Getting Unstuck: My Podcast Journey
Part I: Existential Crisis
In December 2017, four months into my consulting career, I had one of those full-scale existential crises: I was stuck in my new job. The idealism and momentum from college had quickly waned, and the path I envisioned was eroded and rendered invisible by the corporate world. Apparently, "Alexa, tell me what to do with my life" wasn’t a working approach, so I texted my former coworker and unofficial mentor, Michelle.
Over coffee, I told Michelle about my hopes of reforming American education and how the job I had was in no way accomplishing the goals I’d created nor using the skills I’d paid to learn in college. I felt underutilized and clueless as to where I was going. I wanted to effect social change while making money; I wanted to influence people without pursuing a career in politics.
Michelle thoughtfully digested the pickle that was my life and then asked, “Have you ever considered making a podcast?”
I hadn't considered it at all—in fact, I'd actively un-considered it. I didn't want to be one of those millennial pseudo-intellectuals with living room podcasts talking about how to adult in the Silicon Valley.
But then I met Mike.
Part II: Inception
In January 2018, I found myself in Weebly’s headquarters in San Francisco for a launch event with David Rusenko, the founder/CEO of Weebly, and Joe Gebbia, the co-founder/CPO of Airbnb. They were on a panel moderated by Mike Lewis, the host of When to Jump podcast.
The launch event celebrated the release of Mike’s book, When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want. The intro to his book is written by Sheryl Sandberg, who also happens to be Mike’s second cousin. For a while now, Sheryl has been one of my role models, a key feminist icon in my life – I felt like Sheryl herself was telling me to take this jump and start this podcast. This was my sign.
After the event, as everyone was crowding around the Weebly and Airbnb founders, I snuck off to the side to talk to Mike and get his thoughts. He urged me to follow through on my project and even offered to introduce me to his podcast producer. This was happening… and it was going to be way more epic than a living room podcast.
Part III: Dream Team
I waited until I was out of earshot of Weebly before calling Lana, my best friend and partner in crime (partner in social good, rather). We lived together in college and worked on various non-profit initiatives. Lana just finished up her first year at Teach for America, so she was a perfect (and willing) candidate for my scheme.
Over the next month, we nailed down a plan of action. We talked to producers from Macmillan Podcasts and NPR. More importantly, we put together a dream team: the #squadcast.
Our next two recruits were Connor and David. Connor is a close friend with a recording studio and sound engineering experience. He’s also a professional musician - you might get to meet him at our launch party later this summer (sign up here for an invite!). David and I worked together at a consulting club in Davis. He’s in charge of marketing strategy and is the brain behind our internet footprint. Lastly, there was Aaku, my work acquaintance, who emailed me out of nowhere saying that she’d heard I started a project and wanted to help us build out our stories and manage our content. It was the best email I could’ve gotten that week. By the end of March, we officially formed Soapbox Project, our mini media group.
Part IV: GET SCHOOLED
I designed Soapbox Project to be a powerhouse of passion, knowledge, and ideas. By housing various initiatives under Soapbox Project, we will encourage high-achieving millennials in the workforce (like us!) to find their voices and truly understand the weight of social issues.
The kickoff endeavor from the Soapbox Project team is Get Schooled Podcast, a show about the American education system. I wanted to create a podcast that’s fun enough to listen to during a morning commute while bringing to light key issues within our schooling. I believe that our broken education system factors into every major problem in our country and getting my peers (future teachers, politicians, CEOs) to care deeply about reforming it will effect long-term, positive change that impacts the future of America. Get Schooled Podcast’s mission is to activate, inform, and entertain our peers as we explore the various puzzle pieces of the education conundrum, starting with an episode titled “Horror Stories from First Year Teachers.” We expect our first season to be quite a wild ride for our listeners.
#GetSchooledPodcast is one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on - everyone on the team is a total badass and has a larger purpose they’re working towards in the world. I’m leveraging the strengths of multi-talented individuals who commit 4-6 hours every week without any monetary gain or promise of fame, and this never ceases to humble me. Having this side hustle to work towards gets me through my day job without feeling like a corporate burnout—I’m still doing my part and working towards what I’m passionate about.
As a woman in the workforce, there are times when I struggle with owning my achievements and being vocally proud of myself. So I want to say it here: it’s definitely a balancing act sustaining a long-term side project, an over 40-hour work week job, health goals, and a social life. It’s easy to get complacent in a job that pays well and trade passion for convenience. And yet, I’m not fulfilled this way. I’m proud of myself and my team for making this podcast work. Each of us works full time, but we carve out an hour for our phone calls and more time for our contributions to Get Schooled. I’ve empowered my #squadcast to explore their interests, develop new skills, and find their voices over the last six months. We’ve worked on nights and weekends to write quality content, build a listener base, and network with leaders in education.
As my team prepares for our summer release, I’ve been reflecting on my future career goals and the feeling of “job stuckness” many of us encounter. I realize that it’s up to us to create our own purpose and generate momentum, even if the end goal is unknown. My path is still unclear, but at least I’m moving forward. The self-fulfillment I’ve found during my Get Schooled journey has made me understand that it’s important to take a step in some direction—even if you don’t know where it leads you. Getting out of a slump requires action. To live your best life, sometimes you just gotta rally.