Carolyn Kiel is an experienced training and talent development leader who helps global companies prepare their employees to succeed in changing business environments. As the Host and Producer of Beyond 6 Seconds, she has created a platform where entrepreneurs, creators and leaders can showcase their candid and inspiring stories. Carolyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vassar College and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The Joy of Podcasting and Neurodivergent Stories with Carolyn Kiel
Have you been sitting on an idea for a podcast for a while? Would you like to come up with an idea for a podcast and not quite sure where to look? Do you just need someone to say, “Give it a shot and see how it goes”? I have felt that way for a few years, and Carolyn Kiel, the creator and host of the Beyond 6 Seconds podcast, is one of my inspirations to give this medium a shot. After publishing over 150 episodes, she has a lot of wisdom to share. A master interviewer and creative force, Carolyn tells me how she got started podcasting, how her podcast has grown and evolved over the past four years, and how the conversations she had with people who are autistic and neurodivergent changed her life.
Topics discussed in this episode:
– The motivation that led Carolyn to start Beyond 6 Seconds
– How she chose the name
– How she chose the topic and format of her podcast
– How she got her first guests
– The parts of the podcasting process that give her the most joy
– Why neurodivergent stories became her focus
– How learning about and meeting people in the neurodivergent community changed her life
– Carolyn’s autism diagnosis that she received as an adult
– Debunking outdated stereotypes of people who are autistic and neurodivergent
– How the biases in women’s healthcare also impact the biases faced by women and girls who are neurodivergent and autistic
– Interviews she’s done on Beyond 6 Seconds with journalist and author Eric Garcia and The Life Autistic YouTuber Hunter Hansen
– At the end of the episode, I share some (mostly free) tools I use to create this podcast
Links to resources:
Sign up for Carolyn’s newsletter
Beyond 6 Seconds on Twitter – @Beyond6S
Beyond 6 Seconds on Instagram – @Beyond6Seconds
Beyond 6 Seconds on Facebook – @Beyond6Seconds
YouTube – Beyond 6 Seconds
LinkedIn – Beyond 6 Seconds
Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
Christa’s website – ChristaAvampato.com
Eric Garcia’s website – http://www.ericmgarcia.net/about.html
Hunter Hansen’s website – https://thelifeautistic.com/
Zencastr for interview recording
Twisted Wave for audio editing
All about audiograms for marketing
Otter.ai for episode transcripts
Canva for digital quote posters on social media
Anchor for hosting and distribution
WordPress for the website
Unsplash for images
Fri, 5/13 3:48PM • 23:06
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Carolyn Kiel, Christa Avampato
Christa Avampato 00:00
Hey everybody! Welcome back to the JoyProject. I’m Christa Avampato, your host, and I’m so excited you’re back with us for our second interview episode.
I met Carolyn Kiel almost a decade ago through a mutual friend. And although I barely knew her at the time, she always supported my projects right from the get go. She came to my events, she often sent me things that she thought would interest me—books, other contacts for people I could collaborate with in my work, interesting articles, job postings.
One of the tent poles of her life and career has been lifting up others in a million different ways. And I’m so happy that she agreed to sit down with me to talk about what brings her joy so that I can lift up all the incredible work that she’s been doing and the wonderful person that she is.
It came as absolutely no surprise to me when I asked her what brings her joy she said podcasting. Her podcast, Beyond 6 Seconds, has been one of my favorites for years. Also not surprising—the entire premise for the podcast is about lifting up the stories of other people. And now she’s specifically focused on lifting up the stories of people in the neurodivergent community.
So without further ado, please welcome Carolyn Kiel. Carolyn, welcome to JoyProject.
Carolyn Kiel 01:04
Thanks, Christa. I’m happy to be here.
Christa Avampato 01:06
I am so excited to talk to you today. So let’s just go ahead and jump right into it. Carolyn, please tell me and everybody listening something that brings you joy.
Carolyn Kiel 01:14
I find my joy in podcasting. It’s a hobby. I have a totally separate career. But I’ve had my own podcast for a little over four years. It’s called Beyond 6 Seconds. I started it originally just to have a creative outlet after I had been singing in an a cappella group in New York City. I wound up taking another job further out of New Jersey and couldn’t get down to the city as much as like. I still needed to do something creative. And I wasn’t able to do singing at that time. So I decided to try out podcasting.
I figured I would interview some of my friends who I either knew through social media or knew in my offline life about the interesting projects that they were working on, what they were passionate about, because it’s pretty easy to talk to people about what excites them. So I figured that would be a good place to start. I kept it very broad at the time.
After the first couple of guests and episodes, it just started taking off. So I interviewed a whole variety of people who are starting their own businesses or leading volunteer projects, or just had a really interesting hobby. It was pretty broad. I did that for almost four years.
And then last year, I went through some personal changes and realizations that brought me to change the focus of my podcast. So it’s actually got a little bit more niche focus now, which is helpful. Starting in 2022, I am interviewing neurodivergent people who are autistic, have ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and other conditions like that.
At the end of last year, I was diagnosed as autistic. Realizing what it looks like in women and girls and getting an official diagnosis, I started to make friends at the time within the autistic and neurodivergent communities. It became a passion of mine to hear more stories and common experiences from people either growing up or in their current adult lives to be able to share that with other people to see what it’s like as a neurodivergent adult.
These are the challenges that we’ve had these successes that we’ve had. And it’s so different based on your background, your level of support needs, your race, gender, and age. There’s so many stories to share. So I’m really excited about that. And it brings me a lot of joy.
Christa Avampato 03:27
I love that you took something that for some people could be affirming or could also be upsetting. To realize that you wanted to turn that around and tell joyful stories and not shy away from the difficulty, but celebrate the other side of it. We certainly don’t see this represented in media enough. We don’t see it represented on television. We may have people in our lives that we don’t even realize are going through this, managing this diagnosis and what it means to live and to live well with it. Will you continue to talk about passion projects of people who are neurodivergent?
Carolyn Kiel 04:09
We talk about a lot of the same things. So if they may have their own businesses, some of them work in corporate careers. Some of them are still students. Some of them are artists. So it’s really fascinating to see where everybody is on their journey and how neurodivergence really plays into how they’ve grown up and gone through school and how it impacts their career. Some people really tried to go the corporate route and either weren’t supported there or figured out it wasn’t for them. Some became entrepreneurs or started following their own separate passion projects and other people still work in the corporate world and they talk about the challenges they have there, how they have to advocate for themselves and other issues like that.
Christa Avampato 04:50
And as far as finding joy in podcasting. Can you talk a little bit about how you were a fan of podcasts, you were a fan of connecting with people. How did you make that jump and realize, “not only do I want to be a fan of podcasts and support people who are either on podcasts or creating them, but I actually want to create one myself.”
Carolyn Kiel 05:08
It’s interesting. It actually happened pretty quickly. Sometimes I tend to overthink things. But this I really didn’t. For some reason, I kind of jumped into it. I was a fan of podcasts. And in November 2017, right before Thanksgiving, I decided to just do it. I’d been a singer and I’ve worked on our website. I’ve done audio recordings. So I know a little bit about audio recording, a little bit about how to use a microphone. The technology piece, I felt like I was pretty good at. So I can quickly teach myself the rest of the pieces of how to put together a podcast, like what kind of hosting services you need and all these other things.
Then I just did a little bit every day. I’m going to research hosting services. I’m going to research how to get distributed to all the sites and how to title and write show notes. I’ve interviewed over 150 people, and I’m still nervous every single time that I start. I always get that panic right before, and then it’s amazing.
At the beginning, I said, “Well, I’ll start with my friends. Because if I screw up the recording, they won’t be mad at me.” And it’s low stakes. So if anyone wants to podcast and do an interview-based one, I would recommend starting out like that—just find your friendly guests who are sympathetic and understand that things may go wrong and you’re just starting it out.
I didn’t really have a lot of fears besides the same nervousness that I always get before I have this conversation with someone. I don’t have to make money off of this and I don’t have to reach a specific goal. I just wanted to try this out for fun, a creative thing, and help people.
Christa Avampato 06:43
And what is it about podcasting specifically that brings you joy? Is it that finding a really great guest, having the conversation. There’s so much production that happens on the back end, and you’re a one person show, right? You do everything on your podcast from setting up the guests, doing the recordings, all of the backend work, the distribution, the marketing everything. Is it really that whole package or are there certain parts of it that you just get into a groove with?
Carolyn Kiel 07:07
Yeah, there are a lot of pieces that bring me a lot of joy. I do have some support with editing and some support with putting together my graphics for social media, my audiograms, and some help with show notes. But I’m over involved in every part of it. I love looking for guests. I love looking for interesting stories. And like once I started doing that I kind of got like an eye and a feel for what I was looking for.
I love finding stories and reaching out and I wind up with a long waiting list of guests, which is awesome. That’s exciting for me. And I love the recording. I really liked the editing process, which a lot of people think is tedious. And they try to outsource the whole thing. And while I do get quite a bit of help with that, I still like going through and listening and making the decisions about what parts need to be cut out or what parts need to be cleaned up. And I like to record a short two to three minute intro in the beginning that introduces “this is what you’re going to hear about or here are my thoughts”. I still do a lot of the editing, which I know a lot of people don’t necessarily enjoy because it is kind of tedious. I find it relaxing. I get into a groove and it does take a lot of time but I enjoy that as well.
Christa Avampato 08:10
And where did you come up with the name Beyond 6 Seconds? I’m always so intrigued to find out how people name things, and how does a name conveys the ethos of what it is that you’re doing.
Carolyn Kiel 08:20
That was one of the last things that I had to figure out before I could launch. I really didn’t have a good name for this podcast.
I got the name Beyond 6 Seconds from a career study that was done about recruiters only look at your resume for about six seconds before they make a decision to advance your resume to the next round. And I don’t know how legit that survey was. It’s sort of a statistic that gets thrown around a lot. So I said okay, “Well, I was really focused on people’s careers and what they’re doing.”
So I said, I want to go Beyond 6 Seconds and give people a little more time. So they don’t have to get their pitch down really solid. They don’t have to present like a one-sided story where they’ve got the full narrative pre-scripted. I want to leave time for those messy conversations about what worked, what didn’t work, and where did they have to adjust. And a lot of times we interview people, and it’s almost they’re presenting themselves at the end of the story. It’s like, yes, I’ve reached the mountaintop, and this is my thing. But how real is that really? A lot of people are in the middle of figuring stuff out. And it’s like, “I don’t really know if this is gonna work, but this is what I’m doing now.” I wanted to embrace that ambiguity and those challenges, and you need more than six seconds to do that. So I want to provide that platform for people.
Christa Avampato 09:33
Is there a particular conversation or even several conversations from your podcast that really stand out to you?
Carolyn Kiel 09:39
It was probably the beginning of my own journey about learning more about autism and what it really looks like in adults. Almost a year ago now. I interviewed a YouTuber, Hunter Hansen. He runs a YouTube channel called The Life Autistic. I found him when Instagram reels first launched. He showed up in my discovery tab. So I just started following him. I read his blog. He outlined his whole story of how he started writing and how he came to terms with his autism. And he wants to talk more about being autistic more openly. Then he started a YouTube channel. And then he started with Instagram. So I’m like this is the outline for a conversation that I love to have. I reached out to him and we set up some time to talk. Talking with him just felt so comfortable and I loved hearing the way that he presents his story. We talked about how he decided to talk more openly about being autistic, and also his process for creating YouTube content. He is really passionate about helping autistic and other neurodivergent people in the corporate world because he has his own corporate job on top of all this other stuff that he’s been doing. So how can he be an advocate for that, and I think that’s something that he’s been focusing more on these days.
That really started me saying, “Alright, I want to follow more autistic content creators and see what people are talking about and learn more about autism and how it presents in girls and women.” And then over the course of several months, is when I realized like,” Okay, this is this is what this looks like and it’s not at all like what I learned growing up in like the 80s and 90s about autism.” What we all learned, those stereotypes, are mostly not true.
I was very comfortable in these communities. I just thought I was a happy ally, that I could kind of hang out in here. And then it really wasn’t until I found a blog that focused on what autism looks like in women and girls and their thinking processes that it really clicked for me. All these things that I was labeled and called growing up could be indications of autism. It got me thinking.
Now I’m really curious about this. There’s a lot of things that are lining up. And I want to pursue an official diagnosis, which, again, not everybody has the opportunity to do for a whole variety of reasons. I was very lucky that I was able to find a practitioner who’s licensed to practice in my state and licensed to diagnose me. I was able to get scheduled in a reasonable amount of time. A lot of people are self-diagnosed for a whole variety of reasons and that’s valid as well. But for me, I wanted to go with the official diagnosis.
Christa Avampato 12:23
How does autism look different in women and girls?
Carolyn Kiel 12:27
Because almost all the research coming up was done with young, white, relatively affluent boys, that’s the model we tend to have. It’s like that with a lot of parts of healthcare as well. With girls, in general, sometimes the challenge is that girls tend to what’s called “mask better” This means you’re able to sort of cover your autistic traits. And either you’re really good at paying attention to what other people are doing around you, and you kind of mimic them either in your behaviors or your facial expressions, or you kind of feel like “oh, this is what I’m supposed to do in a social situation.” Even neurotypical girls and women are encouraged to mask and cover their behaviors more to conform to a lot of pieces of society. So that flows through with autism diagnoses.
In some cases that could be why it’s not picked up as much in girls and women. Women and girls get pegged as being oversensitive and fussy. And there’s a stereotype about autistic people not having empathy, which is actually not true at all. They may not display it and express it in the same ways as other people do. Some autistic people have too much empathy and that makes everything overwhelming. So I don’t know if that’s necessarily specific to gender. But it’s just other things to keep in mind. There’s more than just this one strict model that a lot of us grew up with.
And especially once you get to diagnosing women as adults. Then you’ve had a whole lifetime of masking and covering your behavior. So for me it was important to find someone who had experienced diagnosing women specifically. There are different tests that you can do for autism. Some are better for grown women. Some are better for grown men. There are totally different ones for children. So there’s a lot to learn about this.
Christa Avampato 14:17
Is there a conversation coming up on Beyond 6 Seconds that you’re really excited about?
Carolyn Kiel 14:24
Eric Garcia, who’s an autistic journalist. His main job is reporting on politics and economics. But he also started reporting on autism-related stories. And he wrote a book last year called We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation. He was one of my big reach guests. I had his audio book, and I listened to it when it came out last year. It was like, “Oh, I would love to interview him. His book really talks about how government policy in the United States really shaped the conversation about autism, which you don’t think about it. There were policy decisions being made by certain groups so people who had power and were very vocal shaped why we see and hear things about autism the way that we do, which is just fascinating. So I was connected to him on Instagram and reached out to see if he wanted to be on my show. And he said, “Okay. Yeah, here’s my publicist.”
My podcast is usually pretty chill and not super controversial, but he really brings it so we talk like about hot button issues which is fun.
Christa Avampato 15:23
Awesome. Oh, Carolyn, I can’t wait to hear. I’m obviously a huge fan of the podcast and have been for years. We actually did like one of the testers when you were just getting everything all set up.
Carolyn Kiel 15:32
I remember that. We were testing out Skype to see if I could figure it out. Way back in the day!
Christa Avampato 15:37
Yes. And I’m so excited to have seen it blow up. You have such a following and a community and it’s wonderful to be able to be on the sidelines cheering you on. If people want to hear more about you and about the podcast, where do they go? How do they find out more about you?
Carolyn Kiel 15:55
The best place to go is to my website, Beyond 6 Seconds dot net. You can find links to all my social media there. You can sign up for my newsletter where I give people sneak previews of episodes right before they come out. All my episodes are on the website so you can find them there. They’re all categorized.
Christa Avampato 16:13
Carolyn, thank you so much for joining us at JoyProject. I really hope that you will come back and chat with us again. This has been such a joy for me to be able to talk to you. Thank you so much for being here.
Carolyn Kiel 16:24
I’d love to come back. Thanks so much.
Christa Avampato 16:29
I’m so happy you got to meet Carolyn. She’s somebody who has enriched my life in so many different ways. And she’s the person who inspired me to start this podcast. I’m honored she took time to join us here on JoyProject. I hope she’s inspired you to broadcast your own stories and lift up the voices of others, too. On the web page of this episode at ChristaAvampato.com/joyproject you’ll find links to Carolyn’s website, her social media handles, and links to the resources and topics we discussed.
And if you subscribe to her newsletter, she gives you a checklist to start your own podcast. So head over to Beyond 6 Seconds dot net and subscribe to see an outline of steps from a pro.
At the end of each episode I share something related that’s brought me joy this week. In podcast land, there’s so much joy to be had. As Carolyn explained, there’s a lot that goes into creating a podcast: booking guests, determining topics, recording and editing episodes, research, marketing, writing show notes. I’m learning so much as I start this podcasting journey and I wanted to share a few tools that I’ve found helpful.
Zencastr for interview recording
I used Zoom to record all my early podcast episodes but as of May 3rd, Zoom limits free recordings to 40 minutes. I knew that wasn’t going to work going forward and to be honest, the recording on Zoom isn’t the best quality. I had to find another tool for future recordings, and I found a great free option. Zencastr is a modern web-based solution for high-quality audio and video podcast creation. When you record on Zencastr you get separate tracks (i.e. separate audio and video files) for each participant that are ideal for your post-production process. For Hobbyists like me, the free account is perfect.
Twisted Wave for audio editing
I was introduced to Twisted Wave for audio editing when I was exploring VoiceOver work. It’s a reasonable one-time fee for the software, easy to use, and has all the basic editing functionality I need for podcasting.
Audiograms for marketing
As I was researching fun ways to market this podcast, I learned about audiograms, a static image that’s converted into a video with photos, text, audio, a waveform, and transcriptions over it. So far I’ve been using Headliner.com to create them. There are a lot of different options for ways to create them so I’m still investigating other options. I share the audiograms on social media and they’ve been a fun visual to create.
Otter.ai for episode transcripts
Transcripts of episodes are very important to increase access, highlight important quotes from the coversations, increase search engine optimization on the website, and to provide extra links to resources and topics discussed. Otter.ai is a fantastic tool and absolutely worth the reasonable price. It provides timestamps, speaker names, and is easy to edit.
Canva for digital posters on social media
Another marketing tool I’m using it pulling quotes from the episodes and creating digital posters of them to share on social media with embedded links to the episode’s webpage. Canva is a free tool that works perfectly for this.
Anchor for hosting and distribution
Two years ago when I first started thinking about this podcast, I went to a class at the New York Public Library about podcasting. In the class, I learned about Anchor, a free tool that can host and distribute a podcast. It took me a while to set up everything in Anchor and to then feed the RSS to the many podcast platforms that are out there so I recommend giving yourself some time for that. So far, I’ve found Anchor easy to use and again, it’s another free tool.
WordPress for the website
I’ve been using WordPress for my personal and business websites for years. Rather than creating another website that I’d have to manage, I added a JoyProject podcast page to my personal website ChristaAvampato.com and my business website site DoubleOrNothingMedia.com. This way it sits alongside all my other content that I create and I don’t have anything separate to manage.
Unsplash for images
Unsplash is a fantastic site to learn about photographers and share their work. Many of the images are free to use, it’s easy to search, and the photographs are beautiful and inspiring.
I encourage to play around with different tools to see which combo works for you. When you’re first starting out, see how much you can do for free and only spend money when it’s truly worth it. Links to all these resources, tools, a transcript of the episode, and social media accounts are available at ChristaAvampato.com/JoyProject.
Let me know the tools you love to use. I’d love to learn from you!
In addition to this conversation with Carolyn, I also recorded a mini-episode of Joyful News. In these mini-episodes I gather stories from around the globe that spark joy to share with all of you. You can find these episodes at ChristaAvampato.com/JoyProject and everywhere you listen to podcasts.
Have a joy-filled week everyone and thanks for being here with us on JoyProject. I’ll be back in two weeks on May 31st with another interview episode and a Joyful News mini-episode. As always, I look forward to the conversation.