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Peloton 2020 is underway.
A less expensive Tred is getting nearer.
John Foley revisits How I Built This.
The fitness industry is struggling with the supply chain.
Dr. Jenn Mann discusses
A new connected fitness boxing competitor has entered the fray.
Win a FightCamp Gym!
Well And Good has yoga for brain fog.
Robin Arzon has started her own YouTube channel.
Jess Simms was on the “Ali On The Run” podcast.
Robin is featured in Haley Shapley’s new book “Strong Like Her.”
New Peloton Artist Series features Britney Spears.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Peloton 2020 is Underway plus our interview with Tracy Chou
Can I crawl up on your lap?
It’s cold down here.
It’s this big, giant thunderstorm.
Are you scared?
I’m scared. I saw you had the dog on your lap.
My lap is for the puppy. She needed to cuddle.
What if I give you puppy eyes?
Okay, it’s going to be effective. When we do our video on YouTube, people are going to be able to see the looks you give.
Right now, they don’t know because it’s not video, but I’m going to do the entirety of this episode on your lap.
No, you’re not.
I just hope there are no big thunders.
It does sound like it stopped or calmed down.
We probably should say that starting next week, all the episodes will be available on YouTube with full video.
The entire thing will have video.
Right now, we’re on YouTube, but it’s on our YouTube channel, which is YouTube.com/TheClipOut. You can go there and subscribe to get the notifications when these are live. Right now, there’s something on there, but it’s just a static image. It’s just a way to listen via YouTube if that’s convenient for you. For some people, if they’re at work, things are blocked but YouTube isn’t. Moving forward, starting with next week’s episode, when the guests agree, you’ll get a full video of the whole episode. That will be fun. You’ll get to see all the weird faces I make.
If he can make me squeak, then you’ll see that too.
That will be fun.
I’m looking forward to it because we started off for The Superset and I love the way it turned out. It’s great.
If you’re curious what it looks like, you can go watch one for our other podcast, The Superset, which is all about Tonal. You can find that on our YouTube channel and check it out it just to get an idea of what to expect. Anyway, beyond that, what do you have in store for people this week?
We are going to talk about Peloton. We’re going to talk about some articles that came out this week. We’re going to have our segment with Jenn Mann. We’re going to do an update on the FightCamp contest and then some interesting stuff going on with the instructors.
Before we get to all that, shameless plugs, don’t forget we’re available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, TuneIn, we’re all over the place. You can find this one wherever you’re getting your podcasts from. Be sure and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Of course, check us out on Facebook, Facebook.com/TheClipOut.While you’re there, like the page, join the group. You can get everything sent to you in a concise format weekly, article links, pictures, videos link directly to that week’s YouTube video if it’s live by the time we send those out. You can subscribe to that newsletter at our fancy pants website, TheClipOut.com. There’s all that. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Pelothon 2020 has officially begun.
By the time this airs, we’ll be finishing up week one. The goal this week was that you had to take a class with every instructor on your team. There are lots of questions about this. As I mentioned on the last episode, I wish that Peloton would get a little more descriptive when explaining things. I cannot tell you how much time I spent answering questions again this week. Common questions still are, yes, it has to be every instructor. No, it doesn’t have to be a 45-minute class. No, it doesn’t have to be one of the classes they put in their collections. No, it does not have to be at the live time that they suggested. It was the times that they suggested for each team or merely that. It’s a suggestion that you could gather. The collections were also just a suggestion to give you some inspiration in case you didn’t know where to start, you do not have to do a certain timeframe. For mine, I did five-minute classes with three of the seven instructors. I’m cool with that because I’m doing Strength and that’s where I’m focused.
You’ve got a lot of things going on now between Peloton and Tonal and FightCamp.
That’s the great thing about Peloton, it meets you where you are. You don’t have to do it a certain way. If you want to take a 45-minute class for each one of these, great. It doesn’t get you any more points. Do what works for you and your schedule. Next week, it’s going to change it a little bit. Next week, it’s going to be taking two live classes with instructors. The tricky thing there is, it is Wednesday, July 15th and they still haven’t posted the schedule for next week. Good luck planning ahead. I’ve had some people be frustrated with that. The other key that as you’re taking these classes, make sure you have your team hashtag on your profile. If you don’t, it’s not going to count. You’ll have to take it again. Please, it doesn’t even have to be your main hashtag, but you have to have it on your profile or it does not count. Each week, that following Monday, so next Monday, whatever date that is, we’ll get a badge for this week that you’ve completed. As we start off week two, you will get the badge for week one. Does it make sense?
Yeah because they have to give everybody time to complete that week and still flip their badge switch and they’ll all fly out the door.
People were worried this wasn’t going to work with other challenges and stuff like that. It totally does. All you have to do is be a little creative and a little bit flexible on how you’re approaching it. You do not have to do 45-minute rides or runs. You’ve got to be creative on the lessons you did.
I think that’s great advice for if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can go knock out a shorter one.
I’m sorry if I sound a little frustrated with it, it’s just that literally, it’s the same questions over and over again. I don’t even blame the people for asking. I’m frustrated that Peloton doesn’t explain it because they have this great idea. Put more information out there. Even on their FAQ, it’s not there. When somebody was answering it on Twitter, they answered it wrong. People have been very stressed about this whole thing. I wish that there was a little better communication with it.
Barrons.com had an interview with Peloton Chief Financial Officer, Jill Woodworth. That sounds like a Chief Financial Officer, doesn’t it? Jill Woodworth. It’s got an air of strength and numbers.
She’s really focused on good numbers.
I’m picturing like a nice pantsuit, hair pulled back, glasses. None of this is probably true I’m sure, but this is what’s in my head for Jill Woodworth CFO.
She must be doing something right because she’s the one that took them public. It’s interesting, this whole conversation did a couple of things. One, it dashed everyone’s hopes about a rower happening soon. They basically said that the next item we foresee is a smaller treadmill. She didn’t promise that and she didn’t say a timeline, but if you read between the lines here, that’s what she’s saying, and potentially a bike. That’s the takeaway. Also FYI, I’m hearing some rumors that’s accurate and it’s happening this fall. That’s breaking news, by the way.
First off, I think the most important question, we’re not also going to get a smaller treadmill, are we?
No. I honestly love my Tread. I’m very curious to see what it’s going to have and how it’s different and everything. Do I need a second one? Hell no.
The next question is any insight as to is it going to be a complete rethink of the current Bike? Are they adding like a second less expensive Bike?
Both of these will be less expensive. Again, this is all rumor, if you put things together that Jill said, you put things together that John Foley has said, what they’re focused on is the democratization of fitness. They want to make this available to as many people and as many different levels of income as possible. The thought process is this is what people are speculating, and it makes sense to me that you’re going to see a smaller Tread, you’re going to see a smaller Bike. The reason for that is it’s going to open up the cost. The cost is going to be different and that it’s going to be available to more people. As far as what it looks like, is it a whole rethink? No clue. There has been zero information about that.
I’m fascinated more about the bike aspect. I see the Tread not every day, but a lot, and a big item. The Bike isn’t that big. What can they really adjust on that?
I will say they’re not saying it’s a smaller bike. They’re saying it’s a less expensive bike. I am speculating, guys, so anybody reading this conversation, this is completely my thoughts out of my head. I have seen nothing to back this up. I picture things like a smaller tablet or you can buy the tablet separately. I see things like maybe you use your app to connect like what Echelon has been doing. These are all just things I’m picturing. Maybe cheaper pedals, maybe it’s not made out of carbon steel, maybe it’s made out of aluminum. Those are just guesses.
With the tablets in black and white.
I’m guessing they’re still going to have to have a pretty good tablet even if it’s smaller. I’m picturing smaller, not less. The thing is that it’s going to need to be able to handle future updates. If you went back too far, they wouldn’t be able to handle the new things that are coming out.
The tablets are the way that they communicate with your Bike. They’re really going to need that as new and as high tech as possible.
Right now, there’s that V drive on it that’s really silent. Maybe it won’t have a silent of a drive.
That was what I was thinking is maybe whatever they do won’t be as quiet.
All of those are just speculation.It could be a combination of those things. It could only be two or three of those things, not all of them. We don’t know.
It could be a unicycle.
It could be that. I’m thinking no though.
Would it be half as much because it’s only one wheel?
Technically, it’s already a unicycle.
It’s a good point.
I know, I blew your mind there. Also, it has this magnetic system in it that allows for it to have resistance. Maybe that will look different. You’ve got to wonder though what are they willing to change? For example, the resistance is already very so much bike to bike. If you have a less expensive bike, personally I wouldn’t want to go cheap in that area. If I’m going to ride a bike and I’m going to be “competing” with other people in the leaderboard, I don’t want to suffer in that area. It’s going to be interesting.
I saw that the cheaper Bike won’t have a seat.
You joke but the thing is maybe it won’t, or maybe it will have a less expensive because the one that’s on there is a really expensive bike seat for a bike seat. It’s not like it’s a $20 item, so maybe it will. It could be so many things and a combination of things.
Not having a bike seat, depending on your mood, that could be a selling point. You don’t know.
They had that one thing that you could add on to your Bike. As far as the Tread goes, there are many things that you could change on the Tread. I’m curious to see what Peloton considers your top of the line premium versus what they’re willing to shed to get the cost down. Seeing the thought process behind it will be fascinating regardless of what they decide. No matter what they decide, people are going to be upset about it. I’m not saying everybody, but people will. There are going to be people saying, “You shouldn’t have done this. You shouldn’t have done that,” no matter what they do.
It’s not like they change their sweepers.
I cannot believe that. Embrace the change.
John Foley, a couple years back was on How I Built This. He has returned to the scene of the crime for a second conversation.
This one they did over Zoom, another conversation of How I Built This. You can see all of that. You can watch the whole thing on their How I Built This website.
StrategicSourceror.com had an interesting article about how the fitness industry is grappling with the supply chain because there are issues.
Obviously COVID has disrupted just about everything supply chain wise, actually everything. If you look at the entire gym and exercise equipment manufacturing industry, they generated $2 billion of revenue in 2019.Sixty-five percent of the equipment comes from foundries in China. What ended up happening was there were all these massive shutdowns, production rates plummeted, and this is across the board. Everybody has seen this. Everybody has been slow to be able to get equipment out this year. When I say everybody, I mean things like kettlebells, dumbbells.
It’s relatively simple pieces of fitness equipment, not even obviously something high-tech like a Peloton or a Tonal or a Mirror. You understand how it could fall behind, but just a big piece of metal molded in a certain shape, like that’s a problem.
They did a study and they found that the interest in fitness equipment rose by 500% in the US since March of 2020, clearly because of COVID. Weight training is the eighth fastest growing category. What they were looking at is how are they going to fill all of these orders? What they’re looking at is potentially, they might be moving some of this back to America, which would be interesting. They didn’t say it’s definitely going to happen, but they said it would not be surprising if some of the retailers look to move their manufacturing operations closer to or in the US. That was an interesting thought.
It is interesting that the end result of this might be that some jobs come back to America.
Will they? Because then COVID in the United States is still a complete problem versus all these other countries who now have it under control. They’re shutting down access from the United States. It will be interesting to see what the ripple effects of all of this are.
I want to circle back around to Peloton making a less expensive Bike. I have a little conspiracy theory that popped up in my head. Conspiracy theory is too strong, but theory as to maybe why they decided to sideline the rower and focus on a less expensive Bike.
I think I know where you’re going with us.
Where do you think I’m going?
I think you’re going like scaling. It would be easier to scale things they already have versus a completely new product.Peloton is a worthwhile investment, especially for quarantine. Click To Tweet
Pelotonobviously want you to use their product, whether it’s the app or the Bike, but I think it’s safe to say they prefer the Bike. They want you on their own equipment and their own ecosystem and pay a little bit more per month. That seems fair. They would not want you to buy a different bike and use the app. They would prefer you to use their own Bike.
I see where you’re going with this.
Did you see that the market is about to get flooded with used exercise equipment as more and more gyms go out of business?
No, I did not. I was thinking more along the lines of undercut their competition. You are two steps beyond that.
I wonder if they’re worried that they’re about to get undercut by a flood of going-out-of-business sales on equipment from these gyms that have 25, 30 bikes and then in some markets you have 8, 10, 15, the gym’s going out of business and they’re going to dump this equipment.
That’s an interesting thought. Also, Peloton’s rationale that they’re publicly saying is that the market potential for treadmills in particular is 2 to 3 times higher than what a rower is, which is what you’ve been saying the whole time.
I feel like a rower is a niche fitness items. I think that long-term, this is a problem that Peloton might struggle with. The amount of fitness equipment that you can sell people is finite.
I know we’re getting in deep here. Here’s another thing that I’m thinking of another way that they’re saving money by going this route, they already have the instructors. It doesn’t matter what bike you have. If you add on rowing, you’ve got to bring in a whole new team or split up the time of the ones you already have. There are only so much physical activities people can do a day. They cannot work out eight hours a day. That’s not possible. That is another interesting thought.
It’s something to maul over.
Let us know your thoughts. Put some of those thoughts out there, and maybe this time, you could actually respond when I send it, because I put questions out there. I’ve been noticing that our open rate has been dropping. I put questions in this last week and here’s the thing. One person answered me one.
Who’s that person? They’re now your favorite listener.
I don’t want to embarrass them but yeah, they are my favorite. They gave me feedback about our Jenn Mann segment, because we have not gotten a lot of feedback. I’m like, “Are we just wasting Jenn Mann’s time? Do you guys like it? Do you not like it?” I’m not asking for you guys to constantly be talking to us. I just want to know that all this time we’re putting in, do you guys find value in it? If it’s not valuable, then we’ll change to something that is.
Speaking of Dr. Jenn Mann, joining us is Dr. Jenn Mann, Licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant. You may know her from VH1’s Couples Therapy with Dr. Jenn or VH1’s Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn, her long running radio show, The Dr. Jenn Show. She’s written four bestselling books including The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn’s 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy. She’s also the Creator of the No More Diets app. Dr. Jenn, how is it going?
It’s great. Thanks for having me on.
We’re very excited to have you.
We’re always happy to see you.
The topic of the week is the OPP, which is the Facebook group that so many people we find started listening to us, so they didn’t have to go there for the news anymore. When you joined or got a Peloton, Crystal, there were 8,000 people and now, there are over 300,000 and over 200,000 of them appear to be jerks.
It feels like that some days, it really does. To give you a little background, I know that you don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. You have too much to do to spend time on Facebook. There are over 300,000 people. In the past, the Official Peloton Page was anybody could post about anything as long as it had some relationship to Peloton. What they did was they had a ton of people getting into arguments over politics, over racism. There’s always been a lot of bullying on this page. They decided to change their policies so that now all posts have to be approved before you can post to the page. We’re curious from a psychological standpoint, social media and being that keyboard warrior, you can say what you want. It’s interesting because Peloton has been the very first community that I’ve ever belonged to, that I felt was uplifting and actually restored my faith in humanity. Then here you have this going the opposite direction on the OPP. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s surprising to me, but yet at the same time, it’s not. When you have 300,000-plus people on any group, there are going to be people who like controversy. There are going to be people who don’t, there are going to be people of different political views. There are going to be people who bring up hot button issues, and people are going to get triggered and react. It’s very easy to be reactive when you are at your keyboard. It’s also when there is some degree of anonymity, look granted, it’s your Facebook, so it can be attached to you. At the same time, there is a certain level of anonymity. It’s very different than when you’re standing in a room with another person having a conversation. I think that people can hide behind that and say things they wouldn’t otherwise. Also a lot of the time, things get misinterpreted because there’s no tone when it comes to typing away. It makes sense that when we’re talking about the sheer volume, the hot topics that are coming up, that people are getting triggered and that things are getting funky.
I always feel like we have a question mark, we have an exclamation point. We could use a sarcasm point.
That would be amazing
That is so people know when you’re being goofy or being absurd to make a point.
A lot of the time in groups like that sarcasm, even if someone had something that was a sarcasm, it doesn’t always go over well, especially people have been inflamed. From what I’m hearing from you and also from other people I know who are active on the Facebook page that it had been turned off by this aspect of it. I think it’s great that Peloton has taken control and filtering it so well. I think that people are getting triggered and it’s easy enough to do.
What do you do if you find yourself in that situation, or do you have ways to talk yourself down?
First of all, if you get triggered, don’t type right away. Sleep on it for 24 hours. There’s nothing that’s important that you have to write back on Facebook to a stranger. This isn’t your mother, this isn’t your husband, this isn’t your sister. Those things need to be dealt within a timely manner, but it’s a stranger on Facebook, sleep on it, run it by someone who you trust, who is not going to get you revved up. We all know who our friends are, who are going to get us revved up like, “You put that woman in her place.” Or a friend who’s going to be like, “Crystal, this isn’t worth your time. You’re just going to get upset and it’s not going to change your perspective.”
Why do you assume it’s me? It could have been Tom.
I’m just using an exact random example. I think that we all need those friends. Time is our friend in these situations. Taking a time out to cool off. I tell couples to do that in their relationships all the time. You’ve had a hot conversation and just saying to your partner, “I’m calling a time out. I’m too emotional to have an effective, appropriate, healthy conversation. I need to cool down. Let’s meet back in the kitchen in a couple hours.” That’s really important. Do not let yourself be triggered and find a subgroup. There are many subgroups where I’m not hearing about this happening, whether it’s a working moms group or a physician’s group or mountain climbers who love Peloton or whatever. Find your subgroup where it’s a smaller group and you don’t see it happening so much.
We tell people that all the time to migrate from the OPP into a subgroup that has another personality trait or interest that’s also in conjunction with Peloton. I feel bad for you when she says, “Avoid someone who can rev you up, find someone who can talk you down.” I feel like I do both of those. There are times when I’m like, “It’s the internet. Everybody needs everybody. What are you going to do?”There are other times where I’m like, “You tell that son of a gun.”
It’s important to have at least one friend who won’t do that. I have a girlfriend that when I was single that I would say like, “Should I text that guy?”She was always like, “Yes, you do that.”Whatever her advice was, it was always the worse. I was like,“Whatever you say, I should do the opposite because you’re up for the drama. You’re ready to go.”At some point when she hit a certain age, she was like, “Don’t text that.” I was like, “Okay.”
Someone who always gives bad advice can actually be very helpful as long as you realize it’s giving you bad advice.
Do the opposite.
It’s just a category. In other categories, she gave me great advice. When it came to boys, she was like, “Yeah, you text him. You haven’t heard from him for weeks, you call him.”
If you haven’t heard from him for weeks in a way, you kind of have. I will also say, I think when you get embroiled in one of these fights, a lot of people underestimate the power of not responding. Nothing drives people like that crazy than for you to forget about them.
I’ve got to add. I have to say, I think that people want to be found witty and relevant. A lot of times, their responses are because they can’t not get that attention. They can’t not get that dig in. I see this stuff and I’m just like, “Don’t respond.”Then here comes all the responses and I’m like,“Walk away.”
Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to join us. Where can people find you?
We have an Echelon for FightCamp.Is that what’s going on here?
I can’t even say it’s Echelon.
I will say it’s a rethink. There’s a new boxing-based connected fitness item out. It is at least not a rip-off of FightCamp. It’s a different strategy.
There’s another gym out there called Nexersys. I’m pretty sure it’s a rip-off of that. It doesn’t have lights on it. This one is called Liteboxer. I will say coming out of the gate, calling yourself the Peloton of boxing, Maybe that’s a bit.
That is SEO-driven. That’s all it’s about.
I feel like the way that this was worded was all about like, “There’s this brand-new thing that’s never been done.”
Even though it’s been done before.
To be clear, the Peloton of boxing is FightCamp.
It’s a little bit more gamified. It’s like a dartboard thing. It’s like, “Punch here, punch here and punch there.”
I know you don’t use FightCamp, Tom, so I know that you can’t understand this without maybe doing it.The system of this Liteboxerthing, one of the downsides to it is that it doesn’t have the ability to do an uppercut on it. You can only do straight on.Part of FightCamp or using any heavy bag, you can do uppercuts, you can do jabs, you can do body shots. This is very limited. There are five shots you can do. I feel irritated that there’s not more being said about that.
Looking at it, I didn’t know the words to put it into, but I did think this looks limited as to what you could do with it.
Also they were going on and on about how much less room it takes up than a heavy bag. I’m not seeing it. It sits on this giant stand, so how is that any smaller than what I’ve got? With that one in theory, you don’t have to have sand or water, based gel is what I use. That would actually be a valid argument, but the rest of it, I’m not seeing that it’s that much smaller. It’s a smaller target area, but without seeing it in person, and this is just based on looking at it from the video, you can see a person in front of it. I’m going by assuming that’s a standard person size, not a gigantic person or a tiny person, just a normal-sized person. Compared to this thing, it doesn’t look that radically different from a footprint standpoint of what I have with the FightCamp.
I also felt too that boxers have been training on a heavy bag for the existence of boxing. Is that broke?
It’s not. Here’s another thing, I know you read a lot of what John Mills puts in Run, Lift and Live, and I always find it super fascinating. One of the things that he’s been putting in there a lot is who’s backing all of these companies, which I find super fascinating. Right. The interesting thing about this is I don’t think it has to do with how good of a product it is or it isn’t. The interesting thing is it’s the same guy that backed Twitter. I think we’re talking about a very different thing. To me, FightCamp is an awesome product, regardless of who backs them financially. I think that this guy has connections that put him in a different world where these people haven’t even necessarily seen a FightCamp.They’re seeing that this guy did it. Then it’s checking a box without even really doing any research, which is sad.
To your point, a heavy bag is a heavy bag for a reason. It feels like you’re actually punching something. I don’t see how this could give you the same exact feel of that. It does have sensors in it that in theory show you how fast and stuff you’re doing it. I’m just not seeing that this is brand new because I remember not even joking years ago, we went on a trip and there was something like this sitting in the gym. It didn’t work by the way. I don’t think this is a brand-new technology. The only difference is it comes to your house and you have to use an app. It all has to go through your phone. You can mirror it to a TV, but you don’t have the ability. I’m not saying it’s on Echelon level of frustration. I just don’t like the way they marketed it, but you’re right, it’s all about SEO. It’s what sells, not about what’s true. My issue is that I don’t know that it’s necessarily true to say this is so much smaller and more compact. There is a value between doing uppercuts and body shots that you’re being told to do on FightCamp. Not to mention, with FightCamp, you also get to do kickboxing, which you sure can’t do on this thing.
You’d have to kick really high. I guess if you’re like a rocket, you could do kickboxing.
Even if you could, they don’t have those programs. You would just be kicking it randomly.
Speaking of FightCamp, you could win one. If you go to TheClipOut.com/fightcamp, we’re giving away a FightCamp personal gym right now and a one-year membership. You are all set for the next 365 days. They will deliver that right to your house. You don’t have to worry about installation or anything like that because it’s a pretty simple assembly that you can do yourself. You don’t get to worry about letting somebody in your house in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s a little less foot traffic for you. It’s lots of fun. You’ll love it.
It is lots of fun and I do love it. I’ve decided that this week I’m going to try kickboxing.
You should go and enter the contest. Each week, we ask you a different question. They’re not too terribly difficult. You do a little bit of legwork. A lot of times you can probably figure it out just by using your noggin. There are all sorts of other ways to get extra entries, whether it’s following Crystal on Instagram or following FightCamp on YouTube or whatever. There are all sorts of different ways to increase your chances of winning. Go to TheClipOut.com/fightcamp. If you want more information about FightCamp, go to JoinFightCamp.com.
Also, I want to say we’re on week three. There are only four weeks to this one. Time’s running out. Do not delay.
Well and Good had an article about yoga for brain fog.
There’s a lot going on right now and I don’t know how you’re doing with it. For me, it varies day-to-day. Today is one of my angry days, which is probably coming through on this episode. With so much, regardless of what you feel about any of the things happening, there’s a lot and it’s distracting. Sometimes working from home or just having not as many things going on, it can be hard to focus. This article was all about if you might need to get your focus back, you might need to find your center. Yoga can help with that. The reason that we include it is because our very own yoga instructor, Ross Rayburn was included. He talks about how specifically inversion exercises positions can help you with brain fog.
Robin Arzon announced that she has her own YouTube channel.A credential is still useful in a world where we over-index on credentials. Click To Tweet
All of the Hustlers at Home programs that she’s been doing on Instagram, you can find it all on YouTube. I believe there’s going to be other content there as well. It’s YouTube.com/RArzon. Awesome.
While you’re on the YouTube, you can subscribe to our channel too. Jess Simms was on the podcast, Ali on the Run.
She talked all about running, which is great. For those of you who reached out to me and said, “You need to have Ali on the show,” one person even took the initiative to comment on Ali’s post and try to connect us. I tried reaching out to her and she did not respond. I don’t say that to be begrudging to Ali. I’m just saying I did try, I just wasn’t successful. In the meantime, you should definitely check out Jess Simms on her podcast. From what I understand, she talks about all kinds of different running subjects. If running is your thing, you will enjoy this podcast. You should check it.
HaleyShapely has a new book called Strong Like Herand featuring the previously mentioned Robin Arzon.
The book is all about women’s athleticism throughout history. It’s pretty cool that Robin Arzon is featured in it. She posted some of the pictures on Instagram that were in the book. I got the impression that it was like a coffee table book and they’re gorgeous pictures. It’s really good lighting and well done. I’m very curious to get to read the whole story. I’ve got a pretty long reading list at this point, so I don’t know when I’m going to get to it, but I am very curious to see what this is about. Women have done a lot of athleticism. They’ve contributed a lot to the history of athleticism. I’m curious to see what is all in this book. There’s probably stuff I have no idea even occurred.
I bet there is because it seems with a lot of stuff like that, it doesn’t get talked about as much. It’s oftentimes pretty easy to surprise people with things they didn’t already know. Finally, Peloton has a new artist series featuring Britney Spears. How do we do this? On the one hand., we’re supposed to leave Britney alone.
That was only in 2007. I think it’s okay to bother her now. Although maybe not because I think she’s still in that conservatorship. She’s made great music though, so whether we can bother her or not, we can still enjoy her music. I hope she’s doing well. I feel bad for her. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through.
It’s hard to take somebody that you know is worth millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars and be like, “Poor thing.” I feel like she started down this road before she really was old enough to make adult decisions. Now, there’s not another thing for her to do. I always have felt bad for her.
We can still appreciate her amazing artistry because she’s had a lot of hits.
What do they have in store or class-wise related to her?
By the time this airs, this will have already occurred. Today, 7:30 PM, there’s going to be a ride with Cody Rigsby. I know again you don’t ride, Tom, but Cody Rigsby and Britney are like, if he knew Britney, they would be best friends. He talks about Britney all the time. I say that as somebody who doesn’t take that many Cody rides, I know that.
It’s like how people that barely read this show know I love The Monkees.
Erik Jägerfrom Germany is going to be doing a ride in German on-demand on the 16th at 1:00 PM Eastern. Becs Gentry is doing a run on Thursday, the 16th at 7:00 PM Eastern. Rebecca is doing a bootcamp on the 15th at 10:00 AM Eastern. Matty Maggiacomois doing a walk on Thursday at 10:00 AM. There’s more, Matty also is doing a HIITCardio on Wednesday at 10:30 AM Eastern. Robin did a full-body toning on Thursday on July 16th at 10:30 AM. I don’t know that we’ve ever had these many classes with one artist.
I almost feel like this is indicative of maybe Peloton when they do an artist series, they put it out to the instructors like, “Who wants to build something around this?” Everybody was like, “Me.”
That’s a good point. It’s interesting that many of these are on-demand. The Walk is on-demand and the Bootcamp is on-demand. I don’t know if that indicates that they filmed these a while back. I don’t know what that means. It’s just interesting. Especially in conjunction that they don’t have the schedule up for next week. You just never know with Peloton, maybe they were about to drop another big surprise on us. Maybe that surprise will have been revealed by the time this is aired.
You’ll never know.
Joining us is someone pretty lofty. She’s got things here to talk about. She’s a software engineer, diversity advocate, intern at Facebook and Google before going on to work for Pinterest and Quora. She is the Founder and CEO of Block Party, an app that helps tackle online harassment, Tracy Chou. How’s it going, Tracy?
It’s good. Thanks for having me here.
Thank you for taking the time to be on.
I read something like that and I’m like, “Why is she talking to us?”
Tom, it is social distancing. She’s got time on her hands.
I’m very obsessed with Peloton in quarantine. It is very exciting to be able to talk about Peloton.
It’s like that especially when you first get it and other people don’t understand. You’re spreading the gospel of Peloton. When did you find Peloton?
I heard about it early on. Maybe even in 2014 or 2015 when I was living in San Francisco. The first time I heard about it, the person who mentioned it to me described having a very expensive clothes hanger. I didn’t know what he was talking about. When I moved to New York City in 2016, I was an avid user of ClassPass. I would sometimes see the Peloton classes show up on the schedule. I went to the studio a few times to ride, which is not very fun because years later, I can see my output scores from my first couple of classes, which are very low. I only got into Peloton a few months ago. I started getting nervous about Coronavirus spreading. I ordered the bike and I’ve been riding it every day since then on a twelve-week streak. I’ve been working on it every day. It averages 2 or 3 hours per day that I’m doing some Peloton workout. Although it does over count a little bit because I also set it up as a partial workstation where I have the spin tray on top. For a couple of hours in the day when I’m working, sometimes I’ll be on the Peloton riding as well.
What a great way to keep moving? That’s one of the beauties of it. You can use the Peloton in many ways. You can use it to be ultra-competitive and take a Tabata ride and go at your hardest speeds, but you can also keep moving while you’re doing something else. It’s great that it’s so versatile.
It is funny when I look at my workout history and the stats for those classes. There are the ones where I go hard. I did a 90-minute Power Zone Endurance ride. That was an output of over 900. There are the rides that I do, the scenic rides while I’m working. The average watts will be 35. If you look at the average overall of my classes, it’s low. It’s good to have a variety. I have also discovered that when the AC is on too strong and I’m getting cold rather than fiddling with the AC, I just hop on the Peloton and ride a little bit. My body temperature goes up and I’m no longer cold. That is my latest hack for temperature modulation.
Given the nature of what you do, it sounds like you move a lot. You’ve already said that you were in San Francisco and then you moved to New York. I believe you’re speaking to us from London. Were you nervous about purchasing a bike with the fact that you move around a lot or do you feel like you’re stationary now?
Now, I’m stationary.
Is your plan to stay stationary once the world returns a little more to normal?
It’s also uncertain. It’s hard to say. I ended up in London during the lockdown. I normally hopped between the West Coast of the US in San Francisco and London. I go back and forth because my team is distributed. We were already all working from home or at least like in different places before quarantine happened around the world. I have a couple of teammates in Europe and some in America. It was nice to go between the two, just to line up time zone-wise. When lockdown happened, I was in London and decided to stay here. I didn’t know how long it would be, but I anticipated that it would probably be worse than most people thought. Knowing how much physical activity is important to me, I figured it would be worth it to get the Peloton. If I can’t work out for one day, I already get antsy. Even if it was going to be a month or two in quarantine, I knew that the Peloton was going to be worth it. It’s been a worthwhile investment. It’s probably my number one best purchase for quarantine.
Should you decide that you will not stay there, it’s super easy to resell them because they’re not resold that often.
This might be less of a question for Tracy and more of a question for Crystal because you know these things. I know that in the States, there’s a pretty good delay now to get one. Do you know if that’s also true in the UK?
Although there are a lot of political shenanigans happening over on this side of the pond as well. Maybe we don’t get into the politics on this show.
It sounds like you were into fitness prior to finding Peloton. Were you always active?
I was not always active. I grew up never doing any sports. I had a very stereotypical Asian parenting style where they said you’re not any good at sports and it’s not going to help you get into college. I don’t waste any time in sports. I spent my time studying. I did not do any physical activity. In college, I started going to the gym to read People Magazine while on the elliptical. I started working out and running about several years ago when I finished school. In my first job, a few of my colleagues and I decided to do the Couch to 5k running program whereas it sounds, you go from not being able to run to running a 5k. We signed up for a race together. Ever since then I’ve gotten steadily more active. The last few years have been much more regular about going to work out.
ClassPass was a big part of it because the early ClassPass is something like $100 a month for unlimited fitness studio classes, which normally would be $25 or $30. It was a money-losing proposition for them, but it was great for people who wanted to try lots of different studio classes. That got me hooked. I was going to these fancy, nice studio classes every day, sometimes twice a day because it was unlimited on this plan until they realized they needed to make money and made it more expensive. I’m already hooked. I’m into classes like Barry’s and Rumble. In the UK, it’s like one Rumble or another space or a lot of the boot camp HIIT-type of classes.
From the earliest days of starting to run with my colleagues, I’ve also been running more. There are a few years where I would try to hit targets of 100 miles per month or something like that to give myself something to aim for. I rotate through different challenges for myself to keep it interesting, which has worked out well with Peloton as well. Joining all these different Facebook groups for Peloton has given me all these different challenges to do, which has been good to keep myself entertained during the quarantine.
What exactly does the software engineer do?
People are much more excited about tech and software engineers than they were when I was in school and studying this. As a software engineer, like any other kind of engineer, what you’re doing is building things. It’s the things that you’re building are digital so they’re websites or services. A lot of what goes into Peloton is built by software engineers. The work that’s involved in everything from figuring out what to build and how to build it. What are the different trade-offs involved? Talking to different stakeholders like your potential customers and users, but also on the business side or design side. After you figure out what you want to build, then there’s writing the code and testing it, pushing it out for users to use, monitoring all of that, responding to bugs and incidents, maintaining the systems, getting feedback, and adding new features.
There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. I don’t know if this is a good analogy. It’s like civil engineers if they’re building a bridge or if people who are building a big church or skyscraper, how much stuff goes into building something? You can build small things. You can build a little shack and that’s easy. You can hack together a little website or your website or not. If you want to build something like Google Scale or Facebook Scale and that involves a lot of people, all the different parts that go into it can be different. If you’re the one person building your little shack, you can do all of it. If it’s a big company, then you might get one small part of it that you’re focused on.
I don’t know if that analogy is helpful. There are a lot of things that go into it. Although now since I’m a startup founder and trying to build this new app, Block Party, I have additional responsibilities on top of the engineering work. There are some days where I still get to do technical work, which I love. Other days, it is all the other stuff involved with starting a new business like filing taxes, making sure we’re compliant, thinking about hiring and recruiting. All the other considerations around building a new product and a new business.
How does one become a software engineer? Were you fifteen and you were like, “I have to be a software engineer or I will die on the inside?” Is that like a career path that reveals itself to you as you go through your academic journey?
What’s a bit ironic in my case is both of my parents are software engineers. Somehow, I still did not understand what being a software engineer meant. The type of software that they wrote a few decades ago, with less consumer software, the things that are exciting and shiny now. Now, you can see all the different apps that people use like Instagram, Pinterest, Snap or Peloton. All these different things that we’re enacting with, there is software involved with them. It gets a lot more exciting to be a software engineer. My parents were building lightweight database systems management and they delivered their software on floppy disks. As a kid, I saw them at their computers typing something and then they had floppy disks that they would sell.
That didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t know what that was. I grew up in the Bay Area, which is home to all of these different software companies. My high school was in Mountain View which is close to Google. My high school invested in the seed round of Snap amazingly. I didn’t know that my high school invested in startups, which was great. With Snap IPO, that was a nice chunk of change. I was surrounded by all of Silicon Valley, but somehow still didn’t understand what it was about. The original Silicon Valley was more about hardware like the Silicon chips, the enterprise, networking database type of software. Only later on that there’s been much more of the consumer stuff that’s built on top of it. I didn’t properly appreciate what software was even going through college. I studied electrical engineering for my undergrad and then did a Computer Science Master’s.
I managed to finish school with two degrees in engineering and still not understand what software was until I started my first job at Quora, which is the question and answer site at that time. It was a very small company. I was the fifth person there. We were building everything from the ground up. It was there that I realized like, “We are making something exist that didn’t exist before.” If it weren’t for us sitting here in this room writing code and making Quora.com, there will be no site where people can ask questions and answer questions. That was a revolutionary moment for me.
After all of that, growing in Silicon Valley, having parents who were software engineers, getting two engineering degrees from Stanford, even interning at software companies like Google and Facebook. I still didn’t appreciate it until I was working at an early stage startup. I’m seeing like, “If the five of us weren’t here, this would not exist.” That was when it clicked for me. It was a long circuitous route mentally to get there, even though if you looked at everything I did and where it was, it seemed very obvious. I will add one other thing on that is as a woman in engineering, all the cues I was getting from classmates and from people in the industry, like mentors that I would talk to while I was still in school, nobody ever encouraged me to be a software engineer, despite the fact that I was studying electrical engineering and computer science.
There is a gender component to that where I’ve talked to many other women who studied computer science at Stanford, my Alma Mater. All of these women studying computer science were being told to do non-software engineering things. It’s often with the justification of like, “You are more social than the normal engineer that I picture so maybe you should not do engineering,” which makes me a little bit angry. There are all these misconceptions that software is people sitting in their basement, hacking away by themselves, and never in contact with anybody else. When you’re working as a software engineer, you’re working with other people and trying to make something useful to people. Inherent to the work is understanding people, social systems and contextualizing all of that. It was like a whole bunch of bad stereotypes wrapped into that advice. It’s very gendered for women often getting pushed out of the technical path, even if they are perfectly qualified to studying fields that would, in theory, bring them into becoming a software engineer.
When you were talking about your analogy of building a bridge or building a house, it’s a lot more collaborative than one might initially envision. You would think that having some social skills would be a selling point.More diverse teams are more creative and innovative. Click To Tweet
None of that logic makes any sense, “Because you’re a social and you don’t look like my idea of an engineer, you shouldn’t be an engineer.” That’s terrible logic. You don’t know any better. When I was in school, people would tell me like, “You should be a product manager or maybe you should work in marketing. You have a technical background. It’s great because it gives you credibility when you’re doing marketing.” Those are all things that I would hear, but I didn’t know any different. I didn’t have many role models that I could look to take me down the path that I ended up going down. I fumbled my way onto it. I’m very happy and lucky that I ended up on the path that I ended up on. I’m very grateful. It feels like it should have been a lot smoother than it was.
It’s funny when you talk about marketing because that’s my day job. I’m in marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I go to some marketing event and I’m the only guy in the room now. It’s become such a female-dominated profession, which is fine. All of a sudden, I looked around one day and I’m like, “I’m the only dude here.” How did that happen, but okay?
I will argue that that’s not ideal because, in any field, you’d probably benefit from having a diversity of people who are present and bringing different perspectives. A way that people can misrepresent this notion of diversity is it’s about having more women. A team that is 100% female is as non-diverse as a team that’s 100% male. Diversity is around having a mix of people.
It’s become a politicized buzzword. Many times, I’ll say it because I’m one of them. The white guys in the room get their hackles up, “That means less of us.” It’s not necessarily. I love marketing. I have a passion for it and I’m always in that mindset. It shouldn’t just be women as the software engineer shouldn’t just be men.
All these gender stereotypes hurt everybody because there are people like you who are great at marketing. I imagine that more people are similar to you, men who would be great at marketing but because of gender stereotypes are pushed out of that field. We’re losing these perspectives and similarly on the engineering side.
Growing up, I’ve always had an interest in technology. I still love all the new gadgets and gizmos that are out there, but I never had anybody encouraged me particularly in math or science. I was always drawn towards if you’re good at English, as the communications, that was where everybody pushed me. It’s funny because now I didn’t want to go back to get another degree because I ended up with an MBA. I didn’t want to do anything with engineering, but I wanted to break into project management. Whenever I was working at a robotics firm, it was my only option. If I wanted to continue and become a project manager, the only way I could do that was to get an engineering degree. I tried to find other ways that I could become a project manager. That was hard to do without an engineering degree. I find the whole conversation fascinating.
You bring up another interesting point, which is there is this gate-keeping in different industries where people will say, “You can’t do this unless you have X or Y credential.” Oftentimes that credential is not that necessary. I’ve seen this with hiring/recruiting for technical roles or even non-technical roles within the software industry. Sometimes they’ll insist that people have a computer science degree. The truth is you could study four years of computer science in a university. Maybe most of what you study is not relevant to a software engineering job. There are also plenty of people who haven’t gone through that path and have picked up software engineering on their own. There’s this artificial gate-keeping that happens. Part of the reason why I got a Computer Science Master’s was not because I necessarily wanted to study it.
It was almost more on a dare from a friend, but also the thought that having a Computer Science degree would be useful to have that sheet of paper, that credential. It turns out that the specialization I did, which was artificial intelligence is mostly math. I spent most of the time doing matrix calculus. A lot more math things like deriving proofs and solving optimization problems, as opposed to the things that are core to a software engineering job. Almost all the classes I took were irrelevant to software engineering work I did once I started working. Because I have a piece of paper that says I studied computer science, a lot more people will take me seriously and give me opportunities within the software engineering domain.
What would your recommendation be then for somebody who wants to go into the software engineering fields? What path of education should they take to optimize their chances to get a great job?
This is a bit of a tough question because the world also changes so quickly. I feel like any advice that somebody gives is very much informed by their own experiences, which are probably quite dated. I do think if you want to be a software engineer at this time, major in computer science is the easiest because everybody pattern matches off of that. If you can augment that education with something else like user-centered design thinking or psychology, or augment it with history, sociology, philosophy, anything else that can round out the skillset so you’re not just a technical person. You can contextualize what you’re building that will make you a much more thoughtful engineer and somebody who can bridge between technical and non-technical. There’s a whole question now also of, is the university the way to go especially in the United States where it’s so expensive? Do you want to go into so much debt to get a university degree?
At this time, it’s still very useful to have a university degree. That’s going to change quite quickly. As we’re in lockdown and different universities are making different plans if they’re going to open their campuses for the upcoming school year, there are a lot more of these questions around what is the value of a university degree. Is dialing into Zoom classes every day for a year the same as being in a university environment and the things you get from that? I hesitate to make any strong recommendations on this since so much is going to change. We’re seeing such a huge acceleration in so many trends that are already happening before Coronavirus. It’s hard to predict how it’s all going to shake out.
I always felt like the dirty little secret of colleges. It’s less about education and more about networking. Once a school establishes that they’re good, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those good people end up networking with other good people. They build on that. Let’s take it out of the world of technology. If you look at even something like the writer’s room for The Simpsons, it is staffed almost entirely with former Harvard grads because they worked on the Lampoon. When that first started, they hired people from the Lampoon and then they hired more people that they knew. It’s hard to crack that world if you are not coming from the Lampoon background. If people are going to start taking a Zoom class, it’s going to be hard to justify why you should go to Harvard or Yale or Princeton instead of doing whatever?
A credential is still useful in a world where we over-index on credentials. I’m not trying to justify over-indexing on fancy degrees, but that is still useful. I do sometimes find that being able to say that I went to Stanford is a useful thing to be able to throw out if somebody is disrespecting me, which is unfortunately common. There is still some of the value in that sheet of paper or the virtual sheet of paper, the line item you can put on your LinkedIn. What you were saying around the network effects, that is powerful. From the perspective of somebody who’s thinking about hiring for my company and also thinking about diversity and inclusion, trying to bring in people from different backgrounds that I don’t already know.
It is a difficult balancing act. When you are constrained, you need to hire people. You want to find people you trust to work with. It’s easier if you’ve previously worked with them or you’ve known them for a long time. Those are the people who are in your networks. It’s so much easier to draw from those rather than open up a big call for people to apply. You have to sort it through and try to figure out who you are going to work well with. There is this huge balancing act. As somebody who spends a lot of time working on diversity and inclusion, I also feel like you don’t want to keep drawing from your networks because they will be very homogenous. Try to counter that, it is much more a long-term thing. Trying to build your networks tends to be less homogenous.
You then can keep drawing for your networks because they’re not all the same, but that’s like a many-year commitment to be able to do that. When you’re looking at all the trade-offs you have in trying to build a company or assemble a team for a project, it was so much easier when you already know those people. The power of the human networks, people that you’ve already built up relationships with and known for a long time and can trust, it’s nice to be able to tap into that. If everybody is another name on a Zoom call, that networking isn’t happening. A lot of the value that people previously ascribed to going to some of these universities is gone so what are they paying for?
Since you do have this startup that you’re working on and you said it’s a balancing act, given that you’re trying to bring new people into your company. If you had to choose one focus that you’re looking at more than the other, are you focusing more on that specific education and background, or are you focused more on the skills that person brings and knowing where they’re from?
I don’t know where most of my teammates went to school. It’s much more about what the job requires. I wouldn’t say it’s unintentional but it’s been remarkably diverse. A lot of it is randomness like who happens to be available and who happens to join the team and work well. I have teammates everywhere from Serbia to Mexico to different cities across the United States. I don’t think there’s anybody from Stanford except for the interns. I have a couple of interns coming in. That was the easiest to draw from the network I was already a part of at Stanford. The full-timers on my team are all spread out. It’s almost nothing to do with education or prior work. I don’t know specifically which companies they all worked at. I looked through their backgrounds when I was starting to work with them, but much more of it was testing out working together. If that went well, then bringing them onto the team full-time.
You’re known for raising the profile issue of representation in tech companies. How did that become your thing?
I did not think very hard about diversity issues at all when I was in school. There is this mentality of this is the way the world is. There are always going to be problems so I’m not going to try to fight it. When I started working full-time, looked around and saw how non-diverse the teams I was on and very importantly how that impacted the quality of the products we were building, it started to concern me quite a bit more. There was some part of it that is selfish, which is I want to be in environments that are more diverse. I felt very out of place. I did not have that sense of belonging, but I could also see what the impact was on product decisions we’re making. Sometimes my teammates were all male but they look to me, “Tracy, what would women think of this decision?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m a 22-year-old who finished school. I cannot speak for all women. I can give you my opinion and you can try to extrapolate it, but this is a poor way to make decisions.”
There’s a lot of sexism and discrimination. Sometimes it’s difficult to call those things out because it’s rare that people would say like, “I’m not giving you this opportunity because you’re a woman,” or “You’re worst because you’re a woman.” People don’t say those kinds of things. It’s more than gender. It’s also many other forms of identity and experience. Over time, I was seeing these patterns play out much more. When the second female engineer joined Quora, I started to understand her experiences and realize that I was not alone in how I was feeling. I started talking to more female engineers across the industry, I started to see that there are patterns here. It’s not an individual problem. It’s very easy for people from marginalized backgrounds who maybe are not as aware of what’s going on to internalize and blame for things that are not working out.
I was like, “I’m not cut out for this.” I frequently doubted myself and thought, “Maybe I’m not cut out for software engineering. I like coding. I like building things, but this industry doesn’t seem right for me. For some reason, I don’t know what it is.” I would internalize it as it’s my problem, as opposed to it’s a systemic issue. I started to become more aware when I was working in the industry. It wasn’t just in the immediate workplace. I would also be going to conferences. One incident that still sticks out in my mind is going to a conference about a programming language, which is extremely technical. You would generally not go to a conference like this unless you were somehow technical or connected to it closely. I went to this conference and people wouldn’t talk to me seriously.
I asked questions like wherein your stack do you use Python? The conference was about Python, the programming language. They would give me answers like, “You wouldn’t understand.” I would look at them and be like, “Why did you think I asked the question?” I tried to be more specific about my technical questions. I went to another booth in the exhibit hall for this conference and I asked him, “I see that you’re using Flask, which is a Python micro web framework. I’m wondering what kind of QPS or queries per second can you withstand in terms of read and write? I want to understand your scalability?”
It was a very technical question and the guy was also like, “I don’t think you would understand.” Even to ask that question, it requires some base level of understanding. The thought is if I picked a random question off the internet, then it came through probably as something I use to test you. It was things like that. On the first day, I was so angry by the end of it that I almost didn’t go back for the second day. I thought like, “It’s not fair that I should give up a professional networking opportunity or learning growth opportunity because other people don’t see me as an engineer.” I did think like one of the problems was I was wearing a dress on the first day. On the second day, I wear a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers and it went much better, unfortunately.
A lot of these experiences built up over time. When I was working at Pinterest in 2013, I went to a conference called Grace Hopper, which is a celebration of women in computing. There are a lot of women that go. It’s over 10,000 women who come together at Grace Hopper. I had heard Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, speak. She was talking about how the number of women in technology is dropping precipitously. I didn’t necessarily disagree with her. The sentiment that there are not enough women in tech and it’s probably going down because there are a lot of insidious patterns. I was wondering what numbers she was referring to because to my knowledge, there was no data on this. I looked around for it.
After going to that conference and hearing Sheryl speak, I wrote a Medium post that asked where the numbers are. I pointed out the hypocrisy of an industry that claims to be very data-driven, that did not have any data around the diversity of its workforce. By not having any data around it, then pretending that it wasn’t a problem. It was a call to action to companies to start talking about their diversity data or releasing their diversity data. There could be some visibility, transparency and also a way to measure progress if new initiatives were rolled out. A lot of companies would talk about their different policies, their very generous maternity leave policies or unconscious bias training they were doing, or whatever different programs they had to address diversity inclusion. They would talk about how much they were doing but absent of any kind of metrics. It was very difficult to say that any of that was effective.
When I was thinking about what I could recommend to Pinterest, my employer, I then looked at all these companies doing their fancy press releases about what they were doing. It was very hard for me to say, “We should copy what Facebook or Google or whatever X company is doing because I couldn’t justify that any of those things that they were doing were effective.” After I put out this Medium post, surprisingly to me, companies did start publishing their data and some of them were submitting to a repository that I was running. It was a crowdsourced repository. It’s mostly smaller companies that they were submitting to me. There was a bit of a snowball effect and the larger companies are doing it as well.
Google in May of 2014 was the first big company to do a holistic diversity data report. Essentially all of the major tech companies do annual diversity data reports, which is very useful to understand where we are as a baseline, and also understand if we’re making progress or not. There’s a lot of criticism around how fine-grain the data is. Does it accurately represent what’s happening? It’s not intersectional. You look at gender and race separately. We’re not looking at what does it look like for black women, for example. Having a baseline to start from has been helpful to know where we stand in an industry, which is not good within tech. Having that data elevated the profile of the diversity and inclusion issues within technology to a much broader audience.
People outside of tech could also start to see, “These companies are not diverse.” Whereas for anybody who worked in the companies before like the Google Campus, you would see that it was not diverse. You could walk through different buildings and know, “This is an engineering building because there are no women here.” If you watch a building where there were a lot of them, you’re like, “I know this is probably HR, marketing, or sales.” It was very extreme. Anybody who’s been on these campuses already knew it was an open secret in Silicon Valley. Once a data was published and it meant that people outside of technology, outside of Silicon Valley could also see it like, “This is a problem.”
That kickstarted a lot of the diversity and inclusion of work that has been over the last few years. Unfortunately, it’s not as successful as you would like. I am glad that at least people are paying more attention now than they were before. I’m a little bit nervous that going forward, especially with Coronavirus and all of the things that are about to happen, all the shakeup to work from home and all of these changes that are coming, diversity and inclusion will again be put on the back burner. I’m not sure what to do about any of that.
How was that treated? I’m assuming people weren’t like, “Tracy, thank you for pointing all that out. We will go address this immediately.”
The way it unfolded was a lot more uncertain and slow because nobody knew what to expect. Pinterest was very supportive from the very beginning. I wrote this Medium post. I thought about it. It seems a bit hypocritical to issue this call to action to industry about everybody should have their diversity data out there if my employer doesn’t do it. I went and asked the leadership at Pinterest, the PR, legal and HR if it was fine. Everybody was like, “It’s fine.” Although to be honest, at that time, we didn’t know if our numbers at Pinterest were better or worse than anybody else because there was no industry standard. We didn’t know if we put out our numbers if it was going to make us look bad. At that time, we were 13% female in engineering at Pinterest. By the time I left, it was maybe 22% to 23%. We brought it up by almost 10%.
Around that time, there was a lot of nervousness because people didn’t know what was good or what was bad. If everybody published at the same time, it would be okay. If one went first, nobody else followed. That was more the vibe I was getting. People were uncertain about what to do. As more and more companies are publishing, it became more of the norm. There are companies that didn’t do it. Uber hold out for a long time, for example. That was very surprising that they were holding out for so long. They start to get called out for being a holdout on that. It was good to see those shifting norms.
A lot of companies didn’t like it. The people were more risk-averse especially the legal teams would be, “It’s discrimination lawsuits.” Any which way the data goes could open it up to a lawsuit. If we have an under-representation of women on our teams and it could be like we’re discriminating as women. What if we publish more data and there’s a higher percentage of women that get hired versus who apply, are the men going to then come and say that they’re being discriminated against? It’s not that surprising. There was a case of James Damore from Google. He claimed that it was the men who were getting discriminated against. There was a New York Times article, which made me a bit angry to read that talked about, “Men in tech has this whole diversity thing gone too far?” I don’t think we’ve gone too far when almost all companies are still run by mostly white men. We have very little gender and racial diversity. When you have a small cohort of white men complaining about how things have gone too far, maybe you don’t need to amplify their voices.
I’m surprised though that given how people can be when you shine a spotlight on things that you as a person were not treated with revenge. You weren’t blackballed. Because of how smart you were thinking about it and being clear with your words that you were like a ball of dynamite. If they didn’t treat you well, you could go off. They had to treat you well is what it seems like. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.
I’ve had different experiences on these fronts and I have been blackballed. I’m almost 100% certain that I’ve had opportunities denied because of speaking up about diversity and inclusion. I was very fortunate when I worked at Pinterest that they were genuinely supportive. That’s because they saw the value of various inclusion. They valued what I was shining a light on. My push to bring more diversity into the company and how it would help us be better as a company, as a more diverse team that’s more creative. There’s all this research that backs up like more diverse teams are more creative and innovative, but also specifically for the products we’re building. There have not been very clear examples of how Pinterest has integrated diversity into its products.
For example, their search function where you might previously research for makeup and hair care type of things and it would all be white women. Now you can do skin tone or hair type based. There’s a pallet that you can search on. It’s a better product because diversity has been baked into it. Pinterest was extraordinarily supportive because they understood the value of what I was saying. That’s not the case across all of the industry, but I feel like I was quite lucky to be at a company that saw the value of it and also saw we had a unique opportunity. We were well-positioned because we were small enough that we could make changes and see them have a big impact across the company. We were a few hundred people at that time as opposed to tens of thousands where if you want to move your percentages in a company that has tens of thousands or over a hundred thousand like that, that’s a lot of people. You have to be hiring a ton to shift the numbers or you have to fire people and that’s very difficult to do.
If you’re trying to increase your percentage of women in engineering and you already have tens of thousands of male engineers, how are you going to get to a higher percentage of females? You either need to hire a ton of female engineers or you have to fire some of your male engineers. The numbers don’t work in another way. If you’re a smaller company like Pinterest was, which was only a few hundred at that time, we could make material gains in the percentages because we were still small enough. The amount we were hiring relative to our size made that possible. At the same time, even though we were small-ish compared to some of these other tech companies, we had a relatively big consumer brand. A lot of people know what Pinterest or the company is.
We punched above our weight class in terms of brand recognition. When Pinterest did things, people paid attention. If you were a ten-person startup and you said like, “We’re doing all these things around diversity inclusion. We have 4 of our 8 engineers are women.” People would say, “That’s great, but you only have eight engineers. That’s small numbers. It doesn’t matter,” or “It’s great for you, but that’s not necessarily scalable. That’s not proof that you can do this when you get to tens or hundreds of thousands of people that you can do things when you get big.” Pinterest was big enough that people cared. It was that sweet spot of small enough that changes mattered. It could be implemented. You could see results in a short period of time, but also big enough that people cared.
It’s weird for me. I’ve assumed Pinterest is giant, which they probably are now. It seemed like it came on the scene so fast. I always assumed that it was giant. There were always tons of money behind it. All of a sudden it was everywhere and it’s baked into many sites where you mouse over something and click the P.
You remember we’re in the Midwest. By the time things show up here, it is everywhere.
Pinterest had a good reception in the Midwest unusually for a tech company versus many others. When I joined the company, we’re roughly ten people. Back then, it was still a very early stage startup. I didn’t think there was any guarantee. I remember thinking when I joined like, “This whole thing could end in a year or two. I don’t know if this startup is going to make it, but it seems like a nice product right now.” I remember when I joined, we disproportionally had a lot of users from the Midwest. Some of that was intentional. Ben, our CEO will talk about his press strategy. Unlike many tech companies that are based in Silicon Valley, we did not want to get tech press.
This was very early on, but early on the rule of thumb around doing any press or PR was we’ll only do an article or an interview if we’re the only tech company that’s going to be mentioned in the publication. It’s like Sunset Homes or anything that’s talking about something else but not technology, but we are the only tech company mentioned, that’s fine. We do not want to be covered in the technology press. It was a little bit under the radar in Silicon Valley for a while because the tech blogs that all the tech people read were not covering Pinterest and a lot of the users were not the Silicon Valley people.
Sometimes it works like that. The story has always been that the reason Seinfeld got to stay on the air as long as it did at the beginning was because it was not doing well nationwide. The suites at the network were like, “It’s too New York,” which is typically code for too Jewish. For some reason, no matter where they put it, it was number one in St. Louis. They were like, “Some of the people in St. Louis are digging it, it must not be too New York. We’ll stick with it a little bit longer.”
Anything else we are at the top of the charts about is usually violence
Before we segue our way back into Peloton, tell us about the Block Party app.
Block Party’s vision is that anybody who goes online should be able to be in control of their experience. If you think about now, anywhere you go online, anyway that there’s user-generated content, there’s a risk of something being unpleasant or upsetting or bad. I was listening to one of your earlier episodes where you were mentioning the hashtags feature on Peloton and how that could potentially be misused as well. Anywhere you allow people to type in things, they can type in bad things. This runs across the entire internet. Our vision is that when you go online, you should be able to be in control. You should be able to feel safe psychologically and not be upset by things that you’re going to see.
If your kids are going online, you don’t want them to see profanity because they’re young. Profanity is inappropriate for their age. You should be able to control that. That’s our vision. Where we’re starting right now is a very specific slice of that problem, which is abuse and harassment online. We’re starting with Twitter. We want to move to other platforms soon, but I’m tying back to diversity inclusion advocacy work I’ve done. I spend a lot of my time on Twitter. That is my primary platform for activism and having a presence. I do get a fair amount of abuse and harassment on Twitter. It’s very frustrating that when I post things, it’s very possible that I’ll then get hit with a wave of unpleasant things in my notifications or app mentions.
I have to balance the positive value I get from being on this platform with the negative value of being upset by the things that are coming in. I’ve had to deal with all sorts of harassment. Sometimes it’s a drive-by. A random person coming to say something mean to me to extended harassment, stalking and all sorts of bad stuff. It’s quite psychologically damaging. I manage it okay. Sometimes I know that I need to step away or not check my mentions. It can take a toll over time. You’re now starting to see some higher profile cases in the news around people who’ve been bullied so much and they’ve received so much abuse online that they’ve committed suicide. In less extreme cases, it’s getting offline or making big shifts in their lives because of this. They have no control over what they’re seeing.
Block Party’s idea is we put the controls back with a user. You can set filtering mechanisms and say, “Here’s the stuff I want to see. Here’s who I want to hear from. Here’s who I don’t want to hear from.” Block Party can filter what’s coming into you on these different social platforms so then you have a cleaner experience. You can still browse. For Twitter, you can keep using Twitter as you normally would, but have a safer experience. You’re not going to be upset by random things showing up in your app mentions. We put all this up hidden from somebody that you can access it, which is important.
For people who are using platforms in a very public way, for example, journalists, politicians or activists, you do want to reach a wider audience and hear from people. For the journalists, it might be hearing feedback on your stories or tips for new stories. For politicians, it might be engaging with constituents. You do want to be open to a broader network. That’s where a lot of the value of the platforms is. You don’t want to be talking to people that you already know. When the incoming stream is such a mix of abuse and harassment alongside the things that you want to see, it’s very difficult to manage. We put all of the stuff that’s been filtered into a separate place where you can view it a bit later.
When you’re going to look at your spam folder in your email, you could have mentally prepared yourself that most of this stuff is not going to be good. Sometimes there is good stuff in there that I need to fish out. You check your spam folder and you’re like, “It looks like I missed something good, but it’s okay. I’ll fish it out and respond to it now.” You’re stealing yourself for that makes it very different than if you were to see all that stuff in your inbox and your app mentions on Twitter. That’s what we’re working on with Block Party. It’s fun. We’re at the early stages. It’s a rewarding experience to be able to work on something so meaningful to me. I feel like I’m quite lucky to be at this intersection of having the skills and experiences having worked in several platform companies.
It’s a very frustrating experience because they have this problem, but there’s very little that they can do about it besides try to demand that the platforms do more. It’s hard to demand that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any of these platforms make any substantive changes in a short period of time. I feel like I can at least try to solve this problem. I feel very lucky that I have this software engineering background, having worked at these companies and having the firsthand experience of the problem, I can try to build a solution for it.
Think in the future, you might have a spam folder and a douchebag folder side by side.
Put all the douchebags over here. You can check it out later.
That would be a nice passive-aggressive where you get to be like, “I missed your email. It went to my spam.” You’d be like, “I missed your email. Apparently, I thought you were a douchebag.”
I already do have that. I am running Block Party now on my Twitter account. It’s already sheltering a lot of people. I look into that folder like, “A lot of people did get hidden. That’s fine. I didn’t need to hear from them.” It’s funny when some of them get angry that I’m not replying to them. They’ll go back. They keep trying to get my attention by saying like, “I’ve been replying to you for years and you’ve never responded to me.” I’m like, “That’s fine. I’m going to keep you. I still don’t need to see any of your stuff. I still don’t need to respond to you.”
It’s funny how people get mad that you don’t take the bait.
I’m the one that reached out to her for the interview. I feel good that I made it through the gauntlet.
You look legitimate. You’re talking about Peloton and you must be legitimate.
Speaking of Peloton, which we were at one point.
Who is your favorite instructor so far?
I enjoy almost all of the instructors. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I like Emma Lovewell. She is very musical. She has a dance and music or DJ background. It’s nice when she picks tracks of new music for me to listen to, but also riding to the beat of the music is fun. The other thing is she is Asian or half Asian. There’s something about the representation when I see her, I’m like, “She was Asian. I can identify with her.” She posted photos with her mom on Instagram. Her mom looks vaguely like my mom. I can identify with that, which is also particularly relevant given that it is like Asian Heritage Month. Peloton is celebrating that as well.
I got my badge. I’m a big badge collector. I did take a few of the Asian heritage classes. Do you ever take any of the content besides the bike content?
I tried to do everything as possible. I don’t have pull weight setups so I can’t do all that. I don’t have a treadmill. Unfortunately, I can’t do the bootcamp classes but I’ve done some of the outdoor running classes. I do strengthand yoga. I’m doing the May challenge for the UK Ladies Peloton group, which is to do a class from every instructor. That’s a good forcing function to dig through everything. I took a class with Eric, one of the German instructors. That was all in German. There are metrics. That’s fine. I follow the metrics. It’s been fun to try out all the different types of classes. I even did the Dance Cardio classes. I took the class before it was the Quests class. I’m a bad dancer. I’m not coordinated, but it was fun to try everything in the catalog. There’s a lot of stuff in there.
The reason I asked you that specifically is if Emma is your favorite, you should try her core program.
I’ve done all the classes in it, just not in the right order. I might go back and do it again.
It’s good. It’s one of my favorites. Dance Cardio is fun. You’ve done both of the Quests classes?
Yes, I have.
You are a badge collector too.
I only had one of the Asian Heritage Month badges. I went and did another class and to get a second one. There will be a few more because they’re going to resume the studio filming. Emma’s doing one. Ally is doing a K-pop themed ride, which should be fun to have all the Korean music. I’m looking forward to those.
I did a run the other day. I don’t know what your outside levels of activity are where you are, how restricted you are to getting outside. If you can, they have runs that you can turn into outside runs because most of the time they’ll tell you, “We’re at the halfway point if you want to go back now.” You can turn any of the treadmill classes, if they’re just a run or a walk and run, you can turn those into outdoor classes if that works for you.
I’m not very good at modulating my pace. I haven’t tried any of them. When I do those kinds of classes in other studios, they’ll say, “Now sprint,” or whatever. I have the number of what I might have for what a sprint speed is. When I’m outside, I cannot force myself to run a very different speed. I just run at the same speed. I’m a one-gear person. I cannot shift gears.
I get it. I struggle with that too especially we live in a very hilly area. There are hills all around our house. It’s like, “Go faster. I’m on a hill. I’m going as fast as I’m going to go.”
When you’re crossing in front of a car and you’re like, “I’m not going to run, but I’ll move my arms to make you feel like I’m doing something.”
I’ll show you that I’m thinking about making an effort. I’m yelling at the instructors though if I’m on a hill like, “Yeah, I know. This is as fast as I’m going.”
When you told me that they tell you at the halfway point, I’m like, “They should tell you at the 40% point,” because there’s no way you’re running that second half as fast as you’re running that first half.
If you’ve listened to their queuing, a lot of times you do go faster in the second half because the first half, a lot of it is your warmup, Tom. Do you have any advice for somebody who’s getting started with Peloton or exercise in general?
Start doing it and don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning about trying to achieve any particular goals. Start doing it and build a habit. For me early on, what was helpful was forcing myself to go to the gym every day or run a little bit every day on a regular cadence. Once it becomes a habit, then it becomes very addictive. The thing is before you’ve gotten into working out and if it feels a mental struggle and you don’t have the positive vibes associated with it, it can be harder. You have to use all this willpower to get yourself to work out but once you get into the habit, you’re not exerting any willpower to do the workouts anymore. Once you get into it, you have the problem that I have, which is there are not enough hours. I try all the different classes I want to try, but don’t worry about that when you’re getting started. Show up and try doing things.
To tie everything together, I don’t know if you know this, Crystal, but Peloton utilizes the Block Party app and all the Oliver Lee classes went away. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and busy exercise schedule to join us.
We took a little more time than we expected. It was a fabulous conversation though. Thank you for doing this.
Where can people find you on social media where you would like to be found?
My main channel is Twitter. My handle is @Triketora. I got this as my AOL Instant Messenger screen name a very long time ago.
Thank you so much. This was great. I enjoyed this.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s good to chat. I look forward to having this episode up.
That brings another one to a close. What pray tell do you have in store for people next week?
Courtney Snowden. She is the Creator and Founder of Black Girl Magic. I am a Black Girl Magic Peloton edition. I need to be specific because I know there’s Black Girl Magic that exists outside of Peloton, but we only care about the Peloton one.
That’s what people have to look forward to. Until then, where could people find you?
You can find me on Twitter, @RogerQBert or on Facebook at Facebook.com/TomOKeefe. You can find the show online at Facebook.com/TheClipOut. While you’re there, like the page, join the group. Wherever you’re getting your podcast from, be sure and subscribe, so you’ll never miss an episode. That’s it for this one. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time, keep pedaling and running.
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