How I Podcast: In conversation with Reshma Saujani

April 14, 2020
We’re talking with podcasters from all walks of life about their creative process and why audio is one of the coolest ways to tell a story.

Sometimes the best podcasts begin with a single piece of inspiration — maybe it’s an interest, or a person, or an experience that you want to explore further. For Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, her podcast grew out of a mission — to help people change the world.

Brave, Not Perfect is Reshma’s podcast where she interviews public figures about their personal challenges on the road to success. With guests like Lizzo, Arianna Huffington, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Cameron Esposito, Reshma’s conversations trace a pattern in some of the world’s most famous changemakers, demonstrating that taking chances and embracing imperfection is the key to finding fulfillment.Through Reshma’s captivating interviews and the steady drumbeat of her empowering philosophy, Brave, Not Perfect aims to inspire women and others around the world to create change and live bolder, happier lives.

Every episode of Brave, Not Perfect opens with a quick summary of the podcast’s mission, then Reshma moves into a short biography of her guest for context. Her own bravery is reflected in her no-nonsense interview style, jumping right into hard-hitting questions without hesitation.

As a host, Reshma models the importance of active listening. Her goal isn’t to get through a list of interview questions, but rather, she lets her guest speak their minds and uses their answers to guide her next response. Her show, though rich in content, is easily digestible with episodes averaging between 15–25 minutes, showing that podcasts don’t have to go on for hours in order to get deep. While she keeps a consistent format for each episode, occasionally Reshma breaks the mold to engage with her audience. She invites listeners to ask her questions using Anchor’s Voice Messages feature and answers them on dedicated Q&A episodes. Since Reshma’s podcast mostly focuses on public figures, this is a great way to open up her podcast to community members’ voices and share her own personal viewpoints.

We talked with Reshma about her podcasting process and what she learned along the way.

What motivated you to start a podcast?

After founding Girls Who Code, I realized how much the messages that society sends women hurt us — making us perfectionists, making us scared to take chances and fail. That mindset held me back. It kept me in a job I hated. It kept me from living the life I was meant to for so long. I started my podcast to spread the message of “brave, not perfect” and give women and girls the tools they need to break free from the cult of perfection. By fearing less, failing more, and living bolder, we can also reach for the things that we want, and ultimately, find more joy.

What’s your show’s format and how did you decide on it?

At the center of every episode of Brave, Not Perfect is a conversation with a changemaker who can teach us something about bravery and letting go of perfection. It’s a great way to learn about the lessons or tricks that we can borrow from these incredible women to improve our own lives and dream bigger. In addition to a compelling conversation, we always have a little something else. Sometimes, I’ll do something brave like sing karaoke or trapeze through the air to encourage listeners to go do something that scares them. Bravery is like a muscle — and you’ve got to practice to make it stronger! This setup allows us to release episodes regularly with consistent content while also giving us a lot of flexibility to be brave and experiment with new formats.

What’s your recording setup?

Our recording setup is definitely not perfect! Usually I’m just in a small, quiet room at the Girls Who Code offices. For those looking to get into podcasting — you can make shows that sound great without a fancy studio. My producer and I just use a Zoom H4N recorder and a good quality microphone (an audio-Technica AT2005USB). A lot of our interviews are done remotely, in which case we either have our guests record themselves on a smartphone or hire an audio producer to record them.

How do you promote your podcast?

My team and I do so many things to get the word out about the show. Social media, of course, is a big piece of that. Every episode, I’m posting on my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. One thing I love doing is developing relationships with other podcasts and doing promo swaps — we have such a strong sisterhood with Wonder Media Network and several shows like Battle Tactics For Your Sexist Workplace, Popaganda, Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff and Inflection Point with Lauren Schiller. We’re always looking to grow our sisterhood and support other fabulous podcasts. Plus, we made a Facebook group because being brave can be hard, and I wanted to create a space for people to lift each other up and encourage one another.

What’s your favorite Anchor feature?

Do I have to pick just one?! I love how easy Anchor is to use and how it fits your needs whether you’re just getting started or a veteran podcaster. It’s so easy to upload episodes. Anchor even has easy editing tools so you can do everything online or from the app, which is an incredible feature for new podcasters. The analytics are also so easy to read and understand, too. I love how you can see the countries, states and cities your listeners are coming from. It’s so exciting to see the Brave, Not Perfect movement reaching an international audience.

I also want to add that one of the most fulfilling and important things about podcasting is developing a relationship with your audience. Anchor makes it so easy for listeners to leave you a message and for you to share their messages on the show. It’s a great tool to help you grow that relationship.

"One of the most fulfilling and important things about podcasting is developing a relationship with your audience. Anchor makes it so easy for listeners to leave you a voice message and for you to share their messages on the show. It's a great tool to help you grow that relationship."
What’s one thing you wish you knew about podcasting before you started?

My team was really brave in the beginning, and we only sort of knew what we were doing. One thing I didn’t appreciate when I got started is how much work goes into making a strong show. You’ve got to just start doing it and learn along the way though. I think being prepared for podcasting to be more work than you expect and knowing there’s going to be a learning curve is important. But it’s also part of the fun! And Anchor has so many features that support you and make it so much easier if you’re just getting started. I highly recommend taking advantage of that.

What’s your best podcasting advice?

Just get started. So often, podcasters anguish about making the perfect show, and they feel like they have to learn everything in order to get it right. You’re never going to get started if you think you have to have EVERYTHING figured out first. It’s okay if your first shows aren’t perfect. It’s even okay if they suck. You’re going to learn so much faster if you just start.

What’s your favorite thing about your podcast?

That’s such a hard question! I love having an excuse to talk to my personal heroes and changemakers making the world a better place. But hearing from listeners with their moments of bravery is what really pushes me to keep going. Brave, Not Perfect is a movement, and nothing gives me more fire to keep going than hearing about how it’s improving women’s lives and helping them follow their dreams.

The opinions expressed above are those of the interviewees and not Anchor or Spotify. How do you podcast? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram.

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