Navigating Werk Festival as a new podcaster and mother-to-be with Meha Chiraya.

Making Mama Moves: Navigating Werk It 2019 as a New Podcaster and Pregnant Mom

by Meha Chiraya

Meha reflects on attending Werk It 2019⁠—a two-day Women’s Podcast Festival, both as a new podcaster and a mother expecting her second child. 

It was a cool and breezy Los Angeles morning in October. The line for tickets to enter The Theatre at the Ace Hotel stretched to the end of the block. I looked up and down the line at fellow Werk It attendees, took a deep breath, and paused.

Could I really do this?

Here I was, a rookie podcaster, still figuring out the plan for launching a podcast with one of my closest friends. I had no idea what the day at Werk It would bring. And above all, I was nine months pregnant.

Two years ago, “Could I really do this?” was a question I was asking myself every day. I was halfway through my part-time MBA program, I was working full-time in a demanding marketing job…and I was pregnant with my first kid. Nearly everyone I met told me I was crazy, “How are you going to balance it all? School? Work? BABY?” These well-meaning questions were discouraging and made me question my own true potential. Was I supposed to give up before even trying? 

Luckily, I had some cheerleaders who became my support system. One of the most vocal cheerleaders out there was my childhood friend, Archita Fritz. Archita was my source of strength and inspiration: a mom of three, a marketing executive, and someone who deeply cares about the world and the people around her. After my first baby arrived and I was figuring out how to balance my life, I’d text Archita at odd hours of the day. She’d empathize with me and my frustrations, and help me celebrate the small wins—such as when I would balance taking conference calls while breastfeeding my baby. 

When my baby girl was six months old, we took a trip to Europe, spending a few days in Dusseldorf, Germany with the Fritz family. As our babies crawled around in the living room and our husbands were in the backyard barbecuing, Archita and I reflected on where we’ve come from, and where we hope to go. We felt so fortunate to be able to share our stories with each other along the way, keeping ourselves going in our journeys.

And that’s when the idea for a podcast hit us. Since we’ve been able to support each other through the stories we tell one another, what’s stopping us from taking our stories, and the stories of the many other extraordinary women around us, to the world?

Anyone can have a great idea, but it’s how you execute it that determines its impact. A year after our reunion in Dusseldorf, I rang up Archita about making our podcast a reality, and the timing was beyond fortuitous. Archita was just about to deliver her third child, and I was a couple of months away from giving birth to my second. We realized that our lives were not going to get any less crazy, and if we wanted to create a platform for the voices and stories of extraordinary women, we needed to do so, now.

This was August of 2019.

Five weeks later, I was at Werk It.

Meha Chiraya host of The Nine Oh Six at Werk It 2019 in Los Angeles
~9 months/35 weeks pregnant at Werk It!

Back to that October morning in Los Angeles. Near the front of the line to The Theatre at the Ace Hotel, before I could get too deep into my own thoughts, I felt someone nudge me. A couple of friendly new faces took one look at my heavily pregnant self and said, Get in line with us here. You need it.

This instant camaraderie from fellow female podcasters was amazing, and luckily for me, that camaraderie kept showing up throughout the whole day. I felt empowered, knowing I was amongst others like me who were doing so much in their lives, following their creative pursuits in podcasting while also managing their professional and personal lives outside of podcasting. 

Through the WOC Podcasters community on Facebook, I organized an informal lunch meet-up down the street from the Ace Hotel, which was where it truly dawned on me, Wow, I am part of an incredible community! During this lunch, we shared our stories: our hustles, our values, and what we hope to achieve by using our voices.

Werk It sessions that day focused on actionable, strategic steps as well as thought-provoking reflections. After a day at that festival, I felt incredibly motivated and re-energized. I brought back this feeling of momentum to my co-founder and co-host, Archita, with a few key takeaways to apply to our own podcast process.

1. Build a podcast hub

Social media engagement does not necessarily equal growth. To maximize the chances of growth, it is important to build a website as a hub for your podcast. Podcast listeners do not only discover new podcasts through apps; often, it happens through simply searching the web.

Here are the things every podcast website should have.

2. Know your particular audience

Speaking of podcast discovery, a podcaster’s potential audience can be categorized into “rookies” and “veterans”. One Werk It 2019 session explained this distinction, referencing this Medium article, and indicated that this is important when considering how your audience consumes podcasts. 

Veterans seek podcasts: they look for podcasts as a medium and listen to shows they are interested in. On the other hand, rookies encounter podcasts: they are interested in specific content and might end up exploring podcasts as a way to get that content. 

This Werk It session also recapped an NPR survey indicating that across all audience types, a significant portion of consumers discover new podcasts through cross-promotions on podcasts, while other listeners sample content until they find a show that they want to keep listening to. 

3. Listen to audience feedback

As podcasters with a mission and a deep sense of purpose, we often reflect on how we can build a community around our podcast. A particular session at Werk It 2019 argued that to do this, podcasters first need to understand what their audience actually needs. We have to consistently seek and listen to feedback from our audience and use the podcast as a platform for the community that we’ve formed. Though we as podcasters create the show, in a way it’s also a collaborative process with our listeners; we work with our audience to create what’s most useful for them.

Ten days after Werk It, when Archita’s baby was seven weeks old, we launched our podcast called The Nine Oh Six, dropping three episodes. It was no small feat, and we are thankful to have been inspired by Werk It and by our fellow WOC Podcasters along the rapid journey to launch day.

And it was certainly just in time… because I’m launching this baby in two weeks!

Update November 1, 2019: Meha and her loving family welcomed a beautiful baby boy to the world! Join us in wishing her congratulations!

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