A reporter does her first remote live radio broadcast from inside a block of ice, a celebrity impersonator’s first international trip teaches her what it really means to be “Big in Japan,” and a Japanese translator leaves her family for the first time only to get shipwrecked on a movie set in the Antarctic. For our final episode of the season, we hear the origin stories behind of some of the strangest, and yet most formative, work experiences people have had in their lives. We go back to where it all starts: the beginning.
The owner of a vintage retail store recalls how she made a career out of the eclectic clothing in her closet, and a doctor grapples with his community’s vehement protests against his plans to open a medical cannabis dispensary. In this episode, two stories of peace, love, drugs and counterculture in ‘60s San Francisco.
Dr. Floyd Huen didn’t expect a community meeting earlier this year in San Francisco’s Sunset District to be contentious. The 70-year-old Asian-American community organizer and physician planned to explain his proposal for a bilingual, community-centric medical marijuana dispensary that would also offer traditional Chinese medicine treatments such as acupuncture. But the crowd was hardly supportive. Someone shouted, “You’re supposed to be a role model!” At one point, a chorus of, “Get out! Get out!” filled the room.
An environmentalist burns the midnight oil volunteering to preserve decades of climate change data amid a major government clampdown, and a Syrian medical student learns how his family’s chocolate-making business can equally be a cure for heartbreak. This week, stories about survival and the lengths people go to preserve a life’s work.
Tareq Hadhad always wanted to be a doctor. In Damascus, Syria, where he grew up, school grades can determine someone’s entire career trajectory. Hadhad worked hard to earn the necessary grades. But shortly after entering medical school, the would-be physician had to help his family relocate to Antigonish, a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. And there, his career took a very different turn: he had to help restart the family business, a chocolate company now called Peace by Chocolate.
An enterprising retiree becomes a bustling cafés’ new favorite server, and a former Wall Street banker finds renewed inspiration after accepting a summer internship with a group of college students. This week, stories of people who have proved that it’s never too late to find professional, and personal, fulfillment.
One afternoon last summer, Paul Critchlow watched in awe as a fellow intern at Pfizer scrolled through her Facebook feed. “How do you get to the bottom of this?” he asked. Critchlow had never noticed the bottomlessness of social media. He wondered: if there is no end to information, how did his colleagues ever draw a conclusion about anything?
Meet the three New York Times machinists who’ve printed every single issue of the paper for the last 30 years, and an investigative reporter who waged war on mayoral misconduct from the front page of the Toronto Star. This week, stories of people whose lives (and careers) have been indelibly marked by the business of getting the story right.
Investigative reporter Kevin Donovan has built a sterling reputation over the past three-plus decades at The Toronto Star. He’s covered two wars and currently leads team of eight journalists, the biggest investigative unit of any Canadian print publication.
A freshwater ecologist tasked with making his research more accessible discovers an unlikely muse in Bruce Springsteen. A medical ethnobotanist seeks new cures for super bugs in the natural world after her own near-death brush with a bacterial infection. This week, stories about the noble pursuit of knowledge—and how that often leads to some surprising discoveries about ourselves.
Freshwater ecologist Ian J. Winfield studies lake fish such as char and carp — not exactly the sort of climate change-adjacent topic that gets much media attention. He also happens to be a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. “Scientists are humans, so this kind of interest in things other than science is not unusual,” he jokes.
Dive into the daily hustle, juggle, and struggle of the freelance life in this special episode. Meet a freelance farmer with a novel approach to traditional work; a writer, mother and animal keeper bitten by the travel bug; a sweet-talking freelance collections agent whose business is to get freelancers paid; and a private forensic pathologist who finds the untold stories of the dearly departed.
Lola Augustine Brown has what many would call a dream job, being paid to travel to exotic destinations and experience the best they have to offer. On a recent assignment to Anguilla, for example, the freelance travel writer spent several days savoring gourmet meals and delicious sunsets. She was working, but it didn’t feel like work.
A jetpack inventor rejects his position as an ivory-towered executive to stay grounded as an entrepreneur. A Jamaican-American chess player becomes the first black international grandmaster in history. This week, stories of childhood dreams and the realities of rising through the ranks.
When Maurice Ashley was trying to become a chess grandmaster, there were about 600 of the top-ranked competitors in the world. His aspirations went beyond just earning the title: he wanted to become the world’s first ever black chess grandmaster.
A college student’s sweepstakes win paves the way for her lifelong dream to reform U.S. immigration policy. An academic lands a rare dream job as the ‘Wikimedian in Residence’ for one of the oldest libraries at the University of Oxford. This week, stories of modern day jobs with a historical twist.
The head of purchasing and IT at America’s largest fortune cookie supplier takes on a new role as head fortune cookie writer. A baker with Down syndrome has to break the law to lead an independent life and career. This week, two stories of remarkable people in who fight the odds to pursue their passions.
Collette Divitto says the hardest thing about having Down syndrome is having her family tell her what she can and cannot do. But the 26-year-old cookie-baking entrepreneur has her family’s full support in Collettey’s Cookies, her Boston-based business that’s become a viral success story.
Episode Twenty Four | Boring is in the Eye of the Beholder
Listen to Episode 24:
Explore the hidden world of seemingly unremarkable jobs in this special episode with double the stories, including: a video store clerk who gets knocked out of his monotonous comfort zone by a suspicious visitor, a call center agent who finds renewed purpose in how she serves customers, a supermarket chain manager who comes down with a bad case of "bore-out", and a man whose job literally involves watching grass grow. And he loves it.
Going to the Super Bowl was a lifelong dream, and a peak professional achievement for Sean McLaughlin. But McLaughlin is not a football pro. He’s a student in turf management, and watching grass grow is his passion, as well as his profession.
An instagram star bullied for the color of her skin turns the teasing into the fuel behind her fashion modeling career; a professional British rugby player confronts “jock” stereotypes when he comes out to friends, family, and fans as gay.
Being drafted into the United Kingdom’s rugby Super League is a lot like being drafted into the National Football League in the United States. It’s the highest level a professional athlete can achieve, something little kids dream about.
We meet a chef who can’t wait to walk away from her prestigious Michelin star rating and a web developer who singlehandedly orchestrated one of the biggest fast food comebacks his hometown has ever seen.
Christian Ziebarth, founder of the Naugles reboot, at the Naugles test kitchen location in Huntington Beach, California. Photo by Mio Adilman, image by Gluekit / Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, listen on Spotify, tune in on Google Play and wherever you find podcasts.
Most people have fond nostalgia for the chain restaurants of their childhood, but Christian Ziebarth found his calling in those affectionate memories. The web developer and early food blogger, who had no actual restaurant business experience, made it his unlikely mission to reopen Naugles, a beloved Mexican food chain that closed in 1995.
An outspoken corporate downsizer learns a harsh lesson after being surprised with her own exit package, and a loyal cop that has to choose between fighting the war on drugs and his criminal brother. Sometimes practicing tough love at work and at home isn’t always the best policy.
Peter Muyshondt is a high-ranking police officer in Antwerp, Belgium with over 20 years of experience in law enforcement. In that time he quickly rose to deputy chief of police while watching over the country’s second largest city.
A journalist discovers a scarf with her byline imprinted in its design and embarks on an investigative journey to track down its makers; a former futures trader stumbles into her calling as an internet hoax buster with a specialty for empathizing with the perpetrators. Following your curiosity can lead you to some pretty interesting work, or at least a very good story.
What if someone told you there’s a chance the electronic pacemaker defibrillator implanted in your heart — the one that monitors your heartbeat and revives you in case of sudden heart failure — could be remotely manipulated by a hacker? It sounds far-fetched, but Karen Sandler, Executive Director of the not-for-profit organization Software Freedom Conservancy, assures that, though improbable, it’s not impossible.
A Kung-Fu master honors his father’s legacy; a frustrated musician’s chance meeting with a mentor leads to a powerful lesson in self-acceptance. Sometimes, the best thing to happen to your career is finding your guiding light.
Romeo Candido in Manila, Philippines in 2014. Images courtesy of Romeo Candido
Romeo Candido got his first big break playing a “singing, dancing Vietnamese person” in the original cast of hit Broadway musical Miss Saigon, even though he’s actually Filipino. “It was like winning the American Idol for Asian singers,” he says. “The show was like a beacon of possibility for Asian performers.”
A woman starts a dating site for single farm workers, and an exiled army colonel launches a revolution from the aisles of a hardware store. What happens when your life’s work is deeply connected to where you’re from?
British sisters Lucy Reeves and Emma Royall spent a lot of their young adulthood putting distance between themselves and the countryside where they grew up, first to different boarding schools and then to university; after school, each spent several years living abroad, Royall getting into scuba-diving off tropical islands and Reeves exploring the local nightlife of cities far from home.
An entrepreneur learns the cost of putting his work ahead of his relationship; a young developer flees her war-torn homeland for a chance to pursue her dream career. What happens when your professional ambitions put your personal life at stake?
A woman discovers her cranium-tingling voice is the stuff of YouTube stardom; a visually impaired man happens upon his special sightseeing abilities at night. What happens when your senses become your super-powers at work?
Tim Doucette peering out into the night sky in his hometown of Quinan, Nova Scotia. Photographs courtesy of Tim Doucette
Tim Doucette spent the first 18 years of his life in Quinan, Nova Scotia, population: 320. There were even fewer residents while Doucette was growing up. As a result of its remoteness, there’s very little light pollution, making it an incredible place for stargazing.
A Wall Street trader’s climb to the top proves too gut-wrenching to continue; a classical pianist grapples with a career-ending injury. What happens when you’re suddenly physically incapable of doing your job?
It never occurred to Keith Porter-Snell that life could come without piano. With a pianist for a mother and a childhood of non-stop practicing, conservatory training, and major competitions, there was never any question as to how he’d spend his life.
A prison superintendent ordered to oversee two executions struggles with his beliefs that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime and a former Vegas drug dealer finally finds his place in the high life--sober. Sometimes the only way to find your true calling is to pull a complete 180. This episode also features Slack customer Bump Boxes - a subscription service for mom and baby that covers every stage of pregnancy to your little one’s first birthday.
To gain credibility in a case, a police officer reveals his identity as a practicing pagan. After 30 years of performing as a man, a veteran comic takes the stage for the first time...as a woman. This week, two enlightening stories of people who took big risks to bring their true selves to work.
Sometimes, the way to find out who we really are is to become someone else. Like the struggling author who’s already sold millions of books and the Vietnam war vet who carries out a do-or-die promise by becoming Santa Claus.
Scott Serafin gets dressed for a kids event at his home in Eden, New York. December 9, 2016
Sometimes the most profound things we say and do at work happen when we don’t say anything at all. This week: A librarianʼs shushing earns her superhero status and a young hospital chaplain learns that sitting in silence brings great comfort to ailing, ageing patients.
Every job has its freedoms and limitations, but sometimes all you need to endure the ups and downs is a noble purpose. This week: A man who saves airline passengers from errant wildlife and another whoʼs made it his lifeʼs work to build a country for the nationless.
Parents have high hopes for their children, many wish their progeny will follow in their footsteps. This week: A son trades in building new towns for building software and a college graduate contemplates her fateful career slinging smoked fish with her legendary family.
Joel Russ behind the register in the early days of Russ & Daughters; Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper; the retail storefront, still in its original location, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Image by Gluekit
A hundred years ago, before there was a bank and drug store on every Manhattan street corner, Jewish delis and appetizing stores were commonplace. Delis sold things like knishes and sliced meats. Appetizing stores specialized in bagels, spreads, and smoked fish.
This week: career breakthrough moments. A 17-year-old female baseball player faces off against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. An architect takes on the daunting task of rebuilding Sandy Hook Elementary after one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
On December 14, 2012, a disturbed young man with a high-powered rifle forced his way into a local elementary school, and began shooting. Sandy Hook was left to deal with the seismic shock of senseless violence and its aftermath.
When it comes to envisioning what we want to do with our lives, we set our sights high. In episode 2 of Work in Progress, we hear two very different stories of a dream (job) coming true, whether by a random stroke of luck or through decades of perseverance.
Jean in front of Discovery. Photo courtesy of Jean Wright
One summer evening in July of 1969, 13-year-old Jean Wright stepped outside her house and stared up at the night sky. The moon above Flint, Michigan glowed as brightly as ever that night, but Wright looked at it differently. Moments earlier she had watched Neil Armstrong on TV as he took his first historic steps on its barren surface, and suddenly the dark sky brimmed with possibility.
Some people know exactly what they want to do when they grow up, while the rest of us take a different approach—flying by the seat of our pants, dipping in and out of jobs not giving too much thought to any master plan because frankly, it doesn’t exist. Going with the flow can change your life forever and take you to some pretty unexpected places—whether backstage with David Bowie or onto the set of one of TVs’ biggest sci-fi thrillers. Welcome to the debut episode of Work In Progress, Slack’s new podcast about the meaning and identity we find in work. Hosted by Dan Misener.
Hans Fenger’s Langley Schools Music Project got some unexpected attention from big stars like David Bowie. Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most people have been asked that question (hopefully, expectantly) at some point in their youth. Some people have a clear-cut answer, others leave matters to fate.