Veronica Belmont, Mozilla IRL Podcast

I interviewed Veronica about her job as a podcaster and her show IRL. It was great to learn about her story and what motivates her to create. 

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What was your background going into IRL and the tech industry?

I went to school for audio and video, so that’s kind of unusual. When I moved to SF in 2004, I got a job as an audio producer for CNET, and that’s how I got into professional podcasting. I knew what podcasting was at this point, but it wasn’t something that was mainstream yet. Apple hadn’t really even gotten into it at this time either. Podcasters were still using third-party apps to generate RSS feeds.

I went into podcasting as an audio professional, and I was passionate about technology, so it seemed to be this perfect marriage between circumstance and ability. CNET gave me a lot of freedom to create content and shows and that moved into video. I even started to teach myself how to edit content for videos. That’s how it all started.

After that job, I was a freelance worker doing mostly video and audio work. I was also in the tech industry advising for start-ups and helping them with strategic planning. My job at Growbot currently is the first full-time job that I’ve had since 2007.

About a year ago, I decided I was ready for a full-time job. I was really interested in bots and started working here at Growbot, but then Mozilla reached out and encouraged me to do this podcast. So eventually, I said yes.

What are you doing at Growbot?

I’m a product manager, so essentially, I work with the engineering team to create the features that we’re working on. Our bot is called Growbot. It’s a team recognition bot that runs on Slack and Microsoft teams. One problem when working at a big organization is that you sometimes don’t feel like you’re getting recognition for the hard work that you’re doing; we make it really easy to recognize individuals and give them kudos for what they’ve accomplished.

It’s a real-time bot that runs on chat platforms, and we use that data to help companies make good decisions about retention, hiring, etc. I design the chat experience and work with the engineers to create features for the product. I spend a lot of my time writing documents about what I want to get out of specific features. We go back and forth about what’s feasible and what we want the end result to be to the feature. And then, we build the product and go through a testing phase as well as start talking to customers about whether they’re enjoying the product.

What motivated you to get involved in IRL, and what motivates you to keep producing content?

I was kind of done with the new media content world after I took this job. I was still doing Sword and Lazer, which is my SciFi fantasy show, but that was pretty much it. Mozilla encouraged me to take on the podcast, and I felt pretty strongly that I didn’t want to take on another big project. Though the more they talked about it, the more I started to think that this was a really important subject.

The podcast was something that I could do to help people and educate people about issues in tech. So we found a way to make it work, and I’m really glad that we did. I’m kind of an activist at heart, so I like having a platform where I can help people understand the technology that they’re using and help people make good decisions about the technology that they’re using.

I felt like it was a good time to do it in the world.

What materials would you recommend to someone who wants to create a podcast?

You can start with very little resources and money and make a totally professional sounding podcast. It can sound as good as anything we’re doing or NPR is doing. You just need a good microphone and a quiet space that’s it. The microphone quality is so amazing these days. You can get one for very little money, and it’s going to sounds good.

For hosting, you can use which is completely free, and you can publish it under Creative Commons. Or you could do something like posting on Soundcloud which is relatively inexpensive. There are so many good hosting options now, and then you just need to use something to create the RSS feed like WordPress or Feedburner. There are a number of tools out there to make RSS and XML.

What I love about podcasting is that it’s really democratic. That’s why net neutrality is so important because we want to give people the opportunity to make a successful show and be on the same playing field as someone doing it for a big company. A lot of people who are independent have gone on to have huge shows. Tom, who I mentioned, is paid solely by Patreon, and he’s one of the top Patreon people. He puts out high-quality daily content which he creates and produces in his home and is able to pay people like me as contractors to be on his shows. It’s a whole cottage industry that has kind of sprouted up around good quality audio that’s cheap to make as well as put out on the Internet.

 What are some podcasts that you recommend?

Radiotopia is awesome, and they do a lot of great shows. 99% Invisible is a design show, but it kind of has a tech angle to it. My friend, Tom Merit, down in LA does Daily Tech News Show. He makes shows for Amazon Echo and other tech stuff like that. So many of the shows now are from big companies like Engadget and NPR, and it’s pretty amazing how widespread podcasting has become.

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