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May 14, 2020

This week, I sat down (virtually, of course) with Joi Podgorny, Founder of Good People Solutions. 

Joi has had a very impressive and wide-ranging career, including developing and launching successful community business models for the wildly popular children's brands Animal Jam and Chuggington. In her work with Good People Solutions, she focuses on corporate diversity and inclusion training in VR. In this session of the Cohere podcast, Joi shares hard-won wisdom she has acquired from her impressive career, her guidance on building communities for children and families, and her point of view on the state of VR (hint: winter is not coming). She was also kind enough to council me on my son's excessive Roblox usage.

Highlights from our conversation:

On launching one of the first virtual worlds for children:
"One of my favorite, diversions on that crazy roller coaster that is my career was working with a company called  Ludorum and launching the preschool cartoon Chuggington. I was able to build a virtual world, from the 3D models that the animation team were building. We built one of the very first virtual worlds inside of Unity back in 2007. 

I was able to not only build one of those virtual worlds with really cool, beautifully made 3d models from the actual cartoon. I got to be part of the launch of a very successful, preschool cartoon series. I also got to manage a team out in China at the time, and learn about the globalization of teams."

On including the community in product development:
"A big part of community management is giving up the idea that you have all the answers. You're more of a guide and a facilitator. You're like a camp counselor who's like, "Hey, what are we going to do today? Oh, that doesn't sound exactly right. How about we rethink that a little bit" - (you take) feedback from the community itself and have that help guide you. I've been on so many teams, amazing, brilliant developers, and programmers working on those teams and had to gently, over the course of many months and sometimes years, guide them to the place where the community should be able to have some feedback into how this game or community is going to look. (It's about) really letting go of the idea that you as the company are the only person who can figure this out."

On the hype around a "VR Winter":
"if the only measure of success is whether you have mass-market penetration and dominance, that's a depressing world to live in and especially as a community person. 

The idea that I can't get an Oculus Go or an Oculus Quest right now (is absurd). They have been sold out, and right when they get them back in stock, they sell out again. So this whole concept of like, no one's buying them - everyone's buying them!

Doing diversity, equity, and inclusion training, and leveraging the research in academia that says immersive environments and the phenomena of presence within virtual reality, where your mind actually remembers the experiences that you have in virtual reality as a memory. You have a 75 to 90% higher retention rate rather than just reading something or watching a movie because you're remembering it as a lived experience. Leveraging that possible."

Resources mentioned in the podcast: