The Creative Technologist
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Robert Berkeley 0:03
Hello and welcome to another episode of Inside jobs, a podcast that takes you behind the scenes of in house agency leadership. I'm your host Robert Berkeley and today we have a fabulous guest who is at the helm of the creative and brand management for a company that's making waves in their industry. This episode of Inside jobs is made possible by IHAF the leading professional association for in-house agencies, and EKCS, the content production partner to corporate creative teams. Our guest today Kris Kinney hails from Kofax, a company headquartered in Orange County, California. With a team that spans across the golden state and beyond, I'm pretty sure you're going to find Kris's journey in the world of creative leadership to be both inspiring and illuminating. Kris has navigated the challenges and embrace the opportunities that come with managing a creative team within such a dynamic organization has Kofax. Throughout his career, Kris has not only nurtured his creatives, but also protected them from the various distractions that can happen. We all know that. And at the same time, he's also fueled their inspiration even in the face of the challenges of working remotely. So without further ado, let's embark on this insightful journey with Kris Kinney and discover what it takes to lead an in house agency to success. Kris, welcome to Inside jobs.
Kris Kinney 1:24
Great. Thanks, Robert. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to have our conversation.
Robert Berkeley 1:29
Are you a California kid?
Kris Kinney 1:32
No. So moved around quite a bit, but actually grew up in Utah, eight years old when we moved there and grew up there until I was in my 20s. So yeah, my professional experience started in Utah. And being in technology and design, it's you know, I don't know that a lot of people think about Utah's as being the catalyst for that. But, you know, my childhood never really had a sense for design until a lot of 3d animation started becoming a thing where they had these massive supercomputers cranking out these, you know, by standards now pretty basic animations, but I'm sure it took them like weeks to months to render these out. And I was just fascinated by it like this, this technical, like, you know, very realistic renderings, and I'd never seen anything like that before.
Robert Berkeley 2:22
We're not talking about being fascinated by Tron, this is something that goes beyond that, right? What was your, what was your kind of exposure to it, then as a kid?
Kris Kinney 2:29
Well, just so there was this old show, called Night Flight, and they had this opening sequence that was just like flying across the cityscape at night. And it was just like nothing I'd ever seen before. It's just like, super hyper realistic, stylized, like in you could just tell like it someone had like a, someone created this, right? They created this from this technical lens, but it had this creative application in that that's sort of fit my brain perfectly. It's like, oh, you can you can have this element of playfulness with it, but also these like technical constraints. And I didn't know that at the time, but that was just sort of exactly where my brain was. I'm not like a hard, left brained, technical person or, you know, hyper creative, artistic person, I'm somewhere in between. So, you know, that is, you know, we'll talk about that a little bit more. But that sort of has allowed me to, to work with creatives, work with technical people and developers across my career, which has really helped me out and it's, you know, it's something I really enjoy.
Robert Berkeley 3:38
and you're there in Utah and you're fascinated by this idea of worlds created on a computer virtual worlds, I guess you were somewhat ahead of your time, I think in that regard, but how did you how did you pursue that dream? And how did that turn into kind of steps on your educational career and so on?
Kris Kinney 3:54
I got a computer when I was very young and started getting into like some basic programming and graphic tools and I started learning just teaching myself…
Robert Berkeley 4:02
What were you using…what were those tools Kris, come on, remind us take us back to the on the web in the Wayback Machine.
Kris Kinney 4:10
So this is before Photoshop even this is like even to like paint. I mean, I remember the computer I would just get my father to buy like a new EGA graphics card or a VGA graphics card. So we were going from like, you know, eight bit to 16 bit just slowly opening up the color palette of things that I could do from like 16 colors when I hit 256 color palette it just blew my mind at the time because I couldn't even imagine going to like millions of colors but But yeah, just so is the technology of the computer. The hardware kind of expanded, like the hard drives got bigger and then I started getting software that would be like paint programmes just like you know super simple paint programmes and even You know, I got into the Amiga, the Commodore Amiga, that would just kind of like Apple really had advanced graphics capabilities. And so they came out with 3D, 3D tools that were, you know, starting to come out at the time. So I kind of self taught myself and it won it, let me really explore the tool, but it almost started training me and UI and user experience to of just trying to learn interfaces of different tools.
Robert Berkeley 5:32
Wow. So we are friends knocking on the front door saying is Kris coming out to play? And then your mother was saying, Kris, Kris is doing advanced computer graphics upstairs. I mean, is that is that your childhood? And not sure…
Kris Kinney 5:43
Quite a bit of time in my room. We had our weekends with friends and occasionally going out. But I, yeah, I was locked up in my room quite a bit. And just between learning tools, and just like playing games, and just, you know, I was, I was definitely a digital native, since I was, you know, maybe like six or seven years old.
Robert Berkeley 6:04
to spend base with that background. And what I want to do and what what choices did you make?
Kris Kinney 6:10
Yes, it's interesting, at that point, I didn't really associate my passion, which was like graphics and design and games to a career like it. I don't know that it was a thing back then. So in school, I was like, Well, I guess I'll go into electrical engineering, because I like the technical side, you know, I'm good at math. And I can sort of do that. And it's, it's interesting, right? Like, just creating things always interested me solving problems. So it seems great. And, and while I wasn't studying that, for school, I'm like doing graphics and spending, like, two to three times more of my energy and time doing that than sort of the schoolwork and the focus on what a career might have been.
Robert Berkeley 6:56
Okay, but you did study graphics, right?
Kris Kinney 6:58
I did. I took like, some of the core classes, you know, it's like typography, color theory, and just in the design side, as well as like, general education, it's more technical and taking math. So I was just, like, really focused on general education and, and still trying to figure out like, Is this really what I want to do? And it just like, and I think in the back of my head, I had this pulling of like, well, you really liked doing this. So why are you going down this other path when you know, it's an unknown versus doing something that you actually enjoy doing?
Robert Berkeley 7:29
So did it come to a crunch moment, you had to make a choice?
Kris Kinney 7:33
Yeah, my sister had a friend that worked at the small agency. And she would come over sometimes, and she was kind of interested in what I was doing. And I would show her like, some animations I was working on and some of the, the design work and she's like, you know, you should, you should come to where I work and just sort of talk to the people there, just see if maybe there's something there. Because you know, what you're doing is very interesting. And, you know, so she just kind of saw the potential there, and brought me in to speak with her boss and…
Robert Berkeley 8:06
And he was still studying.
Kris Kinney 8:09
Yeah, I was, I was still studying, I was still you know, it wasn't like, Oh, this is my Big Shot, my big opportunity to get in what I'm doing. I was like, Yeah, sure, I'll come down and talk. And so I went in to their office, and they're very much a startup and just boxes of things everywhere. And couple of workstations on the wall.
Robert Berkeley 8:26
Did you abandon your studies? Or did you did you…
Kris Kinney 8:29
Robert Berkeley 9:24
Before living the dream. Why are you not taking leave?
Kris Kinney 9:27
Well, I'll get to that in a minute. We would have narrator's we're creating interactive content for like, the military or government for like kiosks, like touchscreen kiosks, and we're creating our own software, an authoring environment similar to flash and just like packaging design, so I basically had my hands on like just all these different areas and started growing like a small team of designers there that I worked with, but the tipping point was with our authoring software, they had to make it decision of are we going to incorporate web connectivity in this? The internet just started kind of coming out becoming a big thing. And the leadership made the call that it's kind of a fad. We're not going to we're not going to enable web content.
Robert Berkeley 10:16
Was that 90s still? Yeah, I think so. Anyway, so you so they didn't want to go where you wanted to go. And you moved on, you went to California, tell it tell us about, you know, what happened there?
Kris Kinney 10:26
Yeah. So I had some good friends that I worked with, at that company. And as they were sort of, you know, resolving their decision to not enable Internet technology, which was not good for them, we decided to start our own company. So we decided to move to California because one of so there are three of us. And one of them grew up in California. So Shawn, convinced us all let's let's start a company in California. Let's go. So, you know, we're all young are impressionable, like, Yeah, let's start a company. And it's probably easy and cheap. Yeah, exact. So easy. Just gotta like write a two page business plan, right? I would say, you know, we spent about six, eight months until we realized we weren't getting this chunk of money from investors to start this company. But luckily, because Shawn was from the Bay Area, from San Francisco Bay Area, he knew people, he had some good friends, they had a marketing agency, and, you know, we're doing some contract work for them. And eventually, they brought us in.
Robert Berkeley 11:33
So you moved across to a brand around 2008? How did that come about? And how did that work out?
Kris Kinney 11:41
Yeah, so. So I did. So when I worked to enhance, which is, again, a small agency that they they, so I actually function as primarily doing half design work and half doing the brand liaison. So really, on client calls, reviewing work before it goes to the client, just making sure that, you know, if we had their brand book, everything was sort of up to standards. So so half of my function there was to sort of be the the internal brand police. So the work that we're presenting was on point and, you know, just because when you don't have that sometimes designers are if they're not as aware of what the brand standards or expectation is, they just kind of, you know, go off vendors that yeah, they just say, Oh, this looks great. I think this looks amazing. It's like, well, it does, but not for this company, because they would never use that color, you know, whatever the the brand standards are. So I worked for them for a while doing sort of that brand oversight, but then had an opportunity to go to Nokia, with a small marketing team. And I think at that point, I was very, I was responsible, specifically as an in house creative of managing our own brand and evolving that. So my experience of, you know, evaluating other companies, brands, guidelines, like their brand books, and in knowing how to, you know, communicate, what the, you know, the rules are or how to use different design elements, that background from agency work helped me really put structure around our own brand standards. And knowing that, you know, whatever I find as a standard, I need to be able to communicate how it should be used, share brand standards out to other vendors that we're working with, or other designers so that they can use the same set of rules. So everyone's like, pointing in the same direction.
Robert Berkeley 13:53
Similar to what you were saying before getting everyone aligned and getting getting them, as you say, kind of, you know, pointing in the right direction. But I just want to just go back just very, very quickly, you you had been working for agencies, and you just mentioned you got the opportunity to work at Nokia. That's for a lot of people. That's kind of a big decision do I do I become you know, poacher turned gamekeeper or, you know, is my life going to be different? Am I going to continue to be stimulated? While those questions in your mind when you made the switch? Or was it was it really quite an easy decision?
Kris Kinney 14:26
I think well, I mean, working for a small like startup like an agency one. On one side, you have a lot of opportunity to work on different projects, you know, it's fast paced, you learn a lot of things and that's great on one side, but you know, your resources are very limited. You wind up being very reactive instead of proactive in I wanted to work for a large organization like a global organization where or, you know, our teams had specific functions instead of like, well, everything needs to get done, put on a different hat and figure out how to get it done. Like that's, you know, in the startup or small company, it's nice to be able to do that. But then you hard, you rarely have the focus to really craft a specific skill, right? It's like, you're just a jack of all trades. So I was looking forward to working on a very small focus team, moving towards a specific goal and being able to really wrap my arms around the brand itself and create that and evolve that versus doing that when I had the time from them. 50 other things that
Robert Berkeley 15:41
I had, and that was really, because I know, I mean, I know, both of you, you're extremely busy now working working at Kofax. But did you really get that space and time that you you you kind of anticipated when you move? You're at Nokia and your then Robert, half an eight by eight. So did that? Did that actually turn out to be true?
Kris Kinney 16:00
Yeah, I think so. I mean, it was it was great experience working with a large organization, especially an international organization, it's one thing if, you know, being an American working for American companies, we have a specific way of doing business. But Nokia being a Finnish company, it was great experience in learning cultural nuances in a business and even down to like the summers like August was great for me, because everyone just took off
Robert Berkeley 16:32
with your with your next employees there, right? No,
Kris Kinney 16:34
no, no, that was very specific. So there was no, those were like the golden years. So it was, it was it was a great experience. And I had a great team that I worked with. So I learned a lot there. But then yeah, moving on to Robert Half. That was, that was great, because it sort of tapped into a lot of the experience, I would say up to that point, I was learning, you know, using a little bit of my previous knowledge to help guide me, but really learning and, you know, getting new information, new skills, and just building that versus Robert Half, I think is the first switch where it's really just, you know, tapping into all the stuff that I had built from there. helping guide the designers and the rest of the team based on that experience in almost shifting up to the management level of using my experience to help other people get their jobs done versus doing it myself.
Robert Berkeley 17:33
And you got to work with the legendary Stephanie Leathers as well.
Kris Kinney 17:36
Yeah, exactly learned a lot from Stephanie in and plus the creative team. And Robert Half was pretty massive from what I had worked with in the past, there's like 30 to 40 people just in the creative team. So it was great mix of production designers, interactive designers, art directors, you know, working with the creative director, even across the organization across marketing. So it was, you know, really, really great experience.
Robert Berkeley 18:04
Okay, well, clearly, you had kind of a wide ranging set of experiences. I don't want to say you kept faking it till you made it but you definitely learned on the job by the sound of things as you as you progressed through this, you've got the got the the the technical chops, you've got the creative chops, the management experience, increasingly, and you wound up I think, just at the beginning of COVID. Where you are now correct?
Kris Kinney 18:27
Yeah, so yeah, what's once I left Robert Half, I worked at eight by eight. That was a short stint. There was a Yeah, I mean, COVID, you know, as we all know, sort of threw a wrench and pretty much everything across the board. So that impacted me. But even having a short time there, I made some great connections after that started at Kofax, which is where I am now. And yeah, just really, again, managing the brand.
Robert Berkeley 18:56
Give us an overview of Kofax what they do in their markets and their customers and the role that the in house agency has within the company and then we'll we'll dig in a little bit and discuss what you've actually got there.
Kris Kinney 19:07
Yeah, sure. So Kofax so we do Intelligent Automation, workflow automation. So if you think of different industry, verticals like healthcare, insurance, baking, we just take processes that they would have like loan applications, processing claims, just sort of a lot of the the core functions that a lot of these businesses have and we automate those.
Robert Berkeley 19:33
Clearly a true business to business proposition. How does the in house agencies support them then and what have you got to do that support?
Kris Kinney 19:41
So, so my team I'm in charge of brand experience which encompasses any touch point that customer or potential customer would interact with our brand so that could be advertising, seeing us on social media through email communication, in person events. On our website, so a lot of online communication channels, if I don't directly manage those, I work with those functional teams to, you know, get requests, if they need assets, if they need, like a datasheet updated if they need, you know, we're running a new campaign, just partnering with those different teams to, you know, what, what are the different assets they need is an existing campaign, making sure everything is consistent and making sure everything's on brand, and just getting everything in the, in the pipeline to, you know, balance the priorities, and all the different requests to make sure that we get stuff out on time, and everything's consistent.
Robert Berkeley 20:42
Okay, so I mentioned this just now, but are you within marketing? Are you separate from marketing? Yes, within Marketing? Yep, within Europe getting you I know, you're a free resource for marketing to use as much as they like, whenever they like.
Kris Kinney 20:57
I would say yes, but we have very, I would say we're pretty organized. And what are our campaigns, we have a lot of self help tools for different teams. So say, like the email marketing automation team, we have created a, like a library of assets for them already. So even though they're like cranking through work every week, every day, they're not necessarily sending us requests, where once a month or once every two months, they might send us a batch of new assets that they need. And we sort of prioritize those. But we've we've gotten into a rhythm where we more of the one off requests are more around new campaigns or new initiatives. But the other stuff is just sort of in a regular cadence that we sort of have thought of ahead of time and either give teams templates to use or have like a library of assets for them to pull from.
Robert Berkeley 21:54
Right. So you say there's a bit of self service going on there. Exactly. Okay. Let's talk about that a little bit. How did you implement that yourself? And how easy was it to get the stakeholders to adopt it?
Kris Kinney 22:08
Yeah, so when I started, they had a lot of these libraries created. So people were already in the habit of pulling from different areas, either for imagery or you know, say, like email headers, or social media templates.
Robert Berkeley 22:24
So, you had to set this up for the, for the marketers to access.
Kris Kinney 22:28
Yeah, we have a mix. So we have a few different platforms where people access these. So we're on Microsoft, so we use SharePoint for a lot of this for internal teams to access it. So when we do create new assets for the team to use, we'll use that in communications across we have internal newsletters, we have channels on teams. So we just sort of you know, broadcast that either new tools are available, or say like, we have a new PowerPoint template we just released. So just like letting people know where it is how to use, it will typically do like a walkthrough, record a walkthrough of like best practices. And this is sort of the differences from the previous one sort of the new things just so people can watch that instead of having like, multiple workshops, we just kind of record it and let people self service view that so they know how to use the new tools or templates
Robert Berkeley 23:22
and how often do you see a PowerPoint that's using the old brown the old style or anything like that? Are people kind of leaning in? Are you getting them to lean in? Have you got ways of incentivizing them to watch these videos and stay up to date? Well,
Kris Kinney 23:33
Luckily, Everyone is very excited for new new assets, like the new look and feel. And yeah, I don't know if that's the corporate culture. But even before the templates are done, just like you're always getting things like is a new thing. Ready? Is the template ready? When is this going to happen? Like there's so at least? Yeah, exactly. It's like such a relax, it'll come it'll be here soon. So when I launched it, then everyone just very excited to, you know, use the new, you know, new look and feel the new tools, etc. So that's I'm very thankful that that's sort of the the culture here is they're embracing new answers instead of setting the old ways.
Robert Berkeley 24:14
That's definitely refreshing. You don't hear that all the time. So. So tell us a little bit more about the, the division, the agency itself, and how many people you've got, what the skill sets are, and kind of how you get through this work. And it sounds like there's quite a lot of requests coming through.
Kris Kinney 24:31
Yeah, so…so, my team is divided into different functions. We have the creative side of it, which is I have one person managing sort of the creative management of project intake requests, you know, going back and asking questions, if the request is too big prioritizing in our…
Robert Berkeley 24:53
Like and account manager type role.
Kris Kinney 24:57
Partially I mean, she, she's a designer, she's great designer, but she also is just, you know, takes the input. So we have a offshore resource that we use for the bulk of like tier two tier three work, work that uses a template, something that's, you know, just not I don't want to say not creative, but just has very direct expectations, I would say, would that be my team that you're talking about that that is your team, that's EKCS. So we, we, it's been great. We've established a great working relationship. So using our tool Asana, we get requests in and we've set up the the rules to auto notify. And it's been pretty streamlined. So there's there's very little white glove service needed in that, you know, we have the request, review it kind of set it on the right boards, and the work gets done.
Robert Berkeley 25:53
So what else have you got that you mentioned, the creative side?
Kris Kinney 25:56
Yep. And we manage the website. So the corporate public facing website and again, I have Jess who manages that. She She is a great mix of understanding UX and good design, but also is very technical. She knows enough to be dangerous and like our CMS to just hand coding pages to get something done versus using the existing templates. So she has a couple of web producers like that they do like front end work mainly has a couple of them that are based in India. So it's a small web team. But we also have a an agency that we work with that does a lot of the back end, like feature enhancements, fixing bugs, etc. On our current site, so Okay, so we have a lot of agencies support there. Yeah, and other areas. Yeah. So we have events, globally events, which reports to me. So that would be we have an internal sales kickoff, beginning of the year, which is like four or 500 people that we do each year, as well as summits throughout the year. So we do like regional events to really focus on live demonstrations, kind of setting like new product announcements, and just getting regional Alexa, we'll have it in Germany, we'll have one in France have one.
Robert Berkeley 27:26
I'm sure that you have to attend these yourself that nucleus to make sure that everything's in order.
Kris Kinney 27:30
I did I did last year, we sort of had a few of them, which sounds great. But I was in France for I think two days during this event. And I saw the Eiffel Towers as taking an Uber to the office, I didn't get a chance to hear anything. It is!. Yeah, there it is. But and then this year, we're talking I'm doing I think like six or seven in Europe, and like a handful in the US, I'm like I physically am not able to go to or manage all these. So part of my job is to figure out how to scale that up this year to you know, make sure that all of them are executed at the same level of quality but doing more with less basically.
Robert Berkeley 28:10
Yeah, well, that's that's the constant cry of any in house agency leader.
Kris Kinney 28:15
Oh yeah. Yep, we'll do more of it faster.
Robert Berkeley 28:19
Yeah, and less money. Yeah. Exactly. So So given all that you have, I think it's pretty unusual actually post post COVID A lot of people are back in the office, at least part time either mandated or not, but there is an office but you are 100% remote working. Is that right?
Kris Kinney 28:38
Yeah. So when I started at Kofax, the they were just this is always remote, always going to be remote, you're never going to be asked to go to the office, which potentially they say that to a lot of people and now some are being asked back to the office. But my the closest office to me is like a six hour drive down to LA so that's yeah, I've been there a couple of times, but it's not the expectation
Robert Berkeley 29:00
And how big is your team again? Did you mention?
Kris Kinney 29:03
About seven, seven or eight people total on my team
Robert Berkeley 29:06
plus agencies and companies in India and so on Yeah… So so how do you keep them all aligned? How do you keep them inspired? How do you keep them innovative with all this? This you know, remote only work? How do you achieve that Kris?
Kris Kinney 29:22
The work that we do like we're always trying to keep the brand from the creative side keep the brand fresh and new and work on new ways to keep it creative versus Okay, we have we have a standard let's just keep doing this rinse and repeat. And some places are like that. But you know, I think I like compelling creative. I like to see it evolve and progress and see over time just reach reach people right like you. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, then it starts losing its impact. So the whole goal of marketing is to connect with people and convinced them so
Robert Berkeley 30:01
and so you have sounds like you have quite a seat at the table when it comes to the marketing team, the ability to move the brand on advance it. And you sounds like you develop that with them. You know, it's not instructions from on high. This is a collaboration that you have with them, right?
Kris Kinney 30:16
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, our VP of Marketing definitely has a perspective and has certain things that he likes, but at the end of the day, you know, he trusts that we're the ones that own it and manage the brand. And with any good relationship, there's times that it's like, do this, okay, it's done versus, you know, sometimes we get into a debate of why we should do something, or is this some brand or shouldn't be doing, but I'd like having an organization where you can have those disagreements? Initially, it can come to a resolution very often, yeah, it always gets resolved. And I think it helps build our relationship as peers, and you know, that we can have open disagreement, it helps us agree more often than not having gone through that process.
Robert Berkeley 31:10
Yeah. So taking things forward into the future. What are your plans? What are your hopes? What challenges do you hope to knock down? And and what new challenges do you hope to address in the near future?
Kris Kinney 31:23
Yeah, I mean, we have a lot going on right now. One thing that I'm really focused on now is building out reasons why the video side of things, and even when I started, that was sort of like one of the initial, they hired me, just because I have a lot of video background, a lot of video experience of just really, how do we express these abstract concepts like artificial intelligence and workflow automation? And visually? How do we and tell your stories that Yeah, exactly tell it in a way that most people understand it. You know, and you didn't, you can get more technical on one side, but how do you keep it light and informative enough, but also weave in this brand feel so the message is coming from this organization about this specific thing versus just general education? Right. So that's, that's the balance. So working on video, keep on refining the website, like the you know, any good website is a work in progress, just keep improving the user experience working with different teams like our demand, gen two, you know, how do we how do we get more? Like more form submissions? Like what can we do to a page to increase that working with advertising on you know, different looks different headlines? How do we change CTA such as all these like, little levers and switches across
Robert Berkeley 32:56
and you have access to the data that comes out of the website so that you can analyze what works and what doesn't work? Yeah, exactly. Those experiments?
Kris Kinney 33:04
Well, it's it's, yeah, it's through the website data through the website. But we're very data driven. So it's, it's even down to the point where our marketing function is so closely involved with sales of, okay, our dimension efforts have created, how much pipeline and what is the different sales stage of these different opportunities. So we're in lockstep with sales. So everything we do, really has a number attached to it a financial number, so we're really pushed to not just come up with something creative, but at the end of the day, that that creativity needs to have some impact on the business.
Robert Berkeley 33:49
Kris Kinney from Kofax, thank you so much for sharing your life story, your career story and your advice that's been truly inspiring. And to our amazing audience, your you dear listeners, we appreciate you joining us today on this exploration of Kofax and Kris Kinney's career. Your support means the world to us and we hope you found today's episode as enriching as I did. Before I sign off, I just have a small favor to ask if you've enjoyed this episode and found it insightful, please consider taking a moment to rate and leave a comment about inside jobs on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps us improve, but it also makes it easier for others to discover this frankly valuable resource were in the late 40s. Now I think in the know in terms of the number of episodes, so let's spread the word about inside jobs. Tell your friends tell your family continue to shine a spotlight on the brilliant minds driving creativity within corporate creative teams. Thank you once again for tuning in. And until next time, keep innovating, keep creating and keep leading from the inside. This is Robert Berkeley signing off from inside jobs in partnership with IHAF and EKCS will catch you on the next episode.