What would you do if a friend suggested the two of you start a podcast? That’s exactly what happened to me back in December 2017 right before changing jobs. When you’ve never helped create or co-host a podcast, you truly have no idea what it takes. I had been a podcast guest once before, but that’s it. I certainly didn’t know exactly what it would be like, but I wasn’t going to say no. My only hope was that I would have some intelligent things to say in regard to the topics we would be discussing. And I wouldn’t just be co-hosting a podcast with a friend. I’d be co-hosting it with a friend who has become a mentor to me. Can you see how that might automatically cause a little impostor syndrome? After all, what credibility did I have to talk about career progression?
The Launch Story
The official launch of the Nerd Journey Podcast was on July 17, 2018 (see the post on that here). What listeners may not realize is that we started our practice recordings much earlier (as early as December 2017). In fact, we made sure there were plenty of episodes ready for release before the official launch. It was important to get into the habit of recording regularly and developing topics for episodes.
Around the time of the launch, my family and I took a trip to Galveston, TX. Of course, I made sure to take a laptop with me. Like many others, I have trouble truly disconnecting while on vacation unless I’m somewhere with no wifi. But, in this case, I didn’t spend my evenings while on vacation catching up on work e-mail and tasks…I spent it working on the podcast. In that span of several days, I worked on show notes and suggested edit points so John could power through the editing. We even recorded an episode while I was on vacation (Episode 11) for good measure. This was all an effort to front load the release process and take some pressure off the upcoming month’s hectic schedule. We may have launched a little later than expected, but we got the production out the door and have been able to maintain weekly shows for a year thus far.
Making the Time
I think at first each of us wondered if we would have the time to keep the podcast going and if we could keep coming up with good topics. Making time for recording at least one night per week became routine, and we have stuck to it pretty well. There were times when we recorded two shows in a week (sometimes needed if we had a guest on the show) for good measure. What we didn’t want was to be scrambling the weekend before a show release to put something together. Since I have a family, I try to work on the podcast during times where it won’t take away from a family activity, and so far that has worked well. Despite that, my daughter still thinks every time I’m on my computer in the evening I am talking to John White.
Keep in mind recording a show isn’t the only time commitment. We have to brainstorm on topics and build an outline before pressing record. Sometimes that happens during the week when we each have time, and sometimes it doesn’t. Someone has to do show notes, which need to be completed before editing begins. Someone has to do the editing and production and schedule the episode release. It’s easy to see this is a multi-hour per week commitment.
When you spend a few hours per week working on a podcast, it cuts into blogging time (it certainly has for me). I honestly wish I could pump out a weekly blog on something, but I find myself lacking the time in that area (if I want to get decent sleep, exercise, do my day job well, and still spend quality time with family). The goal is to pump out one blog per month at a minimum, and I seem to be able to hit that target most of the time.
In the beginning, I was using a different microphone than John. He had a nice Audio-Technica mic with adjustable stand and pop filter, and I was using a headset / microphone combo. We decided not to invest too much at first until we were certain this would be successful and that we would enjoy it. If you listen to the first 15 or so episodes, there is a noticeable audio quality difference between us. I bit the bullet and invested in the same type of microphone (with pop filter as well), and I think it makes us collectively sound better. I cannot remember the first episode with my new microphone off the top of my head.
We were using Skype in the early days, and John had a digital recorder that would capture the audio. At some point John found Squadcast.fm, which is our recording platform of choice and in my opinion a much better alternative. It seems to work fairly well when we have guests, and the progressive audio upload capabilities are really nice (even if someone drops out of a recording session unexpectedly). It may not be obvious, but John did all the homework on audio engineering and is the editor of our podcast. I don’t have a huge interest in editing but really enjoy making show notes, helping to develop show outlines, and brainstorming ideas. And I definitely have a face for radio.
Even though you may have a solid outline for a show, being the person leading the discussion can be challenging. It’s way harder than I thought. The great thing about having a co-host is having someone to react to the points you’re making and continue the discussion when you stumble. And when you can make fun of your co-host and incorporate some humor, you start to relax a little on the air so the magic can happen. There’s no way to plan for improvisation. Sometimes a point John has made will trigger a thought I hadn’t planned on sharing, but in my opinion, this kind of thing makes the content better. I think we play off each other well, and we’re not locked into a word-for-word script, allowing the delivery to be flexible.
We’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to promote the podcast. Usually it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, the vExpert Slack, MangoLassi, and VMware Social Media Advocacy. If we can find new areas / circles in which to promote the podcast and grow the listener base, we can help more people, attract interesting guests, and organically come across more interesting topics to present to our listeners.
There have been a number of topics I thought for sure would be more popular than others, but after looking at the statistics, I am reminded it is ultimately up to the listeners and not us. This is why we always ask for feedback on episodes.
Flexing Different Muscles
Even though we work in technical roles, our podcast isn’t technical. Though we can certainly apply some structure and processes to the thoughts and opinions we present, we’re not talking to listeners about best practices to deploy a hypervisor or anything like that. The technical sphere is where I personally feel a bit more comfortable in discussions, and being on the podcast has made me flex some different muscles. I’ve stayed up late and spent time on weekends thinking about career, thinking about what might be of interest to listeners, and thinking about what is interesting to me. You know what happened? My brain started exploding with ideas. The more we podcast, the more ideas we get. Now we’re actively looking for life situations that would make a good podcast topic, even in casual conversations with people who aren’t in IT. In fact, John told me about a situation recently, and I fired back with “you realize that would make a great podcast topic, right?” I’m learning to think in a different way than before we started, and I think it’s tapping my creative side more than I have in a while. We’ve moved away from “we need more ideas” to “what topic of interest should we do a show on next?” If you’re reading this and run your own podcast, I would love to know if this same thing has happened to you.
The John White School of Mentoring
I think it was in Episode 2 when this came up for the first time organically. Since that time I have been attempting to stealthily place a reference into each episode to take John by surprise. He says it’s a running joke and may find it a little annoying, but I can tell you the John White School of Mentoring is real. I’ve taken classes there, and every time we record I get new insight from the man himself. We just happen to be sharing that goodness with our listeners now instead of only me. Even though I may never successfully monetize it, there’s a reason I mention it. Everyone needs a mentor on this nerd journey we call career (whether formally or informally), and John has done more for me in that area than I will ever be able to pay back. If you happen to be looking for a mentor, I have a great recommendation. And if you’ve listened to the show, you know what comes next – pricing and packaging to come.
What Makes Me Keep Doing This?
Aside from John’s reason of doing this for the glory, I truly like helping people (and of course, so does he). My hope is that just one point we made in an episode is enough to point someone in the right direction when it comes to doing something about their career. Aside from that, being on a podcast is a lot of fun. We can add humor and personality so the content isn’t just dry lecture.
John and I have talked to a number of really smart people because of the podcast. This body of work is building a professional network neither of us previously had and happens to be a byproduct we didn’t (or at least I didn’t) realize. It seems to me John’s advice of focusing on process over outcomes was perfectly on point for what maintaining a podcast can do for your career. Since I began participating in technology communities, I have been interested in what others in the industry are doing to stay sharp and what they do day-to-day. But now I make sure to ask them where they have been, how they got to be where they are today, where they are headed, and how they plan to get there. Everyone has a story to share so I can learn from it.
Part of doing the podcast is so John and I can learn and progress too. If you have a topic you want to hear about on the show, please let us know via the NerdJourney Twitter or some other contact method. All I can tell you from here is to stay tuned as the journey continues.