Shining a Light On…Us!

From left to right: Shine a Light On host Mariah Manzano, editor Chrizenn Gamayo, and editor Sarah Ahmed.

1. How did the idea for the podcast come about?

Mariah — At Opal, we highly value mentorship, and prior to launching the Opal application we wanted to provide some version of mass mentorship that was both engaging and hopefully insightful to our audience. A podcast felt like the best solution and a great way to reach out to, and somewhat “mentor”, anyone who wanted to listen and learn with us.

2. How has the podcast evolved over this past year?

Mariah — We started the podcast in hopes of covering a diverse set of topics. The openness to discuss a breadth of topics allowed us to chat about mental health one week and storytelling the next. Though topic-switching so quickly kept things exciting, we’ve taken a different approach in grouping similarly-themed episodes into a single season, and now our seasons release every other month. This gives us the time and energy to be more intentional and thoughtful about our guests and the topics of discussion for each episode.

3. What motivated you to get involved with the podcast?

Chrizenn — I wanted to try something new. I’ve always enjoyed editing videos and putting them together, but never with audio. It was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and pick up a new skill.

4. Tell us about the process of finding guests and preparing/ recording.

Mariah — Ah, the logistics. Our amazing Opal team first narrows down relevant or interesting topics to focus on for a season. Once we have a season theme finalized, we recruit guests that we believe would be a good fit for the theme. Preparing for the episode itself is a lot of research and writing conversation starters, which I typically bring up during the episode. The best part is of course the actual recording and conversation!

5. Tell us about the editing process.

Chrizenn — As I learned from Sarah, I use Audacity and a template that already has the intro and outro music on the track. I then import the audio files and begin chopping and deleting. I also clean up any background noises when I hear it. Once I’m done putting it together, I go through the entire track to see if I missed anything. If it’s good to go, I export the finished episode and send it for review.

6. What have you learned about putting together the podcast?

Mariah — There are two main lessons I’ve learned over the past year. First, it takes a village to host a podcast. Though I’m fortunate enough to ask the questions in every episode, the full team of people and brilliant guests bring it to life. Second, stories in themselves are the real gems of any podcast. As humans, we learn through storytelling. Mentorship in itself is storytelling between people so that they can learn and grow together constantly.

7. What is the hardest part about working on the podcast?

Mariah — Editing can be a bit tedious. We have a great team of Opalites who have been helpful in helping to edit episodes. It’s actually a bit therapeutic, but can take a long time.

8. What do you most enjoy about working on the podcast?

Mariah — I most enjoy shamelessly putting my “curiosity” hat on. It is fascinating to learn more about both the guest and topic prior to the actual discussion. I owe it to both the guests and audience to turn my curiosity up a notch prior to these podcast recordings because the more curious I am, the more questions I ask, and the more we all can learn together.

9. Tell us about some of your memorable conversations/episodes.

Mariah — Every episode has been extremely rewarding and insightful. Though Opal is a professional-development focused platform and community, we view personal development as a critical piece to that. The episodes around self-awareness and personal progress have pushed me to reflect on my own life and goals, and I remember them the best. Some personal favorites: Staying Self-Aware with Phyllis Njoroge, Toxic Hustle Culture with Milap Patel, and Why Productivity is Overrated with Mashiat Mutmainnah.

10. What is your favorite episode thus far?

Mariah — Can I say all of them? I’ll cast my vote to our first episode: The Value of Mentorship with JeanAnn Nichols. Many of the points discussed were our reasons for starting Opal in the first place. Mentorship, when structured effectively for a duo, can be extremely valuable and may propel both a mentee’s or mentor’s professional development. JeanAnn is also always fun to speak with and we met after she presented on “How to Be a Great Mentor” at a Society of Women Engineers conference.

11. Who is someone you would love to have on the podcast and what would you “Shine a Light On”?

Mariah — Two dream guests: Frida Kahlo and Sara Blakely. With Frida, we would shine a light on “Making Beauty From Pain” and with Sara, “How Effective Persistence Can Change Your Life”.

12. How do you envision the podcast one year from now?

Mariah — A year from now, I imagine our podcasts will be a bit more interactive. Whether the recordings are live or we collect feedback from users while they listen, I hope they’re more interactive so our audience can feel like they’re in the room with us chatting.

13. What do you see as the biggest success of the podcast so far?

Mariah — Our guests absolutely make the show what it is. For some guests, it was their first-ever podcast recording, and whether or not that was the case, everyone has participated with an inspiring energy and expertise about the discussion topic. The biggest success for us has been attracting such talented and inspirational people to chat with us. It’s been a real honor conversing with people I may have never spoken to had the podcast not existed.

14. What do you hope listeners will gain from Shine a Light On?

Mariah — More than anything, I hope listeners learn something new from each episode. If you’re an expert, our guest may have a different perspective or information you weren’t aware of. But most importantly, I hope non-experts listen in on episodes that may give them a better understanding of someone’s experience. For instance, our episodes around First-Generation College Students or Job Searching as a Person with a Disability may not apply to every person, but every person should have an understanding of their experiences. An empathy dose, perhaps. That’s the only way we’ll create a more inclusive, accessible, and overall collaborative society.

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