Fletcher Alums Create Podcast ‘At the Coalface’

Next up: Dean Rachel Kyte on March 30, 2022
At the Coalface logo

Philippe Rose, GMAP ’14, and Christian Bachheimer, GMAP ’17, wanted to create engaging alumni events in Southeast Asia but faced the challenge of attracting interesting speakers who would draw alums in from the area.

Remembering that the best part of the previous alumni events they had attended were the deep, thoughtful conversations they had with alumni from different backgrounds and unique life and work experiences, the two came up with the idea of creating a podcast. Soon after, ‘At the Coalface’ was born.

The name At the Coalface reflects real-life experiences, unfiltered stories told from the vantage point of practitioners as they deal with challenges in their respective fields. Philippe and Christian said they didn’t want At the Coalface to be a forum for theoretical opinions or punditry. 

“Our entrepreneurial instincts kicked in – even without any podcasting experience, we thought, let’s give it a try! The podcast format enables long-form conversations in an intimate setting and the conversations are available to everyone at no cost,” Philippe said. Adding, “This is a traditional podcast – audio-only, and it’s absolutely free. Once you download an episode, you can listen to it on the go – while commuting, taking a walk, or at the gym, pausing and resuming as many times as you wish.”

With success from their first episode launched in September 2021 Turkish foreign policy, step by step Philippe and Christian continue to forge ahead with more episodes with a variety of guests and topics to cover. At press time, (March 2022), the podcast has attracted 1,250 listeners from six continents, 75 countries, 300 cities, and each episode averages 80 downloads.

“Before we go on air, we have a preparatory call with our guests to explore themes or events that we then discuss on the podcast. Many of the topics from the podcasts come from the guests themselves. The episodes are not meant to be structured interviews. The recorded conversations are spontaneous, which is what we’re after,” Philippe said.

To date, guests have spoken about their journey to entrepreneurship (First Aider Turned Entrepreneur with Samer Sobh, GMAP ’16), responding to the call to serve their country (Leaving Colombia's Violence To Return And Build Bridgeswith Rubén Useche, Fletcher Admissions Ambassador) and navigating LGBT+ inclusion as a diplomat (When Private Life Empowers Public Service with Vanessa Calva, GMAP ’14.)

“The goal of the podcast is to nurture the sense of community we have in GMAP and encourage more connections. To create a window in the lives of GMAPers day-to-day at the coalface of international affairs,” Philippe said.

“All of us are a work in progress, seeking to transform into the best version of ourselves. This process is always difficult and hopefully, these stories have some nuggets of wisdom that can inspire our listeners,” said Philippe, adding, “Recently, listeners have shared they enjoy hearing stories from their classmates they never had time to have such open conversations with, or alumni sharing thoughts about events or sectors they are concerned much about. We’ve also had suggestions to host multiple guests with diverging views.”

Christian and Philippe said that they and their listeners are hoping that former Fletcher Dean James Stavridis will speak with At the Coalface and the two also say they welcome suggestions from listeners for guests with contrarian views, from countries that they rarely hear from, or with unique experiences. 

Word about the podcast is spread through GMAP LinkedIn and Facebook groups as well as on Instagram, and we’re grateful when GMAPers share the podcasts through their cohort’s WhatsApp groups. At the moment, Philippe and Christian are focusing on the GMAP community but are open to inviting other Fletcherites as guest speakers too.

Philippe and Christian are pleased to share an episode featuring Dean Rachel Kyte that will be released on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

Interested listeners can find At the Coalface on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and all other major platforms and apps. Please remember to subscribe to be notified when new episodes are released.

To learn more about Fletcher's GMAP program click here.

—Sarah Foote