Mark Herschberg is the author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You and creator of the Brain Bump app.
From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia, with over a dozen patents to his name. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually.
At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many non-profits, currently serving on the board of Plant A Million Corals.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for High Velocity Radio.
Stone Payton: Welcome to the High Velocity Radio show, where we celebrate top performers producing better results in less time. Stone Payton here with you. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast with Cognosco Media. Mr. Mark Herschberg. Good afternoon, sir.
Mark Herschberg: Thanks for having me. It is a pleasure to be here today.
Stone Payton: Well, I have so been looking forward to this conversation. I got a ton of questions. I know we’re not going to get to them all, but I think a great place to start would be if you could share with me and our listeners mission purpose. What are what are you and your team really out there trying to do for folks, man?
Mark Herschberg: One of my passions in life is helping people with their professional efficacy, helping people be more effective in their careers and their lives. And so our books, our apps, the tools we put out, all the stuff that we give away for free. It’s all to help people be more effective and more successful.
Stone Payton: So have you found yourself kind of gravitating to a certain type of client, an industry, a sector, a niche, if you will, Or is it more broad, broader than that?
Mark Herschberg: It is more broad now. I have been teaching at MIT for over 20 years where through the research we’ve done at Sloan, in other places, we’ve refined what these skills are and how best to teach them. And when I teach at MIT, we do orient those lessons a little more for engineers and scientists, because that’s who we have at MIT. But when we put out the book, when we put out the tools, we put the resources, we’ve generalized them because skills like leadership, networking, negotiating, team building, these are universal and they apply in all fields and all disciplines.
Stone Payton: Okay, So I saw a Harvard Business School in my notes. I skipped over or didn’t notice in MIT. I got to hear more about the back story. Man Your path. How in the world did you find yourself doing this kind of work for these kind of people?
Mark Herschberg: And of unexpectedly, I began my career as a software engineer and realized that I wanted to become a CTO, a chief technology officer. What I learned as I understood the role, yes, I had to be a good engineer, but there were a bunch of other skills like negotiating, networking, leadership, hiring people, communication, all these things that you need to be successful as a leader that no one actually stopped to teach me. So when I trained myself, I began to upskill my team and at the same time MIT had gotten similar feedback. Companies hiring our students said, We want to see these skills. And by the way, we’re not having this issue with just MIT students or just engineers or just scientists. This is a universal problem. And research from universities around the country, from hiring firms, from corporations, universally say these skills are hard to find. And if you think about it, because we’re not teaching them. So at MIT, we created the Career Success Accelerator program, where we instill these skills into our students alongside their core math, science and engineering. And I wanted to reach a larger audience. I thought I was writing up some notes that I could share. And what I thought was 20 pages of notes turned out to be a 200 page book unexpectedly.
Stone Payton: So that was the first part of getting the book together. But talk a little bit about that experience. And I’m asking for my own benefit, but also a great many people who tap into this work are aspiring authors, people who are maybe they think maybe they have a book in them. What was that experience like? Did pieces of it come together easier than others yet? Talk to that a little bit.
Mark Herschberg: That I went through an interesting process because I did not plan to write the book. Now, this class we have at MIT, it is a very hands on experiential class. It’s not me and others lecturing at the students and them scribbling notes. They’re doing. They’re practicing. We’re having discussions so they don’t take a lot of notes. And for years I said, we need to help the students. Let’s write up some notes for them to take away. Let’s put these notes online, because MIT pioneered online courseware giving away our content for free for various reasons. That never happened. And when I was traveling a lot for my primary job, I build tech startup companies. I said, I’ve got some downtime. Let me write some notes. I really thought I was writing this 20 pages of notes. But 20 became 40 became 80, and I suddenly had over 100 pages and said, you know, I think there’s a book. So then I had to really step back and say, You can’t just throw a bunch of thoughts together and call it a book. And so I backed up. I went to the research about why are we teaching this and not that? What are other universities seeing? What are those corporate hiring companies seeing and then putting in the structure? So we came up with here are the ten skills that we see requested most often that are not generally taught to anyone. And from my years of teaching, I had the advantage that I know what the key ideas are. I know how to put it succinctly Where are the action items? What are the next questions? So a comment I get often is, Boy, I’m reading your book and I read a page. I have a question on the next page. You answered it. That’s not magic. That’s because I’ve been teaching. So if you are thinking of doing a book, don’t go and do your talks once it’s out. Start by doing your talks or going on radio programs. This will help you refine your content, understand how people will engage with it, and that will create a better book.
Stone Payton: Marvelous pro tip. We may carve that out and just share that. That’s good stuff, man. So now that you’ve been at this a while, what are you finding the most rewarding about the work? What is the most fun for you?
Mark Herschberg: Bone was coming upon the brain bump app. Now, one thing that I love about teaching is when I am in the room doing a big lecture or doing small groups, I can engage, I can see are people learning. I can sometimes see the light bulb go on in their head. And I love that. As an author, as someone going on radio programs like this. I don’t know if people are getting it. I generally think they are because I know how to explain this. I think it works, but you don’t get that feeling. And one of the big challenges that we know from learning is when someone reads a book, as soon as they finish that book, that’s it. They they stop with the content and they forget it all a week or two later. And it’s a terrible experience. We know with students it’s usually about 5 minutes after they walk out of the final. And that’s certainly how I was. So we want to help people retain what they learn to make it useful. And in fact, here’s one of the key limitations with a lot of existing content. If you think about a book where you read something is not where you need something, where you read an idea is not where you need an idea.
Mark Herschberg: So if you read the networking tips in my book, you’re probably doing it sitting at home. You’ve already met your dog, you’ve got a good relationship. You don’t need to build that. But two months later at the conference, that’s where you need those networking tips. So how do we get those tips when and where you need it? And from discussions with people, from all our experience, we create the brain bump app, which is, I think really the next evolution for books and podcasts and other content where we take the key ideas and put it into your hands so you can quickly access it when and where you need it in a context dependent way. And we get a lot more feedback on that. We talk to people, we see them using it. I don’t need to see you reading a book. You’re not probably going to let me watch you read a book, but people tell me about their experience with the app or I’ll sit with them and show, How are you using this app? What are you getting out of it? And that is so nice to see the impact we’re having. And we’ve had a tremendous way to really help people retain what they read in here.
Stone Payton: What a marvelous idea. So are you at this stage in the development of that app and having it out there, taking on other creators, other contributors, or is it confined to this content that we’ve been talking about for now? Or where are you in that?
Mark Herschberg: It is open. We first created a prototype for my book, and so there is you can still find the Career Toolkit app. So my book is The Career Toolkit. There is the Career Toolkit app, which is for free on the Android and iPhone stores, and that has the content from my book. Put it right in your pocket. Pull it up when you need it. But we saw this worked. We did our feedback from users, from content creators, and said, this can work not just for my book. There’s nothing special about how my book is done. We can do this for other books, podcasts, blogs, classes, talks. And we launched a little over a month ago. We’ve gotten some great traction. We continue to add content, so I’m constantly having new authors and content creators add advice from their books and podcasts and shows into the apps. There’s an ever growing list. You as the app user of brain bump you can go get for free from the iPhone and Android stores, and then you just select the blogs, a podcast, the books you want. Get those tips and you can use it one of two ways.
Mark Herschberg: Either you say, you know, I need those networking tips right now before I walk in the room. So you pull it up, you hit that networking tab and you get the tips. So you get the networking, you pull up the networking tag, everything’s tagged like hashtags, and you get this tips that you need. Or you say, I really just want to get better at leading. There’s never a moment where say, I’m about to lead in 2 minutes. I need that tip. You need it, you need it foundationally. You can set it. So at 9 a.m. each morning as you walk into the office, you get a tip, you get a pop up. You don’t even need to open the app. It’s got a little push to your phone when and where you ask for it. We don’t bother you with notifications you didn’t ask for. We don’t want to annoy you. Go ahead. There’s that leadership tip. Great. Swipe it away. 2 seconds a day. But by getting it each and every day, you’re building up that knowledge, that experience. And you’re better. You’re better at retaining it.
Stone Payton: Well, congratulations on the momentum with this thing, man. And I will definitely dive into that. I can see all kinds of applications, even for the work that we’re doing here at the Business Radio network. And of course, as you might imagine, I get to meet and cultivate relationships with a lot of folks who are creating some really solid content and to yet have another way to get it out there. And so effectively, that’s that’s fantastic. Now, you, of course, are no stranger at all to this whole process of of launching a new venture, a startup, helping other people do it. I got to ask, when you are initially working with some of these bright eyed folks who are very passionate about their ideas, do you find that sometimes they they walk into this with I don’t myths maybe a little bit strong, but some misconceptions, some preconceived notions, some some some fundamental assumptions where you have to kind of get them back on track and really help them understand what the path is more likely to look like.
Mark Herschberg: Very much so. And this is an important lesson both for people starting a business in general. I do a lot of tech startups, but also for those of you who are thinking of doing, let’s say, a book or a podcast or content. We often think of the hard work, I’m going to build that app, build that product, build the business, write the book. And boy, that’s grueling. That’s a lot of work. And then people get to the end. I know for books they do. Oh, we got the release party and all that sigh of relief. Here’s the secret When you get to that launch party for your book, when you get to the release for your app or your business, that’s not the end of the race. That is the start in technology. It’s not the best technology that wins. There’s a laundry list of going back to VHS versus Betamax. It is the good enough technology with the better marketing that wins. It is not the best business book out there. That is a New York Times bestseller. It is the not horribly written, good enough business book that has the right press and marketing. So you need to recognize, no matter what your venture, you have to get out there and market it and promote it. And that is a grind. And too many people focus on the creation work, which is obviously important. If you build a bad product, no one wants it, but then you’ve got market it and that’s at least 50% of the work, if not more.
Stone Payton: You clearly serve as a mentor to people in this space and in other domains. Have you had the benefit of one or more mentors that have helped you navigate the terrain in these in these different areas?
Mark Herschberg: I haven’t had as many formal mentors, but I have been lucky with some good managers, some good colleagues and people I could learn from, including just some peers, just some friends. And this is an important note. We often think of mentors as, Oh, you’re you’re 20 years ahead of me down the path, so I need to follow you. But really, we can learn from anyone. Everyone has something they can teach us. And if you keep your eyes and ears open, you can enhance your skills. You can develop and grow from nearly everyone you meet. I think that’s really important for accelerated growth.
Stone Payton: So when I talk to people like you with so much energy, so much enthusiasm, so many irons in the fire, as my dad would say, I’ve learned to ask, so I’m going to. What’s next, man? Where is your energy effort? Focus over the next, I don’t know, ten, 18 months?
Mark Herschberg: Good question. There are a number of things. I have a tech startup that we got some early seed funding for. We should be launching something in about six weeks from the time that we’re recording this towards the end of November 2022. So that should be out probably early January. We have the brain bump app that we mentioned and that app, we’re live, but we have a long roadmap. And equally important, I said marketing is at least as important as the technology piece. So getting more users and hand in hand getting more content on the app from those authors, podcasters and other content creators. And then I’m doing more with the book, especially, I think 2023 is the first year where we’re not at least partially in pandemic mode. We’re an endemic mode, but we’re getting back to normal ish. So the speaking that I do at conferences and at companies that should pick up as well. So those are my three top priorities, plus a course personal things that I want to just get back to.
Stone Payton: Yeah, well, you know what? Before we wrap, let’s do a little bit deeper dive on that one topic, because marketing. Yes, it is so important. I’m sure even you have probably skinned your knee. You may have a little scar tissue. Certainly learned some do’s and some don’ts. Let’s leave our listeners with a few pro tips and things to be thinking about reading, doing, not doing when it comes to this all important topic of of marketing.
Mark Herschberg: Let me give you a really game changing thought on marketing, because a lot of the listeners, they are business people. We think about our business content being marketed, a lot of content marketing. Today’s marketing channels aren’t necessarily optimized for our needs. So let’s think about social media. Social media is great. If you’re doing breaking news, reporters love it or it works great for visual stuff. If you are a model or a cake maker, great. Put those photos online. They do really well. But those of us in business, whether we’re thought leaders or we just have some business that’s not very visual, maybe it’s a tax accounting service. We’re not putting out photos and our content is evergreen. This puts us in a trap because when I post something today, I post something at 3 p.m. today on leadership. Well, let’s think about what happens. Half the people aren’t even on social media that day, so half my followers don’t see it. The ones who do see it. A number of them say, Well, yeah, that’s great, but leadership’s not my issue today. My issue today is trying to get more sales, trying to hire people, some other problems. So I’m not paying attention even though I saw it. And that post fades away because it is temporal. We put things in that chronological order, but that’s a great leadership tip.
Mark Herschberg: And now six months from now, one of my followers, one of my potential customers, they say now I need some leadership advice, but they’re not going back to see what Mark Post six months ago, anything good there? They’re not looking at those emails I send out every week from six months ago. So it’s misaligned to what we need because social media is visual and social media is temporal. What we need are channels where first it’s more content oriented, it’s more text and idea oriented, but it also needs to be a pull, not this push. I’m pushing this idea out when I think it’s best, and I hope that works for my large audience. Instead, we need marketing channels that let the audience feel the ideas to them when and where it’s relevant. Now, this was the idea behind Brain bump. It is Pull is pulling those ideas when they need it. But this is the first step and I think a larger sea change towards media and that you need to think of other ways. You can let your audience pull your information and get your information to be there when and where it’s relevant to them, because that’s going to create a lot more value for them and they will translate that value to your brand.
Stone Payton: I am so glad that I asked. That sounds like marvelous counsel. All right. Let’s make sure that our listeners can connect with you. Tap into your work. Let’s leave them with those key URLs where they can access these resources. Whatever you feel like is appropriate and just makes it easy for people to pick up the conversation again on demand as they as they need it.
Mark Herschberg: Now I give you two websites, the first brain bump app that’s brain bump app.com. If you go, that website will direct you to the store’s Android and iPhone stores. We can download the Free Brain Bump app. If you are a content creator and you think your content would be good for this at the bottom of the page, there’s a button to click, there’s a link to click and you click that you fill out. A form takes 30 seconds and I’ll get that and I’ll be in touch with you about getting your content on there. And remember, the app is completely free, so you can check it out, see if it would work for you. My other website, The Career Toolkit. Bbc.com And there’s information about the Career Toolkit book, which has advice on all these skills networking, negotiating, how to hire people, all the stuff they never actually teach us. There’s a whole bunch of other free resources on that website, and that is the career toolkit. Bbc.com.
Stone Payton: Well, Mark, it has been an absolute delight having you on the program this afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us on air, sharing your insight, your perspective and your energy for this man. Keep up the good work.
Mark Herschberg: Well, thank you. It has been a pleasure to spend this time with you.
Stone Payton: Well, it has absolutely been my pleasure. All right. Until next time, this is Stone Payton for our guest today, Mark Hirschberg with Conoco Media and everyone here at the Business Radio X family saying we’ll see you in the fast lane.