Rebel Human Resources Podcast

RHR 113: No Degree, No Problem! with Dr. Lakeya Cherry

August 16, 2022 Kyle Roed, The HR Guy Season 3 Episode 113
Rebel Human Resources Podcast
RHR 113: No Degree, No Problem! with Dr. Lakeya Cherry
Show Notes Transcript

The practice of hiring job candidates only if they have a college degree is shifting. Many large businesses, like Google, Costco Wholesale and Hilton, for example, have already found the value in hiring these kinds of employees, according to Glassdoor.

In fact, hiring individuals without college degrees can help a business:

  • Boost equity
  • Round out diversity of knowledge/experience, translating into innovation and growth 
  • Save money: younger employees can work for a lower salary as the business grows

Dr. Lakeya Cherry is an executive leadership coach at Evolution, a professional coaching and leadership development company, and would welcome the opportunity to chat with you about the business benefits of hiring employees without a college degree.

Dr. Lakeya Cherry, DSW, MSSW, ACC is an executive leadership coach who has dedicated her career to the growth and development of individuals and the organizations they are a part of. As an ICF Certified Coach, a StartingBloc Fellow, a Google #IamRemarkable Facilitator, and a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, she believes that when leaders are empowered to reach their fullest potential, they will be able to support those around them more effectively.

It was her own experience with coaching that ignited her passion to support individuals, teams, and organizations to lead more authentically and courageously. Her former clients include Headspace, Glassdoor, LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), Mux, Tot Squad, The Salvation Army, The California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, California Mental Health Advocates for Children, Black Administrators of Child Welfare, and the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute.

Dr. Cherry holds the title of Chief Executive Officer of The Network for Social Work Management, an international organization dedicated to strengthening and mobilizing diverse social impact leaders through education, leadership development, networking, and community-building. Under her leadership, the Network has expanded globally and introduced transformative programming that not only produced better leaders but also enhanced organizational cultures.

Her approach is informed by her Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Southern California where she was honored with the coveted Order of Arête award, her M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University, and her B.A. in Psychology and Legal Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Additional qualifications: EQi 2.0 and EQ 360 certified, Diversity and Inclusion certification (eCornell), and Nonprofit Executive Leadership certificate (National Human Services Assembly).

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lakeyacherry/

Rebel HR is a podcast for HR professionals and leaders of people who are ready to make some disruption in the world of work.

We'll be discussing topics that are disruptive to the world of work and talk about new and different ways to approach solving those problems.

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Lakeya Cherry:

and it's not going to be an easy conversation and things are not going to be changed overnight. But it's our role, especially in HR. If we care about this, if we know what the data says, if we know that it can impact the company, are we just going to sit quiet? Are we just going to allow things to continue the way they are? Or are we going to speak up and advocate for change?

Kyle Roed:

This is the rebel HR Podcast, the podcast where we talk to HR innovators about all things people leadership. If you're looking for places to find about new ways to think about the world of work, this is the podcast for you. Please subscribe, favorite podcast listening platform today. And leave us a review. Rebel on HR rebels. Welcome back, rebel HR listeners extremely excited for the conversation. today. We are talking to Dr. lochia. Cherry. Dr. Cherry has such a long bio, I was laughing before I hit record, I don't even know how I'm going to cover this file. So I'm going to do my best. She is an executive leadership coach who has dedicated her career to the growth and development of individuals and the organizations they are a part of. She has so many accreditations, I don't even know what they all mean. She's done a significant amount of research and is informed by her doctorate in Social Work from the University of Southern California, where she won all sorts of awards. And we are going to cover a lot of ground today. So I'm just going to leave it there. We had so much fun talk talking before I hit record, I can't wait to get into it. Welcome to the podcast. likea.

Lakeya Cherry:

Thanks so much, Kyle. It's a pleasure to be here.

Kyle Roed:

Well, I'm really excited, a little bit intimidated if I'm being perfectly honest, just because you're you're so accomplished. But I am really excited for the conversation today, I think that our listeners are going to be able to to learn a lot. You know, I think one of the one of the places that I really want to start is is what prompted us to, to connect and have this discussion revolved around the practice of hiring candidates, if they only have a college degree, and kind of the broader impact that that that has in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so I wanted to start there. And really kind of frame up this conversation in what really kind of prompted your interest in this type of work. In the broad sense.

Lakeya Cherry:

Good question. So much of my background has been in social work, leading a nonprofit organization. And leading that organization for nearly nine years, I saw a lot and heard a lot about workplace cultures. Also just what my background as a social worker, equity has always been really important to me. And so when I decided to pursue my doctoral degree, I recognized that I was one of the few leaders of color leading a nonprofit organization. And I began to wonder why I kind of knew why. But I wanted to see what the research side. And so during my years in the program, I began to look at diversity, equity, and inclusion, I began to look at why there weren't too many leaders of color, leading organizations across all sectors. And I began to look at the practices within these organizations as it pertains to finding talent, hiring talent, and really engaging keeping and promoting talent. And one of the things that I saw was that many organizational cultures tend to hire for a culture fit. And what that means is they're looking to hire people who look like them. That could be in terms of race, or who look like them in terms of education and experience. And the more I've grown, especially as a executive coach, at evolution, a partner at evolution, I began to think what would happen if organizations began to hire outside of their traditional norms, and looked for a culture add and hired those people they normally wouldn't hire that they wouldn't think to hire, but who could bring new things to the table?

Kyle Roed:

That's really, really interesting. I'm curious. Did you do as you were kind of looking around your space and you know kind of reflecting on the fact that you were certainly in the in the minority as a leader of color. Did you find that there were other leaders of color that were feeling the same way and maybe didn't have, you know, kind of that community support to talk about those concerns as well?

Lakeya Cherry:

I didn't find it until I started looking for it. And so I don't know if that makes sense. I heard your. But it wasn't until I brought it to the forefront, made people aware, Hey, isn't this somewhat odd? We say we care about these things. But why are things this way that others began to speak up? Who were of color, and or others who weren't of color began to take notice? And to, you know, mentioned some of their thoughts around this or their desire to change it?

Kyle Roed:

Now, that's, that's interesting. I wonder, you know, the reason I wonder is, I just, you know, I know, personally, I know a lot of really, really accomplished professionals of color, that have advanced degrees, but have struggled to find that, that that community of that peer community and struggle to find job opportunities, quite frankly, and, you know, looking at their, their resumes, it makes absolutely no sense why that would be. And the, my opinion is, it is, you know, it's systemic, that there's there is something there that there is some sort of a root cause, whether that's within our local community or abroad more broadly. That's a really big issue. And so as you were kind of peeling back the layers of this onion and getting your head around this. Did you find those types of barriers? Were in the way?

Lakeya Cherry:

Yes, definitely. So to your point, I know plenty of people of color with advanced education, who would love to be in a leadership role, who would love to move to a new company, start their own business have different opportunities, but they're not being considered and they're not receiving these opportunities. When I was doing my doctoral program, I created a program called changemakers. of color. And I wanted to look at, despite the systemic issues, despite the systemic barriers that you spoke of, what are some things that we can do to provide greater opportunities for these people of color to lead, and that is how I actually fell. You know, in love, I'll say that is how I fell for coaching. Because I had had a coach early in my career as an executive who really made a significant difference for me. And so I wondered if these leaders of color were given access to coaches, access to mentors of color, who were in leadership roles, access to additional training opportunities, opportunities to gather together for peer support, which we indicate it is not necessarily common. And then opportunities to expand their network, what would be the likelihood that their self efficacy that their competence would increase? And what would be the likelihood that they would eventually begin to move up the ladder. And while my program was successful, and its pilot year, so many additional layers, were on Earth, so many other variables that I didn't even think about. But again, it always it always ties back to the system and how it is and our duty really to figure out how to dismantle the norms that have been set up.

Kyle Roed:

Well, I love that and if there's anything we like on the show, it's dismantling norms. So I kind of like we should call it the dismantling HR norms podcast. I like I guess, rebel has maybe a you know, it's it's more tongue in cheek, but I think that's so important. And that's one of the things that that I know many of us struggle with is the systems that we use both to hire people and determine who should get promoted. You know, what is what is a career path look like? What, how much potential? Does somebody have? You know, those those are, those are all systems that were put in place like 40 or 50 years ago, in some cases, and haven't been changed since, quite frankly. And so as as you reflect on your your vast experience with coaching and some of the things that you've seen, I can only imagine some of the things you've seen, and maybe Ben's surprised or taken aback about. But what are some of those systems? That you would call out as systems that need an overhaul? Like, okay, if you're still doing this, you need to take another look what, what pops out to you?

Lakeya Cherry:

A few things? Well, we both know that pay equity is still a major issue. And so organizations really need to work with HR work with their executive teams or boards to evaluate who is getting getting paid what and looking at it by gender, looking at it by race, looking at it by title, and doing whatever it takes to make sure that pay is equitable across the board. So that's one thing. Another thing, a lot of organizations still have hiring practices that are biased. For example, my name is Le Kia. And research shows that with names that sound ethnic, then prospective candidates prospective employees might not be considered. And so what would it look like to have a blind review of applications, blind interviews, a lot of organizations, they mentioned that they can't find diverse talent, but what are some of the things that they are doing outside their norm, to find and to identify that diverse talent, because if we always do the things we've always done, then we're typically not going to receive new results. So that's something that I would take a look at. I mentioned before culture fit. And so yes, I have a doctorate degree, but I can acknowledge that. I don't know everything. And there's a lot of people with lived experience real world experience, regardless of their educational background, who know more than me who aren't more innovative than me. And as our organizations want to really survive in the future, then it's imperative that we make space for people without perhaps a college education, veterans, people who are in their more senior years, people with various abilities, statuses, other things with a pandemic, most of us, many of us, the privileged groupings of us had an opportunity to work from home. Now that it appears that we're on the other side of the pandemic, somewhat, I mean, every day is changing. A lot of organizations are trying to move their employees back into the office. If they really want to sustain and be a future oriented organization, they need to have the opportunity for both, they need to move in a hybrid direction. And so these are some of the things top of mind that I think organizations really need to work on and to consider. And then last, I'll just say, you mentioned that a lot of our policies have existed for 4050 years. A lot of rules are meant to be broken. And at what point are we going to look at these policies and then shift them and change them for the change we wish to see in the world. And within our organizational cultures.

Kyle Roed:

Amen. Rules are made to be broken, or at least refined. In a 50 year period.

Lakeya Cherry:

Least refined? Yes.

Kyle Roed:

Well, I'm all about it. And I you know, there's so much there that we could dive into I think that you know, if, if you were just listening, it kind of half listening and you're driving on your way to work and you caught like, maybe two of those really great points. Hit back a couple times and listen to those again, because it's basically the playbook for having improved the EI in your organization. But I want to I want to talk a little bit about blind applications. And, you know, I think the research is really fascinating on you know, if there's a name that, you know, it sounds different than the person reviewing, you know, the the application it can be, it can be detrimental to that person's application. And so to the point that in my career, and I won't name names or organizations, I have had a conversation with a manager that told me at one point, don't send me a resume, if I can't pronounce the name. That conversation was not comfortable for, for that person. But that bias exists. And the reason I share that is because that is real. And whether you realize it's real or not, everybody has it. I think about it in the context of, of technology. If you are hiring for a developer role, or a tech role or an IT role, and you see that somebody graduated from college, in the 80s, do you have a bias about whether that person will be a good fit? And if you're an HR professional and you hire, you have to ask yourself that question every single time you review, a resume, if you're not aware of it, it's going to creep into your hiring systems. And I think it's such an important topic. So I think everybody that's listening to this podcast probably agrees with that statement. One thing I'm curious about likea is how so how do we address that, you know, knowing that there are some bad systems out there? What is the way that you have seen some of your clients and in some of your research, you where you have seen this addressed appropriately to really, truly fix a system.

Lakeya Cherry:

Honestly, it's a work in progress, where everybody is doing different things. But a few of the things that I have observed are Google Forms. For example, when you apply, where you cannot indicate your first name, where you cannot indicate your educational background, where you cannot indicate any identifying factors that may privilege you for consideration, if that makes sense. I've seen a few applications such as that, I have also seen interviewing processes where, for example, there is a committee and again, they're not receiving the name of the person, they're not receiving information about where the person went to school, they're completely meeting and asking each other questions about what they observe, based on the work that the person that have done, and everyone is responsible for challenging someone else on the committee to try to limit the amount of biases that might be present. I've also seen people who have utilized technology, I wouldn't be able to name what the use, but I've seen that before. But then we also have to be cautious, because while a lot of technology is great, and it's moving us forward, and it's helping us with our various processes, tech still can be biased in many ways. And so trying to not try to avoid bias and then use a bias system. And so I say all this to say, you just have to try. I mean, all of these processes, I'm sure they have worked in some ways, whereas in other ways, there's things that they could do better. But are you even trying anything different? Or are you just, yeah, we really need to work on this. And then you just keep it how it is? Does that make sense for you, Kyle?

Kyle Roed:

Absolutely. And I mean, I think I think it's all it's all important call outs, and there's a lot of different ways to do it. I think the most important message is you just have to try. You have to try to figure it out. You know, in you know, I think whether that is training people in implicit biases, whether that's looking at software to remove, you know, names from a resume. There's a lot of different ways to go about it. I think one of the ways that I'd like to dig into this a little bit more is the relevance of having a degree requirement it when you're when you're hiring somebody, can you expand upon that a little bit more about you know, kind of, kind of what you've seen happen And when you actually get rid of that, and just require similar experience or a degree what you like, what, what have you seen, what is the result?

Lakeya Cherry:

I've seen that employees who come into a company who might not necessarily meet that degree requirements to prefer requirements, they're oftentimes more engaged and loyal to that company culture. They're motivated to do a good job, they're really willing to learn, they have fully bought in, and they want to stay there for a longer length of time and grow within the company than those who have advanced education, especially in today's day and age, those with more advanced education. Oftentimes, they have more choices, more options. And they're a little less loyal to a company, because they're fully aware that they have more options. And so for a company, if they want that loyalty, especially as they're growing, and they're expanding, and they're trying new things, they need to be willing to hire diverse people. And so not just a race, but also and experience and education and other aspects of their identities. I think that will benefit them longer term than just focusing on the hero now.

Kyle Roed:

That's interesting. I, you know, I mean, I think the the preconceived notion is, well, I need to hire somebody with a degree, because I need a specialized skill set. So So for, like, for positions where, like, I think about like technical positions, you know, where maybe there's somebody with a two year degree instead of a four year degree, have you? Have you seen in some of your research and some of your, you know, kind of interactions that, that that can be overcame just through work experience, even if it's a kind of a more technical degree?

Lakeya Cherry:

Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, if you think about it, there are so many coding boot camps. Now, there are a lot more technical certificate programs, we don't necessarily have these type of programs in our high school so that our students can have the opportunity to specialize and do a trade school, as opposed to getting a four year degree. But I see us reverting back to some of the older ways of doing things. Recently, I gave a talk for an international machinists and aerospace union. And I had an opportunity to have happy hour with one of the union workers. And as we were talking, I was asking him about his background. He worked for a big name company. If I mentioned it, everyone was, you know, probably Oh, wow. And I was definitely impressed by the company that he works for. And he told me, he didn't have a college education. But he knew people. And when he was getting out of high school, having the right network and having access, people introduced him to people. And he got into the door of this one big company. And they trained him on the job because it was very technical. He wouldn't have necessarily learned the skills to do what he was being tasked to do, and a four year college, or other degree program. And so he learned the trade on the job moved up, and then move to another really big name company, again, without a college education. But again, he was trained to under job and so he was especially skilled to do what it is they wanted and needed him to do. And he was able to train many others after him.

Kyle Roed:

That's a it's a great story. Thanks for sharing. I think it highlights my theory that and I have a feeling this is probably pretty close to fact, that a piece of paper doesn't mean that you are able to do a job.

Lakeya Cherry:

Yes. Yes, I can

Kyle Roed:

step out on a limb on that.

Lakeya Cherry:

No, I remember. I mean, even when I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I have a bachelor's in psychology and law. And again, these are degrees where people would probably say, what do you do with that? But I graduated and it literally was, what do you do with that?

Kyle Roed:

It sounds like an HR pass to me.

Lakeya Cherry:

Right? Well, I knew that. Immediately, after graduating, I went to law school. That was the immediate next path. But even in between, I didn't finish law school, I started looking for jobs. And when I decided to leave law school with my bachelor's in psychology, and law, and having completed a semester and a half a law school, the only job I could immediately find was a job at the downtown San Diego YMCA folding towels. Wow. Yes. And so for me, I thought, they don't tell you that you also need work experience to get some of these other jobs. But if you're not in an internship in college, if you're not really getting taught, technical skills, to know how to bring the theory to practice, it can be really difficult getting a job. So then I left law school, and I got my master's in social work. And fortunately, for my master's in social work program, there's an internship. And so when I look back, and I reflect on my education, yes, I learned some, you know, from the school work from the theories, but the majority of what I learned was being in the field working with clients hands on, watching other people work in navigate their various roles. And so for anyone, regardless of whether you have a college education with probably extensive debt, you could come in and be a sponge, and learn to do almost anyone's job over time. If you think back to it, Kyle, there's a lot of people in leadership right now, who are prepped to retire, who don't have advanced degrees. But they started at a time where we were more open to people having apprenticeships and mentors, and then moving moving up along the way.

Kyle Roed:

Absolutely. You know, it's funny, I'll tell a story that I think highlights this really well. So at one point, we had an employee retire, who was literally a global expert, like, we'd go out and do like, these these massive conferences, to, like, senior industry leaders, the expert, they fly into, like Abu Dhabi for the global symposium on whatever, right, and like, this guy was legit. And he was getting ready to retire. And it was one of those, like, what can we do to not let him retire? Because he's so important to our organization? Right? And I asked the question, okay, well, you know, yeah, let's, let's think about this. And, you know, let's make sure we have an appropriate phasing program in place. But I asked the question, so what do we need to replace this level of expertise, and I, you know, and so we're working through that, and put together this job description with every last, you know, detail of what this person would need to look like. And I took a look at the job description. And I was like, Okay, this is a purple squirrel. Like, this doesn't exist like this human, that maybe there's one of these in the world, but I think that's the guy that's retiring, right? And so when we got into the degree requirements, it was like all sorts of advanced degrees and all sorts. And I asked the question, well, what does he have, you know, what, what degree and come to find out, he was a math teacher. He had a four year degree in education. And he was a math teacher. And he came into our organization, and learned and became an expert within the organization. The degree had, like, literally zero bearing on where his career went, and the value that he provides to organizations. So I, I just, I'm telling that story. I love that story. Because it's such a great example that like humans are made to evolve and learn. And you know, that piece of paper like, yeah, it's a piece of paper,

Lakeya Cherry:

completely adaptable. Another example in line with what you just said, I have a coaching client right now who has a background in anthropology, but as a as a designer, and so obviously, that education and experience in anthropology, it connects and it relates to what she's doing. But most people don't think in that That way, they don't realize that you can be a math teacher or now you can be a global CEO for an international firm focused on something completely different. Just as long as you can think, just as long as you can collaborate, just as long as you can, you know, work with people and so many other important leadership skills, communicate, et cetera. You're fine. You can adapt, you can learn, you can grow, like you said, you can evolve.

Kyle Roed:

I'm always here. I mean, they're you. I don't think the listeners think we're having a robust debate here. Like, I think they can tell we're pretty aligned with here's what I guess, here's the question for you. And I know, this is probably what many of the HR listeners are thinking is, you know, they probably have a level of agreement with what we're talking about here. But their hiring manager doesn't, or the CEO doesn't, or, you know, whoever else has some influence and authority does not agree and feels that, you know, there has to be some sort of accredited degree associated with the candidate. What resources can we use to kind of to illustrate this point, to those those parties in our organizations that struggle with this fact?

Lakeya Cherry:

Good question, a very important question, we'll change starts at the top. So like you said, the HR professionals who are listening, we're preaching to the choir, so to speak, we're not saying anything new that you don't necessarily know. And so what I'd recommend, there is a ton of data out there about the benefit of one diversity across a variety of dimensions, pitching and sharing that data, with the executives in charge with the hiring managers, letting them know that it's a culture add for them to begin to think this way, that they could see better outcomes that it increases innovation, that if everyone has been thinking the same way, and are pretty much similar under backgrounds, then they're going to be less likely to innovate and be creative. And so that by bringing in new people, this is something that can lead to a shift in their organizational culture and where they're headed. And, again, less groupthink, more profitability. I mean, diversity is good for business across all dimensions. And so if you're focused on the bottom line, then your organization is more likely to be profitable, if you're hiring diverse people, and again, not just race, but also education, socio economic status, background, lived experience, etc. And, again, it matters because you're contributing to equity, you're contributing to justice and fairness within the world. And we all have a role to play. And it's not going to be an easy conversation. And things are not going to be change overnight. But it's our role, especially an HR, if we care about this, if we know what the data says, if we know that it can impact the company, are we just going to sit quiet? Are we just going to allow things to continue the way they are? Or are we going to speak up and advocate for change?

Kyle Roed:

I love that. That's that's such a powerful point. And a point well taken. So you know, I just, I really appreciate you kind of walking us through that. I appreciate you spending your time looking into this. And just, I just know that our listeners are taken away so much. So really appreciate that. likea. I do want to shift gears. I'm fascinated to hear your responses to the rebel HR flash round. Are you ready?

Lakeya Cherry:

I think so. All

Kyle Roed:

right, here we go. Okay, question number one, where does HR need to rebel?

Lakeya Cherry:

So, everywhere, literally, HR needs to dismantle all of its practices, and even HR professionals need to have someone who's holding them accountable. And so I say that to say we talk about Dei. We talk about all of these issues, but who also are the people that hold HR professionals accountable. And so we need to begin looking at that and so all of the policies all of the practices of the past, HR needs to rebel and say we need to shift things are too changing. I recommend I propose and they really need to advocate for change.

Kyle Roed:

But I love that everywhere. That's that's a good. That's my favorite answer to that question so far. All right, question number two, who should we be listening to?

Lakeya Cherry:

Well, my favorite podcasts I'm biased because I'm a Brene, brown dare to lead facilitator is dare to lead. I love the diversity and speakers across all sectors, the multitude of topics around organizations and leadership. I'll also add, I don't listen to podcasts that often, even though I'm unknown right now, but two books that I'm currently reading that pertain to what we were talking about are reset by johnnie Taylor, who some of you might know, he is the president and CEO for I don't know how you pronounce it acronym, but Society for Human Resources Management. And so I've been reading this book for the last couple of weeks. And it talks about how organizations especially HR need to reset their current practices and shift for the new future of work. So that really corresponds to your first question, Kyle, about where HR needs to rebel. And then a new one that I'm reading is inclusion on purpose, and intersectional approach to creating a culture of belonging at work. And it speaks to the various dimensions of diversity and give some ideas of frameworks that organizational leaders HR leaders can consider as they're looking to create a more inclusive culture where their employees actually feel that they belong.

Kyle Roed:

Love that? Yeah, yeah. Johnny C. Taylor, you know, for all my Shermer is out there. Yeah, definitely. Definitely some great content there. I have not heard of that other one. So I'm gonna have to check that out. Thank you. It's

Lakeya Cherry:

near. You definitely have to check it out. It's it's a keeper.

Kyle Roed:

Perfect. All right. Last question. How can I listeners connect with you?

Lakeya Cherry:

So the best way to find me is on LinkedIn, you could just search likea cherry. To my knowledge, there's no one else out there with the same name. You could also find me on the Kia cherry.com. Or if you're interested in evolution and our coaching, consulting or investment services, you can find us at evolution dot team.

Kyle Roed:

Absolutely. And we will have all that information in the show notes. So open up your podcast player, click right in you can find out more about likea. And just really appreciate the time. Really great content. Thank you for sharing some of your work and expertise with us today. Have a great yesterday.

Lakeya Cherry:

Thank you.

Kyle Roed:

Thanks. All right. That does it for the rebel HR podcast. Big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, Twitter at rebel HR guy or see our website at rebel human resources.com. The views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast are those the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast. Maybe