MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: MBUGUA KARANJA

Studio IX:                           You ready to dive in?

Mbugua Karanja:                Every doctor says that this won't hurt. 

Studio IX:                        It won't hurt a bit. (laughter) We'll start off easy. Tell us who you are and what it is you do.

Mbugua Karanja:                Cool. My name is Mbugua Karanja, I’m a Business Architect, now with AT&T after they acquired DIRECTV. I help businesses get better at using technology to transform themselves. That’s essentially what I do.

Studio IX:                            What do you enjoy most about it? About the work itself?

Mbugua Karanja:                Making sense of business problems and aligning that to IT. Typically what happens is, you talk to a tech guy. He's got a solution for the problem from his bag of tricks. Most business folks are thinking about the immediate problem, the tactical; “I'm going to fix this right now. I've got to get my sale out the door”, which is great. Those are real world problems. 

What I do is step back and look at those problems from the perspective of what everyone is trying to do. It could be, for example, business unit strategy or goals for the year and I break that down using particular formats and tools to “paint pictures about the business” that reveal the actual problems and relate them to potential tech solutions. If that's what the issue is, I also then put together a plan to address that problem with a price tag to it. I basically help translate business speak to IT and vice versa. I'm like the Rosetta Stone between business and IT. So I enjoy making sense of that and figuring out problems and working with people. 

Studio IX:                  What are you passionate about, and does it relate to your work in some way?

Mbugua Karanja:                Yes it does. I'm passionate about the power of technology to unlock human potential. I saw a great quote the other day that really resonated with me, which was "Talent and skills are equally distributed, but opportunity is not." More and more today, opportunity translates to access to technology. We've got many divides in this world, but here's a new one, the technology divide. My passion is about bridging that technology divide for different parts of the world. I haven't found a way to make that lasting impact yet, but that's sort of my next thing. 

Studio IX:                                Where are you from?

Mbugua Karanja:                 Ah, yes. Kenya.

Studio IX:                                And how did you get here? Had you already started doing this work before arriving in the states.

Mbugua Karanja:                Interesting story, that.  No, I haven’t quite had the nine lives of a cat, but I think I've reinvented myself several times. I was doing something very different before.

Studio IX:                              Talk a bit about it.

Mbugua Karanja:                Ok. Let's rewind a little bit. I'm from Kenya and I came over for my MBA. The plan was, I'll pick the US, never been to the US, been everywhere else mostly. I'll take a two year MBA because I think one year is too quick, so didn't want to go to Europe. Just take my two years, time to press the reset button and once again reinvent myself. Came to CA and the two years went by in a flash, and then I kind of figured out that I did need a job. That happened and I'm still here. So, years later I am still here through a combination of blessings, grace, opportunities and choice. Started a family, formal immigration and all that stuff. 

Studio IX:                            Can you share a memorable story? Something that stands out to you.

Mbugua Karanja:                Yeah, let me see. There are a few. Back in CA I went to a dealers’ conference. And what those dealers do is sell our products in the marketplace. They're not employed by the organization, they have their own businesses, and they basically said, I want products and sell them to make money. They may like the products, but they're really in it for a business. 

So, I had just gotten engaged on this transformation initiative and I spent the previous few weeks listening to stories of the problems we have and what needs to be resolved. I sat down and had lunch with this business owner which led to several meetings afterwards. His version of what the issues are, and what we thought they were, was just night and day. What we thought were their priorities and problems, they couldn't care less about. He helped demystify for me, just how absolutely necessary it is to take the time to ask the right questions of the right people and understand the real problem. Don't come to the table with a solution. Come with an open inquiring mind and a willingness to learn and be willing to take criticism. He had quite some things to say about us, our products, and our focus. The disconnect couldn't' have been wider So it led to very interesting conversations about enlisting their help in assessing what the real problems and the plans needed to bridge that divide.

Studio IX:                             What's an aspect of your work that people might be surprised to know about?

Mbugua Karanja:                I don't think this is surprising, but to me, every so often, I remind myself just how much easier work would be if it wasn't for people.

Studio IX:                            If it wasn't for people?

Mbugua Karanja:                Yeah.

Studio IX:                             They're complex. 

Mbugua Karanja:                It's amazing isn't it? It never ceases to fascinate me. We're just complex creatures, right? We've got our own agendas. We've got our own myopic views and it takes a lot of hand holding, persuading and influencing. I depend a lot on soft skills to get my work done. Extracting information, sharing, analyzing that information and playing it back. That's amazing and people are complex. 

Studio IX:                              Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years? Where do you see your industry?

Mbugua Karanja:                Myself, hopefully I'll have pivoted to a place where I'm able to address what I'm calling the technology divide. Identifying a way to insert myself into that conversation. It's a passion of mine, just because I think it holds back vast sections of the world population. I'm not going to try to go after world problems necessarily, but I do want to make an impact It's interesting when we run it at a very local level e.g. C4K. Seeing their projects and what they can do. That's opening their minds and ours to all the possibilities. They wouldn't have access to that perhaps. That's an example of closing that digital divide, is what I mean.

The industry is going to be an interesting place. There's this famous quote in the industry going back years that software was going to basically end up running a lot of our lives. I think we're already there, and what we'll begin to see, or continue to see in some sense, is a fragmentation of the industry as everybody goes out to get a slice of us as consumers. We'll begin to see also a merging between the experience we have as consumers with our technology and what large corporations expect in the way they do day to day businesses. Expect to see more and more of that. 

I expect to see entry barriers being lowered as it becomes easier to start a business but also a lot more challenging competition, and just the speed of business really to pick up. 

Studio IX:                               How do you think we as humans will adjust? It does feel that things are speeding up more and more. Do you see how that impacts the quality of work that's done, but also the quality of people's experience?

Mbugua Karanja:                I think we'll find that universally, we're probably going to have an inconsistent response to it, and here's why. There's usually different sets of values. One of the things that's playing right now, is people are slowly realizing that if you're getting a product or a service for free, most likely you're the product. That's why our data is so much in demand by all these tech places. There's going to be a push back against this. 

We've seen Europe lead the way in some pretty aggressive action of rules and legislation that basically tell the tech giants what they can and cannot do. This is a hard sell in the US in my view. It’s going to be difficult to get legislators to decide what US businesses can and cannot do. At the same time, I think there's still a reckoning to be had, because we have let technology get away. I think there's going to be that tension at play, and unfortunately, the people we are asking to cure us, are the ones who infected us in the first place. We are no better because we continue taking the poison because it tastes so good. It hurts so good. That’s a reference to an old song by the way. And so, we continue drinking from it and it's a little tough to stop. 

The whole disinformation thing is going to continue being a big deal. And we really have to get over those two things if we're going to have constructive dialog of what to do. But we have let the genie out of the bottle, I don't know how we put it back. I don't know how we do that. 

Studio IX:                             Yeah, I don't either.

Studio IX:                              Final question. What do you enjoy about working here? About being at Studio IX?

Mbugua Karanja:                The people. Fun story about how I ended up being here. When we moved to Charlottesville, you can blame my wife for that, it was her idea. Moved here, she's got her job over at UVA. I'm doing my work from home thing which was remote. She'd come back home, and she walks in through the door, and I’m like, okay, that's it, we're going out because I've been indoors all day talking to myself or being on the phone with other people. I just want to get away and have that interaction, but she just wants to sit at home. She's been out there doing her thing. So, there was this healthy tension for us, I'm not going to say it saved our marriage, but it didn’t hurt it. That’s a good tag line for you by the way…” StudioIX will save your marriage”. 

Studio IX:                              Save your marriage. Beautiful.

Mbugua Karanja:                Because now I don't have to work at home, I can come in, have a place to work, I can meet different people. I don't talk shop with them because I don't work with them, I get to learn about different things and listen to problems. That's been really cool. I have to confess, I don't know that I've done as much, taken advantage of that as much as I thought I would, or as I should really, but the promise is there, and I've done that a little bit. That's really cool actually. And now every time I go to a different city to work for whatever reason, co working space is my go to thing, and it's very interesting the things you learn. It's opened my eyes. I didn't even know such a thing existed. 

Studio IX:                               I didn't either before I came here. 

Mbugua Karanja:                It's fascinating, A worldwide phenomenon.

Studio IX:                               That's all I got for ya.

Mbugua Karanja:                Really?

Studio IX:                               Yeah.

Mbugua Karanja:                Wow.

Studio IX:                                See. Painless. (laughter)

 

 

MANAGER SPOTLIGHT: GREG ANTRIM KELLY

This month we turned our attention to Studio IX's Manager & Curator, Greg Antrim Kelly. Members were curious to know a bit more about what makes their 'front' man tick.

Member, Joa Garcia sat down with Greg to ask him a few questions collected from our members.

Studio IX:             Why did you choose Charlottesville, and why do you continue to stay in Charlottesville? What's the main draw for you?

Greg Antrim Kelly:             I think in a way, Charlottesville chose me. I actually moved here somewhat on a whim. I came through on a cross-country road trip. A friend had a room for rent. It was cheap. I moved in, set up a studio, got a job at the Mudhouse and 20 years later I'm still here. I think the reason I'm still here is of course that it's a beautiful place, but it's really more about the people and the community. It's a wonderful city. 

Studio IX:             What inspires you on a daily basis?

Greg:             People. I guess to be more specific - their stories, their lives & who they are fascinates me. But what equally fascinates me is what separates people, what keeps them at a distance from one another and from themselves. And so the thing I'm most inspired by is seeing where the connections lie. 

Studio IX:             Tell me a little about your art career, and how you combine the different kinds of work that you do? And what exactly is involved in your artwork?

Greg:                I was trained as a visual artist. My degree was in ceramics and art history. But I also spent many years mentoring and teaching, working with youth, working in galleries and museums. When I graduated I pretty quickly steered away from a traditional path - that of getting a gallery, going to New York, becoming a successful artist. My focus wasn't so much about making work as much as making those connections, serving a greater purpose, giving back. So a lot of what excites me and drives me as an artist is largely driven by what goes on outside of the studio. The curatorial side of it. The more public, community driven, social justice aspects - which I'm able to do, in part, here at Studio IX. Supporting the work of other artists and organizations - getting to know them, to better understand their efforts and their process is a big part of what feeds me. The arts, in a way, are just the language that I speak, that I'm most fluent in. It's the tool that I can use most effectively to find those connections.

Studio IX:         Looking back on your years to date, is there anything that you'd like a do-over on?

Greg:           I wish I'd played organized sports.

Studio IX:             What did you want to be when you grew up, and how does that compare to what you're doing now?

Greg:           I don't think I ever really questioned it because I was always doing it. Being an artist is just the thing that I did, and I had unwavering support from my family and those around me. So the bigger question for me has always been less about what I do outwardly and more about what's going on inwardly. My ambitions, I think, are far more spiritually based than they are financially or career driven. 

Studio IX:            Why do you think that is?

Greg:            It probably goes back to that basic ingredient for me. Connection. My desire to enlarge the playing field, to have a richer sense of 'home', to have others feel that as well. The spirit is the most fertile ground for it. Whatever's going on outwardly is just sort of an extension of what's going on inside. So it made sense to put my attention there. 

Studio IX:             That makes sense. What's your secret super power?

Greg:            My secret super power. Well, I don't know that I have a name for it, but I think I'm pretty good at what I guess I would call,  'breaking a horse'. Softening the walls of those who are guarded, angry, who most consider to be assholes. In a strange way, I kind of admire them.

Studio IX:            That's a really good trait to have.

Greg:             Yeah. When it works. (laughter)

Studio IX:           What do you do in your down time?

Greg:             Watch documentaries, get outdoors, drink coffee, talk to people, strike up conversations.

Studio IX:            What is the meaning of life?

Greg:               Good coffee? (laughter) - but seriously, to love one another and to appreciate and respect what's here. That's all.

Studio IX:           What's your favorite part of working at IX, and what's one thing that you would shed?

Greg:             My favorite part would have to be the people - which is why I love the job. I get to interface with all of you each day. And also working with James and his vision for Studio IX and Vault Virginia. It's very much in line with the work I'd been doing before landing here, and the work that I continue to do outside of Studio IX.  So that's exciting to me. As for what I would shed - hmmm. Well, as much I love making coffee, I'm looking forward to being relieved of those duties. We're all excited to have Milli Roasters and Sicily Rose (Italian coffee shop & cannoli bar) setting up shop here this fall.

Studio IX:             What's your favorite band?

Greg:            Wilco.

Studio IX:             What kind of music is that?

Greg:            I guess you'd call it alt country rock? but they kind of take from everything.

Studio IX:            Have you gone to any cool concerts lately?

Greg:            I just saw an amazing concert at The Garage on Friday night.

Studio IX:            What's The Garage?

Greg:            It's a venue here in town that's literally a garage,  adjacent to the park that has many names, that has the Lee statue in it.

Studio IX:           Okay, yeah.

Greg:            Yeah, good friends. One opened, the other one headlined, and then another one jumped in with the one who headlined and played a few songs.

Studio IX:            Nice.

Studio IX:            What kind of music was that?

Greg:            That was more singer/songwriter - guitar, keyboards, cello kinda stuff. Wes plays cello and sings, Diane plays guitar and keys and sings, Guion plays guitar and sings.

Studio IX:             Wow. I love music, but I'm not musically inclined. I have a keyboard and a guitar, but I can't move my fingers like that.

Greg:             It's hard.

Studio IX:            Doesn't work for me.

Greg:             Yeah, it's very hard. 

Studio IX:            That's why there's no way I could ever be an artist because I can't think like that.

Greg:            We'll work on it. (laughter)

Studio IX:            Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Greg:             That's a tough one because I live so much in the moment, but I would say that if the last ten years are any baromoter of what's to come, I would probably still be committed to the work that I am now and hopefully in this community. Much of that has to do with our young people, race relations & social justice - and there's plenty of that to do.

Studio IX:            Yeah.

Greg:           As long as I don't get priced out or relocated due to other circumstances, I'll probably still be here doing exactly what I'm doing now..

Studio IX:            Yeah, it seems like you're really happy with what you're doing now. 

Greg:           It feels that way.

Studio IX:           What's the best thing you read this summer?

Greg:           What's stayed with me the most are the late sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A collection called 'Strength to Love'. I've also been carrying around a steady stream of Irish writers/poets. Moya Cannon, Michael Longley, an off-beat short story writer named Kevin Barry. 

Studio IX:            What animal would you like to come back as and why?

Greg:            I don't know if I would come back as this, but this image has always stayed with me. When I was eight years old, I went to the aquarium in Chicago, and I was staring at a seal who was laying at the bottom of the aquarium. Just laying against the wall like this (mimics a drunk man leaning against a wall) - holding their breath, I guess, just chilling out. I thought, "It would be cool to be a seal."

Studio IX:           Where is your family from? Where were you born? Where's your hometown?

Greg:                  My dad's side is Irish, surprise surprise. Mom's side is French-mutt. I was born and raised in Illinois. Grew up in Champaign-Urbana. We moved to St. Louis when I was eleven.

Studio IX:            Nice. I love Champaign actually. 

Greg:             Oh, yeah? I think that's another reason I love Charlottesville is that it reminds me a lot of Champaign. 

Studio IX:           What's a risk that you've taken?

Greg:            Probably following this crazy notion that simpler and slower is a better way to live. Trusting my intuition around it. I don't consider it as much 'a risk now, but I think in the past, I questioned it a lot. Investing in something that wasn't necessarily a step-by-step kind of thing, but was guided more by curiosity and inspiration, a passion for things. - trusting that it would evolve. That felt risky at the outset.

Studio IX:            If you could be in the Olympics, what sport would you pick and why?

Greg:                 Rowing.

Studio IX:            Oh, why?

Greg:            I just love it - though I've never done it.

Studio IX:            It's so difficult.

Greg:          Yeah, I sit on a machine at the gym all day, but I haven't been in a scull or an 8. I just think it's beautiful. And I think it would be an amazing feeling - being in something that is totally silent and feeling that much power when you put your oar in and there's eight of you pulling.

Studio IX:            If you were in a roller derby or a bowling league, what would you call yourself?

Greg:           Oh my gosh, what would I call myself? What would you call me?

Studio IX:             I don't know. I was trying to think of what I would call myself, and I don't even know.

Greg:          Yeah. I mean Spaz would be good because people consider me to be so mellow.

Studio IX:             Yeah, that's true. (laughter)

Studio IX:            Is there anything else that you'd like to say?

Greg:            Closing thoughts?

Studio IX:            Yeah, that we haven't gone over.

Greg:           I don't think so. Just happy to be here.

Studio IX:          We're happy to have you.

Greg:             Thank you.

 

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: CARISSA PHILLIPS

Studio IX:                                

Good morning, Carissa. So let's jump in. Tell us who you are and what it is you do?.

Carissa Phillips:                   

I'm Carissa Phillips. I work for Campaign Monitor and we're originally based out of Australia. I've been there now eight years this month. I started out doing customer support. It's just a little more technical than your normal "click here, go there" kind of customer support for software. And that kind of grew into what is called deliverability, which most people have no idea what that means. So in the email world, email marketing is what we do. Deliverability is increasing engagement for our subscribers. Customers with 100,000 people on your mailing list or 3 million people on their mailing list, they're always looking to get more opens, more clicks, more people to read their emails or click on the ads. So I'm the one that helps them figure out how to do more with that. And then also the delivery side of emails. When things break and they get blacklisted and suddenly Yahoo doesn't like their mail anymore, I'm the one that comes in and figures out what happened and what we’ve got to do to fix it. So that's all kind of within deliverability and email. 

Studio IX:                                

What do you enjoy about it? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

I really like working with customers. I enjoy both the people aspect of my job, but the technical part as well. Going into the weeds and having to test things over and over again, or look at somebody’s whole email program, the whole life cycle of a subscriber. For instance, when one goes to the website and signs up, what might they be expecting to receive. And then at different stages of how engaged they are throughout. Receiving those emails and then why would they unsubscribe or complain at the end. So I really like looking at the whole life cycle and the technical parts of it. 

Studio IX:                                

What are you passionate about? Does that play a role in what you do? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

We’re just starting to get passionate about it because it's just email and I'm not really keen on marketing - but the cool thing that my job also entails is a lot of anti spam, anti abuse type stuff. So I'm able to be part of a community that not just hunts down the spammers that are going to send you unsolicited mail, but hunts down the spammers who are doing malicious things, like stealing people's identity or putting malware on your computer that totally locks it down until you send them a lot of money to some one - all different kinds of things. I get to be a part of that community, which is a big bonus for my work. I kinda feel like I get to protect the public from what they don't know is ready to come get them, but that's just my passion in general, outside of work. 

Studio IX:                                

Let's revisit that in a bit. I'd like to hear more about how your personal-life passions overlap with your work life. 

Is there a memorable story you can share? A breakthrough, a turning point, something that happened that stood out? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yes. I have lots. So because I was a remote employee from the very beginning, I was one of the first, I think, four employees in the US. So they didn't know what to do with us because they were all based in Australia and what, over time, started to happen was they would have meetups. We would go to a place that was sort of in between Australia and the US, which looked like New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii. We got to go to some really great places and the company would spare no expense. Four days all together in these luxurious resorts, open bar all day, and just out of control. Yeah. And so, I think in that I saw the generosity of the two guys who started the company. If you had just looked at them, you would have thought they were just normal Australian surfers. And they were. They would go out in the morning and they would catch a wave before coming into the office. They were always tan and in shape, but they also knew from the very beginning that the people were the most important part and so they gave and gave and gave to us in a thousand different ways. But those meetups were pretty pivotal for me to see that a company can really love and value their employees. 

Studio IX:                                

What's an aspect of your work that people might be surprised to know? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Well when you say email and you talk about spammers and things, that's one side of my job, but I do get to work with some really cool brands. I've worked with Huff Post and Oprah and Wall Street Journal and some big publishers and I like working with their teams. The email world brought me into working on a daily basis with teams like that, whereas I wouldn't have had that kind of access otherwise. 

Studio IX:                                

Where do you see yourself headed? Do you have a sense of how you're work and the industry are evolving? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yeah, so I've avoided management all of these years. It's been offered and I've turned it down every time. So now it's kind of inevitable. I have to have people underneath me that I'm responsible for. That probably starts this month or next. I have to learn those kinds of skills. The kind of "eating last” mentality of caring for these other people, letting them be the ones that get the five star reviews from customers and letting them have the last say on what kind of resources we are able to get. That’s happening very soon. And as an industry I think there's more abuse happening now more than ever. And I think those of us who are able to work in anti-abuse community, now that data is so fluid. That work is going to be all the more important. 

 Studio IX:                               

You're talking about hacking, malware, the people coming in and corrupting systems.?

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yeah. So even like espionage kind of stuff happens through email. So if you are somebody who is connected high up in government or within a large corporation, email might be an avenue that somebody would try to put software on your computer to watch you, to watch what comes through your inbox, whatever. So there's a lot, a lot of that that's happening.  

Studio IX:              

So I'd like to revisit  how this might play into your personal passions. Could you talk a bit more about that?

Carissa:                  

Yeah. So I've thought about it. I thought about how do I sum it all up if I had to bundle it. Being consistently pro-life, I think, is how I would sum it up and consistency in terms of all of life, not just unborn life, not just last-of-days life, but quality of life in between and individuals who we criminalize. 

That kind of started, I don't know, 10 years ago when we had lived in Turkey, and we had lived in a little town, a part of Istanbul, but it felt like a little town. We didn't realize that all of the people that were working in the shops below our apartment buildings were being trafficked for labor. We had no clue, and we lived there for two-and-a-half years and had no idea. We were blind to it. So then, coming back to the States and realizing oh my gosh, there were bars on the windows so they couldn't escape. Then feeling like every piece of clothing that touched me was sick because that's what they were making. They were making clothes. Then I didn't want any clothes on me that were made by somebody who was forced to work.

So then that opened my eyes to more systemic injustices that we have in terms of all kinds of labor.  But then there's also this race piece that I was totally blind to, growing up in middle-class white suburbia.

Studio IX:              Where'd you grow up?

Carissa:                 Dallas, North Dallas.

Studio IX:              Can you say a bit more about that?

Carissa:                  

Yeah, so the race piece.  I wanted to go back to what happened in this country. I wanted to hear the history again because I didn't get it right the first time. Then seeing that lynching leads, really over time, to capital punishment and being murdered by the State. So then I got really into abolition of the death penalty. So yes, being consistently pro-life is very, very hard. 

Studio IX:              So these things are separate from your day job? Or do you see a connection?

Carissa:                  

Yes, separate but it did overlap last summer at just the right point in time. So I was working with HuffPost at the time, and we were talking almost daily for a little while. So their team knew I was here in Charlottesville. Then August 12th happened. I didn't know how to come into the meeting the next time that we had scheduled. I just didn't know how to be present. It was so cool because they were so excited to tell me that their team had stayed up for two nights in a row. All their developers, all their marketing folks, everybody were pulling together this mini-website that they had created to track hate and to make it available for people to see that this is widespread, this is systemic. Because they knew I was in Charlottesville and we had been working on a HuffPost thing, it was just a perfect overlap of being encouraged that work life and personal life sometimes, sometimes can merge.

Studio IX:              And in poignant ways, it seems. 

Carissa Phillips:     Yes.

Studio IX::             What do you enjoy about being here at Studio IX?

Carissa Phillips:                   

The community. Absolutely. I love that we have our little area on the side and we all know each other's names and we will catch up every now and again on how the kids are doing or who's vacation was where. I love that I can kind of have water cooler talk, but it doesn't affect my job. Like if I need to vent, I could, but I don't have to be careful about who's listening. I really like that a lot. I was at home for five years and it was rough. So this is like freedom.

Studio IX:               Thanks so much, Carissa!

Carissa Phillips:      You're very welcome.

 

.

 

 

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: LORRAINE SANDERS

Studio IX:    Hey, Lorraine. Could you tell everyone who you are and what you do?

Lorraine Sanders:    I'm Lorraine Sanders, and the best way to describe what I do is to start with the podcast I host and produce that features interviews with women building businesses at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech, which I call FEST. It's like my play on STEM. I have a business called PressDope that grew out of the podcast. It serves that fashion entrepreneur audience, and it helps them with DIY PR or public relations and brand amplification.

Studio IX:    Cool. How did you get into it?

Lorraine:    I'm a recovering journalist. I covered the intersection of fashion and technology for a number of different publications for a number of years while I was based in San Francisco.  I primarily wrote for FastCompany, Women's Wear Daily, and the San Francisco Chronicle and at a certain point I realized that I didn't see myself progressing in journalism beyond the point that I had gotten to. I had started my own show by that time, so I then very quickly tried to figure out how to have that be my only job so that I didn't have to take on work from other people.

Studio IX:    What do you enjoy most about the work?

Lorraine:    Getting to talk to these really interesting people and asking them tons of questions. I constantly feel like I'm getting away with something because I get to have an excuse to sit down and talk to these founders for an hour. I feel like it's the most fun thing to do, and I figured out a way to have it be part of my job.

Studio IX:    So you love what you do?

Lorraine:    I do. I'm also relatively unemployable. I don't really have another way that I think I could generate my income. I love the freedom, and I've had a lot of jobs in the past that were less than fulfilling, and I just couldn't do it. I love it, and at the same time, I feel like this work is work I have to do.

I've had several jobs where I was working in-house for people for a certain period of time, and I would get psyched about it for about six weeks and then I would start to drag into the office every day and be like, "I cannot take this anymore," which is maybe really immature. But it’s the truth.

Studio IX:    So what keeps it fresh for you? How do you keep from hitting that six week point?

Lorraine:    Every week it's somebody new and different. I really care about the underlying mission of it. I am very motivated to try to get these founders and their stories out to more people because I really have an issue with the way that clothing, textiles and apparel fit into our world today. I feel like it's a major disconnect we currently have in how we live. Many people think about where their food comes from. Relatively few people think about what they are putting on their bodies, how much it affects the environment, workers’ rights, and all kinds of stuff. I am just really gung-ho about trying to get that information out to people. And then also when it comes to trying to create a business with enough income to support a person, there is a lot of problem solving with that and a lot of stress, obviously, and a lot of times where I am sitting around like, "you've gotta figure this out, you've gotta figure this out." You never get bored.

Studio IX:    Right.

Lorraine:    You know.

Studio IX:    Yeah - and it's your own thing.

Lorraine:    It is my own thing. Nobody can get in the middle of it and take it away from me and tell me what to do. Although, I like it when people that I work with tell me when I'm screwing up. That's important feedback to have from your team.

Studio IX:    Yep.

Lorraine:    Yeah.

Studio IX:    Is there a specific story you could share around your work?

Lorraine:    How do you mean? 

Studio IX:   A memorable moment or moments that mattered to you. 

Lorraine:    Yeah. There have been a lot. A lot of times the conversations that I have with people. I do research, but I don't know what's gonna happen and sometimes people say things that I'm really surprised by. 

I had this one woman who had come on the show and she was a really polished Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur-type woman. She accomplished a lot. She worked for an accelerator program. We had this very buttoned-up conversation, and I was trying really hard to be on the same professional level as she was and not take it in a casual direction because I felt like I was just reading her vibe with that. Then midway through the interview she just kind of blurted out that she was really just disillusioned with her career, and she had recently become a parent and it was this a whole challenge. It got really emotional really fast, and I was just sort of shocked at how when you are talking to people in a podcast format, they will suddenly reveal a lot to you that you aren't expecting. That's powerful for me because you feel like you are having this real conversation with somebody and then you get to bring it to other people and, if all goes according to plan, change something in their life.

Another funny moment for me was the first time that I had ever had anybody in Charlottesville come up to me as a listener of the show, someone I hadn’t met anywhere else.

I was on a panel for the Tom Tom Festival two years ago, and a woman came up to me after the panel and she said, "I came to this event to meet you, and I've been listening to your show for a year and had no idea that you lived here." She said, "I was just walking down the street listening to you the other day, and you said something about the Tom Tom Festival and was like what, she lives here." She came out and we ended up going out to lunch and getting together later, and we're still in touch. It was really fun to just realize that you put this stuff out there, and you don't know who's listening to it.

Studio IX:    That's a great story!

Studio IX:    Both situations seem to have bucked your expectations a bit. 

Lorraine:    Well and I haven't ever had anybody say anything inappropriately crazy, you know, where you have had to edit it out or anything like that, but you just never know what people are gonna say. A lot of times people will surprise you.

I guess the key thing that I've realized after interviewing all these female entrepreneurs especially, is that the ones that succeed in the long-term, it seems that it is 99 percent what their mental state is on a daily basis. It has almost nothing to do with their education, although, that helps, and their connections help, and how much money they have helps, but it's their mindset first and foremost that leads to success. I previously come from a journalism background where everyone is grouchy and cynical. I thought mindset conversations were really irrelevant and who cares, and stop talking about that. After talking to all of these people, it’s really transformed how I think about things because I have watched and listened to how important mindset is on these women’s companies and in their positive trajectories over time. I've seen their careers over the course of four to five years, and I've heard them say this about themselves. I've asked them what they do to stay on point or in alignment, or whatever you want to call it. There are lots of words for what is essentially the state of being and feeling solid, confident and willing to continue even in the face of failure, no's or setbacks. That's been the most impactful thing for me personally to witness.

Lorraine:    As weird as that sounds, it's true.

Studio IX:   What's an aspect of the work you do that might surprise people to know?

Lorraine:    How hard it is to get female entrepreneurs to put themselves out there.

It's shocking. I have so many people that I work with that they don't even see how they are rejecting opportunities or shying away from the spotlight and they feel bad about putting themselves out there for a variety of reasons that are all very legitimate. That's one thing that constantly surprises me and I think that surprises other people. Especially in the fashion industry, that so many people misconstrue as being very me, me, me, look at me, social media blogger type landscape and yet at the same time so many of them, even though they play in that world, they have real reservations about the legitimacy of self-promotion. I actually view a lot of the self-promotion as necessary for brand building today.  

Studio IX:    Yeah.

Lorraine:    I don't know what else. I'm actually fairly introverted. I don't even like to talk to people much of the time. I think that's one thing that a lot of people that meet me through the Spirit of 608 think is that I am very outgoing and want to talk to people all the time and actually it works for me to have it very scheduled so that I know when I have to show up and be personable and open and accessible. I mean you've seen me come in and I'm just like zoom to my desk, and I will go through a day without speaking to people. I’m a classic occasionally extroverted introvert INFJ.

Studio IX:  This is kind of a two-part question, but where do you see yourself going in your work and where do you see the industry going, as far as podcasting &/or fashion? 

Lorraine:    Yeah. So, I will do the second question first. I said before and a number of media people that I know who talk about this same space that has to do with ethical fashion, manufacturing sustainability, all of us, our dream is to talk ourselves out of the job. If we are successful in promoting this enough and these businesses can grow, and they are not just going to grow because we are helping them, but if they succeed in what they are trying to do and we succeed in getting the word out about them, it's no longer going to be a conversation because all of the brands will be trying to incorporate positive aspects of business into what they're building. I think we are seeing more and more of that happen.

It's also never been easier to start your own business and so you are seeing a lot of economic opportunity come to women that wasn't previously accessible to them. Clearly, we are still in the beginning stages of that and a lot needs to happen from an infrastructure standpoint so that these businesses and all small businesses, especially digitally-based ones, can succeed because a lot of people start them that don't have any business experience and they fail, but I think we are seeing a lot of stuff change.

In fact, this is a tangent, but I just went to the Charlottesville Entrepreneurs & Espresso event up at i.lab this morning and one of the guys who was speaking was the chef at Common House and now is starting his own training program for people in the restaurant industry and I see more and more of that happening. In the fashion business you see a lot of people coming in and seeing all these entrepreneurs kind of flailing around and needing help and people are starting these programs to like let me help you figure out how to actually run a business for your next industry. And so, I think that's really shifting.

More and more bigger brands like the Levis and the Athleta's and even H&M's, they are trying to implement better manufacturing practices and standards and textiles and so hopefully in like ten years this will be a whole different conversation, and I won't be able to podcast about it anymore.

As for myself, I mean, I don't know. I don't have a five-year plan at the moment. I've got a two-year plan where I want PressDope, which is our sister business site, to be a self sustaining business that is relatively hands-off from my standpoint and that could be run without me.

Studio IX:    Where does the name of the show come from?

Lorraine:    The Spirit of 608 is a reference to an 1980s film called the Legend of Billie Jean, which few people remember, but it's a glorious movie. Have you seen it?  Okay, do you remember how... You have seen it?

Studio IX:    I've seen it, but I haven't seen it in so long.

Lorraine:    But you know what I am talking about.

Studio IX:    Yup.

Lorraine:    So, in the movie, Helen Slater, who is best-known for being Supergirl, her brother has a bike and some bullies bust up his bike. So she goes to try to get them to pay for the repairs, and it's going to cost 608 dollars to get it fixed. While she is going to try to stand up for her brother and for what is right and fair, she gets assaulted and then gets accused of a crime she didn't commit and has to go on the run and becomes this 1980’s outlaw teen folk hero. She shaves her head and wears this neoprene suit, and it's awesome.

When I was thinking about starting the show and what to name it I kept trying to think of a name that no matter what happened with it, if it failed, if my day sucked, if it was awesome, then I was always gonna really like it and feel good about. I thought back to my days in college and a friend of mine and I had made these shirts that had 608 on them because we both thought that part of the movie was really cool and inspiring. So I chose 608, and it works because I think a lot of the female entrepreneurs have that kind of badass quality to them, and they also have the fun fashion element in the movie, so it just really made sense.

A lot of people think it's because I have some connection to Wisconsin which has a 608 area code. It has no connection to Wisconsin. There is a whole explanation of it on the website too that is much more articulate than what I just told you.

Studio IX:  That was great! I got it.

Studio IX:  Ok, last question. What do you enjoy about working/being here at Studio IX?

Lorraine: I have a bunch of different things. I like coming in here for the community aspect. I have met a lot of interesting people here. There are events happening here and there that I will show up at, and I think that's really nice that Studio IX does that.

I also find that I get a lot of work done here. It's just a really good environment for me to focus and just sit down and crank through four-to-five straight hours of dealing with things.

So, it's a good balance of putting you in a place to be really focused, but also not making you feel isolated. I think it's good to be around people, especially if you are working on a creative business endeavor. I've met a number of people who have said things to me in passing or in conversations over the last two years that have really changed how I was thinking about something I was chewing on for the day. So, yeah. I like that there is art here and the Art Park is awesome.

You can just go outside and get a change of scenery. I mean what better place to go than strolling through that crazy assortment of things to look at.

Studio IX: Yes! The Art Park is awesome.

Studio IX:   Thanks, Lorraine!

Lorraine:    Thank you.

 

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: KATHI BROWN

 

Kathi Ann Brown

Milestones Historical Consultants, LLC

Studio IX:                              What is it that you do?

Kathi Brown:                         I use the term historical consultant. In a nutshell, large companies or organizations hire me to research their histories and then (usually) pull together a book. I also write CEO biographies. Bill Marriott of Marriott hotels is probably the best-known of the CEOs I’ve worked with in the past. Sometimes I work on exhibits. Sometimes I do freestanding oral history programs where there's no final product in mind. The client simply wants to capture key people on tape before they’re no longer with us. I've been a consultant now for more than 30 years. 

Studio IX:                              What's an example of one of the exhibits?

Kathi Brown:                         The most recent major one was a museum for U.S. Steel in Houston. They wanted an exhibit about their pipe making process. Sounds like a snoozer, right? For me, it was fascinating because I knew absolutely nothing about steel. So I got to tour one of their plants and then pull together a permanent exhibit that an average person can walk through and learn how pipes are tailor-made to suit geology, geography, depth, pressure, distance. 

Studio IX:                              What aspect of the work do you enjoy the most?

Kathi Brown:                         The research. I call it detective work. I love digging into the past. I can spend hours happily chasing down information. The Internet has been a boon to me because a lot of archives and libraries have been uploading their collections, particularly old magazines, newspapers, journals. 

Studio IX:                              What are you most passionate about? How does that play a role in what you do, if it does?

Kathi Brown:                         That's a good question. I'm naturally curious and think of myself as a perennial student. If I could retire right now, I would spend my time taking classes and traveling. I love learning about something totally new to me. That's where my career has been just amazing. I know how to go about doing research and I know how to pull it all together into a book, but I often don't know the subject matter in depth. So I have the challenge and fun of mastering a new topic. I actually think it's a benefit to the client because I approach a client’s history with fresh eyes and few assumptions. I often say I'm paid to be a student.  

Studio IX:                              What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people? Or maybe even surprises you about it?

Kathi Brown:                         Surprises me? How often certain events in history play into my clients' lives or a company’s history. The Great Depression, for example. I have clients whose organizations started before, during or after the 1930s, but the Great Depression touched all of them in some way. Maybe the company struggled to survive the bad economic times. Or perhaps an entrepreneur grew up during the Depression years and the experience affected his attitude about using debt to finance expansion. I often find echoes of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in my clients’ stories. A lot of cool cutting-edge technology was showcased at that world’s fair in Chicago. World War II also often figures heavily in my research. The war and its aftermath permanently affected tens of millions of lives. 

                                                      Sometimes I run into the attitude that the past doesn’t matter. Tech companies, in particular, often like to think that they’re too busy inventing the future to care about what happened years ago.  But no organization or effort or invention occurs in a vacuum. Every success, every innovation has a long list of people and precursors who laid the groundwork, often decades earlier, which allowed the current generation of inventors to do what they do. I findthat continuum fascinating. 

I always tell my clients that there’s a good story to be told about why any particular individual or group of people at a particular moment in time came up with a particular idea and ran with it. Personal factors. Economic factors. Social factors. Political factors. Digging out that story is what jazzes me. Many times I can surprise my clients by the connections I find that predate what they think of as their history. I wrote a 125thanniversary history of Northern Trust Bank in Chicago a few years ago and they were bowled over by the long-forgotten gems about the bank’s founder and early years that I dug out of public sources. 

Studio IX:                              Why do you liking working at Studio IX? At least I assume you do!

Kathi Brown:                         Absolutely! I had a home office for about 30 years. It seemed liked the most sensible thing to do. Why rent office space when I've got a spare bedroom at home? But I struggled to separate home and work. I was not being as productive as I needed to be. When Studio IX started, it took me about a year to come take a look. I finally popped in one morning to do a free trial day. Within an hour I went up to the front desk and told your predecessor that I was ready then and there to sign on. I used to go to the libraries on Grounds occasionally to get away from home, but here at Studio Ix, I’m surrounded by fellow professionals, not students, so it feels like a real workplace. And for two years now I’ve sat at the same desk every day…a bit like Norm, who had ‘his’ bar stool on “Cheers.” J

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: SPENCER PHILLIPS & ANNA PERRY

Studio IX: Good morning, you two. So let's start with the basics. Who are you?

Spencer Phillips: I'm Spencer Phillips. 

Anna Perry: And I'm Anna Perry.

Studio IX: And what do you do? 

SP: We're half of Key-Log Economics, which is a small consulting firm that does economic analysis for environmental organizations, conservation organizations, a couple of government agencies, throughout the US.

Studio IX: So this is a unique interview because typically I talk to one member each month, and Spencer you had asked that Anna join us. Could you tell us a little bit about why?

SP: Well, I am leaving Studio IX at the end of April, and leaving the country in early July to open a branch office of the company in Hanoi, Vietnam. With that transition, Anna will continue our association with Studio IX and will be the local face of Key-Log Economics. 

Studio IX: That's exciting, for the both of you, I'm sure.

Studio IX: What do you guys enjoy most about the work that you do? 

AP:  I just feel this overwhelming gratitude every day based on knowing how many people in my niche aren't able to do the job that they love, and it's such a privilege to be able to do that, right out of college. And I enjoy that it's a constant challenge. It makes me feel like I'm, to quote Thomas Jefferson, a life long learner. I'm able to apply what I've learned in classes, while learning new things, and produce these tangible results for clients that are doing good things in the world. I feel like I'm not just a cog in the wheel, but actually helping. 

SP: I've been an outdoor recreationist, conservationist, environmentalist for as long as I can remember, but it has been really gratifying over the course of, now going on 30 years of professional work, to help people make the case that environmental protection is also good for the economy. That is  usually glossed over in the debate of jobs versus spotted owls, or jobs versus The Chesapeake Bay. That's often not true, and it's always just a portion of the story, even if there is a grain of truth to it. 

The other thing I like about what we're doing now is that with Key-Log Economics, which I've only been doing since 2013, I have the chance to work with folks like Anna. I've been a part-time professor at UVA and online at two other colleges.  So far, I've been able to work with almost a dozen former students as contractors, as interns, or in the case of Anna, our colleague Sonia Wang in Chicago and our former colleague Cara Bottorff (now with the Sierra Club in DC), as employees and co-owners. It's a real privilege for me to be able to play a part in the launch of their professional careers. And as a life long learner myself, I get to hear about all the stuff that is new since I was in school. 

Studio IX:. This is a two part question. What are you passionate about? Individually. And does that play a part in the work that you do? 

AP: Well definitely the outdoors. Protecting and enjoying the environment, and seeing the decisions affecting it being governed as much as possible by facts and science--including economic science. But, really the motivation for me comes with the desire to see things in good shape. To be good stewards of the earth, and to help other people find practical and useful ways of doing that. 

Studio IX: What was the formative moment? What brought you both to a place of such connection, concern and care for the natural world?

SP: It has been there for me for a long time. My favorite childhood memories are from goofing around in lakes, and streams, and going fishing, and going hiking. I was a Boy Scout and all that. My seventh grade Geography teacher was a great aging hippie named Mr. Neder, and he would take us on the field trips to do stream clean-ups and the like. I still I remember his lecture on global population growth and how he dramatized how incomprehensibly large the number four billion was (That was the then looming world population number, which tells you how old I am.)  

The reconnection to the environment and the connection between the environment and what I was doing academically as an undergrad Econ major at UVA canud during Spring Break of my second year.  I hadn't been backpacking in several years. I went with a buddy of mine up to Mt. Rogers in what's now the Lewis Fork Wilderness in the Jefferson National Forest. Being away from school, away from the usual shenanigans of second years at UVA, I had this awakening--a spiritual epiphany and a moment of insight that what I was learning about in school, possibly, could have something to do with what I was experiencing, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “our lives in nature, rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The actual world! The common sense!”

After that was grad school then work at the White House (briefly) and in NGOs (20 years) trying to help people understand that “our lives in nature” are also economically important.

AP: I'd say, the origin of my passion probably came from visiting my families little lake cabin in Maine every summer. And, similar to Spencer, being able to get away and escape the humdrum of society every day. And I also was consumed by this morbidity when I was a child and just thinking the world's ending, man is destroying nature, and I'd be obsessed with watching news about climate change and just felt overwhelmed by it, even at age five. I tried to grow out of that a little bit and recognize the optimism in it - how I can help a person connect with the natural world. Not just people who are passionate about the outdoors, but I noticed that even being able to take some friends up to Maine every summer who wouldn't otherwise necessarily be outdoors people, or be passionate about the environment, they just kept reminding me what an invaluable experience it was for them. And so to be able to do that for other people and communicate that kind of value, what it can mean to them, even if it's in a small way, is really important. 

Studio IX: Can you share a memorable story with us? A moment that stands out to you from your work experience?

SP: One that stands out is one of the first projects I did since hanging out my shingle. Our client was for The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and they were facing, kind of what I was describing earlier: an argument against cleaning up The Chesapeake Bay, because it was going to be really expensive for  farmers and local municipalities. Even here in Charlottesville, the complaints were here about the rain water tax, or the rain tax. Those policies come from, in part, the need to keep stuff from flowing into The Chesapeake Bay. So, everybody had a pretty good handle on what it would cost to achieve Chesapeake Bay clean up goals, but nobody was talking about what the benefits would be. 

So The CBF came to me and said, "Hey, we're interested in trying to put a value on the cleanup." Through a lot of hard work and research, we figured out a way to do that and combine satellite imagery with literature review and put those together. It turns out that over a 10-year period, while it will cost about 50 billion dollars to clean up The Chesapeake Bay. However, by our estimates--which were conservative--once that clean up is in place or once those measures are in place, you're going to be getting $22 billion a year, which is a two-and-a-half-year pay back on the  investment, which is fantastic. Any private company would be delighted to get that kind of return on investment. 

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation had  fantastic media people working on the rollout. We did a press conference at their facility up on The Bay in Annapolis, and I later went back and did testimony for a couple of Maryland legislative committees, as well as in the Virginia and Pennsylvania state houses, plus scientific and policy conferences around the region.We still hear back from CBP that the report has given them more mileage than anything else in their existence. Now, that was possibly being kind, but we do think we put solid information together for them, and combined with their savvy media communications, political strategy, and membership engagement, it's really had an effect on the debate and, most importantly, on the prospects for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

It’s an example of how what we do can fundamentally, change the debate about what's going in the environment. One bonus from that project has been that a current client has told us on a couple of occasions that they wanted to work with us because of what they had heard about the Chesapeake Bay work

Studio IX: That's great!

AP: I'd have to say mine has to do with the very first project that I did with Key-Log about the economics of drilling in the Arctic Refuge. It was this day, I guess when I was watching the Senate Hearing Committee on actually opening The Arctic Refuge to drill, there had been this 50 year long plus debate over it. And at this point we'd already delivered the report and The Wilderness Society was going to use it to testify in the hearing. It was like a culmination of everything, watching these Senators and stakeholders from Alaska describe all these facts and I'd be listening to them and get frustrated because I knew some of them were quoting old stuff or those lobbying to protect the Refuge wouldn’t utilize really important stats I knew existed..

And it was, I guess in a good way and a bad way, helping me realize that there's a lot of outdated information and certain focus on finding aspects of debates that are just completely ignoring any economic argument when it comes to opening conservation lands to national resource or fossil fuel companies. But then, I heard one Senator, Heinrich, I think, from New Mexico, and he didn't even mention Key-Log Economics, but... It was very clear that he had gotten some bullets from the report because I distinctly remember the information and it was a very humbling moment because I was just so happy that even one Senator’s assistant read it, and brought it up. I was so thankful because no one had been making an economic argument the entire six hour long hearing, and yeah, to hear it come up in the discussion even a little bit. It was rewarding.

Studio IX: Yeah. The work that no one sees that has such an impact.

SP: It's kind of like that movie, Broadcast News, with Holly Hunter and William Hurt, where the guy who's the smart reporter says, "This is amazing. I write it here and it comes out there." It's a fun experience, even if the proposal being debated is a little horrifying. 

Studio IX: What's an aspect of your work which might surprise people to know? 

SP: In general, I often get the reaction from people when I say I'm an environmental economist, or an ecological economist, they say, "What on Earth does economics have to do with the environment?"

SP: It's probably is just that. That because of the dominant mental model of the environment with regard to the economy is that they are inherently in opposition. But our work starts from a mental model that says "No, there is a positive relationship between the two, which means that when the environment does poorly, the economy does poorly, and where the environment does well, the economy can do well." They move in the same directions, typically. And so, our work is to overcome that perception and to put the data/information behind that idea. We give them the intellectual backup to do the right thing when somebody's screaming in their ear, "No, no. You can't do that because it's going to kill jobs." Or, "It's going to cause factories to move overseas." Or something like that. We try to be the still small voice in the other ear that says, "Actually, we can do both." I guess it’s such a big part of my life, it doesn't seem like it should be surprising. 

AP: Yeah, I think for me, what I've heard, just when I briefly describe the scope of our work, people are surprised at the range of projects we do. I think people just assume that we would do similar kind of project or approach for all of our clients, so they’re impressed to hear we do econometric modeling, comment reviews, technical reports and communication pieces. 

SP: That's true. And while all of our projects are bespoke, there are some common themes.  We have a body of work around estimating ecosystem service values. We have a body of work around inserting economic arguments into the National Environmental Policy Act process--the Arctic work that Anna came on board to do and these comment reviews are examples of that. But every particular policy issue and every set of data is unique in a way, and I have more fun when I’m doing something new with each project rather than another iteration of something we’ve done before. 

Studio IX: Where do you see yourselves and your field of work going in the next five to ten years? 

SP:  Well, personally for me, for the next five years I'd like to be continuing to do this work in Hanoi and at the end of those five years, which is the time frame that Missy and have set for ourselves, I'd like to see that office be self-sustaining as well as this one.

Studio IX: Can you tell us a bit more about the new office.

SP: Yeah. There's a couple of differences about what's happening there and why there. The 'why there' goes back a long way to our first exchange student, who got us in contact with the people and culture, and kind of fell in love with the whole deal.  And for me as an environmental economist, it's a really interesting setting because of very challenging environmental issues ranging from climate change and sea level (Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world) to the lingering effects of Agent Orange and other environmental consequences of what the Vietnamese call the American War. There's also, just garden variety environmental issues that come along with rapid economic development. Air pollution, water pollution, solid waste management concerns. 

I spent some time there with my wife several years ago, and five years ago I did a sabbatical with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and at that point really cemented the thought that there's work to be done there in my field. The goal is to fill a niche in Vietnam that we have been able to do here, which is to provide services for small to medium size NGOs who might not otherwise be able to hire economic expertise in support of their conservation work. There are certainly other small shops that do what we do, so in terms of where the industry might be going, I hope that we'll continue to hold our own in that. We compliment what people can find in other kinds of consultancies, whether on the biological side, or legal, or other things that plug in and help NGOs, the ones that don't have capacity to hire their own scientific technical staff. You have to be pretty big before you start seeing an organization have scientists and economists, or other experts in-house.

Beyond those five years, I would be delighted to see a set of colleagues in Hanoi, who can go forth and continue what we’re doing. At that point, we may return to the states and continue to consult, or head to Panama where my daughter lives and she can finish teaching me to surf. I don't know. Anything can happen.

Studio IX: That sounds miserable. (laughter)

SP: Yeah, it's pretty rough.

AP: I can't think beyond five years, that's just way too long. I've always been wrong, I've tried in the past. 

AP: As for five years, I'd love to see Key-Log's client base grow up and be a part of that. I didn't imagine myself being very entrepreneurial or business-y when I was in High School or even in college, but now I feel really invested in being able to go out and get new clients, and projects going, and develop different skills along the way. Both on my own time, and when it comes to Key-Log as well. At some point, I guess I'd get a graduate degree while still working for Key-Log. Probably within five years. I’d love to get a degree in energy and resources, or statistics, environmental management, somewhere in that realm. That's really my basis. I used to try to plan out really far in advance, and it was way too anxiety inducing, so I've started just not thinking more than three months ahead, which has served very well to do that. 

Studio IX: What do you guys enjoy about being here at Studio IX? 

AP. I still live kind of near UVA, and so and a lot of my association with Charlottesville before this year has been UVA related or High School related. So, this has been illuminating to be able to get to know people in Charlottesville who are not connected necessarily to any of my past life. And be able to work around people who are just doing really fascinating things. People who love Charlottesville, who have just moved here, or have been here forever, but it's just another side of the city that I feel like I wouldn't have been able to necessarily access. 

SP: Well, as you might know, I started my membership at Studio IX because I needed a physical address within the city limits. But, I also thought, "This will get me out of the home office, too." A good piece of advice I read early on when I started the company was get out every day, even if it's just to get take-out or go to the post office, or walk the dog or something. This is a more productive way for me to do that. I also love the fact that even though it's beehive of activity, it's  much more conducive for me to get intensive work done. It's a lot easier for me to tune out the buzz around me and code, or do GIS, or do a piece of writing than it is for me to tune out the dog laying on my feet. That's really good. 

It's also a great way to rub elbows with all the cool kids in town, and that has created some opportunities for us. Anna mentioned earlier, these public comment reviews we've done, and for some of those, in an over-coffee conversation with Oliver Beavers and said, "Hey, here's this thing we'd like to do. Is it possible to train a machine to read text and tell us the nature of it? Tell us what the sentiment is in the text?" And Oliver said, "Well, yeah, that's possible. I could probably do that." And then from that, it has become two, and going on hopefully three efforts where he and we have teamed up.  He's got amazing technical skills and awareness of how to do that machine learning part, and we've got the policy side of thing tied up. 

Another instance is with my transition out of the country, we're hiring a new senior person who can do analytical work and some of the business development work. We’ve gotten some great advice and help from Robin Macklin on that. And those are just two associations I wouldn't have had if I were just sitting in my office back at my house. So, good. It's fun, too, to see and hear about the diversity of little businesses that are happening here, living here, or being spawned from here.

Studio IX: It is indeed.

Studio IX: Thank you guys, so much!

SP&AP: You bet!!

 

 

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: DIRK PETERSEN

Studio IX: Hey, Dirk!

Dirk Petersen: Hey!

Studio IX: So let's start with the basics. Tell us who you are

Dirk Petersen: I'm Dirk Petersen.

Studio IX: And what is it you do?

Dirk Petersen:  I am building a network of Fortune 500 companies around the theme of people analytics.

Studio IX: And what exactly is people analytics?

Dirk Petersen:  It's basically data that you have about your people in your company and the analytics you do to help make the company run more efficiently and hopefully make their lives better and make their work more interesting.

Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about the work?

Dirk Petersen: Meeting and helping smart people in very interesting companies. Our clients include Facebook, other tech companies, such as Vertex and VM Ware, consumer products firms such as Johnson & Johnson and Unilever, and other Fortune 500 companies. Working and meeting those people and helping them think through some of those frontier issues, because it's a really new field, a new area.

Studio IX : How did you get into it? How did you arrive at this point?

Dirk Petersen: About a year and a half ago I was still at the World Bank. I was living in Charlottesville but working in Washington, D.C.. I started thinking about this topic of digital and digitalization’s impact on HR. I reached out to Volker Jacobs whom I’d met at CEB, which is a large publicly traded company in DC (bought by Gartner six months ago).

We started talking about the topic. He was running CEB's business in Germany, Austria and Switzerland at the time. As we started talking about it, we were like you know, this is a really interesting topic, maybe we should do something together. So the two of us decided that yeah, we're going to do something together on that. He would focus on Europe and I would work in the US.

Out of that initial idea our company Insight222 grew that now has its headquarters in London, and offices in Hamburg, San Francisco, and here in Charlottesville. We’re 7 people, soon to be 8, and have 25 clients. I first worked at home, and then I thought maybe a co-working space would be interesting. I looked online, found Studio iX, came by, and the rest is history.

Studio IX: A two-part question for you: What are you passionate about and does this play a part in the work that you do?

Dirk Petersen: That's a really deep question. I think what I figured out that I'm passionate about is to facilitate. I love facilitating in two ways. One, I love to facilitate knowledge and through that help companies get smarter, better, and solve business problems through HR analytics. And I love doing it in person, by being in front of a group and help them get smarter on a topic.  

Studio IX: What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?

Dirk Petersen:  Oh, goodness.

Studio IX:  Or maybe, what's surprising to you?

Dirk Petersen: Surprising to me is how new this field of HR Analytics still is. We've had information about employees for many years. There has been data about people for many, many years, but it's only now in the last three or four years that we've developed tools that actually allow us to get a much more granular insight into employees and their experiences at work.

For example, what we can do now is we can look at employee's emails and employee's calendars and aggregate that and use it to understand how people actually work together in a company, who may be working on similar things, and don’t even know it. We can use it connect them. That's something that I think would probably surprise most people to hear that that's it’s A, possible, and B, not just creepy, but actually could be used for a positive impact.

Studio IX: Right. Is there a memorable story or anything from your work that stands out? A memory?

Dirk Petersen: Yeah, actually last week. We were in a meeting with a group of our clients and prospective clients in Charlotte ... We have meetings in regions and we brought together a group in Charlotte, in a co-working space there. As we were talking, what became clear is that when you think about how people are measured in terms of productivity it's very much still like 20th century. Managers still think that if they see someone at their desk for eight, nine, 10 hours that it’s a sign of ‘working hard’, being productive. And we throw as much email at them as possible, see how much they can manage, and that’s how we think about productivity.

Dirk Petersen: That's very much how we used to do manufacturing in the old days: run every machine at 100% and your factory must be doing well. What happened in manufacturing was Toyota: they basically said let’s not focus on us, let’s focus on the customer. Organize your manufacturing around what the customer needs, so rather than pushing product through the factory, you should pull it out of the factory. If you pull it, it's not about having every machine run at 100% capacity. It's about turning the machine on when you need it and getting the order quickly through the factory.

Dirk Petersen: So if you translate it ... And that was kind of an a-ha moment for all of us... you translate it to people's work: instead of measuring their productivity by how many emails they can respond to, measure it by how fast you get solutions to customer/business problems. If you start measuring it that way, then you can start organizing the entire workflow of individuals around that goal, and that then leads you to say: “do we really need to have a thousand emails a day hitting somebody's inbox? Maybe we shouldn't have to reply all.”

Dirk Petersen: “Maybe we should focus consciously on how do we reduce the volume of emails, of social media, stuff that hits people in a day, so that they can get focused work done quickly.” That's something that's brand new and I'm just starting to think about it and maybe write an article on it.

Studio IX: Yeah, that's exciting!

Dirk Petersen: Thanks. And there are tools now. You can measure now how quickly do people respond to emails and you can develop tools that are a pretty easy jump from where we are now to how fast people get to solutions through their day-to-day work.

Studio IX: Yeah. That's just so cool to see that evolution.

Dirk Petersen: Let's hope it happens.

Studio IX: When I ran an organization I was constantly inundated with email and it burned up so much of my time, 

Dirk Petersen: Yeah, and it leads to delays, right? People don't answer you because they can't find your email. You don't answer people because you've got six other things that you think you need to do. It leads to bad choices: I’ll answer the thing I can answer quickly, rather the more important thing that takes a little bit more time.

Studio IX: Where do you see yourself and the industry headed in the next five to 10 years?

Dirk Petersen: I think ... I don't think of ourselves as an industry specifically. I think of us as function specific. So where I see HR heading in the next five to 10 years is a more toward the fundamental rethink of what the role of HR is, based on analytics.

Dirk Petersen: One of the conversations on this topic was in Chicago last week where somebody said, "If HR doesn't focus on analytics and gives it away, passes people analytics into a central function, then we are putting an expiration date on HR."  

Dirk Petersen: That means in the future you'll have two kinds of organizations, one that has analytics embedded in every decision, an HR function that is data driven, and then you've got another type of HR function where there's no data analytics, then HR is basically just an admin. In that latter scenario it’s all about automation, driving cost down, and people who work there are going to be just miserable automatons. That kind of shows you my bias of where I want to see HR: with analytics at the center.

Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about working here at Studio iX?

Dirk Petersen: I enjoy the environment. There's a bunch of aspects about it that I really like. One is that over time even though there is no formal introduction to people, you can't help but get to know others... Because you see each other every day, you kind of start feeling they look familiar, so you start talking. That, in conjunction with the monthly events where you have an opportunity to talk to people, it's nice because you get to know people and you get to learn about folks that have a very different career and skill set, different business that they work on, and it enriches your own thinking, gives you another perspective.

Dirk Petersen: I also love the fact that we have a very good coffee shop that not only has decent prices for their coffees (now), and that kind of creates a sense of just casualness that makes it more enjoyable to come in in the morning. I like the fact that we have music playing in the background. That it feels casual and comfortable. I think those are the key things. Yeah.

Studio IX: Thanks, Dirk!

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: JENNIFER BYRNE

Studio IX: Hey, Jennifer!

Jennifer Byrne:  Hey!.

Studio IX: So tell us what is you do?

Jennifer Byrne: I'm a photographer.

Studio IX: What kind exactly?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I shoot all kinds of images. I help businesses around Charlottesville. I help local families, private clients, commercial clients, all kinds of folks.

Studio IX: Cool.

Studio IX: How did you get into that field of work?

Jennifer Byrne: I started photography in high school. I went to Western in the 90s, so I actually took wet process darkroom classes.

Studio IX: Western?

Jennifer Byrne: Western Albemarle High School.

Studio IX: Oh, okay.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I'm native as they come, born and raised in Charlottesville.

Jennifer Byrne: I think that my last year of high school, they probably only continued wet process another four years, but that's where I started.

Studio IX: Were you doing the school paper, and yearbook, and that kind of stuff?

Jennifer Byrne: No. I was just very obsessed with photography. I spent as much time as I could there. Then I went to school at Mary Washington, and that's what I majored in, photography. At that time, everything was still wet process. Today, everything is digital, for the most part. Not that I don't still have all that analog equipment.

Studio IX: So you do what you love.

Jennifer Byrne: I do what I love.

Studio IX: Yeah?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I really love it. That's why it doesn't feel like work.

Studio IX: What do you love about it?

Jennifer Byrne: I think what I love about it is that I have a huge amount of sensitivity, and it's hard to use that as a skill in life, because it can be a difficult thing when you're that sensitive a person, but it translates really well to visual art. It's kind of my superpower.  

Studio IX: Yeah. I certainly relate, as an artist.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: I think that relates, but it's just asking what you're passionate about within it, and in general. When you say "sensitivity," is that a connection with people? Is it a connection with subject matter? Is it a way to engage with the world?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think as an artist, we look for inspiration from something. It's not easy to be an artist or a creative, even, in this world, because it's hard to find a use for it.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I think if you can find a way to funnel it into something, it can be really, really effective. Just the way that I see light, and the way I see people, and the way I relate to people, I can combine all of that using photography. I teach a lot. I have a bunch of students, and they're sort of all over the place, and hopefully I'll build an online portal or some way to connect with more of them. In the future, but right now I meet with them in person.

 It's not just about teaching them Photoshop or Lightroom, or any sort of equipment that they have. I mean, all of that is there, but it's developmental education. A lot of times my students will start in one place, and then within a year, they're showing, they're selling work, they have all this self-confidence. It's amazing what art can do for you.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Studio IX: Do you have a good story you can share?

Jennifer Byrne: Oh gosh. Well, what's funny is that I'm actually a very shy person, I have three children, my youngest is seven, my oldest, 13, and a 10-year-old. And then also trying to incorporate myself and my work in there somehow. I live in a pretty rural area, I was getting up really early to care for the children for over ten years after staying at home with my son for two years, and then I started managing the studio for another photographer in Ivy, so I had this really long commute.

I started realizing I was seeing a lot of stuff that other people weren't seeing, like the sunrise in the morning. That actually wasn't the kind of photography I was doing, but it became a way to connect with people. It was what people were responding to. I started a Facebook page where I was posting the sunrise and sunset that I was seeing and it slowly grew to forty five thousand fans,  which is a really big group of people to talk with so It's funny that I'm actually a very shy person, and I have this large audience I try to manage.

Studio IX: Well, that sounds to be the way for a lot of artists, because I think a lot of us are introverts, and we have a very solitary side of ourselves, and that anyone in radio or visual arts, writers, - because we're all people that kind of sit behind something and are able to convey what we see in the world through that medium.

Jennifer Byrne: Right. Well, I always have thought if I could write, or do anything else, I wouldn't be a photographer. I mean, it's not something that you really choose. It just is, you know?

Studio IX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: Is there an aspect of what you do that might surprise people, that they don't think about?

Jennifer Byrne: I wish I had a way to explain to emerging photographers that when you come out of college, you have all these hopes to break out in this well defined niche. What you have to realize is that that's really a self-focused narrative, and if you can expand it and not say, "Well, I'm never going to shoot weddings. I'll never shoot families. I'll never shoot landscape, because I have this very creative style." You're cutting yourself off, and so it is actually possible to incorporate all those things, and still have your own style, and also work with the community.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: You know?

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: But I do get a kick out of thinking about when I first left school, and how driven I was to just print, and I didn't care if anybody else liked it. It was for me. I'm glad that I was able to sort of turn that around and see how I can communicate it differently.

Studio IX: Do you have a sense of where you'll be in five, 10 years? Does it feel like the industry itself is changing a lot, as far as photography?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I mean, I think when I worked for the other studio in Ivy, the gentleman I was working with was a photojournalist, so he traveled a lot. He was also a analog photographer, and he was really the edge of the conversion to digital. Watching him go through that process and sort of being the person that helped him transition from analog. I saw a lot of people panicking, thinking, "Everybody's got an iPhone. Everybody has a DSLR. We're not investing in photographers anymore, because we can literally buy the camera for cheaper." But I think things have turned, and folks are starting to realize that it's not the tools that make the carpenter.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I see a lot of potential there, and I hope that in 10 years, I'll be able to really use what I've created, which is visual storytelling, and have –

(Interviewer sneezes)

Studio IX: Excuse me.

Jennifer Byrne: Look at you. You're still getting over being sick?

Studio IX: No. That's just dust and light. A photographer's joy.

(Laughter)

Studio IX: Is there a particular subject that you're interested in shooting that you haven't explored as deeply as you'd like to?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think my enthusiasm for great pictures is hard to rein in. I have no problem getting up at 3:00 AM to get up on Skyline Drive by myself. I'm actually not a big hiker or very tough person, but I will literally do anything for a great photograph. I think that's kind of infectious, because now my students do it too, and I think that's part of what they love, is that it becomes sort of a lifestyle. If you're looking for pictures all the time, your life is more like an adventure.

Studio IX: What do you like about working here at Studio IX?

Jennifer Byrne: I love Studio IX. A couple of years ago, I could get away with working on the front end of my business, two or three mornings a week, then slowly it became more and more encompassing. The more product sales that I do, and the more things that I get involved with, the more time I need, I feel like Studio IX is perfect for me, because it's so quiet, and it's so beautifully made, and everyone here seems to sort of understand that attitude of taking seriously what you're doing, but also doing it together, which is nice.

Studio IX: Thanks, Jen.

Jennifer Byrne: Thank you.

 

 

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: REID FOSTER

 Reid Foster

Reid Foster

Interviewer:                           This is not painful at all. In fact, it's quite fun.

Reid Foster:                           Cool.

Interviewer:                           So, just to start, who are you?

Reid:                                      Reid Foster.

Interviewer:                           And what do you do?

Reid:                                      I manage Reggae bands, and I manage a company called Rootfire that produces some music festivals, runs a nonprofit record label, and operates a media business     with various different elements to it.

Interviewer:                           Cool.

Reid:                                      Yeah.

Interviewer:                           And it's all based here?

Reid:                                      I'm based here. The parent company's actually in Oakland, so I work remotely here.

Interviewer:                          How did you get started in the field?

Reid:                                     I've played music all my life, violin and piano when I was younger, and then got interested in drumming as a teenager. Started working in a drum store, in a drum shop. A place called Skip's Music in Sacramento. This guy asked me if I wanted to be the drummer in his band. I was like, "Well, I've got to figure out how to play drums, but sure."

                                              That eventually led to, somewhere around 20 years old, I found myself playing with this new band. I was the dude with the checkbook and a calendar, and I was the guy who just started picking up the phone and calling every bar in town, and being like, "What does it take to play at your venue?" That just kind of continued, and I pursued my rockstar dreams for about eight years of sleeping on couches and going through a couple of different vans on tour. After doing that for so long for my own band, I realized that it was not going ... I wasn't going to be the rockstar that I thought that I might be-

Interviewer:                           It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story.

Reid:                                      It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story, yeah. So, I went on a little bit of a walkabout, to try and figure out who the hell I was, and I found myself sitting in the jungle in Costa Rica, still talking about bands and shows that I wanted to book. That was kind of the, yeah, like ... this is probably what I'm doing. Before that, many years before that, there was an epiphany, a similar epiphany, sitting in an accounting class at community college.

                                                I had been really on the fence about ... I had always been kind of like a halfway into it type of student, and I had been really on the fence about whether or not to transfer on to a four year school and get my bachelor's degree or not. At the beginning of that semester, I had decided, yep, hunker down, get it done with. And then about halfway through that semester, I, at the end of this accounting class one day, I realized that I had spent the entire time making a list of things that I needed to do for my band as soon as I got out of school. That was kind of the first big, "Don't waste your parents' money. This is what you're doing," and I think I was like 22 at the time. 

Interviewer:                             Wow. Well, that's a good segue. I was going to ask what you're most passionate about, and if that plays a part in what you do? It sounds like it does.

Reid:                                       Yeah. I think there's kind of no two ways around it, it's just like I'm passionate about music and the business of music. I stay up at night, thinking about it. For better or worse, you know?

Interviewer:                           What specifically?

Reid:                                      Well, part of the nature of the industry is just that there's kind of like a never-ending list of things that, if you did this, maybe this would be better, or if you do this, then this. So, there's kind of like ... There's kind of just this never-ending mental to-do list, and sometimes it's hard to draw the balance between do it now while it's fresh in my brain versus, dude, chill, you know?

                                              But, outside of that, my passion is friends, like building relationships, and that's so interwoven in the music industry, and I think really any industry. So, yeah, I'm passionate about people and the way people respond to things, and dissecting that and trying to do a better job of communicating and sharing things that I'm excited about. I go on and on and on about stuff that I like. People tell me to shut up half the time.

Interviewer:                           Well, you don't have to shut up here. Can you share a story, being out on the road, or just that is memorable, that stands out to you?

Reid:                                      Well, I can say that ... I've been on the road for the better part of like 15 years, and without question, the most insane experiences of my life have almost all been tied back to being on a tour. It's like highs, and the extreme highs and extreme lows. You're playing people's weddings and seeing that special moment, then literally going to jail. There's that also.

                                               But, there is one kind of like, not acute specific situation, but just kind of like a bigger story around being on the road in recent years, is just going through the door of sobriety with one of the band members in particular has been a really powerful life experience.

Interviewer:                           Yeah, I bet.

Reid:                                      You know, just seeing somebody's transformation through that, and starting at like, "Oh my God, this guy's going to die. This is bad," you know, to having him recognize that and do something about it, and come out of rehab and just be this amazing person that had been underneath the surface all along. I was getting to know him in a different way for the first time, and it's just like wow. And then being on tour, there's kind of a very protective shepherd type of hat to wear when you're tour managing, and it's like doing an entire tour and having no alcohol backstage. That's a big deal, you know?

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      It was a challenge for me too 'cause I like to drink, but it's ... There are relationships that build over time on tour, and, similarly, there are just kind of these satellite relationships that you have, 'cause like I stayed on that person's couch in 2007, and every time I go back through Portland, Oregon, they come to the show and bring cookies or something, you know? So, there are really special relationships that build through the process of touring.

Interviewer:                           So you have a family around the country.

Reid:                                      Totally.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      Totally. It's like, "Hey, we're going to Dallas. I've got to make sure I contact these people." "Oh, we're going to be in Madison, Wisconsin," or like Orlando, San Diego. It's just like, at some point, I had to start putting people's names and phone number with the city first.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      So, I'd be like, "Oh, Denver. These eight people, I said that I would let them know next time I'm through." Then, of course, it becomes a process of stretching yourself too thin and learning how to not do that when you go on tour, and not feel bad when you can't sit down and have lunch with every single person. But, you know, that's just kind of the nature of being on tour also. It's like you've got all these really cool people who have had some special significance, and maybe you get to see them pretty often if you keep touring, but there comes a point where the touring is just too much to stay on top of all the other work that I've got to do. The band members don't necessarily need to be like coordinating all the different stuff, so there comes a point where touring is just ... If you've got anything else going on, touring is like hugely challenging.

Interviewer:                           And are you in a point of transition right now? 

Reid:                                      I've fully transitioned.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      Thank God.

Interviewer:                           From being on the road all the time to being..

Interviewer:                           Being home.

Reid:                                      Yeah, choosing the shows that I want to be at.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      For the most part, you know? I still have a lot of travel because I work remotely and the main office is in Oakland, and then we have a festival in Florida, and one in Seattle, and one in Boston, and one in Monterey, California. So, there's still a lot going on. But then there are like really special shows, like The Movement playing at Red Rocks for the first time. It's like I'm traveling for that one.

Reid:                                      You know?

Interviewer:                           Yeah

Reid:                                      So, yeah, there's still travel, but I've ... finally, finally been able to find somebody to take that off my plate.

Interviewer:                           That's awesome.

Reid:                                      Yeah.

Interviewer:                           Where would you ultimately like to be in 5 to 10 years? What would your dream seat be? And I guess the second question that dovetails to that is does it feel like the industry is changing dramatically?

Reid:                                       It definitely feels like the industry is changing dramatically. But, sometimes I actually think that the most dramatic changes have already happened in the music industry. You know, like Napster happened in the 90s, and Spotify came somewhere around 2009/2010, and now we're into 2018 and the biggest changes in the industry have to do with recorded music, I think. Those have kind of ... People seem to have gotten with the program.

                                               But, you know, where I would like to be in five years is continuing to do what I do, and have a staff of people that can help me scale it. It's like I'm in this ... 2017 was a year of pretty significant change for me professional, with the founder and owner of the company leaving and asking me to take the reins on it, and being, "Oh my God." At the same time, I got off the road. In theory, my plate was a little less full, but then it just got ... There's like all of this new territory that I've never tried, and, more than ever, I've realized that if I wanted to continue being responsible for the things I'm responsible for, I can't be the guy who does it all.

                                              For so long, I had to be the guy that did it all. It's like I had to learn how to use Photoshop 'cause we needed an album cover, or I had to learn HTML 'cause we needed a website. I couldn't afford to pay anybody to do it. So, it's been really interesting to try and break those patterns and focus my energy on trying to figure out how to build a team to do these things. So, in five years, I hope that I can have a couple of people that work with me full-time, and we can continue doing what we do and do it better, and build some bands to be able to support themselves, and maybe even put a little money in the bank while I do it.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      And, furthermore, continue to build the genre that I ... You know, I work in the genre of modern Reggae music, and it's a pretty niche genre, but I think that if I do it right, and if I learn to leverage the resources that are there, and create opportunities that maybe need to be created rather than just presenting themselves, I think there's a real chance that we can fundamentally change the landscape of this corner of the industry that we live in. So, yeah, I want to keep doing what I do, and try and do it more and better.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. 

Reid:                                       Yeah.

Interviewer:                            You've been with us here at Studio IX for a while.

Reid:                                       Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Yeah, so you and Seth were here. What is it about just being here?

Reid:                                       Well ...

Interviewer:                            And you can say it's dirt cheap and I like the coffee. (laughter)

Reid:                                      Those are true. But, no, I was thinking more about kind of the context for how I got here. Seth and I had an office in the Pink Warehouse, and I loved it. It was like, "Oh my God, we have an office. I can go into the office now. It feels so professional." Then I was on tour for like half of the year, and I remember Seth calling me at some point on some tour, and being like, "Hey, man. I don't know, man, the office, it's just really uninspiring when I'm the only person here. Somebody downstairs is smoking cigarettes and it's really stinky. There's this new place that opened up called Studio IX, and I wanted to see what you would think about us moving out of the office and moving into Studio IX." I was just like, "I love the office though." But it was I loved having somewhere to go.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      'Cause I had spent so many years working out of my kitchen, or in bed, or whatever, like trying to ... Kind of the freelancer's classic struggle of like, "Oh my God. Home, work, how do I separate the two?" But, as soon as we ... Seth was the one paying the bills. It was very kind and generous of him to ask me if I would go along for it, but it was like of course.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      But, as soon as we got here, I remember just instantly being like, "Oh, this is way cooler than our office, actually, because there's more people. There's energy, there are friendly people at the desk, there's coffee out front." There's just a kind of air of creativity and productivity, and specifically the fact that I don't have a dedicated desk here. It's like that means that I can't leave Post-it notes and clutter and a mug or whatever. It's like I walk into a clean slate every day, and that's been really huge.

Interviewer:                           I've never thought about that, yeah.

Reid:                                      Yeah. I mean, ... I tend to be a creature of habit and sit in the same spot for months, and just today, somebody had their phone plugged in where ... I was like, "Oh, okay. Well, I guess I'll sit some ..." So, there's just kind of like a natural, organic way of keeping it a little bit fresh.

Interviewer:                           That's it.

Reid:                                      Awesome.

Interviewer:                           Thank you

 

Member Spotlight: Kevin Zeithaml & Jessie Brooks

Studio IX: So let’s start at the beginning. Who are you guys?

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Kevin Zeithaml

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Jessie Brooks

KZ: Kevin Zeithaml.

JB: And Jessie Brooks.

Studio IX: And what do you do?

KZ: We work for a gentleman named Roger Dean Huffstetler, who is running for Congress in 5th District here. Jessie and I have been working for him now for the better part of a year, trying to get him elected next year.

JB: Kevin is the Campaign Manager and I am the Finance Director.

KZ:  He raises the money that I then get to spend. It's a great relationship. (laughter)

Studio IX: How did the two of you guys get started in this field?

KZ: I was in high school when Obama ran the first time and a friend of mine that was two years ahead of me convinced me to go make phone calls for him one day after school. And I haven't stopped since.

JB: I was working at a non-profit and met the former Mayor of Portland. He was the only person there who had a political background. We had a couple of conversations about his career in politics, what working on campaigns was like, and he connected me with a few people who worked in campaigns and politics in Oregon. I ended up on a statewide ballot measure. It was a crazy experience. I have been doing it ever since. The thing I appreciate about being on a campaign is the scale, being part of something so large I think is really interesting to me.

KZ:  Agreed.

JB:  Also the level of commitment you have to have, and just the amount of autonomy and responsibility you’re given. Other than maybe the startup world, I don't think it's super common to get those types of opportunities.

KZ: There's an incredible amount of trust placed in people in their mid-20’s. I agree with Jessie that you don't see it in a lot of other fields...I think a better way to put it for me is that I have been given responsibility at a much younger age than if I was in the private sector.

JB: Yeah definitely. And it’s a special kind of responsibility, related to people and community...and I think that sort of ties into the other reason I like working in campaigns and politics: purpose. You don't have to look very far to see purpose. You feel it every day. I think that is something that I always struggled to find outside of politics.

KZ:  Especially in today's climate. We're working for a Democrat and in today's climate, it helps because there's a lot of people that like to complain about the state of politics and about the state of our country, and it’s nice to actually do something about it.

JB: Yeah definitely.

KZ: Not that this is the only way to do something about it there are hundreds of ways thousands of ways.

Studio IX: Yeah that's a pretty direct one.

JB:  I feel as far as passion, the competition is a huge element for me. To get motivated by that competition. There are a number of comparisons you can make to athletics in politics, including the team that you have, the people with you, and the experience you get to share with them.

KZ: This is our first opportunity to actually build our own team. We've been brought into teams before but this is our first time building one.

Studio IX:  So it is kind of like cycling in that you have to build a team and then you might lose a stage but you win the race there's pain there's adrenaline everything is involved in it.

KZ:  Yeah there's lots of good analogies to make. The other exciting thing about this that sort of goes back to the adrenaline or the competition thing, is that I can wake up tomorrow and I have no idea what the headline or the breaking news of that day is going to be. But we have to acknowledge it, decide whether we’re going to respond to it, and do so very quickly. You wake up every day and you roll the dice on a lot of things.

JB: For sure and that's the other thing is the stakes of your decisions. You work on Wall Street, right, that's competitive, you can say the stakes are high but really at the end of the day what do people lose other than they lose money.

KZ:  Which to be fair for some people that's high stakes.

JB: Sure but the thing that I really feel motivated by in politics is there is a lot more at stake than just money. Policy, humanity, really big and you can say philosophical issues that are at stake and you get to fight for and talk about.

KZ:  And with that it's really easy to get an overinflated sense of self sometimes. We have to find ways to check our ego and bring it back down, it's very...I've worked with people that either come in with the wrong attitude or do it for too long and get something very much like a savior complex. If that happens then you don't last long.

JB:  Yeah and I think the one thing you really want to avoid is believing that you're more important than the issue at hand or more important than the person you're working for. Those are the two really dangerous complexes. Everybody has a role to play and it isn't about which is more important it's about the mission at hand and how you can get there.

Studio IX:  So what is it about Charlottesville? What drew you here?

KZ: Well for me it's just a lot easier because I've been here for twenty years. So I moved here when I was young, went to school here, went to college here, went off the beaten path a bit with college. I left Charlottesville for two years, left UVA for two years to go work on campaigns around the country, and actually just came back here in January to finally graduate.

JB: Yeah definitely. For me Charlottesville is really my first serious big move outside of the Pacific Northwest. When I left Oregon. Charlottesville is a really special place. I think the people, the natural beauty, it’s all really special. I don't know how to put my finger on it but you can sort of step in and out of different things. A lot of doors are open for you here.

JB: And I think Studio X is a contemplative place. I firmly believe that your built environment and the structural aesthetics around you, do actually have consequences on your experience. Going back to an office park, working in a nondescript bland generic environment, I think there are consequences for that. I think it's great how Studio X places a priority on what your environment look like and how do people move around in it. 

2017: Year in Review

2017: Year in Review

Over the course of 2017 the Studio IX community engaged in 365 days of living purposefully and in community. The members, encouraged and supported by the steady hand of Manager | Curator, Greg Antrim Kelly, have been instrumental in bringing the world into their space and contributing to our society in countless ways through their extraordinary work, art, and other forms of conversation.

Read More

Member Spotlight: Annelise Lynch

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I build things, I debug things, I fix things, and I really like it. It allows me to be technical, but also customer facing at the same time. 

Greg Kelly: Hi, Annelise.
Annelise Lynch: Hi.
GK: All right, so for posterity’s sake, can you tell us your full name?
AL: Annelise Lynch.
GK: And what it is you do for work?
AL: I'm a Success Engineer with Parse.ly
GK: Oh. That's what I'm supposed to tell people at the party. How'd you get started in that field?
AL: I kinda ... I don't really know how to answer that, how'd I get started with ...
GK: Oh wait, wait, wait, back up. What does that mean, what is a Success Engineer? Just talk about what you actually do.
AL: What do I do? I have a hard time describing this. Parse.ly is a content analytics platform, our customers are large publishers and digital media companies. I sit in between our Success Team, which is our account managers, and our back end team. So my job resolves around data and data engineering. I build things, I debug things, I fix things, and I really like it. It allows me to be technical, but also customer facing at the same time. So I get to use both sides of my brain.
GK: Did you like the definition I used when I introduced you?
AL: What did you say?
GK: I said I have no idea what you do, but I know what you do helps people a great deal and you're good at it.
AL: Haha, that was fine. 
 

GK: Cool. What are you passionate about, and specifically in regards to what drives the work that you do? Or, are they connected?
AL: I am passionate about building efficient systems. In my life, or in work. So, I think that's how I kind of fell into the data field, and data engineering is how to efficiently and correctly build sustainable data models, and data warehouses, and reporting structures to help businesses and people to make informed decisions.
GK: Who are some of the clients you work for?
AL: Some of our customers are Huffington Post, and Arstechnica and NBC and Conde Nast.
GK: Mudhouse Coffee Roasters is totally separate?
AL: Yeah. Mudhouse Coffee Roasters is my freelance passion project. I worked as a barista as an undergraduate and helped open up the Crozet store. Recently, I've been working with Mudhouse Coffee Roasters to get them and their analytics up to speed so that they can measure, engagement and conversions for their online store. Working with them to be competitive with other specialty coffee roasters.
AL: And I also am just passionate about that industry, and I want to know more about it and John and Lynelle are just wonderful people to be around, I like to absorb as much of their energy and knowledge as possible.
GK: Yeah. They were the first people I worked with when I moved here.
AL: Same.
 

GK: I know, or happen to know, that travel is a big part of your life, lifestyle. I'm just curious, first of all just talk about why you love it. There's probably obvious things. But does it play into what you do at all? Or, does what you do play into it?
AL: I'm gonna start off with this. I like my job because it's a fantastic company. My team is amazing, and I love everybody that I work with.
GK: Are they based here?
AL: No, they're based in New York.
GK: In New York, okay.
AL: But the CTO, Andrew Montalenti, works out of Studio IX sometimes.
GK: Okay.
AL: Where was I? Oh, and that my job allows me to be fully remote. All the engineers can be fully remote. I like to travel because I am a person that likes their routine, and can fall into routines and habits really easily. So, part of the reason I started traveling was because it makes me step out of those comforts. If I'm only in a city for one to two months I can make a routine, then I have to break it when I leave. I either leave because my visa expires, or because I want to.

I like exploring different cultures and different ways of life in different cities. When I was living in Lisbon my schedule definitely shifted back to the Lisbon way of life, which is waking up late and staying up late. But then when I was in Berlin it was the opposite. So, I did solo, 12 month working and traveling journey last year. Then next year I'll be doing it through a program with about 60 other people.
GK: That's not credit, or anything like that. It's just really structured to take you guys certain places, and do certain things?
AL: It just takes away a lot of the things that were consuming much of my time, which was finding an apartment and a co-working space and flights.
GK: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
AL: Yeah.
GK: Cool.
AL: It's like built in adventure buddies.
GK: Yeah. Awesome.
AL: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

I like to travel because I am a person that likes their routine, and can fall into routines and habits really easily. So, part of the reason I started traveling was because it makes me step out of those comforts.

GK: Can you talk a little bit about Charlottesville, why you make it your home base, or your sort of base camp? What you love about it?
AL: I love Charlottesville.
GK: Yeah.
AL: It's mostly my home because this is where my mom and my sister are right now. But, it was also home before my mom moved to Charlottesville.
GK: Where'd you grow up?
AL: Ashland Virginia.
AL: Little podunk town.
GK: What brought you to Charlottesville?
AL: UVA. I came here for undergrad, and then stayed for a bit before venturing off to DC, and Chicago.
 

GK: So you’ve  been a member at Studio X off and on for quite a while?
AL: Yeah, about a year and a half off and on.
GK: What about being here, what draws you here then?
AL: To IX?  I really like the space. I find it really easy to concentrate. I like the people, I like the location. I love being close to downtown. Yeah, it's just easy. I don't really have to worry about anything.
GK: Yeah?
AL: Yeah.
GK: Thanks, Annelise.