FASHION INSIDER: Toby Milstein, Yahoo

Too often, college students think that New York City is the only place they can live out their fashion dreams. But, believe it or not, there is so much opportunity outside the Manhattan city limits. Native New Yorker, Toby Milstein, left NYC after graduating from Barnard and headed out west to San Francisco for a not-too-shabby spot in Yahoo’s Marketing and Customer Experience Program.

While she may have traded in her bagels for sourdough, Toby proves that there are big opportunities to be seized outside the Big Apple. We caught up with this former Style Guru and current Yahoo marketing associate as she discussed her decision to venture to Silicon Valley, a real life encounter with the Iris Apfel and more!

CollegeFashionista: Where did you go to school and what was your major?

Toby Milstein: I went to Barnard College in New York where I majored in History.

CF: What sparked your initial interest in pursuing a career in marketing?

TM: I have always been intrigued by brands, positioning, messaging and media planning. I think there’s a sort of magic to marketing; to take any product, even the most ordinary and transform it into something much larger than itself. But to answer your question, it was really during an internship during my senior year that I decided to see what that side of the business was all about. More on that next.

CF: Did you always know that you wanted to head down a marketing path, or did other things lead to this?

TM: The magic eight ball did not say marketing was in my future. I was down the editorial/journalism rabbit hole, having interned at several Hearst magazines and then at The Daily Beast. I had my dream role at the Beast, writing fashion, culture, and art news. As much as I loved my editors, the adrenaline rush of shipping out a story, and the thrill of a byline, I could not envision myself doing the writer’s cycle again and again and feeling entirely fulfilled for the rest of my life. So during my downtime, I would creep over to my friends on the marketing team and be a fly on their wall; I just wanted to see what they were creating and designing. At the time they were doing a content marketing activation with Pepsi around the Superbowl. It was pretty darn cool.

CF: If you could have coffee with any fashion icon, who would it be and why?

TM: Easy question. Iris Apfel. She is that “rare bird,” defying all odds and staying relevant in an industry that briskly moves onto the next It Girl or influencer with every passing season. I saw her at the San Francisco Symphony, and she was dazzling at 93 years old. When we walked by each other, she winked at me behind those signature glasses and I thought, “she’s something else.” Fashion-forward, irreverent– I need to be her someday, but perhaps, with less dramatic eyewear.

CF: What’s the most exciting and challenging part of the marketing program at Yahoo?

TM: The most exciting part of the associate marketing program at Yahoo is the exposure we get to the different groups and people within the organization. It’s really a unique opportunity to be able to explore and test-drive different aspects of marketing before deciding what to ultimately pursue. With that said, it’s also a bit challenging to switch it up every six months. In the latter months of the rotation, you really hit your stride, and find yourself completely immersed in your work and sturdy in your relationships with your manager and greater team. Then it’s onto the next. I very much enjoyed doing marketing for Yahoo Finance, and now in my current rotation, I’m marketing Yahoo News and Yahoo Tech.

CF: What do you think is the most important first step for a college graduate hoping to get into the tech industry?

TM: There’s no one right step or something I could share here that makes sense across the industry. But I will say that the tech industry puts a premium on big ideas rather than age and experience. Companies in Silicon Valley roll out the proverbial red carpet to innovative, fresh-eyed, and ambitious 20-somethings. If you have an idea that can move a company’s needle, or an outrageously awesome idea for a new company (hello start-up!), you have a captive audience and an opportunity like no other right now.