This year in How I Work, we interviewed over 50 developers, designers, writers, podcasters, actors, and other successful people in business, non-profits, tech, the arts, and entertainment, discussing their work habits and career paths. Every one is excellent—we reach out to our favourite people and sift through hundreds of applications a year to choose our guests—but these are some of the greatest profiles of the year, and some of their best quotes.
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Every week on Lifehacker, we interview a successful person about their career and their work habits, in a column called How I Work. And every week we ask them, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” Here are the best answers our guests gave us in 2018.
"Professional Vlogger" is a pretty new occupation. While watching the Smosh Games YouTube channel might seem like a bunch of friends having fun, we followed host and founding member Mari Takahashi to see how the team comes up with ideas, figures out what shows are working, and what happens during eight hours of shooting.
Dee Johnson will take you to Mars before Elon Musk even launches his next car out of the atmosphere. Johnson has run shows like The Good Wife and Nashville, worked on shows such as ER and Melrose Place, and now she’s showrunner on season 2 of MARS, National Geographic’s hybrid scripted/documentary series on the big desert planet we dream nightly of escaping to.
The new season premiered this Monday; we caught Johnson to talk about her career path, what she’s reading, and what seems to be the only way to get a new TV show on the air.
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you’ve heard of Mailchimp. (“Mail... kimp?”) We talked to Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of the email newsletter company and marketing platform that grew to half a billion dollars in revenue without ever taking any venture capital. Ben reveals the email habit that ran his early hiring policy.
Video: “Ugh, saltwater taffy is kind of gross.” That’s what Marisa Wu thought years ago, when a colleague suggested she make some of her own. But then she investigated and figured out how to cook taffy flavoured by real ingredients, not lab-created chemicals. Now Wu runs Salty Road Taffy, a popular high-end taffy brand where the banana flavour tastes like (and is made with) real bananas, where each recipe is carefully calibrated and made on antique equipment.
Wu gave us a video tour of the taffy factory, and talked about juggling production, marketing, and other aspects of her small business from a desk on the factory floor.
We last talked to Trip Adler in 2014, about expanding Scribd from a document hosting service to an ebook subscription service. Since then Scribd has kept growing. (And yes, it’s still useful even though library ebooks exist).
We talked to Adler about the binary path for startups, leaving room for impromptu meetings, and his personal reading habits.
In her 13 years at Intel, Sandra Lopez has overseen the company’s brand repositioning, built new organisations in the company, and applied her background in fashion — inside Intel’s sports group. She’s been named one of the 50 most powerful women in tech by the National Diversity Council and one of Latina Style’s top 10 Latina executives of the year, and she’s spoken to NBC News on the Silicon Valley boys club.
We talked to her about the surprising ways her background has played into her tech career, and how to responsibly manage a team.
Jay Williams is one hell of a high school basketball coach. In 2003 Williams, a record-breaking player at Duke, cut short a promising career with the Chicago Bulls after a motorcycle accident. In the docuseries Best Shot, which premiered on YouTube in July, Williams (now an ESPN host) becomes an assistant coach for the Newark Central High School boy’s basketball team, which involves life guidance as much as it does on-the-court training.
We talked to Williams about his career, how he reinvented himself after his accident, and what he wishes more people knew about sportscasting.
Citymeals on Wheels funds the delivery of over three million meals a year to elderly residents in New York City, filling in gaps like weekends and holidays that government programs leave out.
Since 2011, Beth Shapiro has been the non-profit’s executive director, overseeing every step from fundraising to delivery, keeping up with an ageing population and other changing needs. We talked to her about managing an organisation with so much on the line.
If you’ve ever struggled with an outdated payroll system, or slogged through a bureaucratic HR department, you can see the appeal of Justworks, which offers modernised payroll, benefits, HR and legal compliance services to small businesses and growing companies. It’s still a growing company itself, competing with legacy giants such as ADP as well as startups such as Zenefits, WageWorks and Gusto.
We talked to founder Isaac Oates about that classic startup origin story: Turning your own business’ pain points into your next business’ product.
Richelieu Dennis runs a family business. He, his mother and his sister named their beauty brand SheaMoisture after the shea butter products that Richelieu’s grandmother made and sold in West Africa. Richelieu built his company into Sundial Brands (acquired in 2017 by Unilever), which sells hair and skincare products primarily designed for black women.
He also oversees the $US100 million ($137 million) New Voices Fund that invests in businesses owned by women of colour, and early this year he bought Essence magazine.
We talked to him about building a business with a cultural mission, making business decisions with his family, and how he addressed the outcry over a controversial ad.
Video: Comedian, author and Last Week Tonight writer Josh Gondelman knows how to be funny in any context. Like any comedian, Josh’s second (or third or fourth) job is being good at Twitter. In 2012 he co-created the novelty account Modern Seinfeld, and he tweets regularly on his own account. In this video he explains how — or how not — to tweet.
“I am a big believer in making sure you have a network,” says Marianna Tessel, who first used her computer science skills in the Israeli military before working at General Magic, Ariba, Docker and VMware. We talked to her about her work habits, her position at Intuit, and how she keeps a sense of humour around the office.
Jamia Wilson grew up reading books from the Feminist Press, so she’s proud to be the literary publisher’s executive director (the youngest person, and the first woman of colour, to lead the 47-year-old press). When she became director, Wilson was already an outspoken activist and writer whose work had appeared in the Feminist Press titles Slut and I Still Believe Anita Hill.
We talked to Wilson in print and on video about her work habits, her inspirations, and the concrete ways the Press fosters teamwork.
Maker Faires around the world attract over a million visitors each year. When Maker-in-chief Sherry Huss co-created the first Maker Faire in 2005, she’d already been organising tech and media events for nine years. Now she’s run 12 years of Maker Faires, managing a worldwide team while carrying on several side projects. She gave us an extensive look at her work habits, her management techniques, and the process of launching and running each Faire.
Maurice Cherry pays it forward. The designer runs several projects that highlight black creators online, including designers, developers, bloggers and podcasters. His design podcast Revision Path, which recently released its 250th episode, has won awards from AIGA and the Creative Market Awards. He told us about his work process, lessons he’s learned from guests, and all his favourite gear, from professional mics to a four-in-one multipen.
Futurist Amy Webb has led the Future Today Institute since today... was the future. That sounds less profound than we hoped, but Webb’s work is profound.
Since Webb founded it in 2006, Future Today has analysed trends in culture and technology for clients including Microsoft, American Express, Univision (Lifehacker US’ current parent company), the White House and the US Federal Reserve. She’s also published two books and given the TED talk “How I Hacked Dating”.
We talked to her about the perfect carry-on bag, differences between media technology around the world, and the method her Institute uses to efficiently break up their work day.
On How I Work, we like to find people with especially challenging jobs. Making the recipes at a meal-kit-by-mail service seems challenging: Each recipe must be crowd-pleasing, easy to follow, and use ingredients that can be shipped around the country in vast quantities divvied into tiny portions.
At Plated (acquired last year by grocery company Albertsons), that job belongs to Elana Karp. We talked to her about creating and testing recipes, shooting video guides, and her evolving culinary career.