I’ve never met Ashley Milne-Tyte but I hear her voice more often than many of my friends’. Every other week, Milne-Tyte produces The Broad Experience, a podcast about women in the workplace where she interviews high quality guests on their career, their recipe for success and general life advice.
Her podcast has become one of my favourites and could be taken as one-way mentoring. Every time I listen to a new one there seems to be advice I can draw from, and apply to, approaching work situations and I was curious to learn more about all the work and preparation that goes on behind Milne-Tyte’s great reportage. I also asked her about her career and, in this month of reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the one to come, on what she had in the pipeline for 2014.
I’d suggest that subscribing to The Broad Experience on iTunes is a great way to start the new year; and that listening to it is the easiest new year’s resolution to keep.
Why did you decide to set up The Broad Experience as a podcast? What did the format bring that writing couldn’t?
I’m a radio reporter by background, so it never occurred to me to start a media brand that was anything other than audio. I’ve started blogging on TheBroadExperience.com this year, but that wasn’t really part of my initial plan. I love the intimacy of audio. There’s something about hearing a person’s voice – especially when it’s going directly into your ears via earphones – that brings a direct connection between listener and speaker that you don’t get when reading something off the page.
How do you pick your topics and prepare your podcasts?
The topics are a combination of things I want to talk about and topics listeners suggest. It’s all pretty random. I had imagined initially having a much more organized process, but the fact is I just don’t have time to plan the shows the way I’d like. I’m doing this on top of hustling for actual paying work and then doing that work, which doesn’t leave as much time as I’d like for planning and organizing The Broad Experience. I’m lucky that topics keep falling into my lap either through something I come across in my reading, or something a friend or listener suggests. Putting a podcast together once I’ve done the interview(s) is pretty labour-intensive. I’ve never timed it from start to finish, but it’s hours and hours of work spent cutting tape and weaving together a story around it with my own writing. I voice it in my closet and then mix in my own voice tracks. I’m no engineer so sometimes I have to re-do things because there are P’s popping, the sound of me swallowing, or something similar. It can be hair-tearingly frustrating, but I want it to sound as good as it possibly can given the production environment.
What are the three best pieces of advice your podcast guests have given you?
I’m not sure I can pick the best three, because I’ve interviewed so many people and I take something useful away from virtually every conversation. I’ll give you a few but I can’t promise they’re the best. I do think FT columnist Mrs. Moneypenny (Heather McGregor in real life) has some good advice about not succumbing to guilt, something that bedevils a lot of women and sucks away our energy. She describes it as a wasted emotion, which it is, and advises women who want to try to do everything at the cost of themselves to compare the situation to the airline oxygen mask scenario where you’re asked to put on your own mask before that of the child next to you. In essence, if you’re OK and taking care of yourself, everyone else in your life will be better off than if you’re running yourself ragged trying to be perfect.
Recently-retired McKinsey partner Joanna Barsh appeared in an early podcast with Mrs. Moneypenny, and one of the many memorable takeaways from my interview with her has to do with risk. A lot of women tend to say ‘no’ to things (I’ve done this), because we think we can’t possibly pull it off, so our default answer is no. She said you have to say yes first, then work it out. At least if you want to get ahead. Usually, things will not prove as difficult as they seemed.
In another early show I talked to Tiffany Dufu, who now works for Levo League in New York. She said to free up our heads to achieve more at work, we have to give up some control of things at home. I think this is huge for women. I admit I’m a total control freak a lot of the time. I like things to be the way I want them to be. But Tiffany emphasised that too many women drive themselves crazy trying to do everything. She asked her husband to fix a leaking tap one day because she had too much to do at work to think about it. He did. She was not keen on the replacement tap he bought and installed, but she had to live with that - it was the price of going off to work, keeping her day on track and delegating. If you want a saner life, give up some control.
You name and review a lot of books on The Broad Experience. How do you select them and find the time to read them?
The books I’ve talked about on the show have come to my attention through a combination of friends mentioning that a certain book, or author, might be a good fit for the podcast, of me knowing the author’s work, or, in the case of Lean In, the fact that it was exploding into everyone’s consciousness and I couldn’t possibly ignore it. I don’t have time to read them all, frankly. I often don’t finish them before the interview, but I aim to get at least halfway through.
The Broad Experience website also hosts a blog where you write about women and work issues. How do the blog and podcast complement each other, both for the reader and in terms of how you prepare both?
Answering these questions is making me want to become much more organized! The fact is I’ve never thought about this much. I do the blog because I’m aware that bringing out one piece of content – the show itself – every two weeks isn’t enough to keep people coming to my site. I want to provide something else that may expand my reach beyond the podcast’s listeners and that keeps me on people’s radars as someone to watch on the women-and-work front. Plus, I enjoy writing. I love radio/audio – I always have the radio on at home (yes, an actual radio), and the kind of storytelling I do on the show is something I couldn’t do on video or in print – but I’m well aware that many people never get their news or information that way. I know I have some readers who are not listeners to the podcast. When it comes to the blog, it’s a way for me to quickly write about something I’ve just thought or read about, or to write up an event I attended, such as a panel discussion at Columbia University where Anne-Marie Slaughter and Alison Wolf (who I recently interviewed) were speaking about women and the workplace. Also, some of the posts contain tips and takeaways I’ve picked up at an event that I think could be helpful for others. I hope it complements the podcast.
Why did you decide to focus on women in the workplace?
When I was a reporter for Marketplace, the US public radio business show, I did quite a few features about aspects of women’s lives – career stuff, their relationship with money, how they are marketed to, etc. – and I found it fascinating. I’d never thought much about gender stuff before. I’d never – have never, to this day – read any of the famous works of feminism. I really wasn’t interested. But a combination of reporting those stories, and then looking back at my own behaviour in the workplace and realizing how many typically female ‘mistakes’ I’d made, convinced me women still have a lot to overcome if they’re going to do well at work. I should add that I was inspired by the BBC programme Woman’s Hour. If millions of Brits can listen to 45 minutes of women-oriented content five days a week, it shows there’s a market for intelligent journalism about women’s lives.
Why/how did you decide to become a radio journalist? What advice would you give to people who want to follow?
I loved the way radio journalists told stories – you have to do a lot of work with your writing because there are no pictures to keep people engaged. It’s all down to you. As I said earlier, it’s an incredibly intimate medium, and I wanted to be part of it. I’m a frustrated actress, so radio storytelling is my way of getting a bit of that drama in. It’s tricky to give advice because the job situations are different in each country. I got in as an intern, and I got on the air after a few months. I think the advice would be the same as with any other job – show keenness, have initiative, etc. But also, listen to the radio a lot if you want to write for it. I’ve had students in the past who are writing for radio in class but they’re not listening to any radio in their spare time so they no idea how to write for the ear. If you want to write for the ear, you have to be used to listening to those stories so you know how to use punchy language, short sentences, conversational language and so on.
Is there any situation in which you consider The Broad Experience wouldn’t be necessary again, the way for instance AIDS charity wouldn’t be necessary if AIDS was completely eradicated?
I suppose if women were in almost as many senior positions as men, I might think my work was done.
What are your plans to evolve The Broad Experience?
In 2014 I’d like to get some more content partnerships off the ground – I really want to expand the show’s reach – and I’d love to find a couple of big sponsors so I could actually do this full-time and concentrate on it properly. So the key things are getting more listeners and landing at least one sponsor who would enable me to earn enough from the show that I could spend more time on it, and possibly hire someone to help.