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

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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.

Dantley Davis has been a mainstay in the Silicon Valley tech and design community for almost 20 years. His work at PayPal, SAP, Yahoo!, Netflix, and Facebook have all led him to his current role as VP of design and research for one of the most well-known websites in the world — Twitter. So as you can imagine, I had a lot of questions to ask him, and Dantley was gracious enough to give some insight into what he does and on his perspective of the current tech and design industries.

Our wide-ranging conversation touched on a number of topics, but first, Dantley talked a bit about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at Twitter, including the team he leads, diversity and inclusion efforts, how decisions are made at Twitter (such as their latest redesign), and yes…even Black Twitter. Dantley also shared his story of growing up as a military brat, learning to code and landing in San Francisco during the Browser Wars, and spoke on how he stays authentic to himself after being in Silicon Valley for decades. Dantley Davis is a true design leader, and even if you haven’t heard of him before this week’s interview, chances are that you have experienced his work in some small way. He is truly a pioneer in this digital age!

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