The Monday Media Diet with Hashem Bajwa

Hashem Bajwa (HB) is a longstanding friend (and reader) of WITI. He’s always clued in with interesting things, and we are happy to have him join us this week. Find him at @Hash on Twitter and -Colin (CJN)

Tell us about yourself.

I help founders and executives with a founder mindset bring their vision to life through new creative experiences, products, or programs. 

I was the head of strategy for Apple around the world for seven years working with Angela Ahrendts to launch Today at Apple and drive the evolution of the Apple Store.

Today, I am building my own advisory service with Apple as my first client, while writing a publication to re-inspire entrepreneurs to create retail businesses; a book that will draw on stories from Apple and spotlight innovative shopkeepers, founders, and designers that are leading the way in retail design, customer experience, and human connection. Like good retail, I hope the publication is its own inspiring experience for people.

Describe your media diet. 

Everything is some form of media to consume these days, isn’t it? I mix text and audio constantly throughout the day.

Right out of bed I read the BBC and The New York Times apps to get a baseline on the big news stories, then The Verge and 9to5Mac for tech news and Apple gossip, and then Hypebeast and The Cut for my fashion fix.

From there it’s over to audio for the rest of the day...

  • Morning podcasts while I walk the dog include Marketplace Tech, which gives a short primer on a topic with related links. The Daily, if it’s not too much about politics. Consider This, which is cut from All Things Considered that day. 

  • Afternoon podcasts while I am on the go include Fresh Air, Pivot and The World.

  • Evening podcasts while settling in for the night include: Make Me Smart, which has a format born out of the pandemic that brings human rationality to the craziness and is quite cathartic. Lastly, it’s Audm articles read in audio or Headspace medications to fall asleep to. 

Weekend podcasts are their own flavor…

The Stack with Fernando Augusto Pacheco about the world of print is a calming voice on a Saturday morning. The Business with Kim Masters about the world of Hollywood is interesting to me as it is such a different business from my day-to-day. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend is a hilarious hit and a medium he’s thriving in as he moves past his TV career. Desert Oracle with Ken Layne is both meditative and spooky; it’s a show broadcast late at night from Joshua Tree about the weird and wonderful goings-on in the desert “from Amboy to Zzyzx”. The Halloween show is a good place to start.

...and email newsletters galore. Trying to hone those down to a few good ones on Substack to companion newsletters to the above audio shows.

What’s the last great book you read?

I enjoyed “The Trillion Dollar Coach” about Bill Campbell who died a few years ago. He was known as a mentor to Steve Jobs, the Google founders, and many other executives and leadership teams in Silicon Valley. He was very influential with many everyday names in business but not so well known himself. I often give this book to managers on my team who are growing and want to become better leaders. Everyone can use a coach.

Also, I see or get a lot of book recommendations, more than I can get around to reading, so I’ve been using the Blinkist app. They summarize non-fiction books into a series of audio pieces that captures the core idea and examples in about 15 minutes. It’s a good way to get the gist of those books that aren’t considered “the last great book” to read.

What are you reading now?

I like to always have two books on deck: something business and something fun. The fun book right now is “Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Japan”. Before the pandemic, my wife and I traveled to Japan a couple of times a year, so this is a nice taste of and twist on the place.

The business book right now is former Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi’s autobiography “My Life in Full”. It is really nice to read about a fellow South Asian brown person and learn about what she has achieved in the American corporate world. She has honest thoughts about leadership, mentoring, management, and family. I think this audio interview with her is actually more useful in a succinct package than the book itself.

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

Strategy is sacrifice. So I tend to focus on articles and images that inspire me and ditch the rest. I’ll often skim a magazine and absorb the flow, feeling, and structure of it, and then drop in on a story or spotlight that appeals to me. 

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

Anand Giridharadas is pretty well known, but I think everyone should read his work, especially those of us working in technology. His arguments don’t make people in power feel good, but I think he challenges everyone to rethink good intentions and shallow execution by companies to “give back” and “do good”. His book “Winners Take All” is a good start or his talk at Google is worth a watch. 

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

I’ve been trying to offload apps and pull back to the essentials. I want to treat my iPhone apps more like fixed tools than infinite streams. 

That said, one I’ve used a lot lately is Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs. It’s not famous, but not not famous? We got a place in the Mojave Desert and the stargazing is great. I love that Sky Guide brings audio in to create a more immersive or sensory experience than most apps. The team behind this app seems to always take on new technology and apply it quickly and smartly. And all with a small team.

Plane or train?

Well, I like to take a nice plane to get a cool train! 

Right before the Covid lockdown we flew Singapore Airlines for the first time, very nice, and went to Tokyo. We spent a few days on the Shiki-shima train. Many of your readers will know how amazing the Shinkansen train system in Japan is, but Shiki-shima is a hidden gem. The train is more futuristic and was designed by Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, the automotive designer behind the Ferrari Enzo. It is more like a luxury hotel with a mixture of on-board amenities and special experiences at local venues along the journey in the Tohoku region of Japan.

What is one place everyone should visit? 

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the biggest national parks and has a rough beauty that I think is cosmic. The National Park System in America is a real treasure, and it is so worth spending time exploring these. Wildsam is a wonderful publisher of culture guides to many cities across America, and they have a special series on the national parks that I highly recommend. The Editor, Taylor Bruce, should do a Monday Media Diet!

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into. 

I actively seek out rabbit holes about some of my favorite Sci-Fi movies or shows. New Rockstars on YouTube does the best breakdowns about the mysteries and theories on what’s of the moment in the genre. (HB)


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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Hashem (HB)

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