Jonathan Robinson

photo by Terrell Neasley

December is a good time to reflect and take stock of the year, and that’s the basis of my conversation with this week’s guest Jonathan Robinson. Jonathan is a creative powerhouse — a writer, a filmmaker, and a director, just to start — who’s currently on a personal journey of self-discovery.

We started off doing a bit of a recap of the past year, and Jonathan shed some light on what creative and experiential producers do and how he came into those titles through his work in the advertising industry. He also talked about working with AI and VR, and spoke about how his time spent at Facebook and Twitter helped shape him into his current calling as a storyteller.

For Jonathan, chasing his passions and connecting with other people are what drives him. When you look back at this year, what’s been your driving force?

Interview Transcript

Maurice Cherry:

All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Jonathan Robinson:

My name is Jonathan Robinson, and I am a creative producer, director, and writer, supporting all kinds of interactive experiences, products, and bringing stories to life.

Maurice Cherry:

When you look back at this year, at 2023, how would you describe it? Like, how’s it been for you?

Jonathan Robinson:

It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster, I think. I kind of liken it to making a loop around a racetrack. Things feel very familiar. But also, the urgency of how I’m trying to sort of move up in the race is starting to set in. I started the year still very much in a sort of personal sabbatical, working on a few writing projects and a VR concept which was really fulfilling, but also because these projects were very personal and tied to my personal experiences, my family history. I was doing a lot of digging up sort of latent emotional baggage and opening up wounds that I didn’t know were there. Add to that sort of the reality of living in capitalism and needing to pay your bills, trying to balance how to leverage the skills and the experience that I’ve had over the last close to 15 years working as a producer to generate some income without necessarily going back to the kind of soul crushing work that it felt like I left quite intentionally. I’ve done a little bit of contract work to pay the bills, but in doing so have been reminded why I left in the first place.

I think if anything, I feel like I went on a sort of condensed loop of what the past four or five years of my journey has been just in this one year. I think that’s given me a renewed clarity and motivation to continue in this sort of uncomfortable, unfamiliar path towards what I think I know I want.

Maurice Cherry:

That’s a very diplomatic answer.

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s me. I’m a producer by trade and also a little bit by personality. So always trying to find the middle ground that moves us closer to an objective.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah. How are you making time for joy these days?

Jonathan Robinson:

One of those things is really starting to take some of these more administrative skills that I’ve used in my professional life and trying to apply them to the emotional maturity, work and growth that I’ve experienced over the last couple of years. I had a moment of I mean, as most of us did during the pandemic of real clarity and understanding that I was not investing nearly enough time and energy into my relationships as I was into my career. And so, from there I started to just try to apply some of that structure that existed in my career that created that focus and apply that to relationships. It sounds, like, very academic or clinical, but I have a standing call with my best friend every Friday or excuse me, every other Friday when we talk for about two or three hours on the phone. I have standing dates with a couple of other friends either on a weekly or monthly basis just to make sure that we have a touch point. And it’s not like we’re only ever talking during these times. But I’ve found that when you have that consistency, it makes it so much easier to seek out these connections in between. And I think for myself, I’m kind of a self-isolating personality when I don’t have the sort of structure and pressure to show up if someone is not directly in my vicinity.

Living here in Oakland, I actually don’t have most of my closest friends in the area. They’re either in New York or in Southern California or in Europe. And so, it does take a little bit more effort on my part to make sure that those relationships are solid and are being fed. But I’ve really enjoyed seeing that growth and the ways in which it’s made me less in my head about reaching out and connecting with people. Even if it’s just something as silly as sending a meme or a photo of something ridiculous that I just saw while I was crossing the street. Yeah, I mean, add to like trying to make sure that I get out of the house and have in-person community. I’ve been attending this writing group here in Oakland, at Wolfpack Studios, a little studio in downtown Oakland. And it’s just maybe about anywhere between six to twelve of us once a month.

And we get together for about two hours, two to three hours, to go through a couple of prompts. We start with haikus and some short story prompts. Folks are reading their poetry and rapping or they’re not writers at all and they just wanted to show up and have a good time. But I’ve found some really cool people who just being able to express yourself in a room of other people who are willing to express themselves and open up in that way, I think, has been really refreshing and really rewarding for my own personal work. So that’s kind of the variety.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, I think that’s really good to still try to keep those lines of communication open. I know when the pandemic first started, that was kind of a thing a lot of people tried to do, at least through Zoom or through other types of telecommunications type software. Just like check in, see how things are going, et cetera. But now I don’t want to say we’re a few years out from the Pandemic, but certainly the world has gotten back to its normal state. Well, I don’t want to say normal. You know what I mean. We’ve started.

Jonathan Robinson:

Yes, I do.

Maurice Cherry:

We’ve pushed past that restrictive period, and I think some people have moved past it, some people haven’t. I still feel like it’s a very sort of OD and touchy time in terms of communication. So, I like that you’re making those efforts to actually keep in touch and keep those lines of communication open because it can be so easy, especially if they don’t live in the same city as you. It’s so easy for those to just die on the vine.

Jonathan Robinson:

Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:

2024 is right around the corner. Have you thought about what you want to accomplish next year?

Jonathan Robinson:

I have, and as I said before, it is uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but I’m excited. I am going to be taking a renewed focus on these creative projects that I started about a year and a half ago. I’m working on a sci-fi script and a couple of short stories that I want to shoot and preparing for a push to either potentially go to a film school later in the year and figure out how to kick start a filmmaking career. So that’s like one track. But on the other end of the spectrum is exploring what I describe as more experiential work, things that involve newer technologies like artificial intelligence and VR. There are a couple of artists that are really interesting in this space, one of which is a good friend who I used to work with in New York. Their name is Sougwen Chung, and they do essentially a lot of collaborative performances where they are generating art along with their artificial intelligence and robotics companions that they have built and programmed over the last, I think, twelve years now. And so, I’m very excited to find ways to replicate that same kind of work, as well as find ways to collaborate with folks in that space, including Sougwen themselves.

But in terms of what all of that looks know, I can’t really tell, really. I grew up in the church, so it’s really easy for this phrase to come to mind, but I am literally walking by faith and not by sight. I am just putting 1ft in front of the other and juggling the variables and catching the consequences, which I mean, I guess is what it means to be a producer. So, I’ve had a lot of practice in that space dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. But it’s a lot easier to do that when you have conviction, which I think has been the theme that is coalescing towards the end of this year in terms of how I want to approach 2024. It’s with conviction. I don’t need to know everything. I don’t need to have everything absolutely planned out; I don’t need to know how everything is going to work out.

But I do have to walk with a sort of full body yes and a confidence that is grounded in purpose. And that really is what conviction is. So that’s what my 2024 looks like. Walking into the unknown, sure footed.

Maurice Cherry:

I like that. I like that a lot. That’s funny that you also kind of tied that back into the work in a way about like, this is what it means to be a producer, which I want to unpack a little bit later now when I do my research and everything to try to find out more about the guest. And you alluded to this a bit earlier, kind of being on this personal journey. What brought that on?

Jonathan Robinson:

I think when I look back at it, and in hindsight, it started at the end of 2017-ish, basically when I started at Facebook. Up until this point, I had been working in New York in the advertising field. I’d bounced around between a couple of different agencies, but at that point I was around three years into my second stint at a production company called The Mill, and essentially being like one of two senior producers in their experiential and interactive division, which they had just started to build back up. I got this opportunity to work at Facebook, and the job was in London. So, I’d be leaving the country to live outside of the country for the first time since I was like three years old when I was in Costa Rica. And so, I was really excited about that opportunity. This is also 2017, so if we think back to where the world was sort of socio-politically, an opportunity to work at a place like Facebook is a sort of double-edged sword. High impact, massive reach, and you’re working on a product that touches almost half of the people on the planet in one way or another.

But at the time, we were also starting to discover, more concretely anyway, that some of the ways in which that impact was landing in people’s lives was actually quite harmful, and that maybe something actually could have been done about that, but simply wasn’t. So, I threw myself into that opportunity with optimism and a lot of youthful vigor. But I think the combination of one understanding the relative impact of one or even a couple hundred individuals in a corporation that has 70,000 employees and a global reach, it makes for a quite Sisyphean task, I think, is the word. Pushing that boulder up the hill every day, and also living in London, moving there without any friends and family. And all of these things sort of coincided and combined with the point in my life that I was at, and I fell into a pretty deep depression. And then I learned the first rule of working in tech, and that is that every six to eight months there’ll be a reorg. And I was reorged out of my role and needed to find a new one. And I had one of two options: stay in London and find a team within the Facebook ecosystem that could use my skills so that I could stay in London or move to the bay area for this particular team that had headcount.

And they were like, we’ll take you on, we want to have you, but it means you got to move back to the states. And with option two, came back to the states, and just in time for about a year’s worth of soaking up the benefits of this northern California climate and nature and all of the amazing culture of Oakland right before the pandemic, and sort of back in isolation. That isolation again just sort of brought to the forefront the struggle I was having between the kind of impact I wanted to have in a company like Facebook and the kind of impact that I was actually having and whether or not that was commiserate or whether or not I could square that with the negative impact that the company was having, at least from my perspective. And so you’re sitting in a studio by yourself all day for months on end, as a lot of us know, and it leads to a lot of introspection. I was spending a lot of time in therapy, actually. I had just started therapy right before the pandemic started, which was amazing timing, but was also spending a lot of time actually talking to my mother about her own sort of personal journey and the spiritual journey that she was on at the time. We started talking about different belief systems. And she really surprised me by bringing up IFA and this sort of African indigenous spiritual frameworks of West Africa, specifically the Yoruba.

And I started to dig into some of these things and do a little bit of research on my own. And she invited me to a weekly class, weekly zoom with someone who was going to sort of run through a curriculum to explain the basics of the framework. And without getting into the details of the spiritual beliefs themselves, I think what was most impactful about that was this underlying system that was about understanding your place within this particular life, this place and time that we exist. And how it connects to our ancestors, the people who came before us, the people around us, and the unseen forces that are at play, whether that be natural forces, societal forces, technological forces. And it really started to give me almost like a narrative framework to be able to investigate my life and see what was working and what wasn’t, what did I want to change. And that’s kind of how I got to this place of I don’t think working in tech is the thing for me. I’m not knocking it for anybody who does want to. I do think the work is incredibly important for all of the reasons that I left.

But it became very clear that my path, my purpose is in storytelling and finding ways to weave narratives that can help us investigate the relationship between what we see in front of us and what we feel like we experience as reality and those unseen forces, the parts of reality that are just outside of our perception and how to sort of marry the two, make them compatible and then create a better reality. Because I do think that that is what we are here for, to leave the world a better place than we found it. And we can’t really do that if we’re not honest about who we are and the world that we live in and what kind of world that we want. So, yeah, long winded answer to say, that’s how I got here.

Maurice Cherry:

I was going to say some of those things that you mentioned. I mean, 100% mirror, I think, what a lot of people might be feeling about working in tech, I think just in general, a couple of months ago, we had Maya Gold Robinson on the show. And I’ve known Maya for a long time. I knew her since she was a product designer in Chicago, and since then she has…actually she’s also worked at Facebook. She also worked at Twitter. She created…

Jonathan Robinson:

Yeah, I love Maya. She’s awesome.

Maurice Cherry:

You did? Okay, cool. Yeah. But she was talking about how right now she’s also sort of taking this break and being like, I’m kind of done with tech right now. I’m going to take a year; I’m going to spend it with my family and just sort of figure out what these next steps are. I think what we’re seeing with tech, and I want to talk a little bit more about this kind of creative journey because I feel like part of this personal journey you went, underwent deals also with you as a creative because you said you emerged talking about storytelling. But I feel like we’re starting to see that tech is not all it’s cracked up to mean. Well, yeah, surprise, right? But I think the way and I mentioned this in the interview with Maya, I was like it kind of felt like in some way we were kind of sold like a false bill of goods about tech, about how it is going to offer you this economic prosperity and these opportunities to be on these projects that can change the world. Especially for large tech companies. But then you get in there and you’re subject to so many other isms and like you said, professional reorgs and things like that.

And it can be easy to feel like a cog in the machine and that your work doesn’t really have the impact that maybe you were told it does.

Jonathan Robinson:

Absolutely. And it’s not necessarily that any of those things were completely untrue. You absolutely can work on these projects that have massive impact and change the world and be financially lucrative, even for yourself as an individual, as much as it is often understood that most of that financial impact is going to go to somebody else sitting in a bigger office. But that doesn’t actually always balance out with all of those other things you mentioned. The reorgs, the isms, the sort of cog in the machine feeling that you get when you work on something diligently and over long extended hours with a massive team and you spent two to six months on something and then all of a sudden somebody decides that no one will ever see it, period. Yeah, that gets old actually rather quickly.

Maurice Cherry:

Very quickly. Absolutely very quickly. I’m thinking of my own journey. The last place that I worked at was this tech startup based out of San Francisco, and I came on under the title Creative Strategist. Creative Strategist was like a title. It’s funny you mentioned the Pandemic, because during the Pandemic, I was also thinking of, like well, what do I really call myself? Because prior to getting I don’t want to say prior to getting into tech, but prior to working for the startup that I worked at at the time, I had my own business, still have the business, but back then I had a staff of nine people. They were designers, developers. I was kind of doing creative work with Mailchimp and WordPress and all this kind of stuff.

But then you get into a startup in these companies and the startup I was at at the time, I changed titles maybe about six different times as the company grew. And so, each time that title changed, I don’t know if it really reflected what it is that I really do. It sort of just puts you in a bit of a box in a way. Like I went from being a content marketer to a design communications lead, to marketing lead, to head of media. And I think the last title I had was like senior Creative strategist because it felt right. It was like, yes, I know the creative part, but I also know the business part and I can sort of bring these two things together in a way.

Jonathan Robinson:

Right?

Maurice Cherry:

But what I basically was doing, and this kind of alludes, I think, a bit to your story is like, I basically was taking creative projects that the company wanted to do and making them happen, which is a producer type of thing, which back then, I didn’t really think that that’s what I did. Or at least that I didn’t associate that with what I did. But the last place I worked; we made a print magazine. We made a print and an online magazine. And I mean, I threw everything into it because I’ve always wanted to do a magazine. I grew up on magazines and we got two issues out the door, really. We only got one issue out the door.

The second one came after they laid off the entire team. But it was a quarterly magazine. I put so much into it, the structure. I’d sent out this weekly hot sheet to let people know when assignments were due. And these are the artists that are working on certain visuals and all this sort of stuff and had a plan for at least a six-issue run. And these are the themes that we’re going to talk about. And these are the writers that I want to bring in. And we did the first one with great success, and we were leading up to the second one.

The second issue was at the printer. Like it was set to go out a week from then. And then they laid us all off because they invited us to like a slack group called Goodbye and we’re like, Wait a minute, what? Wow. Invited us to a slack group called #goodbye. And I think I started my workday at eight and by noon I was unemployed. It was just like that, and I was so pissed off because it didn’t give me enough time to really pull together all my stuff. But it’s like, yeah, you spend so much time putting something together, and then it never sees the light of day. We were going to do this issue on Web3, and I found a Black Web3 ethicist.

Jonathan Robinson:

Wow.

Maurice Cherry:

Okay? Brought them on as, like, a guest editor-in-chief, and we curated the entire magazine for the point of view we wanted to have. It will never see the light of day.

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s crazy. This is unsustainable. Absolutely unsustainable. Yeah. I think we can only get, like, one or two of those experiences before we’re like, what are we doing this for?

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, I’ve had three of them since the pandemic started. I had one in 2020. in 2021, and one last year. And yeah, it wears on you in such an insidious way where you know that you can do great work because you know that what you’re capable of, but then it’s like, does it have value in this, I don’t know, tech system that I’m a part of? It’s so weird.

Jonathan Robinson:

Yeah. I really appreciate that particular phrasing. Does it have value in this ecosystem that I exist in? I think that was the turning point in at least my therapy practice that helped me decide, okay, I need to leave. Or at the very least, I need to change how I approach this space and show up in this space, because I don’t have the same value system as these people do. I’m being evaluated on a completely different criteria than I evaluate myself. I’m disappointed and feeling upset because I keep trying to make their value system mesh with mine. They don’t need to. They don’t need to.

I step into this space. I understand that these are the criteria, these are the objectives, these are the responsibilities that I have. So, I’ll do those things. But I think I may be misremembering this secondhand quote, but I believe it was Toni Morrison talking about her first job and how her father told her, listen, you work over there. Those people are not your family. You go there, you get your money, and then you come home. And that is how she approached every job that wasn’t her personal projects. And that’s kind of the mindset I had to switch into that helped me get to the place of actually, I don’t think I want to keep showing up here at all.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, it’s tough, because with these tech companies, we might as well just keep talking about it, but we’re talking about these tech companies, and the first thing that they really try to sell you on is like, we’re like a family. This is like a family thing. And even that can be super loaded, especially if you don’t come from a great family environment that could turn you off if they’re like, Wait a minute. I actually don’t fuck my family like that. So, I don’t know. This is like a thing that I want, but it sort of builds this in this sort of period of introspection, you start to wonder if the work you do is even valued by this industry. So maybe what I do is better suited for media than for tech or maybe it’s better suited for nonprofits than for tech. Like something where that’s right, the abilities that I have can be used towards a greater good that’s not about KPIs and personal performance plans and stuff like that.

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s exactly right. I think that language that they sort of I mean, it’s not just language, it’s a whole sideshow experience that they sort of bombard you with as you step into these environments where they tell you, yes, we’re all family. This company is yours; no problem is someone else’s problem. You can have all the impact that you can possibly dream of if you just put together an idea and work hard to make it happen. All of those things. And they talk about the values that they have of showing up as your authentic self, whatever that means, and radical honesty and being collaborative and caring about the humans that we serve, our customers, our users, or whatever a new term they decide to use to clean up the fact that actually they’re talking about the people they make money off of. All of that sort of sets this context where you can very quickly forget that you’re in a corporation. Like you’re working at a place that is an equivalent size and scale of an ExxonMobil.

And maybe if you were working at AT&T, you wouldn’t necessarily think too much about the coffee and the cereal and the food courts and all of the amenities and how it does actually feel very comfortable and like a family. And so, it’s easier to remember that you work for a corporation. I think because of the way that some of these tech companies decorate their culture, the aesthetics of their culture obscure that reality. That it is very much a corporate culture where capital and profit reign supreme. And as much as they might say that they want to prioritize the betterment of humanity, they will always make sure that they run that language by legal so that they can always prioritize their dollars in that final hour. Yeah. And just sort of unpacking all of that takes some time and it takes some introspection. You really do have to ask yourself, is this company mine? Do my values actually align with the stated values of the company? And then are those values being practiced in the day to day see those values in the impact that we mean? I think that’s difficult enough to ask of yourself, but it is a necessary first step so that you can ask it of the companies that you work for.

Maurice Cherry:

Right at this point I’m like Marshawn Lynch. I’m just showing. Up so I don’t get fined.

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s it. That’s it. That is it. I’m just here so I don’t get fined. Okay.

Maurice Cherry:

I worked for AT&T. I worked for AT&T for almost two and a half years. This was back in two thousand…from 2006 to 2008, I worked there. And at the time their internal sort of slogan was “Shaping Human Capital,” which is like, okay, like, you walk into the building, and you have this big, huge banner – shaping human capital. And I mean, the two and a half years I worked there were grueling not so much in an emotional way, but it’s like it wore on me in such a way that it was affecting me physically and I had to leave.

Jonathan Robinson:

Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

And that’s when I left and started my own business. And I feel like that’s really when I started to find myself and my career and my purpose is when I left. And the only reason I sort of got back in, nine years later, honestly, was because the market had changed and the kind of work that I was doing with my studio just wasn’t as profitable as it was before. And I wanted more stability because working for yourself is great, but working for yourself can be a real roller coaster, especially because we started in the middle of a recession and it’s not very easy to try to make the money that you need to pay your bills and just sort of exist in this capitalist society.

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s right.

Maurice Cherry:

And I think things are different now, but not necessarily better because what’s happened is a lot of these tech startups are picking the worst parts of corporate America and wrapping them in this sort of aesthetic, as you mentioned, to make it seem like, oh, it’s going to be fun and foosball tables and beer on Fridays and stuff like that. Kristy Tillman, who I’ve had on the show before, she’s a friend of mine and I know she once talked about filters. No, what’d she say? Perks as filters. So, like, a lot of companies will list all these different perks, and the perks are fairly similar among companies of a certain size that have reached a certain level of funding. It’s like unlimited PTO. And this sounds great if you’re coming from a place where you had to fight and claw for every day off that you had to get – unlimited PTO sounds great.

Jonathan Robinson:

Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

But then that can also be a filter for the fact that the internal culture will overwork you so much that you will feel guilty for utilizing those days and often get penalized for using those days even if they’re not in an egregious manner. I mean, this especially happened during the pandemic with remote stuff. Like it’s remote, you can work from anywhere. And some people took advantage of that. Actually, at the last place that I worked, I’m not going to name where, but people can search and find there were some people that basically traveled every month, and it was remote and so they could work from anywhere. And they’re like, oh, well, if I can work from anywhere, I’m just going to backpack through Europe. That sounds nice, but then what happens is that builds enmity with the people that don’t backpack through Europe or can’t just pick up and leave and go workplaces. And so even though the company had that as a perk of working there, they ended up penalizing this person for it.

And they were just sort of like, “I don’t understand. I’m still getting my work done. I’m going between times, nothing is happening, and I’m getting penalized for what I do outside of work in this way.”

Jonathan Robinson:

Absolutely.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah. Divesting from all of this is, I feel, like the smartest move to try to make, especially with what we’ve seen in the past couple of years with tech layoffs, unionization efforts and really the rise of AI and these new technology things. I mean, we’re talking now just fresh off of the writers…not the writer’s strike, the actor’s strike, just ended. But what we’ve seen this year, if we look back through the whole year, we’ve seen three major unions have strikes and win: the writers, the auto workers, and now the actors. And so, what does that mean now for the future of work in this country? Especially now that we see that these efforts can work? We can lobby together and have better, more holistic workplaces and things like that. I don’t know. I worked at a place where we unionized in 2020 and they laid us off three months later. So, I don’t know if this means now there’s more power that exists.

I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, but no, a lot of things are changing in a lot of different ways right now. And I think if you’re a creative person, it can be tough to kind of find your anchor amidst all this.

Jonathan Robinson:

Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And you touched on a lot of different ways in which the currents of society, or at least the trends that society is experiencing, all of the different ways that they sort of knock us around as creatives trying to find our footing. But I do think at the same time, those currents, those trends, those forces, they can help us understand some of the different forces at play on the inside of us so that we can find what movements to attach ourselves to or to move in parallel with that can help us figure out what’s going to be right for ourselves as much as all of this promise of tech was a great way for a lot of us to move up the sort of economic ladder in ways that other folks in our families or previous generations were unable to or barred from. At the same time, we also see that just because you get higher up the ladder doesn’t mean the guy at the top of the pyramid isn’t going to kick this ladder off in order to save a couple of dollars. You can make all of the cool stuff in the world, but if this company needs to ensure that its profit margins look a certain way so that their shareholders are going to be happy, then you’ll find out exactly how they feel about family, so to speak, and you’ll be gone.

And these technologies that we created together out of an enthusiasm in a more optimistic sense for the possibilities and all of the different solutions that we could find within these technologies. They are at the same time because they are owned by people at the top who don’t necessarily have our best interest in mind and are specifically incentivized to care more about how much money shareholders are making than how well our lives are impacted. We see those technologies being turned against us and at the same time to the point of these different unions recently being victorious over some of those forces. We can see that when we look to each other’s humanity and find the common cause and stand in solidarity with the prioritization of the human aspect of our work that we are not capital, we are humans and stand firm in those convictions. We can quite literally face giants and move mountains. But it is still difficult for every actor’s union or writers’ union or the auto workers union. We have, to your point, examples of unionizing and immediately finding yourself out of work or all of the different ways that unions have been combated in the tech industry or in the visual effects industry and the advertising industry, all of which I’ve had some experience working in. And I see how much the struggles of these writers, these actors, mirror exactly what so many of us have experienced both in tech, in advertising, in visual effects and production.

We just haven’t been able to make some of those en masse movements last long enough to make that impact. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.

Maurice Cherry:

No, we definitely should keep trying and I think because we’re seeing how it’s worked on, again, this very large level like in the entertainment industry or in the auto industry, I think it’s given people more visibility into it and honestly, it’s giving people more knowledge. It’s amazing when we were back, when we were trying to unionize at Glitch, it was amazing how many people had no experience about unions and what they were except like negative talking points. And it’s like you do realize that some of the perks that you have are the direct results of unionization in the past. Like the eight-hour workday.

Jonathan Robinson:

These things.

Maurice Cherry:

Came because people unionized in the past. So, you wouldn’t have to work 12,13, 14 hours a day or whatever. But yeah, we’re starting to see, I think the tide shifted a little bit. I’m curious though, for you where did this, and if I can call it this, this love for creating and producing and storytelling. Where did this come from? Did this come from you growing up, or…tell me about that.

Jonathan Robinson:

Yeah. I’ve always been fascinated with stories from a sort of consumption perspective. My mom was trained as a teacher and sort of raised me with a strong emphasis on traditional education. So, I was always reading something. I mean, I had to do book reports over summer break. When I would finish my homework too fast, she would create more curriculum for me to do. I was getting in trouble for talking too much in class, and the teacher said, well, he finishes his work, and then he starts talking to the other students, and that’s disruptive. So, she made an agreement with the teacher to create an entire curriculum that she would grade that would be included as part of my grade.

Maurice Cherry:

Wow. Mama didn’t play!

Jonathan Robinson:

No, not at all. So, I was constantly reading and consuming stories, and I’ve always been a deeply curious individual. I don’t want to just know what happened or even how it happened. I also want to understand why it happened. And I think all of that extra emphasis on critical thinking, on reading analysis, and on doing your own research and citing your sources sort of built this almost like programming in my brain to understand stories, both from a surface level as an entertainment experience, but also on a deeper level as a tool for communicating information and actually being able to sort of transcribe experiences from one person to another without having to directly live through them. The thing that was included in the story. So, I’ve always sort of had that perspective on storytelling to a certain point. I graduated high school and was like, I want to be a comic book artist.

The dream was to work at Marvel, maybe work on an X-Men or Spider-Man comic. And after some experience in an art school, the now defunct Art Institute of Las Vegas very quickly understood that I wasn’t going to get the kind of education that I needed from that particular place and moved to New. York, just because I felt like that was my Mecca, the place that had been calling to me, where I was going to figure it all out, and quite literally stumbled into a career in advertising as a producer. I was on my girlfriend’s couch trying to figure out how I was going to pay rent the next month, found a Craigslist ad for a project manager intern, and my only question in the interview was, what’s a project manager? And how can you be a manager and an intern at the same time? That experience really opened up an entire world of possibilities. I didn’t realize that there were so many creative individuals with stable, well-paying jobs. Even if you are working 12 hours a day, and maybe more than that, sometimes you could make websites and flash banners and mobile apps, and one job leads to another. And I think the place that really blew the doors open on the possibilities was The Mill. Working there was quite a privilege in both stints that I was there.

The first time they were starting what they called their Mill digital team. And the whole idea was around. The mill is traditionally a VFX studio. They do all of the…their whole little tagline is like, “if you watch the Super Bowl, at least two out of every three commercials that you saw, The Mill touched in one way or another.” But they were trying to move into this more digital, out of home experiential field that was starting to pop up at the time. And I got to work with a really incredible dream team of creative and technically excellent individuals who sort of took me under their wing as this young 22-year-old little idiot who didn’t know anything but would follow instructions and ask as many questions as came to mind. And they exposed me to the possibilities of what you can do with a serviceable, knowledge of available technology and a strong creative vision. Add to that the third leg of the stool, some business sense and tact to be able to convince folks to pay for those things, and you got yourself a pretty promising path for making some cool things and getting paid to do that.

But working there meant being able to, on the one hand, work with animators who typically did 3D animation for visual effects in like a Gillette commercial and trying to explain to them how you’re going to turn a couple of data sets into a particle visualization that replicates the visuals of the sort of mackerels and tuna form of something like a school. Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:

Fish or something like that. Yeah, that’s it.

Jonathan Robinson:

Trying to convince these folks to do things with their expertise and their most familiar tools that they had never been asked to do. And then also trying to tell stories with these data points, because, again, we’re in the advertising and marketing field, so everybody’s got a narrative. And so that experience really helped to shape the possibilities of how I could connect my love of stories and the depths of what stories mean. Not just the what or the how, but the why with these new emerging technologies and the deep institutional knowledge of more traditional media that could influence the way that you combine these new technologies to create experiences that really allow us to experience stories in ways that we hadn’t been able to before. Yeah, it really does feel like a serendipitous journey where I sort of stumbled into all of the places and things that I needed in order to be the person that I am today to do the things that I want to do. But I like to believe that that’s how life is supposed to work. You put one foot in front of the other, and then you end up where…

Maurice Cherry:

…you’re supposed to be stepping out on faith, right?

Jonathan Robinson:

That’s right.

Maurice Cherry:

You mentioned your mom, you mentioned this girlfriend you had at the time who were some of the other people that really helped support you during this journey.

Jonathan Robinson:

I think I’m going to name off some of the folks that really stood me up at The Mill that first time. My first mentor, Kay Gowda, was the senior producer for that Mill digital team. And when I say he stepped in as a big brother and really looked out for me both from and in the office process perspective, but also from outside life, like, what are you trying to do in this space? And here are some of the possibilities. He really set me up with a lot of the tools that I still use to this day to help navigate ambiguity and figure out what it is that I want. He just sort of built in these habits of constantly seeking new information on a daily basis. I used to start my day by combing through like a folder of ten to twelve websites and blogs that would post about new marketing and technology experiences and news, and then I sort of put that together into an email to send out once a week for the team. I was already a curious individual, but being able to focus that curiosity in a way that tied to whatever productive endeavor that I was trying to achieve at the time, I think was a really formative bit of knowledge. You also helped me just sort of find the calm in the storm of being a producer in a high paced environment with lots of conflicting objectives and demands, just really being able to settle in and say, like, I’m not going to solve everything, but if I can solve one thing, what is that? And let me do that first.

It really sort of grounded me and allowed me to gracefully navigate some of the more tumultuous projects and moments in my career. So, Kay Gowda is a huge influence. The executive producer of that team, Bridget Shields, really looked out for me both in sort of setting me up for success in some of the smaller pitch projects that came in the door during that year that I worked there the first time. I mean, I did my first pitch to Nike and landed the job under her guidance. And she trusted me to do this, having not seen any real evidence that I could. She just trusted me and gave me the support to make decisions and was always available to talk through any questions that I had. But more than that, she looked out for me. When we all got fired, I was on that team for about eight months before, similar to your Slack, your #goodbye Slack channel, we were all individually called downstairs into the conference room one after another, and every time somebody came back up.

They came back up silent, closed their laptop, grabbed their things and walked out of the room. Yeah. Eventually I understood what was happening, started saving some files, but yeah, we were all sort of let go unceremoniously without notice. On a Friday and the following Monday morning, Bridget had an email in my inbox of three different places that she had already called to let them know that I was available for work.

Maurice Cherry:

Wow.

Jonathan Robinson:

She told me exactly what salary to say that I was being paid, which was not the salary that I was being paid, but it was definitely going to be a healthy increase. She told me exactly what projects to reference and how to represent my impact and what title I need to speak to. Interactive producer or creative producer. And that’s sort of where that naming convention was first introduced. For me, those connections, those calls that she made really paved the way for every job I’ve had since then. I really appreciate the way that she looks out for her team because I got to admit that wasn’t even something that was super special for me. She does that for everyone she works with. So, I really appreciate those individuals.

I think more recently, I got to give credit to that second Mill crew, the second stint, particularly on our Executive Briefing Center experiential multiyear project. These folks really helped me sort of figure out that I was more than just a good producer, that I could be a good creative leader as well. Kinda. Akash is top of the list. She’s my partner now. I met her there at The Mill. Our creative collaboration really expanded the ways that I felt comfortable showing up in executive meetings and representing creative work, not, you know, the X’s and O’s of a schedule or a budget. Collaborators like Will Arnold, whose endless curiosity really inspired me to continue to explore the visual concepts that I wanted to introduce into some of the work that I was exploring at the time.

And he actually came through and provided a lot of the projection visuals in the music video that I ended up directing a couple of years ago. Eric Chang, who’s a creative strategist and writer, and his wild imagination and reserved intellect…just a really grounding force that helps me cut the noise out and really focus on what matters while also finding joy in really small things. Yeah, I mean, I could probably go on and on and on. There’s so many people who have made it possible for me to be where I am today, and if I keep going, I’m going to go forever.

Maurice Cherry:

What advice would you give to somebody that they’re listening to this episode, they’re hearing your story and everything and they want to sort of, I don’t know, maybe just try to figure out where they are right now. Like, maybe this has been a tough year for them and they’re feeling a bit unmoored and trying to kind of find their way in this current space. What advice would you give them?

Jonathan Robinson:

I think first I’d say slow down and listen. Look around, see, take note of where you are and how you feel. I think ultimately one of the things that has been most emphasized over the last couple of years for me has been that you’re always exactly where you’re supposed to be. Where you go next is entirely up to you. We can only actually live in the present, but when we are able to be our most present, we actually get to expand the idea of what present is in order to reshape the past and what it means for us and to be able to sort of look further into the future as to where we want to go and what our next step should be for us anyway. Because ultimately, the only person who can tell you what to do next and where to go is you. Because you’re the only one who knows what you want and why you want it. There’s plenty of noise in the world that can sort of interrupt, obscure or even manipulate that knowledge.

I mean, we’ve talked about it over the course of this conversation. The technology, the corporations, the capitalism, the politics, all of it. All of that noise makes it really hard to hear your own voice. But when you seek that voice through stillness, through rest, through reflection, it becomes a lot easier to know that your next step is the right one because it’s your step and that is really all that matters.

Maurice Cherry:

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Like, what kind of work do you want to be doing?

Jonathan Robinson:

Well, first I want to be on set of major Sci-Fi production, hopefully making my story come to life. Even if that is an optimistic projection. I want to be involved in the conversation around how these new forms of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, don’t have to be at odds with the most precious aspects of our human experience, our genuine humanity. In fact, if we take the time to understand ourselves and the technologies in full context of how either came to be, then we can find parallels that can between those sort of evolutionary journeys and use the relationship between the human interface and the technological interface to better ourselves from a truly human perspective. I don’t mean, like, escaping into fantasy worlds and ignoring deteriorating physical reality that we all live in in this planet or even sort of like replacing aspects of our humanity with technology to make things easier or more convenient. I do mean truly improving the human experience, deepening our connection with each other and with the natural world through experiences that teach us about those relationships as we interact with these technologies that are so complex and so immersive. Those are the kinds of projects that I want to bring to life. From an experiential standpoint, five years from now, I want to be having the conversation of how these experiences that I’ve created for both installation and virtual reality have really tried to hammer home that point and bring that conversation to a larger audience.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more information about you, about your work? Where can they follow you, follow your journey? Where can they find that online?

Jonathan Robinson:

Well, you guys can follow me on Instagram for my musings and ramblings. That’s at U-A-T-J-O-N-C or keep up with me via my website. Jonrobinson.me. That’s J-O-N-R-O-B-I-N-S-O-N me. Honestly, those are the two best places to keep up with what I’m doing. And a lot of what I’m doing on Instagram is shouting about our current realities. So, brace yourself and bring your thinking cap. I love a discussion.

Always happy to hear from anybody on any of these topics. Don’t be a stranger, so to speak.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, Jon Robinson, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean, I sort of had an idea how I thought this conversation might go and then once you started talking, I feel like it just sort of went in a completely kind of free form direction, which I think is good. I mean, I think we touched on a lot of different topics that are, I think, on the minds of a lot of creatives right now. Particularly, I think, a lot of creatives that work in the tech industry and such. I really feel like you’re at a place where you’re trying to figure it out, you’re trying to figure out what your next move is. And I think you gave such great advice about just slowing down and listening and letting that be what guides you next. And I’m really excited to see what’s going to guide you next once you come sort of at the end of this personal journey. So thank you so much for coming on the show.

I appreciate it.

Jonathan Robinson:

Thanks for having me, Maurice. I enjoyed this conversation. Yeah, I look forward to the new individuals you have on. This has been an amazing platform, and I really appreciated the opportunity.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world. They are always looking to expand their roster of freelance design consultants in the U.S., particularly brand strategists, copywriters, graphic designers and Web developers.

If you know how to deliver excellent creative work reliably, and enjoy the autonomy of a virtual-based, freelance life (with no non-competes), check them out at brevityandwit.com.

Sponsored by School of Visual Arts

The BFA Design program at the School of Visual Arts consistently produces innovative and acclaimed work that is rooted in a strong foundational understanding of visual communication. It encourages creativity through cutting-edge tools, visionary design techniques, and offers burgeoning creatives a space to find their voice.

Students in BFA Advertising are prepared for success in the dynamic advertising industry in a program led by faculty from New York’s top ad agencies. Situated at the center of the advertising capital of the world, the program inspires the next generation of creative thinkers and elite professionals to design the future.

School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers and creative professionals for over seven decades. Comprising 7,000 students at its Manhattan campus and more than 41,000 alumni from 128 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world. For information about the College’s 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, visit sva.edu.

Maya Gold Patterson

What a difference a few years makes! When we first had Maya Gold Patterson on the podcast back in 2016, she was a product designer in Chicago. Since then, she’s moved out west and has held down design leadership positions at two of the most well-known tech companies on the planet — Twitter (now X) and Facebook (now Meta). And after a recent stint as VP of Design at Riverside.fm, Maya’s facing one of her biggest challenges yet: quitting her job and embarking on a journey of self-discovery and career exploration.

We caught up and talked about her recent decision, and about how it’s left her feeling about Big Tech and about her future. But we also spent time looking back at her tour of duty at Facebook and Twitter, and she spoke about the lessons she’s learned, the products she’s built, and the importance of making choices that align with her personal goals and values.

Maya is proof that taking a chance on yourself is never a bad idea, so if you’re feeling burnt out or unsure about your career direction, then this episode is a must-listen!

Interview Transcript

Maurice Cherry:

All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Hi, Maurice. I am Maya Gold Patterson. I’m a designer and I recently quit my job on a good note. I’m doing good, so it’s good. But what I do traditionally is product design and I’ve worked in big tech companies — Facebook, Twitter — and small tech companies. Riverside, a startup most recently, has filled up most of the time of my career.

Maurice Cherry:

You know, you dropped this on me, like, the day before we were about to…I mean, first of all, I’m always excited when someone decides to quit their job because I just feel like that’s just such a great opening up to new experiences and new opportunities and stuff like that. And we’ll get to that, we’ll talk about that. But I’m just curious so far. Leading up to this, how has the year been going?

Maya Gold Patterson:

The year has been rough. Oh my gosh. Well, it’s been highs and lows. It’s been yoyos. So just to give a little bit of context, like starting out the year, I’m a new mom, maybe not as new as I was at the start of the year. So my son is eleven months old. But at the start of the year, I was on maternity leave, but supposed to come back and I was supposed to come back to Twitter, where Elon Musk had recently acquired the company while I was on maternity leave. So that was kind of terrible. I was dealing with post weaning depression, which people don’t talk about often. It has to do with breastfeeding and all of that, and then using all those emotions and trying to figure out what was next for me, I was doing job hunting and soul searching, and so that was a rough start to the year. But then I met these two incredible founders, the founders of Riverside, and we had some awesome working sessions, sort of informally, that escalated into a full time role as a VP of Design, in which we all knew it would be kind of an uphill battle. They were based globally, so it was going to be a ten time zone difference between me and them. And yeah, so I was waking up at like 5:00 a.m. to get on calls between 6:00 to 11:00 a.m., essentially. And at first it was really working and I was really excited. And eventually, for a lot of reasons, it wasn’t right. And I’m like, smiling while I’m saying this, not because of what has happened there, but because of the state that I’m in now. I’m so excited for the next half of my year and the six months after that, but the first leading up to now, it has been rough but also amazing and incredible. And to watch my son grow up and I just turned 30, there’s a lot of newness and experience and learning that I’m taking in, and I feel like it all just sort of, like, came to a head in the last six months.

Maurice Cherry:

Wow. Well, congratulations on your son. That’s amazing.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Thank you.

Maurice Cherry:

I’ve done the ten hour time zone thing, too. The last company I worked at was headquartered in San Francisco…or co-headquartered in San Francisco and Paris. So I would sometimes have to meet whatever was happening in the West Coast. But then we had people, I think as far out as, I want to say as far out as India, maybe not that far. I know we had people into Africa, we had people throughout Europe, but it was roughly like a ten time zone kind of gap. And it’s rough, it’s hard. I know remote work has made it so we can work from anywhere, but time zones are time zones. And it’s rough.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, it is. It really is. And the most challenging thing, honestly, wasn’t for me, like, getting up early. I had already learned how to not sleep so much with the baby, so he trained me well for this. But it was the type of impact that I know I want to have on a company and on a product and for customers through my design work was just super challenging with that time zone gap and the nuance of what I was dealing with in comparison to what I had come from. Like at Twitter, we were all remote. That was the nuance. Everyone was remote versus in this scenario, at Riverside, I was the one that was remote and everyone was local and they were locally ten time zones away.

Maurice Cherry:

Oh…wow.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Right. So there just would be a lot happening. A lot happening that I would never just get to pick up on in terms of context and decision making. And it’s a startup, so it moves fast. And so there’s only like that three hour overlap where I’m actually getting to meet with the team and different people at the company. And so if a lot of that time is spent just catching up, when is the time spent to do the work? And it was tough to find that rhythm, honestly, but everyone was really committed to it, so I commend us for that.

Maurice Cherry:

When you were last on the show, this was November 2016. We were talking about this a little bit before recording, but you were a bonus episode because we ended up doing this right after I think it was the week Trump was elected in November 2016. And I went back and revisited that conversation and listened through it. And you mentioned talking about when you’re nervous about something or there’s something that you want to do that you’re not sure is the best thing, you kind of have this knot in your chest of nervousness. Did you have that feeling when you decided “it’s time for me to quit, it’s time for me to move on”?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, I did, but yes, for two reasons. One was because I genuinely really liked working with everyone I was working with at Riverside. So it was hard to come to the decision. Like, I needed to walk away. So just deciding to walk away gave me the ick. It was really difficult. But also the other part of me quitting was me committing to not taking another full time job and to not interview. And that’s something I’m even just exploring within myself, like what I really mean by that. But I really mean it. I’m committing myself right now to a year of not just jumping into another tech role, and that’s a statement to make for myself. I’m always the one to go and figure out what the Plan B is. So if I were to quit and then go to the next thing, I wouldn’t be that scared and that nervous, but I’m quitting and not immediately jumping back into Big Tech or any type of tech. I’m kind of exploring a bunch of different paths. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

When you emailed me yesterday, you told me that you were pulling the plug on Big Tech and that is something that you’ve wanted to do for a few years now. What does pulling the plug on Big Tech mean to you at this moment?

Maya Gold Patterson:

I’m such a drama queen. I am pulling the plug on Big Tech right now because it was taking too much of me, and I’m at a time where I need to invest in myself and explore myself a bit more. So I don’t know if I won’t even be as ignorant to say I’ll never go back into tech. That’s probably unlikely, but right now it’s a no. So that means I am going to start turning down interviews that I was ramping up on and being clear with them and hopefully leaving on really good and open terms with those hiring managers that wanted to take a chance on me. And it’s nerve wracking, right? Because I got into this, and I don’t know if I touched on this in my first interview. I cringe listening back on myself, but I was a self-taught designer, and I was a Midwestern girl. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to what Silicon Valley was. So to decide to walk away from something when you’ve built so much progress and you’ve put in so much work for the last ten years, like putting in so much work to make it to where I’ve made it. To then say “I’m going to walk away.” I don’t know what it looks like, if people will open, receive me again if I want to come back. And I had to decide that that was okay with me. If that ended up being the case, that was okay with me, and I will figure it out.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, yeah…I mean, when you were on the show, you were in Chicago, you were a product designer at Trunk Club, and I think it was maybe about six months after that is when you ended up leaving and then going out to California to work there. And as you mentioned, you’ve worked for two of the most well known tech companies in the world. You were at Facebook, which is now Meta. You were at Twitter, which is now just a single letter X. How was your time at Facebook? Like, we actually met in person in 2017 for the first time. Revision Path did that event here in Atlanta with Facebook.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Oh, that was so fun. I almost forgot. I was like, “I know we’ve met in person,” but I couldn’t remember what was the context.

Maurice Cherry:

You surprised me because you had came up to me over like, “hey Maurice.” And I was like “who is this?” because we had only talked on Skype. And I was like, you didn’t look like your photo. You had short hair then.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

And the photo you sent me, you had like, this long, curly hair. I was like “oh, oh…okay. yeah.”

Maya Gold Patterson:

I know, the hair will really do a number on you. How was my time at Facebook? My time at Facebook was awesome. Oh, my goodness, like, I would not be where I am today without Facebook and the unique experience I had at Facebook. So the way that I transitioned out west, first of all, I wanted to be in Silicon Valley to start with, but I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t get any job offers originally, but I found a really cool company in Chicago, so that was really good for just arming me with the tools to eventually try again for Silicon Valley. It did happen really organically where I was recruited into Facebook. I hadn’t reached out yet. I was preparing to. Dantley Davis, who was a deep mentor of mine, and I’ve worked with him now for many years. he found a piece of writing that I did for AfroTech that went, like, semi-viral at the time. That was “Five reasons why UX design and Black people go together” or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:

I remember that. It was on Blavity.

Maya Gold Patterson:

On Blavity. It’s not Afro Tech. Yeah, this is at the time, you know, when UX was still kind of fresh to people’s minds, like, what that even meant. I guess he saw that. He saw a couple of other pieces that I had done, and he was like, “yo, you interested in, you know, my team?” I was like, “I’m interested in anything. Please. Yes.” And I really wanted to work at a social media company, so I got the experience of working for a Black director, first of all, so that’s already new. A Black director that was really pushing the culture and doing so in an authentic way. Awesome experience. My direct manager was also Black, which is already…it’s a bit abnormal than probably your typical Facebook experience. And then there were not a lot of Black people in product at all at Facebook. But because it was so big, there were tens of thousands of people even just having 1% of us, there was a lot more than what I came from in Chicago, which was like, I knew one person who did UX design that looked like me in Chicago. So now I had access to incredible women and men who came from experiences like mine and cultural contexts like mine that were IC6’s and 7s and 8s and directors. And I’m like, oh, my gosh, and people are getting money and things are happening, and they’re talking in different languages, and you’re immersed in this incredible culture because Facebook Design, I really feel like, was leading a lot of the sort of education on what design organizations could look like and best practices. They were putting out a lot of content on Medium. Julie Zhou was, like, doing a ton on Medium and, like, I would religiously read everything that she put out. Like, I just felt blessed to get to work within this in the space that I had dreamt about.

I learned a lot, technically. Like, I was up against and working with some of the top prototypers who became good friends of mine, top visual designers, top strategic thinkers and storytellers. And I got to sort of see through their own craft, okay, what of this do I like to do? What could I be good at doing? And then they also sort of taught me how to implement that at scale through working with cross functional partners like PMs well, PMs and engineers I was already used to working with. It was working with people even bigger than that that really impacted the full customer experience that I first got to immerse myself with. So that was like, product marketing managers and data scientists and a formal user research team, like all of those people that are so important to the product you put out that I got to be introduced to at Facebook. So that was super cool. The offices were super fly. First of all, this is when Facebook, they were giving money, so they relocated me from Chicago to theBay. So they moved my car. I remember these movers came into my apartment, packed up my house, and set me all up.

Maurice Cherry:

Wow.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, really nice stuff. I don’t know how else I would have moved to California or afforded it. I mean, the offices were just super luxurious. They had seven, ten, I don’t know, fifteen different cafeterias and vending machines filled with Apple products and just ridiculous type of stuff. And then you were expected to travel around the world to sort of meet the customers that you were building for. So you’re flying like first class, essentially, to these different countries that I probably would have never been able to visit. So you’re having all expenses paid by Facebook to go learn and do research, do the thing that you like to do. It just…it was a really fast and fun time. That also was really challenging too, because, again, not a lot of people that looked like us. Sometimes the decisions that the company made was not vibing with, and it was a huge ship, and you’re ultimately like a cog in a bigger ship. And I definitely made impacts in the way that I wanted to, but not as fast always as I wanted to, or in the way that I wanted to do it. And that ultimately led me to start looking elsewhere.

Maurice Cherry:

Were you working out of MPK 20 out of Menlo Park?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yes. So I started there right when they opened MPK 20, I think like a year or two prior to me joining. It was really new.

Maurice Cherry:

I was out there, oh, I remember it was October 2016 because Facebook was doing their design lecture series and they were supporting Revision Path. And so I was like, “well, I would love to do some interviews on Facebook’s campus.” I was like, joking, like, “ha ha”, you know, “we could do it. And they were like, “okay.” And they paid for a first class ticket, flew me out, flew my equipment out and everything. And I remember going to the building and just…it’s kind of hard to describe how tremendous the scale of just that one office was.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yes.

Maurice Cherry:

Because it has like this…it’s almost like an indoor track or like a loop where you can sort of walk around the whole building and yeah, they have all of these different cafeteria stations or food stations or whatever, and people’s desks are just kind of out. Like, it didn’t feel like a cube farm at all. It just felt like almost like a department store. But people worked here in a way because it was just that big and massive.

Maya Gold Patterson:

I had a love/hate relationship with it because to actually do work in that office was terrible, but like, there’s so much going on and there were so many people, and open floor plans are just really ridiculous for the creative process sometimes, because everyone just comes up to you and they’re just looking at…you know, it’s just obnoxious. But yeah, the lifestyle of Facebook at that time was…I don’t know what it’s like now, but it was really cool, at least for someone who was like 23. I think I joined when I was 23. 23, I had no responsibilities…

Maurice Cherry:

Oh, yeah, you were living it up.

Maya Gold Patterson:

I was living it up! I was like, “yeah, I’ll be here all day, all night, whatever.” You’re taking the shuttle. Because I lived in Oakland, you would take the shuttle with the WiFi. The shuttles for Facebook are like the most beautiful Greyhounds you’ve ever seen in your life. Like, not actual Greyhounds. And oh my, you do all your work, get in at 11:00 [a.m.]. I remember the first day I showed up like 9:00 [a.m.] and no one was there, which is the opposite of Chicago, where if you were there at 9:05 [a.m.], you were in fucking trouble. Sorry, you’re in trouble. This was not the case. People were showing up late in their flip flops and sweats, which I didn’t love, but whatever. And then they leave on their shuttle at like 3:00 [p.m.], and they’re just living it up. Yeah, it was good. And we did some really…I got to work on some really cool stuff. The best projects were working on like a Fenty Beauty AR project and working on Facebook Music, which included some AR stuff and really cool effects, and just the whole vibe of it was, like, really fun, honestly.

Maurice Cherry:

We’re talking about one building when we say MPK 20, but it’s almost like a town. It’s almost like Facebookville in terms of the scale, and there’s even an internal transit system to get you to different buildings and stuff.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Free Uber.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, I was so blown away. That was also, I remember, because you know Tory Hargro, We know Tory Hargro.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

Tory was giving me a tour and we had went to the Instagram building and he’s like, “Oh yeah, you know, this is the Instagram building where we do Instagram,” and they had these little stages as soon as you walk in the building where you gold take pictures for Instagram, he’s like, “oh, yeah, give me your phone and I’ll take some pictures for Revision Path’s Instagram.” And I didn’t have an Instagram for Revision Path. I was like, “oh, yeah, I don’t have Instagram.” And I’m saying that in the Instagram building. And it was like you could hear a pin drop. Needless to say, I was on Instagram by the time the day ended. But the scale of that place is just so massive to think about. And yeah, I could see how you were saying you felt like just a cog in the whole ship of everything, because it’s huge.

Maya Gold Patterson:

It’s huge. And Facebook was definitely a place driven by data, and it was pretty top down. Like, they say it’s bottoms up. Yeah, you could decide your roadmaps with the PMs and such, and that’s a skill that you learn. And there are certain initiatives that I got to be part of that definitely influenced what we worked on. But your impact, which translated to, okay, your performance review, which happens every six months, which is tied to your bonuses, whether you’re going to get promoted or not, your impact is tied to data, like, what metrics did you move? And so that kind of started to incentivize not kind of it incentivized everyone to work in a way that was really not necessarily what I defined for myself as building the best user experience always, or even the way in which I like to go about product development. And so the promotions felt real good, the raises felt really good, the equity refreshes felt really good. But over time, it’s like, I want to try something else. I want to try something else just for now.

Maurice Cherry:

So you made the jump over to Twitter, and that was right before the pandemic began, is that right?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, my timing is just really interesting, so I coincide everything that I do in my career with major stuff happening out in the world. Dantley had moved to Twitter maybe like two years — I can’t remember — prior to me joining. He was pitching me on a team, or rather an opportunity area that he thought I might be good at. Now I’m fresh off of what was like the Facebook Sharing team and then the Facebook Watch team. So Sharing is a really ruthless team to be on at times at Facebook because it’s always the most impactful to the bottom line, but it’s really hard to get the metrics up. And again, Facebook was oriented around metrics, so if you can’t move the needle there, it just was really stressful. So I was really burnt out by consumer facing sharing products, like Creation products. So that’s like creating things on a newsfeed, creative things in any sort of social media app. And this opportunity that he was describing sounded like Sharing to me. It wasn’t Sharing, but it sounded like some of that same sort of stuff, but it was vaguely like, okay…”we want to build something in audio, we don’t really know what it is. The team needs that sort of design vision and design strategy and some of the velocity that you probably would bring…if you’re down.”

I was like thinking about it, and Twitter I loved as a consumer. Twitter was my social media of choice. I had always loved Twitter, and I built a really strong design network on Twitter and found a home there. I never was interested in joining the company because I had heard through the valley, it’s just very white. The way things were run. Didn’t feel really fresh and innovative and they weren’t shipping a lot of products. I pride myself a bit on being able to ship products. That always was my sort of thing as a designer. I don’t get stuck in la la land. Like, I really will deliver something by the end of it. And with Dantley moving over there, he was changing the culture along with some other bigger cultural changes too, happening at Twitter. He’s like, “no, things are changing, and we’re hiring talent too, to help with those changes.”

I ended up taking that role.

It was incredible. Twitter was really incredible. I joined Twitter in January 2020. I went to their One Team. It’s called One Team, which was a time where everyone across the globe gets together in person to have this big conference that was in Houston. It was like the first week of January, or second, and it was lit. Oh, my God. Oh, it was so lit because Twitter was just that sort of more hippie tech company, you think Jack Dorsey versus Mark Zuckerberg. It just had that sort of vibe. And then they really leaned into, quote unquote, “the culture.” There was like Black people doing stuff. It just was cool. We were there partying and hanging, and the vibes were just right from start. And it was a much smaller company than Facebook. So I’m going from I think when I left Facebook, it was like 40 or 50K, at the time, employees, and Twitter was like 7,000. So it already felt much smaller, easier to navigate. We get back from One Team. I’m working with my team, which is three guys that were jamming on a very ambiguous scope of audio. And then we are about to head to a user research session in, I think, Houston actually, again, and I get a call to say to cancel my flights because Twitter is going to shut down, probably. Twitter was the first company, I think, in tech to shut down and go remote when 2020 happened. So I get that call. I had to cancel my flight. And I remember asking, I was like, “it’s not going to be that long, right? We’re not going to be locked up for that long, right?” And they’re like, “I think it’s going to be a bit” and I’m thinking to myself, okay, three weeks to say I never went back into the office again. Like, three years later, and only three months in was, yeah, I just wouldn’t have expected that. So from there on, it was like a fully remote position. And we were all working remotely, everyone in the globe, obviously. But yeah, my entire time at Twitter was remote, which was interesting. It was really important to have that one team experience. So I think that made me feel much better about the situation.

Maurice Cherry:

And now one of the products you were working on while you were at Twitter ended up becoming Twitter Spaces. We won’t go into that. You actually did a whole episode with this podcast I produced called Happy Paths. I’ll put a link to that if people want to hear about your journey with sort of helping to build that product. But there were some other features that you worked on as well. You worked on voice tweets, is that right? Some other things as well?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, I worked on voice tweets, the first commerce/sort of beta approach which turned into a whole organization. And then I transitioned from Spaces because I was just ready for something new. And I was working on our crypto — sort of like very ambiguous crypto space — I was second trimester pregnant at the time. A couple of months prior to that, Jack Dorsey left. They let go of Dantley and a couple of other really important leaders, Kayvon, and those two really were the ones that were driving a lot of the positive change on the product side. So Twitter was quickly corroding from my point of view. And I also just didn’t care about work like that because I cared about my baby and myself and whether I was going to be able to deliver. There were bigger questions I had for myself, right? Yeah. But I did get to work on a couple of interesting things by the end of it, like some interesting concepts for crypto, but those didn’t really get to see the light so much. And then a couple months after that, Elon bought the company and the rest, I guess, is in the news.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah. I mean, it sounds like with all these sort of things changing as quickly as they were, it sort of kind of put that idea in your mind that it might be time for you to go then as well, right?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, for sure. And I think Spaces was such an incredible experience. voice tweets and Spaces really were like a one-two punch together. I loved the team I was working with and I loved how we built that product and even how we approached it. Everything just felt so good. But it was really hard too. There was some really not cool stuff that went down as well. And we went from a team of three, four to a hundred, and I realized I just didn’t like that part of the job so much. Maybe in the future I will, but the scaling to an org, I did not like it. Well, I didn’t know why fully I didn’t like it, but I knew I didn’t like it in the context of this bigger tech company where you have the KPIs and the roadmaps and the vision planning, like all that stuff. And it just was a lot of politics. And so I was really burnt out after Spaces and needed a break. And honestly, with all the drama that like, I got that, like people really weren’t checking for me after Jack Dorsey and them left because no one knew what their job was. Everyone was running around with their heads cut off. And I was like, “well, I’m pregnant. I’m just going to lay up.”

Maurice Cherry:

Well, it sounds like it was also just a big career shift in a way, because you had went from being an IC as a product designer. It sounds like you were mostly an IC while you were at Facebook and then at Twitter, you’re now, like, managing a team. You’re on management. How did you approach that shift?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, that’s good context. Just to be super transparent, when I joined Facebook, I was IC 4, got promoted, was about to get promoted, left before that and went to Twitter, and I still was on the IC track. I went from staff to senior staff. So that’s just like going up the IC sort of career ladder. And during that senior staff transition, which I think translates to an [IC] 8 at most companies, that was at the same time that Spaces had gone live as a beta, the company decided, “okay, it’s our number one priority. Maya, Alex, Remy, all the people that were like, the leads of the team, what do you need to make this make product market fit?” And that included bringing on a lot more designers. And so there was a point where I was getting coaching from Dantley, where I was telling him, I was like, “I don’t know how to do this.” Like, I’m not a manager, and I never went into management at Twitter. It wasn’t my goal. But he wanted me to essentially move into a design lead role, which was undefined at Twitter at the time, even though they were starting to try that out with me and a couple other designers. And he was like, “you’re essentially like the mass editor of Spaces, and you need to orient the team, the design team, to be able to create the product that we all see could happen.” So I internalized that, and I also knew for myself what type of culture and environment I wanted to work within, and that mattered to me. So while it wasn’t my actual manager, I wasn’t a manager. I also paid a lot of attention to the team culture, and I worked with my direct manager, and he was awesome. He gave me a lot of support in doing this. I worked with him to sort of set a culture and different activities, put those in place so that the team could not only create the best product, but it felt good getting there, ideally, even though the pressure was high. So, yeah, going from being the sole designer to leading seven designers — super talented designers, too — that was an incredible learning experience. But, man, that was really fun. Really fun, really hard.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, it’s good that they sort of were also kind of giving you the sort of support to support that team. Like, they didn’t just say, “okay, now you’re leading. Good luck.” It sounds like you sort of had help and support along the way, as you were kind of navigating all of this.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yes and no. So I got the support and I definitely got help. But it usually happened at a major junction point where I just completely was burnt out. One of the ways in which we even realized I needed so many more designers than I originally thought. I remember a new design director leader in the industry, Halli, had just joined. I had never met him. Big fan of his Twitter presence and everything he did with Ueno, they had just been acquired. He and I were going to sit down and have a conversation. Spaces was like…oh, my God. I was just so stressed out by it. And I couldn’t figure out how to essentially meet the leadership team’s ask, which was like, “okay, figure out how to do all of these things and what resources you need.” I just didn’t know. And he and I get on a call — and he’s so good at reading people; he and I had never met — and he was like, “how are you?” And the most embarrassing thing happened. I just started bursting out crying to this man that I’d never met before. It was, oh, my God, it goes against everything that I want to be. I’ve cried twice in front of people at work, and I always hate myself afterwards, but I could not help myself. I was so distraught. And through that, that’s when we really got to the essence of what I needed, and that was more support, more designers, and then also the sort of go ahead from design leadership. Sometimes people are really…I find that managers and leaders sometimes are really nervous about saying, “no, this designer is who you need to listen to.” Usually they’re like, “oh, everyone’s opinion is sort of like, equal, and the best one will come out.” But that’s not always true. Sometimes you need a decision maker. And so it was a combination of getting those resources and being everyone explicitly knowing, like, Maya is the decision maker. That empowered me to really lean into that role and then sort of transition in that situation.

Maurice Cherry:

And so now, after Twitter, you joined Riverside as their VP of design, which is where you were most recently. I know you were only there for a short amount of time, but can you just sort of sum up what it was like there for you?

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah…and even why I chose it.

So after leaving Twitter, I was curious still. I had some questions about my career. Like I mentioned, I had gotten to a pretty senior level of IC path, but I had been leading a team of designers. Several managers of mine had pitched the idea of me going into management. I knew that I wasn’t really that interested in doing it at a big tech company, just based off of what I was witnessing was the role of a manager. But I was curious about it, and I kind of thought that at a startup maybe that would be the way that I could both still keep my hands in the product making and product strategy and all of that while also getting to trial management. So I thought that this VP role would be like the sort of best of both worlds and I probably downplayed the challenges.

I knew it was going to be challenging to work in the ten time zone difference and I knew even just the cultural differences might be a challenge but I wasn’t too concerned about that type of stuff. But yeah, that ten time zones and even just the nuances of the startup world, right? Like I’m coming from big tech into startup world. It is different. Even though Spaces liked to brand itself as a startup within a big company, no, it’s still different. It’s really different.

What I really loved about Riverside is that they just moved really fast, but from a place of curiosity they would always be observing what’s happening out in the world and where their competitors are moving. And they weren’t afraid of scrapping a roadmap and just redesigning one or reprioritizing it. Sometimes we did that probably a little bit too much and I think honestly through our work together we started to get a little bit more consistent with our priorities, and that was great. But some of that even was a bit of a headache to just navigate just how rapidly things could change in terms of priorities.

What I found with Riverside was people were really just genuinely down to create and hopefully create a really solid product for customers. And I know everyone says that, but I don’t know…people just seem to be really curious to do that and really open to receiving wherever that idea gold come from. So they’re all taking a bet on me too. I’m in L.A. and they now have this new leader who’s all the way over here and they kind of have to listen to, like, they kind of embraced that with open arms and that was cool. And I think the startup world in general, I really am still fascinated by. But one thing I learned was I probably want to be…to create it myself. I have so many skills at this point and I have a way of working where actually startups aren’t that different from big tech companies. If you have a boss, the boss is still the boss and what their vision is and how they want to do work. That is the way in which you have to do work. That’s not a bad thing. And it wasn’t even bad how Riverside did it. It just at this time in my life, I was realizing that’s not what I’m looking for. Like, I was actually trying to get away from that sort of, I don’t know, like company-first mindset. I want to build something. I want to build something. I don’t want to push forward something that’s already been built.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, I mean, that sounds like a natural progression, though. I mean, going from these larger companies to smaller companies, but you’re gaining more and more experience just as a designer, as a person, you’re just gaining more experience. So I feel like that’s a natural progression.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, I hope so. It’s a messy journey. I think it’s even messier now that I’ve pulled the plug on big tech, apparently. But I think it’s going to shake out to something really beautiful, hopefully.

Maurice Cherry:

I think it will. I mean, one of the beautiful things about this show and having done it for so long with these conversations, it can kind of show people that your career path isn’t always a linear thing. Like, it can have ups and downs and highs and lows, et cetera, as long as you kind of at least have a sense of what it is you want to do and where you’re going. And it sounds like you’ve kind of weathered that in your own career.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, 100%. Oh, man, you hear it when you first start out. One of my best friends who originally was just a colleague of mine, she just would always tell me, “your path and your journey is your path. In your journey, you make the decisions that are right for your career.” And at first you’re like, “oh, yeah, of course.” And you kind of can get taken away in the career paths that these companies have sort of set out. Like IC 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, then you go into VP and then you go into C-suite, or you can start your own. There’s these very set paths of what success, quote unquote, should look like. And they’re attached to money and they’re attached to potentially notoriety and all those things. And what I found myself doing was going through that path, making a couple of choices that were uniquely Maya, but not enough. Not enough of those uniquely Maya choices and ones that only I could answer.

I think, you know, you really have to put in the hours and the effort. Like, the last decade of work was really important to get me to where I am today, where I feel comfortable being comfortable and confident being like, “actually, it’s a no right now. Right now I need to go do something different.” And I believe in what that difference is. And I have the skills to go approach that difference and turn left on this path instead of turning right, even though right is maybe what everyone else would naturally say I should go. And I think when people are able to do that — and what you and I were talking about a little bit earlier — was just like, I think a lot of us, a lot of millennials, and definitely people, you know, and other generations, too, are just kind of waking up and realizing, like, “oh, I don’t know if I want to do this path in the way in which it’s been laid out for me. I don’t actually know if I believe in this work for 30 years and then get to go do the thing that I love to do or that I want to explore within myself. I don’t even know if I love to do it because I haven’t been able to do it.” Do I want to wait until I’m 60 to do that? Do I need X amount of money to be able to go do that? I think what I’ve been doing, what I decide to do, is figure out what those constraints are that I’ve applied to myself; what I’m missing to be able to go and do that self-exploration through my career path. I don’t know. And then see, I guess, where the cards land after it. I’m now not willing to wait until I’m 40, 50, 60, I guess, to go figure it out. Like it needed to happen now. That’s what I learned.

Maurice Cherry:

So when you look back at kind of the experiences that you’ve had, you look back at your career, and I would say even, like, looking at what the current landscape is now in tech and design — I should say we’ll put tech and design together — what do you think it means to be a designer these days?

Maya Gold Patterson:

What does it mean to be a designer these days? I feel like designers are typically multidisciplinary, like the best designers are, but there is a singular part of their design skills that they can get paid to do or paid really well to do. And so we kind of lean into that. But I’ve seen people, whether they’re product designers or really honestly, outside of product designers, like interior designers, stylists, just creators in other ways. I’ve seen when they leave their corporate structure, and they just take that bet on themselves because they’ve put in the time and the work and gotten the network and gotten the resources that they need to go do that, amazing stuff blossoms.

So what does that mean for design? I think design is still messy. As messy as it was back in the day, it’s still messy now. Yes. We have more understanding as an industry of maybe the different types of designers, like what exists and what types of design work we need. But we’re not yet good at helping designers blossom in a variety of design skills. Like, are you going to be a tech designer? Are you going to be a graphic designer? Are you going to be an agency designer? Are you going to be a fashion designer? It’s very limiting. There are people that push outside that box, and what I assume is happening is they’re finding some interesting happiness and making stuff that can be really impactful on the world in a unique way. I’m kind of hopeful that that same thing happens to me. I don’t know if it’s actually their reality or not, but that’s what I’m interpreting.

Maurice Cherry:

Are you where you kind of want to be at this stage in your life? Maybe that’s an easy question. I don’t know.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah, I am, actually. That’s why I think I was comfortable walking away, right? And what does that mean?

So for me, honestly, since I was a little girl, I knew that I wanted to be successful and that meant money and being able to do whatever I wanted to do. So having the financial means to be able to do whatever I wanted to do, have a loving partner, have a family, probably. And so by choosing this career path and then going all in on it and having a lot of luck along the way, I was able to sort of achieve enough to be able to check the boxes on a lot of my childhood dreams. And I think because that happened, I’m now in this state where I’m like, “so then why am I still doing that? Why am I still in the rat race in that way?” One good answer is I need healthcare. My family needs healthcare. But honestly, again, we tucked away a good amount of money and it’s not enough for us to just retire retire, but it is probably enough to stop, get out of the rat race, look at it from a different vantage point and maybe go invest in ourselves or myself. Me and my husband are both on our self-employment journey now, and kind of see where it shakes out.

And corporate America is always going to be there. That’s like the backbone of this. You know, I don’t know if I’ll be able to enter back into big tech shiny roles when I’m done with this self-exploration, but I’ll be able to feed my family. And I think being able to distance myself from the keeping up with the Joneses mentality enabled me to sort of make that call. And a good example of this is like, me and my husband bought a house and that was like a really proud moment for us. And I remember one of the things that happened after we bought this house was like, a lot of people were like, “oh, this is your starter home. You’re going to move into a bigger house immediately.”

Maurice Cherry:

Wow.

Maya Gold Patterson:

I know! And they didn’t even say it coming from a bad place at all. At all. I understand why they said that, but I just was like, “wow, shouldn’t we just be satisfied with what we have?” Because I immediately started thinking like, “okay, yeah, I need to go get like, a bigger tech bag so then I can go get the bigger house.” And I’m like, “I don’t want the bigger house.” Like, I have enough house problems. I have enough house problems with what I have. And I like my home. I like designing my home. Like, I don’t need more. So because I’m in this space, I’m like, okay, so then I don’t need a job that has these super high dollar signs attached to it and benefits and stuff. Like, maybe I will in the future. Maybe my son or myself or our health will require it. Okay, then we’ll saddle up and go do that. But if right now my family doesn’t need it and it doesn’t bring us ultimate joy, then I’m not doing it. I’m not going to do it.

Maurice Cherry:

I’d be interested, like even, you know, I think you’ve sort of alluded that you were kind of taking a year off in a way — I’m using air quotes here — but you may not even want to go back into big tech after that. I’d be interested just to kind of see what your priorities are at that point.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Me too. Yeah, I leave the door open on big tech just because I know myself and I know also how beneficial big tech can be when you need it, and maybe there’ll be a right time and right place for it. But this year for me is definitely not going to be a sabbatical. I actually don’t want that right now. I think I’ve done a lot of resting and rebirthing and actual birthing over the last two years. I’m just, like, ready to go after it. Me and my husband talked about it actually yesterday. I want to balance my time really well, where we’re explicitly saying, “okay, if no money comes in, that’s scary, but okay, we’re just going to do that. That’s fine.” If you’re spending your time investing in your passions, that maybe could lead to making money. And then so, like, the first six months, I’m hoping is just investigating what I like to do, how far I can go with that sort of sorting out can it make me any money, and if so, how much? Okay, out of those five things that I might want to do and could maybe make me money, let me pick one that actually, like, is drawing me. And now if I really invest all my time there, what would happen? That would be maybe the next six months. Can you tell, like we’re type A, so we’re planning already. Very structured, in a very structured way, but that’s kind of how I see it going, is like, I want to go and I want to maybe reopen up my vintage shop. I want to maybe go and start some stuff with my husband. I’m going to do some design advising on the side because I’m interested in that and I have friends building cool stuff and I know a lot now, so maybe I can be helpful, explore all of that, see what feels good or not. I can say no at any time because I’m not beholden to anyone but myself and my family. And then hopefully success to me would be like, by the end of the year. I’m not rich or anything at all, but maybe I found a business that just speaks to me or is mine and I’m loving and also could earn enough for us to continue letting me walk this path. That would be incredible if that happens, but I don’t know if it will.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, there’s one project that you started recently called Recshop, is that right? Tell me about that.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Oh, man, that was a really cool project with my brother. So I love all things vintage, so I love vintage clothes, vintage cars. My dad was and still is as a DJ. He was, like, a DJ in the 80s. So he spun vinyl and we always grew up with a ton of vinyl in our house. And recently me and my brother have been getting into it and we decided to open up a record shop. Honestly, it was just like a creative passion project to have. And I think after shutting down my clothing shop, I was looking for that again. Quickly we realized the used record shop business is just not a business and it just wasn’t sustainable. And I had just had a baby and it was just like too much. So I think I want to do more of that type of stuff, though, because it teaches you so much. I learned about that business and there’s unique problems for the customer in that business. That was a learning, and even just what I enjoyed about it or didn’t. And it was a cool outlet. Like, we got to design a brand and a customer experience that was all about music and curating these really important pieces of artwork to the American music landscape. We got to curate that sort of stuff for people; that was really cool. And so maybe I do a couple more things like that that sort of get me closer to understanding what my actual purpose is.

Maurice Cherry:

What do you want your legacy to be? And again, I feel like asking this now is maybe a bit premature because you’re right off the heels of quitting. You’ve got this freedom. The rest of the year has opened up to you. But have you thought about that?

Maya Gold Patterson:

I had not thought about that until you asked it a little bit before the podcast. But it’s such an important question. I do know from a gut sense what legacy for me, and I think my husband shares this, but one of the drivers of me quitting and quitting tech for a little bit was just I want my legacy to be the imprint that I have on my son in the type of woman I’m proud of and he’s proud of me for being. So I want him to see that he can make radical choices that are okay and can be honored and enable you to be your best self. And best self means like, showing up as a better partner, a better mommy, a better…just individual in general, making choices that go against the grain if it means it’s right for you is okay. That’s the type of legacy; like him approaching those intersections of life head on and not being scared of that and really having that sort of gut sense of like, “no, this is right for me. I’m going to try that. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to go try that. I’m going to go do something kind of crazy and feel good about that because I know it makes me a better man.” That’s the type of legacy that I think about. And if I leave some cool projects in my wake as I do that, that’d be awesome too.

Maurice Cherry:

Well, I feel like that’s a good place to wrap up, but I guess before we do that, is there anything that you wanted to talk about that I didn’t ask you about?

Maya Gold Patterson:

No. I think though, if anyone’s doing some cool work in any cool work, honestly, I’m obviously open. I have some free time, believe it or not. So I guess I would just share that. Maybe I’ll leave my email for people to reach out directly if they’re working on anything cool, especially any cool collaborations in the vintage space, any cool design product startup stuff. I’m just here to sort of understand what people are trying to do and see if there’s some synergy, and if not with me, then maybe with somebody else. So I am open and more accessible than ever, I would say, right now. And yeah, just leave that.

Maurice Cherry:

Okay. Where can people find you online?

Maya Gold Patterson:

I know that’s a good question because I kind of am off socials, but my accounts exist. So I’m on Twitter @mayagpatterson, and then I’m on Instagram @mayapatterson. I’m not super active there. Maybe I’ll become more active. I don’t know. We gotta see, but usually there.

Maurice Cherry:

I feel like we’re sort of at this time where people are maybe trying to wean themselves off of social media.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:

I don’t know if it’s…well, I think what it is, honestly, is that Twitter has lost its damn mind. And then all these other Twitter clones kind of popped up, and folks are like, “oh, well, now I’m on Threads, now I’m on Spill, now I’m on Spoutible,” and I’m like, I’m not going to be in six different places. I’m going to wait like a year and see if any of these still exist. And then maybe I’ll see like, okay, if I decide to migrate to somethin, because people have asked that about Revision Path. They’re like, “well, why isn’t Revision Path on Threads?” I’m like, “well, I’m squatting on an account, but I don’t think I’m going to ever really use it.” But we’ll see how things work out.

Maya Gold Patterson:

I know. It’s interesting. It’s in a really interesting space. I don’t know where it’s going to net out. I think because I’ve worked in social media now for a bit, I know that it’s not good for us. I know mentally it’s not good for us. And so that’s why I had to make the call for myself to quit smoking, which is like quit social media. Realistically, when you have a small business like you do, or any sort of project, using social media is really one of the best tools you have to get your work out there and make connections and stuff. So I think now I’m going to have to probably re-investigate my Instagram or something like that. But yeah, it’s just yuckily…I don’t know, it’s just not good for us to be consuming people’s lives in that sort of way that frequently. And I know I feel much better since I’ve been off. And when I do go on, it’s like through my desktop for like five minutes. I don’t think that I’m going to be on Twitter for much longer, which is so sad because like I said, I loved Twitter, but I don’t believe in anything that’s going on there. So I probably got to delete that, I guess Threads is kind of left or Spill.

Maurice Cherry:

Yeah, I’m going to just wait and see. I mean, I talked about this on another episode, but I was like back in 2006, 2007, a bunch of Twitter clones popped up and there was like Yammer, there was Pownce, there was Jaiku… there were a bunch of them. And then within like a year or two’s time, they all either looked at other markets — like Plurk is, I think, huge in Taiwan — or they got bought out by a bigger company and then got closed down, or they just shut down. I don’t wanna…I think the way I said it in the last interview, I said, if Elon Musk is the problem, I don’t know if Mark Zuckerberg is the answer.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Oh, I know that’s right.

Maurice Cherry:

So maybe there might be just an option to divest altogether.

Maya Gold Patterson:

Maybe I think that there should be. I actually have thought about this as like a potential project, but more on that later. But yeah, get ourselves out of it. You know what I’ve been doing though, instead of scrolling? You know what I’ve been spending my time doing recently?

Maurice Cherry:

What’s that?

Maya Gold Patterson:

I’ve been going to the public library.

Maurice Cherry:

Okay!

Maya Gold Patterson:

I’ve been going to the public library, which is an incredible resource that is actually inspiring and gives you a lot of content for free that is not destructive to your mental wellness and health. And it’s been so…I like go there regularly and check out books and I spend so much time reading now, it feels really nice. I would encourage people to do that.

Maurice Cherry:

You heard it folks; support your local library. Maya Gold Patterson, thank you so, so much for coming on the show. One. It’s just great to have you back on the show, but then also just to have seen your glow up over the years, to see how you have grown as a person, as a designer, I mean, I’m going to be really excited to see what is next for you. And I’m so glad that you were able to come on the show, especially on the heels of such a big life change, to talk about sort of what that means in the greater context of your career and everything. So thank you so much for coming on the show.

Maya Gold Patterson:

I appreciate oh, thank you, Maurice. And thank you for creating this safe space. I mean, I am so happy. Like, you’re essentially the first place that I get to even share this news with. So just thank you for that and being always so warm and open, keep doing what you’re like. Your type of energy is what this world needs.

Maurice Cherry:

Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world. They are always looking to expand their roster of freelance design consultants in the U.S., particularly brand strategists, copywriters, graphic designers and Web developers.

If you know how to deliver excellent creative work reliably, and enjoy the autonomy of a virtual-based, freelance life (with no non-competes), check them out at brevityandwit.com.

The Mailbag Episode

After years of asking questions to designers and developers all over the world, now I’m in the hot seat! For this special mailbag episode, I answer your questions about Revision Path that you sent in from our website and via social media. (And I have to say, you all definitely asked me some hard questions!)

How long does it take to put together a podcast episode, and have I ever had to take an episode down? What happened to our design anthology RECOGNIZE? Why did we have Facebook as a sponsor? What are my thoughts on AIGA? And why do we charge for job listings? Listen to this episode for the answers to these questions, and several others. Keep sending us your questions, and I may do another one of these episodes in the future!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. So this first question is from Jarvis J., and he asks, “how far are you from where you thought Revision Path would be right now?” That’s a great question. I promise not to say that before every question, although these are some great questions that I got in. I would say very far, but also not far at all.

Maurice Cherry:
When I started Revision Path back in 2013, I really wanted it to be kind of an online magazine. And then, I’d say probably within the first year or so of doing Revision Path and trying to keep it on a fairly regular schedule of it being an online magazine, I discovered it was just easier to make it a podcast. I could turn it around much quicker and stay on a schedule. I would say just that first transition was more than what I thought it would be when I started doing this whole project.

Maurice Cherry:
But as far as like where we are right now, and if we’re far from where I think I wanted to be, I would say yes. I mean, we’ve been doing this podcast now for almost nine years. I think it’s been a good, steady resource in the industry. Like people are always coming to Revision Path for one reason or another, whether it’s finding out about black designers or placing a job or something like that, and I think that’s been good. However, there are bigger things I would love to do with the show. And we’ve sort of over the years had opportunities to do some of those things, but just not on a consistent basis. For example, live shows.

Maurice Cherry:
We did our first live show in 2017. That was here in Atlanta. We did it with Facebook Design, and that was a great show. We did our 300th episode in New York City at The Greene Space back in 2019. That was good. And in 2020, actually we were planning to do a live tour across the U.S., in conjunction with different chapters of AIGA. So we were going to start in Los Angeles, and then do, and not necessarily in this order, but I’m going from west to east, but doing Seattle, Houston, Little Rock, Chicago, Atlanta, D.C., New York. That was the plan, because I had talked to people from each of these chapters. We had talked about doing some kind of programming. I was going to just basically pay out pocket to go to each of these places, and schedule and do live shows.

Maurice Cherry:
And so we did the first live show in 2020 in Los Angeles. That was with Roland A. Wiley. We recorded that at Leimert Park in Los Angeles, and then the coronavirus happened. And then once that happened, the flights got canceled, plans got changed. There was talk of me trying to take these same instances, this tour, I should say, take it online and do digital things. But if you remember spring of 2020, we didn’t know what was happening. The pandemic was just beginning and people were still trying to figure out what all this was and what we were going to do.

Maurice Cherry:
So the thought of sitting at home and doing a live event on Zoom didn’t really vibe well with me. Like I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if I want to do that.” And then also I lost my job because of the pandemic in May of 2020. So I was like, “Yeah, I really don’t want to do it now.” There are bigger goals I have. For a while in the past, Revision Path had a blog. We had a blog with fairly regular entries from guest writers. I would love to continue to do that. I would love to do live shows again, once it’s safe for us to congregate in that way. And I’ve even thought of ways that Revision Path could maybe branch out more and do more video things.

Maurice Cherry:
I can tell you this, last year there was…or there are plans, I should say, because they’re still on the table, to do some sort of a live video show with Revision Path, like on Twitch or something like that. I think at one point we were talking about doing it with Facebook, and doing it on their Facebook Watch platform. But now Facebook book is Meta, and they’re doing stuff with the metaverse. And so that kind of fell through a little bit. So I would say right now my goal is just to keep hitting these milestones with the podcast.

Maurice Cherry:
We’ll hit episode 450 this year. We’ll hit episode 475 this year. We’ll hit episode 500 next year. And then of course next year will also be Revision Path’s 10th anniversary. Do I have plans for those things yet? No. I should probably start thinking about that since it’s going to be coming up sooner rather than later. I’d say just in terms of the initial idea of Revision Path with it being this online magazine, and now to it being this sort of steady staple in the design industry for us to have the respect of design organizations, tech startups, tech companies, et cetera, for it to be in the Smithsonian, I would say, is very far from where I thought Revision Path would be. I hope that answers your question.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Our next question here is from K.B. who asks, “how long does it take to put together an episode of the podcast?” How long does it take? It varies, because putting together the episode, if we’re just talking about postproduction from when I finished the interview up to when I get it back from RJ, who is our editor, I would say it roughly takes a week. But the thing is, I record so far in advance that RJ just kind of gets to them week by week by week. And so we have a regular production schedule. I record the intro and outro every week. So we record that in the beginning of the week, I pass it on to him. He already has the raw interview file. He does his edits, gets it back to me. I get a transcript done, upload everything, and it’s good to go.

Maurice Cherry:
So usually in the postproduction stage, takes about a week. If we’re talking about everything before that, also kind of adding into it, I would say that also will vary, because when the guest books on the show, that’s usually everything that I need to go ahead and get started with the actual interview for the episode. So I’ll do my research. I’ll put together a few bullet points. Then I have the guest on the show. We do the interview.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, I’ll put it like this, the time that we book for the interview is roughly 90 minutes. 90 minutes doesn’t mean that we use everything in that 90 minute. We may use probably only about an hour or so of that audio, but I do 90 minutes, one, to handle any sort of technical difficulties that might arise on my end or on their end. Sometimes maybe they’re not in a super quiet space, or there’s like mic issues or headphone issues. We work those out before we start recording.

Maurice Cherry:
And then when the guest is ready, I let them know I’m about to start recording. We do the recording, we do it all the way through, hopefully, fingers crossed. I’d say now it’s much better. Sometimes we would have issues with the recorder that I use or with Skype or with the guest internet connection or with my internet connection. There can always be things that go wrong. But within that 90 minute timeframe, I’ve got everything I need to go ahead and send off to RJ to start to get the episode together.

Maurice Cherry:
While I’m doing the interview, I also will take notes, like edit notes to say like, here’s a timestamp where I coughed, or here’s a timestamp where the guest dropped something or something like that. And he edits through all of those and it’s good to go. Roughly the interview portion, including everything else, I would say it takes about like a week or so to put an episode together. I try to do them in advance because I’m also scheduling them around different events that might be happening, or trying to see which episode can I place in this spot for maximum reach or that sort of thing. So it kind of varies, but roughly about a week, I would say.

Maurice Cherry:
I’d say the quickest turnaround I’ve done on an interview has been maybe a couple of days. Like we record, I get it to RJ, he gets it back to me, and then we have everything together. But if I’ve got everything that I need to get started, and we request with the guests, we get that going, we record it, I send it off to RJ, get the transcripts, all that stuff, roughly about a week to put an episode together. And then it’s out for the world to hear.

Maurice Cherry:
Ryan B. asks, “have you ever had to take down an episode for any reason?” So luckily within the 430+ archive of Revision Path episodes, I have never had to take down an episode; knock on wood about that. I’d say 99% of what I record with the guests ends up in the final episode. We’ll edit out a cough or a sneeze or something like that, but there’s very few episodes that I’ve had to really aggressively edit.

Maurice Cherry:
And to that end, because everything that we talk about goes in the show, and the guest has reviewed it and everything, we have not had to take any of those down. Now, what has happened, I’d say in recent years is that we will get people who will write to the show leaving, I would say the equivalent of a negative Yelp review about the guests, but not about what the guests said on the show.

Maurice Cherry:
So it’s never about what they said on the show or what I said on the show or our conversation or our topics, but they will leave a negative review about their personal interaction with the guest, and using that as justification for why I should remove the interview, which I never do. If you had a negative run-in with this guest for one reason or another, that’s on you. That has nothing to do with the episode that I’ve done.

Maurice Cherry:
And usually these are for like old episodes too. Like ones I’ve done maybe 3, 4, 5 years ago. There’s someone that sort of comes out the woodwork and is like, “Hey, this person said this thing to me or did this thing to me. I don’t know why you have them featured on your website. You should take it down.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not going to take it down. That’s a problem you had with them. That has nothing to do with what I talked about with them, or anything like that.” So I don’t take those down.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, it’s a different story with 28 Days of the Web. 28 Days of the Web is our sister site, 28daysoftheweb.com. We do these profiles for every day in Black history month in February, where we profile a different Black designer or developer or something. I have had to take quite a few of those down for different reasons. The biggest reason being that the person just doesn’t want to be recognized.

Maurice Cherry:
None of the information that I have when I put those profiles together is coming from like some secret private place. Like it comes from their public LinkedIn, their public website. I’m getting that information from there, so I’m not creating anything myself. Like it’s all from them. And so they’ll see it and they’ll say, “Oh, well thank you for the honor, but I want you to take this down.” And so I’ll take it down in that instance, because it is something that I’m doing to recognize people that I may, for one reason or another, not have on the show, because I haven’t reached out to them, or…I have a long list of people, like potential folks that I could have on the show. I think it’s maybe about 2,500 people at this point.

Maurice Cherry:
So everyone that I have on the show that I could talk to, I can’t have because we just do it every week. And so some of those people will end up becoming 28 Days of the Web profiles. I mean, even if you go back all the way to 2014 when we started that, you’ll see some of those people have been guests on the show eventually. Have not had to take down a podcast episode, but I have had to take down a 28 Days of the Web profile here and there.

Maurice Cherry:
This next message is from Jordana T. who asks, “what’s the biggest blessing in disguise you’ve gotten from Revision Path?” I’d say the biggest blessing in disguise is probably the rooms that Revision Path is mentioned in that I’m not a part of. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I’ve done this now for a long time. I’ve interviewed a lot of people, and those people will talk to other people who talk to other people.

Maurice Cherry:
There’s oftentimes I’ll be researching something for work or anything like that, and I run across someone who’s like, “Oh yeah, I know you. You’re from such and such.” I think that’s probably been the biggest blessing in disguise is knowing that the work that I’ve done is being mentioned in other rooms and other places without me necessarily having to be in them. That’s probably the biggest thing.

Maurice Cherry:
I think the other biggest blessing in disguise for me is the network that I’ve been able to build, just personally and professionally. Interviewing all these people has gotten me an in with different companies in different ways, whether that’s for sponsorship purposes, whether that’s for consulting or any number of other things. I’ve been able to get my foot in the door so I can say, oh yeah, I know someone at Microsoft. I know someone at Dropbox. I know someone at Meta, or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
And that’s not to say it in a braggy sort of name-droppy sort of way, but it is a blessing in disguise to be able to have that one-on-one access to someone who could possibly get me access to someone else. I think that’s been the biggest kind of a blessing from the show. Doing this interview-based show is always good.

Maurice Cherry:
Another big blessing in disguise is honestly just the fact that so many people are appreciative of hearing these conversations. Like I will get messages from people who are just glad that they found this as a resource, whether it’s through their own research, or a friend or a colleague of theirs is on it. Like hearing back from people, what they thought about the show or what they thought about the interviews, and how much of a help it’s been to them has been a real blessing. Knowing that I’m putting something out there in the world that, yes, is educational, and that you’re learning about these people, but is also inspirational.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m glad that people are finding that inspiration from listening to these stories and listening to people and learning about what they do and being able to expand their own kind of personal knowledge of black designers and the work that black designers can do. Yeah. That’s kind of been the biggest blessing in disguise from doing this whole thing.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Next up is this question from Rosie. Rosie asks, “how come some of the podcasts have transcripts and others don’t? When will that be fixed?” The simple question is that some podcasts don’t have transcripts because I don’t have the money to pay to get them transcribed. That’s the easiest way to answer that question.

Maurice Cherry:
We do have an accessibility sponsor that we’ve had now probably for the past year, which is this great studio in D.C. called Brevity & Wit. When we were part of the Glitch Media Network back in 2019, we had podcasts for a couple of episodes, well, not a couple, for a lot of episodes. And those are the ones I think in the like 250 to maybe 340 range of episodes, those have transcripts. But no, all of the podcasts do not have transcripts.

Maurice Cherry:
We use a service called Rev, R-E-V, to do our transcripts. And they’re roughly, I think it’s like a $1.25 a word or something like that. So you can imagine with 400 plus episodes, that’s a lot of money to transcribe all of those episodes. Now, if you are a company out there who would love to sponsor us so we can get all of our episodes transcribed, I would love that. Like please hit me up. I would love to make that happen.

Maurice Cherry:
But no, because of that, that’s why some of the podcasts do have transcripts, some of them don’t. One of the goals I would love to have is to have the entire archive transcribed, but that is probably going to happen way off in the future. That’s something that we have to have the funds to be able to do. I do know that now there are these sorts of automated services where you can send them a MP3 or an audio file of some sort and they’ll spit out a transcript. They sort of do this speech to text kind of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
But what I find with those is that the transcripts that you get back, unless you’re speaking in absolute like perfect English, they are always going to be messed up. Like with Rev, I know that there are real people that are transcribing them. So there are certain words and things that they’ll pick up on and spell correctly.

Maurice Cherry:
If I use one of these automated services, by the time I get all those transcripts back, I’d have to then probably go through all of them individually to make sure the words that were said were right, especially if we’re talking about interviews that have slang terms in them, or the names of companies or things like that, that will be hard to spell out. I guess that would be hard for an AI to kind of figure out, but a human could figure it out. That’s why not all the episodes have transcripts, but that is something in the future I would love to do. And if you’re a company that’s listening and wants to sponsor us to make that happen, I am all ears. Hit me up.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, this is a really good question. This one is from Cole M. Cole asks, “what are your thoughts now about AIGA? In early episodes, it seems like you didn’t like the organization, but you’ve also worked with them in the past. And now you have the new president of AIGA as a guest on the show, which is it?” Okay. Fair enough. I would say I probably still continue to have a complicated relationship with AIGA. Part of that complication, I’d say it comes in waves.

Maurice Cherry:
Back when I was starting out as a designer in the like mid-2000s, and trying to really become a part of the design community in Atlanta, I did reach out to AIGA Atlanta several times, and never really heard anything back. They never responded to my emails. I would go to events. I would feel out of place at events and things like that. And so it wasn’t until, one, I started this podcast. And two, they saw that I was doing work with AIGA National, that the local chapter here started to pay attention to me.

Maurice Cherry:
I’d say probably the most egregious example of that is when I spoke at HOW Design Live here in 2016, and the president of AIGA Atlanta at the time had reached out to me, and was like, “Oh my God, I feel like I should know who you are. I don’t know who you are. You’re one of two Atlanta people that are speaking in this conference. We should get to know each other.” Which I was like, “Whatever.” Super transparent. We didn’t know who you were before, but now that you’re hot, we kind of want to know more about you, that sort of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
Like Cole said, I have volunteered with AIGA. I was on their national diversity and inclusion task force for three years. Did a lot of work there. Ended up making my exit from the organization. And then a few years after that decided to cancel my membership with AIGA. I do have a complicated relationship in that respect. I’d say within the past, what…almost 10 years now? I’ve seen AIGA go through now three executive directors. Like I knew Ric Grefé back when I started the show. I knew Julie Anixter, who was the executive director, and I still keep in contact with. And I know Bennie, Bennie F. Johnson, who was our 375th episode guest, who was the new executive director of AIGA, not the president.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ve had relationships with each of them. Bennie and I actually talk fairly regularly outside of podcast stuff. I would say Bennie, and this is to the organization as a whole, I mean, it’s over a hundred years old, and they have not done a great job with keeping up with the times. I think anyone that is a modern designer, particularly if you’re a product designer or a UX designer that came about in the past 10 years, like AIGA doesn’t really have any relevance for you.

Maurice Cherry:
And that’s partially the organization’s fault with not really keeping up, in that respect, with the trends of where the design community has gone. I think they are starting to make those changes now, and starting to become more of a professional organization that offers services and access and information of things that are of importance to current working designers. I can say they did not offer that before.

Maurice Cherry:
So like there’s different conferences and webinars. There’s like continuing education courses and things you can get now through AIGA. They’re really trying to turn things around. I’ll say from the time that I have worked with AIGA, I’ve even been to the headquarters in New York. Recorded, not an episode there, but I did record an interview there. Got to sit in the AIGA boardroom, and talk to people. They’re a small organization. I’ll say that they’re may be about 25 to 30 people. So they’re not this like massive group. They’re a small organization that happens to have these different chapters across the country. And each chapter kind of operates independently, for the most part, of AIGA headquarters.

Maurice Cherry:
And so a lot of people’s, I think experience with AIGA, particularly through their chapter, is what colors their perception about the organization as a whole. Certainly that was the case with me. Now that I’ve worked both with local and with national, yeah, I have kind of a conflicted relationship. Am I an AIGA member now? No, I’m not. But I do think that they are starting to become an organization that is doing what needs to be done for the modern designer now, which is really be not just an educational resource, but I think also becoming a resource that is important to the design business community.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ll give you an example. In Canada, there is a organization called RGD, which is kind of, I don’t want to say Canada’s answer to AIGA, but it is a professional organization for graphic designers in Canada. And a lot of employers in Canada really look at your RGD membership as a good thing to have on your resume, or something like that. So if you take the skills tests and things that RGD has, and you are able to put those on your resume, then it means you’re a designer of a certain caliber.

Maurice Cherry:
Whereas I think if you’re an AIGA member and you put that on your resume, it probably doesn’t mean anything to most companies. They probably have never even heard of AIGA, or know why it’s important, or why hiring an AIGA member is a benefit over hiring someone who is not an AIGA member. Those are things that I think the organization still is trying to work out for itself. Those are kind of my thoughts on AIGA.

Maurice Cherry:
I think it’s still an organization that is doing great things. Like many other companies and organizations, they’re trying to find a way through this pandemic, because AIGA does and continues to do a good number of in-person events and things like that. It’s just different when you can’t congregate like you used to. Like how do you have the big AIGA design conference, for example, that’s like a four or five day event, how do you have that when everyone’s at home? You bring it online. And so they’ve managed to bring it online and make it more accessible to more people.

Maurice Cherry:
And now that they’re using online as kind of that event space, they’re able to have other types of events that they can spin up for different sort of niche parts of the design community. They’re doing what they can. I am still not a member, like I said before, but I think they are taking steps in the right direction to make the organization more of what it needs to be for the modern designer.

Maurice Cherry:
Sarah Z. asks, “why are you charging for job postings? The job board on Where Are The Black Designers is free, so I don’t understand why I should post a job here instead of there.” Okay. So I debated on whether or not I was going to include this question in the episode, because it’s a question, but it’s also actually a very common gripe that I get from companies that write to the show. So I figured this would be a good public way to say what I’m already saying privately to many companies.

Maurice Cherry:
I understand that companies are trying to diversify where they post their listings. It’s something certainly I think that has been a thing that’s been present in the industry, but especially after the kind of “summer of racial reckoning” in 2020, a lot of companies were like, oh, we need to seek out the black voices and where the black people are and blah, blah, blah, and all this all kind of stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
So, I get that. And people will look at Revision Path, they’ll look at other black/POC focused job boards, like Where Are The Black Designers, or People of Color in Tech…there’s a number of them. There’s actually a lot of them now more than there used to be. Some of them do allow you to post for free. Some do have a charge that’s associated with it.

Maurice Cherry:
When I started the job board, which I think was back in maybe 2015, 2016, I think, the price was $99. So it has not changed the entire time that I’ve had the job board. Actually, what we did, I want to say around 2016, 2017, was we started to offer lower priced job to your listings based on the type of job that you were posting. So, full-time and part-time jobs were $99, but if it was say an internship or a contract gig or a freelance gig, it would be $49. So we would make it half price.

Maurice Cherry:
And what I found was that people didn’t even want to pay the $49. They expected it to be free. A lot of people expect some kind of discounts. Like I will have multi-billion dollar organizations that will contact me and want a discount on a $99 job posting. Usually they want it for free. But when I say it’s $99, they want to know if there’s any discounts. I don’t offer discounts. Like I keep the price low to make it accessible. I know that if I were to have it for free, everyone would post jobs here, which is not to say that’s a bad thing. But then on the back end, I would have to spend so much extra time trying to filter out what’s quality from what’s not. And what I find to be the differentiator for that is putting a cost on the listing.

Maurice Cherry:
The cost is $99. We mention it on the podcast, like three or four times when you post it, depending on when it falls within our production cycle. So it’s getting out to thousands of people worldwide, which I think is a pretty big reach, aside from it just being on our job board. We also used to do a newsletter. We found the newsletter was not very active in terms of people finding out about stuff. So we would just put them right there on the podcast. And actually, if you go to the job board, I think it’s still there. But if you subscribe to RSS feeds, I don’t know if people are still doing RSS feeds in 2022, but you can get a RSS feed to the job board. And then you can get the jobs as they’re posted, like with no delay. So, it’s a big reach.

Maurice Cherry:
And the reason that I have that cost is to make it so I can differentiate between that. There’s this comparison thing in this question that I also wanted to address, which is, why is this black job board free, but this black job board isn’t? Don’t do that. Don’t do that. If you’re a company that’s doing that, don’t do that. Like, one, black people are not a monolith. But two, we’re catering to different, I want to say we are catering to fairly different communities with Where Are The Black Designers does, with Mitzi Okou and what I’m doing with Revision Path.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m sure in the Venn diagram of our two communities, there is some overlap, but it’s not a perfect circle. So to try to compare and say, well, their job board is free, and your job board is $99. What’s the deal with that? I mean, it’s $99 because it’s $99. Also all the proceeds from the job board go right back of the show. Like the money from that pays RJ. It pays our transcripts. It pays for advertising. So it’s not like I’m just pocketing the money. I don’t see any of that money. It’s a direct loop right back into the show.

Maurice Cherry:
So every job listing that we get, yes, it makes sure that it goes out there, but then also it keeps the show alive. I mean, for several years we had a Patreon, and we still have a PayPal where you can donate either on a one time basis or on a monthly basis. But I found those weren’t ways to really keep the show going. The job board really keeps the podcast alive. And so those listings go directly back into the show. So that’s why I charge that much.

Maurice Cherry:
One is quality control. And two, because it’s a source of revenue to keep Revision Path open. Well, I mean, not like it’s closed like a business, but you know what I mean. It keeps the show going. But I will say, the jobs that we get are from all over. There’s educational jobs, there’s private sector, jobs, there’s small businesses, et cetera. We just did this thing last year, where we created kind of like an enterprise type job board sponsorship. So if you wanted to sponsor for like the entire year for one flat price, which is, to be completely transparent, is $2,000. You can post as many jobs as you want to the job board, no problem. You get a code. You can post them all the time.

Maurice Cherry:
One of the current job board sponsors we have is Work & Co, and they post all the time. I’m sure if you’ve listened to this show within the past, what? Maybe like five or six months, there’s been several Work & Co positions that we’ve put up. And they’re a pretty well known reputable agency. As to why we charge for job postings, like I said, one, it’s quality control. Two, it actually keeps the show going. Like it goes directly back into the production of Revision Path. That’s why I do it.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Next. Y’all are giving me some really spicy questions here. I’ll answer them. Anyway. This question is from R.G. who says, or who asks, I should say, “why is Facebook a sponsor of Revision Path? It feels hypocritical given all the harm Facebook has done to this country and this democracy that you would cape for them so hard on this show. Why is that?” Y’all are a trip. Okay. I’ll answer it. I’ll answer it completely honestly.

Maurice Cherry:
Revision Path first came on Facebook’s radar in 2015 back at South by Southwest, when I did the Where are the Black Designers presentation. I did it there. Some people from Facebook were there. They invited me to their Facebook house. For those that don’t know for South by Southwest, it’s this big interactive, film, and music festival that takes place in Austin every year. And so companies, particularly for the interactive part, will rent out spaces like restaurants and things like that, and basically turn it into their base of operations, also known as their house. So you’ll to have like a Facebook house, a Microsoft house, an eBay house, whatever.

Maurice Cherry:
So Facebook had a house there, and I got to meet folks. That is how, from doing that, I ended up not only speaking at Facebook to close out their design lecture series in 2016, but also got to visit the campus, be on the headquarters, record a number of interviews while I was out there. And yes, Facebook has, in the past, financially sponsored Revision Path. Facebook has not been a sponsor of Revision Path since 2018, I think, 2018.

Maurice Cherry:
When we joined the Glitch Media Network, again, I’m trying to be as truthful here. I’m just trying to think of the best way to put it. When we joined that network, the CEO of Glitch, who is Anil Dash, has said a number of very kind of inflammatory things about Mark Zuckerberg, who is of course the CEO of Facebook. And so let’s just say that that didn’t really mesh well, the fact that we were joining this network, and Facebook is like, yeah, you know what? They kind of just gave me the silent treatment.

Maurice Cherry:
So for the year that we were on the Glitch Media Network, Facebook was no longer sponsoring. I think there was conversations and opportunities around re-upping that sponsorship in 2020, but then with the pandemic and everything, it all just kind of fell through. We were even at one point, and this is kind of leading up to our 300th episode, we were going to do that episode at Facebook’s headquarters in New York, and had been talking about it.

Maurice Cherry:
The team that I had at the time — shout out to TK and Deanna and Britt — yhe team I had at the time had even went to Facebook’s campus in New York to scout it out for the event, but it ended up falling through. We ended up getting The Greene Space. The rest is history. I’ve had conversations with folks from Facebook since then. Facebook is now Meta, but Meta is a huge organization. Even the people who I talk to back in 2015 have moved on from the company, or they’re in other parts of the company. So I have to speak to like a whole new person about what Revision Path is and why it’s important. So I often have to like plead my case to them several times.

Maurice Cherry:
And after a while it’s just like, well, why even bother? Especially once we joined the Glitch Media Network in 2019, and that wasn’t a fit in terms of being on the network of a company that has openly disparaged the sponsor. Kind of not the best thing to do. I’ve had conversations with folks from Facebook. I mean, of course we’ve had still people from Facebook on the show, but they have not been a sponsor for a minute, Facebook/Meta. I mean, even at the top of the year, we had Charlene Atlas, who was a researcher at Meta Labs, their Reality Labs. Yeah, that went fine, but that was not a sponsored thing. We haven’t spent Facebook’s money on this show in years, but I appreciate that people are, I guess, calling me out in a way, or calling the show out for that sort of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
I do appreciate that because it keeps me honest. It makes sure that the audience knows like this is where we stand in terms of like certain issues and things of that nature. But no, Facebook/Meta has not been a sponsor for a long time. I could see how, that sort of hypocritical remark, I could see where that would come from, particularly because we were taking their money during the time of like Cambridge Analytica and all that sort of stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
So I get that, but a lot of that information came out after we had already took and spent the money. So like, I can’t unspent the money and give it back to them. But I also never told them like, we are no longer sponsoring. They just sort of moved on, especially once Facebook themselves got into podcasting. I think, and I’m speculating here, so if you work for Facebook and this is the case, don’t come after me, but I’m speculating that once they got into podcasting themselves, they’re like, “well, why are we sponsoring shows?” That kind of fell through. And to be honest, I haven’t pursued it since then.

Maurice Cherry:
Rob asks, “I have a question, but it’s about something related to Revision Path, RECOGNIZE. What happened to it? And is it coming back this year?” I’ll answer that second question first, which it is not coming back this year. I’m not sure when RECOGNIZE is coming back. I do want it to come back, but it’s not coming back this year. As far as what happened to it, tail as old as time, we don’t have the money to put RECOGNIZE on. That’s kind of the biggest reason behind it.

Maurice Cherry:
The first year that we did RECOGNIZE, we received a grant from InVision from their Design Forward Fund, and that allowed us, one, the opportunity to pay the illustrator and to pay the writers for their finished edited submissions. But then it also meant that it would have the audience of InVision on their blog, which I think is called Design Together, I believe is what it’s called. So we had that big kind of megaphone and platform for the first year of doing RECOGNIZE.

Maurice Cherry:
The second year, we started it in 2019. The theme in 2019 was Space. And then we started in 2020, and the year, the theme for 2020 was Fresh, I believe. The pandemic kind of put just a big rain cloud over the entire kind of, I don’t even want to call it a competition, because it’s not a competition, but it put big rain cloud over the entire process, because people aren’t thinking about trying to submit to a design anthology when they’re just learning about this virus and how it’s spreading and what they can do to try to protect themselves from it.

Maurice Cherry:
We did receive a fair number of submissions, but what happened was we got, I think we got down to six, that were kind of good ones that I wanted to move forward with. And then four of them completely just dropped out of the process. They were like, “I don’t have time for this. I’m too stressed. I’m too this.” Which I completely understand. And we ended up just proceeding that year with two authors, Regine Gilbert and Kahlil Crawford, I believe is his last name. And we published those. Those two ended up also getting republished in A List Apart. Shout out to Aaron Gustafson, who’s the editor-in-chief over at A List Apart for helping to make that happen.

Maurice Cherry:
But the interest, because of the pandemic kind of died out. Plus I had just lost my job. I was paying for all of this out of pocket, like out of savings and everything. So it just got to the point where it’s like, oh, this is a lot. And even as I thought about the third year, I wanted the theme for 2021 to be Reboot. And we had made graphics for it and did a campaign. I think the open time was like three months, which is the largest submission period that RECOGNIZE has ever had, to give people enough time.

Maurice Cherry:
And we got a number of submissions. And then after reading through all the submissions we got, I didn’t feel any of them were good enough to kind of move forward on. There were like three or four that I’m like, well, maybe if we shifted this and changed this. But then just kind of stepping back and looking at the entire process with how much it was going to cost and how much time it was going to take to work with these authors. And the fact that these submissions were just not really up to the quality that we used to get. The quality really decreased from year to year of the submissions.

Maurice Cherry:
So I made the executive decision in 2021 to just put the hiatus on RECOGNIZE. One, because, like I said, the quality just wasn’t that great. I mean, it’s hard to put out a design anthology of essays when the essay prompts that you’re getting, or the essay submissions you’re getting have nothing to do with the theme that we put forward. Like the theme was reboot, and we were getting just basically things that people wrote about whatever they wanted to. They wrote about nothing that had to do with design. They just wrote stuff. Some people sent in designs, which… it’s a literary anthology, so you don’t need to send me something visual. So the quality just was really not that great.

Maurice Cherry:
And then looking at how much it was going to cost in terms of editing, paying the illustrator, paying the writers, I was like, “Yeah, I just don’t have the money for this.” So we didn’t have a sponsor or anything lined up for it. And so that’s why I ended up putting it kind of on hold. One of the things I would love to do in the future is bring it back, but bring it back in like an actual printed form. I’m working on a project right now, at the job where I’m at, where we’re making an actual magazine, like a print magazine. And so I’m able to work with printers and see how much it costs and all the kind of behind the scenes stuff that goes into making a print magazine.

Maurice Cherry:
And I’m like, I think RECOGNIZE would be great as like an annual digest of some sort, but that would require, I think, many more submissions, many more quality submissions, in order to make that happen. Not to mention the price to print and ship, which was much less than I thought it would be once I really started doing research. That’s what happened with RECOGNIZE.

Maurice Cherry:
The quality of the submissions greatly decreased. The pandemic I think just took a lot of wind out of people’s sales for wanting to contribute to something like this. And I didn’t have the funds to really keep it going on my own. If we get a sponsor that’s able to make it happen, then maybe we’ll bring it back. To answer that second part of your question, again, it is the not coming back this year, and I don’t know when it will come back in the future, but it will come back. I do want to bring it back, I just don’t know when.

Maurice Cherry:
Medina D. asks, “I recommended a friend of mine to be a guest on the podcast. When are you going to interview them?” So this particular guest that Medina is talking about, I’m not going to say who the guest is, but I have already reached out to them, just waiting for them to hopefully respond, and we can make that happen. But I do want to sort of pull the curtain a little bit back on how we have guests on the show and how this process works. Because I would say within the past maybe year, maybe the past two years, I’ve gotten a lot of people who want to come on the show who it’s very clear they’ve never heard the show before at all. And the only reason that they want to be on the show is because it’s a black podcast.

Maurice Cherry:
I will get any number of people in a number of different fields. Many of them not even designers. I’ll get nonprofit CEOs. I’ll get marketing people. I’ll get authors of business books, all want to come on the show and talk about my book. Oh, I want to come on the show and talk about this project that I’m doing, and it doesn’t fit with the tenor of the show. They’ll say they’re a big fan. And I’m like, well, clearly you’re not a big fan because you would know that we don’t cover this sort of stuff on the show.

Maurice Cherry:
I’d also say probably the interesting thing is that many of these people who do this are also not black. Is it a black show? Yes. Because I’m a black host and I talk to black guests, and that’s the thing about the show. Like I talk to black designers and black tech people too, but I try to be very deliberate in that, because what will happen sometimes is that I think, one, because Revision Path has been around a long time. And because we do kind of straddle between design and tech, Revision Path is often miscategorized as a show for people that it’s not even about.

Maurice Cherry:
So like for example, people will say, oh, well, Revision Path is a show about black designers in Silicon Valley. It’s not. It’s not. It’s not geographically specific in that way. Or people will say, well, Revision Path is a show that talks to BIPOC creatives. We don’t talk to BIPOC creatives. We talk to Black designers, creatives, artists, that sort of thing. So I have to be very deliberate in that, because oftentimes Revision Path just gets lumped into the overall “diversity in tech,” or, I guess diversity in design conversations too, but in a way that makes people think that they can just come on the show for whatever reason, even if they don’t fit sort of what the guest roster is, or what the theme of the show is about.

Maurice Cherry:
When I do have guests on, I try to let them know that even if there is a particular project that they want to plug, the interview is not just about the thing you want to plug. Like we’re not that kind of show. First of all, because I record in advance, like up to a month in advance. Like by the time you hear the interview, it’s been at least a month or so since we’ve had that conversation. It’s hard for me to do really timely things. And I do that on purpose to keep our production schedule pretty lean in that respect.

Maurice Cherry:
But secondly, if you just come on the show and it’s all about, here’s the one thing that I’ve done, that doesn’t make sense in the entire archive of the whole show, because it’s about people’s individual journeys as designers, as developers, et cetera, et cetera, not about this one thing they did this one time with this one company that they worked with. It doesn’t become this sort of evergreen sort of thing, if you just want to come on and talk about one particular thing.

Maurice Cherry:
But I don’t know. I think Revision Path has ended up in some PR database, because I get all kinds of folks that are like, “Oh, I want this person to be on my show. And they’ve done this, this and this.” And it’s like, this is a white man. Why would I have them on the show? You looked at the guests, do you see that I have white men on the show? What’s not clicking? I don’t know. They’re clearly not paying attention in that respect.

Maurice Cherry:
But to put a finer point on Medina’s question about the friend that she had said wants to be on the show, oftentimes people will recommend like friends of theirs, colleagues of theirs, et cetera, to be on the show. And I like that. I love to get that sort of warm referral. What I will ask is that if you do that, please supply enough information to me, so I don’t have to hunt down who this person is. Like for example, someone will say, “Oh, I’ve got a really good friend who should be a guest on the show. Respond back and I’ll tell you who it is.” I’m not going to do that. Why don’t you just tell me who it is instead of having to play this kind of back and forth game.

Maurice Cherry:
Or they’ll give very little information like, oh my friend Alan would be a great designer. Okay. Alan who? Does Alan have a last name? Do you have a link to Alan’s website or LinkedIn, so I can find out more information about this person whom you’re recommending? Make my job a little easier by giving me the information, especially if this is like a friend or a colleague of yours that you want on the show. Like, help them out. Like help me out, but help them out too, to make sure that that information is correct.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, when I do outreach, and I guess this is sort of branching out from your question a little bit, Medina, but when I do outreach, I try to make sure that I connect via email. One, because I just have my one inbox, and it’s just easier for me to manage it that way. If you’re a designer that’s got a contact form or something like that, just make sure that it works. I can’t tell you how many times I go to a person that I would love to interview, and I go to their website, and there’s absolutely no way to contact them. There’s no social media links. The contact form doesn’t work. There’s no email address listed. It’s like, how am I supposed to reach out to you?

Maurice Cherry:
And maybe they don’t want to be reached out to, which is fine. That is totally something that you can do, that people can do. I don’t feel any sort of negative way about that, because for a while in my career I was very much the same way. I’m like, “Don’t talk to me, just let me do my work.” But it becomes harder when there’s not really an easy way to contact the person, or I don’t have enough information for me to do even preliminary research to see if this person would be a good fit.

Maurice Cherry:
Also because I do record very far in advance. Just because you send me this person’s name, I may not get to them for months, because I already have other people whom I’ve reached out to, or there’s just other folks in the queue. So it may take me a while to finally get around to that person, but I’ll get onto them eventually. I have a long list of about, I think I mentioned this earlier, maybe about 2000 to 2,500 people, that I could reach out to. Like I go through that list pretty regularly when it comes to reaching out to folks because I’ve been keeping the list now for nine years, and I’m continually adding to it and such. And so I make sure that when people recommend folks, I do move them to the top of the list.

Maurice Cherry:
I’d also say, let that person know that you are recommending them. So that way if I reach out to them, it’s not this, well, who are you? And what is this show? And blah, blah, blah, that kind of thing, because then it’s weird. It’s like, okay, well your friend recommended me, or your colleague recommended you to come on the show, and they often don’t even know. So like, let your friend know, copy them on the email or something. Help them out as well. But yes, to Medina, I did reach out to your friend. If they happen to get back to me, I would love to have them on the show. Let them know that I reached out to them, and then they can respond, and we can make that happen.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. We’ve got time for one last question, and this comes from Maya W. who asks, “you always ask a guest where they see themselves in the next five years, where do you want Revision Path to be in the next five years?” My overall aspiration for Revision Path is to grow this into becoming a multimedia network. The biggest reason I think is to grow beyond being typecast. I mentioned before about how Revision Path is often kind of misnamed or mislabeled as all these other things that it’s not. Being able to grow Revision Path into a network allows or would allow me more places to really say, this is what this is about.

Maurice Cherry:
What I’m envisioning with this kind of multimedia network is we still continue the podcast, because that’s the main keystone of all of this. I’d want to keep that. Maybe expand out to do other types of shows. There are other shows I would love to do. I would love to bring on other hosts on this platform. Maybe acquire some shows, have like a Revision Path network. That would be great. I would love to do something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
I would want to have an editorial arm at Revision Path, where we bring back the blog and have a regular staff of writers. We bring back RECOGNIZE, and make that a printed annual design anthology. And I would even lump 28 Days of the Web into that as well. Like bring that under the whole editorial arm. And then branch out and do video as well. I sort of teased that a little bit, about the possibility of doing some sort of a weekly live show, maybe on Twitch or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
But I also want to do short documentaries or licensed short documentaries, licensed web series, things like that. Basically really build this out so Revision Path becomes kind of a staple in the Black community that deals with design. When I started Revision Path, I’d say probably one of the thing that I really wanted to do was make sure to inform people about who Black designers are. Like why are we doing this? What’s the reasoning behind all of this?

Maurice Cherry:
Part of this also even stems from research that Cheryl Miller, who, AIGA medalist. We’ve had her on the show before. Has talked about her 1985 thesis around basically why is it that there aren’t more Black designers in the industry? And part of that being that a lot of Black parents don’t really understand like what design is, or they think of it as a hobby and not an actual profession.

Maurice Cherry:
And so one of my hopes with expanding Revision Path into being this multimedia network is to provide enough information so people know like what design is. Like the black community knows like this is what design is. These are all the different sorts of things that you can do. And it’s as viable of an option to go into as if you were to go into medicine or to go into sports or to go into engineering or whatever. You just have more information.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, granted there’s been a lot of talk and initiatives and things around STEM. Arts kind of gets lost in that. Sometimes it’s lumped in as STEAM as opposed to STEM, so the A gets thrown in there. But I want Revision Path to be this multimedia network that really lets people know that creativity in the Black design industry of course is something that we’re known for. These are the types of people that are doing it. These are the positions that are available. These are career paths that you can take. Basically just provide more information.

Maurice Cherry:
Like I’ve been very fortunate that I know that the show is even taught in some schools. Current designers are learning about this show and learning about the people on this show to help inform them as designers when they get out there in the world and create new things. Imagine the kind of reach that Revision Path can have if we’re able to do that through more ways than just this podcast.

Maurice Cherry:
Podcasting is great, don’t get me wrong, but I also realize that the platform is the barrier to getting out to more people, because everyone’s not going to listen to a podcast. They may watch a YouTube video. They may read an article or something like that, and so to allow Revision Path the space to grow into those particular types of media would be great. Next five years I’d want to do that.

Maurice Cherry:
And of course be able to do Revision Path full time. Like right now Revision Path is very much still my nights and weekends project, because I work a nine-to-five job. I would love to do Revision Path full time, and have the sustainable revenue from patrons and from companies and from sponsorships to be able to really do this full time and really crank out a bunch of great stuff. It’s not still just me, because I do have a small team, but to even be able to expand that team out to do more would be great.

Maurice Cherry:
Next five years, I hope to be there. I am putting things in place to make that happen. I just brought on a sponsorship director to help with getting more funds in for the show. And turn that revenue into these things that I want Revision Path to eventually become. I’ve got a plan for it, I just have to try to work the plan, and hopefully within the next five years we will be there, and you will be there too.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

We’ve had several people from Facebook on Revision Path before, but this week’s conversation with Dr. Quaneisha Penha is a special one. As a user experience researcher, her work spans many of the industries and disciplines that make up the Facebook experience.

Quaneisha walked me through her regular routine, which involves interviews, usability testing, and a lot of other methods. She also spoke about her time at Stanford, attending North Carolina A&T for her Masters and Ph.D., and we discussed inclusive design, autonomous vehicles, and juggling her workload with her duties as a new mom. I’m glad to know that researchers like Quaneisha are out there talking to people, analyzing the data, and helping others at Facebook make informed decisions!

Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Maurice Cherry and edited by Brittani Brown. 


➡ Glitch is hiring a design director! Apply today!

It’s a rare occurrence when I get the chance to talk with someone at a crossroads in their career, so this conversation with Isaak Hayes is especially interesting. Isaak has worked in a variety of roles in both large tech business and startups, most notably perhaps as a former product designer at Facebook. We spoke just days before he and his family embarked on their latest adventure — moving to China!

Isaak and I talked about how he first fell in love with design, and he discussed his early career as a UX designer, his work at Salesforce and RealCrowd, and how that prepared him for this current stage in his career. Isaak says that this time in life feels like a rebirth to him — from Seattle to Shenzhen, he is definitely making moves!

Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Maurice Cherry and edited by Brittani Brown.