The SIP: Episode 5 Transcript

Justin J. Pearson (2013), Madi Pfaff Edgar (2013), and Daron K. Roberts (1997)

Learn more about The SIP and its fifth episode, Coding and Community Building with Madi Pfaff Edgar (2013), here.

[Intro music plays]

Justin J. Pearson:

Welcome back to The SIP, the podcast that shares a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change. My name is Justin J. Pearson, and I’m a proud 2013 Coca-Cola Scholar, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and now living and working in Boston, focused on social and economic justice.

For those who are listening and may not be a Coca-Cola Scholar, welcome. We’re glad you’re here. To give you a little background, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is the largest achievement-based and corporate sponsor scholarship program in the country. Each year, it awards $20,000 to 150 high school seniors across the country who share a unique passion for service and leadership. It’s a competitive program to get into, but once you’re Coke Scholar, the benefits go far beyond the money for college. You become part of this bigger family for life. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website, coca-colascholarsfoundation.org. Today’s episode is going to be special. I am so excited that we have two folks I know personally for this podcast. I’m so happy that 1997 Scholar Daron Roberts, we’ll be taking time and talking with 2013 Scholar Madi Pfaff Edgar.

I have the pleasure of getting to know Daron through serving on the Coke Scholars Alumni Advisory Board. Daron is multi-talented and extraordinary in so many ways. He went from studying law at Harvard to working his way into the NFL as a defensive coach for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, and Cleveland Browns. He then became the founder of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas, where he also teaches a course called The Game Plan to Winning at Life to all of their incoming athletes.

He hosts his own podcast for risk takers and trailblazers named A Tribe Called Yes and is the author of Call an Audible. He also has another book coming out this year. Daron has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a young global leader for creating a nonprofit football camp called 4th & 1, Inc., which provides free SAT prep, life skills development, and football training to at risk youth. On top of all of that, he is a proud dad of five kids who he affectionately calls The Donut Council because of their Saturday morning trips to their favorite local donut holes.

Daron will be taking time and talking with Madi Pfaff Edgar, who he’s also come to know through the Coke Scholars network, and she is also a fellow 2013 Scholar. Just like Daron, she thrives off of helping people reach their highest potential. Through her company, With Madi, she empowers others to grow more, do more, and become more. She has a passion for developing impactful, innovative solutions fueled by unifying the stories of others. With her diverse background in industries and experiences, she has always found a desire to be a catalyst for transformational change.

She’s using her platform to hack the glass ceilings for other women and minorities through education, mentoring, speaking at conferences, and teaching workshops to universities and businesses. She loves sharing her experiences as a minority in STEAM, which is short for a science technology, engineering, arts and design, and math, as well as her passion for the technology education space and living life outside one’s comfort zone. There is so much more to her story, which you’re about to hear. So without further ado, here are Daron Roberts and Madi Pfaff Edgar.

Daron K. Roberts:

All right, we’ve got Madi Pfaff Edgar. How are you?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

What! What! Wish we were in the same room for sure, but I’m doing really well.

Daron K. Roberts:

It’s that COVID life. COVID life. We’re going to have some great stories to tell the grandkids, right?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

That’s for sure. That’s for sure.

Daron K. Roberts:

Well, welcome to the podcast. So great to have you on. I can’t wait to just sprinkle all of your ear candy out on the globe. People are going to love this episode. I’m pumped and I think a great place to start is at genesis and give us the cliff notes version of your life.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Daron. Okay. So genesis, wow, what a beginning. I grew up in Texas primarily to-

Daron K. Roberts:

Shout out, Texas.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yes. Honestly, I’m always going to be a Texas girl at heart, no matter where I am. Yeah, definitely very, very proud of Texas. I grew up in a really loving family with siblings, two younger brothers, and a family that really just supported me and pushed me to all the different challenges that they could. I just remember, they gave me this education that wasn’t necessarily in the classroom, but they exposed me to all these different type of opportunities that allowed me to really be exposed to things that I wouldn’t have normally. And especially, my parents were so big on giving me opportunities that they weren’t able to get themselves.

Whether that meant giving me mentors and surrounding me with just this powerhouse of people that helped me in all different aspects of my life, that was really I think what propelled me forward and gave me the courage to go to a college that I knew not one person and tried something completely new. And so I ended up venturing to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Go Heels. Like almost every college student does, I changed my major a couple of times and eventually landed on computer science and mathematical decision sciences. It’s just a big word for stats.

Daron K. Roberts:

What does that mean? What does that mean, Madi?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

No. No. But I really wanted to be able to learn something that gave me the tool set in order to be helpful and strategic in whatever problem that I came into contact with in the future. And for me, that was being able to have a knowledge of computer science and math, to be able to think strategically about things, and to be able to build things in the future. That was really exciting. And I loved being in this environment where I was so… It was so new and I had to learn how to swim. And I feel like that comfortability with transition is something that’s really been marked in several aspects of my life and in those times in transition. I really wanted to learn how to master those things.

And after college, I took a role that was a rotation program where for two years I transitioned through three different cities. I started first in Orlando, then moved to Philadelphia, then moved all the way across to the other end to LA and worked at three different companies and in three different technology roles, touching so many different types of businesses. It was incredible just the type of growth that was so accessible with all that opportunity, and I really loved it and it brought me to where I am now. Oh goodness gracious, I ended up meeting my husband in Philadelphia.

When it made the time to make the transition after LA, oh goodness gracious, I had an amazing and crazy weekend where I realized that there were all these things that I had been preparing for, and I just needed to be obedient and really get after it. On that Friday, I quit my job. On Saturday, I ended up getting married. On Sunday, I started my business, and on Monday, I moved from LA to Philadelphia. And then on Tuesday, I turned 23. I don’t know what more you can pack in a weekend, but I think I hit all the dots and that’s just propelled me to I guess where I am now for the past few years, just working on a business that I hope helps people build more things. And that’s where I am now.

Daron K. Roberts:

Some people move slowly. Madi Pfaff Edgar, a.k.a. MPE, is not one of those people. You move quickly. I love it. And I want you to go back to your Coke Scholar Weekend. Take us through the time warp. If you could tell yourself, the younger Madi… I’m 41. You’re still young, but the younger version of Madi. If you could give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Being a 2013 Scholar is, of course, an amazing and wonderful privilege. And I feel like I’ve been asking this question a lot more because I had the amazing opportunity to meet the 2020 scholars this past year interviewing them. And I want so badly for them to experience the first time that you’re in the room and you’re seeing all these different people that have done such incredible things in this world. And then the one thing that I would say to them, or I think to me the one thing I would say to myself is not to discount the true kindness that you have inside of you.

I think something that was so moving, I just remember being in that room full of Coke Scholars and hearing about all the different amazing things that they’re doing in all different areas that I would have never even thought of. I just saw this amazing ability for them to see all the different types of needs that we have in this world and being able to actually care for the true need that’s flying underneath and whether that’s something that they can do immediately or something that they have to grow and get a skill set for. They were willing by all means to get after it.

And that’s I think even the most encouraging thing about seeing Coke Scholar Alumni is that their whole life is marked by seeing these needs and doing anything that they can and everything in order to really care for those.

Daron K. Roberts:

I’m thinking of an article written by Marc Andreessen whom I normally I don’t agree with a lot, but there was a rare occasion. He just wrote an article basically asking, begging humans and in particular Americans to build more. And he talked about how COVID has really exposed a lot of the vulnerabilities and the lack of infrastructure that we have not created. Madi, I really want us to think about the people who maybe have spent a lot of time on the sidelines as it relates to the decision to build. They have this idea, they have this thing they want to bring out into the earth, and for various reasons, they haven’t made a lot of progress on the idea.

And you’re someone from your bio and just knowing you, you’ve shown the courage to just hit the go button. How do you do that? What’s your thought process? What are some things that are going through your mind as you are kind of building up the nerve to build something?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I think as I’ve aged throughout the years, I hope, as I go on wiser, I’ve seen that preparation looks a lot different. I think when you’re in high school, you’re preparing for a test, and so you’re given all these assignments, but you know exactly how to prepare. You study in the books, and you might search on Google or wherever. But what I found more in life is that preparation looks really different where whenever I want to build something new, the things that qualify me or the things that I think would have given me the experience in order to go forward are a lot different. So I’ll give you an example.

I am building this compiler, which is a really weird technical term, and it’s just the underlying language of computer science. It’s the thing that gives computers language to talk to humans in a sense. And at first, I was like, okay, I need to go take compilers classes and learn how to build that and learn every single detail. And that’s definitely part of the process. But when I was looking at holistically how do I start building this thing, I began to realize all the different opportunities that I had been exposed to that actually gave me such preparation that I felt like I was equipped to continue going forward.

I think that’s something that takes some time to be able to recognize and some time to actually place confidence in that you might not have every single… I mean, okay. So I love having every single detail mapped out and that’s definitely been a process of being able to look where I am now and be able to go forward even when I don’t know what seven steps ahead. And that’s probably maybe the biggest change that in the past few years, Daron, since we’ve last really had a solid talk of things that I’ve been learning of having kind of just like that faith to step out.

Daron K. Roberts:

Yeah. It seems like you have this real comfort level with first trying to learn things that you don’t know, so looking for resources whether it’s an article or a podcast episode or a book, or Twitch, YouTube, whatever it may be like. You’ve always shown this knack for scouring the earth to get the information you need, but then there’s also this point where you just have the courage to say, “My knowledge may be somewhat incomplete, but let’s do this,” and iterate on the fly. I want to applaud you for that. That’s kick ass. But it’s also probably scary as hell, too, right?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yeah.

Daron K. Roberts:

So let me ask you this, what keeps you up at night? Are there some challenges or problems in the world that you find yourself spending a lot of mental energy thinking about?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s in the DNA of a Coke Scholar. I don’t think I’ve met one that doesn’t, but I think I have two things to say to that. One is just I have this love of learning that I thought was just applied to school. I loved school so much mostly because I love taking notes and I love making them really pretty.

Daron K. Roberts:

Who are you?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I have no idea. I’m still figuring that out, but just this dedication to learning and always wanting to improve and knowing that extends far past the classroom and seeing how that applies to just living now. And the things that keep me up at night, the things that I want to even build and go on for the future isn’t really anything miraculous. What I really want to do is help others build things that can change their parts of the world and change whatever environment that they’re in and to make it a little bit better.

And that’s what I’ve been really wrapping my mind around for the, I guess, past couple of years of how do I enable people, how do I push people to have the tool sets that they need in order to create that type of world for themselves and actually giving them back the power to build it themselves, which is exactly what you’ve been saying. It’s been really cool.

Daron K. Roberts:

In many ways, you’re a builder of builders.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yeah.

Daron K. Roberts:

I love it.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I love that.

Daron K. Roberts:

You know, this is a time where the world’s going to need people to build solutions. And I want you to put on your genie forward looking hat, peer around the corner. What bold predictions do you have for the way that you think COVID is going to change the way that we live and learn?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I feel like most people have in this time, and I think a bigger aspect of our lives that I feel like is going to surface is this need for a community and how to build up your community and build others around you. And whether that’s through encouragement, whether that’s through just lending a hand or whatever, how do we really take notice and take care of the people around us? I’ve been really moved by all these people that have just had their eyes open to the needs in this world. I think what’s so cool is that we’ve all been looking at this one sickness that is awful and terrible, but it’s unified us.

It’s pointed our attention at one thing and made us want to care for that, and how amazing when all of these different people are put together and pointed at one thing and how we’re all doing all these different things to try to help solve that problem. And I think that same desire to come together and contribute whatever we have, whether that’s ideas, whether that’s food, whether that’s clothing, whether that’s skills, whatever, and trying to find a solution, I think it’s the best type of group project that there is in a real world.

Daron K. Roberts:

I love it. I love it. How about learning? We’re on Skype. People are using Zoom more. Online communities are growing. My five kids that we’re homeschooling, they’re on an assortment of…. We’ve got all the devices. We’ve got all of the apps. I’m teaching a distance learning at the University of Texas via Zoom. Do you think there’s going to be a different… Will the consumer, the learner ask for something different than they’ve received in the past? How’s it going to change the learning?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I think we’re going to be craving learning together. I think that’s something that I wouldn’t have necessarily put my finger to a couple of years back, but that’s always been part of my story. I hated just being the only one learning something. So whether you remember Minutes With Madi of just hopping on Instagram and just sharing what I was learning for that day, I always wanted to learn with people and learn collectively as a group. I think we all want that and we just all want to be on the same page. And so any way that we can stay on that same page going forward, I think people really crave that.

Daron K. Roberts:

Yeah, yeah.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

At least I do.

Daron K. Roberts:

Yeah, yeah. I think we’re going to be… I’ve talked about people sort of becoming the dean of their own college. And sort of to your thoughts around like describing the way that you learn about building a compiler, right? I think this next phase of our lives is going to require us to be really intentional about building our personal syllabus for learning. And it’s going to be interesting to see kind of how many people are willing to take that challenge on. What would you say inspires you?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I think a lot of things inspire me, but I think true inspiration pushes you to move to action. I think the things that actually get me to move are just the stories of people around me. And I think actually to your last question, I think people just sharing their stories. We’re connected as ever before. And when we’re creating our own syllabus, we’re not just accessible to the people that maybe were listed on, I don’t know, the school syllabus. It’s any person that you can gather that has some sort of insight into what you’re wanting to learn. So you can build this list of mentors. You can build these community of people around you that is just so personalized.

And I think what inspires me most and what inspires me towards action is actually being around others, or I think the thing to make inspiration sustainable is to be surrounded by a community that is constantly inspired. And I think it’s something that just turns on itself. It continues, it propels it forward, which is something I’m so grateful for the community of Coke Scholars, because I don’t feel like I’m procrastinating when I’m on the alumni page. It’s actually more inspiring than anything else just hearing what these people are doing and how they’re just so uniquely equipped to care for these needs.

I think that’s just been my line for this time of really seeing these needs and doing anything that we can to care for them.

Daron K. Roberts:

What advice would you give to someone… So let’s say someone wants to enter your field. What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to break in?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Do it? I think the biggest advice is that it’s not really any different than what you’ve done before. It’s just putting it in a new context. Whether that’s technology, I think thinking like a programmer isn’t necessarily something you learn. It’s just putting new language to the things that you’ve already been learning. So I would say that as new that it may seem, that it’s a completely different language, I’d say it’s not that different from the things that you know. And so you can start to learn how to build off of what you’ve already been preparing for and apply it into something new.

Daron K. Roberts:

What’s the next big project not just from a technology, but I know you’re a co-pastor, right?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yeah.

Daron K. Roberts:

At a fairly new church. You and your husband had built this church.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Yeah.

Daron K. Roberts:

Talk about the next steps and what that looks like.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

It’s actually been incredible. I’m just surrounded by communities of people I think wherever I’m at that love to give themselves to wherever there’s lack and love to make the world better. And whether that’s here in Philadelphia… Or I guess nothing really seems so separate anymore. So I feel like all of my different roles or all these different things that I’m identifying myself as, they actually blend so fluidly together and so beautifully. What’s next on or off the record, I don’t really know, but I’m going to be a mom.

Daron K. Roberts:

Wow. This is a podcast. This is definitely on the record.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I was like that’s kind of the only thing I’m thinking about right now.

Daron K. Roberts:

Congrats from the Coke familia! Congrats. That’s awesome! Look at us. We got breaking news on the podcast.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

There we go. Yeah. I think when I’m thinking about the next transition and how all of these different pieces play a part, I’ve been so aware of how the way that I live teaches certain qualities, certain aspects, certain beliefs to other people. I want to inspire people. I want to drive them towards action. I want to encourage them. I want to be there for whatever they may need and care for them.

And I think that’s really what’s next is being able to realize that in so many different ways, whether that’s building technology and enabling people that don’t speak English to code in their native language, or whether that’s caring for refugee families in South Philadelphia and just really being there for whatever they need, or being there for college students in this crazy transition, or being a mom. That’s a really big one.

Daron K. Roberts:

You got to add another hat to the closet.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I know. And just extending myself to people, being a listening ear and caring for them daily.

Daron K. Roberts:

I love it. I love it. This is going to be the last question before we go to the fast five, and it’s going to be a rapid fire.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Oh no.

Daron K. Roberts:

Well, you’re good. That’s my thing. I love it. Again, congrats on the upcoming addition. Hey, don’t listen to me, but I’ve got five kids.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

No, I’m asking you. [laughing]

Daron K. Roberts:

If my wife were here, she’d tell me to be quiet, but the one thing I want to say is that take some solace in knowing that you’re going to screw it up. As parents, oftentimes we think our job is to kind of safeguard our children from all of the dangers of the world. That was definitely the mindset that my wife and I had, but I think around kid four, we said, “Hey, let’s just go back to the basics and love them and give them an environment where they feel courageous enough to take on new challenges.” So you’ll do great. You’ll do better.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I love that.

Daron K. Roberts:

We’re struggling every day, so you’re going to crush it. We can’t wait to send a little mini Coke Scholar tee. That’s going to be incredible.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Oh my goodness. It’s going to crazy.

Daron K. Roberts:

You’re going have to post that for the world to see. Okay. Here we go.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Okay.

Daron K. Roberts:

All right. We’re going to the fast five, and the first one is tech related. You’re going to crush it. Okay?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Oh no.

Daron K. Roberts:

Boom. Number one, what are two apps or websites that you can’t live without?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Okay. Well, coding wise is GitHub. I love it every day. And if Google was a site… I mean, it is a site, but I use Google for everything. So that’s where my computer science education is Google.

Daron K. Roberts:

GitHub and Google. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. Okay. Numero dos, if I looked at the music on your iPhone or iPod or iPad, or maybe you got a cassette tape, whatever it may be, let’s say I looked at your playlist, what would most surprised me from your playlist right now?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Oh, the names of my albums.

Daron K. Roberts:

Give us an example. We need some examples.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I connect it to my Alexa. She doesn’t listen very well, so I just name them like one fun and two true and weird things. And so I can just say play album one and she does it. So making it simple for other people.

Daron K. Roberts:

I love it. I love it. Tres, favorite book or piece of music or art that has helped or inspired you in your life?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

I mean, to be completely honest, the Bible. It’s just been the only source that’s actually not watered down from anything. I mean, and Call an Audible and whatever manuscript you’re working on next.

Daron K. Roberts:

Stop. Stop. Don’t do that. The Bible and whatever your book is. I’m with you. I love it. I love it. We’ll go to four. We’ll go to four. What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Well, yeah, just love. I guess that’s been my motto. Just love.

Daron K. Roberts:

You know, in a world where we try to complicate things, getting back to the basics of love, that’s what we need. Five, number five, what makes the Coke Scholars program or the network unique?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

My goodness, everything. I love every part of the Coke Scholars network. I would say, I think I would go back to kindness. Just their ability to show true kindness of being there for people, being there for the needs of the world, and doing anything that it can to care for them.

Daron K. Roberts:

Madi, let me tell you, you’ve said so much. I mean, you’re a builder of builders. You’re about to be a mama.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

It’s crazy. Taking all Coke Scholar advice, please send my way.

Daron K. Roberts:

Yeah. Give the folks out there your… What’s the best way to get in contact with you to kind of send you some unsolicited advice that you’re going to ignore?

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Instagram.

Daron K. Roberts:

Instagram. Give the folks your handle.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

@WithMadiCo. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. Find me there. Send me all the DMs please.

Daron K. Roberts:

So Madi, co-pastor, coder, community builder, pending mama, and what we love the most is Coke Scholar. So thank you so much for shedding some light, slinging some love around to the community. You’re a bright spark. You’re bright part of a dark period, so thank you so much for inspiring us.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Thank you for the opportunity.

Daron K. Roberts:

Make sure we see that pick of the kiddo in a Coke Scholar suit.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Oh, it’s going to come. It’s going to come. You know Carolyn! [laughing]

Daron K. Roberts:

Thanks, Madi.

Madi Pfaff Edgar:

Thank you.

Transitional music

Justin J. Pearson:

We hope you enjoyed this episode between Daron and Madi. For links to With Madi Co. and other things they discussed, check out our show notes or coca-colascholarsfoundation.org. Tune in for our next episode in two weeks where Daron Roberts will be interviewing 2008 Scholar David Akinin all the way from Namibia, Africa. As the founder of Atenu Developments, David builds affordable housing, clinics, and classrooms for underserved populations in several countries across the continent. We look forward to seeing you next time on The SIP.