Six FIDM Alumni now working at TOMS headed up an exclusive panel discussion at the TOMS headquarters in Los Angeles yesterday, and invited FIDM Students to attend. Fielding questions about how they got their start, they shared their FIDM stories as well as their TOMS stories. They also offered helpful advice about networking, LinkedIn, and keeping online personas professional and "job ready."
The grads include:
- Erik Soto, Merchandise Product Development '04 and Business Management '12 Grad, TOMS Eyewear Merchandiser Product Developer
- Ann Ro, Visual Communications '10 Grad, TOMS Retail Marketing Coordinator
- Vi Pham, Jr., Visual Communications '10 Grad, TOMS Product Merchandiser
- Derrick Alexander, Merchandise Product Development '12 Grad, TOMS Retail Coordinator
- Francine Greco, Merchandise Marketing '10 Grad, TOMS Executive Assistant to the General Manager of the Americas
- Salpy Talian, Graphic Design '07 Grad, TOMS Digital Designer
Erik Soto said that during his last quarter at FIDM he saw a poster at the Career Center about TOMS visiting FIDM to interview students for their internship program. He signed up for the interview but was the 11th person out of 10 spots. One person canceled and he got in. He interviewed with Jackie (also a graduate of FIDM), and got the internship. He said at the time there were 150 people in the company, and literally one parking space. The TOMS van used to pick them up down the street with coffee waiting for them. Now, a TOMS barista meets everyone at the front door, serving lattes and cappuccinos all morning long.
Erik does product development for the TOMS eyewear division now. He develops the full line, then merchandises it. He manages all of the calendars and creates all of the line sheets. He said all of his FIDM classes have prepared him for the job he has at TOMS. He said, "Everything is very entrepreneurial at TOMS—you're building the airplane as you're flying."
Salpy Talian graduated with her Graphic Design degree from FIDM in 2007, and worked at an advertising agency before landing her job at TOMS through a connection she made at FIDM. She actually started as a freelancer, filling in for someone on vacation. It's been three years now that she's been working on digital, creating all of their online assets: social media graphics, emails, website, landing pages, ad banners, and more.
Last year, Salpy went to Honduras on a Giving Trip. In fact, each employee qualifies to participate in these types of trips to celebrate their first year at TOMS. They help distribute shoes at schools, delivering on the TOMS mission—to help people in need. Then, every three years they are invited on additional Giving Trips.
When asked what she enjoys most about having a creative career, Salpy said, "I enjoy the freedom to create—seeing your ideas come to life."
Francine Greco is the Executive Assistant to Craig Reingold, the GM of the Americas. She worked full-time at Guess corporate before TOMS recruited her through LinkedIn. She could not stress enough the importance of keeping LinkedIn profiles up to date at all times. Francine just got back from her first Giving Trip.
"Merchandise Marketing," Francine said, "really emphasizes entrepreneurship." It was the perfect major for her, she continued, "because that's what TOMS is all about." TOMS recently added a showroom for buyer visits. Francine helped pick and coordinate the items in the room, keeping the project on budget and on time. She said what she loves the most about her job, though, is the people who work there. "Everyone gets along so well."
Next on the panel was Derrick Alexander who graduated with his Merchandise Product Development degree in 2012. As a student at FIDM, he worked full-time at Nordstrom where he met the TOMS Eyewear rep and kept in touch through LinkedIn. The rest is history. Derrick has now opened up six TOMS pop-up stores across California as the Retail Operations Coordinator.
Vi Pham, Jr., works in men's footwear at TOMS. She said that attending FIDM opened doors for her. She met Ann Ro at FIDM in the Visual Communications program, and they quickly became best friends taking many of their classes together. Ann landed a job at TOMS first, then Vi followed. Vi said that she loves the fact that the thoughts and opinions of employees really matter at TOMS. "It's not only a great company, it's a movement and we're all very passionate about that."
Ann Ro actually started out working in aerospace, but decided it wasn't a fit. When she heard there was a job opening at TOMS, she jumped on it. She loved the company and wanted to work there. Then she brought on Vi. "FIDM Students help other FIDM Students out," she said. Ann works in retail marketing at TOMS, creating incentives for retail spaces to help push sell-through. She does visual merchandising, as well. "FIDM helped me to be nimble, and think on my feet."