402 episodes

A podcast about the design, development, and business of great software. Each week thoughtbot's Chad Pytel and Lindsey Christensen are joined by the people who build and nurture the products we love.

Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots thoughtbot

    • Technology
    • 4.9 • 85 Ratings

A podcast about the design, development, and business of great software. Each week thoughtbot's Chad Pytel and Lindsey Christensen are joined by the people who build and nurture the products we love.

    402: Lift Off with Emily Bahna

    402: Lift Off with Emily Bahna

    Emily Bahna a Managing Director at thoughtbot who leads the Lift Off team, where they focus on really leaning into the core of the company. The team works with new founders to launch new products or they work with existing companies that want to build out a new service or open up a new area to generate revenue for their business. But, the thing that ties Lift Off together, is that they start at ground zero to build upon an idea and actually build the first version product to get it out live into the marketplace.



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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Emily Bahna, Managing Director of thoughtbot's Lift Off team. Emily, thanks for joining me.


    EMILY: Thank you.


    CHAD: So at this point, we've talked with a few of the different managing directors at thoughtbot about their teams. And Lift Off is one of the largest teams that we have. And so what is it that Lift Off actually does?


    EMILY: Lift Off is focused in on really leaning into the core of thoughtbot. We work with new founders launching new products or work with existing companies that want to build out a new service or open up a new area to generate revenue for their business. But I think the thing that ties Lift Off together is that we are starting at ground zero building upon an idea and actually building the first version product and getting it out into the marketplace.


    CHAD: And oftentimes, those are pretty significant endeavors. The last episode that came out was with Dawn at Ignite who is more on the validation, early stage, getting things that are fairly straightforward into market as quickly as possible usually in a matter of months. But Lift Off the endeavors are usually quite a bit more significant than that, right?


    EMILY: Yeah. I would say that the difference between validation...we're beyond the stage of validation. We're working with clients who are ready to build a foundation. They really need to put in the infrastructure that's going to take their product and get it ready to scale into the future. So they really need to make that investment into the longer-term strategy. They need to know what's realistic to build first. But they also have to keep an eye on the long road ahead of building something that can be something that can set out to grow down the road as well.


    CHAD: I guess another way of putting it is that Ignite often works with brand new teams, brand new companies creating something for the first time. And Lift Off typically works with existing companies who have existing significant revenue who want to do something new, either a new business or a new product, or maybe they have an existing web product and they're going into mobile for the first time. That's another way of putting it, right?


    EMILY: It could be. I think that when people are ready to move into the Lift Off space, it's about having the investment, the right kind of funding to move in that direction. Sometimes we do work with new founders that have a significant amount of funding, but a lot of times it is folks that are at the enterprise level that are building a new service line. They've got validation and market research already done. And they're building out a completely new line of business that they need to explore and set a new foundation in place.


    CHAD: Do you have some examples of clients that have been projects of Lift Off?


    EMILY: Yeah. We've been doing a lot of really interesting work in the health tech space, a lot of interest in improving patient experience. So we worked with a company called Relias in terms of moving them into a new service line that they'd never been in before, really focusing on improving patient care for therapists, physical th

    • 29 min
    401: thoughtbot Ignite with Dawn Delatte

    401: thoughtbot Ignite with Dawn Delatte

    Dawn Delatte a Designer and Managing Director at thoughtbot who leads the Ignite team, where they focus primarily on validating and launching early-stage products through design-thinking, business and product strategy, and iterative design and development. Dawn works collaboratively with designers and developers to ensure they add value to the people and products thoughtbot works with every day.



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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Dawn Delatte, Managing Director of the thoughtbot Ignite team. Dawn, thanks for joining me.


    DAWN: Hi, thanks for having me.


    CHAD: Ignite is one of the examples I always use when I talk about why we split up into teams the way that we did and what the benefits are, Dawn. So why don't you tell people what Ignite actually does?


    DAWN: Cool. So the Ignite team we work with entrepreneurs, and non-technical startup founders, in some cases, experienced startup founders, as well as innovation teams within existing organizations. And we work with them to validate their product ideas and deliver very initial versions of their products to continue that validation process. We provide all kinds of services around that from a validation perspective. We use product sprint methodology to understand the opportunity, understand the market, the problem, come up with solutions, all those things to arrive at some ideas and some solutions that we can then quickly prototype and then test with target users depending on who we've decided their customer is or who they've decided their customer is. And that's very high level. I'm happy to get into more detail about what our discovery sprints are like.


    But after that, then we would go into, like I said, continued validation but through actual product launches. So sometimes that looks like proof of concepts, sometimes that's first MVPs. But either way, we focus on a set of goals, and that could be a certain number of users onboarded to the platform. It could be getting that next round of investment funding. But it's pretty straightforward, not a whole lot of complexity, and focused on getting a product and company to that next best stage.


    CHAD: One of the reasons why I use Ignite is that it's on one end of the spectrum. It's at the extreme end of the spectrum. Last week, I talked to Josh, who's on the other end of Boost, where we're working on existing products with existing teams. And Ignite is all the way on the other side, which is sometimes we are not even writing any code at all; we're just validating an idea.


    The work that Ignite does has always been a very important part of what thoughtbot does. But it's a big challenge to go from a product where maybe you have hundreds of thousands or millions of users and a large team, and you're doing development as a developer or designer, maybe it's healthcare or something super complex, and then to the next week where you're working on something that is going to get into market very quickly, maybe is totally unproven. The things you need to do in that environment and the way that you need to work can be a little bit different.


    And so allowing the thoughtbot designers and developers to focus on the particular needs of the Ignite-type clients I think we have seen, and I think we'll continue to see it as people even get more used to it, it has a direct benefit to our clients as well The best thing might not always be to write a Rails app. But if you take a developer who was on a Rails app on Friday or Thursday, and then they start on a new project on Monday, chances are they're expecting to write a Rails app.


    DAWN: That's a really important observation and distinc

    • 35 min
    400: Launchpad II with Kirsten Hurley

    400: Launchpad II with Kirsten Hurley

    Chad interviews Kirsten Hurley, Managing Director of thoughtbot's Launchpad II team. The Launchpad II team covers the EMEA area: that's Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She talks about working remotely for almost the entire time she's worked with the company, her approach to talking with potential customers when she knows she's never going to meet them in person, and what she sees happening to the different geographies that thoughtbot is selling and expanding into.



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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Kirsten Hurley, Managing Director of thoughtbot's Launchpad II team. Kirsten, thanks for joining me.


    KIRSTEN: Thanks for having me on, Chad.


    CHAD: So I've now talked with a few managing directors at thoughtbot about the new team that they're leading. So I think listeners are probably expecting what's coming next which is, you know, why don't you give people a little bit of an overview of what the Launchpad II team, which has a slightly different name than the other teams we've talked to so far, do?


    KIRSTEN: Sure. So I guess maybe to remind some folks, so Launchpad I refers to the Americas. So you've already spoken to a few of the managing directors who head up different teams across the Americas. You have different propositions. Over in Launchpad II, which historically was the London studio when we were working in a physical office environment, we are a smaller team than everyone else who was based over in the Americas.


    So we didn't quite scale out to be able to have individual teams working on particular propositions. But I think what the team had been successfully doing anyway was working across everything. And we still do work on Ignite-style projects, Lift Off, and Boost engagements as well. So yeah, that's where we've got to. And I think maybe the changes for us is that since we've gone to fully remote working and officially called ourselves the EMEA Launchpad II team, we've started hiring folks from further afield, which is really exciting for me.


    CHAD: So not everyone may be familiar with the acronym, although it's fairly common, EMEA. So what regions does that actually cover?


    KIRSTEN: [laughs] Sorry. So that's Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. And I should say we were already working with clients pretty much fully across the region anyway. It was just never really official. But I think the more global terminology is Europe, the Middle East, and Africa or EMEA. But because we're thoughtbot and we like to do things a little bit...well, we like to own our things. So we've called it Launchpad II to go with the rocket theme that we had in our rebranding. What was that? The end of last year I think we came up with it all.


    CHAD: Yeah. So what has it been like to go from a team of people that were...[laughs] actually, as I ask this question I realized that you joined a week before the pandemic started, and we had to go remote. So I was going to ask you what it was like to go from a team of people that were going to a studio every day all based in London to a remote team. [laughs] But you never really experienced the alternative.


    KIRSTEN: [laughs] No. I think the most time I spent with the team as a whole was actually in my interview process [laughs] before I even started in person I should say. That was a pretty interesting week. You had flown over from Boston [chuckles] to spend some time getting me all set up and running. And I think it was the Wednesday where you and I had a bit of a chat, and we were concerned about this virus that was going around and the duty of care that we actually had to our teams across the world from a point of view of them commuting to work, and it didn't feel right. And so I think we made the

    • 35 min
    399: thoughtbot Boost with Joshua Clayton

    399: thoughtbot Boost with Joshua Clayton

    Chad interviews Managing Director at thoughtbot, Joshua Clayton, about what a Managing Director at thoughtbot does, what makes Boost at thoughtbot different than other teams, and the belief in integrated teams of designers and developers company-wide.



    Empathize with Your Customer by Josh Clayton
    thoughtbot Boost
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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is The Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Josh Clayton, Managing Director of the thoughtbot Boost team. Hey, I know that company. Welcome, Josh.


    JOSH: Hey, Chad. How are you?


    CHAD: All right. I'm back to the show I think. I didn't get a chance to look up the last episode you're in, but it was probably hundreds of episodes ago now.


    JOSH: Yeah, it's got to have been a while.


    CHAD: [laughs] Speaking of a while, you recently…now time is all messed up for me, but I know that you have been at thoughtbot for a long time. How long has it been?


    JOSH: It was 12 years in August.


    CHAD: It's been a wonderful 12 years, Josh.


    JOSH: I agree. I agree.


    CHAD: [laughs]


    JOSH: It's been fun.


    CHAD: So in that time, you have had a few different roles. But you've been a Managing Director for a while now.


    JOSH: Yeah, I think that's...let's see. It was seven and a half years for the Boston team. And then it's 10 and a half months with Boost.


    CHAD: So your background is as a developer. And you, like a lot of people who have a background as developers at thoughtbot, myself included, still do development on a fairly regular basis. What does the Managing Director job at thoughtbot actually do?


    JOSH: What don't we do [laughter] is maybe a better question. Effectively, we're running that team's business. So it involves some amount of software consulting. It involves software sales. It involves managing the profitability of the team. There are marketing functions, and, I don't know, anything and everything, hiring-related things. We opened up and recently filled our Development Director position, which was open for a couple of months over the summer. We've just opened up a Design Director position. So it's everything. [laughs] It's everything it feels like.


    CHAD: At the beginning of this year, we did an episode about the changes that we had made at thoughtbot to reorganize the teams around rather than geographic studios around the types of work that we would do on that team. And that's how the Boost team was created. So in that episode, we gave people an overview. But I'd love to hear in your own words, what makes Boost at thoughtbot different than the other teams, and what do you focus on?


    JOSH: So what makes Boost different? I think one of the drivers, one of the motivators, is to embed alongside existing product teams, engineering, and design teams, and help them get better, help them grow as well as ship features and fix bugs. So I think that the way that I position it is if there's an existing product that's deployed, people are using it day in and day out. Hopefully, it's been battle-tested. There are probably some funky areas of the code. Those are the codebases that we're operating in. It might be a team of two people; it might be a team of 200 people. But there is an existing product and an existing team. They're looking for our support to help make it better.


    CHAD: One of the things I love about Boost and the changes that we've made, especially relative to Boost, is that at thoughtbot, we really believe in integrated teams of designers and developers. And a big part of what we've always done has been to be a complete product design and development team that brings new products to market, big and small. And because we were one of the first consulting companies in the world to switch to Ruby on

    • 39 min
    398: Education 2.0 with Victoria Ransom of Prisma

    398: Education 2.0 with Victoria Ransom of Prisma

    Chad interviews Co-Founder and CEO, Victoria Ranson of Prisma. Prisma is a stealth-mode education startup on a mission to reimagine the way children are educated. Their mission is to create a generation capable of solving the world's biggest problems by creating and running a comprehensive virtual learning program for kids in grades 4-8 that is very unlike any other traditional homeschooling program you've ever heard of.



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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Victoria Ransom, founder, and CEO of Prisma. Victoria, thanks for joining me on the show.


    VICTORIA: Hi, thanks for having me.


    CHAD: So, Victoria, before we jump into this great product that you have, why don't you tell people what Prisma really is.


    VICTORIA: Sure. Prisma is a very comprehensive educational program for kids who are learning from home or from anywhere in the world. It is not at all like traditional homeschooling because we provide kids with a very social experience. Kids are part of a cohort where they're meeting live with other kids every single day and collaborating with them on projects, and learning from each other, and discussing. And we provide coaches who are there every step of the way with the kids, providing them with rich feedback, helping to bring out the best in them, providing really engaging, live learning experiences.


    So it’s not traditional homeschooling, although it has a lot of the really great benefits of that with the flexibility and the ability to learn from wherever you are. But we're equally not like typical online schooling, which I would say has tended to be more of an approach of taking traditional school and bringing it online. So there's still a concept of lectures, and grades, and textbooks. They may be electronic in nature, but they still resemble textbooks.


    The Prisma curriculum is very different. It's rooted in learning through doing and project-based learning, and applying learning to the real world, and allowing kids a lot of choice. So they're ideally always learning through the lens of something that interests them and allowing them to go at their own pace. So a lot of the best practices from some of the most innovative bricks and mortar schools we're bringing to an online environment. And then, of course, we're very different from bricks and mortar schools because it is a virtual program where kids can learn from anywhere.


    So we think it's a new approach to education that is really uniquely flexible, really prepares kids. We're very focused on preparing kids for the kind of world they're going to live in. The world is always changing rapidly. But I think this generation of kids is going to experience a future that's unlike anything we've ever seen in terms of the level of shift and change, AI being one of the reasons.


    If you look at studies that look at the future of work, I think some studies we've read say 65% of today's elementary school kids will work in jobs that are yet to be invented. So, how do you prepare kids for that kind of future? And so, we're very focused on giving kids the holistic skills and the mindset that they will need to thrive in that kind of world. So yeah, that is Prisma in a very long nutshell.


    CHAD: [chuckles] Obviously, I think we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the context of where we're in, which is kids just went through a year or more where a lot of kids were remote for school. And did Prisma exist before the pandemic?


    VICTORIA: It did in our minds very much so [chuckles] but not in reality. So Prisma arose out of our own personal needs. So my husband and

    • 41 min
    397: Driven By Fulfillment with Natalie Nzeyimana of Harbour

    397: Driven By Fulfillment with Natalie Nzeyimana of Harbour

    At harbour.today, Natalie Nzeyimana and her team are helping people build holistic resilience. On this episode, she and Chad talk about building the app at the beginning of the pandemic when she witnessed herself and others feeling like they were close to drowning and feeling really unmoored.


    Harbour is a space for people to anchor themselves, find clarity, and set sail. The community offers one-to-one coaching, workshops, a course, and a daily check-in tool.



    harbour.today
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    Transcript:


    CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And today, I'm joined by the founder of Harbour, Natalie Nzeyimana. So, Natalie, thanks for joining me.


    NATALIE: Thanks for having me on.


    CHAD: So tell me a little bit about what Harbour is.


    NATALIE: Sure. Harbour is a space for people to anchor self, find clarity, and set sail. We offer one-to-one coaching, workshops, a course, and a daily check-in tool. Harbour was built at the beginning of the pandemic when I witnessed within myself, and the people I knew who I'd worked with, friends, family, just a lot of us felt like we were close to drowning and feeling really unmoored. And so, it began as a course to think about the ways we could use holistic strategies to anchor ourselves and set sail. And from then, from November 2020 to now, it's become a product.


    CHAD: You started in November. And I know we first met in London a while ago. You were teaching yourself to code working on an education product if I remember right. And we got together at Google Space there and paired for a little bit. Did you code Harbour yourself?


    NATALIE: It feels like another lifetime.


    CHAD: [laughs]


    NATALIE: I think life before the pandemic and life after the pandemic; there’s a real line there. I've done quite a bit of the coding myself. However, I've also used a lot of no-code solutions to create MVPs. They've been amazing at helping me scale, helping me test out ideas incredibly quickly.


    And so one of the interesting things about juggling doing client work, and then also building the back end, and building the module, and then building the design work, and thinking about content juggling all of these different pieces, is that equation of do I invest time in HTML, or do I invest time in machine learning that's going to help me scale? And making all of those intricate decisions has been really, really interesting because, of course, I want to make everything myself. But these no-code solutions have enabled me to test hypotheses so much faster so that I can save time in the long run.


    CHAD: Well, tell us a little bit more about what the product is today and what you went through to get to this point.


    NATALIE: Sure. So initially, I just posted on LinkedIn to see who would want to join the course. I had a really simple Squarespace page, and then that evolved into a Typeform which I would use with clients to help them track progress and checking in with their chakras every day. And so, the way that Harbour works is that we do an energy review based on the seven in-body chakras.


    And so, for anyone who might be unfamiliar with this terminology, the chakras are...well, there are different schools of thought on this. They are a system for either focusing during meditation depending on where you sit in terms of your feelings towards energy bodies. They are a subtle body energy system of themselves. And what I find incredibly helpful for those chakras is that they help people map their energy in a way that I haven't found anything else does effectively.


    So starting from the root chakra, which is the base of your spine, you can ask yourself, am I feeling safe? Am I feeling grounded? Am I feeling as though my material needs are met?


    Traveling up towards your reproductive area, you've got the sacral cha

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
85 Ratings

85 Ratings

Anuj Adhiya ,

The human side

Lindsey is a great host. She keeps the entire conversation moving and ensures that the discussions lead to thought starters for listeners, even when the topics being discussed might be highly technical. You're guaranteed to get something out of every interview. Lindsey's also wickedly funny so you'll never be bored. Give this show a go.

TravelHardyLlama ,

Worse over time

I can’t say I’m a fan of the more recent podcast episodes. It’s gone from discussing interesting technical problems to business to solely interviews with clients who hired ThoughtBot. High quality audio, low quality filler content.

JoshCrist ,

Entertaining, insightful and actionable! 🔥

Whether you’re well established as someone who can translate creative energy into the impact you want to have on the world, or just getting started as a catalyst for change - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Chad and Lindsey do an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of building a thriving career and life you can be proud of as a creator - from leaders who’ve actually walked the path. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!

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