Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

531: Polished Podcasting with Mandy Moore

June 27th, 2024

Hosts Will Larry and Victoria Guido chat with Mandy Moore, the mastermind behind thoughtbot's Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots and Bike Shed podcasts. Mandy shares some great insights on the technical aspects and the crucial role of editing in creating top-notch content. She stresses the importance of having a producer to handle the behind-the-scenes work, allowing the hosts to focus on delivering captivating content. Mandy also shares her personal journey into podcast editing, highlighting her resourcefulness and how her skills evolved over time.

Will and Victoria also delved into the strategic advantages of podcasting for businesses, highlighting its effectiveness in helping thoughtbot build a community and establish authority as a company. Mandy discusses how a well-produced podcast can be a potent sales tool and can significantly boost a company's brand presence. They even touch on the future of podcasting, with Mandy pointing out how continuous podcast production can help solidify a company's reputation, even in uncertain times. The episode wraps with some practical advice for anyone interested in starting their own podcasts, emphasizing the need for passion, persistence, and a clear strategy.


WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry.

VICTORIA: And I'm your other host, Victoria Guido. And with us today is Mandy Moore, our long-time Podcast Editor and Creative Content Marketer. Mandy, thank you for joining us.

MANDY: Thank you so much.

VICTORIA: So, I'm excited to dive into the topic of podcast, and creative content, and strategies for companies that are maybe long-time listeners of the Giant Robots podcast who are just curious about why we do this podcast and what it does for us as a company. So, excited to get into that, but before we do, let's start with a fun question to get us warmed up. Mandy, is there anything fun, exciting going on in your world outside of work?

MANDY: Outside of work, I spend a lot of time at my local dance studio doing a mixture of dance and aerial arts. It gives me something physical to do after my work days. It's an afternoon thing for me. So, I spend about one to two hours there. And it's really helped me overcome a lot of challenges in my life, dealing with a lot of trauma and other aspects of overall personal development and recovery.

WILL: That's awesome. I normally would never know what you're even talking about, or whatever, but [chuckles] my daughter is into dance. So, every Tuesday, I take her to dance. She begs me to take her, so I take her. So, my daughter is three—about to turn four. And every time we go to dance, she begs us to let her do the aerial dance. Like, I don't ever try to tell her, "Hey, you're too small," or whatever, but we're like, "Let's wait on that one. And then, let's wait until you can do the dance and then get up there." But she is so excited to get on the aerial dance and to do that. So, for you, was it scary when you started doing it, or did you just jump right in? How was it?

MANDY: I always jump right into everything, but it was hard at first. It looks like it shouldn't be that hard, but it takes a lot of strength. And I was in a much different place eight months ago than I am now. It amazes me the transformation and growth that I've been able to see in myself because, from the very beginning, my instructor encouraged me to video myself. So, I have beautiful videos of progressions. And I can't wait to get a little bit more confident with my own social media and start sharing some of the before and afters because I really want to inspire people. It's done wonders for me and my mental health.

WILL: A lot of respect to you because I don't know if I could just trust, I don't know what you call it, but that ribbon, that material just to hold you. I don't know if I could do it. So, a lot of respect to you [chuckles].

MANDY: So, my instructor likes to point out a fun fact, and I'm going to butcher it. I think it can hold whatever a baby elephant weighs. It can hold up to three tons safely.

WILL: Is it...I'm going to throw this...I'ma tie it in with Victoria. Is it kind of like...because I know with rock climbing, it's all about hand placement, especially if you're belaying. Are the mistakes when you are not paying attention, and you let go of one of the materials, or how does it work?

MANDY: Mistakes happen when you think about it too much. And that is what I'm always working on is to just stop thinking about it and just doing it because I'm an overthinker, too. And when I start to think about it too much, then I get messed up. But your body knows. Your body adapts. And it learns after the exercise is over. So, in the evenings, after your exercises, that's when your body is, like, doing its internal magic and, like, memorizing your stuff. So, that's why when you go back, it gets easier each time because your muscle memory actually grows when you're on your downtime.

VICTORIA: Oh yeah. Yeah, I was going to say about's funny that you asked that question, Will, about, like, the things that actually hold you because people get that question in climbing, too, about the ropes. Like, are the ropes actually going to hold you? And once you're comfortable with it, you know that it can hold a lot more weight than you [laughs], but it still can be scary. And I've seen people in Joshua Tree doing aerial silks from a line that's been drawn across the tops of two boulders. So, super cool. There's a lot of crossover in the community, I think, between people who do that type of dance and who also enjoy climbing and being outside. So, I love it.

And so, you make a really good point about how you learn and how information seeps into your brain. And maybe how do you see the world of podcasting and all the things you can learn from podcasting, like, how does that fit into, like, how you learn and how you think about the world?

MANDY: You know, I've built my entire career on figuring things out, and just building memory, and repeating processes, and figuring out what people want. Because, to me, editing is more than AI can do at this time.

WILL: Yeah. And I think you're super talented at what you do, so I just want to make sure that I tell you that. Like, you've done a really good job with us. I remember whenever I first had a conversation with Chad, I didn't know to what extent that being a podcast host with this podcast would be. But whenever he said, "We have an editor who will cut some stuff, make you sound good," I was like, "Oh, okay." "Like, essentially, Mandy is doing the hard work for us."

MANDY: [laughs]

WILL: And so, I was like, "I'm in. Let's do this." So, it's an art to do this. It's an art. How did you get started? How did you get the ball rolling to get to the point you're at right now?

MANDY: I was scrappy. I go in time by how old my daughter is, and my daughter is almost 15. So, that's how long I've been doing this. Because I was a single mom and I was a waitress. So, at the time, I had a one-bedroom apartment, and I still had a laptop. And my neighbor didn't have a Wi-Fi password. So, I used my neighbor's Wi-Fi, and I started doing virtual assistant jobs. And I met a developer. He was like, "Can you edit a podcast for me?" And I was like, "Yeah, I can totally do that."

And I got off the call and started Googling what is a podcast. And this was back in 2010, mind you, so podcasting was new at that point. And so, I just learned it, and I did a decent job. And every podcast that he did, I got better and better. And then, he had friends, and it just kind of turned into, like, Mandy's the go-to for tech podcasting there for a little bit. And I, at one point, got a referral to thoughtbot, and I've been with you ever since. I think it's been going on five or six years now.

VICTORIA: What's your first piece of advice for someone who's interested in starting their own podcast?

MANDY: Get a producer. I prefer to be behind the scenes. So, I like to help other people shine. So, like, my goal as a producer is just to have the host show up and be the talent and say the interesting things. So, if you want to have the bandwidth to be able to do that, you know, let somebody else do that work who specializes it because you can really bring your full self to the table and do what you need to do as the host and have fun with it.

VICTORIA: Yeah. And I think people either correctly estimate that it is a lot of work to edit your own podcast and to create the content, do all the marketing, invite people, plan great content. And it is much easier if you have help [laughs]. And you're probably going to have a better podcast that people want to listen to because it sounds good, and you might not want to skimp on that detail.

MANDY: Yeah. The other thing I would say when you go to start a podcast is a lot of people are focused on equipment. And that can take you down a long rabbit hole and make you never start to actually record the podcast because you're too worried about all of the details. Get a microphone and go. You don't even need an editor. You can make yourself sound decent through tons of free software. Audacity is one of my favorite platforms to use to edit podcasts. It's been free and open source since I've started.

WILL: Yeah. I love the advice, what you said, because not everyone...I don't want to do total assumptions, but majority of people fit in two camps. You have the people that want to be out front and chat and can connect with anyone. But you also have the people behind the scenes. So, I'm glad you said that because I think a lot of stuff...when people realize who they really are and what they're good at, it makes them so much better. I can't imagine doing a podcast and trying to edit everything and push it out. I think I'm decent at doing the podcast, and you make us so much better. So, I'm so glad that you said that about kind of just knowing your roles and what's your strengths and everything, so...

MANDY: Absolutely. I find it relaxing to edit a podcast. Believe it or not, editing a podcast with software is kind of like putting a puzzle together. I was a kid that loved to sit down with puzzles. You know, it is true that once I come to kind of memorize waveforms, like, Will, I know when you're going to say, "Um" a lot of times before I even hear you say, "Um" because I've recognized your speech patterns and same with Victoria. I will be able to pick them out. And it's very interesting. That's a little-known fact from a producer standpoint [chuckles].

WILL: Well, that's actually really cool because I don't really talk about this much, but I'm originally from Louisiana, and so I have a thick Southern accent. And so, that was actually one of my fears about doing, like, a podcast. So, it's actually interesting that you're saying that you know the ums and, um, which I just did [laughs], but you know how to help us out with that.

So, yeah, that's actually...I think that was one of the things I have respect for you is that you break down the barriers for people to be better and not be so insecure. Because if you're from Louisiana, there are so many words if you look at it and you try to pronounce it, it's going to mess you up, like Atchafalaya, or Natchitoches, or so many of those words that you're like, you almost have to know the word and pronouncing is going to mess you up.

MANDY: I call it...and I don't think anybody is a not smart person, but when I edit podcasts, like, the finished product comes out, I liken it to giving the speakers IQ points because the listeners hear the final, polished version. A lot of people start sentences three times over. They only hear the polished version. So, in essence, it's giving the speakers IQ points just to give them a little bit more, you know, of a leg up.

Nobody wants to really hear somebody bumbling around, but we all do it. We all get nervous. It's human nature to stumble and get nervous and let all those speech patterns out that show us as nervous. But that's what we're for is to clean everybody up. And I love getting to help people have that confidence to go because it's just like, "Don't worry. I got you. Just go out there, have fun, and you're going to sound great."

VICTORIA: And, in your experience, what kind of reasons for a podcast make the most sense for a business? Like, it's a common piece of advice if you want to build a community to start a podcast, but why is that? Or, like, when does it really make sense for you to start your own podcast?

MANDY: I mean, you nailed the number one is the community. But, honestly, also, it's a great sales tool, especially if you're a customer with customers, and you're helping people network and expand the network. You're featuring the people. You're expanding the network broader than a community like in a Slack channel, say, or a message board because those are fine, too.

But putting your company out there and being authority and also giving people access to free content that is helpful to them can really help a business establish that trust in the market and be like, wow, they really take their time to put this out there. One of the things that I constantly still to this day hear people talk about is the thoughtbot Handbook, that was written years and years ago. And it was a beautiful piece of free content, and everybody still talks about it.

WILL: Yeah, I agree. I think one thing about thoughtbot is the handbook. I still hear people talk about it, and it's referenced often. So, that's actually really good advice. What does success look like for you, like, six months now to five years? Where do you want to go?

MANDY: I think, for me, I've been in the tech industry for a really long time. I've fallen into the background a little bit too much in that I used to produce a pretty popular podcast called Greater Than Code. And I needed to take a step back from that because, one, it was becoming pretty much a full-time job.

You know, content is in a really weird place. I've really been trying to pivot into the general content creation space because I do marketing as well, social media, design, and assets. I've designed my own website. I design my own graphics. So, just kind of letting people know that I'm kind of a one-stop, one-shot person. I do it all myself right now, and I have forever. The only thing I outsource is I have a transcriptionist who is a real person, which is a great selling point to a lot of clients of mine because I don't use AI. And I do have a person who goes over it with the human touch who is well-versed in the software developer lingo.

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VICTORIA: What kind of trends do you see with podcasting and with the technology used to manage and produce podcasts?

MANDY: I see podcasting, in general, be a come-and-go trend in this industry. It tends to be, you know, one of the things that businesses are excited to ramp up on. But then it's also one of the things that is the first to go when things get tough or busy or you need to allocate your resources elsewhere. Podcasting seems to be like a trend that I see coming, going with the economy.

It's actually very weird to bring it to mind now that you mention it because people love podcasts. But when things are unstable, it's almost like they see it as a perk, and it just becomes something that's easily let go. And that's why I think thoughtbot and the podcasts have been so strong is that they have been kept going no matter what in the industry.

And thoughtbot has really become an authority in not just, you know, it started out as a Ruby podcast. And it very much has grown into a bigger startup, entrepreneurial, consultancy-driven show. And so, it just shows that when you stick in the game, what, we're 520-something episodes in now, that you really do have great things achieved.

VICTORIA: Yeah. And it sounds like just, you know, having that persistence and just keep going, and if you've found a formula that works for you, you can really benefit from continuing to invest in it. I love that. And let's see, what tips do you give people on how to have more exciting conversations, more engagement?

MANDY: I love when people just join the call and immediately hit record because some of the best parts of the conversations happen, and you're like, "Oh, wait, we should have been recording that." Start recording and relax and have...The opening conversations that we started this conversation with, it's an icebreaker. It gets into some of your everyday background.

And as hosts, one of the things that I told Victoria and Will to establish rapport with the audience to kind of start dropping a bit of the narrative. You talk about your story, and then the listeners become invested in you, and that's why they come back, too. It's great content all around, but they also really start to love the hosts too.

WILL: Yeah, I agree with that because most of the podcasts that I do listen to it's mostly around the host and the way that they treat people. Because if there's a host that's very mean, aggressive, I'm probably not going to listen to them. And, honestly, that's just me, like, I'm not saying don't listen to them. But the hosts do make the podcast a lot of times. And I'm not saying that we make the podcast though, but...

MANDY: [laughs] You do.

WILL: [laughs]

MANDY: It's the chemistry. You guys, I don't know if you know this, but I'm your biggest fan. Like, it's the chemistry. And it's The Bike shed. Fun fact: Joël and Stephanie, like, I told Joël [laughs]...when Joël took over from Steph and Chris, he had different co-hosts each week. And as soon as he had his episode with Stephanie, I said, "Joël, it's Stephanie."

VICTORIA: Yeah. And it can take a little while to get your dynamic between your co-host going. And other times, it happens right away, and it's very easy and natural. So, I love that for Stephanie and Joël. So, the idea behind a podcast like The Bike Shed, where it's two main hosts and they're coming up with different topics that they want to dive into, and sometimes they have guests but most of the time they don't, versus a show like Giant Robots where you're interviewing guests, what do you think about the content for each of those? Like, how do you kind of separate those in your mind and the direction content-wise?

MANDY: Marketing and knowing your audience. So, the Giant Robots appeals to startups and entrepreneurs. The Bike Shed is more into the code and into the nitty gritty of software development, so they go into deeper concepts. But Giant Robots is more about talking to the people. It's more of an interview-style show. It's featuring interesting people doing really awesome things and, getting the stories out there and connecting. And that's why I love that thoughtbot has both podcasts. We've just started, what—Giant Robots on Tour—to cater to the EWAA region, which is super exciting.

VICTORIA: Yeah and, for me, being an interview-style podcast gives me this opportunity to have these deep conversations with really interesting people that you wouldn't necessarily get into in, like, a normal networking event, right?

MANDY: Right.

VICTORIA: So, if you can think of a list of 10 interesting people you want to talk to, you should start a podcast.


MANDY: And if you can think of those people, a producer like me will also hunt those ten interesting people down for you and see if they'll talk to you because we can do that, too.

WILL: That is the truth.

MANDY: I've tracked some pretty cool people down. I'm pretty proud of my skills.

VICTORIA: We are absolutely thrilled to have you with us here today, Mandy, and to be such a big part of our podcast, and super delighted to have you come out of the background and be on the show with us today and share your voice. Do you have anything else that you'd like to promote?

MANDY: I'd just like to say that I am taking on clients. I would love to get into a general creative content role to utilize all my many skills that I've scrappily picked up over the years. It's hard to put into a resume. You can check me out at

WILL: It's not just podcasts, correct? So, if I wanted to try to become an influencer, could you help me with that? Like, what's the different areas that you could help me?

MANDY: Oh, girl, yes. Let's make you an influencer, Will. Let's go.

VICTORIA: I could see that for you, Will.

WILL: I've thought about it, but it's a lot of work. So, that's a big thing, so...[laughs]

VICTORIA: Wonderful. I think that's really interesting to think about, Mandy. And I hope that people get a lot out of this episode when they're trying...if they're in this process of considering their own marketing plans, and podcast production, and other types of creative strategy, they might have to reach out to you.

MANDY: Thank you so much for having me.

WILL: Thank you for being here.

You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at You can find me on Twitter @will23Larry.

VICTORIA: And you can find me on Twitter @victori_ousg.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Check her out at Thanks for listening. See you next time.


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