#134 - The End of an Era: A Fond Farewell to JH

#134 - The End of an Era: A Fond Farewell to JH

JH - 00:00:01: I think there's a lot of topics, or a lot of perspectives, that I maybe wouldn't have been, like, directly exposed to or just considered so deeply. I think there's something about, like, having a 40 minute conversation with somebody. There's a lot of active listening, thinking about what questions might lead to new areas that will be interesting for folks.

Erin - 00:00:19: This is Erin May.

JH - 00:00:21: I'm John-Henry Forster, and this is Awkward Silences.

Erin - 00:00:26: Hello everybody and welcome back to Awkward Silences. Today I'm here with no guests, just JH, my co-host. And it's a sad day because it's our last episode as co-host, JH, is leaving, going on to do other things, which we'll talk about, but here we are and that's what's up. Hey, JH.

JH - 00:00:52: Yeah, it's a special episode, but a sad episode. It was hard to think about leaving UI in the first place to go take a new role after six years, but losing the podcast and not doing this with you was definitely a complicating factor in my decision-making for sure.

Erin - 00:01:05: Yeah, it's had an outsized impact, right? Like one of the first things people said was like, but what about the podcast?

JH - 00:01:12: Yes, people are worried about it. I think it'll be in good hands with you, so I'm not too worried about it. And hopefully I can come back and be a guest from time to time or something. But yeah, it'll be different for sure. We've done how many now? 120?

Erin - 00:01:24: Like 130 something, a lot. Yeah, a whole lot. And we've got more coming. So I guess we'll probably air this after our last one with you is up, I don't know, something like that, probably.

JH - 00:01:32: Yeah, that probably makes sense, yeah. So we'll get through the backlog and then.

Erin - 00:01:34: Yeah, and then we'll see. And then I'll do some alone. We'll have some guest hosts. It'll be fun.

JH - 00:01:37: Yeah, it'll be cool. Change can be good, so.

Erin - 00:01:41: Change is good, sometimes. I'm excited for you. I'm excited.

JH - 00:01:43: Yeah. Well, if it's bad, you just change again, right? Keep changing until it's good.

Erin - 00:01:45: All right. So we prepared just a couple of informal questions for each other, which we have not seen. And by informal, I mean, I wrote mine three minutes ago. So you want to go first?

JH - 00:01:54: Yeah, do you want me to start with kind of a real one or kind of a silly one?

Erin - 00:01:58: Oh, God, I don't know. You pick. Dealer's choice.

JH - 00:02:00: Yeah, let's get into it. This is the first one I wrote down. So I think this would be a fun way to start. So for context, everyone, the podcast was Erin's idea. Heads up our marketing team, kind of makes sense that she'd be the podcast initiator. But yeah, I was just curious, I don't know that I've ever really asked, why did you pick me to be the co-host? You could have done it yourself. You could have done it with somebody else, we have a lot of smart people. Just, yeah, I would love to hear about that.

Erin - 00:02:20: OK, so I think I had been here about a year around when we decided to start the podcast and wanted to do it for a bunch of reasons. But one was that podcasts were definitely a thing, they were happening in B2B. But there wasn't an amazing UX research podcast out there. There are others out there that are good and that we respect. But there was room for UX research podcasts, so it just made sense to do one. So I was going to hire a content person to join the team. And it's like, oh, yeah, they'll host the podcast. And I remember, I think JH, you were like, really? I don't think that makes sense.

JH - 00:02:52: Oh, that's funny. I don't remember this.

Erin - 00:02:54: Yeah. Like, I don't know if you were as direct as like, you should do it, but it was like, yeah, you're not going to have just some person host the podcast.

JH - 00:03:01: Yeah.

Erin - 00:03:02: It was like, oh yeah, like I should probably do it. And it was like, oh, never done this before, I should, like, do it with somebody.

JH - 00:03:08: Gotcha, okay. So the safety net.

Erin - 00:03:10: Yeah. And then I thought, right, you have the product background and just bring some legitimacy to that side of things. So I can do my marketing thing, my user research, get to know customers thing, but you would bring this relevant experience. And I like bantering with you and hanging out with you. So I thought it'd be fun.

JH - 00:03:26: Cool. All right. Now everyone knows how it came to be.

Erin - 00:03:28: Why'd you say yes?

JH - 00:03:29: It's a good question. It seemed like a fun thing to do. I think I'm somebody who likes to tinker and learn new stuff. So the idea of just like, how do you make a podcast? And how do we get it places? And what's the format going to be? It just seemed like a lot of fun problem solving. And then this has very much come true, but I guess I had it also in the back of my head, like it'd be a cool way to meet people that I respect and, like, enjoy following in the research and product space. And we've had a lot of those people come on as guests, which has been really cool. So it's kind of like, I would have loved to pick this person's brain anyways and this is like an excuse to do it. So yeah, it seemed like a learning opportunity. It seemed like it'd be a good way to connect with interesting people. It was definitely a little scary though, the idea that anyone in my life is going to be able to hear me talk about work stuff and whatever, which is, you know, a little weird, but you get used to that pretty quick.

Erin - 00:04:07: You do. Actually it's funny. I remember it now. We were like pitching this idea on a call with Dennis, I think. It's like, we're going to start a podcast. Just like dropping it in, like no big deal. And I'm like, oh, you're going to host it with me. I don't think I had told you about this.

JH - 00:04:20: It's funny.

Erin - 00:04:20: And you're like, cool, sounds good. That's how it went down.

JH - 00:04:22: All right, yeah, I mean, sounds good.

Erin - 00:04:24: So funny. All right, question for you. What's been your favorite part of doing the podcast? Maybe you answered this a little bit already, but what's been the most fun?

JH - 00:04:31: I guess maybe just expand on that is, I think there's a lot of topics or a lot of perspectives that I maybe wouldn't have been directly exposed to or just considered so deeply. I think there's something about having a 40 minute conversation with somebody. There's a lot of active listening, thinking about what questions might lead to new areas that will be interesting for folks. So yeah, I think just the breadth of perspectives and people and topics that this has been a catalyst for. To your point, there were various things in this world that I was familiar with from just working in product and doing our own user research and talking to user researchers. But it's not the 101 level, not the 201 level. You're getting up into more advanced stuff, and that's really cool as just somebody who likes to learn and is curious. I think it's also cool when people will randomly reach out to us on LinkedIn or Twitter and say nice things. That's always really cool. I think it's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that people listen to it and enjoy it and find value in it. And so whenever you actually get those messages or kind words, it sort of makes it feel real. Like, oh yeah, there are people who, it's helping them do their job and they're learning something new. And so that's pretty cool.

Erin - 00:05:28: Yeah, I think I mentioned to you, JH, it's been one of the fun aspects of going to some of these in-person conferences, which I've not done a lot of in the COVID years, but I've been to a few and folks will be like, Erin May from Awkward Silences and it's always kind of a thrill. So that's the exact level of celebrity I want in my life. So it's been fun.

JH - 00:05:44: Yeah, it's cool. Cool. Maybe to build off this, for you, when did it feel like a real thing to you? Like, oh, we do this and people listen and it's out there and stuff.

Erin - 00:05:52: Yeah, I think people talk about podcasts like you're building a relationship with your audience. And I think that's true. But at the same time, we're not like a call-in show, right? Where we have that direct actual line with our listeners.

JH - 00:06:05: Yeah, long time, first time, yeah.

Erin - 00:06:07: Yeah, exactly. So that would have been fun, next time. So I think, as a marketer, we love our up and to the right charts and podcasts analytics are notorious for not being very good. But you do get some charts. You can see your followers and your listeners grow. And so I think just starting to see that really take off. Starting to see some reviews coming in and getting good feedback internally. People are listening to it. Every once in a while you hear from sales, someone's closed one sales deal and they're like, oh, I discovered you guys from the podcast, like those little signals. So maybe a few months into it, I started to see some of that, but it takes a few episodes to get going.

JH - 00:06:41: Yeah, you see some real late counts and stuff and you're like, okay, this is starting to add up a little.

Erin - 00:06:45: How about for you?

JH - 00:06:46: I was thinking about this. I think somewhere in the first couple episodes, maybe episode two or three that have been out, and once people outside of my professional life, but in personal life, found it and obviously curiosity listens. So when I started getting texts from college friends giving me a hard time, or I remember my mom and brother making fun of me, because I think in the first episode I say something like, can we swear or something, and they would be hanging out with me, and they'd be like, can we swear, can I swear? And they'd just give me shit. And so that was like, okay, this is really in the world and anyone can just find it and listen to it.

Erin - 00:07:13: Yeah, oh yeah, forever.

JH - 00:07:14: Yeah, and maybe just a side tangent on that. I think a cool thing for me is, as you get more mature and stuff, I think that's the type of stuff that used to be more rattling to me, when you're younger and more insecure or whatever. And yeah, okay, people are poking fun a little bit or whatever, but this is fun for me, I like doing this. I don't care. You know what I mean? I think there's a nice place you can get to at some point in life where you're a little bit more resilient, maybe, to getting triggered and a little bit more unfazed by stuff. So I think this was a cool moment of, okay, it's out there, people are listening to it, and it is what it is. I don't care.

Erin - 00:07:42: Well, and that's how you build and learn in 2023, right? You have to put stuff out there and inevitably you will look back on what you created last week, last year, a decade ago and be like, oh, God, that was pretty bad. Or I could do better now or whatever, but you never get there without putting stuff out there.

JH - 00:07:59: Yeah, totally. I think by definition, right, if you're growing and evolving and improving, you kind of have to look back on stuff you did previously with a little bit of cringe. Because if you look back on it and it's the same quality you're doing now, like nothing's improved, you know what I mean? That's like a part of it.

Erin - 00:08:11: I should go back and listen to some old ones, or maybe not. We'll just, we just know. Just know. Do you have any favorite episodes, favorite memories, favorite guests?

JH - 00:08:20: I mean, a lot. There's been so many cool conversations. Some like I was excited for just because I knew the person, I knew the topic and so that was there. And then others I think were maybe more like unexpected where I didn't really know the guests and the topic super well, and then it turned into being like an interesting conversation. So I'm not going to try to start rattling them off because I don't want to like forget important ones. I mean, for me personally, I think a cool one was when John Cutler came on and spoke to us just because he's somebody I, as a product person, had followed for a long time, found his Twitter and newsletter and posts and stuff just very interesting and thought provoking. Mostly agreed with his thinking, but not always, he comes at stuff from original angles. And was somebody who had a bit of a following and was pretty well known at the time. So like just checked a lot of boxes of like, this is somebody I have followed for a long time and it's really cool that they'd be willing to do this. And then also it was just a really interesting conversation. So maybe for me, that was like a personal favorite for a couple of reasons, but there's been a bunch of good ones. I think like Vanessa Whatley, is that the name? That was one where I think I didn't know much about her or the topic, but then we went into it and it was like an awesome conversation. So those are some of the more fun ones sometimes where you're like, I don't even know where this topic is gonna go, and then you get into all these interesting nooks and crannies.

Erin - 00:09:18: Yeah, what do we say? It's like, oh, we're gonna pretend to not know anything about this topic.

JH - 00:09:23: Yeah, sometimes it's not that hard to pretend.

Erin - 00:09:24: Yeah, I've liked some of the ones that we've done on accessibility and inclusion and the ethical side of research. Definitely an interesting crossroad all the time. So those have been really interesting. But there hasn't been one that I really didn't like. There's only good ones.

JH - 00:09:37: I think that's been cool, is that they've all been very solid. So I guess a credit to the guest for making that work.

Erin - 00:09:43: Yeah. My default is to ask people questions so it's nice to have permission to do that.

JH - 00:09:49: Yeah. I also think, too, there's certain stuff that I think would be hard to explore in a different format. So I know that's kind of a cliche about podcasts. But a long-form conversation is a good way to break down certain topics compared to Twitter or Async back and forth. There's just certain stuff that the dynamic back and forth goes a long way.

Erin - 00:10:06: Yeah, or guest posts. I think that's part of the appeal, too, just from an operational perspective. I don't know if you've been close to this, JH, but if you're trying to do a case study or a webinar, some of these other ways in which you might work with guests, with folks that work at other companies, it can be a real operational hurdle. But this is relatively easy for people to say yes to. And I think that's been a rewarding aspect as well. Some folks have been on the podcast circuit and done dozens of them, and others have been first-time guests. So it's been cool to give a platform to people with great ideas, but not necessarily a huge audience.

JH - 00:10:40: Alright, a quick awkward interruption here. It's fun to talk about user research, but you know what's really fun? Is doing user research. And we want to help you with that.

Erin - 00:10:49: We want to help you so much that we have created a special place. It's called userinterviews.com/awkward for you to get your first three participants free.

JH - 00:11:00: We all know we should be talking to users more, so we went ahead and removed as many barriers as possible. It's gonna be easy, it's gonna be quick, you're gonna love it, so get over there and check it out.

Erin - 00:11:09: And then when you're done with that, go on over to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review, please.

JH - 00:11:17: Yeah, the first time guests are always fun, where it's like, you found this person who has a really interesting perspective on some topic and then, yeah, exactly, to help kind of give them some visibility and show off all that they know about it is fun. All right, here's more of a goofy one. How do you do the like, hey everybody, welcome back to Awkward Silences‪ thing so consistently? Like I've had people ask me if it's a recording and it's like, no, she does it live every episode. Does it just happen or do you think about it?

Erin - 00:11:37: I don't think about it. It's total muscle memory, yeah.

JH - 00:11:40: Did I just mess it up? Now you're gonna think about it and like the next one's gonna be…

Erin - 00:11:43: No, not the next one, but now I'm thinking about it for right now. Hey everybody. Yeah, it’s just like breathing.

JH - 00:11:47: Routine at this point, yeah.

Erin - 00:11:48: Yeah. It was not intentional to do that, you know, like, oh, I'm gonna come up with a thing. It just became a thing.

JH - 00:11:56: It's good to have a thing for a podcast.

Erin - 00:11:58: It's good to have a thing, yeah. Does everybody know about the swear easter egg in the intro?

JH - 00:12:02: I don't know. That's a good question. I know some people will have found it. Yes, if you listen to the intro music where we do the long awkward pause, you can hear some profanity in there if you listen closely.

Erin - 00:12:12: What are we gonna do with the intro? Oh my God, so sad. Maybe we'll just leave it.

JH - 00:12:17: Yeah, yeah, I just assumed you'd leave it.

Erin - 00:12:19: Yeah, just leave it alone.

JH - 00:12:20: Yeah, that's for you to figure out. I don't know if we have those files anywhere. Or we put everything in like a Google Drive, I think at some point.

Erin - 00:12:26: That sounds like something we would do. I'm sure it's around somewhere. All right, JH, are you ever gonna host another podcast?

JH - 00:12:32: Ooh, that's a good question. I don't know. I would certainly be open to it. I find it fun. I don't know what I would want it to be about. I think it would be fun to do one that's more life or some like personal interest topic. I know there's a lot of those. I don't know what the audience would be for it, but it would just maybe be fun to talk parenting with somebody, or talk about random stuff I'm into, or geek out about random products, like physical products that I find really useful or something like that. Like that kind of stuff would be fun, but no immediate plans. I mean, a work-related one would be interesting too, but again, I don't know exactly what would happen there. It's not a no. I think one thing that might be interesting, we've talked about this a little bit before, but obviously it's been nice to have the cohost and cool that we were able to start this together, but there are times in an interview format with multiple people asking questions, it can be like a little tricky because sometimes you're like setting something up and you want to like follow a certain thread and then somebody else kind of takes it off in a different tangent. I think we've figured that out over the years and we know how to navigate that now, but like for an interview show, I think potentially doing it solo would maybe be easier in ways. And then for like a podcast, to your point about like it's fun to just banter, there'd be times it'd be fun to just like this, no guests, just go. And so if I did one again, I think I'd want to think about the format just because I think it'd be fun to just shoot the shit with somebody every time and not have to work a guest or a topic in.

Erin - 00:13:35: It is wild to hear like Huberman, for example, who I think sometimes he has guests, but mostly it's just him and he just talks for like an hour and a half, and it's great, but that would be hard to pull off.

JH - 00:13:44: Yeah, I don't think I would ever do like a solo show.

Erin - 00:13:47: Yeah, JH, by JH, on JH.

JH - 00:13:49: I'm gonna try to say a bunch of science words for 90 minutes to sound smart. Yeah, I don't know how people do those types of formats. I mean, if you're good at it, it can certainly be very interesting, but it feels very pressure packed.

Erin - 00:13:58: Well, we will have to get you on the show in your new role. Do you want to say anything about your new role, where you’re going?

JH - 00:14:04: Yeah. So as I mentioned, I've been at UI for six years now, and it's been a really cool journey. So for folks who don't know, I came in as the sixth employee when we were a very small business, not much revenue back then, and obviously quite a bit more these days. I think now the team's 120, something like that. So we've had a lot of growth across the company and then within my team. So I built up the product management and product design teams here, which has been a real highlight of my career, which has been cool. And I don't know, yeah, I was just starting to think that maybe doing something new or working in a new problem space could be exciting and I was approached with an opportunity to go be the SVP of product at a smaller company called Skedda. So it's about 30 to 40 people, a little bit less in revenue as well, and they are trying to help teams that are doing hybrid work. So helping them with the space management, but also the employee collaboration and kind of engagement. So they actually get people to the office on a day when their peers or colleagues or friends are going to be there. It's not just that you have a desk, but you actually are going and getting some benefit of the live collaboration with the people you work with or want to see. So that felt kind of fun. I know a lot of teams are struggling with the hybrid thing so it felt like a worthy mission. And I think what I've been saying to the team here and what ultimately kind of led to my decision is like, I think that stage is just really fun, like the 30 to 40 people where you are out of those super scrappy days, but you're also kind of like in the scaling, figuring things out phase. And I think I've learned a lot about how to do that in my time here. And I like the idea of if I do it any better the second time around or apply some things there. So that personally felt like a fun challenge, but it was a really difficult decision. You know, I love the team here at UI, love the product, love the space and our customers. There's just a lot of things to like. But one thing that did give me comfort is the people who now lead the respective product management and product design teams, Carol and Katie, are just both super capable and talented. So I feel like the team is in good hands with me departing and very excited actually to see what they do and where they take things. So yeah, it'll be a little scary to do something new after so long. So we'll see how that goes, but I'm mostly excited.

Erin - 00:15:50: We'll get you on and see how you all do research and what it's like doing research in a different kind of company in an earlier stage and all of that.

JH - 00:15:58: Yeah, I think maybe I've taken for granted just how much we know the ins and outs of user research now from just working in it and working with our customers to solve their problems and stuff. But also this podcast is like an education outlet. I have a few things to learn about hybrid work and space management and all that kind of stuff. So again, I think that'll be fun. Like I think I'm somebody who likes to learn new stuff and so probably have started to plateau a little bit. Obviously, I'm not like the ultimate expert at user research, but doing this stuff, you know a lot of it, and so it'll be cool to till some new soil and see what's what.

Erin - 00:16:26: Well, thanks for agreeing to be my co-host all those years ago and sticking with it all these years. It's been a whole lot of fun for me.

JH - 00:16:34: Yeah. Thank you for asking me to do it. Maybe just to close, do you have any funny memories or like outtake-y things or goofy stuff from the years?

Erin - 00:16:40: Oh gosh, so many. I think just the first few weeks of doing it were so funny because we had no idea what we were doing. It's like, what kind of mic should we buy or using GarageBand to edit everything. We convinced Jess, our coworker, to get her band to do the music and have full rights to all the music. Yeah, that was really fun and just silly. And then remember we did the episode in the field in Austin.

JH - 00:17:05: That was a good one.

Erin - 00:17:06: At a bar. That was a good time. I’m trying to think. Do you have any funny outtakes?

JH - 00:17:12: The one that comes to mind for me is when we were trying to figure out the music and the recording and everything else, I had kind of jumped into GarageBand and was playing with things and was like, I'll see if I can get started here. And I remember the first attempt at an intro track was so, so bad. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just using all these distortion effects and stuff on my voice. It was just me talking and it was horrible. The first thing I made that sort of seemed like a thing, and so I remember sending it to you. I forget what you said, but I think there was a...

Erin - 00:17:38: Try again.

JH - 00:17:39: Yeah. And I think we landed it in kind of a fun spot, people seem to like the intro, but that to me was just a very funny thing in retrospect. I guess it's like anything, when you just go in, we're going to go figure something out, it's like you're going to make some mistakes. I had no clue how to do audio stuff, no clue what a good podcast intro would be, and the first couple tries aren't going to be perfect. I wonder if I could find that. That'd be a funny thing to release. Just a horrible, horrible...

Erin - 00:17:57: Yeah, we have got plenty of slacks back and forth about all this stuff.

JH - 00:18:01: If I can find the horrible V1 of an intro, maybe we'll put that out there when this comes out and people can make fun of it.

Erin - 00:18:08: Yeah, awesome. Alright. See you later.

JH - 00:18:09: Take care, bye everyone.

Erin - 00:18:10: Hey there, it's me, Erin.

JH - 00:18:11: And me, JH.

Erin - 00:18:13: We are the hosts of Awkward Silences, and today we would love to hear from you, our listeners.

JH - 00:18:17: So we're running a quick survey to find out what you like about the show, which episodes you like best, which subjects you'd like to hear more about, which stuff you're sick of, and more just about you, the fans that have kept us on the air for the past four years.

Erin - 00:18:28: Filling out the survey is just going to take you a couple of minutes. And despite what we say about surveys almost always sucking, this one's going to be fantastic. So userinterviews.com/awkwardsurvey and thanks so much for doing that.

JH - 00:18:41: Thanks for listening.

Erin - 00:18:43: Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences, brought to you by User Interviews.

JH - 00:18:48: Theme music by Fragile Gang.

Episode Video

Creators and Guests

Erin May
Erin May
Senior VP of Marketing & Growth at User Interviews
John-Henry Forster
John-Henry Forster
Former SVP of Product at User Interviews and long-time co-host (now at Skedda)