#78: Communications Consultant Indira Nair

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Today I connected with Indira Nair, a friend and former colleague based in Kuala Lumpur. Indira is a seasoned communications professional who used to work for Malaysia Airlines.

Ever since Flight 370 went missing on March 8, I’ve found myself wanting to speak with Indira, not to speculate on what happened (there’s been plenty of that already) and not to dissect the airline’s handling of the crisis (it’s far too soon for a considered analysis). Instead, I hoped simply that Indira might share her perspective on this long, strange month—as a Malaysian, as a former employee of the airline, and as a veteran communications counselor. She did, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her views. 

About Indira Nair: Indira Nair, has more than 30 years of experience as a communications professional. Prior to founding her current firm, Influence 360, Nair served as Director, Communications for the Malaysian government’s economic transformation program (PEMANDU). Prior to that, she worked for Malaysia Airlines, where she played a key role in the airline’s turnaround as a member of the senior leadership team.

In the course of her career, Nair has also worked with a number of global communications agencies, including Edelman Worldwide, Burson-Marstellar, and Ogilvy Public Relations.  








#77: Antonia Crane, Writer and Performer

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In this episode, I speak with Antonia Crane, author of SPENT, which Kirkus Reviews called the “revelatory, unapologetic life story of a San Francisco stripper and sex worker.”

Reading both SPENT and a recent article that Crane wrote for Playboy, I was struck by the complexity of Crane’s experience in the sex industry. While she endured plenty of dark and difficult times, Crane also describes finding the work empowering. In the interview, we discussed this tension; we also covered off on unionization and whether Crane would encourage a young girl to follow in her footsteps.

About Antonia Crane: Antonia Crane is an author, writing instructor, and performer in Los Angeles. Her memoir about her mother’s illness and the sex industry SPENT has just been published by Barnacle Books. She’s a columnist for The Rumpus, a contributing editor for The Weeklings, senior editor and founder of The Citron Review, and was a film consultant on Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight. As a winner of The Moth, True Stories Told Live, she’ll be competing in the Los Angeles Grand Championship on March 24, 2014. Her writing can be found in The Heroin Chronicles, Soft Skull Press’ Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing about Each OtherThe New Black, The Rumpus, Dame Magazine, Salon, PANK magazine, Black Clock, The Believer, Frequencies, Slake, and The Los Angeles Review.

#76: Endodontist-Screenwriter Eric Weinstock

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As many Work Stew readers know, I stuck with a job that was wrong for me for far longer than I should have. I experienced what I now view as a colossal failure of imagination, remaining in PR in large part because I wasn’t sure that a radical change was really feasible. To help me think more creatively about my options, I started to collect other people’s stories here at Work Stew—not because I thought I might switch to, say, python hunting or high-rise window washing but rather to drive home (to myself if no one else!) just how many possible paths there really are.

In stark contrast to me, Eric Weinstock has not suffered from a lack of imagination—far from it. In this interview, he explains how he went from law to dentistry to screenwriting. I love that he was prepared to train anew when he realized he didn’t want to practice law, and I love that performing root canals for a living did not, in his view, rule out the prospect of also writing scripts. I suspect that many more of us might lead such rich, hyphenated lives (“Hi, I’m an Endodontist-Screenwriter!”) if only we knew that it is in fact possible.

About Eric Weinstock: Eric Weinstock is a Board-certified Endodontist (root canals and oral surgeries) with a solo practice in Canton, Massachusetts. In addition to private practice, Dr. Weinstock serves as the course director for the Ethics and Professionalism in Dentistry class at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He is past-president of the South Shore District Dental Society and a Fellow of the American College of Dentists. He started a yearly campaign called the Dental Care Drive which involves collecting dental supplies from local dentists and distributing these supplies (in coordination with an organization called Jewish Family & Children Services) to the underserved of the greater Boston community. Prior to his dental training, Dr. Weinstock earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and occasionally serves as an expert witness in malpractice litigation.

Outside of dentistry, Eric Weinstock is a contest-winning screenwriter of short and feature films, with several projects currently in various stages of development. His dramatic comedy, A Perfect Smile, about a womanizing dentist on the run, is in pre-production, with Tom Sizemore, Andy Dick, Sally Kellerman and David Proval currently attached.

His film, The Key, about two young lovebirds, Carla and Dan, who try to salvage their relationship following a wild one-night romp by Dan, is also in pre-production with plans to shoot this spring/summer in NYC, following what will hopefully be a successful Kickstarter campaign.

#75: Tim Pratt, Former Financial Advisor to NFL Players

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There are some jobs we’ve all known about since we were kids: astronaut, firefighter, doctor, teacher. And then there’s the sort of job you don’t even think about until you meet someone who does it.

For me anyway, the work that Tim Pratt did for several yearscounseling professional football players on their finances—fell into this category. Until we talked, it wasn’t on my radarso I wanted to know: what was that like, and how did he get there?

During our interview, Tim’s cell phone was a bit temperamental (sorry for the occasional distortion), but Tim himself was delightfuleven when I asked whether those of us in Seattle could count on his support for the Seahawks. He dodged that one, but he was gracious about it.

About Tim Pratt: Tim Pratt earned a B.A. from Adelphi University and captained the Division I Lacrosse Team for the Panthers. He also earned an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. After working at Goldman Sachs for six years, he accepted a position with the NFL (National Football League) where he stayed for three years. In that role, he focused on helping NFL players to plan and manage their financial futures. He is now a Principal at Purlieu City Partners, a real estate investment company. Tim and his wife Simone have two boys and call Brooklyn, New York home.

#74: Michelle Bowman of Save the Children International

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There are now more than 120 voices in the mix at Work Stew, and one theme I hear over and over again is a craving for meaning. Everyone needs to make a living, but—as the cliché goes—we also want to make a difference. “Saving the children” seems to me to be as compelling a purpose as any, so I was curious to connect (via the great introducer, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming) with Michelle Bowman, Save the Children International’s brand new Director of Strategy.

In particular, I wanted to learn: how did she arrive at the role she’s in now? Why did she spend some time in the private sector along the way? And why did she invest in an MBA? Despite the late hour after a long first day on the job, Bowman gamely tackled all of these questions. Winning points for being extra helpful, she also shared the one thing she might have done differently had she known then what she knows now.

About Michelle Bowman: As the Director of Strategy at Save the Children International, Bowman coordinates the strategic direction for the world’s leading independent organization for children, operating in over 120 countries. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA in International Studies from the Lauder Institute, and a BA in History and Literature from Harvard College. Michelle is originally from Oregon.

#73: Tess Poe, Owner of Beehive Sewing Studio + Workspace

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No task gives me greater pleasure than making something with my hands, which is one reason I wanted to speak with Tess Poe. Over the last three years, Poe has built a business around providing tools and a workspace for “makers”primarily people who sew and artists who work with fibers and fabrics.

In this interview, I learned how Poe came to the idea after a career spent largely in the public sector and with various non-profits. Poe also gamely answered the question, “So, exactly how harrowing has it been to take the leap and start your own business?”

About Tess Poe: Tess Poe is an entrepreneur, maker, writer, and researcher in Northampton, Massachusetts. In 2011, Poe conceived of Beehive Sewing Studio + Workspacethe Pioneer Valley’s first pay-by-the-hour sewing studio for new and experienced sewists and crafters. She most recently worked as a public affairs specialist with a Federal agency, and provides strategic consulting services to several nonprofit organizations.

Poe began her career in Washington, DC in the late 1990s as an organizer, advocate, and fundraiser for progressive groups such as the International Campaign for Tibet, Amnesty International, ACLU, and Habitat for Humanity. Trained as a geographer, her research and advocacy for environmental land-use planning and “smart growth” led her to a graduate degree in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts in the early 2000s. She then worked as a researcher and community planner at the Federal, regional, and municipal levels. A Long Island, New York transplant, Poe has lived in a converted bicycle factory in Northampton Center since 2010, and in Western Massachusetts, on and off, since 1993. 

#72: Dr. Jonathan Finks, Founder and Director of the Doctors of Tomorrow Program

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Thanks to Facebook, I recently learned that a college classmate of mine started a program called the Doctors of TomorrowThe program connects ninth graders from Cass Technical High School in Detroit with medical students and doctors at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The goal  of the program, which is now entering its second year, is to stimulate interest in a career in medicine among minority high school students, and to provide the type of information and mentorship that might help pave the way.

Someone who loves what he does so much that he wants to inspire the next generation? I fired off an interview request within seconds.    

About Jonathan Finks: Dr. Finks is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery and Director of the Adult Bariatric Surgery Program at the University of Michigan. His clinical interests are in the areas of minimally invasive general and bariatric surgery. Dr. Finks’ research interests focus on collaborative quality improvement with bariatric surgery. He is also the director and founder of the Doctors of Tomorrow Program, a community outreach program of the University of Michigan Medical School in partnership with Cass Technical High School of Detroit.

#71: Jessica Gelman, New England Patriots Exec

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When I graduated from business school in 1998, the vast majority of my classmates went into banking or consulting. Some may well have had a passion for these paths, but many were simply being practical: they had taken on enormous student loans to fund their MBAs, and the starting salaries in finance and consulting are high. Fifteen years later, almost all my classmates have changed employers several times, and many have changed industries.

So, when I read that Jessica Gelman was still working with the same organization that hired her out of business school, I knew her story had to be special. And indeed it is: she pursued her passion for sports with such gusto that she landed her dream job pretty much from the get-goand in twelve years it’s only gotten dreamier.

About Jessica Gelman: As The Kraft Sports Group’s Vice President of Customer Marketing & Strategy, Gelman leads key business initiatives for the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium, and Patriot Place. In addition, Gelman co-founded and continues to chair the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the first and largest analytically-focused sports business conference.  

Prior to the Kraft Sports Group, Gelman worked as a strategy consultant at the Mitchell Madison Group. Gelman earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA, cum laude in psychology, from Harvard College. She was honored as Harvard Female Athlete of the Year after leading Harvard to consecutive Ivy League Basketball Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. Subsequently, she played professionally in Europe. 

#70: Former Corrections Officer

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In this episode, I speak with a former corrections officer, a woman who requested anonymity because correctional facilities are sensitive about granting interviews. And even though my interview subject has now moved on to a new job, she doesn’t want any trouble.

What she does want is to share her story: the job turned out to be quite different from what she had imagined based on various TV shows, and she sees some value in adding a real-world perspective to the mix.

#69: Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller, Creators of the Buy Nothing Project

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In this episode, I speak with Liesl Clark (left) and Rebecca Rockefeller (right), co-founders of the Buy Nothing Project, a social movement focused on the development of hyper-local gift economies.

Clark and Rockefeller don’t make a living from their work on the Buy Nothing Project, but it does require heaps of their time. When we sat down to talk last weekend (amidst the chirping of both birds and childrensorry about that), they explained what inspired them to launch the Buy Nothing movement and why exactly it’s catching fire.

About The Buy Nothing Project: The Buy Nothing Project began as an experimental, hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, Washington. In just a few months, it has become a bona fide social movement, involving more than 4,000 members in 23 chapters around the country. Using specially-created Facebook groups, Buy Nothing members follow these simple rules: “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering…we’re strictly a gift economy.”

Photos: courtesy of Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller.

Also: thank you to Chris Walton for recording this conversation. I hesitate to credit him since the sound quality is totally not his fault, but the fact is: his help was critical. With the kids milling around (a first for the podcast), I’d probably have forgotten to hit ‘record.’