Featured Friday: Mike Elam


This month we celebrated National Podcast Day! Our team is full of podcast listeners and so we wanted to dive a little deeper to understand what podcasts mean to them and how they have impacted their life. Each week we will be featuring a team member and interviewing them on their favorite podcast!



Hey Mike, Thanks for chatting with me today.


Let’s kick this off with you telling me about your role at RKS?

I’m the Director of Product Development, so I’m responsible for product development and engineering strategy and head up the engineering department. Another key role I play is in user experience creation and innovation around physical product interaction.


When you’re not at work- what do you like to do with your free time?

I hang out with my family, go on a hike, go to a museum. I like to cook, I like to garden, I like working on my vintage Mercedes. I’m also doing a course on open water sailing and skippering, which I did a lot of as a teenager, and feel a really strong pull to be out on the water!


How did you get into listening to podcasts, why do you like them?

I got into podcasts as a way of passing time when I first started commuting to RKS from the east side. I like them for the mind-broadening stories; hearing about technology and human behavior and how it shapes our lives. It feeds the designer’s mind, I think. It helps give a broader context to what we do and who we design for.


How did you hear about 99% Invisible? How does it keep you interested?

I think I heard it mentioned on another podcast. The principle of it is a short form piece of journalism that covers a topic of interest, generally about the built environment around us, whether from history or the modern-day, that is not substantial enough of a story to be covered elsewhere. Some of the stories are completely fascinating – how we create things around us or make decisions that are for very specific reasons that might be lost to history or are simply so narrowly focused that we would never otherwise hear about them.


That’s so interesting, Do you think others should listen to it? What do you think they can gain from it?

It’s probably not for everyone. But I think anyone interested in the human psyche and how we interact with our environment or innovate for the circumstances we’re presented with, I’m sure will find it fascinating.


Between sailing, spending time with your family, and your beautiful vintage Mercedes, when do you find time to listen to podcasts?

I’m actually on a podcast hiatus. I’m in a period of listening to audiobooks. Anything from Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens to trashy crime fiction!


How do you think your life has changed since listening to 99% Invisible?

Beyond the mind expansion I mentioned, I think that it (along with some other podcasts I listen to) has helped me understand some of the nuances of American culture and the American psyche, since moving here from the UK six years ago.


What are your thoughts on podcasts as a new medium of gathering information?

There are so many great ones out there. It’s pretty easy to find yourself a collection of different podcasts that represent your complete range of interests and help introduce you to concepts and ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about. You could probably build up a great psychological profile from studying someone’s podcast subscription list!


Awesome! Thanks Mike!



Stay tuned for the last Friday Feature with Dean Locke, our Senior Designer!

For more information on RKS feel free to reach out at [email protected]