March 4, 2013

Ashley Milne-Tyte | The Accidental Risk Taker

I met Ashley Milne-Tyte at an Astia event last year; we happened to sit by one another at lunch, and started chatting.  Both her ideas and her British radio voice were highly engaging.  Below is the audio (and transcript) of how she launched The Broad Experience.

If you’d told me in 2011 that the following year I would be hosting my own show on women and the workplace, I would never have believed you. At that point the word ‘disruption’ had a distinctly negative ring to my ears. It brought to mind the image of otherwise smooth waters being disturbed by some irritating pest.

But during the past year I have disrupted myself thoroughly. I have gone through agonies of discomfort as I‘ve launched into the realm of self-promotion, cursed as I’ve attempted to cut and mix my own audio, and swallowed hard as I have given my first presentations in public.

I began working as a public radio reporter in 2003 and spent seven years on the air talking about business (come to think of it, another area about which I knew virtually nothing before plunging in). I jumped through the various hoops that came my way in the form of crazy deadlines, live radio, and occasionally capricious editors.

When I went freelance in 2010 I knew there was something missing, some kind of unifying purpose to what I was now doing. It took me almost two years to find it. My reporting for Marketplace, the public radio business show, had made me highly aware of the uneasy relationship many women – myself included – have with money. I also began to notice how differently men and women handled career matters and how much anxiety women often had around work that men didn’t seem to share.

I saw all this as a topic of major interest, one that I went back to from time to time in my freelance stories, but nothing more. Occasionally when I’d enthuse about some of my research a friend would say, ‘You should have your own show!’, which I would immediately dismiss as a well meant compliment but nothing I could or would ever act on.

But early last year I found myself back at school studying entrepreneurial journalism. The program required each student to start a media business while we were there. I love radio – it’s such an intimate medium. The lack of pictures means you have to be a compelling storyteller, using language creatively to keep listeners engaged. To me, nothing is more delightful. Because I’m such an audiophile, I decided to take my friends up on their suggestion and pitched my professors a podcast on women and the workplace.

They eagerly accepted.

But the voice in my head said, ‘Who on earth do you think you are?’ Because my not-so-dirty little secret is that I suffer from nearly all the hang-ups that my show, in part, sets out to help women get over. Left to my own devices, I’m under-confident, don’t always speak up when I could, and I tend to assume that someone will say ‘no,’ so don’t bother asking in the first place. (All of which, I should add, I am working on!)

If my professor hadn’t pushed me to make the pilot episode of The Broad Experience, all that followed would never have happened. But making that first show convinced me that I absolutely wanted to do this – that it wasn’t just a class project, but something I intended, and needed, to deliver on month after month.

So I leapt into the unknown. Making the content is the easy part. It’s everything else that’s hard. I wouldn’t exactly say I have embraced the technical side of all I do, but I’m certainly trying, since there is no one but me to do it. Nor would I say I relish walking into a room of complete strangers at a networking event and starting a conversation. Still, I’m getting used to it. Approaching potential sponsors? That is the ultimate challenge.

And it’s a challenge I need to tackle head-on. Lately I have made the decision to devote myself to The Broad Experience full time, to try to achieve that rare feat: making audio pay for itself.

Describing myself as an entrepreneur and a risk taker suddenly feels quite apt.

Ashley Milne-Tyte is a British born, New York-based podcast host, writer and public radio reporter. She has reported on all aspects of business and the economy for Marketplace, the public radio business show. She now writes, produces and hosts The Broad Experience, a podcast about women in the workplace.

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