The Pod Squad ponders expectations vs what really happened


The Pod Squad ponders expectations vs what really happened

The Pod Squad ponders expectations vs. what really happened

Join podcast team members Jessica Arledge, Dominique Brown, Jake Conlin, and Elana Powell as they talk about expectations in life vs. what really happened.

Group of people joining hands

Jessica Arledge

Jessica Arledge – Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Associate Manager Verbatim Management

Jessica has been at NIQ for 22 years. She enjoys time spent with her family, three black cats, reading, embrodiery and floating in the pool.

Dominique Brown

Dominique Brown – Chicago, Illinois, USA

Manager, DEI

Dominique is based in Chicago, IL, where she lives in her new house with her puppy, Ellie, a cockapoo.

Jake Conlin

Jake Conlin – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Senior Research Analyst – Customer Success Core BASES

Jake Conlin has been with NIQ for 2 years working within the innovation space. While he’s been in audio production for over a decade, he began his podcasting journey during his time at the Marriott School of Business where he led a podcast team and presented at multiple international communications conferences on sound engineering.

Elana Powell

Elana Powell – St. Pete, Florida, USA

Manager, DEI

Elana has been with NIQ for a year and is really enjoying her time here. Outside of work, she lives with her fiancé and their dog, Peanut, who is a Pomeranian Chihuahua-mix. She also enjoys spending quality time with her friends and family, and eating amazing food.



Elana Powell: Hello and welcome to a bonus episode of the My Blank Story Podcast. My name is Elana Powell and I’m the senior manager of Diversity, Equity and inclusion here at NIQ, and I’ll just be guiding us through the show today. So today we’re actually mixing it up and you are going to hear from the people who are behind the show. Behind the scenes. The people that we affectionately like to call the Pod Squad. Today, we are joined by me and three other members of the podsquad: Dominique Brown, one of our podcast project managers along with myself; Jake Conlin an extraordinary editor, and Jessica Arledge who wears many, many hats but we call her our producer and marketing lead. This episode we’re going to talk a little bit about expectations and reality. And so, we’re going to explore what our team’s expectations were at the beginning of this year and what our journey has actually really been like. So first off, we’re going to start with Jess. So, Jess, tell me, what were your expectations at the beginning of the year and how do you feel like those expectations have or haven’t been met.

Jessica Arledge: All right. I guess it’s my turn. My name is Jessica Arledge. I’ve been with NIQ for almost 22 years, and I’m a producer on the podcast. This is going to sound very pessimistic, but I didn’t have any expectations. I have a tendency to not have expectations. That way, if something doesn’t go my way, I’m not devastated. And if it does go my way, I’m, like, really super excited. I had a family trip planned to Scotland and Ireland and it was a lifelong dream, and I purposely didn’t set any expectations for the trip. I was just going to be happy that I was, you know, somewhere that I’ve always wanted to be. If something wonderful happened, like go to Loch Ness and see Nessie, then I would have been overjoyed. But what actually happened is we didn’t get to go to Loch Ness, but that’s OK because I didn’t have any set expectations about having to go somewhere and I really can’t complain about anything. I feel like no expectations are kind of the way I cope with change. I’m certain that I do have expectations about some things, and I get my feelings hurt when they don’t happen. But I’m also certain that not having expectations can kind of hold a person back because that means that you’re not planning to move forward; but I like not having expectations because it allows me to just go with the flow and you know, try to be a more positive person.

Elana Powell: Thanks, Jess. So, I can completely relate and understand what you’re saying. Expectations can set us up for really expecting something and then being let down. But I also agree with what you were saying that, like, sometimes having expectations is a good thing, right? It can, like, push you and drive you and [in] setting those goals and those visions. So, I’m really glad you had a fun time on your trip. But I wish that you got to see Nessie but I’m glad you weren’t too let down either, so.

Jake Conlin: And I’ll just echo that. I think there is a lot of positivity that can come from expectations. They give you something to look forward to and to hope for and help you to think about what’s coming next. But you know, I think you’re on to something, Jess. That a lot of times, expectations don’t go through. And I think it’s important not to let that ruin your day or, in your case, your trip. So, yeah, I think there’s a lot of wisdom there and in level setting and not letting expectations dictate your life.

Dominique Brown: Yeah, because I was listening to your story, Jess. I was thinking, like, one of the great things about not having those expectations is also being able to be flexible and open-minded about things. And I think that allowed you to have a great time even though you weren’t able to see Nessie. So, I think it’s great.

Elana Powell: Yeah, I think it’s a unique skill set that you have there just because I feel like most people will put certain expectations on, like, a trip or an experience and when things aren’t going your way it can definitely, like, affect your mood and how you’re reacting to things because they’re not going as you expected. So, when you don’t go in with all those uptight expectations, it can really be a more positive thing, so…

Jessica Arledge: I think I learned a lot of it from my mother. Because we went on the trip together, there was actually, you know, 12 family members and one of them was my mother, and she had the same flexibility and, you know, just kind of going with the flow and being happy that she was there and, you know, not really expecting anything. And I think she does a lot of things in life like that. And I think I learned – well, she’s a cynic – but, I think, I learned my positive attitude otherwise from her.

Elana Powell: Well, that is awesome and maybe she could hang out with my mom because she’s the opposite. Just teach her some things. Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Jess. I’m going to turn the question over to Dominique now. So, Dominique, what were your expectations at the beginning of 2023 and what does your journey actually look like.

Dominique Brown: Yeah. So. Hi everyone. My name is Dominique Brown. I am a manager of the DEI here at NIQ. I am a part of the podcast team supporting all the work they’re doing here. I am based in Chicago, IL, our NIQ headquarters where I live with my puppy, Ellie, a cockapoo . So, [At the} beginning of the year, I was just trying to continue learning and getting settled into things here at NIQ and continuing to learn my role and, maybe about halfway into March, I made the decision to kind of jump into a huge decision and buy a house. And so, with my mom’s guidance and help, I went to go look at homes: [to] look at the process of, you know, deciding if I wanted to buy a house for myself and my Puppy or if I wanted to buy a building where I would be able to have tenants. And, it was wild because, you know, there’s so many different things to process and think about and weigh and decisions like that and it’s a big decision to buy a house. And I was initially thinking, you know, ‘I’m going to buy a building’, this is what I want to do. This makes sense to me. I’ve got the time to be able to commit to being a landlord, I think, and it just makes sense to be able to try and build some familial wealth within my family and have something that I could potentially pass on to others in my family and that was what I thought was going to happen. That was the plan. And then, [when] I got into the process of looking at homes and things of that nature I realized, like, ‘Oh my gosh! Owning a building is a huge step.’ It’s not something that [you] take lightly; so, I had to pivot. I had to pivot pretty quickly because the market, right – well, the market at that time was too competitive – and I made a decision to kind of pivot and start purchasing a home just for me and my puppy. And that was something that I had to kind of accept and take in because I had this vision in my head for quite a while and that it didn’t go the way that I intended or wanted to go. But I think now, at this point, it’s the best decision that was for me and for my family, and so I think that that is something that…it worked the way it was supposed to work and I’m just grateful that I was able to make my dream come true of being a homeowner and being able to provide a big yard for my puppy to run around and have tons of fun in: a house where I can invite my family over to be able to join for holidays and parties and just to be able to enjoy their company. So, I would say that through this entire experience of having that initial plan of wanting to buy a building and then eventually purchasing a home, I think that being open and really looking at things and weighing the options really helped me to guide me to the right choice for me and my lifestyle.

Elana Powell: Thanks, Dominique. And you absolutely made the right choice because I’ve seen your home and it’s beautiful. And your puppy, Ellie, is so, so happy. So, I know you made the right choice. So, I love that for you. Jess, Jake, any thoughts on Dominique’s journey?

Jake Conlin: Congrats on the home. That’s awesome. I had not heard that whole story, so I didn’t know those parts of your journey where you were considering buying property that you could rent out. So, definitely interesting to hear how you worked through that and arrived at your decision. So, for me I am looking forward at some point down the road to buying a home or property and I was wondering what advice you could give to somebody in my shoes. Maybe stuff that caught you off guard or, I guess, things that I should expect as I go into this process.

Dominique Brown: Sure. So, I would say two things that I’ve learned in this process. One is: there probably isn’t going to be the perfect home. You know, someone like myself can be a little picky, I think. And I had to learn the process and say, Dominique, you have to, you know, give a little in order to get what you want and so being flexible and understanding that if it has the things that you need you can turn it into the home that you’re going to want and that’s not to say that I ‘settled’ in the home that I purchased. I love it. I think it does fit my needs, but I think that that’s something that’s really important to think about: […] being flexible and being open-minded and not feeling like, you know, you have to get everything that you want. And then also realizing that, you know, this doesn’t have to be your only home, you can purchase this home and potentially decide to maybe rent it out or sell it, eventually, and then get a home that is more in-tune with your needs as you continue in your life. The other thing I would say that I would share with someone who’s thinking about this, also, is to do your research. It was so important for me [in order] to make sure that I made a sound decision; I’m someone that doesn’t like to make flippant decisions […]. And so, making sure that, you know, I talk to the right people. I made sure that I found the realtor who faced my needs. Finding a good mortgage broker to help figure out what those needs were as well. I think really making sure that you’re researching it and learning about what you actually want in this big purchase is really important so that, you know, you feel like you made a really good sound decision.

Jessica Arledge: Dominique, I feel that in my soul because my husband and I are looking to get a house in a new city, and we’re talking about renting, condos, homes and I have no expectations, as I said before. And my husband [meanwhile], he’s planning 15 years ahead and I think that I need to set some expectations. And I think he needs to roll it back. Maybe not, maybe not think 15 years in the future, maybe just look at, you know, five, but I really appreciate the advice. I will take that to heart.

Dominique Brown: Awesome, awesome. Yeah, thank you.

Elana Powell: I love that. Well, thank you so much, Dominique. And Jake, Jess your thoughts too. I’m going to turn it over to Jake, now. Same question, Jake. What were your expectations? And where are you actually now?

Jake Conlin: Alright. Thanks Elana. Hi everyone. My name is Jake Conlin and I’m a senior research analyst on the customer success team within our BASES organization. I’ve been with NIQ for just over 2 years, and I’ve absolutely loved working with this podcast team as an audio engineer. I’m based out of New Orleans where I’m living with my wife and my one-year-old son. Outside of work, I enjoy running, audio production and photography. So, going into this year, I expected constant changes and surprises at home as my son’s transitioning into the toddler stage. But other than that, I expected work and other activities to hold, largely, steady. And sure, the transition into the toddler stage, it’s lived up to the hype. It’s keeping me on my toes. I’ve been surprised by the number of work and extracurricular shifts that have happened so far in 2023. So, some examples include my job description shifting a little bit; starting to travel for work and then, unexpectedly, taking on a role in the community where I get to work with the youth. And at times, yeah, all of this can feel a bit overwhelming, but I just feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful and collaborative support group, including this Pod Squad. And so, compared to my expectations for the year, yeah, this year’s reality, it’s been a lot different, but it’s been different in a good way. It’s been full of unique growth and development opportunities. It’s been challenging, but I do feel like it’s helping me to become more.

Elana Powell: Awesome, Jake, thanks. And we always love it when expectations change in a positive way. Right, so I’m glad.

Jake Conlin: Yeah, definitely.

Elana Powell: I’m glad that that’s what happened for you, and I’m sure you’ve been kept very busy with your new little toddler. But lots of fun, lots of fun. Jess, Dominique, any thoughts on Jake’s story?

Jessica Arledge: My first thought is [about] the support group [and] how essential having a good support group is. I think a good support group helps you meet expectations and is also there when your expectations aren’t met, and your support group will help you pivot. As Dominique was talking about, I have a great support group and I think things would just be awful without them and I include, you know, my mother, my family, Pod Squad, colleagues: they’re all my support system and you just need those people in your life to help you with your expectations.

Elana Powell: Absolutely, Jess. You, actually, just made me think of something that Lu said on her podcast episode – look at me, I’m plugging in other episodes! – but, Lu, in her episode, she talked about how she went through really difficult times and was just so important that she had a really strong support system in her partner and in her family and her friends. And then, another person who works here at NIQ, Myriam Vidalon, but years ago before I was even at NIQ, I remember hearing her speak about having, like, your own personal board of directors. Right? And have, like, people surround you that can support you from all different angles, whether it be work or school or home or whatever it might be, and how that can just make things infinitely better; especially, when you’re navigating change or difficult times. So, I just wanted to echo that from both Jess and Jake’s. Point of view, right? I completely agree.

Dominique Brown: Yeah, one thing that resonated with me, in listening to your story, Jake, was the fact that, even with all these different changes that you had, you seem to continue to look at the big picture and get the good out of it, you know? You mentioned that it’s been a year of growth for you and being able to have some new opportunities to develop. And I think that that’s really important as you think about, kind of, what you thought what was going to happen for the year and then they kind of pivoted [for] you and then how you were able to just look at it and say, ‘Oh, you know, these things have happened and, you know, let me look at how it’s helped me’ as opposed to, you know, having this kind of ‘woe-is-me’, you know, and feeling down. I think that’s really great that you were able to kind of see the good and how it’s impacting your life.

Elana Powell: Yes, could not agree more, Dominique, Jake, your positivity is contagious. So, that’s a great skill set to have.

Jake Conlin: Thanks, Elana.

Elana Powell: Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much, Jake and team. You’ve all been really transparent so far, and I thank you for that. So, I guess, it’s my turn so, as I said earlier, my name is Elana Powell. I’m a senior manager of DEI here at NIQ and I’ve been with the company for just about a year now, so, I’m still kind of a newbie, but really enjoying my time so far. Outside of work, I live in St Pete’s, Florida with my fiancé and our dog, Peanut, who is a Pomeranian Chihuahua-mix and who is the light of my life. I also enjoy eating out, eating amazing food, which is like my favorite thing in the world, and really just spending, like, quality time with my friends and family. So, that’s a little bit about me. As far as the question goes, ‘so, what did I expect this year to look like?’ As we’ve learned through all of you, expectations are kind of silly at this point, right? Cause usually life defies your expectations. But for me 2022, last year, was really difficult. I was navigating a lot of change – which is hard for me. And so, in 2023, you know, when January 1st came around, I was like, OK, I have all these intentions: I’m going to be filled with clarity; I’m going to be, you know, have all this trust in myself; I’m going to surround myself with good positivity and happiness. And, I was like, OK, 2023 is going to be my turn around, right? Well, that lasted for about, like, 15 days, and then I started to have some really severe health issues that were totally out of the blue and were really mysterious. But I was super determined to get answers when it was happening and so I kind of reset my expectations in that moment and said, ‘OK, I’m going to heal myself by the end of Q1’. I kept telling everyone that. I kept putting it out in the universe. And so, I drove to like 100 doctors and I did every test you could think of, and I really tried to hold myself to those expectations. Right? But I lost steam really quickly because it was really hard to keep positive, you know. While I wanted to believe I was going to get better [but], things just kept not going my way and I just kept getting road-blocks. And so, at some point I kind of stopped expecting or even looking forward to things. And, I guess, I really just want to shout out today that it’s OK, right? What we’re saying is, like, it’s OK if sometimes your life isn’t going as expected or you start to really only expect bad things to happen and you start to lose some of that motivation because, you know, when, suddenly, your life has changed or you just keep experiencing those roadblocks, you start to get really stuck in like that survival mode, that fight or flight mode. And you can stop setting expectations or stop looking forward to things because you’re really just so zoned-in and focusing on what’s happening to you in that very moment. And I just want to really extend my love and my thoughts to anyone who’s listening that might be going through something that’s making it really hard to think about the future or to look forward to things or set those expectations because I know that’s not what you expected, right? But I really believe that in my heart that one day soon, you’re going to wake up and you’re going to think to yourself, ‘I can’t wait for that thing.’ And suddenly you’ll have some good expectations again for the future. And whatever it is, big or small, I know it’s going to happen soon, and I know it’s going to make you excited and happy. And from there it will only grow, and I know that because it did for me. I got to that point of not expecting anything or not looking forward to things. And then, suddenly, I did, again, and I felt happy again. And so, I guess now, kind of going through all of that and having a pretty tough year – but really just continuing to survive and thrive – I’m expecting for the rest of the year is to continue growing and to just do my best: to enjoy both the expected and the unexpected.

Jessica Arledge: I love that sentiment to just ‘keep growing’. That’s the best expectation to have: […] ‘I’m just going to keep growing; I’m going to grow and work; I’m going to grow in my whole life; I’m going to grow mentally and maybe physically, but just to keep growing.’ It is such a great attitude.

Elana Powell: Thanks, Jess.

Dominique Brown: So, Elana, you know, you’re on my team, now. We’re, you know, teammates. And so, I’ve, you know, been with you and talked to you as you go through this journey of kind of figuring out what’s going on with your health issues. And the one thing that I feel like I’ve always kind of heard you say throughout this process is, you know, recognizing that you’re not OK and being able to accept that and being able to take it and have the motivation to continue to want to figure out what’s going on. I know that it’s been super hard for you – throughout this process – and, I imagine, disappointing, as you’ve been, kind of, talking to different people, doctors, to figure out what’s happening. But, you know, one thing that I just admired about you – through this entire process – is that you’ve ‘taken it [on]’. You said, you know, ‘This is happening to me, but I’m not going to give up. I want to figure out what’s going on.’ And so, I think that’s really important, as you go through this journey, that you recognize that it isn’t going the way that you intended, but you’re also kind of pushing forward to make sure that you get the answers that you need in order for you to feel better about yourself and your life.

Elana Powell: Thanks, Dominique.

Jake Conlin: Yeah, I’ll just add, I really appreciated your comment there about ‘something eventually will come that gets you excited again.’ And, earlier, your comment that sometimes life is tough, and expectations aren’t being met and that it’s OK to acknowledge that. I think in my life I’ve found it’s important to acknowledge that just because I’m going through a challenge doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m weak. And so, I just loved your message about staying positive and knowing that eventually things will start to look up and sometimes that just takes time. And on the other hand I, you know, I like that idea of finding something to keep you excited and positive, especially when you’re facing more just routine challenges, things that aren’t as big of a deal, maybe a tough work week. Just having that bowl of ice cream at the end of the day that you can look forward to. Or maybe that hobby that you’ve been working on outside of work; so, yeah, just definitely appreciated the sentiment.

Elana Powell: Thanks, Jake. Yeah, my reward is a caramel macchiato from Dunkin’ Donuts. That’s what got me through tough times. No, no. But honestly, thank you all for talking about support systems. You’ve all been here. You know, I’ve known you all for most of the year and you’ve been terrific support systems. And I’m so lucky to have each of you on this podcast, and I’m really fortunate to have a team, Dominique and Funda and just the larger team here at NIQ, here, to support me through all of it, which is just – it makes all the world of difference to know that you’ve got people in your corner and people who will back you up when you need it. So, I want to say thank you to all of you too for being here for me and being here for each other, I think it’s a great team we have here. I’m really happy to be a part of it.

Jessica Arledge: 100%, 100%.

Jake Conlin: Yeah, yes.

Dominique Brown: Agreed.

Elana Powell: Well, thank you all so, so much. Thank you everyone who took the time to listen to our show today. We put a lot of love into bringing this podcast to life and I hope that you were able to see that shine through during our episode. Please, please, please visit our website or your preferred podcast provider. We’ve got Spotify, Apple music, any of them, and you can listen to all of our other amazing episodes of My __ Story. Remember that we all have a story to tell. Thank you.