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Andrew Mambo, of ESPN

Tell me about your current situation.

I’m a producer/reporter for ESPN’s 30 for 30 Podcast where I work with a talented team to tell great stories that happen to be about sports. We launched the podcast in the summer of 2017 and just wrapped up our second season a few weeks ago, where I oversaw production on two episodes: No Rules: The Birth of UFC and Madden’s Game. And in our first season I reported on two really amazing stories The Fighter Inside and The Trials of Dan and Dave.

So now I’m working on a couple stories for future seasons of the podcast. My day to day is focussed on research but soon I’ll be going back into interviewing and cutting tape. I can’t say much about the stories I’m working on but I can say I’m ‘pumped’ about what we have coming up (that might make more sense towards the fall of 2018 or maybe not and it’s a bad pun about what I’m working on).

How did you get to this point? What does your career arc thus far look like?

I fell in love with radio and storytelling while at college in Montreal first on campus stations and then at various local stations but it was all on a volunteer basis. I never really thought working in radio was something I could make a career out of. But when I finished my masters in the UK I landed a reporting gig at 1Xtra, a BBC digital radio station. I still remember how elated I was when I got that first paycheck. I was getting paid to do something I had loved doing for years for free and it made me realize that my work had value.

Long story short I had to return to Canada and after a few months I took a detour and went to Zambia for a year to volunteer doing HIV AIDS prevention education for young people. But that volunteer gig then turned into 6 years living in 4 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa working for the United Nations. While most of my work with the UN was focussed on program management I figured ways to bring my photography and writing skills into my daily job to tell the stories of the young people who were benefitting from the projects we worked on.

While overseas I met my eventual wife and when she got a job in New York I followed her there and did some consultancy work with the UN. I was got more into doing photography and that led to another change when an opportunity came up to work on a documentary film about the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, aptly titled The Gettysburg Story. As with most documentary films it was a small crew so I got a chance to do almost everything at one point or another.

While I was working on the film I was keeping an eye out for other opportunities and got connected with Radio Rookies at WNYC who do incredible work helping young people report stories that are important to them. I was a big fan of their work and when an opportunity came up I started out as a freelancer and then got a full time position. My colleagues were amazing to work with and I learned a lot from them, but I also learned plenty from the young people we worked with, mainly about patience, building trust and snapchat filters.

Sports has always been something I’m passionate about and I’m a big fan of the 30 for 30 films so when an opportunity came around to be part of the team that was starting up a 30 for 30 podcast I met with Jody Avirgan the podcast’s host and senior producer and was excited to be a part of it. The past year has been an amazing ride, we’re thrilled with the response to the podcast so far and with two season already under our belt I’m excited about what we have coming up.

What does a career mean to you, at this point?

At this point I’ve been on such a meandering road that I don’t tend to think of myself as having a career in any traditional sense where you specialize in one field and make that your life’s work. I really enjoy storytelling, both as a consumer and creator, so I hope that I can continue to do that as long as possible but that can take many different forms.

When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

I knew I wanted to tell stories but I didn’t think anyone would pay me to do it so for a while I was actually thinking I would be a civil servant or teacher. I mean I always thought I would be doing storytelling in either radio or film but I just thought I would be doing it on the side for fun.

Robin Amer, of The City

I love running this feature, mostly because it’s often a miracle that even a fraction of anything ever happens the way you hope it would. This week, I traded emails with Robin Amer, a Chicago-based journalist, editor, and audio documentarian who is in the midst of leading the development of a long-form investigative podcast, The City, that she sold to the USA Today Network over the summer. Amer’s on the up-and-up, and it’s great to catch her at this point in time.

What’s going on right now?

I’m working to launch my podcast, The City, in 2018. It’s a long-form, investigative show that explores how our cities actually work — I’ve described it as being like The Wire, only true. By that I mean that every season will go deep into one city and one story. And every story will have a gritty sense of place, a memorable, multi-racial ensemble cast, and will be as revealing about the power struggles of all cities as it is about the particulars of the city where it’s set. Season 1 is set in Chicago, where I live. I can’t say much about the story right now except that when I started reporting it I thought, holy moly, this really is like The Wire, only true.

Because I’m the show’s executive producer as well as its the host, I’ve spent the last few months building the foundation for the show on business side as well as on the editorial side: building a whisper room studio in our offices in Chicago; hiring a team of journalists; working with my company’s product and sales teams to design our website and secure sponsorships; that kind of thing. I’m hoping to have most of my reporting and production team in place in the next few weeks, at which point we’ll dive back into the reporting for Season 1.

How did you get to this point?

In a narrow sense, I won the WNYC Podcast Accelerator competition in 2015, piloted the show with WNYC studios last year, then sold the pilot to the USA Today Network in May. USATN was interested in the show because the company wants to be a player in the premium podcast space, and because my vision for the show — to go to a different city every season — fits perfectly with its overall editorial strategy. The company owns 109 local news outlets, and we’re already soliciting pitches from journalists in the network for stories for Season 2.

In a broader sense, I’ve been working up to this project for more than 15 years. I feel in love with public radio-style storytelling à la This American Life when I was in high school, then talked my way into an internship at NPR when I was 18. My senior thesis at Brown was an hour-long radio documentary that aired on several public radio stations in New England and that I premiered as a live performance in front of about 200 people.

That doesn’t mean it’s been a straight trajectory. I moved to Chicago in 2007 to work for Vocalo and then for WBEZ, and truly thought I’d be there forever, because it had always been my dream to work there, and because I loved Chicago, and Chicago was sort of a one-horse town when it came to opportunities in radio. But at a certain point I started to stagnate, and I wasn’t able to do the kind of work I wanted to do most, so I took a risk that not everyone understood, and left my stable job in journalism to go back to journalism school at Medill.

It seemed a little crazy at the time, even to me. But it was totally the right move. I got a full scholarship, and then a fellowship with Medill Watchdog, where I trained with Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Tulsky on how to be an investigative reporter. That opened a lot of doors for me. After I graduated, I freelanced for a year, which included a stint at the interactive audio walking tour company Detour, before I was hired to be the deputy editor at the alt-weekly Chicago Reader. Then I won the WNYC competition just a few weeks after I started at the Reader. (It was kind of a heady time!)

What does a career mean to you at this point?

The most important thing to me is the work, in whatever form it takes, and to keep making it. I think it’s really important to be adaptable and nimble, given both the incredible opportunities in media right now and the incredible instability in the media job market. It’s so boom and bust, feast and famine, that you have to figure out what really drives you, so that you can use that to guide you through various opportunities and challenges.

So for me, I’ve figured out that as a journalist and storyteller I’m incredibly inspired by place. Typically I come across some place that is strange or confusing or surprising or upsetting, and I want to figure out, in a very literal sense, what happened here? How did this place come to be the way it is? And what are the consequences of this place being the way it is for the people who live here?

But I’m very open to and excited by the idea of exploring these kinds of stories across a variety of media and in a variety of contexts. I look at someone like Alex Kotlowitz as a model here. He writes long-form magazine articles and books, produces radio stories, and is involved with making feature films like The Interrupters. But his work always has the unifying themes of poverty, race, and inequality (and often education and/or childhood), so regardless of the “container” it’s in, you can tell it’s his. I’m also newly inspired by Ira Glass right now, because he somehow manages to be deeply involved in the journalism coming out of TAL, Serial, S-Town, etc., while also managing and growing what is essentially a business empire.

When you started out, what did you think you wanted to do?

In one sense, I thought I wanted to do more or less what I’m doing now: make long-form audio stories. When I was younger I was in love with old-school, sound-rich European features by people like Peter Leonard Braun and Kaye Mortley, people whose work I had been introduced to by the Third Coast International Audio Festival. But it took me a while to articulate the kind of subject matter I was drawn to, and to realize that what I was doing was journalism, and that the ethics and tools and practices of journalism were an important component of my work. Fifteen years ago I would have self-identified as a radio producer or a radio documentary maker. Now I tend to self-identify as an investigative reporter. More recently it’s been a shock to see myself as somewhat entrepreneurial. I didn’t see that part coming.

Alice Wilder, “Perma-intern”

Let’s say you’re a young person looking for professional purpose, some idea of a future, so what do you do? You move cities, get closer to the action, grab some people, take whatever opportunities cross you by: internships, fellowships, freelance jobs here, there, anywhere. You cobble together whatever you can into the shape of a thing that could hopefully pass as a career. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to work a third or fourth gig to pay the bills. But that’s only if you’re lucky. And you wonder: where is this all going? What does this all lead to? The answer, maybe, is always the same: who knows, we’ll see.

This week, I traded emails with Alice Wilder, a young producer from the South in her early-twenties.

Hot Pod:  Tell me about your current situation.

Alice Wilder: Currently I’m the Podcast/Video intern for FiveThirtyEight. Really, I’m the podcast intern. Right now my manager Galen Druke is working on a mini series for the site, so I’ve been focusing mostly on that (transcribing tape, assembling sessions, scheduling interviews etc). I also work on the weekly politics podcast.

In my spare time I run a newsletter called “Cult of the Month” with my best friend Kelsey Weekman. It’s our passion project (and a way to justify spending hours researching the Breatharians).

HP: How did you get to this point? What does your career arc thus far look like?

Wilder: I would not have any type of “career arc” if it wasn’t for Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge, who let some random college girl transcribe tape for Criminal. People think I’m bullshitting when I say that I actually enjoyed transcribing tape, but listening to Phoebe interview is a masterclass and it gave me a deeper understanding of each story we did. I still miss logging tape for Criminal.

Then I asked if I could be an intern, and made a promise to myself that I would not say no to anything they asked of me. Lauren, Phoebe and Nadia Wilson (our new producer!) are the best people to work for, they did not restrict me to typical intern tasks and took my thoughts (and pitches!) seriously, which means a lot when you’re an intern.

I stayed at Criminal for two years (I did not spend much time on homework for those years). When I graduated from UNC (Go Heels!) I moved to New York to start my internship at FiveThirtyEight. I’ll be here until early September, when I’ll start interning for Planet Money. I’m also starting a weekly(ish) newsletter for interns in the media industry. We don’t have access to much institutional power and I want to help build a network for jobs and career resources.

HP: Being pretty early on in your work life, how do you think about your next steps? What does a career mean to you, at this point?

Wilder: To me, a career means having health insurance. I really, really want health insurance. My initial thought going into my senior year of college was that I want to make radio in the South. I have roots in North Carolina and Louisiana and want to hear stories that come from those regions. I’m in New York right now because that’s where podcast jobs are. Eventually I’ll find a way to move back South.

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Wilder: LOL. I thought I was going to be a social worker. For all of high school and the first two years of college I was very involved in local activism and centered my identity around being a Teen Feminist. My 15 year-old self would be horrified that I didn’t participate in the Women’s March. But I couldn’t, because doing so violated my employer’s policies on political action. Instead I spent that time dogsitting for a family that was going to the march.

I wrote columns for my college paper for two years, and that involved writing about myself a lot. Right after I had a bad experience (intense street harassment, reporting sexual assault, etc) I would turn around and publish it for thousands of people to read. I (finally) realized that writing about something and sharing it with the world is not the same as actually processing it. So I stopped the column, did that processing, and used the platform I had built at the newspaper to tell other people’s stories.

The best lesson I learned about having a career in this field, I learned from Phoebe Judge. She gave a workshop at the Daily Tar Heel and told us that there’s not just one route to having a fulfilling career. You don’t have to major in journalism, intern for WaPo or NPR, and go straight to a big name publication after college. At the time, it felt like all my peers were taking that route and I felt like it was already too late for me. It was such a relief to hear that there are so many paths that can lead to a great career, and they don’t always involve having the New York Times on your resumé by the time you turn twenty-two.

You can find Wilder on Twitter at @Alice_Wilder.

Sarah Larson, New Yorker Writer

We’re doing something a little different with Career Spotlight this issue. Today’s Q&A is with Sarah Larson, a New Yorker staffer who will be writing the website’s new podcast column, “Podcast Dept.”, which launches this week.

So, I’m a big fan of Larson’s work, both the stuff she’s written about podcast in the past — including write-ups on Happier with Gretchen RubinSerialMogul, andNorman Lear’s All of the Above — and her stuff more generally, like a recent essay titled “U2 Plays ‘The Joshua Tree’: Outside, It’s America,” which is about a lot of things, but is most importantly about returning to something when you’re no longer the same.

Anyway, I thought it’d be useful to hear what Larson has to say about critical podcast writing and her approach to the matter. Let’s jump in.

Hot Pod: What do you do for a living, and how did you end up doing it?

Sarah Larson: My somewhat hilarious job title is Roving Cultural Correspondent for newyorker.com. I’ve been on staff at The New Yorker since 2001. For most of that time, I was a copy editor for the print magazine, and I also wrote theatre blurbs for Goings On About Town. I hadn’t thought of myself a journalist — my first love was writing fiction and memoir, which I have always done on the side. But in January 2013, I discovered a style of journalistic writing that suited me, for the Web site. I wrote a freewheeling post about Barry Manilow’s show on Broadway, and suddenly it was as if everything clicked. I was having fun, and it felt right. I began writing regularly for the site and for Talk of the Town, in the magazine, and in 2014 my editors hired me to write for the site full-time. As Roving Cultural Correspondent, I go out into the city and report on theatre, music, comedy, podcasts, other cultural creations, and the people who make them. I cover a very wide range of cultural work. (Including “Game of Thrones”!)

HP: How did your new podcast column come about?

Larson: I was avoiding the form of criticism, generally, because we have critics at the magazine, and that was their role, not mine. But in my writing about podcasts over the past few years, which I’ve loved and found exciting, I’ve been surprised to hear gratitude from people in the podcast community for writing anything critical at all. Everybody covers the podcasts that hit it very big, but there’s a dearth of critical podcast writing in comparison with the amount of podcasts there are — even for the bigger-budget highly produced podcasts, and, as you know, there are hundreds of lesser known podcasts beyond that. When my colleague Emily Stokes suggested that I write a weekly podcast column, I thought, Yes! It felt exactly right. It’s such an exciting time in the podcast world. I wish I’d started it a year ago.

HP: Could you tell me about how you’re approaching the work?

Larson: My first objective with this column is to listen closely, to get to know what the podcast is doing and the intentions of the people creating it, and to give the reader a sense of what the experience is for the listener and how well the podcast accomplishes its goals. It’s not necessarily to pronounce various podcasts good or bad but to take them seriously and to think about them. The landscape has changed so much in the past few years, as you know, Nick. I’m really intrigued to see where that goes in the next year or two.

I’m listening for work that creates an authentic, interesting experience for the listener and a connection to the listener, and which connects us to the larger world in a way that feels valuable. I tend to be very sensitive to sound design and its use and misuse, and to hosts’ voices, and the particular feeling of intimacy that this form can foster. Another thing I’m paying attention to is the wonderful but insidious role of storytelling, which can enhance journalism beautifully but can also become treacherous.

Basically, I want to take a look at a genre that hasn’t been one of the standard categories of criticism and do my part to pay it the respect that it’s earned in our culture in this moment. Podcasts are incredibly plentiful and diverse, and I know a great many, but I also feel like I’m on the edge of a very lush forest, curious to see what’s within. So I thought, I better get hiking.

You can find Sarah on Twitter at @asarahlarson.

Karo Chakhlasyan, from Wondery

Thus far, I’ve mostly focused this feature on producers and the creative side: staffers, freelancers, veterans, rookies. But producers alone don’t make up the industry. This week, I spoke with Karo Chakhlasyan, the Director of Audience Acquisition at Wondery who came into the industry through the media buying side.

Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.

Karo Chakhlasyan: I am currently the Director of Audience Acquisition at Wondery. My responsibility is to ensure our shows are heard by the right people. I use different marketing techniques to make that happen. Right now, I’m working to get our latest release, Tides of History, into Apple Podcast’s top 10. I think a screenshot of Tides right next to Locked Up Abroad, our last release, in the top 10 really shows theprogression of our network and it’ll be a cool little picture to have.

HP: How did you get to this point? What does your career arc look like — where did you start, and how did you end up in this position?

Chakhlasyan: My local NPR affiliate station, KCRW was a constant go-to for me in high school and KPCC became another go-to in college. That motivated me to take all the radio courses I could find in college. During that time I loved this show called “Comedy Death-Ray” that aired on a now defunct station called Indie 103.1. I started to stream Indie 103.1 on my desktop and eventually mobile. Then I discovered this company called Earwolf and loved everything about it. I emailed their first CEO asking if they had any job I could do. He said no, and that I should go listen to every episode of The Wolf Den. I emailed him back to thank him and I never heard back.

In 2013, right after college, I lived abroad and my obsession with podcasts grew. I tried to listen to everything I could download. I couldn’t stop listening to the 20072010 archives of BBC’s The DocumentaryThe Story, Milt RosenbergNotebook on Cities and Culture, and The Sinica Podcast. Sometime while abroad it clicked that people will eventually stop listening to the radio, listen to more podcasts and podcasts can make money with ads!

When I came back to the States, I promised myself that I would only take a podcast-oriented job. I emailed every Los Angeles based podcast or radio company I could find and having a year of teaching experience abroad didn’t really wow any of the companies. I then searched for “podcast” on Craigslist and found Oxford Road, an agency that bought ads on podcasts. In fact, the managing director of Oxford Road at that time was an intervewee on The Wolf Den!

I mentioned how I heard him there, got hired to work in their mailroom, and confused everyone with my podcast obsession. Luckily, I had two generous co-workers who taught me how to cut podcast deals and what to do to make them profitable for our clients while keeping the shows and networks happy — I thank them quite often.

A couple of Excel sheets later, I realized how profitable podcast ads could be for our clients. It took a few dozen phone calls and meetings, but we grew podcast billings over 100% in a year. That was fun.

But I always wanted to be on the publisher side of things so when I met this guy named Hernan Lopez who had a new podcast company, and found out they had an interesting position open, I applied.

HP: How did you learn to do the job that you do today?

Chakhlasyan: I didn’t really know what to do at first, (Sorry, Hernan!) so I just applied the same playbook I used at Oxford Road. Buy podcast ads, measure, optimize and scale. And I lucked out again by having such amazing and generous coworkers and friends to learn from. I’m happy to say my playbook has grown. I still rewrite and add to that playbook every day. So much to learn!

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Chakhlasyan: I really wanted to produce comedy podcasts. I think I still do! It’ll be about a person who quits their day job to start their own podcast network. I’ll call it “Jim and The Podcast Factory.” Oh wait.

You can find Karo at @birdscanttweet.

Gina Delvac, from Call Your Girlfriend

There are freelancers, and then there are podcast showrunners. This week, I had the pleasure of running this Q&A with Gina Delvac, the L.A.-based producer who quarterbacks the popular Call Your Girlfriend podcast.

Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.

Gina Delvac: I’m a podcast showrunner. Like the creative-meets-editorial-meets-business role that many TV show creators play, I work with brilliant hosts to make podcasts that best showcase their talents and interests.

The two shows I’m most focused on right now are:

  • Call Your Girlfriend, the podcast Aminatou Sow, Ann Friedman and I created in 2014. We explore the news and pop culture and our periods and Amina & Ann have really intimate, smart and fun weekly conversations along the way. A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

  • And Pitch Makeover, a project hosted and conceived by Natalia Oberti Noguera and which launched in May. Styled like a fashion makeover, Natalia offers targeted and insightful feedback to startup founders about their 60-second business pitches. If you love tech but are feeling rightly sick about its culture of discrimination and harassment, you might find a little glimmer of hope between Natalia’s infectious energy and our slate of women and nonbinary founders.

In the day-to-day that includes a little bit of everything for Call Your Girlfriend: high-level editorial, editing & mixing, and a bunch of meetings and admin on the business side, too. For Pitch Makeover, I work closely with Natalia to record and edit each episode. (I’ve even co-hosted).

HP: How did you get to this point? What does your career arc look like — where did you start, and how did you end up in this position?

Delvac: It started with bankruptcy. Okay, not mine. I was working as a paralegal at alegal aid clinic in 2008, fresh out of college and watching the economy collapsing.What I was reading in the New York Times didn’t square with what my bankruptcy clients described on a daily basis: thousands of dollars of credit issued to people living on SSI. Utility shutoffs that jeopardized the housing of single moms. The transference of debt from one collector to the next to the next.

When This American Life did their Giant Pool of Money story, I remember I was wandering down Benjamin Franklin Parkway (yes, toward the Rocky steps), listening to this podcast that was finally, finally explaining what the hell was going on. And it did it in a way that connected Wall Streeters to young college grads like me to my clients who were living in poverty. Of course, this essential style of documentary but accessible reporting became Planet Money.

It took me awhile to discover who these public radio producer people were and what they actually did, so when I moved home in Los Angeles in 2009, I started interning at KPCC, which I did for 18 months, something I was able to do thanks only to my mom letting me live in her basement (literally) in exchange for paying the gas bill.

Once I had some basic editorial chops and booking experience, I started down the freelance public radio path that so many producers have trodden. Picking up days when I could, taking the longest stints, trying to learn as much as possible and work on different types of shows, including Marketplace where I really cut my teeth as a journalist and producer.

My first real podcasting job was working with tech investor Jason Calacanis on his long-running show, This Week in Startups. There, I learned the startup beat, got to interact with a totally different kind of superfan and saw the insane drive and energy that so many entrepreneurs have. During that time, Aminatou and Ann and I started talking more seriously about Call Your Girlfriend. Being around founders all the time definitely made it seem like a no-brainer to quit my day job and get way more serious about my passion project.

It would be easy to pretend here that Call Your Girlfriend was an instant success and money-maker. While we found an audience early on, we didn’t turn a profit for over a year and all worked multiple jobs throughout. We love making the show but no one counts on it like a fulltime job. (More on this in our Businesswoman Special episode).

HP: How did you learn to do the job that you do today?

Delvac: After benefiting from the wisdom of so many people at KPCC (notably my bosses Linda Othenin-Girard and Kristen Muller, and my then-fellow-interns Lauren Osen and Arwen Nicks) I got a chance to start filling in at Marketplace.

What began as a two week “we’ll try you out, kid” fill-in run, turned into months of steady freelance work. Megan Larson (now at KPCC), Sitara Nieves and Kai Ryssdal took insane chances on the weird skits I wrote and field production ideas I pitched while I was still so green. They also taught me how to edit with a reliable and steady ear on a fierce deadline.

Later, I got a chance to work on the beginnings of the Wealth and Poverty Desk, and then its first standalone podcast, The Uncertain Hour, hosted by Krissy Clark. As a listener, Krissy is one of my favorite reporters. Getting to explore how welfare gets (de)funded — and who gets those funds — was a major highlight of 2016.

Aminatou and Ann have taught me pretty much everything else I know: how to break the established rules; how being your specific you — IRL and on a podcast — can be a path to personal fulfillment and success; and how to have fun and hold yourself accountable to your ideals and goals at the same time. I truly cannot say enough about my work-wives.

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Delvac: I didn’t — and still don’t — know what I want to be when I grow up.

You can find Gina on Twitter at @gdelvac. As usual, you can find older Career Spotlights here.

Shara Morris, Freelance

There are tons of freelance producers floating about the radio and podcast worlds, pretty much in the same way that there will be an abundance of freelance writers floating around New York and Los Angeles. But a freelance life effectively executed is a minor miracle regardless of context, and in that spirit, today’s Career Spotlight dives into one such miracle: Shara Morris, a Southern California-based producer who works with a range of companies.

Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.

Shara Morris: I’m an independent podcast producer based in Los Angeles. I currently produce Maximum Fun’s Adam Ruins Everything podcast and am developing two pilots – one with American Public Media and another with Panoply. Previously I produced Panoply’s Girlboss Radio and I also produced a Midroll miniseries called What’s Wrong with Me? with TIME columnist Joel Stein.

My day to day routine really changes according to the project — from pre-interviewing to booking to prepping, to script writing, and editing. Yesterday, for example, I had a brainstorm meeting with one of my podcast pilot hosts and then had a tracking session with one of my other hosts. On another day I could be pre-interviewing a bunch of potential guests for a show and editing an Adam Ruins Everything episode. That’s the beauty (and sometimes curse!) of freelance. My days are generally mine to create. Because of that, I try to be organized and create as much structure for myself as possible.

HP: How did you get to this point? What does your career arc look like — where did you start, and how did you end up in this position?

Morris: Radio and podcasting were something that I felt like was part of my life, but I didn’t seriously consider as a full-time career until after I graduated from college. I’m from Houston originally so the summer after freshman year of college I interned for Houston Public Radio, and summer after my junior year I interned for New York Public Radio.

After college, I worked in TV entertainment in New York, which I didn’t find professionally fulfilling. So I left my job in January 2013 to attend The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. When I finished the program, I moved to Los Angeles and began freelancing in public radio and podcasting while working a day job.

I had two solid friends when I moved to LA, and one of them asked me if I was interested in hosting a radio show at a pirate radio station in Chinatown called KCHUNG. She was co-hosting it but needed to leave to focus on grad school and her co-host was leaving to go on the world tour of Barbie: The Musical (Los Angeles! Naturally!). So all of the sudden, I had graduated from this radio documentary program and had an hour time slot at this pirate radio station to make whatever I wanted. It was so exhilarating. I asked a good friend to co-host a show with me, which became a podcast we created called Homemade News.

Eventually, my friend and I, as Homemade News, began freelancing our pieces to various public radio stations: KCRW, The California Report, Only a Game, and more. And because of that experience, I learned how to pitch my own radio stories. I went full-time freelance in radio, began making my own pieces, which became part of my portfolio for when I was applying to podcasting jobs with networks like Midroll and Panoply. I’ve pretty much been doing that ever since.

HP: How did you learn to do the job that you do today?

Morris: Salt was an amazing opportunity to really hone my skills as a radio producer. Michael May is a fantastic teacher and he really pushed me to think about storytelling in a different way. I’ve also kept in touch with some of my Salt friends who have been wonderful teachers, collaborators, and editors as well. Throughout my years freelancing I’ve also worked with incredible editors along the way who have really given me invaluable editing and career advice.

As a freelancer, there’s also so much that I’ve learned ‘on the fly’. I just read Clare Toeniskoetter’s Career Spotlight who really touted ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ and could not agree more. There have been so many scenarios where I’ve felt like I had no clue what I was doing, but I just had to play the part. Even going freelance, I had to convince myself ‘I am a podcast producer’. Once I took myself seriously, other people did too.

There’s also something to be said about letting yourself experiment with audio. Homemade News felt like a place where I could create audio when no one was watching. I think it gave me the confidence in my voice and my ability to try new things with content and sound.

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Morris: I think my idea of what I wanted to do has shifted. When I was working on Homemade News as a hobby, I had wanted it to make it a full-time job. I’ve also wanted to work on highly produced existing shows. I think being open about your career can only bring you opportunities.

You can find her on Twitter at @SharaMorris.

Leital Molad, from First Look Media

Spend enough time in the New York podcast scene — or any major city with a podcast scene, really — and you’re bound to bump into someone that came up through WNYC, which was once the only major institution dealing with narrative radio residing in the city where many a young person hoping to deal in the creative industries flocks to in pursuit of professional and artistic development. In this week’s Career Spotlight, we’re bumping into Leital Molad, who currently leads podcast development for the Pierre Omidyar-backed First Look Media. In case you need to refresher on why I do this feature, go here. Let’s jump in.

Hot Pod: What do you do?

Leital Molad: I’m the Executive Producer of Podcasts at First Look Media. In a nutshell, I develop and produce podcasts for The Intercept (First Look’s investigative news site) and Topic (our entertainment studio). Right now we have two podcasts in production, Politically ReActive and Intercepted. I oversee those shows week to week, working with the producers, giving editorial notes, and liaising with our business team on the marketing side. The other big part of my job is taking pitches for new shows, creating pilots, and bringing projects to launch. Since I got to First Look last October, we launched three shows: Maeve in America, Intercepted and Missing Richard Simmons.

HP: Where did you start, and how did you end up in this position?

Molad: I started as an intern at WNYC in 2000. The next year I got a full time job as a production assistant for Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, and spent the next 15 years working on that show, ultimately running it as senior producer. My last year at WNYC I launched and EP’ed a health podcast, Only Human. I started thinking about my next career move and figured that this podcast renaissance was a great time to break out of my cozy public radio cocoon and try something new. So I took the leap and went to First Look – a media startup that was just getting into podcasting.

HP: How did you learn to do the job?

Molad: WNYC was an amazing place to learn everything I know about radio and audio. I got to wear many hats, ranging from basic show production — booking guests, writing scripts, cutting tape — to reporting my own stories, producing documentaries, and running live events. And I learned a ton about launching new shows after working on Only Human, which has been very helpful in my new job. Also, having been in the trenches with audio production (which I love), I can be a better manager of producers and engineers. Getting new shows off the ground at startup often means being able to jump in on production when needed, and that’s been invaluable.

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Molad: After college, I didn’t land on what I wanted to do until I was brainstorming with a family friend who offered to help with some career advice. He asked me, “If you could have anyone’s job, who would it be?” Right away I said, “Terry Gross.” He said, “Well, that’s what you need to do!” I had been a DJ at my college station and an avid listener of public radio, and those two things just clicked. I wasn’t sure how to become the next Terry Gross; eventually I figured I should go to journalism school. So I came to New York for grad school at NYU, and then, very luckily, landed the internship at Studio 360. My dream of hosting evolved into an appreciation and desire for producing, which I fell in love with.  Maybe I’ll still host a show some day, we’ll see!  (You know, they say anyone can start a podcast with a laptop and a microphone…)

Jonathan Mena, from the Loud Speakers Network

Hot Pod: What do you do?

Jonathan Mena: I work for the Loud Speakers Network as a producer for the Combat Jack Show, Tax Season, TK Kirkland Show, and Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty, which is our first collaboration with Gimlet Media. My day for LSN always starts off looking at the analytics. It’s not just about the plays but also the demographics and locations of our listeners that helps us better strategize. Our network is very young so a lot of us at LSN wear many hats. For the shows I produce, my philosophy is always to have the host focus solely on the interview. I never want the host to worry about the production side. So if I have to write questions, book a guest or studio, edit audio or even make a drink for a guest I’m going to do it all so we have the best show possible. I also sometimes have to wrangle ornery hosts and guest so I guess I also have the title of podcast whisperer at LSN. As we’ve grown in the almost 4 years since the start of the network, I’ve expanded into developing podcasts and creating video content. To sum it up, my job is to create great content.

HP: Where did you start, and how did you get to this point?

Mena: I started podcasting in 2006 around the time when iPods first started getting color screens and Twitter had just launched. I was in college editing lectures for the German Department which we would upload on iTunes University. I don’t speak any German so the professor would go through her lecture and tell me in English when to cut and start again. Around this time I was going to school for journalism and production and had a great professor and mentor by the name of Gregg Morris. Morris made podcasting part of the curriculum and pushed us to produce our own shows. He’s really the first one that showed me there was more to journalism than being in front of a mic or camera. Back then I never thought podcasting would be what it is now. Can you imagine a time before the podcast app where you had to physically download the podcast on your computer and transfer the file via cable to your device?

I finished school and got a day job in IT but was still freelancing for a local blog covering the crime beat. It was around this time that Reggie Osse (aka Combat Jack) was doing internet radio and getting some big guests for a show only a few hundred people were listening to in New York. We all started following each other on Twitter and would see each other at events around the city. A year or so later they announced they were thinking of starting a podcast network. They didn’t even have a name at the time. I reached out to Chris Morrow who eventually became a co-founder of LSN to see if they needed any help. Morrow offered me a shot at editing a new podcast they were launching about sneakers. The show wound up having a short run of only a few months.

A few weeks later out of the blue, I get an email from Reggie asking to edit a Combat Jack Show episode. He needed the episode turned around as soon as possible. Now I knew that email wasn’t for me and he had sent it by mistake, but I answered it anyway. I turned that episode around as fast as I could — 2 hours later he had the completed episode ready for posting. The next day Reggie invited me for coffee to talk about coming on the show as a producer, but never gave me a time or location. Two weeks go by and I never hear back from him or got any response from my follow up emails. Then one day he calls me and says, “We have Russell Simmons in the studio today can you come by so we can talk about you joining the team”. Reggie later admitted he sent the email to me by mistake, but said it was meant to be.

HP: How did you learn to do the job?

Mena: Necessity truly is the mother of invention. There was a time when I couldn’t afford editing software so I taught myself how to use Audacity. In college when we didn’t have the equipment we needed, we would duct tape and bubble gum something together. I come from a DIY generation that has used the internet to our advantage. I still look at tutorials on YouTube and use Twitter to network or find talent for our shows. I also have the luxury of having a close relationship with the co-founders of the Loud Speakers Network, Chris Morrow and Reggie Osse. The two of them have taken me under their wing and allowed me to grow as a producer. Working at LSN has been like going to podcasting school.

HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?

Mena: As a kid I was always fascinated with radio and how it was created. I would record the Angie Martinez show on a cassette and listen back to it at night. I vividly remember listening to 1010 WINS as a kid in the car. Getting on the radio always seemed like something so abstract and unattainable. That’s why I think podcasting came at the right time for me. I’m a first generation American and the first in my family to go to college, so it was expected I either become a lawyer or a doctor. I did well in my science classes but after a year switched majors and focused on journalism and media production. I never told my parents but I guess they figured it out by now. They just got smart phones and my mom just learned how to text, so when I tried to describe podcasting it was a little abstract for them. They tell their friends I work in TV which is hilarious but at least I don’t have uncles asking me if I’m a doctor yet.

You can find Mena on Twitter at @jonathanmena.

Clare Toeniskoetter, from APM’s Marketplace

HOT POD: What do you do?

: I’m a podcast producer at Marketplace’s New York bureau. I produced two seasons of Codebreaker (check it out, we just won a Webby!), two seasons of Actuality, and now I’m piloting new shows with our growing on-demand team. I also produce Marketplace Tech a few times a month — that’s our daily tech show.My workload changes, depending on the day: researching and pitching stories, engineering interviews, cutting tape, reporting, booking guests, writing scripts, scoring and sound designing, and recently co-hosting Facebook Live videos. My position was brand new when I started at Marketplace two years ago, so I was able to shape it so it includes a bit of everything.

HOT POD: Where did you start, and how did you get to this point?

: I didn’t grow up listening to any public radio — the Toeniskoetters were more of a ‘today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites’ radio family — but I was always interested in music, so I started hosting a freeform music show with WCBN at the University of Michigan. College radio was a gateway radio drug for me, and I soon started listening to public radio and podcasts. (I actually called my favorite podcasts “hot pods” early on, I have gchats as proof). It wasn’t until I drove through the night from Michigan to New York to volunteer at WFMU’s Radiovision conference that I realized I could have a career in public radio (which I almost didn’t go to — looking back at old emails, I didn’t want to miss a football game that weekend).Back in Ann Arbor, I started interning for our NPR affiliate, Michigan Radio. I worked on a daily news magazine program, finding stories and booking guests, and eventually pitching and producing a new recurring segment. In 2014, I moved to New York for a part-time Radiolab internship and quickly started another part-time internship at Slate working on The Gist, all while working a bunch of Craigslist odd jobs to pay my rent. From there, I did temp work at WNYC and Panoply, and eventually found myself at Marketplace after replying to a two-line job posting email for a “six-month gig” as “a NY-based producer for two podcasts.” Six-plus-nineteen months later, I’m still at Marketplace producing podcasts.

HOT POD: How did you learn to do the job?

: On the first day of my Michigan Radio internship, my manager lent me a copy of Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production. I read it cover to cover, and ordered Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound and Radio: An Illustrated Guide. With my radio encyclopedia in place, I also listened to archived Third Coast conference sessions, read guides from Transom, and talked to other radio reporters and producers at our Detroit-based radio club. Despite all this, the early pieces I made lacked structure, pacing, and purpose, but I kept at it. Case in point, another gem copy-and-pasted from my old emails:

Me, to other Michigan Radio interns: Let’s make a podcast! I’ll borrow some equipment. Come over on Sunday to record.

Co-intern: Hey guys! What’s going on with a podcast? This sounds hilarious!

Me: I don’t think we really have a plan for it, we’re just going to see what we can create with microphones in front of us!

No, no one ever heard that podcast. That said, most of my learning was through doing. One of my internship managers told me to fake it till I make it, which, if you didn’t get from the “see what we can create” podcast, I definitely did. Eventually, the failure becomes adequacy, and the adequacy becomes improvement, and the improvement becomes success. And today I’m still pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and taking on new roles and responsibilities at Marketplace.

You can find Clare on Twitter at @claretoenis.