Welcome to Episode 84!
Our guest for STIMY Episode 84 is Eric Toda.
Eric Toda is, in brief: Dad and husband first. Marketing executive (Meta, Nike, Airbnb, and Snapchat), board member (Smithsonian APAC, The Asian American Foundation, LAAUNCH, Reimagine) and angel investor (Hyphen Capital) second.
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Who is Eric Toda?
Eric Toda is a fourth generation American. His grandfather, despite going through the Japanese incarceration in the States, volunteered to be in the army because he was fighting for people like Eric himself.
But being of Asian origins, life wasn’t easy. And racism was something that Eric too had to deal with while growing up. Which is why Eric is so passionate about fighting for people who look like him to have the right to call themselves Americans. Because that is exactly who they are.
- 2:38 How Eric’s grandfather fought for him before he was born
- 10:05 Why Eric wanted to become a lawyer
From Facebook to Gap Inc
Eric Toda shares how his now wife first convinced him to make the switch from law to startup (aka Facebook), and also the difficulties he faced in the earlier part of his career.
Including being advised by his father that in order to survive in a white-dominated company, he needed to keep his head down, do the work, and never look a white executive in the eye.
Against all odds, Eric rose to the pinnacle of his career, becoming Chief Marketing Officer at Gap Inc.
But then… it came fell apart when he was fired.
- 12:08 Joining a little startup called… Facebook
- 15:59 Don’t look a white executive in the eye
- 20:42 Getting credit for your work
- 23:21 Being fired from Gap Inc as Chief Marketing Officer
- 25:09 Why Eric failed to challenge the status quo
Climbing the American Corporate Ladder
Suffice to say that Eric has had his fair share of challenges in corporate America.
But he has also had some fantastic wins. From the hugely innovative Nike to working on some of his best, and most creative work while at Airbnb (they swept all the industry awards available in that year).
And who was the person that had (and continues to have) a great deal over influence over Eric?
Who got Eric into Airbnb with an email entitled, “Oi, you coming?”.
P/S: Jonathan, if you’re reading this, would love to have you on STIMY too!!
- 28:19 Becoming friends with executives
- 30:35 Being an approachable leader
- 32:25 Jonathan Mildenhall
- 34:48 “Oi, you coming?”
- 36:28 Airbnb’s successful 2016 campaign during the Oscars
- 40:24 #WeAccept
- 44:54 You can’t teach ambition & fire
More Than A Marketer
Eric Toda might be known for his incredible work in the marketing world but if that’s all he’s known for, then he would consider it a failure.
It took a long time for Eric to find his voice. To write the heartbreaking Adweek piece, “My people are dying in silence & I’m here with a megaphone“.
And also to launch his biggest project thus far: Meta Prosper.
- 46:22 Launching the hardest, but right thing in Eric’s career – Meta Prosper
- 51:01 My people are dying in silence & I’m here with a megaphone
- 53:31 Why Eric doesn’t want his children to remember him only as a businessman or marketer
- 56:01 Not being allowed to go to the Smithsonian
- 57:38 The challenges of Web 3.0 today
- 1:01:48 Why is Eric Toda so easy to contact?! (p/s: his mobile number is available😅)
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Nicole Quinn: General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners; investor and/or board member at Calm, Cameo, Lunchclub, Haus Laboratories (Lady Gaga), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow), Girlboss (Sophia Amoruso) etc.
- Richard Lui: MSNBC & NBC News news anchor; Peabody & Emmy award winner; top 100 in news buzz on its “Power Grid Influence Index of TV Anchors and Hosts” and one of “The 50 Sexiest in TV News”; author of “Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness”
- Debbie Soon: Co-Founder of HUG (Web3 accelerator, discovery platform & pre-mint fund), and former Chief of Staff at ONE Championship
- Guy Kawasaki: Chief Evangelist, Apple & Canva
If you enjoyed this episode with Eric, you can:
Leave a Review
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If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here.
Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:
- Eric Toda: Website, Twitter
- Smithsonian APAC
- My People Are Dying in Silence and I’m Here with a Megaphone
- Meta Prosper: Instagram, Facebook
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
- Want to be a part of our exclusive private Facebook group & chat with our previous STIMY episode guests? CLICK HERE.
STIMY Ep 84: Eric Toda (Global Head of Social Marketing & Head of Meta Prosper, Meta)
Eric Toda: It's not hard to do the right thing every single day. We're all given that opportunity and you're all given that choice, believe it or not, every single day, to do the right thing. And a lot of people ask me, well, Eric, I can't do what you do because you've had a great career and a great history and a great platform.
And you've made a great name for yourself.
And the answer is, yes, you can. Cause reminder, I barely graduated high school. I don't like math, but I'm decent at it because I know how to use computers.
But the reality is if I could do this and if I can make this out of my life and if I could reevaluate how I use the rest of my life to be a meaningful servant, to people that look like me and that look like you, Ling, then that means you can too, to be quite honest with you. Because I am nothing special. I promise you that . I've just always had the point of view of being the most helpful I possibly can.
It's as pure as that, there is no special skill. There is no special piece of talent that I have outside of me just wanting to be helpful.
Ling Yah: Hey everyone! Welcome to episode 84 of the So This Is My Why podcast.
I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and today's guest is Eric Toda, Head of Meta Prosper and global head of social marketing at Meta and advisory board member of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American center.
Former CMO at Gap, Inc, as well as global head of social marketing editor content at Airbnb and global digital brand marketing director at Nike.
Quite the list of accolades, no?
But Eric's journey to building his American dream was hardly an easy one.
Eric's grandfather, a World War II veteran, fought for his country during the Japanese incarceration and was later beaten up in the 1990s because of how he looked. When Eric first joined a small startup called Facebook, he was told to keep his head down and never looked at the white executive in the eye.
And when he eventually reached the pinnacle of his career becoming CMO at gap, Inc, he was fired.
A very public fall.
So what went so wrong? how has racism and failures moulded Eric into who he is today?
What are some of his greatest successes as well as some of the critical leadership lessons that we can learn from Eric's journey? We unpack all that and more, to lear n how Eric built his American dream.
So are you ready?
Eric Toda: Well, first and foremost, I want to say this: my grandparents were American despite what the us government thought in the 1940s.
Despite what many other Americans saw them as. My grandparents were first and foremost by definition. American. My grandmother was born in a small fishing town, a little bit south of Monterey. Lived there, her entire life. Some of you may know it from the Monterey bay aquarium, which is very famous in a lot of movies.
My grandfather was born 20 miles outside of Monterey and it's small farming town called Watsonville. Mostly known for strawberry farmers in a heavy back then. This is pre 1940s, a heavy Japanese population at that town. They were both born in those towns in America, in California. Their parents were both born in pretty much the same towns in America, in California.
And so having the stories of how America has treated them throughout their lives instilled in me a sense of purpose and fight.
Now, I'm hopefully living their dreams out by not being a farmer or working in corporate America and white collar and having some level of, success.
It's a fight for people that look like them. For people that when you close your eyes, I hope they see my grandparents when people say American and that's really where my whole fight comes from is that whether it's my grandparents, whether it's me or whether, even as my children.
When you say American, I want people to think about my family and I want them to see my family. Not Asian, hyphen American. Not Japanese, hyphen American, not Filipino, hyphen American.
I just want you to see American like you do many other communities?
Ling Yah: Didn't your grandfather also fight in world war two? He was a real veteran.
Eric Toda: Yeah. So my grandfather was uh, in the United States army. He enlisted. This is part of the story that's a bit crazy. But I'll just start from the beginning, like you said.
So my grandparents were farmers in Watsonville and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government saw all Japanese citizens as enemies of the state because they were of Japanese descent somewhere down the line. Even though my grandfather was, was second generation Japanese in America.
And the U S government came and deployed the U S army soldiers to these towns to take away their farms, to take away their belongings, to take away their possessions and round them all up and bring them to Utah, to Arizona, to Colorado. Pretty much the deserts of the United States in these camps that were heavily guarded, heavily armed while their farms and possessions were being sold off for the US government's benefit.
And I remember asking my grandfather, so as you were going to the camps, why did you decide then that you wanted to enlist in the United States army as those same soldiers were bringing your families and yourself to the camps? Were taking away your farms and taking away your possessions?
Why did you decide, You know what? This is a great time for me to join the United States army. And I remember he looked me directly in the eyes and he said, "because someone needed to fight for a redefinition of who we are. I wasn't fighting for me." And this is something that struck me and still strikes me to this day is he was fighting for me way before I was born.
He was fighting for my son and my daughter way before they were born. He was fighting so that hopefully in the American people's eyes, people who weren't Japanese would see Japanese people that were in the country as Americans, because they're fighting alongside the Americans against Japan, because he told me he's American.
And this is his country and this is why he wants to fight. And if you look it up, he fought in the most highest decorated United States army regiments. It was called the 442nd US army regimen. And they are still the highest decorated United States army regiment and they're legendary.
It was a regiment and squad of all Japanese American soldiers that all decided at the same time that my grandfather decided I'm going to sign up for the U S army, even though all of these things are happening to my people. Because hopefully if there's enough of us fighting together, we will change the minds of Americans.
Ling Yah: Was there a change in the minds of Americans after they came back? Because I read that your grandparents actually they had survival tactics in America, which sounds very different from him having to fight for this country.
Eric Toda: I want to say yes, but the truth is that's not true.
They were never really seen as Americans despite their birth certificates. Despite even the president of the United States, apologizing for the incarceration of Japanese Americans.
Even for the government to pay Japanese Americans reparations for being in those camps. They were never really seen as, as truly, truly American. Not in the classic definition that you have today.
When you close your eyes and you think Americans, you probably don't think of people that look like me or my grandparents, but I'd like to believe that they did, because I want to honor the fight and the sacrifice that they made and the people that honestly lost their lives, fighting alongside them and fighting with them.
But the truth of the matter is, after the war was done and they were let out of the camps, the state of California didn't let any Japanese Americans back in for many years. And so they had to go from the camps in Arizona and Utah to Illinois and Chicago, where my father was born.
So they had to have my father in Chicago because I was one of the only places that was letting Japanese-Americans back, you know, back into a metropolitan cities.
And eventually they made it back to San Francisco, but they had no farm anymore. They had no possessions anymore. They had to start from zero. And I applaud my grandparents in this regard because they're extremely smart. During world war II, the production of weapons and the production of boats and et cetera, planes took all the metal manufacturing and put it towards that.
Right. So no one had enough metal for washing machines. And so what they did was they saw that and they started the dry cleaning business in Knob Hill of San Francisco, a very successful one. One in which they lived in.
They lived in that dry cleaning business. My father lived there with them and my aunt lived there with them and they were very poor.
But they worked really hard and they showed the grit. Honestly, if you read about the entrepreneurship and the hard working nature of the American people, they became that. They were that in every sense of the word. The only issue was, is they didn't look quote unquote American.
And so, you know, they, they still face racism and even until I was you know, in my teens. They faced racism to the point where my grandfather was a victim of a very brutal hate crime when I was around 14.
And so racism has always been a very prominent part of my life, whether it be with my grandparents and how they faced it, whether it be through my parents and how they face it, or whether it even be through myself.
I've faced it honestly at every turn in my life. It's been very prevalent and it's molded the voice that you hear, the stories that I tell, and it may not be the same for everybody, but I'm hoping that by me telling these stories, more people do talk about their own experiences with racism to hopefully confront them. Because for too long, I held them in.
I held them in, in these memories and in my heart and it's a cancer and it, and it eats away at you and eventually it changes you. And so again, I think everything that you see from me, the stories that I tell are really fueled by the good experiences that I've had in my life, but also the very bad ones that do symbolize a lot of what makes up America today.
Ling Yah: How did growing up in that environment influence you to think I want to do law specifically in real estate and probate?
Eric Toda: Alright. You jumped chapters, which I appreciate. I appreciate that. Well I'll start here. You were probably a very good student, I would imagine.
Ling Yah: There was no question I'm of not being a good student.
Eric Toda: Yeah. I was not a good student. I barely graduated high school and I went to junior college for a couple of years. And then I transferred to the university of Hawaii which you mentioned that, that's where I was born. And if you ask me did I study there, the answer would probably be not a lot.
I like to have fun. I like that fun of it. I'm a social person and that's what makes me happy. But eventually I got it together and I had an aunt who worked in San Francisco as a very successful estate and probate attorney. And she told me, I'll give you an internship if you file these papers and digitize them and help me out.
And to me, I was like, that seems like a pretty great career. What do I have to do?
And she's like, you just have to study really hard. And I was like, okay, I can do that. And so I turned my entire academic life around and I graduated top of my class.
Triple major .Political science, criminal justice, and psychology. Pretty much meaningless unless you go into law. But I graduated top of my class. There weren't many students ahead of me and it's because I saw a vision and that vision was me to become an attorney and do estate and probate.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the state and probate, estate probate is wills, trusts and a lot of paperwork. A ton of paperwork.
But to me, I thought that was super interesting and it seemed like something that I could be very successful in. And so I decided that that's what I wanted to do because of my aunt. And because she already showed me how I can be successful, at least in school, by studying hard and pushing me. I was willing to follow her to the end of the earth and potentially become an attorney just like her.
Ling Yah: And how did that fall sideways? How do you end up going through this little upstart called Facebook?
Eric Toda: So I take the LSAT which is the legal exam to get into law school in United States. And I do decently well, I get into law schools but midway through that, my girlfriend tells me, I don't think this is for you, Eric.=. It seems like a different type of person than who you are. And I started looking around and I was like, I think you're right. I think you're right.
Ling Yah: Why would she say that? You were social. Well, here's the-
Eric Toda: Here's the thing. I think that, she was always surrounded by attorneys growing up.
And so she saw how cutthroat it can be. She saw how competitive it can be. She saw that it could consume your entire life. She didn't see me in that life.
But what she did see me in was the industry that she was in and she was working for a small startup called Digg. For those of you who are internet junkies, Digg, DIGG it was Reddit before Reddit and ...
Ling Yah: Kevin Ross has been making headlines with moon birds.
Eric Toda: That's right. See, there you go. Wow, you've done your research. This is, this is fantastic. It's probably the best podcast I've ever been on.
But it was young, right? It was super young. It was growing. It was like you said, in headlines, it was widely covered. It was web 2.0. And it was very sexy and it was very romantic.
And she said, this is for you. I don't know why you're going to do here, but this is for you. And she just knew my personality. The issue that I face though, was I was entering into this in 2008, which was the biggest recession in the United States. So there's no jobs, no jobs, no one was hiring. And I had to apply to about 200 jobs to even just get one response.
And like you said, that one response came from a little company back then called Facebook.
Ling Yah: And didn't everyone tell you don't go there because it was smaller than My Space and Yahoo at the time.
Eric Toda: My parents told me not to go. They're like, I can't believe you're not going to go to law school.
You spent so much money preparing for law school and you're not going to go. Like you're insane. A bunch of friends that I still see to this day told me I was such a fool for even considering going to a company like Facebook.
Might I remind you, this is 2008. So this is way before anything that you can ever remember about Facebook outside of maybe the poke button, right. So it was very, very early. It was very, very early, very, very young. And the company was about 200 people at the time and they needed people to work. They needed people to come in and help out. I joined the advertising team where I was literally putting the ads onto the website.
And again, remind you, this is before the iPhone. Everybody had Blackberrys, I think, yeah. Blackberries at the time. But the mobile web was not a thing. The web was a thing on your laptop or on your desktop computer, but there was no iPhone. There was no mobile web. There was no App store.
None of that. It was just a website.
And so my job was to put the ads onto the website every single day. And I loved it because I got to work with some amazing brands and I got to see how things are made and how people can be creative.
But the biggest thing that I realized in that job was the people I was helping, the brands that I was helping and the teams that I was helping put those ads live.
I thought in my head, and I say this in the most humblest of ways, I could do this. I could do what they're doing. Maybe I could do that better. Maybe I could tell them how to do it better and they'll listen to me. And they did. And so it became very much a role of Facebook to help consult brands on how do you not just put ads on the website, but how do you have a social media presence in marketing?
And that was when social media marketing was born.
Ling Yah: Given the environment you'd grown up in, you shared earlier, did you feel that it was easy for you to speak up? That you had the right to speak up? Cause I read in different interviews you've done that your dad actually told you to succeed, you had to not look a white executive in the eye.
Eric Toda: That's correct.
It took me a long time for you to hear this voice today. A long time. You've obviously done your research and you see the accolades and the awards and the hard work that I've put in.
You may have also noticed it's only been pretty recently that I've been speaking out on people that look like me. On issues that plague my own community.
That took like 15 years to develop, to be honest with you.
Like you mentioned, the first instance of me walking into Facebook, I was told to keep my head down. Don't speak up, don't look people in the eyes. Just do your job.
And obviously I didn't do that, but you know, that stays with you.
I remember in one meeting actually, I openly challenged an executive three layers ahead of me because I thought the decisions that they were making were probably not the right ones. I thought I had a better solution and it turns out I did.
But after the meeting, I was pulled aside by a middle-aged white executive and they told me, Eric, you can't do that.
You can't speak out like that. You can't challenge like that. And I asked why I was like, I see you do it all the time. And they're like, yeah, but you people don't do that though. Like you just work really hard, man. Like work really hard. You'll get yours and you don't need to do things like that.
Let us do that.
And I was like, Hmm, that doesn't seem right.
And as I went on in my career, I saw those same things happen over and over and over again where people underestimate you because you look like this. People underestimate you because they think you're just good at math.
I'll tell you right now, I'm bad at math. I'm more of a creative as you now know But people assume so many things because of people that came before you or because of what the media has taught them or because of what they believe is true, because they don't actually know you.
And so when you do something while right but breaks the stereotype, they throw a flag up and they say, I need to address that. But I've done that so many times in my career.
Eventually the people that stop me to tell me I can't do that anymore just stop coming. They just stopped doing it because they're like, well, that's what Eric does. Eric does that because Eric's different. It's not that I'm different. It's that I am who we're supposed to be. That's just the truth. The unadulterated unfiltered truth.
You are supposed to be exactly who you want to be. You are supposed to be and have the voice that you should have. Not what you think you should have, not what they want you to have.
If you don't wanna speak up fine, that's on you. But if you do want to speak up by all means, speak up. And you should never be criticized for that.
And then I think eventually over time, it got to the point where people understood that this is just what I do. And hopefully it changed minds of people that look like you, people that look like me, that weren't me and you. And then they started speaking up.
So when it came time for me to really speak up because of what was happening in this country, I don't think anybody was shocked, but I do think people said, well, now that hopefully means that I could speak up and other people then spoke up because that was my ultimate goal.
My ultimate goal wasn't to be the only one doing it. My ultimate goal was to do everything I've done for my career, but with a much larger amplification and megaphone. Because there's so many of us like this in the states.
Hopefully we don't have to be the model minority. We don't have to be the quiet ones. We don't always have to follow the rules. And like what the great John Lewis said, we can always find ourselves into good trouble. And I think that's what hopefully that I've been able to show by grappling with who I am and now showcasing it and hopefully encouraging people to be who they are.
Ling Yah: Are there ways you have found when speaking up that is most impactful?
Eric Toda: I mean, writing for sure. I think we all saw that. It turns out I'm a decent writer. No. I, I think the most impactful things that I've done are to tell my truth, to be honest. It was a very straightforward thing. I think the way that I challenge just how that white executive didn't like encourages other people that look like me to speak up, encourages them to say, well, maybe Eric's the leader that I want to follow.
And that's okay, right.
And so I think there is no one way writing, speaking, anything like that. The only way forward is to literally just tell the story. And the more I tell the story, the more I believe, and the more I see people speak up and challenge and use their own microphones for good like yourself.
Ling Yah: You said earlier that you were expected to just work really hard. And I've also heard you say in other interviews, you always used to say yes all the time and other people would take all the credit. I wonder if you have any advice now that you look back and you think, oh, how do you find that balance of yes.
You do need to say yes, especially when you're young and growing, but I also need to make sure that credit comes to me. How do you find that balance?
Eric Toda: You know, I used to think it was always about, yes. I thought that for so long, I was like, just keep saying it, keep saying yes. And they'll keep giving me more things.
I think it's helpful for sure. But the biggest thing that helps you is not just saying yes, It's being as helpful as possible to as many people as possible. That actually helps you out the most. Just saying yes doesn't get you very far.
And the biggest tip that I've given to anybody honestly, is whether it's an executive or even a peer at the end of every conversation, I encourage every single person to say, Hey, if I could ever be helpful again, or if I could ever be helpful to you, just let me know.
And what you'll realize is most people won't take you up on that, but the one time or the two times people actually do they'll remember that, and maybe there'll be helpful to you.
And then you'll realize that there's this virtuous cycle of help and hard work doors will open. That's how I've made my career. A lot of people ask me, well, what's the secret, Eric? What's the secret? Like, are you just like the one Asian guy that like, somehow makes a great name for himself in marketing?
And I said, no, no, no, no. I work really, really hard for sure. And I did very, very early in my career and I said, yes, a lot. But the one thing that I realized was everybody says, yes. Everybody says yes, but not everybody asks when they don't need to. If I could ever be helpful, just let me know, just let me know.
And people remember that. 90% of people don't ask that question. And so that's really what set me apart. But I also think too, I don't think it does really about saying yes. It's about owning the work itself too.
I, You mentioned that a lot of people took credit for my work, I think that's because I didn't realize how much you need to show up for the work, as much as you're putting into it. You need to talk about and represent the work to the organization, to the team, whoever, and talk about how this came to light. Talk about what you need to do to, to make this a success. Talk about where you failed. That's how you show up for the work.
Because you start talking about how you failed, no one else is going to take credit for that. I promise you that. But you are taking credit for your failures and your wins, and the more you do that, the more you own everything that you touch. And so those are some things that I've learned along the way that it's not just about saying yes, because again, everybody does, but it's about being helpful and it's about owning the wins and the losses on the entire journey to get work done.
Ling Yah: What will you feel were your greatest losses that you were sharing in the company?
Eric Toda: Uh, Greatest losses. I mean my most public loss and the most embarrassing loss was when I was fired from GAP Inc. as the chief marketing officer for a brand called hill city that eventually the infrastructure and the team, they went on to support Kanye west and his venture with gap.
I would call that one of my greatest failures because I put so much into it and it was embarrassing. It was heartbreaking. Like incredibly, incredibly heartbreaking.
I remember sitting on the train coming back home while everybody's coming into work and thinking that I've made a terrible mistake at the choice of my career. That maybe I should just start over. Maybe I should go back to law school.
I remember crying a bunch of times because I really did think that this was the wrong decision. I questioned everything. But as time went on and distance happened, I realized failures are part of the journey. Up until then only wins.
And I've been grateful to have a lot of wins and not many failures but such a public, one, such a big one.
And one that was at the top, you know, I, I dreamt about this role for so long and then it was, it was gone. It is devastating.
But it teaches you so much about the chapters in business. The best advice that I got during that time was business is really like a boxing match.
You're throwing punches back and forth. You're dodging punches. Sometimes you land punches, but it's about the end of the round. For me, I've won a lot of rounds, but this one round, I got knocked down on my butt. . I could stay on my butt and just lay there, the entire matche i s over, or I can get up and keep fighting. And so when they told me that I got up, I kept fighting.
Ling Yah: I read that you had actually joined GAP after Airbnb because you wanted another challenge. And even in your first interview, you actually wrote on the walls saying "always done it this way" and you cancel it. And that was your mantra.
Do you feel like that kind of approach was what led to your failure because you were challenging the status quo in a legacy brand?
Eric Toda: You have done your research.
Legacy brands are very hard to change. Not impossible, not impossible, but very hard to change. I think the same thing would have happened if I went to American express. If I went to Proctor and gamble. If I went to Walmart. I think I would have been met with some resistance.
And the reason is, is because who am I to try to change what has been done for a hundred years or whatever. But the reality was I was taught that at Nike.
When I was at Nike, everything's up for change and that's why Nike is so good, so innovative. It's because they've always changed and evolved and they bring in new people to say, tell us everything that's wrong and you build it.
And so maybe foolishly, when I left Airbnb to go to GAP, I thought that I was going to be welcomed like Nike. In many ways I was. In many ways they were open-minded and they wanted to do things and I wanted to do things and we got it done. But at the end of the day, they still had ways that they wanted to do things.
It taught me that not everything is a fit. And again, it's a journey. That experience made me such a better leader. It made me a better marketer for sure. It made me a better leader because I know what's at risk, you know, and the risk is the job, right.
And I know that that's a game you need to play. How do I make sure I'm good with the right executives? How do I make sure the board is on my side? I didn't know those things coming from Airbnb and to GAP. I didn't know I needed to be best friends with everybody on the GAP board, you know, you know would have been helpful for sure.
But those are things you need to learn, especially as an executive, especially an executive at that level, you need to be able to operate at the highest peaks to literally just survive. And I didn't know that.
I thought I could just do all these great things, do all this flashy work and they would see it.
They would see the value for themselves. They would see it. No, no, no, no. I needed to go tell them. I needed to make sure they knew. I need to make sure that this is innovative and all that stuff, right.
I didn't do that.
And so it made me a better leader in the sense that I needed to tell the story more, but also it made me aware of things around the corners.
Should I go back and do a CMO role in the future? We'll see. It made me a better marketer because I've never handled a P and L before I got into Gap Inc. And then I handle a P&L and I was like, this is crazy. This is intense. Hey guys, I got it really fast.
And I was like, oh, I could do this until I couldn't anymore. So it made me a better marketer in that before I was just about awareness, right? What are the flashing buzzy things that I need to do? What are the great spots that I need to create? What will get headlines ?
How do I drive people into the website? How do I make sure that they stay there? How to make sure they buy stuff, all of that. So it made me a better marketer, for sure.
Ling Yah: You said earlier to be best friends with executives, how do you do that? They are busy people just booking 15 minutes is going to be difficult.
Eric Toda: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got especially working in corporate America. And this is kind of where I got my original tip by saying he should always be helpful. You should never see an executive or C-suite person as like this other person. Like, they are so much bigger than me. There are so great, you know, whatever.
This tip came from a C-suite person and they're like, they're just people, Eric. They're just people that have a lot more experience than you have just somehow survived longer than you. And if you treat them like people you'll realize you have a lot in common with them.
You'll realize you can build a rapport with them. You'll realize even in the 32nd exchanges that you have coming in and out of meetings, oh, you need to look what you have for lunch or look what you're wearing or whatever. You build relationships over time and it compounds into an actual relationship to the point where, you want 15 minutes, yeah you can get 15 minutes and you want 30 minutes. You can get 30 minutes. You want two days, you can get two days.
So you have to understand that it's not about the levels or anything like that. You just treat people like people. And yeah, there's certain ways to talk for sure. There's certain ways to address for sure.
There's certain information that they need before they make a decision for sure. And you cater it to them, right. But if you see them as something different, you'll never send that email. You'll never say hi. You'll never bump into them and anything like that.
And a lot of people have always commented that the way that I do business and the way that I operate is unintimidating.
I've always gotten this feedback like, oh, Eric, you're the one executive that I'm just not afraid to speak to. And I'm like, well, why would you be afraid to speak to me in general? It's just me. You know, my kids don't want to speak to me sometimes and so there's that. That makes you feel any better.
And that's how I felt with anybody in the world. A celebrity, a government official, you know, I'm going to the White House in 48 hours from this conversation. And do I feel nervous about seeing the president? No, because again, he's just a person, right? And the more that you see that it's just people, it's just a conversation like this, the more you get down to the root of it very quickly.
The more that I can see what you want. The more that I can find way how I can be helpful to you. And you realize that it's a lot easier to make that connection than just scheduling 15 minutes here and there.
Ling Yah: How do you make yourself so approachable?
What are some of the things you've done? I suspect one of the things that you have done is that you always ask for feedback at the end of every conversation. Is that one of them?
Eric Toda: Every time. Ask anybody that's ever worked for me. I always end the conversation with how could I be better for you?
Just how do I be better, right? Tell me how I can do my job better so your job is easier, right? Or I can make your job less stressful. Whatever that is.
I don't know what makes me approachable. Maybe it's the way I dress. Maybe it's the way I talk. Maybe it's like how loose I am. Well, I don't know what it is.
I think a lot of people think that you get to a certain level and at the act a certain way, you know, you have to button it up and put a gel on your hair and wear a button down shirt or can't laugh. Be serious all the time. I had this conversation with a friend of mine and they're like, well, Eric, that's what a leader is.
And I was like, no, no, that's what you think a leader is. A successful leader of the past 40 years, a definition or an archetype of that leader does not look like me. It does all look like you. Probably, it looks like middle-aged hyper aggressive white men that you see on TV, right. Has to yell a bunch, has to fire people back and forth out you're fired, right?
Oh, you're fired.
Has to demand things, super hard bang on the table. I argue that era is over. You have more leaders that look like me, more black leaders that be themselves that talk for themselves and speak for themselves and dress how they want to dress. And that's why, yeah, for all intents and purposes, I am a very successful leader, but I don't have to be someone that I'm not.
One of the greatest piece of advice that my creative partner gave me at GAP was, just be you speak from your heart and everybody will realize that you are the leader that you're supposed to be.
Ling Yah: Would you say that one of the leaders that you've worked with that has influenced would be Jonathan Mildenhall.
How did that relationship build?
Eric Toda: I hope he listens to this. I think he'd be proud. I hope he'd be proud. Jonathan is by far one of the most dynamic leaders I've ever worked for and with in my entire career. I oftentimes told him that sometimes I thought I wasn't sure if he wanted to kill me or kiss me. That's why I hope he's listening to this.
I hope you make sure he listens to this. He molded my creativity. He pushed me to a level that I've never been to before. And I think his standard for creativity was so high being from Coca Cola. And he knew I was from Nike. So he expected tier one stuff. And I thought I was always giving them tier one stuff, but he's like not, not good enough.
Go back. Not going to have to go back. I'm not good enough to go back. So it pushed me and pushed me and pushed me and pushed me. And the outcome was incredible. Some of the best work seen by the internet.
In one year, I think it was 2016, my team won every single marketing award you can win in the world point blank is because he kept pushing and he molded my leadership skills because the demands and prestige of what he wanted to see from the work were just so high that now my demands and my standards are so high too. For any of my teams working with me.
My approach may be different for sure. But my standards, my taste level is all Jonathan Mildenhall. I'm actually looking at a text from him right now, as you were literally talking about him.
And I was like, oh, it's fortuitous that you're talking like that. He talks to me earlier today just to say hi. It says something that long after we worked together, we're still very close.
And we're still talking and challenging each other and he's pushing me to be better. I'm pushing him. It says something that he sees talent.
And he pushes that talent to reach the level of expectation, not by the market, not by yourself, but by from him. So I think he's a tremendous leader and I'm honored to be able to just text him back and forth. considering again, considering I hope he does listen to this considering he's now a movie star and he's in the Apple TV we crashed series for about we work. So if you, if you watch that, you will see someone , not him, but someone that plays him.
Ling Yah: Jonathan was the reason that you got into Airbnb and he sent you an email saying, oi, you coming. What's the story behind that?
Eric Toda: Oh, you did do your research. I love it.
My recruitment process with Airbnb was very, very long.
It was about, I want to say eight months long. It was very, very long. It was almost a whole year. I met with every single leader. And I'll always remember this. I always remember going into Airbnb it was my one interview with Jonathan.
And if you know me, you know, I'm wearing Jordans, I'm always wearing Jordans, Jordans are air maxes. I was wearing Jordans and Jonathan comes in 10 minutes late . And he's like hooting and hollering and he's yelling and he's boisterous.
And I was like, oh my God, like, what am I about to go into?
And we sit down and he asked me a couple of questions. Pretty standard questions. And then he slapped my shoes super hard. He slaps them and in my head, I was like, how dare you slap my Jordans, man.
But he's like, you know what? I'm an impulsive guy. and I know you're our guy. You're our guy to run social and digital. You're it. You're it. I'll make it happen. All right. See ya. And he walks out.
That was a five minute conversation that was supposed to be like 45 minutes. I swear.
And I go home to Los Angeles, to my wife. And I was like, I don't know if I got it or not, but the CMO just told me I'm the person to take the job. So we'll see what happens.
A couple of weeks go by. And then he sends me that email and I was like, oh, I guess. I guess I got the job. And like, I don't really know how to respond to that. Let me tell you how you say it. He's like, oi, you coming?
And I was like, how do you respond to that? Like, I don't know, like ahh dot dot dot yes, question mark?
So yeah, that's how I got the job at Airbnb.
Ling Yah: And as he said, you did some of the best work there. One that I would love to talk about is the one with Oscars. So Airbnb was locked out of Oscars. What's the story behind it?
Eric Toda: What a great story.
Jonathan always told me that he never wanted to do anything with the Oscars ever. But the Oscars for those of you that know are during the winter season, like January, February, which also happens to be airbnb's massive peak season.
That's when people normally plan for their summer vacations. So it's actually a great time to be honest with you, to be in market talking about scheduling on Airbnb. So you don't go on to any other competitors sites.
We had this whole brand strategy what many now know as live there. And if you know Airbnb, it's not about going somewhere. It's about living there. That was our entire brand strategy and It was a beautiful creative platform to do the most incredible work. And I still love it to this day.
The issue though, was that because there was another hospitality sponsor for the Oscars, Airbnb had no way at all to market a traditional TV spot during the Oscars. Which, as you know, Airbnb at that time was very big on TV. My team was still pretty small and very fledgling, right.
There was four of us. It ended up being much bigger than that. For any recruiters that are listening, it became very big and it was awesome. It was fantastic.
We were in a meeting and someone had to give the unfortunate news that we couldn't run a TV spot because of the obvious reason that we're blocked out. And so what do we do? What do we do? What do we do?
Jonathan looks at me, and he's like, social will have to carry it. I was like, oh, social socials. Oh, okay. Yeah. Social social is going to carry it. And he's like, Eric, what's your idea? And I was like, oh my, okay.
And just rewinding a little bit. When I was at Nike, one of the greatest unlocks that we had as a brand was to understand one key insight. Our greatest marketing asset, and still continues to be a great marketing asset was that we had a two-way conversation with the consumer at any point in time.
If a shoe doesn't work out for you, you're going to tweet at us and we're going to tweet back and we'll try fix the problem for you.
And I realized when I was at Nike, this is a great reaction to have. Because one, you can build loyalty, but two having a one-to-one conversation creates personalized marketing for every single person that interacts with us. And Nike was very customer service focused. But I was like, there's something there.
And at Airbnb, I realized, well, we, as Airbnb cannot say any movies because we don't own the rights to any movies. However, we could use our community of people that are following us to say those movies on our behalf and no one can get in trouble for it because it's you that's saying, and not us as a brand.
So using the one-to-one knowledge that I had from Nike and using the knowledge that I had, that I won't be thrown in jail. If you say the movies, we asked one question and we tweeted it out, we posted it out and we're like, Hey, if you were to live in one area, if you were to live in any Airbnb or that you, if you were to live in any movie, what would it be? And why?
And people were like just sending movies back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. They were saying a bunch of movies here and there. And we had an Airbnb literally for every single answer. It showed the strength of the platform. It showed the strength of the supply. It showed the creativity of not just our community, but as us to say, you have an answer. Well, we got a listing.
It drove business because those people booked the listings. It drove conversation because we created more conversation than any brand during that Oscars. It overwhelmed the Twitter conversation, the Instagram conversation and the Facebook conversation. And it became the most talked about campaign, literally, because all we asked was one question and you, the community did all the work for us.
Ling Yah: That's incredible. And then there is another one, I want to pickup, which is we accept ad which happened soon after. What was the story behind that? Because it's a very different, more political statement to that?
Eric Toda: So the interesting thing about the we accept ad was in 2016, we were planning for a different outcome for the presidential election. Like many people were right . We were planning for that but like many brands and most people, the outcome was different. It was shocking. And some of the rhetoric that was happening during that time was scary.
It was scary for refugees. It was scary for immigrants. And brands that were so strong on their values, knew that this was potentially a time to let those values uphold the statements that them as a brand can make.
So without a ton of production and really just a bunch of people in the office, we took pictures of different faces, different walks of life under one insight. And the one insight was the number one button pressed on Airbnb is accept. And the world needs to know that insight, that acceptance, despite a potentially and now in retrospect, the very darker world that was about to happen on us.
We can be and should be a beacon of light that we are still a platform of acceptance. That we will not conform just because of different presidential administration is in place. And it actually ran the day after the election. Only on social. And it did well.
It was great statement and my team felt great about it and we felt proud about it. But some months later during the inauguration and a little bit afterwards president Trump announces a travel ban on many different Muslim countries and refugees.
And obviously that was shocking, disheartening and disturbing and the political discourse and the cultural conversation took off carried through to that super bowl. To the point where there was a 32nd pre halftime spot that opened up to Jonathan. And Jonathan knew what would be run.
He knew that that spot that we created originally for social was the spot that we were going to run. Obviously pretty it up and made nice, but the original spot that was made for social ran to billions of people presumable because it was a good message. It was a great piece of creative and it's signaled the company's true values.
It's different now, cause I I've launched other stuff. But at that time it was the most meaningful piece of work that I've ever done.
Ling Yah: I remember you saying before that companies are becoming more and more aware of the importance of values or having a mission.
And I wonder if you have any advice just in terms of how companies can ensure that what they do is align with the mission rather than getting thrown off by all these other noise.
Eric Toda: You know, companies' values are more than just operating principles. Company's values are how you hire. Companies values are decision-making principles for sure. But company values are also how you navigate hard times. It's how you make tougher decisions. It's how your face at crisis. It's how you respond to crisis.
And the more that you understand your values or establish them as the soul or DNA of a company, the more that you can put them in the action and the stronger you use those values, the stronger your company is.
And I think companies like Airbnb, companies comes like Nike understand those values to a point in a, in a degree that there is no difference between the values that they hold and what you see in commercials.
There's no difference, no difference at all. Right. There's a difference in the people that they employ and the commercials that you see, or the product out there. It's all the same. It's all the same. And so you always know when the company's values are very strong because you see it go through everything and there's consistency to that and how they make decisions and what they do with that.
So I think more and more companies values are certainly how potential employees choose employers. But it's also shows you how customers choose brands as well.
Ling Yah: Earlier when you had to leave your CMM role, you are thinking also, are you still who you are? So what kind of values do you think you uphold and are dear to you?
Eric Toda: The values that I uphold personally- equality for sure. Diversity for sure. Proof, purpose more controversial, but every person I've ever hired has a level of fight to them.
I can probably teach skills. I could certainly teach copywriting. I could teach design. I could teach brand strategy. I can't teach ambition and fire. The level of desire for you to go above and beyond for you to keep working and not know you're working, just because you, you love what you do. To ask at the end of the day, Hey, how can I be helpful? I can't teach that.
I honestly feel like that's genetic. But that fire, that's a value that I hold so dear. And if you have it, I will hire you. If you don't have it, I will try to pull it out of you somehow. Right. But that's something I really hold dear.
I think another value that I hold is that you will always do the right thing. That's a really hard one to do. Anybody that's worked for me in the past three years knows this because we're in a very big cultural awakening right now.
And in a cultural awakening as a marketer, you're tasked on a daily basis to make decisions on what the right thing is. This is not a time where you're just like, oh yeah, we'll do whatever. We'll do whatever. We'll say whatever. This is a time in which if you're wielding a brand and your brand is out in front of billions of people, you have the obligation to do the right thing every single day.
Whether it's to not say something or whether it's to say something. Either can be right. And doing the right thing is a very hard thing to do. But you yourself have to know your own values to be able to do that. And so doing the right thing is something that I hold very dear.
Any single person that's ever worked for me in the past three years, I instill the obligation. The literal obligation to do the right thing every single day. There's no if, ands or buts about it.
Ling Yah: What's the most recent thing that you did that was the right thing, but also really hard.
Eric Toda: We just launched from Meta, a new Asian Pacific Islander community support recurrent program for small businesses called Meta Prosper.
And it's taken over a year to advocate for, to gain funding for, to build and just to make people support it. And there were many times in that journey where it would probably have been a lot easier for us to just not do it, to just stop. It was taxing. It was grueling and you see a lot of things that make you think that maybe it's not worth it.
But I told the team and I tell the team every single day we have to do the right thing. And the doing the right thing is to continue to press on. Let's continue to make sure people understand why our community is so important. Pass the numbers, pass the economic value, past the opportunity.
The truest reasons why we need to do the right thing is because we struggle with visibility. We are in many cases, maybe not in Singapore, definitely not a Singapore. In America, we're an invisible population. Yeah you see people like me on TV and yeah. You see, you know, you see celebrities and movie stars like that, but that's spotty.
We need representation and visibility everywhere. And so to do the right thing is to keep pressing. To do the right thing is to continue to push on. To do the right thing is to continue to build something even though many people would have stopped way before the first and second and third and fourth and fifth now, but you're doing the right thing is, is to know that it's not about any of that.
Just keep going. And so we've launched two weeks ago. That is the most proud work I've ever had in my entire career. To launch and to see that brand, to see that Instagram handle, to see that Facebook channel, see that website.
My team may tell you this, but I remember I gave them a talk the day before. It took literally everything I had inside of me to not cry. Everything. Because I know how many times I had to look into this camera to hundreds of people to tell them and plead with them why we're important.
And finally, we get to show that to the world.
Ling Yah: How can listeners support you?
Eric Toda: Follow at Meta Prosper on Instagram, instagram.com backslash metaprosper. Follow us on Facebook, facebook.com/metaprosper. Visit our website at facebook.com/prosperwithus. Those are great ways to start supporting us. And the reason why I say is because I want you to share that I want you to like the channel.
I want you to share the channel for the mere reason that we need to reach more small businesses to help them and support them. That's literally why I built this. That's literally why we built. This is because we need to support small businesses and you ask, well, why do we need a small support, small businesses, Eric, especially Asian Pacific Islander, small businesses.
I don't know if you read the news or not, but small businesses were probably the hardest hit by the pandemic because you weren't leaving your house. That's one reason.
The second reason is Asian owned, small businesses, Asian and Pacific Islander owned small businesses, especially in the States weren't just struggling because you weren't leaving your house, but they were struggling because there was violence in xenophobia targeted at them.
Bricks being thrown through windows targeted with hate crimes, continued vandalism, even to the point where I pleaded with people just to stand on the corners of Chinatowns in the United States. That's how bad it's gotten. But we needed to do something more. And that's why we created Meta Prosper.
And that's why we want to help all these small businesses. Not just have support, but expand. And a story that I like to tell is I asked my grandfather a little bit a while ago when he was still alive, when he was talking about his dry cleaning business, what would you wish you had so that you could have grown?
And the number one thing you said to me was I wish I could clone myself so then I could stand on all these corners and tell people to go to our dry cleaning, use our dry cleaning business, come to us, come find us. Because there's only so much you could do by just being located in one spot.
You can do that with the internet. You can do that with Instagram and Facebook. And the, communities that you could build around your one product. And that's what I'm hoping to unlock by translating all of our business content, all of our training content or educational content in six languages that we speak in our community to help you just get on the path to expansion, to growth and to, well, frankly put prosper. And that's why Meta Prosper is so important to me. It's because it's not just about fighting back. It's about giving us and hopefully changing the future for us.
Ling Yah: You mentioned a little bit about the xenophobia that was happening. So just for the benefit of listeners who don't actually understand what was happening in the States, and also while you wrote this op ed in a dweek, which was entitled, My People Are Dying In Silence and I'm Here With a Megaphone".
What was that whole backstory?
Eric Toda: In the beginning of 2020, as the pandemic was starting to build, you started to hear more rhetoric that this was the China virus or some other ones that were less creative and probably would never pass any brand standards that I would put forward. Awful stuff. But most people don't understand that.
And most people attach themselves to that. And so to someone that doesn't know too much about our community, they think me, who's not Chinese, I'm harboring COVID-19.
They don't care if I'm not from China. They don't care if my best friend is Korean. They'll go after both of us, right. And Asian-Americans today from a new index that one of my non-profits put together, 71% of Asian-Americans today, believe or 71% of Americans today, believe that Asian Americans are to blame for COVID-19, shows you that we still don't really understand exactly the difference between Asians and Asian Americans first off.
But second at the rhetoric is still there. And so people were taking this and attacking businesses. They were attacking people on the streets. And I wrote the piece because no one was talking. No one was addressing this. There were no influencers like you saw for the me- too movement in 2017 for black lives matter in 2020. There were no celebrities advocating for Asian Americans.
And I wrote the piece as a hope that someone would read it. That someone would say, you're right. How have we as brands and advertisers and marketers become so hypocritical that we are not supporting another community that's being targeted by hate and violence. When we literally just did that for two other communities.
And so I wrote it in hopes that people would act. That people would see that they need to stand with us. And to be honest with you, I thought that like 200 people would read it. I launched it on a Friday night before lunar new year, which is the worst time probably to launch anything. And I didn't sleep for two nights because of that. Because I didn't think anyone would read it.
I poured my heart out into this piece and I didn't think anyone would read it. And it turns out a lot of people read it.
It went around the world. It did its thing. And it changed my DNA forever.
Ling Yah: I saw that you were on a live with Henry Golding. And you also got on kTV with Heather Holmes. How has all these exposure affected your DNA as you've said?
Eric Toda: I mean, the Henry Golding one was a great conversation. Henry's a fantastic human being. If anything, it showed me just how handsome he is and how unhandsome I am even though I I've always thought I was pretty handsome until that Instagram live. But what it did was it shined a light on the subject, right.
It was necessary. And I thank Henry immensely for that. I think every celebrity that re posted the article, Lucy Lu, Lisa Ling, you know they all repost the article, right. But that didn't change me. That's just people sharing what I wrote and which is fine.
What changed in me was my first TV interview that was live and I was sitting right here where you see me today. And I was super nervous. So I kicked my kids out of the playroom and I was like, go to the other room, go to the room. Don't bother me right now. I got to do something.
And In the middle of the interview, my wife sends me a ping and it's an image of my son watching me live on TV live.
And I start to tear up and I realized at that moment, everything will be different. There will be nothing that's the same about me. And I realized at that moment that if the only thing that my children ever remember about me is that I'm a businessman or a marketer. Then I didn't do a good job with the rest of my life.
Because what I was talking about on the interview is not the awards that I have, the accolades that I've built my career on top of. The beautiful TV spots that you and I have spoken about.
Not talking about that at all. What I was talking about, and you could see the Instagram posts, it's on my Instagram. It's just @Toda.
It's my son literally watching me on TV. I was talking about people that look like him, and that's when I realized I want him to remember me as not just a marketer.
I want him to remember me as someone that fought. Fought for people that look like him. Fought for people that are visible. Because when I think about my grandfather, I don't think about him as owning a dry cleaning business. I think about him as fighting in the war. In the midst of hate that was going on against him. That's what I think about.
In my mind, he was a soldier that fought in the worst conditions. Literally the worst conditions. And I'm not saying I want my kids to remember me like that because I'm certainly not a soldier. My conditions are obviously a lot different. But I want them to remember me as someone that fought for them ,first and foremost.
Ling Yah: And you're also on the advisory board for the Smithsonian. And I remember you wrote on Linkedln once, how you weren't even allowed to go to this Smithsonian when you were a kid and now you're on the board.
Eric Toda: This is true. This is very true. I am on the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American center board and our goal, which we will accomplish I have no doubt over my lifetime, is to open a national Asian American history museum of culture on the national mall in America's capital.
In the nation's Capitol, right next to the national African-American history of culture. And right next to the American Latino history museum and right next to the women's history museum.
To have a place on the national mall for Asian-Americans solely puts us in American history. It shows that we are American just as all of these communities are.
And that's why it was so important for me to join the board because I wanted to take this fight and put it to something material. Put it to something that can't be erased and that's cement.
And you're right. As I've told you before, I was a, not a good student and I wasn't allowed to go to the Smithsonian when I was younger because my grades were too bad.
Now I'm on the board of the Smithsonian. My sister reminded me earlier tonight because I'm about to go to Washington DC tomorrow morning, that that same trip I was talking about was a trip to Washington DC. And I wasn't allowed to go because my grades were too bad .
That I am now going on a trip to Washington, DC, to speak to congressional members, senators and to the president United States.
And so it's funny how things work out in your life.
Ling Yah: You spoke about building this physical place for Asian Americans. I wonder because lots of people are talking about Web 3 now. What your thoughts are about Web 3 and just building communities online since that's what you've been doing your whole career.
Eric Toda: I think it's still really early. I think one of the biggest things that I'm very focused on with Web 3 is the onboarding and on-ramp. The reason why I say is because like things like NFTs, you only know it if you're in a place of privilege.
You have to know the right people. You have to own crypto and to have a crypto wallet. And you only know these things because you have access. You know, most people don't have this, to be honest with. Because of that, it's already a severely disadvantaged game. And so how do you continue to not to democratize that's where it is so cliche now, but how do you make it more accessible?
That's what I care about. Because the truth of the matter is, if it's not accessible, it's going to be a lopsided in inequality game. People like you and me may not have access to these things. Some other people might. And so I think that, something I'm really focused on is making sure that that doesn't happen and making sure that we are continuing to create more accessibility and on ramps.
Ling Yah: Do you have any suggestions just for people who are looking to build. How they can make things more accessible?
Eric Toda: I would say just don't make it so confined to IOS. I mean, first off iOS is, you know, it's, it's, it's again for the privilege, you know, make it for every operating system. That's first and foremost.
I think the second thing is it's making sure that you understand the nuances between communities.
Not everybody has the same access to information. Not everybody has the same access to capital. And everybody has the same accessibility to the internet. Build for that. The more that you give people access, the more that you give people accessibility, better off your product will be.
Ling Yah: Is there an Asian American out there that's doing something you really admire. And you'd like to give them a shout out.
Eric Toda: One person I've always looked up to. I don't want to give him too much praise, cause I don't want to boost his ego too much, but I like to think of him as, as an older brother. Marvin chow over at Google. He's truly used his platform and voice so that people like me can speak up.
He's from a similar background. When we both worked at Nike.
Ling Yah: You can't go wrong if you were a former Nike employee.
Eric Toda: I mean, working at Nike, you're pretty, pretty good. No, I, you know, he's, he's a good friend of mine. He's a good friend and he's doing great things and him and I are actually going to DC together tomorrow speaking to the same people on the same panels. He is like an older brother to me.
I really love Mingay arms from LinkedIn. She is a fantastic human being who continues to give so many female Asian-Americans and just Asian Americans in general, a voice. She signifies the next generation of leaders. And I like to model my leadership off of hers. I like to operate the same way that she does just because she just does it better. So much better than everybody else. And so I absolutely love her.
And the last person, I think who's just doing incredible work out there, day in and day out is Jaeson Ma. And Eric Tu from EST media. If you know Jaeson, you know, he's the founder of 88 rising, which is obviously iconic.
But EST is the next generation media company of tomorrow. And they've employed and hired the best talent in the world to deliver real news, real journalism. And I think that they are a multi-billion dollar company in the making. So I'm proud to say those people are, my people.
Ling Yah: Eric Tu funnily enough, actually reached out to me saying, let's have a chat because you found this podcast.
Eric Toda: Is that right?
Eric's good people. And you know, I'd be remiss not to say you Ling.
You are doing great work. And again, I think that it's necessary for you to continue to do this for you to find new outlets, to make sure people hear this podcast.
For the mere reason that should my daughter decide potentially foolishly to do the same thing that her father did or to go in the same realm, even the same route, even go to business. That she'll have people like you look up to.
Just know that when you get on that microphone and you talk, you may not know it.
Maybe you do, but you're probably inspiring a lot of people and you're making a much better world for my daughter. So thank you for that.
Ling Yah: You're completely welcome. And thank you for being so encouraging as well. I noticed that you have very easy to contact online.
Your Twitter DMs are open. You shared your mobile number online and got hundreds of calls. And what's the motivation behind that because most people I find it so hard to even find their email or even send an online message. You did the opposite.
Eric Toda: So many people are so rigid in how they want to be contacted.
And I think a lot of it is for show. know, they have these like mentorship things and whatever. There's nothing different between me posting my phone number and posting my Twitter handle, which you can usually just DM me. So all I did was just like, oh, here's another way.
Here's another way that you can text me if I could ever be helpful. So to do it. And luckily enough, like a lot of people did nothing crazy happened. But it was a cool thing to do.
It was a cool thing to do because I just don't like people doing things just to do things, you know, I like people to do things like, listen, if you really have a question for me, ask the question. If you want me to be on your podcast, ask me to be on your podcast.
Right. You don't have to join this group and then find a Q and A and then, eventually asked me. like, ah, That's a lot of work for you. Just ask me. And so I just gave people another way to ask me, that's all.
Ling Yah: It reminds me of what a lot of guests have told me. You don't ask. You don't get. So I just ask because you never know.
Well, thank you so much, Eric, for your time. I love to end all of my interviews with the same questions. So the first is, do you feel that you have found your WHY?
Eric Toda: Yes. I have.
Ling Yah: How would you define that WHY?
Eric Toda: When you close your eyes and you say the word Americans. I want you to think about my kids.
Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Eric Toda: That's it. I mean, what greater legacy is there to change and redefine how people view your skin, your hair, how they see you, your heritage. You know, for so long, we've called ourselves API, AAPI, Japanese, hyphen, American, Filipino, hyphen American.
Eventually if the work that I do is, is complete, you'll see my kids and they'll put on their tests, American. Nothing else. Nothing else. Because I want people to realize that they are American and they are, they're born here. They're fifth generation American, more American than most people.
And the legacy I want to leave for them is that I hopefully redefine that for them.
Ling Yah: What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?
Eric Toda: Saying I don't know, but also saying, I don't know, but I'll find you that answer.
Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you?
Eric Toda: It's easy. That's easy. I mean, that's the easiest question you ask all night. Every single social platform is @ Tod a, T O D A. It doesn't matter what platform it is. Just @TODA. My DMs are open as Ling mentioned, which maybe a mistake. It hasn't been so far.
Ling Yah: Your mobile number is still on.
Eric Toda: It is, it is, but I prefer DMs. It's easier. It's more controlled. But yeah, if I could ever be helpful to any of you, just let me know. I'm happy to help. And that's really the whole goal of it. Is to be as helpful as possibly can to all of you.
Ling Yah: And then apart from helping out Metta prosper, is there anything else that people can help you personally?
Eric Toda: Help me personally. Oh, wow. I mean Meta Prosper is a huge, huge one.
You can donate. You can donate to the Smithsonian. Go to Smithsonian APAC.com.org. I would really appreciate that press the donate button.
Use me as an honorarium. That would be nice. And the reason for that is because it's not just about money for sure, but it's about awareness. I want more people to understand that there is no Asian American national history museum in Washington, DC, and that is a travesty. That's an absolutely travesty because if you have that, you affect the federal K through 12 system.
And then you can have our stories in history books, which as growing up, that was never the case for me. And therefore kind of led to a very racist childhood for me.
So try to make sure that it's not a racist childhood for a lot of other kids. And by making sure that you donate to the Smithsonian APAC, say I'm the honorarium and just help us out so that we can affect the history and the future of this country.
And you want to help me personally, that's a way to do it. And again, it's not really about me. It's not about me. Y ou want to help me personally, spread this podcast around to all your friends to follow it. So this is my WHY.
Follow it, spread it. It's good stuff.
Ling Yah: Thank you. And make sure Jonathan Mildenhall hears it.
Eric Toda: Tweet at Jonathan Mildenhall.
It's just @Mildenhall that he should listen to that specific part of the story in which, in a way I say that sometimes I felt like he wanted to kill me or kiss me.
Ling Yah: Amazing. And is there anything else you'd like to share that we haven't covered so far?
Eric Toda: Just that it's not hard to do the right thing every single day. We're all given that opportunity and you're all given that choice, believe it or not every single day to do the right thing. And a lot of people ask me, well, Eric, I can't do what you do because you've had a great career and a great history and a great platform.
And you've made a great name for yourself. And the answer is, yes, you can. Cause reminder, I barely graduated high school. I don't like math, but I'm decent at it because I know how to use computers.
But the reality is if I could do this and if I can make this out of my life and if I could reevaluate how I use the rest of my life to be a meaningful servant, to people that look like me and that look like you, Ling, then that means you can too, to be quite honest with you. Because I am nothing special. I promise you that.
I've just always had the point of view of being the most helpful I possibly can.
It's as pure as that, there is no special skill. There is no special piece of talent that I have outside of me just wanting to be helpful. So do the right thing, be helpful and make sure uh, you give this podcast five stars. Thank you.
Ling Yah: Thank you, Eric so much for all that golden nuggets and for your time here.
Eric Toda: No, thank you so much. And thank you for having me.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 84. They show notes and transcript can be found at https://www.sothisismywhy.com/84. You will also find a link to the show notes to subscribe to this podcast's weekly newsletter, where I feature inspiring people and initiatives as well as original thought pieces on the creator economy and Web 3.0, which I don't get to cover in this podcast.
And stay tuned for next Sunday, because it will be meeting an emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology from the university of Oxford, most known for formulating Dunbar's number, the number of relationships that one person can have at any one point in time.
We unpack what it was like for him growing up in Africa, how he began his first career tracking and studying primates to all things relationships.
Like why are romantic scams so potent and inevitable.
And must we meet in person to have a real relationship?
Also, what's up with the number of hundred and 50. And what are his thoughts on web three and building virtual communities.
It's an episode you don't want to miss out.
So don't forget to subscribe to this episode and see next Sunday.