Newman:  I know it does work. You know, I kind of, you know, I was thinking about you today obviously, because we were going to do this and I was like looking and I was watching a few, like I was like, hmm, have many people posted on say Facebook and you know, about this, about Alabama and Georgia. And it's been interestingly quiet, I got to say in certain realms of my life. And I'm like, Huh, interesting. And you know, I do feel like that this is a, and you know better that I in many ways, but I feel like this is sort of a test for that, it's about these states, but this is a test to see if, how the country would feel if the Supreme Court actually got rid of Roe versus Wade, you know? Like, is the uproar big enough about these two states doing this? I don’t know. Maybe. You know what I mean?

John Erickson:  The answer is yes. To every person that cried on election night, not just because Trump was elected, because they knew reproductive freedom and their right to privacy, which by the way, LGBTQ rights are completely based off of. I'm really sorry. I'm really sorry because these laws and they were written this way and they've had press statements like the Alabama law, the person who wrote it said, because the Supreme Court has changed under the supreme leadership of Donald Trump, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like we know that we can finally overturn Roe v Wade. Neil Gorsuch stole that Supreme Court seat. The Supreme Court of the United States of America is now a partisan body of the political system. It is not a check and it is not a balance because you can now determine the outcome of almost every decision based on the letter of the president that appointed the Justice. Brett Kavanaugh was an accused rapist from multiple people, not just Dr. Blasey Ford. That is disqualifying. I don't know if I can support Joe Biden because he gave us Clarence Thomas. I mean, people vote in elections for whatever candidate they want. And yes, I have a Hillary tattoo on my body, and I obviously am a Hillary person, but in 2012 I always say, this is about the Supreme Court. This is about the rights that we are trying to win and achieve. This is about the whole kit'n'caboodle, right? And so being, if people think that Roe v Wade is going to be safe, they are mistaken. These are direct attacks to Roe v Wade. And it's either going to be a death by a thousand cuts to say all these restrictive laws are fine, literally fine. Or it's ba-bye. And if you follow the Supreme Court because you're a big nerd like I am, and you read certain decisions, they just overturned like a 40-year precedent in regard to tax law. They, you know, and the thing about stare decisis, which is, you know, the aspect of precedent is that, you know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So, unless there's like some exact reason to overturn such long standing past precedent, you don't. And in a descent, you know, Justice Briar said Casey is next basically. Meaning Casey, you know, for Roe. I mean, all of these things that you saw that's coming and that, you know, Row is a very long precedented case. And so it's, it's happening. And when we start living in a, you know, scarily enough, a Gilead type state, like all ala Handmaid's Tale remember that. Remember in 2020, you're not just like, you know, the whole thing about Trump and why he got all these people. He's, you know, he's, he posed the question, what do you have to lose? And to those people that voted for him, I think he's clearly depicted what do you got to lose right from trade tariffs to taxes to fight for healthcare. I mean, you name it, you lost a lot, right? And so right now all of us are sitting here and it's hard for us because we're biting our tongues, not trying to say, I told you so. And we're in the midst of a, you know, a presidential primary on the democratic side where I think we're up to 3,467 candidates running so far. I don't know how big they're going to get them all on that stage. Maybe we'll have risers or something. You know,

Heather Newman:  Like Beyonce's homecoming, you know, like,

John Erickson:  Oh, I mean, first of all, Queen B, bow down, we can do that. I live for that. Um, but you know, Roe v Wade is, I mean if you, if I were a betting man in four years, it's gone in three years it's gone. And it's scary because we have to make sure that we, and it goes back to the states then, right? So Roe v Wade, let's say it's overturned completely, then it goes back to the states. So there are these things called trap laws that are passed in states that are basically targeted, restricted abortion providers, laws, whatever. I, I don't think I got the acronym right, but they are laws that basically the moment Roe v Wade is overturned, it makes abortion completely illegal in that state. And if you Google, I encourage everyone here to Google like just trap laws in the United States and just look at the map and see how many states actually have that. Maybe it's like it's an insane amount, like 23 plus. And then you look at the blue states that don't, that have actually codified Roe within their own constitutions like California, New York just did it, for example, Washington. What's going to happen to those people? 23 million women will lose the right to their own bodily autonomy if Roe is overturned.

Heather Newman:  That's a big number, 23 million.

John Erickson:  23 million. And that's nonpartisan. That, I mean, think about just the economic impact of 23 million women in an apocalypse like scenario where Roe is overturned. And as you and I both know it's not going to stop people from getting abortions. It's just kind of stop him from doing this.

Heather Newman:  No, no. And abortions are down, you know, and

John Erickson:  Cause reproductive healthcare and preventative sex education works. But we just forget that sometimes.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Absolutely. Wow. Thank you for answering that because I feel like I have a lot of people in my life who ask me those questions and I had some of your goodness and I have a little bit more on that, so thank you. I appreciate that. I'm always happy to learn a little bit more about how to, how to, how to help other people find their way in this and, and what we need to be doing.

John Erickson:  People could always email me or tweet me at JErickson85 on Twitter. I'm always happy to tweet back at you and provide you in the right way to get involved.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Thank you for that. That's terrific. All of your goodness will be in the show notes of how they can get ahold of you and all the great organizations and stuff. Yes, of course. I have one more and then I'm going to let you let you run along to oh my goodness, all the things you are doing. But I know you also, you are also a podcaster and

John Erickson:  Yes.

Heather Newman:  Oh, my goodness. And that is, I love it. I was like Pop Culture. Well I should say Pop! Culture Theologians if I was saying it correctly.

John Erickson:  Got to get the (pop sound) in there.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Tell everybody about that because that's super fun. Yeah.

John Erickson:  So, you know, academia these days is a little troubling, right? I love teaching and I go back and I teach at my undergrad, at my graduate school and I love teaching, but I discovered it wasn't what I wanted to do. I mean, I was in this government politics and policy realm. So I feel very blessed that way because, you know, I can still love teaching without growing bitter about it. Um, but you know, a lot of people are asking themselves, well, what do I do with my degrees? You know, when I'm done, teaching or getting my degree and I don't want to really teach. Right. And you know, I started a podcast with my friend after we started a website called the Engaged Gaze, not g-a-y-s, g-a-z-e Gaze, engagedgaze.com. We really wanted to take our academic degrees where we were in all of these classes and learned all this highfalutin stuff, right? But really how do we break down like pop culture because of its like serious impacts and how it shapes society and what we do and how we do it, and obviously when you look at culture and society and what we watch, I mean, you name it, like from religious iconography to, you know, sociological norms to every everything that's there, we really need, you know, to look at other options. And we were like, let's start doing a podcast where we take a show every season and just break it down. We'll be shady. We'll do all the great things that we love to do. Like ala, you know, RuPaul style, glass of wine, you know, have a lot of fun. The library is open. And so we are just finishing up season three of the show now. We, this past season recap, Game of Thrones, that little old show on HBO and you know, and we just really go each episode and, my podcast partner who lives in Florida, she's going to move back to California, but she lives in Florida. So we do it every week. And it's a great way for us to stay in touch too, cause she's one of my closest friends, but it's a great way for us to engage in this whole level of like academic discipline that's in the academy, as well as kind of out there in the Twitter sphere and you know, it's talked about in journals and bring it more to like the masses in the ways in which we break stuff down for like, you know, these fun shows that everyone loves and like, okay, so let's really take a different lens and, and look at it. Right. And so it's been a whole new realm and like advertising and marketing and all this crazy stuff and all these people we interact with and it's been a lot of fun.

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. Yeah, I know

John Erickson:  In my spare time.

Heather Newman:  In your spare time. Well, you know what? Spare time is for other people. I know, I just got my DragCon ticket, so I'm very excited to go see Mama Ru and all the queens. I went last year and it was amazing. So yeah, I'm super excited about that. Awesome. Well, hey, I think you're amazing and I'm so happy, and Zoe, if you're listening, thank you so much. I just am so happy to have you as a part of my life and I learn a lot from you and I also just, I think it's terrific what you're doing in the world and appreciate the time and energy you're putting into it. It's so needed and thank you really

John Erickson:  Thank you for having me. And I'm so glad we met and we're going to be doing lots more together. I'm just so glad that you know, we are able to take this time, you know, and, and talk to each other, you know, when it seems like the world's falling down we always find, you know, the ways to pick ourselves back up is to talk with a friend.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. For sure. That's awesome. Well thank you again John, and we'll put everything in show notes so you can find out about all these organizations that we talked about and ways to get involved and talking to John directly on Twitter cause I know you're super active, so that's fun.

John Erickson:  I have mean re-tweeting fingers to say the least.

Heather Newman:  (Laughter) Tippity-tappity. That's great.

John Erickson:  Tippity-tappity!

Heather Newman:  Awesome.

John Erickson:  It takes a little bit more to share it on Facebook. So Twitter is the way to go.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Okay. Yes, that's what I noticed on there. That that's the way you're so-cial so cool. All right, well everyone, thank you again, John, for being on and we have another Mavens Do It Better podcast in the bag and you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher and Spotify and on the Mavens Do It Better website and wishing you another big beautiful day on this big, beautiful spinning sphere. Thanks everybody.


Episode 38: Peace Mavens Chris Bayot and J’aime Kailani

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. We are here again with another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we speak with extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. And I am excited yet again to talk to a couple of wonderful ladies that I know today on the podcast. We're going to have Chris Bayot and Jamie Kailani who are working together on a, an amazing adventure and venture for Mama Earth. And I know Chris from back in the tech world in the SharePoint world, which we'll probably talk about a little bit and I know Jamie through Chris. So, ladies, Chris say hello to everybody. How about that?

Chris Bayot:  Hello everyone. Thank you Heather for having us on. This is wonderful.

Heather Newman:  Ahh, awesome. Jamie.

J’aime Kailani:  Yes. Aloha! Thank you so much Heather. We're honored to be on today.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. So, folks, I've known Chris for a really long time and her family and, we, Chris used to head up the SharePoint Saturday Honolulu. And so we met many years ago doing that. And I have had the wonderful fortune to be a part of that for a long time as a speaker and a sponsor and all kinds of stuff, and stayed with your beautiful family and your home and gotten to see all kinds of wonderful things in a Oahu and Honolulu and all over Hawaii as that's where she lives. And then I got to meet Jamie, last year in the midst of one of those. And then back in the holiday time, For Mama Earth was putting on an event here in Los Angeles. And so I got to see them in action as well. So I, I keep following the goodness of you ladies and what you're doing. And, and Jamie, I know that For Mama Earth was your brain child and I'd love for you to tell everybody about what that is and where it came from and what's going on. So,

J’aime Kailani:  Oh, yes. Well, you know, it started about 12 years ago. Um, and it, it all started from I, I, I'm a jewelry maker too. I love to work with beads and crystals. And I found this bead called a Malachite Azurite. And basically it's a recycled beat. It's, it's bits of Malachite and Azurite that they bond together to make it into this tiny bead that actually looks like the earth. And so, when I saw it, I was like, wow, I've got to do something with this. And you know, during that time, my son was, um, on a gymnastics team and they needed to do some kind of fundraiser. And so I thought, hey, let's make wish bracelets out of these beads. So we just put them on hemp string and you know, when you tie it on, you make a wish and that intention gets put into you know, the world. And, and so, um, it kinda started there. And at the same time I was also booking shows in town here in LA, uh, for my brother. Um, you might know him, his name is Bruno Mars.

Heather Newman:  Uh, yeah, who?

J’aime Kailani:  But I was booking his shows, this was before, you know, the fame and all that. Um, and so we were doing, you know, these small little shows around town and I was really creating some really great relationships with the owners of, of these, uh, these clubs. And so one of the first places was The Temple Bar in Santa Monica, which is no longer there, but it was definitely like one of my favorite clubs, bars that I've ever been to in my life because they, it was just like a very sacred place almost, which is weird to say because it's a bar, but they would have amazing, you know, musicians come through and, and so, um, our first event, you know, I thought, why not make it a charity event? Like we should be giving back. So we ended up doing an event right after the Haiti earthquake and there was an organization by the name of Boo May Say Haut (sp). And they were midwives who went to Haiti after the earthquake to help women give birth. Because as you can imagine, the, you know, the conditions were not good. And so they needed to build a birthing center and they needed a water system. And so at the time, you know, we, we really didn't make that much, but at the door, you know, we made about $3,000 and Bruno played and, and it was kind of like Mama Earth was kind of the way we kind of started getting a following of people, you know, to be, to start to know about Bruno in town and people were coming to our shows and, and so we, every time we did a show, we would donate proceeds to an organization. And so with that one, we were able to help put in a water system. And you know, although it was just a small thing, it really helped, you know, and we, and I realized like, wow, this is like, you don't really have to do that much to, you know, to, to help another. And I'm, and it was fun, you know? So in another way, Mama Earth has become kind of a way to get my creative energy. I'm an artist, so like there's different, I get bored. Like once I'm doing one thing, it's like I have to move on to the next, you know? And so it's a nice way to kind of get that creative energy out and have different projects going. And you know, you know, we have so many different initiatives now. Um, and it's all because I, you know, I mean some people might think I'm a scatterbrain, but I'm just an artist and I'm just trying to find different ways to get that artistic energy out. So, so that is how it all started.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. You know what? I think, you know, there's a quote about like, Salvador Dali, it's like Genius Madman kind of thing. I think that people who are artistic and we, we have many interests, you know, but there always seems to be like a vein that like, or a swim lane that you find that you pick where you can like really like harness that energy. And I think, you know, Mama Earth for you sounds like it was that, which is super cool, you know?

J’aime Kailani:  Yeah. It was, and I mean, for a long time before we, you know, finally honed in on our mission statement, you know, people were like, what do you do? Like Mama Earth? Oh, you recycle, like what do you do? You know, and because of the name too. And really Mama Earth stands, MAMA stands for mothers about making amends, which amend is, you know, to make better, you know. So at first it was, you know, it's, it's um, we use the power of music, art and nature to make a change for the better. So that's what our mission statement is.

Heather Newman:  Fantastic. Yeah. And I mean I have, I put it on this morning because I was going to talk to you both and I have some of your beautiful essential oil as well. So you do that, you know, you have a line that is so great.

J’aime Kailani:  Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That also, you know, and, and what I love about what you do is like you do, when you're doing things, it also benefits somebody else, right? So like the, you know, proceeds from different things. Like you have such a great mind around giving back and sharing and supporting and, and you know, that's obviously this through line through what you all are doing, which is super cool. Um, the, and, and talk, will you talk about the Pride for Philippines as well? I know that there's a connect in there and you're very connected to that organization as well.

J’aime Kailani:  Yes. Chris, you want to tell them about Pride for Philippines?

Chris Bayot:  Sure. I'll jump in on this one. Pride for the Philippines is our newest initiative among many others that we're working on and it is very environmentally focused but also with a very holistic approach. So when you're looking at the Philippines, it's a really important region geographically, environmentally. It is the single most biodiverse region in the world. So it's critical to our earth that this area be healthy. However, at the same time it's also highly polluted and they're the third largest contributor to ocean plastic. Which is hugely significant. So that's one of the key reasons that we're focusing on the Philippines in our environmental efforts. Um, so Pride for the Philippines is about bringing awareness to that region, just how important it is. Helping with existing efforts that are already ongoing to clean up and elevate and clean up the area. But also to take a holistic approach so that as we're doing that, we're looking at the people and the culture. So we're, we're working with a woman by the name of Gina Lopez, who is just doing amazing things in the Philippines. She's going in and she's doing full redevelopment in villages. So she's bringing in an economy, she's cleaning up the environment. She is partnering with what she calls loving organizations. It's organizations who are committed to giving back to the people in that, in that village. And they're contracted with her to do that. So these companies will bring in an economy, they will clean up the area, they will help provide housing, provide jobs, and bring income and sustainability into the region. So it's a holistic approach to cleaning up the environment, cleaning up what's feeding down the rivers and into Manila Bay and giving the people who live in that area a means to support themselves, put a roof over their head and, and come out of poverty. So it's, it's pretty amazing stuff. So with, with Pride for the Philippines, we're really trying to support those ongoing initiatives with fundraising. And we're doing it because we're fortunately connected with some celebrities who can help shine light on the matter. So we're using that star power to bring awareness and get the word out, help support our events. We're providing fundraising events to raise money to help the causes. Jamie, anything else you want to jump in on there with that?

J’aime Kailani:  Um, I, you said that well. I mean, the, the thing I love about it is that she's not, with this project, we're not exploiting the areas. You know what I mean? Because when you hear that, oh, you know, like area development and all that, um, you know, it makes you worry that maybe the culture is being exploited or that we'll bring too many people to the area. But I love the way she's doing it. It's not doing that at all. It's just helping bring families back together. Because I mean, I had an uncle who I couldn't believe, I found this out recently, that he, he moved from the Philippines to Hawaii. And I remember he just was staying with my grandmother, um, for 26 years. He didn't see his family because he had to come to Hawaii to make, make a living so that he could send money back to the Philippines. And, you know, this is kind of a problem. And I mean, this is not just kind of a problem, but it is a problem in a lot of third world countries where families are being broken up because there's no, there's, there's no economy there for them to, you know, to, to support their family. So, you know, I just love the way that Gina is going about it and it's not exploiting the area or the culture, you know, it's just really helping and I think that it's needed. So I'm really honored and grateful that we're able to work on this project with, and the, the, you know, the person who thought of this, his name is Lanai Te Groa. He's from Hawaii. He's an old friend. And you know, I love the way it all came about it. It kind of came up organically, but it's now rolling and it's really happening. And so we're so excited. We've got Leonardo DiCaprio on board. Um, he is one of, um, one of our main supporters.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, and he was there. Got to see him that night.

J’aime Kailani:  Yes. He was. In December at the One Peace event that we did. Yeah. He's one of our biggest supporters.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. You know, I think that, you know, you, you both have, um, it's all about connections and relationships at the end of the day for everything we do. Right? You know, and I think that when you tap into your, your family network and then your larger networks, I mean, that's what it's about, right? And always, you know, people like Leonardo and your brother Bruno, you know, and, and John Valentine, your lovely husband Chris. Who is an amazing musician outright, like the what, the most gigging musician in Hawaii, part of so many things and such a love, you know. Like I swear, you know, John stayed on his way through LA. And you know, I have a guitar on my wall that I can half play, you know, and I'm all like, it's the guitar's fault. You know, and he pulled it down and he's like, (fast guitar playing sound). And I was just like, it's not the guitars fault, you know? But my point is I think, yeah. Like we need to use all the resources that we have in our arsenals to get the word out about making change and about how we can help affect things in the world. And I love it that you are both mindful of that and also doing it a way that's just that super heartfelt and wholehearted, you know, and that's, that's what it's about. Right?

J’aime Kailani:  Thank you. Yeah, it's really about, you know, figuring out what your gifts are and, you know, using that to, you know, to create your, you know, to support yourself but also support others.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. That's so cool. And I know that, um, you have some things, um, you know, actually, you know what? I want to talk about one thing first. So Chris, um, I know that, you know, you've had a pretty major shift in your life and careers and stuff lately and you know, you and I have done many a tech show together and you are a,

Chris Bayot:  Yes, we have.

Heather Newman:  Just like I wear the producer hat many times in the world. I know you've worn the producer hat. So, um, with, with, you know, the transition from, you know, working as a, you know, a SharePoint consultant and business group owner and all of that and, and then moving into this, I dunno, like, how's that transition been for you? I know that, you know, that was a pretty big shift for you recently.

Chris Bayot:  It wasn't huge shift. Um, although working in the tech world prepared me well for what I'm doing now because working in the nonprofit world, it's important to be streamlined and have your ducks in a row because there is never any budget. We got to keep that administrative overhead down. So, so my tech experience really serves me well while I'm working in the nonprofit field. And not going to lie, I'm much happier now. I love, I love what I'm doing. I mean, I enjoyed SharePoint, I enjoyed technology and I had great clients, but my passion is with what I'm, the work that I'm doing with Mama Earth. It's exciting and it's fun. And I really enjoy producing events and that's a big part of what we're doing because we produce our events so that we can raise money for these great causes. And it's, it's a really satisfying way to work. Pay is not nearly as good, but I'm a whole lot happier.

Heather Newman:  Hey, you know what, that balancing act there. You know what I mean? It's like the shift is a good one, I think sometimes. So that's awesome.

Chris Bayot:  That's right. It was, it was a great quality of life shift. And I've got Johnny Valentine taking care of the mortgage, so we're good.

Heather Newman:  Hey, you know what? That's awesome. Yeah. Well, so you both, J’aime, did you, where did you grow up? Here in LA or did you spend, were you in Hawaii?

J’aime Kailani:  No, I grew up in Hawaii. And then I moved to LA when I was 19 or 20. I'm still trying to figure that out. It was right after the Northridge earthquake that I moved to LA. I just realized that yesterday. But anyway, um, yeah, yeah, I've been in LA for a while. I'm actually doing the math. I think I've been in la longer than I was in Hawaii now.

Heather Newman:  Oh Wow. Wow. Yeah. And Chris, you're a, you're a transplant. You're a Midwesterner. Like myself.

Chris Bayot:  Yeah, that's right. I'm originally from Ohio, but I've been in Hawaii for 31 years, so that is definitely home.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it's been fun, you know, uh, you know, getting to know you Jamie, and then get, you know, being able to be privy to your kids and your boys too.

J’aime Kailani:  Aww, thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. No, it's been super cool. I mean, you have a really great family.

J’aime Kailani:  Thank you. Yes, I do. I'm really grateful for my family.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. And you know, Chris's sons are both artistic and amazing and you know, it's been able to watch, you know, Daniel especially, you know, with his composing and all of that stuff. Like, it's just fun to watch y'all just do your thing. You know, like it's super fun from an outsider's perspective.

Chris Bayot:  Well, you know, we live in gratitude and I think that when you live in gratitude then things just come. So I feel very fortunate. Very blessed.

Heather Newman:  It's super cool. So, um, you have a bunch of wonderful things coming up and so is the One Peace Festival that's happening in June in Honolulu, Hawaii, sort of a continuation of sort of the One Peace sort of, you know, set of events or is it its own thing? Will one of you talk about that a little bit too?

Chris Bayot:  I'll start and let Jamie jump in. Yes, it absolutely is a continuation. Our One Peace events, Jamie started doing, I don't know, five or more years ago, did an amazing job with. And then she allowed me to come in and assist. So now I get to have fun doing it too. But for the Honolulu event, we are focused on Pride for the Philippines and earning proceeds that will benefit Mama Earth programs including Pride for the Philippines. And it's going to go from June the 26th through June the 30th with our big night really being Friday, June 28th. We'll start on Wednesday the 26th with a film screening at the Hawaii State Art Museum and it'll be an environmental film. So you'll have to pay attention to see which one we select. We have, we have three in mind. Um, so we'll be screening a film on Wednesday the 26th and then on Friday the 28th we have the One Peace Festival, which Heather will be very much like what you came to Los Angeles one that Leo attended. So we'll have a pop up art auction. Johnny Valentine will be doing a concert for us featuring the classic music of the 70s, the classic music of Hawaii from the 70s. So for those who are Hawaii folks out there listening, the music of CNK, Call Upon Us, Sea Wind, many more acts. But it's going to be, it's going to be a fun show. That we'll be doing as a part of that. And we'll also be doing film screening. That event is going to take place at Laniākea which is at the YWCA downtown, a beautiful historic building. And we have taken over the whole first floor. So we'll have the auction and a courtyard open with a bar. We'll have a VIP room if you want to hob nob with the celebs, you gotta get your VIP ticket for that and get into the VIP room where we'll have complimentary drinks and pupus, or hors d'oeuvres for those of you who don't know what pupus are. And then the goal is to do a beach cleanup on Sunday the 30th, so that we'll do an active beach cleanup. Now that's not all set in stone yet. We're still working that piece, but that's how we're looking for the festival to shape up over the few days.

Heather Newman:  That's amazing. So and folks we'll put all of this in the show notes, but it's One Peace Festival, June 26th to 30th in Honolulu, Hawaii. I might just have to get myself a ticket. I don't know.

Chris Bayot:  You might just have to. I could put you to work my friend.

Heather Newman:  Always happy to help. That's for sure. That is awesome.

J’aime Kailani:  Heather, you were amazing that night. You just jumped in and, you know you were working, working it and we were grateful for that.

Heather Newman:  Oh, you're so welcome. Yeah. You know, I mean once a producer, always a producer, you know what I mean, with friends and stuff like that. You know, the only time I usually, you know, I'm like no, it's when I'm at a wedding, but you know, even then I can't help myself. Right? You're just always jumping in and you're like, all right, I'll help put the tape on the cards and the gifts. It's fine cause it's going to be a mess if not or whatever. But yeah, no,

Chris Bayot:  And I could say you're welcome to come and attend, but we both know it would never work out that way. Let's just be real.

Heather Newman:  Yes. Let's be real about it. Oh my goodness. Yeah. That's cool. So with the, so the On Peace Festival started five years ago, so how, what was the first one Jamie, and how'd that come about?

J’aime Kailani:  It was inspired by, um, by our late mom, Bernadette Hernandez, Bayot-Hernandez. Um, she was an amazing artist, painter and she really, my older son Marley, he's an amazing artist and he's actually attending Parsons right now in New York. He's in his second year. He's a visual artist and you know, she really believed like, she was just like Jamie, you got find a way to show his work. Like you got to get them out there. She kept saying he's got to go to New York, New York. And I'm like, mom, like, what do you mean New York? Like, what am I going to do with him in New York? You know, I just never understood it. And it's funny, he's actually going to school in New York. So, you know, she was right. Um, but it all started with wanting to somehow show his artwork. And so, um, at the time, my, I had a partner on board, Andrea Miller, who she was amazing and helped organize this One Peace of Festival here in LA. And, you know, it was just a beautiful day of art and music and, um, you know, it was unfortunately my mom never was able to attend. She, she passed away a few weeks before our first event. And so on our first event, we ended up, um, you know, showing some of her artwork and, um, and you know, it just, it was inspired by her. And so it's kind of like, you know, her legacy, you know, and I just, I love, you know, I love, I feel like she's a part of it. So, um, so that's how it started. And, you know, every year we show, you know, Mama Earth has been about supporting, you know, up and coming artists. So we love putting, you know, a very successful artist next to an up and coming, you know, and so it's kind of been like that with music and you know, also with, with art. And so that's, that's what it is. It's, it's a really fun evening full of culture, you know? And Mama Earth events are always sort of full of different cultures and, you know, exciting energy.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. I love that mandala at the holiday event.

J’aime Kailani:  Yeah, the Wish Mandala. Yes.

Chris Bayot:  Miya Ando is an incredible artist and she donated that to our cause so that, we're fortunate to be supported by some just incredible artists.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Well, and it's so great that you're giving people the opportunity to be seen. You know what I mean? Like that's sometimes really, that's all we ever are looking for is for somebody to be like, I see you and let's put your things out into the world. Right. I mean, that's such a great gift that we can.

Chris Bayot:  Yeah. And along with Miya's Mandalas, we're also showcasing a local Hawaii artist by the name of Jodi Endicott in June. And Jodi does fantastic work with ocean trash. When, when NOAA goes out and does cleanups and they bring all the trash back, Jodi collects a lot of that and she makes these just incredible sculptures. And um, she does mixed media on canvas where she brings in some of the ocean trash to the canvas and her work is just prolific. It's really about, you look at her work and it makes you think about your own plastic consumption and what you're using and how you might change that at the same time you're looking at this really amazing piece of artwork. So she'll be showcased as one of our artists in Honolulu. So I'm very excited about having her work in the show too.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that's great. I'll put her in the show notes as well. Yeah, that's cool. And you know, J’aime, you just said something that sort of struck me, but it also sort of strikes me in general because of, you know, I, I get to work, I gratefully get to work in the diversity and inclusion space and in technology and sort of in the world. And it's something that's very, I'm very passionate about. And, um, I just, you know, I was just in India, I was just in South Africa and a friend of mine said to me, you know, I think you're being called to travel and called to see the world in a way so that you can talk about it and share it. And I was like, maybe, maybe you're right. I think so maybe I keep saying yes to these things so I can do that. And um, your events, you know, like, I don't know, how do you feel about sort of the world today and you know, we've had this surgence of really important movements happen around, you know, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter and you know, around ocean conservation and everything. Do you both feel a shift? Do you feel that people are searching a little bit more for something like Mama Earth to be connected to, to make a difference? Are you feeling that? Will you talk about that a little bit?

J’aime Kailani:  I do, I feel, you know, times are tough. I think we can say that about, you know, over time there's been so many, you know,

Heather Newman:  Tough moments.

J’aime Kailani:  Decades of chaos. I think, um, I think in a way it is waking up people and people are trying to connect with, just with technology and the way things are changing, it's becoming more and more apparent that people need to connect within and really find what makes them happy and use that, you know, and, and I think that you're right, like people are, are waking up and trying to, you know, to find their way. And I think the thing with, with Mama Earth, I love that we're able to incorporate the arts because that is, you know, I mean it's very connected to culture. And I think what's really needed is, um, is the connection, the connection to keep the connection with ancient wisdom. You know, and we, we have an initiative called Rite of Passage where, um, we're working on a film called Rite of Passage and it's all about, um, you know, a girl who is connecting with her culture. She gets taken out of, you know, where she's from and realizes, you know, that there's this, um, intrinsic connection to, to her culture that she doesn't even understand, but it's there. And so I think that that's, it's kind of happening. Like people are really starting to have pride in where they came from and who they are. And I think it's really important for us to stay connected to that. And um, and so with Mama Earth, I feel like that's what we try to do. You know, we like want to bring everybody into our events and into what we're doing so that everyone can connect in some way. So, um, to answer your question, I think that there is a big awakening happening right now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I feel it too. How about you Chris?

Chris Bayot:  Yeah, and I think for those of us who are in tune with that need and really feel that pull, for me, it's stronger than ever. You know, I see what's going on around us and I'm concerned by what's going on around us and that really sparks me to move forward and shine the light and share the positivity and do what we can to make a difference. An I'm grateful to have Mama Earth as a means to help make some things happen. But it just, it feels more necessary than ever. And I find that to be a real spark and a real driving force to keep moving forward.

J’aime Kailani:  And I think, I think the thing is like, people, you know, we've done events where, you know, I had, I went on stage, this was in the beginning, this is when it, this is what really triggered me. I went on stage and I introduced my brother and I just thanked everyone for coming and I said, listen, like your $15 that you paid to get in here is actually giving water to someone, you know, for a whole year. You know? And, and I remember I had a few people come up to me, one girl in tears and she was like, God, thank you for what you're doing because I want to do something, but I don't know how, you know? And so like giving, you know, sharing opportunities on how we can give back and making it more accessible I think is important. You know, because people want to do good. People want it to give back. They just, you know, in the midst of your busy life, it's hard. You know what I mean? So if, you know, we have these little events and things that we're doing to help, you know, people can jump in and it makes it easier. And it feels good. I think, you know, it's contagious.

Heather Newman:  Yup. Yeah. No, I agree with you. Yeah. There's a quote on a grave in Westminster Abbey, my dad gave me that quote a long time ago and it was, you know, like, uh, I wanted to change the world, but it was immovable and so I decided to change my state, it was immovable and it gets down to, and it's like, you know what the person I need to change is myself and then I can move my family and my community and my world. And I think you're absolutely right and on point with, it's so noisy. We're so busy. I mean, half the time people go to work, they hate their jobs and you know, they want to, you know, they get home and they need to deal with the children and they're going to soccer practice and all of that stuff. And it's like, who has time to look up which thing should I support and how should I do this? And how should I do that? You know? So, I think being a guidepost or a guidelight with what you're doing with Mama Earth and your One Peace Festival and this film that sounds amazing is, is huge and what, what should be happening in the world. You know what I mean? That's super, super exciting. And so, you both are, you both are busy women and you both have lots of things going on and you have, you know, I would call you both renaissance ladies in a way, you know, because you know, like you were saying J’aime, you've got a lot of interest in all of that stuff. Um, just for everybody else out there, there's a lot of people who I know, you know, like I dunno, I tend to attract a lot of people in my life that are similar to me and that we all are, we've got a lot of things going on and all of that. And how do you, how do you find some, some of that grace and downtime? Like where do you find the work life balance for yourselves?

J’aime Kailani:  I'm still working on that one. But I honestly think, and, and I'm really battling this right now, like, you know, with the times, like there's times where I'm just like, what for, you know? Like, why am I here? And it makes it really difficult to move, like to really honestly move, like get out of bed, you know? And so I, I find that it's important to keep moving in a way of connecting with your inner self and that is through yoga, going for walks and exercising, you know, like it really is important to, to exercise. And I feel like when I am moving my body and my blood is pumping and I'm like, you know, healthy. Um, and putting healthy things in my body because that triggers you wanting to eat healthy. You know what I mean? So that for me, that, that's how I, you know, I find that I'm able to keep a balance, but, but I'm working on it. Like it's definitely a struggle for me.

Heather Newman:  Work in progress, right?

J’aime Kailani:  Yeah. Chrissy, I want to hear yours.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, Chrissy.

Chris Bayot:  Well I agree with everything that you said. I would add to that when I'm out and doing my walks, I'm doing them with my husband. So that's part of my home life balance is we'll take that four mile walk together and that's our catch up time and our connect time. And we work quite a bit together. So in addition to Mama Earth where I'm hiring him and to do our concert, I'm also his manager. So I'm also booking other gigs for him and working on other things. So, so that's literally work-life balance because we live together, we work together and then we work out together and we certainly handle all those things at the same time, which which,

J’aime Kailani:  Which is so romantic.

Heather Newman:  Totally.

J’aime Kailani:  It really is.

Chris Bayot:  Which works for us.

J’aime Kailani:  You guys have like this, the ideal relationship, I really look up to you guys like relationship goals.

Chris Bayot:  Ahh, thank you. I got a keeper, I'm going to keep him around.

Heather Newman:  If his name is Johnny Valentine, he better be bringing the hearts, I guess.

Chris Bayot:  Right? How do you get a more romantic man than Johnny Valentine? I am the luckiest woman in the world. It is always a challenge and there always a lot of things going on. But J’aime, I really think you nailed it with, you have to take care of yourself, you have to keep yourself centered, and then I just take the extra step and, and do a lot of that with my partner.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, sure. No, absolutely. Yeah, I think it's something, you know, I talk to lot of people about it and it's, we all struggle with it. You know, and it doesn't matter how busy you are, it doesn't matter what your job, you can be a CEO, you can be a stay at home mom. You can, it's the same problem for all of us, you know, of taking care of ourselves. Um, so you both, just like, you get to be surrounded and you surround yourselves on purpose with people who are super inspiring, which is wonderful. And you know, Yay. Um, I'm curious about, I'm always curious about sort of like other people in the world or I dunno, Twitter accounts or other people or whatever, or places where you're like, this person either makes me laugh my ass off, educates me on something or just makes my heart sing. Is there, are there people that you can say that this is a person that lights my spark in some way?

J’aime Kailani:  I, you know, I, this sounds funny, but I love like following Snoop Dogg. He is really inspiring. I love, I love Snoop Dogg. So I mean that was the first person that popped in my mind.

Heather Newman:  He is one funny MF let's say that. How about you Chris?

Chris Bayot:  Well, I like the Maven. Not going to lie.

Heather Newman:  Me? Are you talking about me?

Chris Bayot:  You, I'm talking about you.

Heather Newman:  Wow. Thank you.

Chris Bayot:  I know it sounds really cheesy, but the two people that popped into my head when you were bringing that up where you and my husband. Because you're two really positive people in my life and you, everything that you put out Heather, is of a higher nature. There's never complaining, there's never anything derogatory, there's never anything negative. Doesn't mean you don't write about challenges. But when you face a challenge, you face that challenge as a challenge and something to be learned from and something to move beyond and take something away from it. So I find you pretty inspiring my friend Heather.

Heather Newman:  Wow, thank you. I'll slip you that $20 later.

Chris Bayot:  You set that up real good Heather.

Heather Newman:  I guess so, I know. I'm like, more, more, more. That's funny. Thank you Chris. That means a lot to me, so I appreciate that. So, um, so with, so you've got One Peace Festival that's, you know, that's a yearly thing that you've been doing for five years and then, gosh, this film sounds amazing. What, what else is on the horizon? I mean, if that wasn't enough, but I'm sure you've got things brewing. Is there anything you want to make sure people kind of keep an eye out for or?

Chris Bayot:  Do you want to talk about August, J’aime? you want to cover that?

J’aime Kailani:  August. Yes, we're doing actually another little pop up a One Peace. And this will be in San Francisco. Um, and we're, it's around a thing called Asap, a s a p, and a lot of Filipinos will know this, but basically Asap is through TFC. The Filipino Channel, ABS, CBN, they bring about 50 celebrities out to different cities. And they do this big like variety show concert at a big venue. And so, we're going to do like a little pop up dinner with Lanai and a little bit of art there too as well. So that'll be in August. I can't remember the date. Do you, do you remember that?

Chris Bayot:  It's the first week of August.

J’aime Kailani:  We'll have it up on our website.

Heather Newman:  We can put it up in the show notes too, so for sure. That's awesome. Um, so you both, amazing. I, you know, I knew like, it's, it's, so, it's always so interesting, you know, it's like we're friends and you know, and, and I've been getting to know you more too, so like my friend as well, girlfriend. And you know, and, and I love being able to have these, you know, I have these podcasts and I'm always like, wow! You know what I mean? Like you sort of like scratch the surface and then you're like, you're doing all kinds of what, like, this is amazing. So it's really exciting to hear about what you're doing and, and you know, I have one other question. Um, and then we'll, then I'll, then I'll wrap us up, but I guess, um, and it's about kind of where, where you live and where you're from. Like I find Hawaii to be so unbelievably magical. I've been so blessed, you know, I lived in Maui for a little while and I've visited you Chris many times. And, and then I'm a new transplant to Los Angeles and I think Los Angeles is magic as well. I've always wanted to live here and will you both talk about sort of like, I don't know how you feel about where you live and what's awesome about it? I'm always curious about that too. And they're both like, I don't know.

J’aime Kailani:  I'll let you go first, Chris.

Chris Bayot:  Well, I live in Hawaii, enough said.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Paradise. Okay.

Chris Bayot:  It is. You're right. It's, it's paradise. It's magic. It's, I went out there for one year for a one year student exchange 31 years ago. And I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I find the water very healing. I find the energy of the place incredibly soothing. I just, you never get tired of looking around. I never take the beauty of Hawaii for granted. It's just, I just feel so grateful to be there and I'm away at the moment. I'm actually speaking to you from the Midwest, visiting my family and every time I come back from a trip like this and I return to Hawaii, even though Ohio is my hometown, Canton, Ohio is my hometown. When I get back to Hawaii, I'm home. It's truly home.

J’aime Kailani:  Yeah. I feel the same way. Even though I live in LA, like Hawaii will always be my home. There's just this energy there that, you know, this Aloha spirit that you just, you know, it's hard to find anywhere else. Yeah. It's real. And, yeah, for me, LA has been, you know, it's definitely a test. You know, I mean there are so many amazing people here inspiring, you know, a lot of people coming here with you know, dreams and goals and that's really like there's this energy that is whirling around, which I love. Um, I definitely coming from Hawaii, you know, Hawaii is so laid back, it took me years to really get used to the pace of LA. Like I just, I'm like really laid back and it's hard to keep up, you know, you feel guilty because you're not, you know, going out like everyone else is. Although it seems like, you know, it would be, you know, cause it's Southern California and it's sunny and beautiful and you know, people are doing things here. So in that way it's been really inspiring.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, definitely. I feel it, you know, it's like with Hawaii, and even with California, there are places that so many people like go to once or it's like that's their big giant thing, vacation, you know? And like my uncle for example, he always talked about California and he came here, he was an NFL football player, so he came here. But like his entire, you know, garage was decorated in like California Dreaming, you know, and people feel the same way about Hawaii too. It's like that one big vacation that they take with everybody, you know? And it is really a blessing to be able to just to live in these places and get to share out the goodness of them. I feel that way for sure too. Yeah, and LAs a bit of a rat race, you know, for sure. But I do, I think there, yeah, there's a lot of good energy here, but it is something to get used to.

J’aime Kailani:  Yeah, there's so much discovering to, you know what I mean, to be had here. I learned a lot living here. Like, I, you know, I think I woke up to spirituality and a lot of things just by the people that I met, you know. So in that way I was exposed to a lot of amazing people, which I love.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. That's awesome. Well you both are a delight to talk to as usual, so

J’aime Kailani:  Aww, thank you. You as well Heather. I see why you have a show.

Heather Newman:  Thank you very much. Thank you. Well ladies, thank you for being on and thank you for being my friend and thank you for being awesome and doing great things in the world, so I really appreciate that.

J’aime Kailani:  Likewise.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely.

Chris Bayot:  We will look forward to seeing you in June.

Heather Newman:  You know what I, I was like, I can't touch my computer cause it's gonna make noises, but um, you know, I'm going to be on united.com here very shortly. So anyway. Um, well wonderful ladies, thank you so much and thank you for what you're doing in the world. Really.

J’aime Kailani:  Thank you.

Chris Bayot:  Thanks for having us on the show it was a pleasure.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Well everyone, that was another version of the Mavens Do It Better podcast and you can find us on all of those wonderful places out there where you listen to podcasts. We're on iTunes, we're on Stitcher, and we are on Spotify and you can find us at the Mavensdoitbetter.com website. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Episode 37 Tech and Children's Book Maven Becky Benishek

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast. I am so excited to have a dear friend, a colleague, someone who I just think is the berries on today. We have MVP and author of Becky Benishek on from Wisconsin. Yes. That's where you are today right?

Becky Benishek:  Yes, exactly.

Heather Newman:  Welcome! Thank you for being on.

Becky Benishek:  Ah, thank you so much. I think you're the berries too. I hope you know that. Probably don't tell you enough but I will from now on. You're absolutely wonderful. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Well, Yay. So, so Becky and I have known each other for a while now and I've gotten to know you on so many different levels. I'm like God, where to start because you're a maven of so many things, you know. Which is awesome.

Becky Benishek:  I'm okay with you saying that. Thanks.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Okay. Yeah, you're welcome. Well, awesome. Well, maybe we'll start with the, the technology side of it. So, you know, Becky is also a Microsoft MVP in the Office space and gosh, how long have you been an MVP? Let's start there.

Becky Benishek:  Three years now. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Right on. And tell everybody kind of how you got started with technology. Maybe let's go back. Let's go back a little bit.

Becky Benishek:  Let's go back a little bit. A little with the time-lapse is going back. I think it actually, it started in, let's see, several companies ago as these things usually go where I kind of worked my way up to this wonderful mix of marketing and IT. So I kind of like to call it recreational IT cause it's, it's, for me, it's all the fun stuff. You can be creative and analytical at the same time. You can do some fun coding and at the same time, you know, deliver things that, that make people feel good, good design. I like doing things like that. I like helping people. I like getting them what they need so they can just get on with their day because usually that's what people want. They're like, what, you know, it's the other side of what's in it for me, it's like, all right, I need a resource. How can I get this? How can I keep moving? So it's only really looking back, because at the time, I had no idea I would end up where I am now. Moving through social media to online community management. So it's wonderful to look back and see all the steps that, that prepared me for this. I mean, I'm an English major, you know? When I graduated college, I never would have thought I'd be doing this. Of course, it didn't actually exist then either. So, you know, there's that, it's just amazing. You never know how you're going to end up.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. So many of us, you know, that I talk with and you know, a lot of us came from the arts or BAs and all of that, and we're like, oh, now we're in technology. You know what I mean? So much to my chagrin of my theater degree, you know, I use it every day. But yeah, absolutely. Well tell everybody a little bit about the Crisis Prevention Institute because that's a really amazing thing and a place that you're working. Will you tell everybody about that and what that does a little bit?

Becky Benishek:  I'd be happy to because you're right, it is a real feel good place and that's, it's inside and out. So it's pretty cool. Uh, okay. I'll give the nutshell version. We are a training company, train the trainers. So we'll come to you, you can train to become what we call a certified instructor. And, um, you will then take our techniques back to your staff and train them. So it's basically keeping the children and adults in your care safe. These are nurses, teachers, security guards, human services, any role, you interact with people. If you think, you know, I'm just in an office building. Yeah, well you're probably interacting with people. There's people that come in, coworkers, bosses, et Cetera. We've just got a lot of skills, verbal de-escalation techniques, nonverbal techniques, just to kind of prevent challenging or even violent behavior. So, you know, you know best the population that you're serving in your facility or district, you know the challenges and now you have these tools to help and it goes beyond putting a band aid on something because, you know, then behavior will keep happening. We, we try to help you get to the core of what's causing it so you can really help somebody.

Heather Newman:  Wow. And is it really mostly in the Wisconsin area? Cause I know you're in, you're in Milwaukee or you know, at least the business is in Milwaukee, but is it, is it there, is it more statewide, global? Like how, how does that work?

Becky Benishek:  We are actually global. We've got a UK office, Australia. I know we're looking into, um, I want to say Singapore and a few other areas though I will say that, you know, a lot of our business is, is North America.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Wow. That's super cool. Yeah, I knew I knew the name and I knew that's where you worked and stuff, but I didn't know a ton about it. That's super cool. What a great company to work for.

Becky Benishek:  It's very person centered. I love it. And it's reflected inside too. I mean we, uh, we started out in 1980 and they're small and now we've grown to mid-size and we still have all company meetings every Thursday where any staff in the office comes to this big room where we go around and if you have something to say you can share. And it's pretty cool. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  That's super awesome. Wow. And you know, I know you from, you know, the Microsoft world and you know, like first of all, Becky is an amazing speaker, first of all. So I know that you do that a lot too. How long have you been out in the speaking circuit?

Becky Benishek:  I would say that it all coincides with becoming an MVP. So, I really have Microsoft to thank for that because you know, first the whole just becoming an MVP because you know, when that lands on you just think wow, you know, cause you're just doing your thing. And at the time I had no idea any of it was being noticed outside of what I was focused on. You know, I mean, I was out there in the Yammer communities at the time, but I was, to me, it was just well people help me. So now here's something I can jump in and, and help someone else because hey, I've just been through this and I didn't think anything other than that. But then to realize that, oh, now all of these opportunities kind of land in your lap you know. There's MVP community days, there's user groups, there's Ignite. It's, it's really cool and, and it just makes you feel really good because now you can maybe reach other people and you can get feedback from them instantly too, and help them and learn from them. I love it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's a big part of the community is that, you know, we learn from each other, you know, and, um, it is such a, I feel like everybody is super generous too. You know what I mean? Um,

Becky Benishek:  I do too. Yeah. Like it's a whole room full of friends, even if you haven't met them yet.

Heather Newman:  Right, exactly. Yeah. There's that belonging sense you know that you're like, I'm a part of this. And, and I think it's also very wonderfully kind of inclusive in that, you know, its customers, its partners, it's, yes, it's the MVP community and all of that stuff, but it's, it's wider than that, right. Because we're all talking to each other on various forums, on Yammer, on Teams, up on Twitter, on all of that stuff, right.

Becky Benishek:  Everywhere.

Heather Newman:  Everywhere. For sure. Yeah. And you came up and you came up doing social media, yeah?

Becky Benishek:  Yes, yes. Um, uh, when I, in the several companies ago job, um, when I moved on from there social media is really starting to take off. So here I came from the marketing IT mix and social media seemed like the next natural step at the time. So I really got my chops there as, as they say. You know, learning how to talk to people like they're people and like you're a person too. I mean, that was a whole new thing versus all the corporate speak you're used to seeing on websites, for example. And blogs and things and that, I just love how that whole movement just shifted and acknowledged that, you know, you're, you may be looking at a screen, but you are reaching an actual living being,

Heather Newman:  Hey, wait! There's human beings.

Becky Benishek:  You're one too, so you may be hiding behind a logo, but you can't talk like you're a logo.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. That's a great point. You know, like I think we talk a lot about humans and tech and humans in the world and that, you know, you can't create in a silo, you know, that at the end of the day they're human beings behind the screen, like you said. That's, yeah, that's super cool. Any, um, social media, I mean, so since you did that any social media trends that you're seeing that you're like, Ooh, interesting or Ooh, oh no. Or you know, any, anything that like, you know, as of late that has pricked your ears up I guess as it were.

Becky Benishek:  I can say Currents has pricked my ears up and I'm probably gonna just do a Beta of that. I want to see what that's about. Google Plus's answer to re-Google Plusing itself. I guess you could say, you know, that's pricking my ears up a bit. I'm also looking in, I'm just idly perhaps for my own benefit, just any alternatives to the big major players. The Facebooks and the Twitters.

Heather Newman:  And say the Google name again. Spell that for me.

Becky Benishek:  It's Currents. So like, yeah, like ripples in the water really, I think. There are offering Beta access right now, so going to see if I can get in. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Okay. Very cool. And you know the, I'm looking at over here on my desk, a copy of The Squeezer.

Becky Benishek:  Oh, my goodness! I love it!

Heather Newman:  I sent that to a bunch of children in my life. And so sort of hearkening back to the arts, I guess, or an English degree. How many books do you have out, children's books do you have out now? It's a couple, right?

Becky Benishek:  Ah, my fourth will be out in June, late June. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And how did that, I mean obviously you were an English major, so it sort of makes sense, but you know, as far as like why children's books, how did you get into that?

Becky Benishek:  Oh, my goodness. Well I've always been a writer, you know, and growing up I was always writing little stories or class or scribbling, I still have note books. You know how it is. You got note books, you got scraps of paper, envelopes, napkins, anything you can find. I collect them. I stuff them in bigger notebooks and tell myself I want to go back to them and sometimes I do. Uh, you know, I think. But, I um, I hadn't actually, I always wanted my books and stories out there, but I hadn't actually done anything about it, hadn't really focused on it. Um, but then I want to say it was in late 2015 I finally started thinking, all right, I got to do something. Just anything just to it. And so I started getting my stories in a proper format. I got an editor off of fiverr.com I love Fiverr. You can find amazing things there. Got a couple of them illustrated. Those are, these are the ones that I ended up self-publishing. Um, but you know, in the beginning I did look for agents and publishers. Uh, because that's what, that's what you did. And, but you know, I wasn't getting bites. You got to have a thick skin or you develop one real fast. Well, you know, this just didn't find the right person yet. Keep trying. So I wasn't really discouraged but I also kind of also wasn't doing anything about it. I was kind of just letting months go by. And then finally, December, 2016 I will never forget, I was at a Yule party at a friend's house and our host described a ceremony he wanted to do. We sat in a circle. He was brandishing a bottle of homemade strawberry mead. And he said we're going to pass this bottle around the circle three times. For the first round talk about something you're proud of accomplishing this past year. The second round, thank or commemorate a person living or dead. Third round, make an oath for something you're going to do in the next year. And that's when it crystallized for me. The third round I said, I'm going to publish my first children's book in Q1 of 2017 I actually said it like that. Been in the working world longer and I was Q1. I was going to self-publish it. I was going to learn from it I was going to get it out there. And that's exactly what I did. Um, and then I followed up really quickly in, in February of Q1 and just, I don't know, I was just all antsy. So, I learned, I learned so much, still have more to learn about self-publishing and publishing in general. But again, just like with Microsoft and, and Yammer and Teams, there's so many great people who have done what you did. And they're happy to help. And also, you can also just search and all that information’s there in front of you so that you can get going. You can get your own answers. But when The Squeezer came along, I was still working on other stories and I'd actually sent The Squeezer out cause I thought well why not? And if nobody picks it up then I'll self-publish it too. And I actually forgot it was out there cause my focus goes away again. You know, I still have my full time job and life and everything. And um, I got this email one day and it had, it had, you know, the, the subject line re: query and all you have to, you have a certain style that you send out queries to agents and publishers. So I thought, oh it's another rejection. I'll look at it later. And I looked at it and my eye's saw and my brain took a bit to catch up and there was an author's contract attached. Well that's not something I'm used to seeing. So, after I got over that, I think Dave, my husband Dave has a picture of me cause he was in the room, he has me just like. He looked up and he's like, something just happened. So a publisher picked it up so I was just over the moon.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Wow. And a lot of your books, you know, Dr. Guinea Pig George, and What's At the End of Your Nose, A Slippery Bill Tale. Like they have this, um, seal on them. The Reader's Favorite Fivestars. Will you talk about that? What does, what does that mean?

Becky Benishek:  Ooh, well I'm happy to, well, especially when you're self-publishing or even doing traditional publishing and either way, you don't have a lot of money. And, but you still want to have something that signifies to somebody who doesn't know who the heck you are but they see you at a, at a craft fair or maybe you get your book out in the library, something, that you know, you're not the only ones saying, Hey, get my book. You've got the seal and readersfavorite.com. You can pay if you want to, but they offer free reviews. I think there's something like a 60% guarantee that if you apply for a free review you'll get it. So it's pretty good odds. And, and uh, they award up to five stars. You get up to five stars and you have the option to buy the stickers, which I did because I thought, heck, you know. And then you put them on yourself. You know, it's all verifiable because there's also a page that they keep on their website as well. So, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Wow. You know, it's a funny, I keep listening. I always think this when I hear you speak and when we talk because you know I'm from the Midwest as well and like I, you know, I just, I've always thought you are wonderful but, but like I think it's also because you sound like my people, you know? You do, you know what I mean? It's like my cousin, I mean I'm from Michigan, but my cousin lives in Wisconsin and I just, every time I hear you speak, I'm always like, oh, there's like some comfort there that I'm like, oh my people, you know?

Becky Benishek:  All the imagery, the full sensory experience just comes at you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. It's so funny. So, and with these, so I think I find the whole thing super interesting as far as the self-publishing piece of it. Um, and you, so you have, you obviously work with an illustrator right, on these cause they're children's books, which, you know, precludes like having some visuals. Um, and I, you know, you have, um, Kelly and, and I think it's Matt and you know, um, and Alicia now, you know, with other folks with Hush Mouse that's coming out. Um, how did you, how did you find your illustrators and how, how does that, how does that sort of relationship work?

Becky Benishek:  I think it's pure serendipity at some points. Kelly Klein, she's a friend of mine and who's a biology teacher during the school year, but she also, it's, she's marvelous. She, she'll be the first to say she doesn't think she's an illustrator at all, but if you look at what she can do, come on, get your stuff out there. So in the summers, um, you know, she said, sure. She's like, I, I think you're one of the people who will actually do something with this and go places, which I found really cool. I didn't know she thought that, you know, so she um, did you know, Sydney Snail for What's at the End of Your Nose and then I was looking at George, which is actually a story I wrote in 99', I just unearthed it and brushed it off and pushed it out second. Can you also draw a guinea pig? So she researched how to do guinea pigs and make them look, you know, like an actual guinea pig and marvelous to work with. Um, and she was one of the, I loved how she did the black and whites for Sydney so much I decided just to keep them that way and double it up. If kids want to color it in, it lends itself perfectly to that. It's just so evocative. Her expressions are just amazing for those little critters.

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. I mean it's, it's, it's then a book but it's also then a coloring book if you so choose. Right. So,

Becky Benishek:  Right, exactly. For The Squeezer's a little different since that got picked up by the publisher. I thought all right, The Squeezer if that's going to lend itself to just full body, full color kind of thing. And it was during the school year as it were. But I happened to work with Matt Fiss, at CPI at the time. He was one of our graphic designers and I'd seen him draw amazing things including monsters and I that you're the kind of person you can make my squeezer come to life and he totally did. Cause he loves monsters, he liked the story.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And is Hush Mouse also through the same publisher or are you self-publishing that one?

Becky Benishek:  I was going to, I thought I'd actually started doing that one in tandem while we were getting to The Squeezer ready. But then I asked, the publisher said, do you, do you want this one too? She's like, yes. So I thought okay cool. We'll go through the publisher then and I found the illustrator through Instagram. I was following some illustrators and thought I love how she does children and, and animals. And so she liked the plot and got her all signed up with the publisher and that's how that alchemy happened. It was amazing.

Heather Newman:  The power of social media, right. And being able to see other people's work that they're putting out.

Becky Benishek:  Look at this, coming full circle. You're so right.

Heather Newman:  It's super cool. So interesting, you know. So you said, uh, George, Dr. Guinea Pig George. Let's be clear. That one you wrote in 1999, Huh? Isn't it interesting how like I, I tell ya, you know, like I'm, I've been trying to figure out how to get myself writing the book that I have in my brain and that's on a big, giant sticky note on my closet that I look at all the time. And, um, it's, it's interesting. I know, I know, but do you find that like, I dunno, just like anything else, if you're a writer, what should you be doing? Writing. Right. Um, and right all the time and if you're a swimmer, swim, you know, whatever, all of that stuff. But isn't it interesting how like trying to find your voice sometimes. Um, and also like the fear of putting things out, you know, I dunno, like I go through that and I've gone through that and with that, was it something that you wrote and you were like not ready or, you know, if I dig a little in there, do you mind? Like, I'd love to share that.

Becky Benishek:  No, you can dig. I think they are very valid points. I think, I think George had just been a victim of my lack of gumption, I think for, you know, I was focused on other things and kind of had, I don't know if forgotten is the right word, but lifelong dream to be a writer, but I wasn't doing anything about it. And to me and my mind every time I'd said writer, it was kind of synonymous with author, just growing up. And it just hadn't anything. But now I had my, my little snail book going out and like, well, what about George? You know, he was your first.

Heather Newman:  George crept into your dreams and was like, Hey, remember me?

Becky Benishek:  You've got the voice for it. Like, Hello, waving a small paw. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  You made me snort. Sorry, everybody. Anyway. That's so funny. That's so cool. Um, yeah, I mean, I guess, yeah. So, and you know, gave you a paw and said, remember me, right? So

Becky Benishek:  Right. Well I want to hear about your giant sticky note. I can't help it, I'm very curious.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah. My giant sticky note is, um, uh, the working title of it has been Spark for a long time, but my, my interest is in moments that it's a, it's a lot to do with the podcast, to be honest. It's, it's that I really enjoy people's stories about what sparks them, what moves them to action, and that there's moments in our lives that we really pay attention to because they're big. And then there's moments in our lives that are micro moments, but that truly can be just as large as graduation, marriage, divorce, death, all that stuff. But we gloss over them sometimes. And so it's looking at how to maybe recognize those more and or categorize things. And so, yeah. So I've been, it's been a while. I've been working on it sort of for a while, and then sort of let it go and similar, you know, where I'm like, I'm busy, I'm traveling the world, I'm like doing, you and I do similar things. We go speak at conferences and we write blogs and we put together community events and blah, blah, blah. You know, so, um,

Becky Benishek:  Yeah. And it's fun. I mean, it's fun and it's easy to say, well, I have another day. I can do it another day.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And I dunno, I can't remember who said it, but there's a quote that's about, you know, um, an idea not realized, you know. You know what I'm talking about? I can't think of it right now, but it's like,

Becky Benishek:  It sounds very tragic, I think. I know the one you're thinking of.

Heather Newman:  I know. And it's like, you know, it's like it sits there and then nothing ever happens or you don't take action or move forward with it. And it's sometimes it's something about maybe they die on the vine, you know? Um, yeah.

Becky Benishek:  Well, you've got the back of your book blurb now already done. So there you go.

Heather Newman:  We just worked it out right here. Thank you. Credit to Becky on that one, for sure. Oh my goodness. Yeah. And I guess so like, um, I, well I've been having lots of sort of, um, you know, both technologists and makers, you know, on here. And I think if you were in, I don't know, I think they just lend themselves together so nicely. And, um, for some, for our listeners, um, will you talk about sort of the difference between self-publishing and having a publisher and what that's meant and, and not necessarily what you liked better or whatever, because it's not, it's not, they're not even equitable in that way, but you know, like maybe some lessons learned or, I dunno, like just will you talk about that a little bit?

Becky Benishek:  Sure. I think in the beginning I'd approach self-publishing the way perhaps others do. Like there, there might be a stigma about it. It's like, oh, you couldn't get a publisher you're doing it on Amazon. Just like everybody else. And I had that stigma because you want to be a publisher and, or an agent means you've been accepted, in a way. There's still that. I've come to find out self-publishing and Amazon has made it super easy. When I started it was with Create Space and now they've kind of moved to a kindle publishing, which also does paperbacks for example. So, you can have your online and paperback at the same time, but all the control is with you on self-publishing. I mean that does mean all the marketing and, and trying to get all savvy with everything. But you control, up to a point, you can control the costs, you can control release everything from design. Hopefully you get an editor. I think that's one of the biggest stigmas for self-publishing as you will see so many manuscripts out there that have been published with typos and egregious mistakes. And I mean one or two. Sure. I mean, I've even seen them in proofs coming back from the publisher. It's like some something had happened between what you sent and what gets printed. And then then you panic and say, oh, we've got to get it corrected. With self-publishing, it's all up to you. If you want to do a hardcover for example, then you have to go with Ingram Stark for example they'll do that, but then you know that's every cost. It's all you. But there's also such a wonderful community of independent publishers or indie publishers, you call them. There's forums on goodreads.com. There's Facebook groups. You could still join Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as an indie. Yeah, so there's resources. It just, it takes a lot of work and you find yourself wanting to hire a marketing manager or somebody else. Even if you know how to do it yourself, just because all you really want to do is just write. But now you have to do all these other things and that is, it is. That's the hard, that's the hardest part I would say is all the other things.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. And those are all the other things that a publisher would handle for you then? Right?

Becky Benishek:  Right, right. It depends, you know, if they're small or just starting out, not the vanity publishers, that's different. But you know, the small houses, which are fun to get into. That's what McLaren Cochrane is. They're out in California because they're building their author stable. I shouldn't call it the stable but I just did. Their author stable and so, you know, those are, those are the ones you can try to get into and then they take off and then, hey, you're there. And they like looking at your stuff. They always, they always consider submissions from their current authors before anyone else. So that's cool. And then the bigger ones, it just depends. It goes up with how much money and personnel they have to do all that marketing. But I have seen, I want to say, I don't remember exactly which ones I saw this in but a lot of them will say, well how do you plan, you know, if we take you on, how do you plan on using your presence? Do you have a presence already? What work are you going to do? Cause they, it's, it's no longer a sit back and, and you know, let the mailbox money come in, you really, you still have to work at it.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. No, that makes sense. That's interesting. And I, um, I was looking, I was poking around on Amazon and you're publishing site and I saw something that caught my eye and I want to ask you about it. And with The Squeezer Is Coming, which is a great book everybody and kids love it. And the message is amazing. And I want to talk about that in a second too. But I saw that you have a dyslexic edition with the dyslexic font and I would love for you to talk about that. Cause I was like, what does that mean?

Becky Benishek:  It was something that I hadn't, you know, known about until this publisher picked me up. McLaren Cochran they, um, the, the owner, Tonya and I talked with her on the phone. When you're going over the contract, it's very important to her that not only kids are able to read, kids with dyslexia are able to read these books, but that if parents have dyslexia, they are able to read to their kids. So every book that they, that they publish, they will always make a dyslexic font version as well. So I think it's just Dislexie. It's like an I-E, it's a font that they use. The cover will be a little bit different. I think they're really careful not to have, um, words being obscured by design. They just want to make sure everything's clear, that the wording I have, I have a couple of copies of them. Slightly different type. I just thought, that's so cool. What a nice, what a nice thing? I mean, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Way to be inclusive and think about, you know, all people who might want to, you know, read a book or you know, that's amazing. And you have, and the, you have them all on kindle editions as well too, Huh?

Becky Benishek:  Yeah. Definitely my two self-published ones I did those. And uh, now the publisher said they are going to be getting kindle versions of all of their books too. And also they said there's a, I think I want to say it's called little hands, I might have it wrong. They're also going to publish a version that's like sized a little bit differently so that you know, little kids can hold the book themselves.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's super cool. Well, and there's all kinds of things that you have to think about with children that maybe you aren't, you know, one doesn't necessarily think about when you're publishing for an adult. Right? Yeah. Have you ever thought of um, like doing like, you know, like I just did the little guinea ba-ba-bah, you know, or whatever. Have you ever thought of doing them on audible and having voices behind them? And having, does Squeezer have a, or whatever, you know, or whatever it is.

Becky Benishek:  You are hired, I would hire you for the Squeezer. You've heard it here folks. This is a verbal contract but it's real. That's awesome.

Heather Newman:  Oh my gosh. Well, well, all right. Anyway, but have. More ideas throwing on the podcast. But I think that would be cool though, right?

Becky Benishek:  I'd love to or, and even like a, I don't know, an animated version. I think he'd be awesome animated. I just, you know, again, I'm in the, well, you know, I've, I've got these other things I'm focused on and I want to do this. I just need to doggonit, stop thinking about it and do it. And that's, that's the biggest thing is, is forgetting everything but just doing it.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Well, and it's like when you create something, right, and with my marketing hat on, right, that you create something and you know, people will put out a piece of content or put out, you know, a certain thing and then it's like, okay, have you sliced it and diced it in every way, shape and form possible. You know, like that one piece of content becomes like these 15 small Instagram posts or it becomes the infographic, or it becomes the leader for an eBook or, you know, or it becomes the audible version with funky voices. Or then maybe someone would want to animate it and turn it into a, you know, a cartoon on the whatever network kind of thing. You know, like it's, but, but also those things take time and energy. Like who do I ask and how do I do that? And you know what I mean? It's like, are there enough hours in the day to figure that kind of stuff out? You know, but, but I think it is interesting that, I mean, you have this beautiful content with like such a great message that I don't know, the world is your oyster in a way.

Becky Benishek:  I've just written myself a note on a notepad. That says audible by Q3.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, and you know, we'll talk later about this, but you know, I've been doing stuff with Comicon and it'd be interesting to talk to some folks over there about Squeezer. I think it lends itself so interesting too, like what would be a really cool cartoon, you know? Um,

Becky Benishek:  I think you're right, yeah, I can, I can see it in my head. I just gotta get it out of my head.

Heather Newman:  I want to go back to, I want to talk, your message, um, because I haven't read, Dr. Guinea Pig, but I've read Squeezer and I know you and I also read that book and will you talk about the message that you're conveying in these books? Because I, you know, they're very heartfelt and they're very much about, I think learning and teaching kids and their parents about a lot of the sort of beautiful things about say, belonging and you know, being nice to each other and that kind of stuff.

Becky Benishek:  I'll start with, I'll start with my first one and just work my way up. So, What's at the End of Your Nose was Sidney Snail and he's, you know, he's bored. He's going to leave town in search of adventure. But unfortunately his friend, mysterious old Samuel Snail says, take a last look around and he puts it as, find out what's at the end of your nose first. And Sidney's puzzled of course. Then he goes snailing off, you know, and, and through this as he, he just kind of uncovers this whole world that's been there the whole time. But he's been just too bored, you know, he just, he's been looking too far ahead and he hasn't noticed anything. And so, through that I kind of hoping to show children if you think about our world today, we are so inundated with things coming at us, things to do, we're almost passive. And so what if all that gets too much? You know, you get information overload or maybe there's a power outage, you know, anything. Either you cut yourself off or you're cut off cause you just don't feel like. And suddenly, what are you going to do? You know? And, and sometimes what you can do is right in front of you you've just been missing it. So I was hoping to kind of reawaken, you know, a world of adventure right in front of you, whether or not it's snail sized, um, you know, trying to show that, but hopefully in a fun way. And with Dr. Guinea Pig George, that one, I mean he, guinea pig named George lives in a house with a person named George and the person named George is a doctor. So every time the phone rings and someone says, George, it's for you. The guinea pig would think they meant him. And I made this doctor a little old fashioned. He makes house calls and he's very absentminded. He's always leaving his bag open on the floor and the guinea pig is able to get out of his cage cause it's a low to the ground and trundle over and go into the bag and go with the doctor on his house calls and he listens and he learns about everything and he thinks he's a doctor too. And he's able one day to actually show what he can do during a very unexpected house call. So that was about, you know, believe in yourself, kids. Your dreams may seem out of reach. Someone may be telling you can't do something. You sure can. You know, if a guinea pig can do it, you can do it. Yeah. So now I come to The Squeezer and there you've seen him. He's this monster. Scary looking monster, those sharp claws and the teeth and the horns. And he just comes running in all over the place in a town. But all he wants to do is get hugs. But nobody thinks that's all he wants to do. He's got teeth and claws and big greasy toenails and he's just, he's scary looking. Everybody runs away and he is so sad because he can't help how he looks. But everyone's judging him on appearance. So you know, he sits at home and he thinks of all what to do. He tries to read the self-help books, I'm Okay, You're Decaying. He watches Game of Bones on TV. It doesn't help all this stuff. And he finally gets an idea. He's like, it's not about what I want. It's about what the other monsters need so he concocts a plan. He goes into town the next day and he just starts helping the other monsters. He doesn't do it with any thought of gain for himself. He just sees someone needs help. He goes in and helps and everyone's just starts getting amazed. And word starts going around that he's actually a nice guy. He may look scary, but he's not scary at all. He's got a good heart. So things turned around for him. And so it's kind of like a dual thing. It's like, well, what can you do that's in your control? And I know it's super hard for kids to even conceive of that. So an adult would help with that. But also it's like, don't you know, maybe don't judge someone who looks a little bit different than you. Maybe you look beneath the surface.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. And Hush Mouse.

Becky Benishek:  Hush Mouse that one was really, I mean they're all special, I'm going to say that one's just the, maybe cause it's my newest baby. I got really tender feelings toward it. So, Mouse, uh, is a kitten. It was actually based on a real cat that we had who meowed a lot all the time at 3:00 AM up the stairs anytime. And so, we're all saying Hush Mouse cause he had a lot to say. The Mouse in this book, a little kitten hadn't grown into her ears yet. Uh, and she's meowing all the time. She's meowing at her family trying to eat breakfast, watch TV or go to sleep. Everyone says hush Mouse except for Little Liz, she's the only one in the house who understands Mouse. She's short for her age. She can't reach like cookies on the counter without standing on tiptoe. Her arms are kind of stubby, she can't climb onto chairs are laps without help. Um, she's got big brown eyes and curly brown hair and her people say she hasn't grown into her eyes yet, so it's kind of cute. But you know, she and Mouse spent a lot of time together because nobody really hears what Little Liz has to say either. So, you know, so she knows what it's like not to be listened to. And then one day Little Liz is taking her nap and Mouse is in the living room. She's sunning herself and suddenly there's a clang and a thump coming from the kitchen and Mouse says people don't make sounds like that. So saying meow. And of course, everyone in the house is saying hush Mouse except for Little Liz. She'd heard Mouse, woke up from her nap. She comes down the hall and she says, she's whispering, she's like, what's wrong Mouse? And Mouse says meow. And the Little Liz says, that's what I thought. Let's go see what's happening. So they creep to the kitchen and they appear around the doorway and they see burglars and they're filling sacks with all of grandma's prized china. And then there's cat burglars taking Mouse's tins of tuna. And everybody has masks on, these cat burglars. I mean, when you see them, there's just the cutest thing. But no one has noticed Mouse and Little Liz because they are too small and they're creeping down by the door. And Little Liz says, Mouse there's only one thing to do. And Mouse knew she was right, so she takes a deep breath and she swirls up her little belly and her eyes are screwed shut and her ears are flat against her head. And she lets out the biggest MEOW ever. And it just scares the burglars. They drop everything, they dash out through the open window and her people come running, you know, like you saved us from being robbed. And so now when Mouse and Little Liz have something to say, everybody listens.

Heather Newman:  I love your brain! So Great !

Becky Benishek:  I appreciate you letting me just spew out about him because it's fun to do.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah, no and they're awesome. I mean they, they're just lovely. So that's so cool. Oh my goodness. Yay. Well everybody, also, everybody, we'll put all the links and stuff, um, in the show notes to make sure you know how to get ahold of Becky and look at her wonderful books and buy her wonderful books and give them to all the kids in your life because it's super important. And also, where, where are you going to be next, speaking?

Becky Benishek:  Gosh, I don't even know. I'm already looking ahead toward November cause that's Ignite. I think I'm going to see, I know, Larry Glickman. And I try to try to do a user group, we call it the Midwest user group. It's really mostly like Chicago and Milwaukee, but you know, anyone in the area is welcome if they want to drive over. We'll see if we can get one of those going on in the interval. Um, yeah. It's like, yeah, Ignite just kind of looms in my head. It's just, it's so awesome. Yeah. And I'm already looking forward to it.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that's a super great event. Absolutely. Very cool. Um, last question sort of , what sparks you, like where do you, where, where, where do you go for inspiration and kind of downtime when you need it from all of this stuff that you have swirling in your head with all the things you do?

Becky Benishek:  I'm going to say those are two separate things. For downtime generally I'm found with a book. You know, curled up in a rocking chair or just playing with the guinea pigs. Or doing a puzzle, you know, things where you, where you can let your brain just kind of do its thing. And click over stuff in the background while you're doing things on the outside. For inspiration, it just comes from anywhere. It's like I'll see a story or a picture or be in a conversation and suddenly it just sparks off and it's awesome. And I've learned through the years that if you don't write down that idea, when you get it, you will lose it. So, it's like, excuse me, I have to write this down. Don't anybody say anything till I get this down. And I go, okay now you can talk. I apologize to anyone who's especially my husband.

Heather Newman:  That's all those scraps of paper you were talking about in the beginning that are all over the place. So yeah,

Becky Benishek:  Yes, they are. Always carry a pen and an eating utensil and you will be fine for life.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. That's awesome. Right on. Well, hun it's been lovely talking to you as usual and going a little deeper with you on all this stuff, super interesting and what a great gift you've given to the world. I think it's so great on so many levels, you know, but I, the kids’ books are really special, so thank you for that.

Becky Benishek:  Thank you. Thank you. That means a ton to me. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. All right, well Becky darling, thank you for being on the podcast.

Becky Benishek:  Thank you for having me. I love it.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Wonderful. Well everyone that has been another Mavens Do It Better podcast. You can find us on all of typical areas where you pick us up, but we are definitely on iTunes, we are on Spotify, we're on the mavensdoitbetter.com website and here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere.


Episode 36: Tech Maven Stephanie Donahue

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again with another episode of Mavens Do It Better where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. And I am thrilled to have a wonderful person on today, Stephanie Donahue, who is a fellow Microsoft MVP. She is a speaker on the circuit. She's a business owner. She's amazing. So, um, Stephanie, say hello to everybody.

Stephanie Donahue:  Hello everyone and thank you for having me on. I'm excited. This is fun. I've been following you and the, the podcast. You've had some really amazing people on, so I'm, I'm quite honored to be here.

Heather Newman:  In good company, so that's awesome. Yeah. So, Stephanie and I recently, like the last time we were together was at the MVP Summit and uh, got, so we were a little bit ships that sail in the night.

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah, a little bit busy on both of our parts, I guess.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, so Stephanie, tell everybody, let's start, where are you from originally?

Stephanie Donahue:  Well I am kind of based in Ohio. So right now I'm in Cincinnati. I've always kind of, I've lived in different parts of Ohio for the majority of, of my life, so very much a Midwesterner.

Heather Newman:  Excellent fellow Midwesterner over here as well from Indiana and Illinois. So that's awesome. Great place to grow up and a great place to live, so that's awesome. So how long have you been an MVP?

Stephanie Donahue:  Um, I think I'm in the neighborhood of about three years, so I'm still fairly new. I know there's a lot of MVPs that have been around for quite some time. I think it's been about three years for me.

Heather Newman:  Okay. That's awesome. And what's your specialty?

Stephanie Donahue:  I'm in Office Servers and Services and my background is, it's really rooted in SharePoint.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. When did you get started working in SharePoint?

Stephanie Donahue:  Well, I kind of tripped into it just like probably everybody else in SharePoint. I don't think anybody graduates from college and goes; I want to do SharePoint. I don't know. Maybe that happens now that they actually get exposure to it. I don't know. So my background, I kind of started up through the help desk and server support side of the house. And so I was doing a lot of the answering service tickets and more of a customer service thing and helping people with laptops as I kind of started in the industry. And I got into SharePoint when I was working for a consulting firm, I was actually doing their internal network support and help desk and they had a consultant that was out and unavailable. I think he was already booked on a project and I was supporting our internal SharePoint environment, you know, just real basic stuff. And they were like, hey, we're going to send you out to do the SharePoint install since you know SharePoint. And I was like, okay. And I was only supposed to be out there for, you know, just like a day to get the environment set up. And I was going to hand off to the consulting resource that they had originally planned to do the project and they were like, no, we like her, we want to keep her. So I actually, I got to stay for a couple of weeks and do the project. And that was, I kind of just accidentally tripped into the consulting thing that way. And from there on out, you know, they kind of utilized me here and there if they needed an extra SharePoint consulting resource then I've, I've kind of been here ever since.

Heather Newman:  Wow. That's so cool. So many of us, I think, and SharePoint sort of, I guess when we all started, it was a new technology, you know what I mean? So it wasn't something that you were like, Ooh, I want to do that. You know, so many people sort of found it by way of something else and a lot of people found it through help desk, you know, and being part of an IT team for sure. You know. Um, and you know, SharePoint being so easy to use.

Stephanie Donahue:  It takes a different skill set, right. I think that's how I ended up there was that, you know, I was still out to kind of prove myself and be like, I'm as good as the guys and I can go do Exchange and I can do domain migrations and I can do all this stuff. And, and I had a boss who kind of pulled me aside and he was like, look, you're good at SharePoint. Like, why, you know, why are you shying away from this? You need to embrace this and go do this thing. And I, you know, I thought about it and I was like, you know, maybe he's right, maybe I should go do this. And then that's really, you know, his guidance was why I decided to change my focus to SharePoint. And it was a great thing because before SharePoint was kind of in the mix with everything else that I was doing and, and it really became a focus at that point. And taking that advice has certainly served me well.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's fantastic. And as it, you know, it's, we all have mentors, right? And we all have people in our lives that kind of give us a nudge to the right way. And, um, I heard some news from you about, you just won an award, speaking of Mentorship. Why don't you tell everybody about that? Because that's super awesome.

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah, I'm really excited about this! So I have been participating in the Microsoft mentorship program. It's part of the diversity and inclusion branch at Microsoft and, and the idea is that we place mentees and mentors together. So if you're looking for help, you can apply as a mentee. And if you're looking to help others you can apply as a mentor and they match people based on what your skill set is versus what someone might be looking for assistance on. So I've done it a couple of times now. I just, it sounds like we're at the end of our second cycle and at the end they give this opportunity to the mentees to give feedback on their mentor on how things went. And, my mentee this time, Mike, he's awesome. He had submitted some nice feedback and as a result, I guess they now have a most valuable mentor award, which I was very, I'm very excited to be the very first recipient of that. And so it's, it's great. I'm excited. It's such a good program. And, and Mike, I've also worked with Joanne. She tweeted me as well when all that came out. And, um, it's, it's so exciting to be able to give back and kind of share some of the knowledge that I've gained over time because IT is a rough business and there's a lot of politics and things to navigate. And so I think that program is, is amazing and it's a lot of fun to be able to work with others that are kind of coming up through getting to know the community and getting to know others.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, congratulations and well deserved. I know you and your personality and the way you are with people. So that is not a huge surprise, but it is a really great honor. So congratulations. You know, that's,

Stephanie Donahue:  Thank you!

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah, I think, you know, you and I talk about and are involved in, speaking of diversity and inclusion, we do a lot of different talks and, and things there, you know, with Ignite last year and some of the other things coming up. Are you finding, you know, like we're technologists, right? And I, you know, for me, I'm on the marketing side and then I also, you know, help champion those things. Do you find that you're being asked or that you're compelled maybe a little bit more to sort of play in the diversity and inclusion realm these days? Are you finding that you're being asked to do that or you just do it? You know, just curious.

Stephanie Donahue:  I think it's a little bit of both. I guess I've felt for a while that people have reached out to me to help mentor others. And you know, a lot of times that, from a diversity standpoint, given my background and who I am, that's women in tech, right? So, I have been pulled in a number of times to be like, Hey, can you talk to my daughter? Or Hey, I've got someone on my staff, I'd love for you to, to mentor, to talk to. And so, from that perspective, from a women in tech, I do feel like I've been pulled in somewhat. And it's usually more on a one to one basis, you know, I'm not running any big programs or anything like that. But it's, it's flattering to me and I do think it's awesome that what I'm starting to see is, you know, the men that have been in tech for a long time, they're becoming, you know, fathers, they have daughters that are interested in tech and, and as a result, I'm seeing a lot of support for women in the office and the business world because I think they're starting to connect that, right? They want that same kind of support for their daughters. And so I see them really embracing women in tech and I think that's starting to open their eyes too, to the diversity and inclusion at a bigger level that it's not just women in tech, it's everyone, it's humans in IT, I think is the term I've heard from others. And so what I see happening is really things are really starting to open up for everyone. Um, and, and people are embracing it as a whole because really we need more skills in IT. We're desperate for, for folks who can, who can kind of handle the constant shifting and the new things that are being thrown out and it doesn't care, you know, we don't care who you are as long as you can get in there and dig in and learn and do stuff. Like it's great. So, yeah, I guess that's a long winded answer but, but yeah, I do. I definitely feel that I'm pulled into some of those mentoring opportunities for sure.

Heather Newman:  No, that's great. Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I think there's, it is humans in IT or humans in tech for sure. You know, I think that that shift, I think, you know, supporting women and you know, we're continuing to fight against, you know, imbalance in gender and wages and all of those kinds of things. But I do think that there's steps in the right direction. And I think that opening up the conversation to make, making sure that we are inclusive and that we're looking at all the different ways that we are different is super important and, yeah, it's been, it's been cool to work with the different teams and to work with you and to work with, you know, the Women in SharePoint gals and Karuana about conversations on how we can, you know, make sure that we also include the, you know, the white males.

Stephanie Donahue:  Absolutely. We want to make sure it's everybody. On that note too, there are smaller things too that we don't think about and something that hit me like a ton of bricks the other day someone had posted on Facebook about their challenges with being colorblind. And so, there are actually a large number of people that have some level of colorblindness. Right. So you, you might not be black and white, it might be that you have trouble distinguishing between shades of red or shades of blue or you know, you have the Red Brown, you know, color combinations that are challenging. And someone had posted to Facebook about how it was difficult to read a color coded email. And like something so simple that I've done my entire career that people don't even think about is challenging for others. And so just opening up some of those conversations. My own children are colorblind, my dad is colorblind, in the very basic version of that, but it hit me like a ton of bricks that it's in my own family and I never considered that those color coded emails where a challenge. So just, you know, just kind of spreading the word and, and helping people understand what it means to be inclusive and that sometimes it's, it's not just, you know, as a person, but it's your everyday interaction and something as simple as an email that can change someone's engagement with, with you. So really interesting.

Heather Newman:  That is interesting. I mean all the times that you see, you know, a lot of the times it's like a, a bold highlight in red, which, you know, if you have that.

Stephanie Donahue:  Red, specifically, is a challenge, right? Red is the most common challenge with color blindness. So, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Wow. Yeah. No, I think it is. And it's, it's things that we don't often see. You know what I mean? That that is something you don't walk up to somebody and be like, Hey, I see that you're colorblind, you know what I mean? It's all of those things and the neuro diversity and understanding that everybody that, you know, there's, there's mental health issues in our world as well, that people don't always respond in the way that if you put air quotes around the word normal, you know? So I think all of that is really exciting. And you, um, you did a presentation last year in the diversity and inclusion track a couple of them. What, what were you presenting on? What was, what spoke to you, cause I know that you had some presentations out there in the world. What were your topics?

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah. So at Microsoft Ignite last year, I spoke on myths of business ownership and kind of my perspective on being a woman in tech and some of the challenges and things that I've run into and kind of the idea behind it was we are constantly faced with all of these like get rich quick schemes and like people that think it's, they, they kind of pitch the idea that it's easy to make a lot of money and the, the route to do that is to be a business owner. And you know, the four hour work week and all you have to do is lean in and everything else is, it just follows. So I just wanted to talk about my journey because all of these people that are, you know, writing these books, I couldn't relate to them. I don't, I don't have an Ivy League degree. I mean, I went to Ohio State, I have a degree in computer science, which I thought was pretty, you know, pretty good. It's okay. But I didn't graduate from Harvard. I don't have a law degree, you know, I don't have an MBA from Yale. So those things that it's great that they all felt, you know, that they had been successful in what they did. But I, I don't live in Silicon Valley. I live in the Midwest and you know, I didn't have all these things that these people had and I was trying to raise a family. I had two small boys as I started my business. And it's hard. It's hard. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. And so I just wanted to talk a little bit about, you know, that you've got to put the work in, you've got to put the time in. But then also, you know, it is possible, even if you aren't, you don't have that Ivy League degree and you're not living on a coast and you know, like me, you're in the Midwest somewhere. You can make it too, you just put your head down and work, but you've also, you know, you've got to lean on your, the people around you for help and to open yourself up to that help and, and stuff. So that was kind of the, the, the direction I went with all of that myths with business ownership.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah. I mean, it's like, where are you dropped into the world, right? Like, it's looking at like how we, each one of us, like we're plunk, you know, and you're like, well, you know, like I grew up in Michigan, you know, for example, and so, you know, it's like what you do with that and what you're given and what your opportunities are, you know? Who your family is and what kind of education can you get and all that kind of stuff. I mean, all of those things are so valid, right? It's, it's kind of the whole deal. So I think that's such a cool topic. Did you have another one? Am I remembering correctly?

Stephanie Donahue:  No, I don't think so. Not for the diversity track. I did, at SharePoint conference, I also participated in the, I think it was a mothers in tech panel. We had some really great conversations there as well. I actually kind of took note of everyone at the SharePoint conference that had participated. We did have kind of a smaller group very intimate group and reconnected with everybody then at Microsoft Ignite. So, for those looking to reach out and to talk to others, you know, we all kind of have similar, similar challenges, you know, women in tech, moms in tech, the diversity thing. So having those groups at those large, those groups at the big events like that is really inspiring, you know, to get to talk to people and kind of get their perspective on things.

Heather Newman:  Totally. I mean, one of the best things we can do in our life is build strong friendships and relationships. Right. So that's super cool that you did that. I didn't know that. That's awesome. Very cool. And so, talking about being a business owner. So, I know that, you know, you and Mark Rackley, will you talk about your business and who you are and what you do and all of that so everybody understands that as well? And how long you've been in business, that'd be great too.

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah. So, so I started this venture about six years ago or so. And so it's called PAIT Group. It's Powerful Alone and Invincible Together is the acronym there. And that,

Heather Newman:  I didn't know that. Say it again. Say it again.

Stephanie Donahue:  Power. Yes. So PAIT, it's P-A-I-T, PAIT Group, Powerful Alone and Invincible Together and that's the name that we, and it was kind of one of those things, you know, you come up with a name overnight and you're kind of just throwing ideas out and, and that's kind of where we landed. And, um, so we're very team focused and we're a collaboration services groups. So I thought it made a lot of sense for us. But we do Office 365 and SharePoint consulting and we're very much in the mid-market, although we're starting into some larger enterprise size businesses now. Um, but what's different about us is that we, we don't do exchange migrations. We don't do VOIP implementations. No telephony. We're very focused on the collaboration stack within Office 365 and Microsoft tools, so Teams and SharePoint, Planner, Stream Business Apps meaning Power Apps and Flow. So, we stick to the business side of things and try to translate the techie stuff and make it valuable to the business. So that's kind of what we do. And I, I left, I was at a, a different consulting firm before that and I was frustrated. And then the reason I left was that they were like, well, why can't you just finish a project and be done? Right? It was like email, when you migrate email and you complete it and email works, you know, you're finished kind of thing. In SharePoint if you're doing it correctly, that kind of continues to evolve and change and there's always something else you could do. And, you know, we set out to change the way we were engaging with customers to help them through that process. And that's really what I became passionate about was it's not just tech, it's about creating a digital workplace. It's about changing the way people work. And so that's really, that's where our sweet spot is. It's like how do you start that change in that evolution in an organization and that's, that's where we sit.

Heather Newman:  That's cool. So, with kind of all of that that you do, is there something that's bubbling up right now that you're seeing that's sort of across the board for everyone like that all of your clients are maybe struggling with or, or wanting to get to? Is there anything that sort of comes top of mind around that?

Stephanie Donahue:  I think right now the, the tool set is overwhelming for a lot of people. You have so many different things going on in Office 365 that they don't even know where to begin. So, the conversation we're having over and over, it's like, where do we start? You know, and, and what, why do we use Teams versus SharePoint or why do we use Teams versus Yammer and just trying to sort out for them what belongs where. And, and help them with kind of putting a roadmap together and figuring out what's next. So, you know, typically that might start with let's do the Intranet first. That's a SharePoint thing, a Modern SharePoint thing. A lot of modern conversations going on. And a lot of migration conversations going on and how do I get from a legacy SharePoint into a modern SharePoint, that sort of thing. So, outside of just the tech, the conversation is how do we get two kind of diverse groups of people. You've got the folks that have been around forever and they have all the knowledge in your organization and they've been using email for many, many years and they don't want to use other things they don't want. Yeah. They don't understand SharePoint. They don't understand why we want to do things on mobile. They just want to sit at their desk and print things and print emails and print documents. And then you've got this other generation coming out of college and they've had laptops and tablets and phones for like, since they were little and they don't understand why we don't need mobile. Like why would you, why do you think we don't need mobile? I need everything. My own son sat the other day and updated his Weebly website from his phone. On our couch. You know, what are you doing over there? You need to be doing homework. And he's like, I am doing homework. I'm working on my website. Like on your phone? Like this is how their minds operate. The bigger conversation isn't the tech. It's like, how do we bring these two really different groups of people together? Really it's more like a phased group right? We've got those of us in the middle of that have kind of seen the evolution and, and kind of need a little bit of both worlds. But how do we bring all these people together to work more efficiently, to communicate better? That's really the message. How do you change people's way of working when they've been so well established and, and yet at the same time embrace the people who are going to be the future of the business. It's a really big challenge for a lot of people and being able to influence change with both, is a challenge, but also it's a pretty cool thing when you really get that moving.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. It's that, um, diffusion of innovation curve. It's like the early adopter, you know, the, the ones who jump on first and then you've got that bell curve, you know, and then the laggards, you know, really, you, you need all of those people in whatever teams that you're putting together for change management or putting together for technology. And you're right, it's not about tech. I mean it is about the tech and learning the technology, but it's really about human beings and how they are. Right? Yeah. I've walked into places too and they're like, oh, we really like your products, but we don't want to learn anything new. Like I'm about to get my pension. And I come in everyday and I'm happy to go home and take my kids to soccer practice. And that's about it, you know? And that is a huge problem. It's about just like how do we get people to be literate or PC or technology literate or human literate on the same level at work, you know? Yeah. You're right. That's a big, that's a big thing. And that is

Stephanie Donahue:  And that whole, that whole career impact thing is interesting too. You do have people that are leaving the organization soon. They're like, don't move my cheese. I'm almost done. Right? My own grandfather was one of those, he was at the end of the evolution of going from paper. He was an engineer. He always, he did all of his drawings on paper and they were like, if you need, if you want to stick around, you've got to learn how to use a computer to, you know, AutoCAD was the beginning of all that. And he said, no thanks. I'm going to retire. You know, I don't, at my age I don't want to learn that stuff. So, you, you do have that set of people as we transition into SharePoint, into Office 365 you've got those that don't want to touch it.

Stephanie Donahue:  But what we're also seeing is that this can also be a career, the thing that people will remember you for. So we've, we've got some people coming in to say, Hey, this is I, this is my legacy at this organization. I've got two or three years left. I want to really change things. This is, yeah, this is what I want them to remember me for, is that I brought all of this technology and change and that digital workplace. And so they look at it and embrace it as something that they can leave for others. And I think that's a pretty cool thing too, to be able to walk out the door and know that, that you've transitioned from maybe a legacy intranet and the old way of doing things all the way down to forms on, on the manufacturing plant floor. Right? It's, it's a pretty neat transition to be a part of.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Well, and it's about finding who that person is, right in an organization too. And sometimes they're, they're sitting there, the diamond in the rough waiting to, you know, pop up and be amazing like that. Yeah. That's super cool. Interesting. So, you are a speaker, you run around the world, you have clients you put on conferences, you do all that kind of stuff. So for you, how do you chill out and, you know, find some time and all of that stuff as far as balance goes in your life?

Stephanie Donahue:  So, it depends on the time of year. I have different levels of stress relief. In the summer you'll find me at Lake Erie, my mom lives on the water. It's the house she grew up in. So it's a fantastic place for me to go up and just relax. We go up every weekend, all summer long. And that's kind of my chill place. I just, I could really let go up there. But of course I live in, in Ohio, right. So that's maybe three months of the year and the rest of the year I have to figure it out. So at the moment my, my kind of a stress reliever is to run. So, I'm training for the Flying Pig Marathon, which is in I think about two weeks here. And it's a big, big race in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's a tough course. It's pretty hilly. So that's what I do. I go run and I say I run until I can't feel my legs and I can't think anymore.

Heather Newman:  You went and did a, what was that Orange Theory or something when we were together, for the first time, was that right?

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah. So when we were out in Redmond for the MVP Summit Andrew Connell and Jason Himmelstein and Rob Foster, they talked me into trying Orange Theory. And if you're not familiar, it's this crazy like you can you row, you run on a treadmill and there's floor, like weights. And, and a TRX. And so, they kind of cycle you through all of these things across the course of an hour. And I have to tell you, I've been working out for a full year. I did like all this, like waves is through Beach Body the online videos. I'm training for a marathon, so I feel like I'm in pretty good shape and I walked out at Orange Theory and I was sore for three days. So if that tells you anything. It's hard core.

Heather Newman:  It's a good workout. Oh my goodness. And um, as far as where do you go and where do you find inspiration and it can be about anything, it can be tech, work, whatever, you know, is there anything, is there a go to for you that you're like, ah, I read this person and I love it? Or somebody, you know, a blog or, I don't know. I'm always interested in sort of what, what sparks you and what gets you to moving.

Stephanie Donahue:  So, I, gosh, I'm a little bit all over the place when I need inspiration. It kind of depends on the day. I will tell you that I feed off of other people when I need to feel uplifted or to get inspired, working with others. And that's part of why I'm part of the mentorship program as much as it is about mentoring others. I get a lot from it personally. Um, it makes me happy to help other people. And so, um, that, you know, the, the things that other people are going through and that they're working through, they, they inspire me as well. And so I love that. That's, that's for me, that kind of fills my bucket. Um, but I also look to, there's podcasts that I listen to. Rachel Hollis is a big one. If you've not heard of her, she has a rise podcast. It's really kind of motivating and inspiring. She's amazing. And, um, gosh, I also, I do a lot of reading, so you'll find me all over Twitter. I consume a ton of content. So, um, you know, I follow a lot of hashtags, random stuff, business ownership books that I read. I'm very much a consumer of content.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah, no, I think, yeah, I'm all over the place too. It's just depends. But there's so many people in our industry who put out so much great content and then just Brenee Brown and those types of folks too make me really happy as well. Um, so you know, you talked about a little bit about owning a business for a while. Is there any advice you have for somebody coming up? We talked about that a little bit, but is there anything sort of like you're like, if I could, if I knew this one thing before I started my business and I know that's hard, but, or maybe two something that is like that nugget or four, depending, you know?

Stephanie Donahue:  Yes. Gosh, there's so many lessons you learn, you know, in some cases you look back and you're like, man, would I do that all over again? I'm not sure. Right. Cause it's, it's been tough. It's been challenging. And at the same time it's like, I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I love it. I love the challenge of all of it. So my advice is, is probably to get control of your fears. Do the fear setting exercises where you know, the thing that's probably held me back the most was being fearful of things, being fearful of being judged, being fearful of putting out my opinion and my content. And in the process of letting that go and you know, you talk about people that in that are your mentors or that help you through those things. Part of the reason, um, you know that that I have worked so well with Mark Rackley is that when you find a business partner that will push you through some of those boundaries and help you take some of those risks, then that pushes you to be your best. And so we're a nice balance of, of being a little risk adverse and being more comfortable with it I think. And that's why we work well together. And he's pushed me through some of those boundaries. And you know, the, the speaking thing, I'm extremely introverted at times and I was terrified of speaking. It did not come naturally to me. And he knew this and he's like, I know you can do this. And he would submit me to conferences because I wouldn't submit myself. So, um, when you've got someone who believes in you to that level and who can push you through that boundary because it's someone you trust, then then that's the sort of thing I was referring to earlier with find the people that you can trust, that you can lean on, that will tell you, you know, you need someone who will, who will get in your face and tell you, you shouldn't do this or you should. And kind of help you through that process. Lean on those people, open yourself up to trust them. Because when you have that kind of relationship in place you can get further because you can push each other. And so I think that's super important as a business owner to find someone that can help balance you on that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, for sure. That's awesome. That's so cool. And I, you know, knowing Mark as I do too, it's like, I, I love, I've always loved watching you two together, you know, um, as business owners and colleagues. You can see that you trust each other and that you work so well together. You know, it's always something that kind of comes through in your relationship and it's super cool to have found that because not everybody does, you know?

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah. I think it was the Hyperfish quick video that I did, they were like, what's it like to work with Mark Rackley? And I said, you know, off hand, it was like, it's like having a brother, you know, where you can fight like crazy, right? But like at the end of the day, you know that person has your back. Um, and that, that's kind of how we work, right? You need someone who's willing to be brutally honest with you when you're being a pain in the butt. And you also need that person, but you know, despite that, you know, that argument or that disagreement that you can come back to the middle because you know, they've got, they've got your back. So definitely, you know, a very strong core to PAIT Group is that ability to be honest with each other and to be able to get through that stuff.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. So where will people see you next in the flesh as it were?

Stephanie Donahue:  In the flesh? Yeah. So my next event, after I get some work travel out of the way, I will be an SPFest in Washington DC here coming up in a couple of weeks. So that's at the end of April slash beginning of May. That will be my next event. And then I always take the summer off. As I mentioned, I go to the lake a lot. I try to stay a little closer to home base and spend time with the family. So, uh, but I'm, I always enjoy those, the SharePoint fest events, those are a lot of fun. I'll also be at Shift Happens, which is the new Avepoint conference after that. So that's in June.

Heather Newman:  Okay, cool. Well, and I think that work life balance, taking that time off is smart as well girl, you know, it's like you got to do, you got to do it.

Stephanie Donahue:  You got to take a little time for yourself and for your family. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. That's awesome. Well, awesome. Well I just, I think you're the berries and I loved that, Stephanie and I got a chance to know each other a little bit more and kind of every time and it was fun, we actually roomed together and so that was kind of fun to like just be like, how was your day?

Stephanie Donahue:  It was great.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, it was awesome.

Stephanie Donahue:  You can be my roomie anytime. I think that's kind of a good thing that, so for this that don't know at MVP Summit, they kind of force you to room with somebody just to kind of keep costs reasonable and that sort of thing. And it's been fantastic getting to know you better. Last year I got to know Liz Sundet better. And so, you know, always being able to be paired with folks within the community I think is, is a great thing. It's always awesome to get to know more of you ladies better.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, definitely. And then, you know, it's like, and then we're like, well, who's going to this event? Let's room together there too. You know? So that's, it's been, it's been cool to kind of have that push and then be like, well wait a minute, we should just keep doing this. So yeah, no, that's totally awesome. So well everybody, we will put Stephanie's ways to follow her up on the show notes. And do you have, do you have your own, you have your own blog? Yes, I was just up there actually. Right? Yeah,

Stephanie Donahue:  I do. I don't keep it quite as up to date as the PAIT Group blog. Everything that you can find me as StephKDonahue, so stephkdonahue my Twitter. Steph K Donahue dot com is my blog site as well. And if you put that in LinkedIn, I show up there too. I tried to stay consistent.

Heather Newman:  You are, you get an a plus for personal brand. How about that? To have it same, same, same, same, same. No, seriously.

Stephanie Donahue:  I don't know if that I deserve an A+ for keeping my blog up to date. There's some good stuff out there, but I definitely owe that blog a little attention right now.

Heather Newman:  Well, okay, well you know when you have a spare moment. So anyway, um, I just want to say thank you for being on the show and it's great talking to you and hearing about your past and your future and all the goodness that's happening. So I appreciate you being on Stephanie. Thank you.

Stephanie Donahue:  Yeah, thanks for having me. This has been fun.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Well, folks, um, this has been another Mavens Do It Better podcast and you can find us on iTunes, on Spotify, on the Mavensdoitbetter.com website. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Episode 35: Tech Mavens Tracy van der Schyff and Jethro Seghers

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. We are here for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. We're in the car and, uh, I am here with two lovely ones that I've just spent 10 days with in a van, all across South Africa. So Jethro and Tracy say hello. 

Jethro Seghers:  Hello. How are you guys? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Hello everyone. 

Heather Newman:  Hello. So, we're on the way to the airport here in Johannesburg and we're dropping Jethro off, sadly. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Very 

Jethro Seghers:  Yes. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  We're all crying if you can't hear that. 

Heather Newman:  Yup. And, uh, we have had a, so we all got here around what the 4th of April? And uh, got into town and Tracy heads up much of the SharePoint Saturday action here in South Africa. So how many do you typically do here in South Africa? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  The events? Sorry. Yeah, we, we've got three main events. We've got SharePoint Saturday Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. So, it's me and Alistair and some other people as well that helps us organize. But, uh, and then we do these crazy little mini in between ones. Of course, like this year we did East London and we did Port Elizabeth. So that's five in total at the moment, of what I'd call SharePoint Saturdays. But some of them doesn't happen on Saturdays, 

Heather Newman:  Right. The little ones were in the week in between. Absolutely. So, Jethro, have you ever been on a tour like this? Tell everybody what the tour is called and what we were doing. 

Jethro Seghers:  So, we actually did a tour, so we started in Johannesburg where we did the SharePoint Saturday and the Sunday after we actually all got in a van, the seven of us really nicely and tightly together. And we drove all the way to Durban and been to some amazing locations. And along the way we did mini SharePoint Saturdays where we could interact with local businesses, education like colleges and universities, and really give them a full overview of the Microsoft 365 stack and get them up to speed with what Microsoft is doing that might help them benefit their career, their educational trajectory, whatever they need it for. And at the meantime both Tracy, Al and Warren showed us a really amazing country. So that's pretty much what we've been doing the last full week. 

Heather Newman:  Have you ever been on a road trip like this before? 

Jethro Seghers:  No. No, not really. Um, and even if I was just the beauty of the landscape and just the amazingness of the people on the bus would probably made it beyond compare anyway. So, uh, it was amazing. 

Heather Newman:  And it's your first trip to South Africa, yeah? Or second? 

Jethro Seghers:  Technically second, but the first one I was here for a conference. It was literally in and out. But this one is a where I could really experience how beautiful this country, how amazing the people are. So Yep. First Time, let's say. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Yeah, absolutely. So Tracy, so Tracy is amazing, first of all, and she's a terrific presenter. Jethro and Tracy are both Microsoft MVPs and Jethro is, can we talk about that? About to take a job at Microsoft on the Microsoft Teams education team. Very exciting. So, Tracy, how long have you been an MVP? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Um, three years, I think. Three years. Yeah. This will be the fourth year. So we had that funny cycle in between where they change the years. But uh, but yeah, three cycles. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And you own a business? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  I do. I've got a company called The Guid Stuff because that's what it is. And, um, I have, I think in my business motto is to facilitate the evolution of human capabilities. And it really is, I'm by far Microsoft's biggest fan, I know that everyone in this car knows this, and everyone in the bus knows it, but I am Microsoft's biggest fan because I've always believed that the product enables and empowers people. So that's definitely what I focus on is helping companies like adopt the technologies and help them enable and empower the employees and, and that's what I get up for every day. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I think one of the other things that I think has been really powerful about our trip was, you know, one bringing Microsoft technology thoughts and all of that stuff too, you know, people in South Africa where you go every year, you see a lot of the same partners and customers and then you have new people come. But also I think, you know, when you go on a bus trip like this when you're in a van with people and driving, you know the first day was what, an eight hour trip I believe. So, you know, we got to, you know, we're all in the industry together and we were sharing ideas and talking about who does what and getting to know each other a little bit more deeper about how we do things. And I think that's really, you know, something about our community that's really exciting is that we all do help each other and we all talk about, you know, hey, I like what you did here and I share that and how do we, how do we continue to sort of cross populate and cross help each other when we're in something like this? I think you felt that too Jethro. Yeah? 

Jethro Seghers:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think sometimes what is really difficult for us when we're in our own little bubble is, we are our self-worst critics, right? When we look at some things like, oh, are people like really happy with the stuff that I do? Is the content good enough? And, but when we see other people, like when I see Tracy's blog or you Heather's blog is that I love what you guys do, but sometimes we have to vocalize or really put that in words towards each other. So being able to hear from each other like, hey, I really respect what you do. This is what I like. And all that stuff suddenly is like, wow, we're really, uh, spirits that really think the same and then really want to support each other. And it's really without any, any agenda or whatsoever is we're really, really providing a lot of feedback to each other, but also ideas, right? Sometimes it's like, hey I'm struggling with this in my company. How would I approach that? Like you've been in the same situation. Like how do you do that? And I think that that advice and just being able to just be a mirror for somebody, is so rewarding. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, we talk about some times imposter theory and you know, and what you were talking about, it's like, you know, I think, it doesn't matter who you are, where are you are in your career, your game or whatever, whether you're famous, whether you're not, whatever. We all work really hard to put things out into the universe, right? And I think there's always stage fright and there's always a little bit of like, well, are people going to like this and all of that kind of stuff. And I think it's really great to talk about that because we're all human, you know, we all have those things that, you know, we have that voice in our head that tells us, ughh, you know, you suck. You're not smart enough, you're this, you're that and da da da da da. And it's the quieting of that voice and the quieting of that voice by getting a reflection from somebody else that takes us to that next level, to where that next time we feel more confident about it. Right. Yeah. And Tracy, I know that you do a lot of workshops and I'm really excited, she and I have been talking a lot about this and I'm really excited to see you know, what you're going to come out with and what you're bringing to the table. I mean, you're such a great speaker. You're so powerful and you really get down to the, I love your direct, beautiful way of talking to people. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Also called aggressively and disruptive. But thank you Heather for the nice words. Direct. 

Heather Newman:  Yes, all that and a bag of chips. But I think, you know, one of your passions is, you know, I love your presentation that goes into PC literacy. Will you talk about that a little bit? Why that's important? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Absolutely. So, over the last couple of years, I realized that normal technical training, I wasn't getting the results that I wanted. And, um, I started doing some research, I'm going to call it luck, very likely the psychology behind because I'm definitely not a qualified, I don't know, whatever. But I started reading up a lot about how, how we adapt, what we do, what happens when we train. When does training stick, when does it not stick. And um, and something that I realized that even myself, and I'm pretty sure the industry, we're adding technical and very technical skills on top of foundations that doesn't exist. So, or that are just a little bit shaky. And if I, for example, I just think advanced SharePoint, you know, back in the day building sites and site collections, you know, web parts of building solutions, those type of things. I could take someone, you know, through a course and they could build amazing solutions, but it just wouldn't stick. And I realized that the logic behind it wasn't there. That self-esteem wasn't there. So, so I started looking at what is the foundation before we get to that. And our environment, we would know that as Windows or Office that we use every day, but just general, um, IT systems and e-safety and being comfortable with, uh, with online systems, etc. So I started speaking to companies about whether they thought that that could add value, adding it to the training. And of course, every single company told me no, it wasn't necessary because all their users were a hundred percent PC literate. You know, I was just like, that's interesting. You know, that's great. Obviously South Africa doesn't have a problem, but I think everyone else does. But, um, I then did some more research and I came across very, uh, very good articles and research that's been done. That pretty much tells us that about 70% of the people that was tested in that survey was not what they consider a PC literate. And of course digital literacy is much bigger. So our problem is much bigger. The challenge we have is so much bigger, but, but we're pushing technologies at people where they just not comfortable with a PC in front of them yet. And the challenge is that we only know what we know. So those people don't even realize that they have a problem. They think that that's just the way it's supposed to be. I'm not an IT user, you know, I'm not supposed to be that good at stuff and I'm like, nope, you are. You're supposed to be efficient. You're supposed to be effective. You're supposed to love what you do and get it done as quickly as possible and use all the tools that you have. So I've started baking that into my training in the last couple of years and started doing workshops that includes more than just the technical aspects or the product knowledge. And I can pretty much say that at this moment if I had to do five day engagements with a client, I can tell you that about three days of those has got very little to do with the technology itself that I'm busy training. It's all about uh, and I'm not going to say soft skills, I call it power skills, but it's the power skills we need like creativity and collaboration, and curation of content and e-safety. It's focusing on those things. And then, and then adding the more technical knowledge when, when they're in a safe environment where they can learn. So it's kind of like prepping the environment, if that makes sense. And we've never really done that. We've never prepared the environments for training. We've just added stuff on top of it because we assume that everyone knows everything and that's definitely something I'm very passionate about. 

Heather Newman:  I love it. I love your presentations on that. They're just, y'all, it's sort of, I don't want to say simple, but it is sometimes it's just those little things that will shave time off your day. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Exactly. 

Heather Newman:  That make you feel more confident that get you to do something that you always do just that little bit faster. That takes time. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  But that's definitely a very important thing and you'll remember from my slides, that's something I use for exec and c-levels as well when I have engagements with companies because we know that money is important, right? It's not that I can just walk through a door and say that I'm here to make your employees happy because that's not always a bullet point on a strategy 

Heather Newman:  People don't always want to pay for that. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  It's not, that's not part of my strategy to make happy people. I'm here to make money. Right? And I started doing some crazy exercises around, uh, if I could just save a company five minutes a day, I mean, this is going to be in South African currency now, but I mean, I've written a blog, you can definitely go and work it out. But I worked out for a company of about 5,000 users, if I could just save them five minutes a day, um, by being a little bit more effective or efficient or love what they're doing or use the tools that they already have without even spending money on new software or cloud technologies. It's comes to maybe about $26 million ZAR, which is a lot of money in a South African company. $26 million rand is a lot of money and when you start pulling those figures, 

Heather Newman:  And you said million? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Million ZAR. So that's a lot of money. 33 minutes a day, which was based on one of the research articles that I used as well. So it says that with basic PC literacy, so not even Office, basic PC literacy could add about 33 minutes of productive time to an employee's day. And I worked on 33 minutes and I think it worked out to $169 million rand a year in a company. And that makes people sit up and go, what? Because it's the small things that messes us over. We tend to focus on the big things, you know, I just want to do that onboarding solution or I want to completely change the leave application. I'm like, but did you realize that if you used Flow and you helped every employee in the company to just write one Flow, that saves attachments to OneDrive or to a SharePoint folder, stuff that they get every day, you'd save them five to 33 minutes a day and you'd have that type of savings. And I don't think we're always focused on the small things. We're so conditioned to just focus on those big ones. And it's the small ones that makes the biggest difference across companies. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, agreed. Jethro, I know that you've worked in education before and now you're about to go back. And what does it mean for Teams to Microsoft Teams that that new product that's out that everybody is very excited about, what does it mean to go into education for that? Like what does that, what does that look like? 

Jethro Seghers:  Well, I think there's multiple layers to it, right? Well, first of all, I strongly believe that if we can enable students with the skillset that they need in the business, they're going to be more efficient, faster, be of more value to their employer. And kind of what Tracy was saying as well is the fact of making sure that they're immediately active and that they can do whatever they need to do and saving that time again and not necessarily get them into a stage of PC literacy or Office literacy. So it's more than just Teams, it's getting students involved in basic skillsets with computers, with Office, with Windows, with Teams. And Teams is important now, and of course an important part now because it helps them to collaborate better and to be more efficient in their syllabus and getting to a point where they have better grades and where they learn to collaborate and when they learn to be efficient and learn to be in a team, which is super important. Of course for Microsoft is also a big part because when you have it in education, automatically they're going to start requesting that in the business as well. So it's not all completely for like nonprofit opportunities. But it is a large part where it's just trying to make a better society as well. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. No, that's cool. And so you live in Seattle, but you are from? 

Jethro Seghers:  Belgium! 

Heather Newman:  Yes. And so you made your way to Seattle by way of Belgium. Tell everybody about that a little bit. 

Jethro Seghers:  Well, about five, so I had my own company and it was one of the ways that I was doing stuff for education. And uh, about five years ago I got an opportunity to work for a company called BitSight as a program manager and I was like, you know what, I'd like to do something different, not necessarily go away from cloud or education, but it was one of those opportunities that I felt that I couldn't really pass up on. And we went for my for my immigration visa. That got all got approved, I moved over here, sold everything I had in Belgium, restarted everything. So that was very interesting going through the whole immigration process. Makes you kind of more in tune with what certain people have to go through to make a better living for themselves in the United States. Recently I got my green card and I was talking to people at Microsoft and they were like, hey, why don't you just apply for this, uh, this education job? And I was like, okay, yeah, I might just do that. And so I applied for it and within less than a week went through seven, eight job interviews and suddenly it was like, congratulations, you're hired. So yeah, absolutely. 

Heather Newman:  That's great. And you have a sail boat there in Seattle? 

Jethro Seghers:  I actually have a motor boat. 

Heather Newman:  Oh, is it a motorboat? 

Jethro Seghers:  Yes. I don't know how to sail. But it's, so Seattle is really, really fun. It's one of those areas where there’s a lot of green, you have Lake Washington where you can just spend your time on the water but you drive for 40 minutes and you're in the mountains and you can ski and snowboard during the winter or hike during the summer. So it has a little bit of everything. It's really a cool area to be. Very open minded as well. It's one of those areas were as an immigrant and sometimes as a different thinker, um, with different opinions. It's really open minded, allows you to be who you want to be. And it's definitely a part of the US that I really appreciate. 

Heather Newman:  I lived there for 10 years and went to college there myself. So yeah, I completely agree. Seattle is a really beautiful city with really open, wonderful people. And Tracy, how did you get started in IT? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  I didn't, don't tell anyone. I think and I can definitely see it if I just look at our little concentrated community we had on the bus and then the greater community as well as being surrounded by like-minded people. But I always see the same characteristics or attributes in the people that's in the community is that we are curious. We soft learners, we want to help people, we want to figure things out, we want to build cool things. And I think that whatever jobs I ended up with in my life, which was not IT jobs, I always ended up in an IT portion of it because I love technology. I've always wanted to help people. So, so pretty much I don't know, let me quickly add that up, seven, I don't know, about 12 or 13 years ago, I, um, I just got promoted into being the intranet manager at AFGRI. And I kind of said, so what, what's the Intranet? And they said, well, I don't know, it's built on SharePoint. And I went like, what's SharePoint, right? And that's just how things happened. A lot of us don't get promoted into these jobs. A lot of us end up there because we show up and we put our hands up and we say, let's do this, we will figure it out. And, and that's pretty much how I got involved. I've always been a trainer at heart. I've had driving school, I had an (?) shop in school. I've always loved helping people and empowering people. So this was just perfect to me. The more I got involved in the IT side and, and, and, and having the ability to build cool things and help people. It was just a, it was the perfect combination. 

Heather Newman:  And we got to, so everyone, I'll put some of this stuff in the show notes and Tracy's blog and some stuff about teens in education of course from Jethro and one of the things, so the, it's 365 TOUR dot C O dot Z (Zed) A and a, that's the site for the two events that we did. And then we also have that Hashtag out on social media. We had a videographer, Adam King from Insite Video who, I can't even imagine. It was like 3000 pictures and so much video. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  And we adore him, and we want to adopt him. We really want to adopt him. 

Heather Newman:  We're going to sop him up with a biscuit for sure. He's so cute and sweet and he came in from the UK, um, after doing another show in Amsterdam and he's off to something else after here. And, uh, Darrell Webster was in from New Zealand and he also, Darrell is brilliant and works for Adopt and Embrace and he also does a lot of on Regarding 365 and also just captured so much and made all these little videos, ended up teaching me how to use a couple of the different tools and we spent a lot of time doing that. It's like, here's how to use this on Instagram and here's how to do that and here's how to, Tracy be showing how she makes her cool little pictures with the words on them and all of that. So that was really neat. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  And then Jethro, of course, went and just floored us all by doing it much better and become the king of social media and mixable media. 

Heather Newman:  Yes, absolutely. And you know, Warren Marks was on the trip with us and Alistair Pugin of course. And Alistair's um, and sorry, Warren's company Ave Point was a sponsor and SkySync of the actual tour in the van and a big thank you to them for making this happen. And that was awesome. And all of the sponsors for SharePoint Saturday Johannesburg and SharePoint Saturday Cape Town. Thank you so much. It, it really, you know, building community is about all the things it's about showing up and it's about speakers and it's about the great money you give and being there to talk to people about your technologies and everything. And so that was really wonderful. So a big thank you I know from all of us that were on this tour. Um, and you know, I think the other thing it was what was really fun is that with both, with Alistair and Tracy and Warren it was like, you know, when you're in somebody else's country, one you're getting to see it through your own eyes, but you get to see it through their eyes and you also, you know, like we would drive by something and Tracy was like, well my dad built that bridge and Alistair was like, that's where I got my tonsils out and you know, so that was really fun too. So how is that, you know, this is your what third van trip? And how is that like seeing people's faces when they get to see your country? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Definitely kind of re-sparks the excitement that you have because we get so stuck in what we do every day and this crazy machine that we form part of that that we kind of don't allow ourselves those little special moments anymore to travel your own beautiful country. So, so firstly for me, it's always great to just kind of be reminded of how beautiful this country is. And secondly just, just to see that appreciation or just kind of like ignites that again, it's the same as a conference and it's the same with community does, but this was just a community about our country, right? Just kind of being reminded and having that affirmation that this is pretty cool cause of course humans we get used to things and it becomes a given, right? And then you just, when you experience it with other people for their first time, again, you just realize how fortunate we are and how incredible this country is. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, it's really, I know, it's like I was telling all these guys about, you know, my thoughts of Africa and I'm pretty well traveled. I know I've seen pictures and all of that, but I had no idea that South Africa looks very similar to Sonoma County wine country. You know, that was a surprise to me and it was so, uh, I was, you know, you sort of, I dunno, you have this thing where it's like there's lions and the Savannah and you know, and it's like not all of Africa is like that. And the drive from Hermanus to Cape Town, I believe probably is one of the top three beautiful drives I've ever been on in my entire life for sure. Like that was absolutely gorgeous. Oh, speaking of driving. Thank you Alistair, thank you Warren for all the amazing driving you did you both really rocked it. It was a couple of times when we went up on two wheels Alistair Pugin, but we all survived. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  I just kind of put it out there, thank you guys. But they wouldn't let me drive the bus with them, so I'm just putting that out there. 

Heather Newman:  Jethro, how about, you know, a moment that sticks out or a few or anything about the bus tour? I know that's a tough one, right? 

Jethro Seghers:  Yeah, there's so many, I think I'm going to stick with the mini SharePoint Saturday we had at the university, um, 

Heather Newman:  In East London? University of Fort Hare. 

Jethro Seghers:  Yeah. Here's the thing, right, is that when you connect with them and you show them something they can use, that they will be able to use to advance their career, to advance their life, to something they can use to build up on top of, they get so rewarding and sometimes we forget about that, right? It's like the immediate reward feeling that you get, they feel that, hey, you're here, you're explaining this to us. We're so grateful for you to do that. But at the same time, what they don't realize is they even teach us so much bigger lesson to like, look what they're doing. Look how they want to keep control of their, of their lives and want to advance. And we sometimes takes too much things for granted and getting it back to, um, a level set moment, let's call it, that was, that was intense for me. 

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, absolutely. And you know, being someone who also has managed conferences for years and years and running SharePoint Saturday LA, I know how much work and time and energy goes into just one, let alone three, let alone a tour. So Tracy, lady, seriously, ridiculously amazing. I know how much work and time and energy you put into this for all of us. So thank you, because sometimes that logistics piece of it doesn't get the thanks it deserves, having done that for a long time too. So, you really, thank you for letting us be in your country and be with you and be at your homes and Alistair, being at your homes as well. And yeah, I, I feel like, um, you know, it's fun to get a chance to be with your friends and your colleagues in their homes and you both are amazing people in the world that I am so happy to be colleagues with and friends with. And having got a chance to go a level either leveled up or a level deeper with you, whatever you want to call it in the gaming world. But yeah, and Tracy, um, there is another SharePoint Saturday coming up will you tell everybody about that too? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  There is, in Durban. Oh my word. Can I not remember which date it is? 

Heather Newman:  May 10th. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  There we go. Thank you Heather for remembering things, but it is round about then. So Durban is still coming up. Um, we had to kind of bring a gap in between it because we had other conferences happening and I think we just needed the break as well. And we normally do all three in a row, so Durban is coming up as well. I'd definitely, if anyone's listening to this please, if you're from that area, we'd love to see your pretty face there and for you to become part of the community and things. And um, it's just always amazing for us. I mean I think we're so fortunate in the community cause it kind of feels like you know everyone and you know where everything is. But man, there's people stuck out there in little basements without windows who thinks they're struggling on their own and they don't know how to make this happen. And they feel guilty or they won't make it, or I dunno, imposter syndrome and I can promise you if you form part of the community it just changes all of that, you know, just that support network that we have. So please join the conferences. I mean not just SharePoint Saturdays, it doesn't matter, but join the conferences, join the community. I mean like the tech community and the online forums and things and just become part of it because I can promise you every bit of it's worth it. 

Heather Newman:  Yup. Absolutely. So everyone, um, as usual we will put all the ways you can follow these two lovely ones in the show notes. And I know that Tracy has got workshops that she's going to be coming out with and talking to people about that you can book her for in your business. I also know that she, and if you haven't read her blogs that she did Office 365 and M365, a blog a day challenge that she did. And I'm saying it right here, right now there's a book coming out and coming soon from Tracy. Yes. In the next year, probably sooner. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Because when you say it, it happens. It's going to be sooner. 

Heather Newman:  It's going to be sooner than that. So she will have a book out and Jethro is going to continue to blog and put out great things on the tech forum. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  And be an awesome Microsoft person. 

Heather Newman:  And be a great advocate for all of us. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  And we all stalk him because he's a celebrity. 

Heather Newman:  So, any last words Jethro? 

Jethro Seghers:  Everybody should come to South Africa and visit it and be blown your mind. 

Heather Newman:  Awesome. How about you miss? 

Tracy van der Schyff:  I think from me, words are so important to me, but there is this beautiful African word called Ubuntu and Ubuntu says, I am who I am because of who we all are. Don't ever forget your role in the community and that, that we all become amazing together. And that's what's really important for me. And that's what this week summed up has done for me. 

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. And you know, it's the communities that you belong in locally. It's the communities that you belong in the larger world and we all are one big global community that affects each other all the time. Thank you both so much. 

Jethro Seghers:  Thank you. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Thank you for being in our country and doing this with us. 

Heather Newman:  I love it. It has been, uh, inspirational, beautiful, beautiful trip that I will not forget and I cannot wait to come back and I haven't even left yet. 

Tracy van der Schyff:  Well, my house is always open to you guys. 

Heather Newman:  Wonderful. Ah, Yay. All right, well folks, show notes will go up, transcripts will go up and you can find the Mavens Do It Better podcast at all of those places where you normally do up on iTunes, on Spotify, up on Stitcher, and up on the mavensdoitbetter.com website. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. 

Episode 34: Tech Maven Robert Bogue

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. We are here for another episode of Mavens Do It Better. I am here with the awesome, wonderful Robert Bogue.

Robert Bogue:  I'll be my own fan club today.

Heather Newman:  Dear friend and colleague and we are catching up, where are we? San Diego!

Robert Bogue:  Yes, we are.

Heather Newman:  Yes. And we just saw each other in Seattle. That's kind of a back to back and then we haven't seen each other in a really long time.

Robert Bogue:  Right.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. So, yeah, we're at the AIIM Conference, so it's kind of fun. So, I wanted to have Rob on, as you all know, these interviews are about extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world and I definitely think that about Rob in many, many realms. Definitely in technology and he's got all kinds of really cool things that he does outside of that as well that we're going to talk about today. So, but let's start off with your moniker in the technology, in the SharePoint community that you've had a long time.

Robert Bogue:  You mean the SharePoint shepherd?

Heather Newman:  Yes.

Robert Bogue:  Or the guy that carries the big stick.

Heather Newman:  Yes.

Robert Bogue:  It's actually a crook.

Heather Newman:  Yes, he carries a crook around y'all. So where did that come from and how did that start?

Robert Bogue:  Honestly, I needed an alliteration. I needed something that would be funny and I'm like S's and Sherpa was taken and so then it became shepherd. And then, so I do travel with the staff. And I often get asked how I do that. I have a trick staff. It breaks down into three pieces.

Heather Newman:  Oh, my goodness.

Robert Bogue:  And so, I'm always worried that TSA is going to stop me, because I have like a quarter staff in my bag.

Heather Newman:  Oh, sure. Cause it's still pretty big, right?

Robert Bogue:  Well, you know, you think you assemble them, so they don't know the difference between a quarter staff and a shepherd's crook. So, but that's how that started. We initially published the SharePoint Shepherd's Guide for End Users in 2008.

Heather Newman:  Wow.

Robert Bogue:  On the 2007 version then we did 2010, 2013, 2016. And now, we're kind of in this continuous integration for Office 365.

Heather Newman:  Right. And it started out as a book?

Robert Bogue:  So, it was always a book that wasn't supposed to be a book. So I 'd been doing publishing for a really long time. And so I knew how to do that, I knew how to make books. But it was always intended to be tasks that you put into SharePoint that were searchable. And so we do the book, I call the book, that's our promo materials. And so we've been doing that for a long time and it's super cool. I love the ability to customize so our customers can change the content. And even as we're doing updates, we leave their content intact. They can add new content and it's super searchable because we actually deploy into their environments.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I was just going to say, tell everybody how you deploy.

Robert Bogue:  It's a push and you don't have to have super permissions. You start the program and it pushes all the content in and so that, that then makes it a part of your search index. So you do that, and you do a little keyword action word for help and somebody can type in "help column" and it'll give them all the results for columns. We also do for, for the customers who have multiple versions of SharePoint, like we've all kind of, you know, it's kind of like we've collected dishes over the years, right? And they don't exactly match. And so there's actually a version selector. So if you are saying, oh, how do I add a column in Office 365 and you're like, how was this done back in the dark ages of 2007, you literally click on a selector and it shows you the way it was done in 2007. So, it's super fun to walk down memory lane.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. That's awesome. And with that there are, tell everybody about, because I know because I, we, so Rob and I talk on Skype sometimes on video and so like he can see like my office and I can see his studio and all of that. And I know that you have a really fancy studio at your place with a green screen and all that kind of jazz. So, like you are also making videos all the time that are part of this is as well.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah, absolutely. So, the Shepherd's Guide comes with videos. So every task comes with videos. But then we also do other course productions. So, for instance, AIIM, the conference we're at now, that organization, I built their Implementing Information Management on SharePoint and Office 365 course that they sell. And the funny thing about a video studio is, the video is the easy part. The audio is really super hard and so I have more invested in the audio in my studio than I have in the video. Getting all the sound suppression panels and covering every panel. And the audio gear and all that stuff to make it sound beautiful. Super expensive.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. No, I, yes, it's not cheap. That is for sure.

Robert Bogue:  So, that's what, for me, that's been the thing that the video we produce is beautiful. It's pictures beautiful, but it is rock solid on the audio side. And so I just love that about having a studio.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah. I think that, you know, even with podcasts and stuff like these little zoom, like we're, I'm using an H4N Pro Zoom, you know, and this has a pretty good microphone and stuff, but when you start doing it when we're not in person. Oh my goodness. You know, it's like if you're using bad equipment, it sounds terrible. And someone was like, I think it's in this ear and not that ear and when it plays in my car. And you're just like, holy cats. Like it was just a lot to think about making content with this sort of thing. So, yeah. So you are also an awesome book reviewer. So if you don't know this, I post a lot of Rob's book reviews. Like I'll post them up on my Creative Maven site cause I think they're awesome. And what's great about them is that they're like my own personal sort of Cliff Notes.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. I don't have to read the whole book. I can just read Rob's thing, it takes me a couple minutes and I'm good.

Heather Newman:  It's great. Or giving me a flavor if I want to read something or not. But so, talk about how you got into doing that. I mean, obviously you're a reader, so

Robert Bogue:  So, I started five or six years ago, and it was this part of my life that, it was a period of time in my life where I needed to grow. I was going, I went through a divorce and got remarried and I started thinking like, you know, the thing I'm going to do for me, the thing I'm going to do to grow and become a better me is I'm going to read a book a week. And that was really easy when you didn't have other people you need to worry about. But I kept it up. And though most people think my reading list is boring because it's, it's marketing, it's psychology, it's leadership, it's business, it's all this stuff. But none of it is like fiction or you know. Um, so every single week I will read a book and then I post the review Monday morning at eight o'clock eastern time. The only other interesting thing, because you said it's a good summary, but the thing I enjoy most about it is linking topics together. So for me it's, oh this and marketing, and this and psychology, and this and business, and this and leadership and, and connecting all those things. That for me is the part that is allowing me to keep doing it.

Heather Newman:  Right. Yeah. Everyone, we'll put a link to his stuff in the show notes, but it's really, it's cool. I like that, well I like your brain. So like, I like the way that you do those connections and, and link other books, you know, that you've read into sort of how you think about stuff. So you've been in the Microsoft ecosystem for how long?

Robert Bogue:  Well, first the earth cooled, then the dinosaurs came. So, I've been in it for a really, really long time, a couple of decades. MVP for 15 years now. Just super fun. Lots of great people. And we've been a partner for a long time too, but that's, yeah, that's just kind of what you have to do.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And tell everybody where you live and where are you from and all that.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. So live in Indianapolis been there for a long time. We have seven kids, two dogs, and it's just a great place to be. Not so great in the winters, but you know, I'm kind of digging this San Diego weather.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Not so bad. I'm from, you know, I'm from Michigan and I lived in Zionsville right there. So I'm an Indiana gal myself for some years growing up. Yeah, it's a good place to be.

Robert Bogue:  It's good people.

Heather Newman:  For sure. Yeah, I know, I like that too. And with, you know, seven kids, I know your wife who's lovely, who's visited me in California before and you two have really cool things that you collaborate on together as well. Will you talk about some of your collaborations?

Robert Bogue:  So, there's a couple of things that we did. So back in 2015, one of the things that we did was we created a set of child safety cards. So, Terri was supporting the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and noticing that parents and kids weren't really talking to each other. And so we created cards to get them to talk to each other. And then we added safety sayings from the CDC or the American Academy of Pediatrics. We had a dice replacement. And so that's in our Kin 2 Kid brand.

Heather Newman:  Say it again?

Robert Bogue:  Kin 2 Kid. K I N , the number two, K I D. So we do that. We have a book coming out in May. The Society for Human Resource Management is going to publish, Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery. And then we're going to be speaking at the national conference, which is super fun. And it's, it's about how do you not get burnout in what you do. And nursing has this, healthcare has this, IT has this. Everybody has this. Right. And you can get burnt out in life as you know.

Heather Newman:  What do you mean "as I know", what are you talking about?

Robert Bogue:  Uh, I don't know? I think we've all been there.

Heather Newman:  Yes, we have. And we've talked about it extensively. So anyway,

Robert Bogue:  Yeah, so we've got that going on. We had a patent issued last month, so in February we had a patent issued for an IV dressing innovation. The short of it is, dressings need to be clean, dry, and intact to prevent bacteria from getting in your bloodstream and killing you. And it's hard to assess dryness cause you always have gloves on. So, super, super simple, and we're super looking forward to that getting out in the market. Hundred thousand people, roughly, die every year from healthcare associated infections. So we're trying to like save lives. I mean it makes the SharePoint thing seem really boring, but I love the community there too.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. That's so, yeah. You two collaborate a lot together, which is really exciting. And then you are doing things, I don't know, like how does, do they just come up because of something you're passionate about or is it?

Robert Bogue:  Like how did it come about?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, yeah. How'd it happen?

Robert Bogue:  So, the cards started on a conversation back from a SharePoint Saturday in Atlanta. And we were frustrated because parents and kids weren't talking. And we're like, well how do we get them to do that? And then it was cards and then, and it just snowballed, right. The dressing, we were on our way to our son in Connecticut and we're driving through the middle of Pennsylvania at 1:30 in the morning. By the way, there is nothing in the middle of Pennsylvania, much less at 1:30 in the morning, it was dark. And, Terri was whining a little bit about this kid who got sick from a bug that is a gut bug. It's a normal thing you have in your, in your gut. But he was in serious condition. And so it's 1:30 morning, I'm making random connections. I said, well, dog vomit fluoresces and maybe human vomit does too. Now why I knew that dog vomit fluoresces, I have no idea. So then we, so from my mobile phone, mobile hotspot, we ordered from Amazon five lights, and the nurses test the fluorescent lights with kids, and human vomit does not.

Heather Newman:  Okay, good to know.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah, I mean if you ever need it, but Scorpion, anything from a Scorpion including your urine does fluoresce as well. So there's your Trivial Pursuit fact for the day. And then I'm like, well, maybe we could feed them green fluorescent protein. So when they do vomit it will fluoresce and we decided that was probably not going to go over really well. But then we settled on, you know what? Any liquid is a problem. It just happens that someone vomiting on their dressing is super bad cause you get bugs already in it. But any liquid is bad. And so that's where we came up with, we'll just make a moisture indicating dressing. Yeah. So they're all, they're all some problem we bumped into and then we just go, well, what can we do to fix it?

Heather Newman:  Well, yeah, I mean there's so many people that talk about all kinds of ideas and things all the time, but then they never take action.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Yeah. It's hard taking action. So we're working right now on, so if any of the listeners work at a hospital and know Environmental Services, they only clean half the stuff they're supposed to. And that's research, I'm not trying to pick on anybody. It's just research. We've got a way to improve their cleaning rate. And if I can get them from 50% to 75% of the objects that they're supposed to be cleaning. And notice my target is not 90 or 100, 75. I can reduce hospital associated infections by about, it's about, well, it's about 20%, which works out to be about one to two infections per employee per year.

Heather Newman:  Wow.

Robert Bogue:  So, we're super excited about the ability to work on that and to, that one actually brings a little bit more of my technology background into it, but it's how do we keep people from getting hurt and getting sick and dying?

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Well, and isn't that kind of, you know, some of the most important things?

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Well, so in that one, I'll tell you the story behind that one was Terri was in the hospital for something and she's fine now, but she's in the hospital and saw the Environmental Services cleaning and oh my gosh, I can't believe it. And I'm like, I can fix that. And she's like, you can't fix that. That's humans, you can't. I'm like, nope, I've got 20 years of training. I know how to fix that problem.

Heather Newman:  Is that coming soon.?Dot. Dot. Dot.

Robert Bogue:  I need, I

Heather Newman:  You're working on it.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah, I'm working on it. Really the problem is the savings, which is in infection control and the cost is all in environmental services and they're so far apart in the organization. So I'm going to try and find a company that, a healthcare organization that really gets it, as like not only do we want to save millions upon millions of dollars every year, but we also don't want people getting sick. And when I find that client, we'll roll through production and

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Are you going to take the cards in places outside the US? Is that already being thought of?

Robert Bogue:  We haven't. The cards are a really interesting thing cause I carry them with me all the time and I give them to people randomly, which occasionally gets me some weird looks at airports and stuff. But mostly people are like, oh, thank you. Those are ones, they're philanthropy for us, right? We're trying to just get them in the market so that people don't accidentally hurt their kids. They just don't know. That's another case where we're actually waiting for the right partner to want to push this mission.

Heather Newman:  Right, right. So what does the optimal partner look like? Cause they might be listening.

Robert Bogue:  Honestly, it's reached to the effected market, which is people who don't have a lot of family around, so they're younger parents. The cards really talk through grade school, elementary school. And a lot of interactions, a lot of touch points with those sorts of folks. We really felt like there are lots of places where kids are at that it'd be super cool to have these, either as a giveaway or as a low cost item that they could purchase.

Heather Newman:  Give an example of like one of the cards, like something that it teaches.

Robert Bogue:  Oh, the simple stuff would be stuff like, don't let your kids play with the dog near food. Right? Like you're like, oh, well that makes sense. Dogs, food, they get protective, the kids will get hurt. There's things like, don't let your kids be outside while you're mowing. Kids take two weeks to adjust to heat. Babies respond to temperature changes quicker, so you have to be more careful with them than others. So it's, it's a variety of things. And really what we did is we took the CDC's vital statistics and they keep this and it's what people are getting injured by. And we sorted them and we took the top of the list and those made it into cards. And then the drawn art work is pretty cute because you get to see kind of what the kids thought.

Heather Newman:  Right. Right. That's so cool. I love that. So anyone listening food for thought on that one.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Let us know. We really do want to get them out there.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Going back to technology land, I mean, you've been in this business area for a really long time. What do you think is coming? You know, like, what's on the horizon, you know, or like the things that people say is it like AI and you know, and virtual reality.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Okay. Alright, so let's do AI first. So, we're sitting at the AIIM Conference and now everybody is talking about robotic process automation. Um sorry, we've been doing this for a long time. We called it business process automation. Right? But we didn't have the AI component. And you're like, oh my gosh, we've got AI now. So what does AI? Well, AI is anything we haven't figured out how to do before. Right? It's really, people are like, oh AI, AI, AI. You know what, 20 years ago OCR was AI. 20 years ago optical character recognition was super amazing and it was impossible and it was wow. Right,? And now if you talk to somebody about AI, they won't put OCR in the list. Right? So Ai is just the stuff that we want you to want to long for, hope that you get. And it's good stuff and it's magical, and boy, I love mathematicians and statisticians who can make this stuff work. But for me it's all the same. It's all, it's all what we've been doing.

Heather Newman:  I love my data man. My little, do you remember what those were? So it was like a, it wasn't a calculator it was in the shape of a robot. It was literally called Data Man. And it taught me my multiplication tables.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Like, like a little Alfie sort of thing?

Heather Newman:  Yes. It was a little dealio. And to me that was like the best thing I'd ever had.

Robert Bogue:  So, so future. Right? Like to answer your question. I think what I'm most excited about is that every iteration we learn a little bit more about how to make technology work for actual humans. And we're not getting it right yet. I don't want to say that we're getting it right. And the pendulum keeps swinging, right? Like so we have all this stuff on-prem and it's deployed and blah, blah, blah. And big corporations can't change it for 10 years. Right? And now we're on the other end of the spectrum where, you know, oops, I blinked and Office 365 changed and oh, I blinked again and man, now I've got Teams instead of Groups. I blink again and I, and I think we're too far on that end. But I like the idea that we're going to swing to the middle. And we're going to figure out how to help people be successful with all this technology that we keep dreaming up and implementing.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Yeah. I think that's with anything in a way, you know, it's like the pendulum, like sometimes it swings so hard one way it gets stuck and we're, I mean, I think we're all wanting things to be just balanced a bit more, you know? I thought, since we are here at the AIIM Conference, it's always interesting to see where things are moving in particular with, you know, Paper. Somebody, oh, I was dealing with an insurance issue the other day and she was like, yeah, well you can fax it. And I was like, who has a fax machine? You have a fax machine?

Robert Bogue:  I do actually have a fax machine.

Heather Newman:  Why do you have a fax machine?

Robert Bogue:  Because I have a big multifunction copier in my office and it has fax built in.

Heather Newman:  Okay, fair enough.

Robert Bogue:  Right. But the 80s have called and they want it back.

Heather Newman:  I was like, you don't have a standalone fax machine though?

Robert Bogue:  No.

Heather Newman:  Okay. All right, let's be clear. But my point is, is that I think that because you work and do a lot of things in healthcare, like healthcare anything, financial services and utility and some of our sort of, I guess, the most sort of important industries are the ones that probably still have fax machines and so many paper records and all of that stuff. And I see it moving, but I don't see it moving as fast as it could. I wonder why. I mean, I have my opinions about why, but why do you think?

Robert Bogue:  You know, it takes just a ton of energy to manage all this churn. And absolutely should we maybe get rid of fax machines? Yeah. I would agree. We need to get rid of the fax machines, but to change a business process or rather to change all of the business processes. It takes a long time.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And people don't like change. I mean, I don't care, you know, coming to any show, any of these technology shows and talking to people, walking up to a customer, you know, you may have the best thing they've ever seen and they love it and they're like, yeah, that's great. And they're like, I don't know. Do I have to move from here to there? To do it? And you're like, and sometimes it's free. You know what I mean? Like you can't even give it away to have somebody make a change. You know? And I know you talk a lot about like adoption, user adoption and all of that stuff. Has your spiel changed or is it the same?

Robert Bogue:  It's changed. It's more informed. I spend more time, what I realize is the people I am talking to have never been trained in organizational change management. They've never been trained in psychology or communications or engagement or, or, or. And so what I realize is I'm talking to somebody who drives a car about how to repair a car. And it doesn't work. Right? And so, basically I'm teaching auto mechanics. Or I'm saying, if you will let us, we will repair your car for you.

Heather Newman:  Or we can teach you to change the oil and do like five things on this checklist that you can do yourself.

Robert Bogue:  Right. I mean, learning to cook, if you think about learning to cook, you could become an expert chef. Or I can teach you a handful of things and I can give you a box of recipes and you know what? You're going to do okay. Right? I'm not even talking about like boxed dinners kind of. okay. I'm like, you know if you learn how to scramble an egg and bake a chicken breast and a handful of things. It's all you need.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. You're going to do all right. Yeah. So, you're writing, you've written a book that's going to come out that's about burnout. How do you, not to dig too personal, but like how do you avoid that? How have you avoided that? And does that come into the book? Are there stories like about your personal life? Is it like how does,

Robert Bogue:  Yeah, there's definitely stories. They're really, they tend to be more about the kids or our friends but they're definitely the stories. I think, I don't mean to oversimplify this, cause then people won't buy the book, but, but

Heather Newman:  I don't think it matters in a way because it's like you can tell people to do x, y, and z that's going to be good for them and they still don't do it.

Robert Bogue:  Right. So here's the, we have two models in the book. One is the bathtub model and it is your personal agency is a bathtub and when the bathtub is empty, you have burnt out. All right? And that's super simple. Now what fills the bathtub are your results, your support and your self-care. So, if you keep those things flowing, then everything keeps working. Now, by the way, the drain has a valve on it so that you can manage that and those are the demands that are placed on you. And so, at a basic level, if you feel like you have the capacity to get things done, you're unlikely to be in burnout. The second model in the book is a little harder to get. You have to kind of, there's more that's needed, but I'll give you the basic framework. The basic framework is you have to feel effective. And I said personal agency, the ability to get things done. Effective is actually a past tense. You're looking backwards and you're evaluating what should I have gotten done with what I perceive I did get done. When those two things get too far out of whack, when you feel like, oh my gosh, I should have gotten way more done. You expect more of yourself, you get and you have a lower view of what results you got, you'll be in burnout. And then so you trip those over to where you feel like, you know what? I'm doing a really darn good job. I'm not perfect but I'm getting stuff done and then it will be difficult for you to fall into the trap of burnout.

Heather Newman:  Right. I like that. I think cause sometimes with, with burnout in some of these issues there's like, I don’t know, in being on different panels, you and I speak a lot on different panels and talk about that stuff. And I feel like sometimes that it's like there's like somebody who'd be like, well you know, you just have to be positive or you have to be like vocal or you have to do blah, blah blah. And I feel like sometimes we don't use good examples. It's like that seems like the bathtub system. You know what I mean? And it's a visual. And you can see it and you can be like it's lower or higher, and you turn the drain on or off. But I feel like sometimes you read books or you like listen to people talk and it's like these big sort of, I will call it like an empty slogan. You know what I mean? And I think that that's exciting. So, there's a system and then there's also examples and stories of people that you know, your family and friends about how either they've gone into it or gotten out of it. That's awesome. I can't wait to read it. Say the name of it again.

Robert Bogue:  Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery.

Heather Newman:  How many books have you written?

Robert Bogue:  Uhh, that will be 27.

Heather Newman:  Holy cats! I think I knew that. I knew it was in the 20s but I didn't know it was 27. When did you write your first book?

Robert Bogue:  In 91' I wrote a chapter in a book.

Heather Newman:  Wow.

Robert Bogue:  And so, you get, by the way, I say 27 it doesn't mean I wrote everything in all the books. You write one chapter, I author credit. Author credit on 27 when this book is published will be 27.

Heather Newman:  What is the one that, is there one that has like, I don't know, is it something about like the first or is there something about maybe this one or is there something about one that you were like, this is the most awesome thing? Is there one?

Robert Bogue:  It's this one. It's Extinguish Burnout and part of it is I got to work with Terri on it. And we get to work on it together. She and I had worked on a chapter in an information overload book by the American Nursing Association. And that was fun. But this is different. And the other books that I did prior to that stuff, it's mostly technology books. And again, I love technology and I don't want to minimize it, but this, this for us is Extinguish Burnout is going to change people's lives. Like you don't get stuck anymore. You don't develop depression. You don't like, the correlation numbers if you look at some of the research, some of the researchers are trying to say that burnout and depression are not different. I don't agree with that, but there's some really high correlations. So if I can figure out how to keep you out of burnout. And it does, by the way, the flow of information is having burnout leads to depression, right? It's a fast follower. Follows within three months. But if I can keep people out of burnout, maybe I can keep them out of depression and depression is predicted to be the largest healthcare, not mental health, healthcare issue we will have on the planet by 2020.

Heather Newman:  Well, and stress and depression and all of that stuff leads to us getting, it's disease. It's cancer. All of those things are what that is. All the things that you're like, you turn around one day and you're like, really? You know? But it's like, yeah, remember all the times you've been stressed and bananas and couldn't get things done and felt terrible about yourself and like, right? So yeah, I completely believe that as well. Wow. This is so exciting. I can't wait to read it. You also have, talk about, did we talk about your organizational and communication videos at length at all?

Robert Bogue:  No.

Heather Newman:  So, let's talk about that, cause he's got all kinds of great stuff y'all. We're bouncing around, but like I keep remembering all the cool stuff you're doing.

Robert Bogue:  I can't sleep. So, one of the common problems about technology, so we started talking about what's new in technology and all that stuff. One of the common things in technology is getting the users to adopt it. And what I find is all the folks haven't been trained, psychology, comms, all that stuff. So what I started to do was put together pieces that people can use in their communications. So if I go back to a cooking metaphor, I pre make something and then you can season it and it's yours. You made it. But all the core of it's done. And so we've got two series that are releasing publicly with, they've got bumpers on them, but they're releasing publicly. One is engagement videos. And so that sort of Where's Waldo.

Heather Newman:  And that's not engagement like getting down on one knee.

Robert Bogue:  No, we're not talking about exchanging rings. We're talking about how do you get your users excited about your technology. So that started with Where's Waldo and just teaches people how to search on their intranet. It ends with wormhole physics, which is not yet posted. Which is about how you use Teams to connect people up, Microsoft Teams, you connect people across time, space and, and the spoiler alert is, so I'm the SharePoint Shepherd, my characters are, they're like Leading Lamb, Sam Sheep, Elaine Ewe, right? Like it's kind of in that. So I made a call to the field and so I called Lola Lamb while she was in the field. But, so you'll have to, you have to see that episode and that'll post at some point. And then, so that was how do you, how do you tease that into the middle of a communication about the rollout you're doing? Or how do you get people excited once you've rolled out? And I kept doing this and what I realized was the corporate communicators, most of the time they're the admin person for the department who's generating the story about whatever. Right. They've never been taught communications, right. They don't have journalism backgrounds. They don't know about inverted pyramids. When people talk about inverted pyramid they think about the Bangles, right? Like talk like no, that's walk like an Egyptian. Sorry. But they don't know, they don't know to write emotionally. They don't know how to write a story. Oh my gosh. If you've not been in drama or journalism or whatever, you don't know how to write a story. If I said Joseph Campbell, if you've been through story stuff and writing stuff you know Joseph Campbell. It's hero story and, and you know that stuff. But if you've never done that, and the teaser for the folks who are listening, if you don't know that, it's the framework that George Lucas used for Star Wars, right? Like it's the thing. And so we have a series of those, those are 600 words, four minute videos. And those are posting every other week. So the engagement is one week and then we do communications. Folks can use those directly; the videos are up on YouTube. If they want to subscribe to a series of them, so a they get them pushed. I give them to them off my video platform with shorter bumpers. Then if they say no, this was really good I really have to have this, they can buy a license that has really no bumpers and they can either deploy internally which they can use to watch their activity and know who's watching them. Or, they're also allowed to use them off of my video hosting platform but they have no bumpers and no ads and no, like it's just the video.

Heather Newman:  Got It. The content. That's super cool. I like that methodology on, you know, in our gig economy of like using the content, how you want to use it and license it and all that stuff. That's super cool.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. And we'll see. I mean, it's a new experiment for me. I like experiments. Most of them fail.

Heather Newman:  Oh, come on.

Robert Bogue:  Well No, they do! A friend of mine says,

Heather Newman:  No, no, I mean a thousand light bulbs or whatever.

Robert Bogue:  A friend of mine is like, Rob, I love that you never fail. And I looked at her and I'm like, what are you talking about?

Heather Newman:  Failure always leads to really good things usually. A lot of lemonade out of big lemons.

Robert Bogue:  Yeah. Yeah. I look at failure. Failure is not an option. It's the pathway.

Heather Newman:  Yes, exactly. Fail hard, fail quick, fail fast, fail a lot, move on, for sure. That's good.

Robert Bogue:  Keep failing. Just don't let it be fatal.

Heather Newman:  Yes. Well yeah, that's good. Yeah. No Darwin awards for anybody.

Robert Bogue:  Right. Hey y'all watch this!

Heather Newman:  So, we've got a new book coming out. We've got videos. Oh my goodness. You've got a patented bandage,

Robert Bogue:  IV dressing

Heather Newman:  IV dressing. I wanted to say that right. What else? Anything else?

Robert Bogue:  Gee, I hope not.

Heather Newman:  I know. Like, no burnout for you, Mister.

Robert Bogue:  Results versus expectations. My expectations are low and I'm cranking stuff out. It may not be very good, but I'm cranking it out.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's awesome. Where will we see you speaking next?

Robert Bogue:  I don't know. Well, so I don't know. See, so here's the thing, I know that I'm speaking at the SHRM conference nationally. I know I'm speaking at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control. I've got an HR conference I'm speaking at in Indianapolis. I know I've got more stuff, but the best way to see my speaking schedule is go to the website, go to Thor Projects dot com and on the lower right is the upcoming speaking schedule.

Heather Newman:  Yes, and his website is Thor, t h o r like Thor,

Robert Bogue:  The Viking God of war and thunder!

Heather Newman:  Thorprojects.com. So you can catch him there and we'll put more links up on show notes. What's your Twitter-atti handle? It's Robert Bogue, I believe.

Robert Bogue:  RobBogue, @robbogue.

Heather Newman:  Okay. And if, and if that's wrong, we'll fix it.

Robert Bogue:  Well I don't, I should know this stuff, but I don't use it actually.

Heather Newman:  I know, I tweet you all the time, but I'm like, I don't know either. But anyway, we'll put it in the show notes as well. So rob, man of many maven hats for sure. Um, and such a dear friend and thank you for catching up and being on here and telling everybody. You always have such cool things going on and I'm always just like, wow! You know, cause they're, you know, just from the heart, you know, and wanting to help.

Robert Bogue:  Look, you know, Jobs said, you know, figure out what kind of Ding you want to make in the universe. Yeah. And for Terri and I, I think I've figured it out. I think we're going to go ding this healthcare associated infections thing and I think we're going to grind it into the ground.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Thank you.

Robert Bogue:  Thank you.

Heather Newman:  I mean, that's amazing, right? And, love to Terri and thank her too, but yeah. So, so good. So thank you, rob.

Robert Bogue:  Thank you Heather.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Well everyone

Robert Bogue:  Be fantastic.

Heather Newman:  Okay. I'm going to work on that every day, I think hopefully, yes. Folks, catch us on iTunes and Stitcher and Spotify and all the places where you listened to your wonderful podcasts and here's to you and another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.

Episode 33: Tech Maven Karuana Gatimu

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary mavens who bring a light to our world. Couldn't be more excited to be sitting here today in the Mixer Commons on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington with none other than Karuana Gatimu. Hello!

Karuana Gatimu:  Hello. Hello. That's a great intro.

Heather Newman:  Yes. And, Karuana and I have been catching up and I figured I'd have her on. She is a maven of many sorts technology and diversity and inclusion and adoption and is also just an awesome friend. So, wanted to get with her today and talk about all those wonderful things. So, tell everybody what you do at Microsoft.

Karuana Gatimu:  Oh, sure. I will. And thank you for having me. I think that the, uh, being here, you brought the sunshine to Redmond, Washington. It is beautiful out here today, which is, I'm finally thawing from snowmageddon. So I work in Microsoft Teams engineering and I run our customer advocacy group and we're a little bit of a unique team for Microsoft because we bring together all the adoption best practices, documentation and guidance, worldwide training, but a lot of feedback and also quality work with our tap program, our prerelease program. So it's fun to have all that together. It's like I found my tribe. And it's a pleasure to get to lead that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And we're here, are we allowed to say where we are?

Karuana Gatimu:  Oh yeah, you can say it.

Heather Newman:  We're at MVP Summit. So I'm a Microsoft MVP in the Office Apps and Services segment. And so I got to see Karuana speak and we'll probably see her speak a couple of times and what we do here is we get updates on things and a lot of it is under nondisclosure cause it's coming soon kind of thing. But there's lots of great things coming with Teams and we got a sneak peek for some and then a lot was released because of, was it Enterprise Connect?

Karuana Gatimu:  Enterprise Connect. Yes. That's a major conference. It happens to be the same week this year as MVP Summit. As well as things happening for any of your European listeners. We had our Amsterdam Ignite Tour this week as well. So lots of things happening around the globe and we're privileged to be such a big part of that front and center for Microsoft Strategy. Microsoft Teams is a big piece of the M365 strategy going forward. And you know, I've been lucky to get to work in these spaces. I worked in SharePoint when it was new. I worked on the Yammer acquisition, worked on the release of Power BI and now I'm here and you know, it's really exciting to be around a new product, especially one that's been as well received, as actually all of those have, but especially Teams right now is a, is a hot topic.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. I think in talking to customers and partners and in the space, we've been talking about how, you know, SharePoint has, you know, is beloved and been along for such a long time and that Microsoft Teams is really making M365 Microsoft 365 and Office 365 sticky. In a way that it's kind of pushed things to the next level I think, which is really exciting. Will you talk about sort of the adoption programs that you have around that? Cause I know you do a lot in that.

Karuana Gatimu:  Yeah, we definitely do. We do think that it makes Office 365 sticky. But what we even more hope is that it is really transforming that experience. You know, people have given us feedback and this is, I believe that Teams is a representation of the transformation of our own corporate culture. You know, with Satya here and the whole leadership team really focusing on diversity, inclusion, being open, actioning customer feedback. That's really how Teams was born. And so what it's trying to do is provide that center of gravity for that communication and collaboration. Well that's great, but it's also a big change for people and likely not the only change going on for them. So we really wanted to have an adoption

Heather Newman:  What people have lives outside of technology?

Karuana Gatimu:  They do amazing. Even I have a life, nobody knows that, of course, they think my life is Teams, but I actually do have a real life. And in my real life there's other things going on besides some new application that I'm supposed to learn. And so, you know, we have an entirely new adoption framework that we took that feedback from our customers and that, I do a lot of direct customer engagement, which for me is my bread and butter. I really like to have what I call truth from the trenches, right? What is actually happening out there in the field with our customers trying to drive adoption. And so we took all that feedback and we altered the Office 365 adoption framework and Microsoft Teams was the first group to put that into production. I was on the V team that changed the main framework and you know, we think it's going to help people, you know, find their tribe, right? Find Their tribe, tell the story and user our tools to drive adoption more easily.

Heather Newman:  Right. That's awesome. Yeah. And so when, just so folks, there's, you know, folks that are definitely in technology who listen, but like there's folks that aren't, so your title.

Karuana Gatimu:  Oh yes. So, titles inside Microsoft are like kind of super confusing when you, you know, and that's okay, but if you look on LinkedIn, a lot of us don't use our internal title on our LinkedIn profile. I happen to, but you know, that's why I say, I'm the Lead of the Customer Advocacy Group. Okay. But technically I'm a Principle PM Manager, so that's a principle program manager, manager. So I manage other PMs because I'm a lead, I have a team. But it's funny, right? But you know that principal title is basically you earn that inside of Microsoft when you get to a point where you're supposed to drive your own programs forward. Not that other people don't. But there's a greater expectation that's on you once you reach that principal level. It's considered a leadership level. So, you know, I was lucky I came into Microsoft that way because I've been a director and a GM and all sorts of other stuff elsewhere.

Heather Newman:  And you were at Sketchers as well?

Karuana Gatimu:  I was, I was, I was the Chief SharePoint Architect at Sketchers and I ran ecommerce there and digital marketing. And so, you know, that was a great job. I love Sketchers. They're a fantastic company, lot of fun. And that was at the time when, you know, back then I remember my VP of IT coming to my desk and handing me an iPad and saying, listen, make SharePoint work on this.

Heather Newman:  Okay.

Karuana Gatimu:  Right. On the first iPad. I'm like, I'll do it. I'll definitely do it. So, you know, I think that it's the same situation now. People out there, you see Teams, you want to use it. There's probably some IT person who's still trying to figure it out. And my job is to bring those two things together. What the business needs and when it pros can do and help move that ball. So, I did have a hand in designing this job. And for anybody out there who's listening from a career development perspective, I'd say, you know, you want a job, design it, own it, go after it. You know, I lobbied people for a long time to make this role. And I had different iterations of it along the last, I'd say like four or five years. So, you know, I'm really lucky now that I got, I got the Gig.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. You have to craft your own world. You have to craft your own path a lot of the time. So Karuana and I had the pleasure of, you know, we met officially at Ignite a couple of years ago and talked pretty much the rest of the evening into the morning I believe. And then we've been doing great just stuff together. And I have to say thank you for being such a great advocate and saying, hey Heather, do you want to do this? And I think we do that for each other and I just appreciate that. So thank you.

Karuana Gatimu:  You're welcome.

Heather Newman:  Yeah.

Karuana Gatimu:  I like to be an active myth buster. That powerful, intelligent women can't band together and work together effortlessly. I think there's still a lot of myths out there around that. I don't believe any of them. They've very rarely been my experience. Usually when I meet other really smart women, they're always excited to find out what you do and start to partner and do cool stuff. And we happen to have a lot in common. So, you know, that was, it was even easier. We just clicked like tribe members do. But you know, I also think it's important. I think it's an important example to set like, hey, we're all in this together. We have to band together to create the world we want to see.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And so we've had the chance to do a few things together. Like you came down to SharePoint Saturday Los Angeles, and we went to the European SharePoint Conference and did workshops together. So we led workshops on the show floor, for networking and leadership and empowerment and all of that. And we have, we're about to embark on another one.

Karuana Gatimu:  Yes, I'm so excited! SharePoint Conference North America! Ahhhhh!

Heather Newman:  Yes, Las Vegas, third week of May if you haven't registered or don't know.

Karuana Gatimu:  Right, exactly. And you know what I like about the SharePoint Conference is, you know, Ignite is such a huge event and I think it's a wonderful event obviously. And you can learn everything you might ever want to know about any Microsoft product at Ignite. What I like about SharePoint Conference is it's focused on that collaboration space and so you can deep dive with other product group members and you meet other customers and hear what they're doing. You know, the attendance is such that you can actually kind of get to know people. A lot of deep dive content on a variety of subject and Teams of course has a track there in the SharePoint Conference and we're about to do our diversity, inclusion and belonging track. And what's really amazing about that is SharePoint Conference is one of the first conferences to have a dedicated track for diversity, inclusion and belonging, on at the same time as other technical content. And that's because that's how important this is, right? If we don't have better diversity, if people may be diverse but they don't feel included, and you may be included but you don't feel like you belong. We won't actually design products that work for everyone. So I, you know, I'm super excited to be involved in that.

Heather Newman:  And you know, we did it last year and it was the first time and it got a lot of, you know, talk and feedback. And that's the other thing too that I really love about our community is that, you know, it's like some stuff worked and it worked really well and it was great that we did it and there's other things that didn't. And we were like, what didn't work? Tell us, let's figure this out. And you know, we have a committee that is working on this, you know, and we did last year as well. And you know, Cathy Dew from Women in SharePoint is heading a lot of things up. And Jennifer Mason and you know, and all the folks that work on the Microsoft team. So, you know, it's not, these things aren't just in a bubble, you know, and it's great to have a bunch of different voices and also people involved in it and, you know, putting out a call for speakers and all of that. And I think we're about to do a call for meetup leads and all of those things. So, you know, the diversity, inclusion and belonging area it's a moving target and it always has been. And what I'm, you know, Jen Stirrup, was part of, and they created a diversity and inclusion advisory board this year for the MVP Summit, which I was on. And it was really amazing to, and it's got, I think, I don't know, there's probably 50 people on it and it's everyone. It's not just women, it's everyone, and everybody was contributing, you know. Did you see part of the pre day?

Karuana Gatimu:  I did. I just see part of the pre-day. And the thing, you just hit on something that's really important. Diversity, inclusion and belonging is not just about, you know, different genders and different, you know, ethnicities. It's about everyone coming together and feeling a part of something bigger than themselves. And I think, you know, as a longtime community activist in a variety of topics, technology and otherwise, one of the things that I think is most important for people who are doing community leadership is to be open and to take feedback and criticism very well and to really make other people feel like they get to have a voice and a choice in the direction of those communities, in those events and what have you. Because sometimes these things can become like some sort of a clique. And I think that that's very dangerous for our causes right now. I think it's very, very important to be open to feedback, to be open to other people shaping things. And you know, you may encounter people who have opinions that you don't agree with. That's okay, because we need, that is the essence of diversity. It's not diversity in how you look, it's also diversity in how you think, that is important to really, you know, moving us forward. And especially right now in the US right now, we need that ability to hear other people we need. We're pretty good at talking in the United States. We're not so good at listening. And one of the things that I really try to contribute, even though I am a talker, is to really help people understand listening skills and what it means to be an active listener. I think from a community standpoint, that's what I love about the SPC D&I committee. Right? We took that feedback back. You know, we were open, we were, you know, we invited that feedback, and now we're actioning it. We're making changes and people are going to be able to see themselves reflected back in the community, which is all anybody really wants. They just want to see themselves in the bigger picture. To know that they matter. I think it's really important to do that. Certainly part of a legacy I'm trying to leave. I was recently nominated to the Experiences and Devices Women's Board, which is Rajesh Jha's organization, which is all of Office. We have a women's board and you know, a senior female technical leaders from all across that group, we're coming together technical and you know, PM all disciplines are represented. And to me that's a huge honor and I really take that stuff seriously because I want to participate and leave something behind. Selfishly, I don't want any other woman to have to go through what I went through to get here in my career. And that's why I created this Service Adoption Specialist Course so that people can take and validate their skills, people who are business and technical and communication skills. There was nothing for us and I just thought that that was not okay, you know. And so it's brand new. You know, it came out in January. We've had over 5,800 people take the course and we have the second highest conversion rate to a paid certifications of any edX course ever. And that validated for me that yeah, there's a segment here in this industry that really needs this career path modeling. And I'm thrilled about that. And so many of them are women, right? Because women come from very diverse career backgrounds. We end up in tech, you know, I'm theater trained, I know you are, right. We didn't, this was not our primary place. And so, you know, I think that all of this work where there's diversity, inclusion, the adoption more, you know, everything, I'm really trying to leave this, this breadcrumb trail, this neon breadcrumb trail that's very obvious, about how you can move forward even if you don't have a traditional technology education. Cause I don't, you know, I don't have, and for a long time I wouldn't even talk about that cause I was too insecure about it.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah. I had the imposter syndrome about it. I would say, oh well, I was just a theater major and a dear person in my life pointed that out to me. And I was like, oh my goodness. I was like, I use it every day.

Karuana Gatimu:  That we're just is, to me it's like, it's like part of the evil empire. I use it.

Heather Newman:  Kinda. Just. It's doubt language.

Karuana Gatimu:  It is, it's doubt language. That's exactly true. And it's habit. For me it's been habit and I've really tried to work on, especially when I'm speaking in public, you know, I'm still working on editing the thoughts in my own head. That's going to be a lifelong journey, I think.

Heather Newman:  I know I wish Grammarly could be stuck in there or something.

Karuana Gatimu:  I know, right? Something exactly. I wish that, you know, but at least when I speak in public, I very much try not to minimize my talent. I have talent. People pay me for it. Why am I the one that's minimizing it? That makes absolutely no sense. You know, so, but it's a journey.

Heather Newman:  Well, it's like doing it before somebody else does it to you.

Karuana Gatimu:  Right.

Heather Newman:  That's usually the thought process.

Karuana Gatimu:  Cause I'm anticipating how my career was 25 years ago that imprinted upon me. And the truth is it's not like that today. And I also have to accept that some things have changed, and for the better. So that's not always easy for me to do. I am a grown dog. I won't call myself an old dog, but I'm a grown dog and I still have to learn new tricks sometimes and let the change wash over me and be in the present era instead of the old one.

Heather Newman:  I think it's interesting in looking at, you know, you and I are in the similar, I would say, you know, grown dog bracket

Karuana Gatimu:  Hashtag grown dog. We just made a

Heather Newman:  Grown dog. And it is interesting looking at, you know, people that are, you know, a generation ahead of us and then the generation, you know, younger and you know, how they fit in the mix and how we have conversations with them and there's this sort of wave of sort of, you know, there's a push, there's a lot going on in our world right now and I really, it's interesting making sure all voices get heard.

Karuana Gatimu:  Absolutely. And some of the most valuable conversations I have, and they're not official reverse mentoring relationships, but there's a lot of young women that I know who find me through one way or another and I add them to my mentoring circle or whatever inside Microsoft. And they are so important to me. They keep me fresh, they keep me connected, they helped me understand things from a different point of view. They also help me understand the persistence of certain things. As an African American woman, you know, in a technical field, there's not that many of us. It is definitely changing for sure. But we are, you know, kind of one more step in the kind of diversity and inclusion pattern there. And so there are certain things, especially in certain parts of this country, that we haven't healed yet in terms of being nice to one another. And you know, part of me gets angry about that part of me gets frustrated and part of me just digs my heels in. I am determined not to allow limiting ideas have an impact on me or mine. And so I take that mine pretty broadly. And so, you know, I just want to do everything I can to again, make that neon path for people to expand any way they want to in an authentic way. You know?

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. And I think, you know, like, I know you do this, I do this, we both travel a lot extensively throughout the world and you know, I just got back from India and, you know, you're going to all kinds of places as well. And you know, I think that's the other thing with this, when you do this kind of work also understanding that, you know, you have to, one way to talk about diversity, inclusion and belonging here is very different in different places in the world. And we were in Puerto Rico and it was like Puerto Rico is diverse because of its history. And it's not the nicest history either. You know what I mean? So you, you have to also think about that. You can't just sort of pop in and be like, hi, la, la, la, you know?

Karuana Gatimu:  Right. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  And that's super important too.

Karuana Gatimu:  Well, and you know, to me that goes again to those listening skills. I think in the US and we're not, we're not trained in that. You know, there's a public speaking course you take in college, there's not an active listening one unless you're a psych major. So, you know, of course I was, so I did. But I think that definitely traveling has certainly informed my thinking about listening, about these topics. To your exact point, it's so different in so many other areas. And of course, I'm Kenyan American, right? My father's from Kenya and when I went and visited there, I became very clearly aware of how different my life would be had I grown up there instead of here. And I want to be really clear. I'm not saying it's better or worse, I'm just saying different, right? I mean, you know, had I lived on the farm where my grandmother lived, you know, my father's mother. There's not a lot of bandwidth there. You know, it's an agricultural community. There's not a lot of wealth there. You go into the city and of course there is, but the gap between the haves and the have nots is very, very clear. And the access to education, especially for women, young girls and women is very, you know, questionable sometimes. It's not equal amongst everyone. So, you know, given those things, I'm really clear about the opportunity that I have working here. Sometimes I pinch myself that I ended up in Microsoft, one of the best companies in the world and the kind of role that I have that I get to really have an impact. And I have absolutely zero intention of wasting that. Because I could be an awesome chicken farmer right now, you know, and that would be fine, but instead I have a different opportunity and that opportunity allows me to empower others and that's what I am all about, you know? So whether I'm doing it for Teams or whatever product I'm doing it for. What I like about the product though, I'd have to say is never before in my career has my professional life and the product I'm working on dovetailed and complimented so perfectly what I am personally passionate about. And for me that's my career success. Everything I'm personally passionate about, I get to work on as a part of my daily job and that is an earned gift, you know, and I'm very grateful for it. It's definitely something new I'd say in the last four or five years that's come together and continues to evolve. So you know, if folks out there, if you don't feel that, like go after it, figure out what it is one step at a time. Mine has continued to evolve. It wasn't like I had some perfect plan, there is no such thing as a perfect plan. Note to self for all the PM's out there, there is no perfect plan. Perfect does not exist. You have to just be nimble and like figure it out.

Heather Newman:  I was listening, I saw one of those, you know Gary B? I saw one of his, and he was talking to a 22 year old the other day and she called in and was asking questions cause she wants to be a millionaire at 25 and all of this stuff and he was like, no, you will not do that. He's like, maybe at 36. He's like, what did you do this weekend? Did you hang out? Did you go do this, do that? And she's like, I worked with my mom and dadada. And he's like, for real? She's like, yeah. And he's like, you know what I did in my twenties? Worked all the time because I want the long game. You know? And so, there's talent and there's where you're plopped into the world and then there's hustle.

Karuana Gatimu:  There's hustle. Yeah, I definitely, you know, and the other thing also is about priorities. Why? My question to that woman would have been, why do you want to be a millionaire? What do you think that's going to get you? Because I guarantee you, I feel like I have more freedom than a lot of those folks. I have freedom, I have impact, I have respect in my community. I have all of the things I ever dreamed of and a wonderful personal life, and all that stuff that goes with that. So, you know, money's not the answer. Wish for something else. Okay. Just out there, just don't wish for money. Wish for something else. Wish for freedom, wish for health, wish for something that is meaningful versus, you know, the financial reward. Look, the only reason I can say that is because all my bills are paid and my car starts, because that wasn't always the case in my life. But the truth is that that's not what I really care about now. Now that I do have a little money in the bank and my car does start every time I put my key in it, I'd come to realize that that's not what I should be wishing for.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is about that, is that it happens to all of us and at different periods of time. You know, it's like you can be doing really well and all of a sudden the bottom falls out of things. You know, and a lot of the time, you don't always see that or hear it from people. But that happens and it happens to a lot of us and it's just, you know, I remember not too long ago when you're like, oh my goodness, this debt or this thing happened or this, you know, disease or whatever, all those things can come up. And that's the other thing about, I think the belonging piece of this. I think is so important and I know you do too, is that, it's like cultivating beautiful, deep, strong, friendships.

Karuana Gatimu:  So important because that's what's going to carry you through. And you know, I absolutely know the difference in that. When 9/11 happened, I was in the first year and a half of owning my own company and all of my customers were in New York.

Heather Newman:  Wow.

Karuana Gatimu:  And that, that destruction of my business in 30 seconds. Because nobody's, you know, I did marketing consulting and website design and event management and production. Nobody cared. Nobody is doing that. Everything came to a screeching halt in a way that no MBA program is ever going to teach you how to manage. That was the best business administration course I ever had managing through an instantaneous downturn. Right.

Heather Newman:  With one of the most tragic things.

Karuana Gatimu:  Yes, exactly. And you know, the tech bubble bursting and all these things happened and yeah, that changed my life in an instant. I had to figure out how to pivot and it was extremely difficult and very stressful and actually really contributed to the demise of my first marriage, for sure, because of that level of stress.

Heather Newman:  You drop a pebble into a lake and people think, you know, it's just that person. In my personal life too, I've had some really major traumatic things happen and you know, and that's on such a global level and some of the things happened that, well, the thing that happened this week in New Zealand, it rocks everybody in that community. It rocks the world. It rocks our global energy. Our global consciousness. It's like the lessons that you get out of those things. You're just like, what's the silver lining? And, well, there isn't a silver lining, but it's a confusing time, but it also, you have to figure it out and go to the next step of the next day. Step by step.

Karuana Gatimu:  I'm sure that the folks, you know, the two MVPs that we lost, I know we had a moment of silence for one of the gentlemen here and then I was reading online. There was a second identified. You know, I know there's no silver lining for their family, but what I will say is that the depth of depravity that we're seeing in some of these violent attacks just makes the work we're doing in diversity, inclusion and belonging and empowering everyone, all the more important. I believe that the cornerstone of a lot of this strife comes from the inequality of class that exists around the world. You know, if you were in Venezuela is another situation, people are struggling for food, right? Like, if the, you know, I stood there just the other day, standing there looking at my pantry and it is overflowing with food. And there was a beautiful Time picture of the protests that are going on down there. And I was just thinking again, it's the luck of geography, right? And, you know, born here, living here, I can go to Safeway and go to the grocery store and get whatever I want, assuming that I have a job because not everyone here does. But I really think that we have to, and in technology in particular we can use technology to democratize opportunity. And I am so dedicated to that and I'm just so happy to work in a place where I know that the leadership is also dedicated to really empowering others. That's not just some, some mission statement. It's actually a thing.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. We have got more MVPs out and about. So I want to ask you one more question. We talked, we dipped into sort of personal life a bit. And just so I know how, I know your busy schedule, I mean you and I catch up like in brief text messages and on Teams and you know, this, that, yeah. Good. Yeah. Yeah. And then luckily we get to see each other in person quite a bit, but how do you turn off? How do you get away from things and you know, just take a moment and stuff?

Karuana Gatimu:  It's really easy for me. I don't have a problem unplugging. I really never have.

Heather Newman:  I don't either, really. So I get it.

Karuana Gatimu:  You know, but a lot of people do. First off, I love what I do so it doesn't feel like work to me, number one. Number two, when I go home, my dogs and my husband, you know, they deserve my attention and I give it to them. I'm not one of those people that's in my phone 24/7. I know how to turn it off. I don't have on notifications on my phone because I'm on it all the time. And when I'm not, it's because I need to not be on it. And so nobody questions, you know, my commitment to my role and I'm not neurotic about it. You know, if my boss really needs to find me, she has my cell phone number, she'll call. So I'm not worried about that. And also I love to cook. You can't think about Microsoft Teams or SharePoint when you're chopping onions, you just can't. So I really use cooking as my thing and I love to do that. But you know, and maybe it's because of the things I've been through in the past. I'm not at all willing to sacrifice my personal life for my career. I already did that once, wasn't good. And I'm a better person in my career because of the absolute sanctity and happiness of my marriage and my home with my two dogs, which I post a lot about on Twitter. So, you know, they're really, really important to me. And they are the, you know, literally the wind beneath my wings. I would not be as successful as I am today without my husband. He is one of my chief cheerleaders and he's so supportive and so I just try to give it back, you know, when I'm there. So, yeah, I don't have problem with that, but I tell you, those notifications, everybody seems addicted to notifications on their phone. Turn them off for a week. Who cares?

Heather Newman:  It's the experiment, a great experiment to do.

Karuana Gatimu:  Experiment, because you know something, I don't know, I'm not doing brain surgery here. I'm doing Microsoft Teams adoption and yes, things are important, but nobody's going to bleed out if I don't see that issue for another 20 minutes or an hour or until the next morning. I'm entitled to get my sleep. And we are in a worldwide business and so I do have to be pretty hardcore about that. Otherwise I really could work 24/7. Because of, you know, European schedule, India, Africa, I mean, people are always up and always have questions. So I definitely do that. But let's be clear, I do work a lot of hours when I'm working. I work a lot of hours and I love it. I love what I do. I love the people. I love the challenge. To me, this is my time. And I just want to rock it. I don't want to waste this opportunity to help others. I just don't think it's going to come back like this again in this particular way. And I have a lot of energy right now, so I want to leave something behind. I'm on a bit of a mission.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I hear ya. I know. I think about, I think I just wrote something about, you know, about International Women's Day. I was like, in 200 years, I want to be part of the brave people in the world that helped us find our equality and balance.

Karuana Gatimu:  That's exactly right. This is our chance. You know, I have the energy to still do the work, you know, maybe 50 - 60 hours a week, but I have the wisdom now of what work to do. And I don't much waste my time on stuff that isn't impactful. Politics, personal, one way or the, I just don't because life is too short. How many years do I have left? Really? I mean think about it, you know? I mean, and so, I just feel like now's the time to hit it hard and then I can look back on everything we've done and be happy about it. And you will be a big part of that by the way.

Heather Newman:  And high five. Yeah, I think that's right on. I was, I dunno, a few years ago I was in a meeting or at an event, Life is Beautiful in Vegas. It was the first one, a festival. And I was in a room and a guy started talking and he was like, well, I'm 42 years old. So it with the life expectancy of a man that means that I have about, I dunno, like say 40, 45 birthdays, Christmases, thanksgivings, blah, blah, blah, left. And I was like, I wasn't really paying attention to him cause I was literally at a bar with a friend because it was in a bar. And I was like, what? And I turned around, I was 42 at the time. And I turned around and I was like, nobody did the math for me before.

Karuana Gatimu:  I've done the math.

Heather Newman:  Well, I'm doing the math now.

Karuana Gatimu:  That's right. That's why I'm on a mission. There's not that much time. And so, you know, because the kind of changes that I want to continue to drive is not small and the things I want to leave behind, you know, and this isn't, look, maybe this stuff I'm going to leave behind in 20 years, nobody will care about. But I don't care. I care about it now. And it's not about other people's opinions, it's about my opinion of myself. And, and maybe part of it is I don't have children so the things that I do are my legacy. And of course, there's a lot of young people in my life, so they are too, but yeah, I just feel like, you know, I can sit around and watch Netflix later, you know what I mean? I can do a lot of those things later and I also want to feel like when I finally do like retire with my husband and we're traveling and what have you, I don't want to feel like I left something undone. So I'm super focused on that. And besides, you know, with everything going on in the world, now's the time to lean in. If you've got communication skills and you've got real empathy that you can action, then now's the time to bring it into the world because it's needed. There's too much of all this divisive, aggressive conversation that lacks empathy and that does nothing but divide us further. So we need to be the alternate voice. Why not?

Heather Newman:  We talked about humans in tech. You know, and just humans in the world.

Karuana Gatimu:  Yeah. Just being human and we need more examples of that. And you know, I feel like I was gifted with the gift of gab by my family. I want to turn it into a force for good cause I've certainly used my talent of her talking for not good things. So I'm making it up for that. I've weaponized my speech more than once. So I'd like to turn it into something that is more meaningful than that.

Heather Newman:  Well, I think you have, and you continue to do. So.

Karuana Gatimu:  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate, I always appreciate, I appreciate you, I appreciate everything that you do and thank you for having me on your cast. Awesome!

Heather Newman:  This is a makeup for a session that got lost with a bad mic kit. So you know, so we're always learning.

Karuana Gatimu:  Always learning, yup.

Heather Newman:  Always learning, you know. So, alright, well Karuana thank you again.

Karuana Gatimu:  You're welcome.

Heather Newman:  So everyone, that was another Mavens Do It Better podcast and you can find us at the usual places on iTunes, on Stitcher, on Spotify and at the mavensdoitbetter.com website and we will put all of Karuana's information in the show notes so you can follow all the goodness that she is doing. Thanks everyone. And here's to another big blue, beautiful spinning sphere day. Woo-hoo.