My guest today is Rajeev Subramanian, who describes himself as the "poster child" for continuous career evolution, and after talking to him I agree with that description.
From gigs in sales, marketing, software development, entrepreneurship ventures and of course, design, one thing has remained common over his last 16 years: an unrelenting appetite to understand human behavior and leverage that understanding to deliver value to organizations of all shapes and sizes.
And as I think you’ll hear, he is a firm believer in rigorous collaboration and a "what have I done for you lately" approach to his daily work.
Here’s my conversation with Rajeev Subramanian — on Making UX Work.
If you enjoyed this episode, please check out our good friend and sponsor, Stache Studio — a streetwear clothing brand focusing on quality products with a positive message, inspired by the resilience to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome.
The Stache mantra is that even in the darkest times, there is a light revealing prosperity; find your light and let it guide you through the darkness. Visit https://www.stache.studio/ to check out their incredibly well-designed products and learn more!
Joe Natoli: 0:08
Hello and welcome to making UX work; I'm Joe Natoli. Our focus here is on folks like you doing the tough, often unglamorous work of UX In the real world. My guests share their struggles, their successes and their journey to and through the trenches of product design, development and, of course, user experience. Before we get into it, I'd like to give a quick shout out to our sponsor Stache Studio, a streetwear clothing brand focused on quality products with a positive message, inspired by the resilience to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome — something obviously very close to my heart, for those of you that know me. The Stache mantra is that even in the darkest times, there is a light, revealing prosperity. Find your light, let it guide you through the darkness; visit stache.studio to check out their incredibly well-designed products and learn more.
Joe Natoli: 1:03
My guest today is Rajiv Subramanian, who describes himself as the poster child for continuous career evolution. And after talking to him, I most certainly agree with that description. From gigs in sales, marketing, software development, entrepreneurial ventures and, of course, design, one thing has remained common over his last 16 years — and that's an unrelenting appetite to understand human behavior. And as I think you'll hear, he's a firm believer in rigorous collaboration and, a "what have I done for you lately?" approach to his daily work. Here's my conversation with Rajeev Subramanian on making UX work.
Joe Natoli: 1:42
So Rajeev — how are you?
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:45
I'm good. I'm good. I really, really appreciate it. I understand you're busy and, you know, just talking to you. And I know we had were chatting about going by gut feeling, So let's keep that streak alive. And, uh, I'm just glad to be, you know, just really humbled to be even having a conversation with you. And I was uh... think before, you know, it got slightly cut off, was I was saying it kind of came full circle because I think it was around 2014 or 2015 is when I actually was really full fledged... maybe it was, yeah, about 6 maybe seven years ago, I decided to change, shift careers and you were the first person... I don't know if it was serendipity that I just landed on and it through, you know, through the course. And I joined the course, and the rest is, I guess you could say the rest, is history. There's a lot that happened before that. But, I mean, you know, there was those couple of months, it was just, serendipity. And I was like, Wow, this guy makes it sound so simple. This is awesome.
Rajeev Subramanian: 2:46
Let me dive right in!
Joe Natoli: 2:48
Yeah, for better or worse, For better or worse, that's what I do, I think. And look, I I honestly think that we do overcomplicate a lot of this stuff unnecessarily and I think that's true of every aspect of life.
Rajeev Subramanian: 3:04
Yeah. No, I agree. Um, it's... obviously things get messy and you put it, get put in situations, whether personal, professional, and you gotta you gotta figure a way out around it. You gotta assess the situation. Overcomplicating it sort of takes you away from just sort of core philosophies and core principles. And if you kind of stand by those as sort of guide posts, you know, throughout your life. And I think I've tried to do that every time I feel like I've gone astray. Then I think you can. I think you can at least sort of, you know, figure it out.
Joe Natoli: 3:36
Yeah, that's right. And it's, it's course correction. I mean, all of life and all of your career, everything you're ever gonna encounter is constant course correction. As silly as this is gonna sound, it wasn't honestly, until, uh... I don't know, I want to say it was, like, 10 years ago or something. Where I was listening to somebody talk and they were talking about rockets, right? And I did not know this up until this point, and they said, look, when they launch a rocket, our assumption is that it just it launches into space, and it does its thing, and it just gets to its destination. And the fact is, it deviates thousands of times during that journey. It deviates, it goes off course. And and then there's a course correction. And I really was unaware of how many times that happens in a launch. So this guy used it as a metaphor, right? For just about everything.
Rajeev Subramanian: 4:28
Joe Natoli: 4:29
And I felt like my head exploded, you know? Like well, like, Yeah. Hey, Hey, guess what? We don't have to be right all the time. We don't have to have all the answers all the time.
Rajeev Subramanian: 4:39
Joe Natoli: 4:40
And I really took that to heart.
Rajeev Subramanian: 4:43
Yeah. Adapt and evolve, you know, take that philosophy. And, um, you know, we talk about, you know, when so many terms are thrown out there, you know, business, agility or agile, is is what is really at the core kind of saying that. You know, it's OK to live in the gray area. And then, you know, sometimes you need to have definite goals and progress points where you want to get, but you know, how you get there is always gonna change. Uh, and I think that's the core of so many of these different masked names. Whether it comes, you know, especially in the design field. You know, depending on what decade you're in and what every couple of years where you come, whether it's, you know, you talk about lean or Agile or design thinking, whatever it is, I think that the core, they're kind of getting at the same thing. They just, you know, through different methodologies. It's crazy to think that some of the core philosophies that I've had, you know, even as someone graduating from college, in my early twenties to now, has stayed the same, and many times I tried to get away from it because I thought I was doing something wrong and, you know, trying trying different things or, you know, maybe I need to be, You know... I need to put my foot down more. That's the answer. You know, that kind of thing? And sometimes it just... I don't know if it's... and maybe everyone's different. But, you know, to me, I realized getting away from who you actually are is kind of the worst thing you can do for yourself.
Joe Natoli: 6:05
Rajeev Subramanian: 6:05
Yeah, so it has been quite interesting. And I have also have to give credit to, you know, the other person who essentially influenced me into UX was my wife.
Joe Natoli: 6:15
Rajeev Subramanian: 6:15
Yeah, Yeah, I was convincing myself out of it. So...
Joe Natoli: 6:18
Tell me about that.
Rajeev Subramanian: 6:19
In a long story short, I was, I'd been in my sort of old career, I guess. You know, I was actually in a lot of different sales jobs and marketing jobs and those types of things. And, so when I left my It was like 2013 or some 2012, 2013, left my last job and I was talking to her and I was like, I think you know, being in sales, it just doesn't, you know, I feel like it's a square peg round hole situation. I need to, you know, start to navigate to something else. And she suggested — and she's been predominantly steady in her career like total opposite of me, I've gone left and right and she's been steady. You know, she's been predominantly in the major consulting businesses. You know, your Booz Allens, Accentures and she knows... right now she works at Booz Allen. She's been steady and she offered me advice and she's had sort of her ears, ears to the ground on what there's an appetite for in the market. And she was saying, you know, I'll give you a couple recommendations. You can go into Data Science, Data Analytics, That's getting big. You know, there's cyber security that's getting big, and there is user experience, UX and design's getting big. And I was like aaah data science, I was like, I feel like I'd have to just totally change everything I've ever done. Um, cybersecurity, naaah. I... for some reason, I was like, what's UX? What's this design? And she she mentioned it and she started talking about it and and I was like, ahh it just, It sounds too technical. I don't want to, I don't want to do it. It sounds it sounds way too technical. And granted. And I had done, I had done well, kind of Web design on the side for, you know, I was working for a start up in the past and, you know, it was like an event planning startup, and I was responsible for the website. So I was. I dabbled in Photoshop and trying to actual design design certain Web pages and flyers and email campaigns.
Joe Natoli: 8:02
Rajeev Subramanian: 8:02
But I was like, it just, the way that she was explaining it. I was like, it just sounds... and granted, I graduated, you know, I was coming from, a Computer Science person. I graduated college in Computer Science, and I I've never done anything remotely related to that for my entire career.
Joe Natoli: 8:18
Rajeev Subramanian: 8:19
Which is... exactly, life. So I was like, I don't wanna go back to that. I was like, at that point, had been 10 years in my career. I'm like, I don't want, you know, I got out of that and I don't want to go back. And she said, No, no, it's different. It's like it's way deeper than that. And that's what she said. And she's like It's about human psyche and understanding contexts and applying them into different business cases and those types of things. And I was like, really? it's not just coding? Or, you know, this was my ignorance speaking because I was just like, I had no idea. And so then she kind of left it at that. She was like yeah, just take a look at it. And of course, you know, being the curious George that I am, I you know, I started poking at it for the next... That was sort of the initiation, you know, the nudge to sort of poke at it. You know, go to You Tube and scour the Web and search Amazon for different books and search UX design. And they came up with all the you know,, all the different terms and and that's when I actually came across you. So that's why I was like, you know, she's responsible for half of the... nudging me to, you know, take a look and actually actually go and try to find what it's about and the different components of it. And then and then landing on your course and ...as well as others. And I ended up getting some books. And but that's that's why I was like I'd be, I'd be remiss to say that, you know, she she did not have that initial nudge. Because without that, I probably wouldn't be where I am today.
Joe Natoli: 9:34
Rajeev Subramanian: 9:34
I think we can all say that whether it's significant, others or whoever we have. You use a lot of what they have as influence, as lessons, you know, to your, to whatever you do. It works. It works both ways, But yeah, it's it's definitely something that I have to have to put out there.
Joe Natoli: 9:50
We share that.
Rajeev Subramanian: 9:52
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joe Natoli: 9:54
First of all, we certainly share that, because, I mean, I was doing work, but I was doing project work, you know, for a long time. And I don't really think I ever realized what I had to offer in terms of being a consultant or a teacher, which is kind of the same thing, right?
Rajeev Subramanian: 10:08
Joe Natoli: 10:08
Until — same thing — my wife said to me, You know, you really should think about this and this and this and these things that you do all the time that you you... sort of become really animated and elevated and, you know, seem to excel and people stop what they're doing and pay attention to it. You know, why don't you give this a little more thought? Pay more attention to it. And I went Wow. Okay. And you know, at this point 29 years on, it's like, yeah, without that intervention... and like you, there were other people as well that, when I was coming up, you know, took the time to talk to me about things you know, like the Don Norman's of the world in Alan Cooper's of the world. And, you know, folks like that, uh, and they didn't have to do those things, you know? But a little bit goes a long way. And that's why, as we were talking before we started, you know, when I see folks online, some of the voices I really want on this show, when I see folks online who are sort of going out of their way to share their experience, share their expertise in doing it in a way where you can sort of tell that the overarching concern is other people.
Rajeev Subramanian: 11:22
Joe Natoli: 11:23
You know, here's, here's what I've experienced. Here's what I have to offer. Maybe this will help you. I think that's tremendously important because two to your point in your story, I don't think any of us ever get where we're going, or where we need to be, or really can do all the work that's required to sort of become who you are, without a whole lot of other people helping you. You know, intervening in one way or another at different points in your life.
Rajeev Subramanian: 11:53
Totally agree. Yeah, and you know, obviously different people have different affects of different times, you know?
Joe Natoli: 11:58
Rajeev Subramanian: 11:59
She had it. Someone who's physically, there in person, you know, and you know, someone who's your significant other you know, that can have a profound impact. Or whether it's, you know, if you're taking a course from an instructor or whether it's online or in person, you know, friends...um, the list goes on and on and books you read people who you've never even seen before and maybe see, maybe only seen a couple of YouTube videos on. But you know, you follow them.
Joe Natoli: 12:25
Yeah, and that doesn't stop. That doesn't stop, you know? I mean, every once in a while, you still read something that just blows your doors open. I mean, and I'll give a little shout out here like like Erika Hall, for example. Yeah, I'm telling everybody about this book, and it's it's not even that new. Okay, but the book is called "Just Enough Research," and it's just probably the most brilliant book I've ever read on user research. It's straight to the point. It's simple. It dispenses with all of this bullshit that people inundate themselves with. And I thought, and I mean, this is like... it's like encountering the Bible. It's like, THIS is this is the truth. Here's the truth. Forget everything else. Here's the damn truth. And I love that. I love that experience. You know, I love the feeling you get from that kind of stuff. So out of curiosity, and I think you said it when you were talking, what year was this? Around the time when you sort of made the shift?
Rajeev Subramanian: 13:15
I want to say 2013?
Joe Natoli: 13:17
Rajeev Subramanian: 13:18
2013, 2014 maybe?
Joe Natoli: 13:20
Okay, so you were an, you were an account executive at that point.
Rajeev Subramanian: 13:23
Yeah, I was. I was full time account execs at a, uh, part marketing firm, and they also had, like, a cyber security practice. And I was on the cyber security side, which is like, Hence I mentioned that was like one of the potential forks that I was willing to, you know, kind of go down, but, um and then, yeah, and then on the side, I was also helping a small business and helping them grow and partly doing a lot of marketing and it was like in event planning. So I was actually, I had ... sort of a backstory, I had DJ'd for them, you know, this is, I wanna say 2008 to 2010. When I was still, you know, I was working at Verizon, the corporate, the corporate headquarters, and I was the same thing. I was in sales and I was like, I want to do something else on the side. You know, sometimes you just need, like, another creative outlet. You know, just otherwise you just go insane.
Joe Natoli: 14:11
Rajeev Subramanian: 14:12
Whether it's, you know, different hobbies and sports and whatever. So I was like, I just need, like, another creative outlet. So I got into DJing because I've loved music. I grew up on music. My parents are, they came from India in the seventies. You know, they have always pushed, you know, always have additional activities outside of just, you know, obviously they push you in school, you know, be like, Hey, you know, you should do well in school blah blah blah. But you know, you need to have some other creative outlet. That's why I grew up and they put me in piano lessons, they put me in to learn karate. Do something, like just use different parts of your brain. Otherwise, you just, you know, things are just going to get, you know, overwhelming. You'll get stressed out more easily, and you won't be able to handle situations and all those types of things. So definitely good advice from growing up. And so when I was working, you know, in 2008, 2010, I was like, I need a creative outlet, interested in music, somehow came across — again, just maybe chance there, serendipity — my friends were, you know, they ran an event planning agency. You know, they did a lot of weddings at a corporate events. They also, even they even did night clubs and bars. And they're saying, "hey, you know, we need a DJ, Rajeev." And then they've kind of known me for some years and like "you've always been kind of of into music. And, uh, you know, is this something that you want to do?" And I was like, I'll take a look into it and, you know, But I got interested in it. And, um so that was my creative outlet, and I would, I would do gigs. And, you know, little did I know that that also helped me get out of my shell and help me sort of understand. And as crazy as it may seem, you know, just understanding and adapting. You know, when you have to DJ for, like, a like a wedding, you have to understand audiences. You have to be able to take requests. You have to understand.
Joe Natoli: 15:46
Rajeev Subramanian: 15:46
Yeah, and it's all it's like, ah, a lot of the same principles that I apply now, you know? It's like, who's your audience? You know, what are their expectations?
Joe Natoli: 15:54
Right, and how are they behaving? How are they reacting?
Rajeev Subramanian: 15:56
Exactly, how are they reacting? How are they behaving? So it was very interesting. And I made that connection, you know, only a couple of years ago, and I was like, you know what? It was kind of the same, you know, but, uh...
Joe Natoli: 16:06
Rajeev Subramanian: 16:06
That's that's why I was doing that. So it was a lot going on, and then, um, I didn't think it would make a career out of it. So, uh, it all sort of came to a halt kind of around 20, I wanna say 2013, 2014, because I did the DJing for it to three years. And then I said, hey, you know what a great experience. I love doing it, you know? But I want, I want to book the DJs. I want to be part of the, help part of the business and grow and be a partner with you guys and that kind of thing. I did that for a couple years on the side as well. But you know, at some point when I decided I want to make a career change. And I was like, I'm just helping them. I don't want to, I don't know if I could do that full time. And I was like, there's all these different forks in the road, you know? What do I do? It was right around 2013, 2014 is when I made that change, and I'm making it sound like it was it was a lot quicker than it actually happened. You know, the decision to make that change.
Joe Natoli: 16:56
Rajeev Subramanian: 16:56
Um, but I had just gotten married in 2012. Had been about a year, almost two years. Um, our first... I have two kids and they're on the young end, one's five, a boy and I have a girl who's one and a half. So he was born right in 2014.
Joe Natoli: 17:12
Not a lot of change going on in your life, obviously.
Rajeev Subramanian: 17:15
Yeah, right, Yeah. Changing my career. You know, marriage, having the kid. And I was like, all the pressure's on, you know? So I was like, I got to make the right, I've got to make the right move, you know? So I was like, Yeah, there's a lot of reflection figuring out what I liked and I'd even go back and, you know, even though it was a square peg in a round hole, in the sales job. But what if I could pinpoint a couple things I liked about the job? You know, what would it be? And it really came down to, you know, whoever I was talking to, you know, even when I was in sales and account executive account management, it was... It's the feeling of, you know, the outcome of user satisfaction and customer satisfaction. And I think...
Joe Natoli: 17:51
Rajeev Subramanian: 17:51
It always sort of came down to that. And I would be very, very, you know, micro analyzing situations, you know, understanding how people thought and with the best intentions. And of course, unfortunately, you know, sales, a lot of the time has the stigma of just, you know, the car salesman mentality.
Joe Natoli: 18:08
Yeah, of course, gets a bad rap.
Rajeev Subramanian: 18:10
Yeah, I was trying to get, I was trying to get away from that, but, um, I learned a lot of good lessons in sales too. You know, it's ah, you know, I can't remember the name of who it was, but there was, I came across a guy who was a trainer. Um, can't remember his name, but the name of the training company is called Sandler Training, and they viewed sales — you would relate to this — as a problem solving discipline.
Joe Natoli: 18:31
Rajeev Subramanian: 18:32
And, and I think a lot of times you go down that path from for many different types of careers and whether you're in sales, Marketing, I mean, at the end of the day, you're trying to solve, you know, solve problems. And I think the way they broke it down was there's three levels of human needs when you're talking to someone from a sales perspective. It's, it was almost like objections that you're going to hear, you know, the first is going to be financial: we don't have the budget and we don't have the time, so it's kind of like a twofold. That's like, you'll always hear that at the surface level. And if you dig deeper, um, you might get an objection of, OK, so what is this gonna look like, or is this is even technically feasible. And then if you go down even another step further, which where most of the sales are made, it happens at, like, uh, an emotional problem solving level, like it's "aah, if I don't get you guys, it's gonna keep me up at night and, you know, it's gonna ruin my next day in my weekend because our company's, our Internet's going to be down," or whatever. You know, whatever the case may be.
Joe Natoli: 19:30
Right. Right? Sounds an awful lot like UX, doesn't it?
Rajeev Subramanian: 19:33
Exactly. Yes, I know the way that they were today, and that was like when I was reflecting back, I was like, I can I really like sat training and where that was and, you know, I wanna I wanna be able to apply that same framework or philosophy into something else.
Joe Natoli: 19:47
Rajeev Subramanian: 19:48
And then again, and then, and then the wife came in and saved the day, so yeah,
Joe Natoli: 19:51
And the parallel, I mean, I love the parallel. Because, I may have said this before here and there, but I'm always the guy in the organization when I come into the organization saying, "can we get sales in this meeting?" And everybody looks at me like I just grew another head, you know? "Well, we don't, don't... they're not usually included in these conversations." Why the hell NOT?
Rajeev Subramanian: 20:16
Why not? Why not. Yeah.
Joe Natoli: 20:17
These people have to go out into the world and convince everyone else that you are worth their while. How in the hell do you not want them involved in this conversation? OK, when they're on the front lines of hearing people's objections? And you just explained it perfectly, you just gave an illustration of three criteria for, you know, acceptance or rejection. You have to... it is our job to surmount those things, right, in some ways.
Rajeev Subramanian: 20:43
I totally agree.
Joe Natoli: 20:44
Because, because that's the reality you've got. If you're working for a for-sale product, then you are also required to be involved in the branding and marketing positioning ends and communication of the value...
Rajeev Subramanian: 20:58
Joe Natoli: 20:58
...of of said product. Otherwise, to me, you're missing a piece of the pie and even UXers and designers look at me like I'm crazy when I say that.
Rajeev Subramanian: 21:05
Joe Natoli: 21:06
But I am a firm firm believer. So to me, when I look down the list of everything you've done — and this seems to be a commonality with a lot of my guests — is that as I go through it, even with job titles that are at at surface level, unrelated to User Experience or design... man, the trend is there. I mean, this trend is absolutely there where you're thinking about people.
Rajeev Subramanian: 21:28
Joe Natoli: 21:29
We're working with people, we're trying to help people, trying to serve people. I mean, you got this stint, as you know, co-owner and director of design of this bar lounge concept. You talked a minute ago about saying, "well, you know, I really want to be in a position where I'm booking bands." Booking bands in and of itself — and I grew up playing in bands, and I ran a record label for awhile as well —
Rajeev Subramanian: 21:49
Yeah, that's right.
Joe Natoli: 21:51
It's the same thing.
Rajeev Subramanian: 21:52
Joe Natoli: 21:53
You have to make those decisions on an informed basis, which is who's coming, what do they care about ,what moves them? What motivates them? What's gonna get them out of their houses, you know, versus crawl up with a good book or a movie, or their significant other or whatever it is? To me, It's all the same stuff, man.
Rajeev Subramanian: 22:09
It is. It is. It is just it's a different flavor. And even, you know, when I was the bar lounge, you know, Cabin, that concept I mean, you coming up with a concept. But then I remember when it was also intersecting, like right when I was learning about UX and even user research. And it was 20...we opened in 2014 and 2013. Again, This is something that I'd done on this side. But I would... it sounds kind of crazy, it sounds almost, uh, I wasn't trying to fool anyone, but I would, you know, because people wouldn't know who I am, you know, on actual nights that were, you know, kind of light, not that many people there, I would actually just walk around and just start having conversations with people? Because, I mean, you're essentially just having conversations in context about it. And I would...
Joe Natoli: 22:51
Rajeev Subramanian: 22:51
I would sort of weave in, OK, "what do you think about this place?" and that kind of stuff. You know, I wouldn't just make it obvious, I would try to weave in that conversation. Then they don't know who I am. They just think I'm some random random Joe. They think I'm one of them.
Joe Natoli: 23:04
Undercover user research, I love it.
Rajeev Subramanian: 23:08
But they would give you the honest feedback. "Yeah, you know, I think it's just got too many mirrors over there, and it's kind of this too... the light is too blinding." And, you know, you start doing that a few times, you get some feedback and you kind of go back to the, you know, the rest of the business partners, you know, like "hey, it seems like an overwhelming theme of, you know, we got too many mirrors here, and there's not ,no space over here and everyone seems to be congregating over there. You know? What can we change to make it a better experience?" And that kind of thing. So it was, it was very...and I felt proud of myself afterwards! We made the changes and, you know, people were giving their love on Yelp and all this other stuff. And I was like, I used user research for this, like, I was happy! I did it!
Joe Natoli: 23:47
Rajeev Subramanian: 23:47
It was, uh, it was very interesting, but immediate to get back, even even for the, you know, the sales it was... if you're not aligning with sales, to me, doesn't... that's such a big part of the end user experience. If there's a gap between what's, you know, sort of designed, whether it's a service of product and interface or whatever it is and what sales tells and sells. If there's a big gap between that, you know, it could be an over-promise and under-deliver type of situation. Or, you know, maybe, maybe, maybe vice versa. Maybe it's, maybe they undersold it and you know, the actual when it was actually designed and, you know, they landed on some sort of feature, some sort of benefit or something that they were not expecting that they were not sold on. That was a surprise to them. It was, you know, and that's in that case, that's great. But I think if there's that gap between what the sales people are selling and what you're designing, and there's no alignment on that, then yes, I totally agree. That's gonna affect the end user experience. And most of the time, it seemed to affect it in a negative way.
Joe Natoli: 24:45
Well, it's interdepartmental as well. I've seen that plenty of times where you've got a customer support department, right?
Rajeev Subramanian: 24:51
Joe Natoli: 24:52
And then you've got sales, and obviously you have product design and development. I can't tell you how many instances I've seen where sales is literally not pushing or even talking about a particular feature because it's not considered one of the, let's say, uh, I don't know, a best practice or an industry leading thing, or it's not sexy enough for whatever the reason is. At the same time, customer support is fielding request after request after request for a period of eight months. Because there's a feature that exists that solves this problem, and nobody knows about it.
Rajeev Subramanian: 25:24
Joe Natoli: 25:25
And support is saying, "well, if you go here and do this, you can access this," and people go, "are you kidding me? I didn't even know that was there!" So now you've got something that people obviously want and think is lacking.
Rajeev Subramanian: 25:38
Joe Natoli: 25:39
And what we found out is that, in a lot of cases, they were talking publicly about the fact that it was lacking — and it was THERE.
Rajeev Subramanian: 25:44
Yeah, it was there for them.
Joe Natoli: 25:46
And because of the relationship with the reps on an ongoing basis, nobody was talking about it. The sales reps were like, "are you kidding me? How do we not know this ?" Now, that's a significant breakdown of communication inside the walls, and the reason I bring it up is number one, just to illustrate your point. And number two, to say that as UX folks our, our purview, a lot of times, has to go wider than just what's in the product itself.
Rajeev Subramanian: 26:09
Joe Natoli: 26:10
You have to figure out where those gaps are inside an organization, because sometimes that is the cause of user dissatisfaction, you know, or or a drop in use or people jumping ship to go to a competitor or whatever it is.
Rajeev Subramanian: 26:24
Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think that's also like, one of the biggest challenges of good UX designers, is that you have to get as down to the specifics as a micro interaction that a customer service rep or end user is dealing with.
Joe Natoli: 26:38
Rajeev Subramanian: 26:39
All the way up to the very top, in terms of the dollars and cents, the time, the budget, the resources that the C-level has to deal with. And it takes time, you know, to learn how sort of everything affects each other, the interdependencies between the departments. You know, it's I think that's one of the biggest challenges you see is that sometimes, you know when you start — and I'm no exception to the rule — when I started, I started at a very siloed mindset In terms of this is what UX is. I must take this and package it up and present it, you know?
Joe Natoli: 27:08
Yeah, that's normal.
Rajeev Subramanian: 27:09
And, you know, I obviously learned through through a lot of, ah, objections and denials and, you know, why's and, you know, show mes. That it's, it's way more than that, Um, I think you talk about this a lot. I think you talk about, it's like the small wins and... I forget that movie where Al Pacino's the coach. And he's talking about, you know, the inches?
Joe Natoli: 27:32
Rajeev Subramanian: 27:32
And it's literally thousands of those things. and constantly, before you can even have any sort of influence in terms of equating to, you know, a bigger win. You know, those small, small, small, small wins. And I think that was that was one of the biggest lessons that I learned is that. Yeah, I kind of knew it on surface, and I'm like, OK, it's just small wins, you know, But it's not just like, two of the small wins or five of them or ten of them. It's, it's...
Joe Natoli: 27:58
Hundreds of them.
Rajeev Subramanian: 27:59
It's hundreds of them, thousands of them them constantly. You know, it's uh, sometimes I go by the phrase — and I used this in my sales days — it's persistence, without annoyance.
Joe Natoli: 28:08
Rajeev Subramanian: 28:09
Trying to persistent push and and ask. And and then when you sort of sense that shred of just, I think I'm pushing my luck, let me back off for a day or two and then I'll go, I''l go right back at it. You know, uh, that was my biggest "aha" moment of realizing, Wow, this is just sort of a new thing, and it's It's up to us to sort of convince an influence the stakeholders, whether it's your boss, whether it's the engineers, whether it's the C-level suite... and it's a different language to each of those people. So it's It's almost like trying to do that. You know those quick wins, multiple different ways, multiple different times over the course of however long your engagement is. Whether, you know, sometimes you gotta squeeze in within a, if it's a year for me, whether it's a year contract or something, or if you have a longer time to do that, then that's great. But you know, these things take time.
Joe Natoli: 28:57
Yeah, right. I mean, it's almost all small stuff. Yeah, you know, I mean, a lot of it is small stuff, and the wins aren't necessarily small. Sometimes that small stuff produces something huge.
Rajeev Subramanian: 29:07
Joe Natoli: 29:07
But I think, I think you miss a lot of opportunity if you're constantly looking at some large-scale change or large-scale overhaul, or like, you know, all this has to be rethought and reimagined. And I think it's good to get into the habit of.. even when it's a client, um — and I know you've done contract work, so you know what I'm talking about — you know, if the opportunity is there and you think "OK, this is probably 12 months worth of work!"
Joe Natoli: 29:31
Yeah. Oh, my God. This, should I, should I open up this, you know, can of worms?
Joe Natoli: 29:35
You almost don't want to say it, but um, the fact of the matter is, it may not be necessary. And I think there's greater longevity for you and your career as well if you focus on impact, as opposed to scale or size.
Rajeev Subramanian: 29:51
Agree. Yeah, and I think it's almost like, if you can effectively even start planting the seeds in different people's heads. It's almost like like that movie Inception, getting down at that level and influencing, you know, getting down to the core level of what they actually I believe in and why and what motivates them. And, you know, how did they get to this point? It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of patience. A lot of times, I think, you know, and I've seen it happen with even other colleagues and they get fed up, they throw their hands in the air and they're like, "I had a conversation and, you know, had multiple conversations, and this person just doesn't get it." Yeah, yes, there does come a time where you just you do have to throw your hands in the air and be like, you know, maybe that's not the right person to talk to, or maybe it's gonna take longer than I thought. But, um, it's as small as taking the developer out for coffee for the first week. That kinda thing.
Joe Natoli: 30:40
Yeah, connection, conversation.
Rajeev Subramanian: 30:42
Leveling with them, yeah. And I think those are the things that, you know aren't, it's never taught in any courses, it's never taught in any training.
Joe Natoli: 30:48
No, it isn't.
Rajeev Subramanian: 30:49
Life teaches you those things, you know. It's Ah, it's interesting because it's, you know, some people are just much easier to convince and some are just, some are not. But that's, that's human nature. That's the nature of, especially being UXers, dealing with, you know, the whole variety of internal and external audiences that we have to, you know, sort of design the experience for.
Joe Natoli: 31:08
Given that, OK, you've... like I said, you've obviously you had a period where you did some contract work and then you moved towards being an employee.
Rajeev Subramanian: 31:16
Joe Natoli: 31:16
Is there any difference in both roles, in terms of... I don't want to say the scope; I can't think of the word to be honest with you...but the degree to which you're dealing with internal and external pressure, I mean, does that, does that ratio change? Does the volume on either side change? Is one better or worse? I mean, I'm just curious.
Rajeev Subramanian: 31:34
Yeah. I mean, well to me? I made that switch. It was purposeful that I wanted to do you know, two or three different types of contract work. Um, I had just worked at an agency for, you know, in 2015 and and I had a really good experience there. You know, they had their departments down pat. They had developers, they, you know, they separated UX designers and designers and, you know, it was comparatively... when I went back and started doing the contract work, you know, the sort of level of design maturity was totally different than obviously being at a design agency. But that experience that the design agency sort of pushed me to sort of, "I want to learn this at a deeper level," and pushed me to get my Master's, which is a great program, by the way, again. Sort of mirrors a lot of things that, you know, when you talk about when you did your design degrees, you know, at Kent State, and it was some of the same thing. It was a problem solving discipline. It was understanding humans at the core level and marrying that with business context. And I think it was very, very helpful. And from there I purposely wanted to go, after I got after I got my masters. I was like, Okay, let me get the lay of the land, you know. Before I just go in there commit because I almost expected, I'm gonna go in somewhere and just be like, "Oh, my God, what's going on?" You know, like, I felt like that's what I'm hearing around. The industry, as everyone always says, you know, going to organization. So I was like, let me just take it piecemeal at a time. Let me do a couple of contracts, two or three different contracts, Um, work. And so it was more of a "let me get my feet wet" type of thing before, actually, you know, assess and dive into something that I wanna do full time. But to answer your question, it really depends the organization, because, you know, some experiences I had, you know, they treat contractors like the red headed step child. You know, you're not in any of the meetings and, you know, they just kind of command and control, and so it's much harder to have any sort of influence or say into what goes on. It's almost just like, "hey, we contacted you to this work, to do X. You know, we didn't ask you to do X plus one. So..."
Joe Natoli: 33:39
Right — sit down and do it.
Rajeev Subramanian: 33:40
Yeah. So, um, even in those instances, I still tried to push the envelope, you know, because, I was like, even if I leave after, you know, one year, however long this contract is, at least I want to try to plant some seed and just tell them, almost give them, like a... I don't wanna be too prescriptive, but like a warning. Or just like, if you do not do it this way, you know, these are the potential outcomes that could happen. And sort of kind of leaving it there, knowing when the contract is winding down and I can try to give it my all and hand over all the work that I've done and sort of walk away. But, um...
Joe Natoli: 34:12
Which is, which is the right way to do it.
Rajeev Subramanian: 34:13
Joe Natoli: 34:14
You know, it's the right way to do it. I say this to younger folks all the time: just because you're in a very well-defined let's say, or somewhat constrained role,
Rajeev Subramanian: 34:23
Joe Natoli: 34:24
Does not mean you can't volunteer the things that you see and observe, and that you think are important.
Rajeev Subramanian: 34:28
Joe Natoli: 34:29
It doesn't mean that people have to accept it, OK? Or even listen to you.
Rajeev Subramanian: 34:33
Joe Natoli: 34:34
It's still worth saying.
Rajeev Subramanian: 34:36
It's absolutely worth saying. Yeah, that was in, one of my contracts was again large healthcare, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. I mean, massive, massive organization. And I was just one contractor in one, you know, one of the programs and you know, when I say program, it's almost like a separate arm, it's like its own company, and it's like a because they're just so massive. And, yeah, they had the best intentions. They were trying to, you know, hire UX designers, were trying to adopt agile practices, and they had the right intentions. But I think, you know, going in there is just it's a culture shift. It's it's it's mentality. People don't know what you do, you feel like half the time you're sort of justifying your existence, you know, being there. "So what do you do? Oh, you don't, you don't do...You don't do, you know, and you know you don't do front end? You don't do? You're not a graphic designer?"
Joe Natoli: 35:24
What's your purpose?
Joe Natoli: 35:26
Yeah, "So So what do you do?" You know, it's like in Office Space. It's like, you know, "what exactly do you do here," you know, and I'm like oh, my goodness. My job is to justify my job, you know? Um and it's like, you know, it's the people that didn't hire you, you know? So they had no say in you being at that, you being at the table with them, Um, so it's like that. There was a lot of that for sure.
Joe Natoli: 35:53
How did you deal with it?
Rajeev Subramanian: 35:54
I dealt with it in the, in the most positive way I could. It's if they asked that question, you know, "what do you do?" I would try to just draw that Venn diagram of the business, the technical and the user and try to say, "you know, even though I'm mostly on this user side, I'm trying to make sure that whatever decisions that are made at the business level and the technical level also help satisfy end user needs. And there's a lot that goes into that, a lot of work that goes into it, there's a lot of collaboration that goes into that. Oh, by the way, these are some of the few activities and types of things that we do." Because when they ask you what you do, they really want to know what deliverables you provide. You know, that kind of thing.
Joe Natoli: 36:32
Yeah, right. What's being produced.
Rajeev Subramanian: 36:34
Which is unfortunate, which is unfortunate. But I mean, that's that's sort of, that's the reality. So if you're unable to tell them about, you know, what unique deliverables that you have that no one else has, then you're not of any value, which is unfortunate, but that's that's just a starting point. So I think that was just a starting point in getting that conversation going. And then I feel like I did the, the small things of "hey, look, let me take you out to lunch," and then you start talking about it and, you know, poking in. And you kind of gotta get down to the human level and find commonalities and then... because they're the ones that again, if they have been there, especially the organization for a long time, they're gonna, they're gonna go bat for you if you need a favor.
Joe Natoli: 37:11
Rajeev Subramanian: 37:12
You know, if you need someone to cover your ass or something, you know that they're the ones that are gonna do it. So to me, it's that's part of the job and hey, that's OK, that comes with the territory, especially being a UXer in those environments. Maybe half your job or 30% of your job is convincing the people that you're working with that you should be there. But I think once you cross that bridge and, you know ,that relationship is a little bit better, then I think, you can focus on the messiness of UX a little bit more.
Joe Natoli: 37:40
Yeah, and I think that's accurate. I mean, I think that's accurate. I don't know that that need for justification ever goes away, especially if you're working in house. Even as a consultant versus a contractor, there's always gonna be, I promise you guys, there's always gonna be somebody in the room who's looking at you like "OK, what is your purpose for existing?" You know? "I mean, we were here before you were. We do this every day without you. Who the hell are you?" Yeah, so to your point, I'm really happy that you said that, because I think that IS part of the job. It is, like it or not, you know, and it changes to different degrees. Obviously, depending on what you're doing and who you're doing it for.
Rajeev Subramanian: 38:16
Yeah, these are the types of challenges, again, like you said, no one, no one tells you about. You kind of have to go and deal with it.
Joe Natoli: 38:21
Rajeev Subramanian: 38:22
And even after you get past that phase and you deliver something like, you know, for example, like, in one of my contracts I was lucky that they almost accepted me, and they were like, yeah, yeah, you know, UX provides value. And even though technically I think everyone was sort of aligned, so I didn't... It was almost like I had to skip a step. But then, as you said, you have to continue to do it. You know, you come up with the journey map or you come up with, you know, you do the research and you come up with a persona, and and then the developer walks into the room and says, "how would this ever be useful to me?" Just like your eyes glare like a, like an animal looking at an oncoming car.
Joe Natoli: 39:00
Deer in the headlights, exactly.
Rajeev Subramanian: 39:01
Uh, I'm just like, "I was not expecting you to say that, you know, but it's a good point." How does this actually even help them do their job better? And if you cannot answer that question, you did just waste a lot of time, you know,
Joe Natoli: 39:14
Right? What's its purpose? If if nobody's gonna use it, if nobody's gonna utilize it in any way, then why are you producing it?
Rajeev Subramanian: 39:21
Yeah. So, so that was also a wake up call to just be, like, almost focus all of my efforts into something that I know that's going to be not only useful for the, you know, whoever the end user's gonna be, but obviously, everyone internally. Stakeholders. And how are you gonna explain it to them? And maybe it's valuable in different ways to different people inside the organization. You know, it's it's someone from Marketing's gonna say, "yeah, I love it, you know, make us as many personas as you want because we love that" because Marketing's had it for years, you know? But the developers and engineers say, "how will this change the way I do my job?" And you have to sort of explain in two different ways, so that there is ah, messiness. So even though you've come, even though you've justified your existence, you haven't, you haven't justified your output. So...
Joe Natoli: 40:05
right. So given the fact that okay, you get to a point in your career where you realize that that's necessary, this story about, you know, the developer in particular where you sort of have a moment where, like, "Okay, I never really thought about that. But I guess I should," and we've all had it. So at this point in your career, how do you go about making sure that you're aware of what everybody needs and what's important to them and what isn't, and what they're willing to use and give their attention to?
Rajeev Subramanian: 40:34
It's a good question. And I think, um, what I learned is, you know, you have to do as as much research and fact-finding and insight finding for the end user, as you do for the people that are around you. A lot of that, you know, I would call it maybe, maybe it was wasted work. Maybe it wasn't. I mean, I tried to present it in a in a lot of different types of angles, for example, of giving the example of personas to the developer. You know, "why is that helpful." That could have been avoided if I just had a conversation of being like, "This is the different type of work that I, you know, I do, once you get to that level. How would any of this benefit you? Or would any of this benefit you? And how can I make your job easier?" That kind of thing. If I had that conversation earlier rather than after the fact, it avoids a lot of wasted effort, wasted work. And so, you know now my mentality and even, you know, my my previous engagement too, I came in with mortality of, you know, it's almost like you just got battered down. You know, it's like contract after contract. You know, it's like they're telling you, first you have to justify your existence. Okay, your existence is justified. Now justify your output. Okay, now what? You know, now that you've justified your output now, you actually have to start influencing people that, you know, this is, you know, when product decisions actually have to be made. on. And that's a whole other level of how do you prioritize things for the end user? You know, when there's a whole host of other priorities for the business and from from the technical side of the house.
Joe Natoli: 41:59
Rajeev Subramanian: 42:00
So that's like, you gotta take the punches, you know, and you gotta keep trudging along. And it's always something new, and what I think I've learned is it's never gonna just stop.
Joe Natoli: 42:10
Rajeev Subramanian: 42:11
There's always gonna be a new challenge. And and I think I may made the mistake earlier when I first started that "Hey, I beat this challenge, now everything's good. Nope. OK, I beat the next challenge. Now everything's good. Nope." It's always gonna be something new. And I think I was actually spoiled, unfortunately, in working at a, at a design, digital design agency as my first experience in UX and then going to all these large, huge organizations, one was health care than government, you know? Then it was a big, big real estate firm.
Joe Natoli: 42:46
You you took on two BIG ones too, Like...
Rajeev Subramanian: 42:49
Yeah, it's like the ones that everyone told me, every UXer was like, No, no, don't Don't.
Joe Natoli: 42:55
Where can I have the most difficult experience? Let's see, uh... Healthcare, definitely. Government. Yeah, that's where we're going!
Rajeev Subramanian: 43:04
Exactly, that's what I did.
Joe Natoli: 43:05
it is good, though, because I mean, all things you're saying are absolutely true. And I think the sooner in your career that you learn those things, the less heartache you have afterward. I mean, you just said a minute ago it it never goes away.
Rajeev Subramanian: 43:16
Joe Natoli: 43:17
Well, yeah, those competing priorities never stop. I mean, business is made up of all sorts of things, and there's pressure in everyone in those areas. In your piece of it is only one part of that. So it's like, well, yeah, okay, we... even even if you're in a room where everyone's, or in a company, let's say where everyone's like, "Yeah, so we totally agree with that. It's terribly important, BUT — we have to do all this stuff, and we've got to figure out what to do first."
Rajeev Subramanian: 43:46
Joe Natoli: 43:47
You know, how does your thing affect my thing? And if and if we do yours, does that mean I don't get to do mine? And does that mean, right, that we missed this target? Or I mean, there's just so many dependencies.
Rajeev Subramanian: 43:56
Joe Natoli: 43:56
So I think it's extraordinarily valuable.
Rajeev Subramanian: 43:59
Yeah, and at the same time, I think, UXers out there, this is not...it's not, we're not trying to tell you don't do this, you know? Yeah. This is this part of the job. And, um I mean, I think the important thing is remaining positive and realizing that you are making a difference even if you may not see it. Because sometimes, just because you don't see, you know, a lot of times with that contract where you left. I don't know how things were going on, but maybe some someone there who you developed a good relationship with stayed. And when it was a full time employee, you get that message, you know, six months later, and be like, "Hey, you know what, things are, things are really starting to get a little better here. They're hiring, hiring more and I think they're starting to see the light." You see, get those type of messages or maybe you don't. But I mean, I think as long as you've stayed true to yourself in your principles and what you believe, you can take the punches and know that it's gonna... It's gonna help in some way, shape or fashion, even if you don't know about it.
Rajeev Subramanian: 44:52
And I think that should be encouraging. I think at least you know, for those in our field where it's just very tough to see. You know, we don't see things through the end.
Joe Natoli: 45:00
Yeah. You don't know what the result was.
Rajeev Subramanian: 45:01
You don't know what the result was. Um, you know, you had an intended result and you expected, in a result, to be X, and you hope that it got as close to that, you know, as you would want. But you may not know about it, but which is OK, which is okay. Um, I think that's also like a lesson I've taken with me, too. Is that "Not gonna know it, but, hey, I tried my best, and I'm confident that, you know, whatever I brought to the table helped the organization."
Joe Natoli: 45:24
I'm really interested in that. I'm really interested in that point because I know that a big part of your job right now, at least it seems to be, there's a lot of research involved.
Rajeev Subramanian: 45:31
Joe Natoli: 45:32
You know, research is kind of like a black hole that sometimes the deeper you get, the more, the more that you find it. And to what you're saying right now, you don't always know what the outcome of all that that digging is.
Rajeev Subramanian: 45:45
Joe Natoli: 45:45
So how do you, I guess if you can give me any sort of examples or stories, or anything you know, how do you remain positive in the face of what feels like a long slog where you sort of never know where any of this stuff ends up or what happens whether what the what the outcome is or what its value is? I guess, is what I'm getting at. How do you, how did you deal with that and maintain your sense of "No, I believe in this. It's important, I'm gonna stay positive."
Rajeev Subramanian: 46:11
Yeah. No, it's a really good question. I think, I think different people would respond to that differently. I mean, there is a little bit of a follow up. You know, I'm not gonna I'm not gonna sit here and say, You know, I I walked away and then never talked to anyone that, you know, even if it was a contract. And I had never talked to anyone in the organization again. Now, obviously, you want to keep relationships and keep the network going, and, you know, you want to find out how things were done. Need you sometimes never going to get the tangible, you know, maybe the quantifying numbers or it really depends on what do you want to hear? Do you want to hear that? The drop offs Ah, decreased. You want to hear that revenue for that program increased in unison? User satisfaction. You increased at me. I don't know. It really depends for me. It's more of just kind of been like that. If I've had a I think sales has taught me to have a thick skin.
Joe Natoli: 47:00
Rajeev Subramanian: 47:00
you knock on doors and try to sell five sentiment it long distance service early in your career and you get rejected 98% of the time. It's a you realize that you just got you have to have a thick skin. So I think, you know, I would say, you know, maybe, you know, it depends on the person, but for me, you know, not knowing is okay. Um, you could do your follow up and find out as much as you want. Um, not knowing is okay, but I think it's the calls. It comes down to just confidence in yourself to know that you did whatever that you could. Yeah, that's how I sort of deal with
Joe Natoli: 47:32
Rajeev Subramanian: 47:32
If you don't have that and you get anxiety and you get scared about the you know, the unknowns, how had you ever think you're gonna deal with? You know something when you go into a new organization for a new job, a new contract, So you have to believe in what you do, and you have to believe that it's going to be for the best. And I think that's that's something that
Joe Natoli: 47:53
Rajeev Subramanian: 47:53
have to carry with you for your entire career. Because, as you
Joe Natoli: 47:56
Rajeev Subramanian: 47:56
gonna be knocked down, you know, sometimes not gonna be there, you know forever. Our organization. So you have to have confidence in yourself that what you're doing is right. And I don't want to take that to an extreme, because you did. You go into the organization being like What I'm doing is right, and, you know, and I'm not saying that is, uh,
Joe Natoli: 48:12
no, I don't think you are. I don't think you're saying that at all.
Rajeev Subramanian: 48:14
I think we used to be a very judicious confidence.
Joe Natoli: 48:18
I think you said it perfectly. Not knowing is okay. Yeah, and that's really it. Yeah. You're not always gonna have certainty I mean, in anything you do think about anything that happens in your life, right? Are you 100% certain? I mean, you're a parent. You have kids, you know? Sure. Right? Yes. Are you Would you do go through your days apparent being absolutely certain in your capabilities and that you're exactly your kids the right thing? I mean, in the older they get, the more that challenge exists. So I really like that. I don't think that's accurate. Not knowing is okay. It has to be. Yeah.
Rajeev Subramanian: 48:49
That psychological principle is that you know, are you a black and white person or you a gray area person? You know, there's there's pros and constable it. If you're a black and white person, you're very decisive. Things get done. You see, things clearly decisive actions are done. But the con is How do you do with situations where you don't know something? We make a wrong decision. Vice versa. If you live in the gray area, sometimes you're indecisive. You kind of poke and prod of things for a long time. You're not really sure? Is this right is a strong, you know. Should I try this train not try this. And I think those two camps can learn a lot from each other because e I think he living and sort of the unknown is totally okay. But you don't want to take it to the extreme and be indecisive and not be confident in yourself and vice versa. You don't want to be black and white, and this is it. And I'm stamping my foot down without actually adapting and evolving. Just because you don't know you know the situation entirely. Certainly try to be self aware of the situation. And you know which side of the camp is? Makes the most sense at that
Joe Natoli: 49:50
time. And I think that's right. You know, they're gonna be times where you're certain you feel like you know what? I've seen this before. I know what's happening here. We got a lot evidence that suggests this this this and this. And here's what I think it is. And they're gonna be other times where you're just gonna have to say, I don't know. And I think we need to find out. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, It's like it's
Rajeev Subramanian: 50:10
ah, that scene from the pursuit of happiness. There Will Smith movie where he's saying, You know what? I may not a man. I know how to do something, But I'll tell you what, I'll find out how to do it and that's I think that's more important.
Joe Natoli: 50:23
Yeah, that's the work. That's the work. Well, we are just about an hour, so I would to wrap this up. Okay? Although I could probably do this for you. Yeah,
Rajeev Subramanian: 50:32
yeah. Wow, it's It's Excuse me. I mean, it's amazing talking to you. I feel like you only asked a few questions, but things just dovetail into a 1,000,000 different life stories, which is an incredible
Joe Natoli: 50:43
right. And that's what I mean. You know, it's an hour format, and I always feel like she's I mean, I could do this for there is word two hours in a, um, but traditionally, ask people some hot seat questions just because I think it's it provides some interesting insight into them and their character. Um, so let's let's do that. Now you talk about music earlier, and these air pain in the ass questions I get that, but your favorites musician or banned all time, hands down. No contest. Favorite
Rajeev Subramanian: 51:15
musician of a favorite band is probably a band called a tool, huh? Favorite, um, musician Chris Cornell. Probably. That's one of my all time favorites. Rest in peace,
Joe Natoli: 51:30
Doing two incredible choices. Tell me a little bit of why, in both cases,
Rajeev Subramanian: 51:35
so tool. I think just because I think it reminds me that you're still ableto carve your own path, carve your own unique path, but still remain relevant and, you know, and do what you love. Because they sort of remind me that, you know, they've incredibly popular, obviously for many years since 1993 or something. But they've always had their own lane, huh? Been a little bit different. And and And they're okay with that. And they're, you know, almost not sort of not willing to succumb to try to do something conventional to please people. Chris Cornell, one of my all time favorites from from the Soundgarden Days And then from when he went and then audio slave. And then he went solo and get a lot of other projects. Just an incredible, powerful, recognizable voice and a true rock voice, if you will.
Joe Natoli: 52:27
Yeah, power and range. I mean, unbelievable. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Range unbelievable Range
Rajeev Subramanian: 52:33
and Yes, I think it's sort of related to the first Is that you know, having your own voice. But it's also okay, toe, you know, stand out here and there for the good, you know, display your talents proudly. I'm and, you know, be confident because I think that's I think Chris Cornell was true to himself and true to his, uh, make an amazing vocal talent and very unique vocal talent. And I think, uh, sort of having those two things and having your lane, But ah, in being loud, proud and bold about it is totally okay
Joe Natoli: 53:05
and incorporating so many different directions. I mean, both of those artists Wide range, wide, wide range of stylistic influence of exploration with with melody and harmony and song arrangement structure. If and both vocalists, even, you know, have explored a lot of different sides of their voices Yeah, on and have kind of done what they wanted to do. I mean, yeah, Cornell to me was that was that was the entire package. Incredible songwriter, gifted vocalist, gifted instrumentalists. Yeah. Um and he just had 1/6 sense about making stuff work, no matter what direction it went in. Not to mention the unbelievable emotional wallop. Yeah, that both of those both those artists parable
Rajeev Subramanian: 53:51
like 150% into, you know,
Joe Natoli: 53:54
God Almighty. I mean, I don't know. I don't know how you do that.
Rajeev Subramanian: 53:57
My first concert was was was it was a tool concert. He was back in 2002 or something. That was I was in college. I was just like, my goodness. Like you just saw you just looked around and everyone would just have one plan. Remember? Everyone just had their fists up in unison. There was, like, you know, there are other bands in in that concert too. But I was just like, these people live breathing love tool and that they don't care what anyone else thinks and rats like,
Joe Natoli: 54:23
right? And you gotta have some serious belief in what you do. Like when I saw them, um was a 1,000,000 years ago as well, But remember, they started out with one of their and I can remember what album it was from, but they extended like a five minute song into, like, 12 minutes because the building at the first song of the set okay, when expectation is high and This was a festival crowd. You know, certain people there to see certain bands. So you're taking a huge risk. They do like this ridiculously slow, subtle 12 minute build 100 Lou. Yeah, and it takes, like, three minutes to get anywhere ready night
Rajeev Subramanian: 55:00
on Lee. They could do that. Really gets Ah, they have those slow bills and you're just you're waiting. But you still want to listen and it's It's It's incredible.
Joe Natoli: 55:08
Yeah, And in a festival setting. Okay, you've got thousands, probably thousands of people, and everybody is collectively holding their breath paying attention. Yeah, Unreal.
Rajeev Subramanian: 55:18
Yeah, is unreal is incredible. I mean, they're the only ones, and, you know, they have 10 15 minutes songs. That's like a it's normal effort that this normal oven and it's not for everyone. I will tell you that it's some people, right? Right. When I was for a system to them to concert at that time, my friend he was like a a Blink 182 fan and all their songs were two minutes long.
Joe Natoli: 55:40
Rajeev Subramanian: 55:42
And he was like, I cannot He's like anything longer than two and 1/2 minutes. I lose interest. I was like what?
Joe Natoli: 55:49
How's that? But all right, so let's stick on the music track for a second there because this is one of my favorites, too. You're on the and I asked this all the time. I feel like I should change up these questions, but I love him so much. You're on the proverbial desert island, right? And you somehow manage to have electricity on this desert island. I don't know you. You've invented something. I don't know what it is anyway. One album you can have with you. What
Rajeev Subramanian: 56:16
is it? One of them and that's it. That's That's your life.
Joe Natoli: 56:20
That's right, Only one for the rest of your
Rajeev Subramanian: 56:22
life. This is tough because it's like there's so many, exactly. I don't want to go down the route of compilations. Or best that
Joe Natoli: 56:37
doesn't getting. Don't you
Rajeev Subramanian: 56:39
teach you things like um, yeah, I think it would. I would totally be okay with again. I have to go. I have to go Tool, just because their song there so long I could probably just see a 1,000,000 layers and each song after we've heard over and over again. I could pick any one of the albums, but it would be in not the most. They came out with one last year, but the one before that was in, like 5 4006 and was called 10
Joe Natoli: 57:05
10,000 based on
Rajeev Subramanian: 57:07
easier. Um, it just hit me that hit me. Even I love listen to their older stuff. I listen to that probably the most. And I still listen to that to this day, And my only gripe was that I could never play any of any of their songs when I was D. J. Uh, yeah, it would be 10,000 days. Yeah, that would be considered just so many good ones in there
Joe Natoli: 57:30
has a lot there,
Rajeev Subramanian: 57:32
and they're all like getting along songs and that one I could listen to for I still listen to it to this day and I would been totally okay, you and even speaking as a fan that if they never came out with another album because I was just looking at houses on repeat, usually like once or twice a year, a knife at certain times of the yes, sir, and guns the year? No. Sometimes I'm like I feel like I just need to listen to some tool right now. Diving?
Joe Natoli: 57:52
Yeah. Certain things never let you down. E have
Rajeev Subramanian: 57:55
a 30 minute drive to work and I could listen to two songs E can enjoy every minute of it.
Joe Natoli: 58:06
Hot standing. Um, you may have already answered this, but I'm gonna do it anyway. What's that? What's a hidden talent that you have that maybe not too many people know about hidden
Rajeev Subramanian: 58:16
talent, I would say is deejaying. Turntable deejay. I used to. It reminds me just because I know here in Baltimore, I used to drive up there. There's ah, I used to go to a record pool drive up from D. C. Thio Baltimore once every couple of weeks to a place called Deejay City and pick up records by the mayor. This isn't 2007. 2008. Yeah, and come back and carry them around. And so Yeah, but there's definitely something like a craft that I was I still have the itch for just because, Uh huh. And what's one of the reasons I will kind of circles back together when the reasons why I really like tool you know, the drummers is incredible. I want the only ones who actually, I think recently they just did a cover of one of Russia's songs for Neil Peart. And everyone responded there like, this is one of the only drummers. I could never do that because
Joe Natoli: 59:09
yeah, No kidding. Yeah,
Rajeev Subramanian: 59:11
um and so you know, But I've always loved you. Sort of drums and rhythm and and also tool they had. Now he plays like the he plays like the drum version of the double line. And I'm Indian side of just that western and eastern rhythms and just rhythms in general have been very very I've loved them. So when I was deejaying, understand? Turntable is a lot about It was just rhythm and counts on, you know, scratching the turntables.
Joe Natoli: 59:38
Rajeev Subramanian: 59:38
I was not nearly as good as I could. Probably some of the great ones. And obviously, but, um,
Joe Natoli: 59:43
I think they do. It all requires extraordinary. Yeah,
Rajeev Subramanian: 59:46
yeah. Um, yeah, I definitely learned it at it. I would say probably like a you know, an amateur to intermediate ish level before, you know, I walked away, But I still get the itch. I still love it when I when I see a video on that comes in my you know YouTube about it or if I even if I've gone out every once in a while when I get to go out once a year on years, maybe that's that's only time. Yeah, um, it's a whole art in itself, and you know that that's that's something I still miss to this day. And, you know, I still have a niche for and I love
Joe Natoli: 1:0:16
lots of do it yourself tools available to us these days. I know. Yeah, you should maybe give it a shot. And I I
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:0:24
sold my quickly, like, 2010 or 20 everywhere. 2012. Had all this equipment at home. Probably like $3000 worth of real turntable equipment. I sold it all because I was like, you know, what am I going to do with this? And we have a son coming, So I need I need the money. I Yeah, it's just always there. The interest is always there.
Joe Natoli: 1:0:44
Well, that's good. I mean, that passion, the fact that it's still there, I think it's an important part of just being alive, you know, maintaining that maintaining that desire is good.
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:0:53
Keep your sanity. I mean, just, you know, just having that outlet. As I said earlier, that creative l did have something. I mean, it doesn't matter anyhow, Any hobby that's slightly different than what you do, you know, during the day. Although I would argue that many argue you exercise to argue that their outlet is their work, especially with design. And, you know, sometimes the creative aspect of that, sometimes people just fuels people's in itself. But yeah, for me and he kind of two different things. This guy's minds research heavy and science very sort of scientific. And I need I need something totally, just with no rules.
Joe Natoli: 1:1:29
Yeah, of course. Of course. That's why it's why make noise in my basement? Yeah. Yeah. You know, garage band and I are really good friends at this point. If I ever if I ever actually released any of this, we'll see. But it keeps me saying, you know, it really
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:1:46
does. I would love to hear it's whatever you're some of your stuff, even however even rough drafts. You know,
Joe Natoli: 1:1:53
I have said that I I made myself a promise that this year I'm actually gonna put some of it out. Yeah, I'm gonna build a little, little tiny website and just sort of throw it out in the world. At
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:2:01
that time, you got the audience, and I'm sure maybe at least half of half of them, you know, I love you know, different forms of music and rock, and yeah, I mean,
Joe Natoli: 1:2:12
yeah, you know, and it's their their rough sketches. So you know, we'll see. We'll see. I'll get over myself. And you
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:2:19
should I? I'm gonna I'm gonna I'm gonna be hopefully a nudge for you. Definitely do it.
Joe Natoli: 1:2:25
Okay. All right. I appreciate that. All right. Last question, unfortunately, but it's I think it's a good one to end on. And that is what's the most valuable lesson you have learned at this point in your life. And it doesn't have to be work. It could be anything. It was
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:2:42
valuable. Listen, that you can't please everybody. And I think for most of my curry, even up until recently, um, sometimes I think I would try too hard to please everybody. And I think you have a sweet talked about it. You know, it's a lot of it's part of our job, You know, You have to talk to different people inside organization in your life, your friends, your your wife, your wife's friends, your cousins You don't really hang out with all the time that you see your randomly. And I mean, it's it's you cannot please everybody, and you should be okay with that. And that's ah, personal. Listen for me that I've applied both in my personal life and professional life because, you know, I didn't believe it for many, many years. You know, the whole the whole saying is if you try to please everybody, please nobody. Um but I would I would argue that till I was blue in the face and say no, you know there is. You have to You got to try to please everybody. You got to be in the middle. You got to be the intermediary. You know, you have to be, But you can't. You can't always do that. Sometimes you just got to You got to pick sides sometimes. And a personal example is that everyone says, you know something that your wife says in something that your mom says on you, you know? And you know, you happy wife. Happy life. A happy life. Happy wife happy, right? Right. So it's you can't try to please both. And I've I've tried to do that in my personal life and try to please everybody and you end of kind of just pissing everyone off, you know, at a five out of 10 level and that this is not fun.
Joe Natoli: 1:4:16
Yeah, from work
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:4:17
wise to it says you cannot. You have to pick your battles. You have to, you know, pick sides sometimes, and you have to run with it. You know, it's okay. You can try to start pleasing everybody, but don't make that your creed and don't try to live, live and die by that. And that's that's something I would say. It's probably been the toughest personal challenge for me just because I've always been that. That's kind of inherent in my personality. But it's a lesson that I'm often reminded off, and it goes a long way, and I think it holds true that by no means mean that I've I think I figured that out because I'm still I'm still trying to figure it out, but I think it's a big It's one of the biggest lessons that I've personally had to
Joe Natoli: 1:4:55
learn, and I think it's a good one. Yeah, it's a good one, and it takes a long time. I'm
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:5:00
not quite there yet. I'm think I'm like, maybe 510 there. He asked me five years ago. I was not there, ole. And 10 years before that, I was I would already argue against it.
Joe Natoli: 1:5:09
That's right. Now I'm telling you, it's a work in progress. I'm 51 I'm still working on it. I mean, it's it's certainly been a upward trajectory, but yeah, yeah, you know, nothing is easy and nothing good. Nothing good or valuable or really tremendously useful is ever easy to. So I think that's okay. Totally agree. Yeah. Rajiv, I cannot thank you enough for your time today. I truly enjoyed every minute of this. And like I said, if neither of us had any plans for the rest of the way, just keep
Rajeev Subramanian: 1:5:39
right now. I mean, really, Joe, the pleasure is on totally on this side of the microphone. Truly appreciate, humbled and appreciate it. It's been awesome.
Joe Natoli: 1:5:48
Absolutely. Well, I wish you a, uh, excellent rest of the week. I wish you much success. Always You too. And uh, hopefully we'll talk into Absolutely have a good one. You too, man. That wraps up this edition of making us work. Thank you very much for listening. And I hope that hearing these stories gives you some useful perspective, Some encouragement. And I certainly hope that you remember that you are not alone out there. Whatever you're dealing with, someone else has been there. And just like you will they have found a way to make it work. Before I go, I want to ask you to please check out our sponsor stash studio. Once again, a streetwear clothing brand focused on quality products with a positive message inspired by the resilience to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome. Visit stash dot studio toe. Learn more. I also want you to know that you can find links to our guests, social media profiles, websites and other things that they have accomplished by visiting. Give good u ex dot com slash podcast, where you'll also find links to more U ex resources on the Web and social media along with ways to contact me. If you're interested in sharing your own story here until next time, this is Jonah totally reminding you that it is people like you that make you ex work