Interview: Melody Joy Kramer

Melody Joy Kramer designs and builds tools and strategies that help organizations reach new audiences or think about audiences in new ways. She has a newsletter that encourages people to make things together. And she has no fear of missing out. This interview was conducted via email.

How do you describe yourself? Your work?
I’m Mel. I would describe myself as someone who is naturally curious and who likes to connect people and ideas together.

I spent most of my career working in public radio but now I work in the federal government on a term appointment. My work basically is building stuff (tools, processes, platforms) that help people share what they know and learn from other people. At NPR, I led a team that built our internal analytics dashboard.

At my current job, I recently redid the way we onboard new employees and am now working on a way to surface or discover​ the projects we build. I find working in the public sector to be really satisfying and I enjoy that it allows me to share in such a public way (because I’m working with and for the public).

What’s important to you about sharing?
I think we’re a fuller and more rich community when we learn from others and share what we know.

When you have a mountain of things to do, how do you decide what to start with?
I make paper to-do lists and just brute force go through them in order. Directing, producing, editing, and writing for various public radio shows has made me impervious to feeling nervous under deadlines. And I’m never so overwhelmed – I don’t really have a mountain of things to do on a daily basis. And I think if I did, I would probably eliminate whatever was the most stressful.

I like my work. I like my life outside of work. I don’t really go out a whole lot – but that’s by choice. I tend to need a few hours of watching mindless TV or reading a good book or cooking something after standing in front of a computer all day.

What’s the role of change in your life?
I was in a horrible roll-over car accident when I was 24 – about 8 years ago. And it basically made my dominant hand useless for a time. And it really sucked – I had to relearn how to grip a pencil and fork and have done a lot of work to basically make it so I can use my left hand. I adapted. And nothing will ever be as horrible as that, hopefully, so I can deal with anything less horrible well because I dealt with that.

What’s something you embrace now that you used to resist?
I used to be much more inclined to say yes to stuff and always felt a bit overwhelmed. I’ve stopped doing that. I say no, I point people to other people, and I realize that I really need my downtime to stay sane. I have no fear of missing out. It’s really quite pleasant.

When the status quo isn’t working for you, how do you respond?
I really enjoy the status quo – I don’t think I’m as inclined to need to change as I was when I was younger. It’s comforting for me to have my routine because it allows me to be creative (and not have to think about my daily routine). I can’t really think of much that I would change.

Which types of things are too important to compromise on?
Hmm. I think ensuring that you have time to yourself, whatever that means for you. Some people need to bounce off of a lot of people. Some people don’t. There’s no right or wrong way, there’s only whatever works for you. I recently watched the episode of Parks and Rec where Donna and Tom had a day to “treat yoself.” It’s important to “treat yoself,” however you interpret that.

Is there a question you wished people asked you more?
“What can we learn from [insert entirely different fi​eld​​ / person / way of looking at the world​]​?”

What’s something you’ve learned recently that really struck you?
I read a piece from the Journal of Family Sciences from the mid-90s about how the family of the Unabomber heavily debated whether to turn him in, and how that decision weighed on them. It was incredibly interesting to think about that decision, and what they went through to make it.

What’s the best kept secret of adulthood?
Going to bed early is actually really great.

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