Mr Meaningful Work and Guests Kick Off What's Humanly Possible

Episode
1
June 11, 2024
35
min

Join Mr. Meaningful Work, Tim O'Leary, and the Humanly team as we kick off our podcast "What's Humanly Possible." Guests include Humanly CEO and Co-Founder Prem Kumar, Gen Z Thought Leader and Speaker Danielle Farage, and Senior Director and Leader of Enterprise AI at Microsoft Rajamma Krishnamurthy. In our inaugural episode, the team jumps into the essence of human potential and innovation, exploring how technology and personal experiences shape our professional and personal lives. From the wonders of AI to the intricacies of human interactions, the team offers a bit of a teaser for what you can expect in future episodes of What's Humanly Possible.

Transcript

Tim: All right, what's up?

What's up, everybody? It is your boy Tim, Mr. Meaning for Work, and welcome to the What is Humanly Possible podcast. I'm your host, and I am joined by Prem, CEO and co-founder of Humanly, also joined by Danielle, who is a work futurist, a speaker, and a LinkedIn top voice, and Rajama, senior HR technology director and an adjunct professor at NYU.

How's everybody doing today?

Prem: Doing great.

Danielle: Fantastic.

Rajamma: Awesome, Tim. How about you?

Tim: I am lit up. I just took a sip of coffee, so my blood is starting to heat up and I'm starting to get ready. I'm excited to be chatting with you guys. Today, we're just getting to know each other, getting comfortable, and having a conversation. I hope that's okay with everybody. Is that cool?

Prem: Let's do it.

Danielle: Let's do it.

Tim: So, I got a couple of questions for you guys, and if you have the answer, feel free to just jump right in. Now, as we look at the title of this podcast, "What Humanly Possible," right? It kind of speaks to the endless innovation that humans are capable of. So, I would like to ask each of you, or whoever wants to answer first, what is one invention or human innovation that consistently impresses you? What comes to mind?

Rajamma: You know, that's a hard one, Tim. I kept thinking about it and I was like, is it the World Wide Web? Is it the jet engine? Is it air travel? Is it even sliced bread? I mean, what could be the best invention ever? But then I thought, you know what, the computer chip. The thing that is making it possible for us to power anything that is modern computing, even the watch on your wrist. That is the greatest invention. I think it was around in 1961. I can't remember the inventor's names. I remember one, Jack Kilby. I can't remember the other one, so excuse my ignorance there. But I think that that was the greatest invention. Imagine having to lug a whole lot of vacuum tubes on your wrist if you want to look at a watch that is digitally powered. So, I think that is the best invention. What do the others think?

Tim: I love that.

Prem: Yeah, I can jump in. I'm all for technology that makes things more accessible to the world. When we think of all the tech that we use today, it's still only used by a small portion of the world. I think things that make the internet more accessible, things that make applications bite-sized, that you can put in your phone and your pocket and access any day. As we think about remote work, just infrastructure that makes Wi-Fi speed faster in places that we might want to be working from. So, I think anything that brings what is happening on the cutting edge

to the rest of the folks that are not on that edge is always important to me. I think the other piece is just about getting better as a person, like tools like Fitbit. There are tools like Virtual CPN that will tell me if I'm making eye contact in a meeting or if I'm not. I think just things I can do to make myself better. I like those sort of themes as well.

Danielle: Beautiful. I'm a big fan of Aura rings, and if you were to ask me what my favorite invention is, I would tell you the fanny pack because it's just so practical. Really, I just got a new one. I'm so excited about it.

Prem: How many fanny packs,Danielle?

Danielle: Actually, I only own one because I tend to buy cheap ones. If I go to a festival or if I'm traveling, I know it's just going to get dirty, so I'm always replacing them. That's okay. But I bought one fanny pack, like some Reddit group that just goes all in on your fanny packs around the world. I bought one that I can wash because I'm trying to be more sustainable.

But going back to your question, I'll preface it by saying this is not an ad, but I think that along the lines of what Prem and Rajama said, my favorite invention is Otter. Being able to transcribe things because humans learn very differently from one another. Some of us are auditory, visual, tangible—what's the one for tactile learners? I really do believe that we're born into an age where technology can help us learn in a way that is best for us. I think that's also why we're going to have the smartest kids ever in history because there are ways that we can all learn, and that's okay. Being a visual learner is a great thing, and there are resources you can look at. That would be my best invention: new ways of learning.

Tim: I love it. What was the app? Is it Otter, like the animal?

Danielle: Otter.ai, yeah. This is not an ad, but they really should pay me.

Prem: Yeah, I love Otter too. I'll chime in there because anytime I'm in a Zoom meeting, I have the role of observing and engaging. I think just having some of the automated note-taking out of the equation, not having to worry about that part of the observational process, and letting something else do the observing for you frees you up to actually talk to someone.

Tim: That's it. That's my repertoire. I would say for me, the invention or the innovation that consistently impresses me isn't one thing, but instruments. When people think of new ways to deliver music or to express themselves through music. Music is such a universal unifier. It's just crazy the thing that still gives me chills. I hope you guys watched the World Cup. There was a certain point—I'm Nigerian, so I'm a little bent towards Afro beats—but there was a certain point where they played this song "Baby Calm Down." You can hear the intro, and the whole crowd, like literally the whole world, is singing this. The different instruments—you got the drums, the keyboard, the strings, all these different things—they continue to innovate. You continue to see weird and strange instruments that folks come up with. That's something that consistently impresses me.

I appreciate everybody sharing. Does anybody here play any instruments, by the way?

Rajamma: I played the veena, which is an Indian instrument. It's like a sitar but laid on the ground and played like that.

Tim: Oh my god, we might have to have a guest appearance. You might have to play some music on your shows.

Roger, real talk. Danielel, do you play anything?

Danielle: I play my vocal cords.

You sing?

Danielle: Yeah, I was in an acapella group for like six years.

Tim: You do acapella? I love acapella. All we listened to this holiday was Pentatonix.

What about you, Prem?

Prem: No, I have an auto-tune app on my phone that I use with my kids, but that's about the extent of my musical abilities.

Tim: You go get your T-Pain on, man. Auto-tune is the move.

Rajamma: Danielle, I envy you. I really envy people who can sing. That's the reason I took up music because I wanted to sing, but people don't want to listen to me sing. So, I really had to pick up another instrument. One of these days, I'd love to hear you sing.

Prem: Yeah, of course. I'll sometimes just sing some random 90s song when I'm walking around the house, like some Blink-182 song or something. It's gotten to the point where my daughter, when she hears the first note come out of my mouth, she says, "Stop. Stop. Stop."

Tim: She should put her finger right on her lips like, "Shh."

I love it. Well, next question. We're on a podcast, we're about to start this journey into what's humanly possible and bring value to folks. How would you rate yourself if we had a rating scale of heavy listener, casual listener, barely rarely listen, or never? How would you rate your podcast listenership around the room?

Danielle: I would say I'm a pretty good listener. Some of my favorite podcasts include Brave New Work, Brené Brown's podcasts, and Tim Ferriss. I've just been getting into Jay Shetty. That stuff really hits home. I also listen to Call Her Daddy because it's the podcast that's most listened to by women. I try to tune in every week, but I also go through ebbs and flows of when I want to listen to podcasts versus music versus watching a Netflix show. It's good not to put pressure on yourself, and it's also great to share those episodes with friends that really resonate. It's a great way to connect with people, just send them a podcast episode you think they would like or that relates to a conversation you recently had.

Do you just listen to Jay Shetty, or do you watch? Because I can't just listen. I need to be looking in his dreamy eyes.

I usually just listen to him, but that's a good point. Maybe I will start watching him.

Yeah, I got his book on Audible and then I fell in love. There's no going back from this city. It's very hard.

Rajamma: I'm a reasonable listener. I'm like Danielle; I make choices on what I want to do with any spare time I have. I'm a big Brené Brown, Adam Grant, Simon Sinek fan. I also tend to move towards some of the podcasts from Cambridge and Oxford. There's a lot of innovations being done there, so some of the podcasts there, specifically related to science and medicine, I tend to listen to those. I have a series on that.

Tim: How about you?

Prem: I'm middle of the road in terms of my frequency. Usually, I'll listen to podcasts sometimes when I'm driving, although now without the commute times in this remote world over the last several years, I'm not doing as much driving, but I listen to podcasts when I work out. Sometimes they're just in the background. Brené Brown for sure, This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis and Molly Wood. I just kind of like their voices, so sometimes when I'm working out, it's just in the background. The content is obviously very strong as well. I'll usually listen to podcasts if I see a guest that I am really wanting to hear from and hear a unique take from. The hosts are obviously really important. I want someone that I can relate to. Recently, we've been seeing a lot more diversity of hosts, and it's not the same type of podcasters, so that's been great to see as well.

Tim: What do you look for in a podcast? It could be the podcaster's voice, the guests, or the content. For me, it's chemistry. If I can hear or see that the guests have this chemistry, and it's funny, natural, and organic, that leads me to connect with that podcast. Obviously, the guests are important, but what makes a good podcast? What keeps you coming back to Brené Brown or these places? And what makes a sucky podcast? What's the reason you would not click on the thumbnail or listen to something? What makes or breaks a podcast?

Prem: Yeah, I'm happy to start. A huge part of it has to do with my ability to relate to the material, but also the hosts. I think generally, as we're seeing what's happening in social media, even just from a buyer behavior standpoint, people make purchasing decisions a lot of times based on the people they're engaging with, not necessarily the company. The brand is a combination of individual brands within it. One example is, I actually didn't know Danielle. I saw her LinkedIn content, not necessarily always in podcast form, but her posts. Without sounding like a stalker, as you follow people, you get a sense of their views on topics similar to yours. I want to listen to content that is contextual to me, shared by someone with similar views. I want to learn from people with different views, but there are some basic ways that content is addressed that I want to get into. Some people go very high level, which is not what I'm into. I want someone attacking the content at the same level that I am, whether high or low level, it doesn't really matter. It's personal preference.

Rajamma: Yeah, I can go next. Similar things. I need to see the chemistry between the people interacting on the podcast because that comes out in the reality of the stuff they talk about. It keeps it real. One of my favorite podcasts recently was with Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, and Brené Brown. I could listen to it all day because they keep it real all the time. They interact and bring out important topics, dealing with them right there. I like to have them keep it real rather than documentary-like. It has to have that human element.

Tim: Danielle, what about you?

Danielle: Oh my gosh, everything is resonating so deeply with me. My answers have changed a little. I think there's an element that podcasting is intimate. It's like this sit-down, intentional conversation. Let's get into the story, the meat of it. A great interview involves the interviewer posing thought-provoking, deep, intentional questions. Not only that, but being able to go a little bit deeper than the person answering might have with their own vulnerability. Leading with vulnerability is key.

Because without that, you're having someone reveal something about themselves without you doing that first. It's a 51-49 thing I like to say about leadership: first, you have to be vulnerable to get someone else to be vulnerable. I think there's that element of it. Also, storytelling. I'm a sucker for a great story. If you can weave elements and certain themes into your story throughout the episode that relate, like Prem was saying, relate to what I'm going through, even better. Those are the things that get listeners to latch on until the end and really want to see it through. So, I think that's part of it for me.

Tim: Absolutely. I mean, what you shared about story is, in my opinion, what makes a great podcast. Especially a host's ability to unearth a story versus just rallying off questions and bringing out the storyline. Who is the protagonist? What was the climax? What was the struggle, and how did you go through that? That is what connects folks. You're right, it is intimate. You're literally sitting there, listening to somebody's conversation, and you have to be intentional about that connection. I appreciate that. We ask these things because we're starting this podcast, and we want to make sure we are doing these things. We want to add as much value to our listeners' lives as they're sitting with us, listening to our conversations with our various guests. Making sure those stories are brought out, making sure there's that relevancy and resonation with folks, that chemistry is built. And part of that chemistry being built, to your point, Danielle, is that vulnerability. How vulnerable are we able to be with each other?

So, we're actually going to step into that field right now. A little bit on the lighter side, talking about a time when you laughed so hard. I want you guys to tell us a story about a time where you laughed so hard, either milk came out of your nose, or your stomach was hurting, you fell out of your chair, you were crying. We want to hear those times and connect with those times. Does anybody have a story about laughing so hard it became an ab workout?

I'm waiting for someone else to go ahead right here.

Oh my goodness, I have a couple, but I want you guys to go ahead and get started. All of mine are around my kids and my parents because these guys are constant. I'll start with mine. So, it was over Thanksgiving. My mom had shared something that my dad had done. They were talking, and my mom was sharing with my dad how she appreciates how flexible and broad he is by way of different things that he's able to do. Right now, he's working as a chaplain in a hospital. Previous to that, he was a pastor. He's done professorship and things like that as well. She was just affirming that. He then went on to tell her, "You know, I appreciate that," and he's a Nigerian man, "I'm also a programmer." My mom was like, "Programmer?" He was like, "Yeah, you know, like...some people understand Python and Java and things like that. Me, I don't understand how to code snakes or code coffee, but I know how to do funeral programs or wedding programs." He started off the script with an opening prayer and then moved on to this, and he had a straight face the whole time, talking about his programming skills while my mom was affirming his broad knowledge. I was on the floor. My kids came over to make sure I was okay because I was crying at the idea of my dad being a programmer, talking about funeral programs and wedding programs. So, that is mine. What is your story about laughing so hard?

Rajamma: I'll go next, but it has to have the context. I'll give you a little bit of the context, and it's also again about my parents. Imagine the 1980s in India. I grew up there in a very middle-class family with my parents working hard, educated but making ends meet and trying to raise a family. My dad bought his first vehicle, a Lambretta scooter, which was a big deal in our house. He used to polish it every night, and the mirrors used to shine. He used to ride the bike all the time, and he would pick up my mom from work and come back in the evening. One day, they didn't turn up for almost two and a half hours. It was around 9 o'clock at night, and we were worried. My dad was not the greatest driver, so we were concerned they had gotten into an accident. Without cell phones, we couldn't call them. They showed up around 9 o'clock, walking very sheepishly. My dad, anytime there was a different sound in his scooter, would stop and examine it. This day, the scooter made a different noise, so he stopped. My mom got off the pillion seat, my dad got back on, and drove off, leaving my mom behind. She's waving her arms, screaming at him, "You idiot, stop the scooter!" But he's just driving away, talking to my mom in the back. He stops at a signal, still talking, and people around him are thinking he's crazy. He suddenly realizes the scooter is light, looks back, and there's no mom. He turns around, afraid she's been run over, and hires an auto-rickshaw, telling the driver something fell off. The driver is looking for a box or bag, but my mom is walking home, huffing and puffing. He finds her on the sidewalk, and the driver says, "You mean this fell off, and you didn't know?" It's a joke in our family, and we still roll on the floor thinking of my dad saying something fell off.

Tim: Oh my gosh, he dropped the package. Unreal.

I'm talking to her. That's something you see in comedy movies.

Literally made for TV.

Danielle, you got one?

Danielle: I do. It's not about my family; it's about a stranger. It happened about a month ago. I was traveling to Miami for Art Basel with my friend Gigi, and we were in the airport. I had gotten to the gate a little early because I had TSA Precheck and clear (still not an ad). I got to the gate and was sitting there. She came about 15 minutes later and found me sitting in the closest chair to the kiosk by the gate. We're sitting there, sipping on our matcha lattes, getting excited for the trip. Nothing's happened yet; this is the beginning of the trip.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, we hear this loud thud. I felt the vibration on my feet, like something falling. I looked to my right at the kiosk, and there's a child strapped to a piece of luggage, tied to it, just lying on the floor. He's looking around like, "What just happened?" Not crying, just on the floor. Gigi and I look at each other like, "Why is he tied to luggage? Why is no one holding this two-year-old child?"

Is he like upside down, like a turtle on its back?

Like a turtle on its back, with the piece of luggage on top of him. It doesn't look heavy, he's not suffocating, but it's just odd. Then, there's the delayed reaction of him starting to cry, and the mom finally comes around, lifts the luggage, and unties the child. We're just like, "Why was he tied to the luggage in the first place?" That was the beginning of our trip.

That's how it starts.

The things that parents do for just a second, like "just stay with the bags, hold the handle" so he doesn't treat it like a jungle gym, which he did, and then he fell.

There are things now attached to luggage for small children, where they can sit on a seat attached to the bag. I noticed it last week when I was traveling. This kid was sitting on it happily, and the parents were pushing them.

This was not that. This was a makeshift version.

The prototype that failed in production.

I love it. Well, way to kick off the weekend, right? Way to kick off the trip. It was a spooky trip. We didn't stop laughing the whole weekend. It really set the tone.

I love it. You got one for us, Prem?

Prem: Well, one day, when I was... I think my brother was like 2. We went on a trip to India, international travel through a bunch of airports. My mom used to have us on these leashes, which I've now seen a few of them. It was quite different, but nothing like the turtle on its back like Danielle's story.

So, funny story. Right as COVID hit, at the beginning of 2020, everything was going remote. We were fundraising for Humanly's first round, and everything was remote. I thought I would be meeting investors in person, but I was actually happy it was remote so I could do more meetings. But my house wasn't set up for remote work, and my internet wasn't the fastest. I was about to pitch an investor, and my internet was super slow. My slides weren't loading because they were on Google Slides, not downloaded.

So, what do I do? I had to go to the fastest place in my house with internet, which was the laundry room. I set up on the dryer and started presenting. Suddenly, I heard that ding-a-ling sound the dryer makes before a loud noise. I panicked, pressing buttons on the dryer, and accidentally started it. My laptop started shaking as I was presenting. I had to say, "I need a quick break." That investor did not end up investing in Humanly, but I don't know if it had anything to do with that.

Tim: That's a funny one. Thank you so much, guys. I appreciate you sharing. I appreciate the vulnerability, the good times, and the laughs and we're hoping our goal is that this podcast, the engagements, the guests that we interact with, the content that we share, and the stories that are unearthed will really help to elevate folks' thinking on the different topics that we have. We'll discuss more as it relates to human capital, diversity, workforce management, talent development, and all these different areas that we want to touch on. We thank you so much. You'll be hearing from us again soon.

Thank you, Prem. Thank you, Danielle. Thank you, Rajamma. Thank you, Tim. Appreciate everyone here. You guys have a good rest of your day. We'll see you on the next episode. Peace.

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Explore the future of ethical AI in HR with SHRM and Humanly.
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Empowering Skills-First Hiring using AI
iMocha, Bryq, and Humanly explore merging soft skills and technical expertise to build future-ready teams
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Empowering Skills-First Hiring using AI
iMocha, Bryq, and Humanly explore merging soft skills and technical expertise to build future-ready teams
April 23, 2024
Navigating Candidate Overload and Drought: Sourcing Tactics For Recruiters
Traditional candidate sourcing faces numerous limitations. See how we're solving sourcing with AI that keeps smarter human conversation at the center of hiring.
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What Does Equitable AI For Hiring Look Like
The risks and what you can do about them
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