Angela Tafoya: San Francisco Editor of Refinery 29


Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Angela Tafoya

To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with 20 and 30-somethings who chose a path + made it happen.

A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Angela Tafoya, the San Francisco-based editor for Refinery 29.

These days, Angela has a seriously cool + enviable job — but she had to survive 30 job interview rejections to get there! Her story is a lesson in bravery + persistence. I’m totally inspired by her — and I know you will be, too.

Read on, and don’t miss the powerful questions at the very end.

What do you do?

[Angela]: I work as the San Francisco editor for a website called Refinery 29.

Refinery 29 is a website for people who love reading about fashion, beauty and lifestyle trends, and who love discovering the “best of” what their city has to offer. We have about 8 million readers a day — and our readers are mostly, but not exclusively, women.

My work varies from day to day. Right now I am covering just about everything in the San Francisco market. Producing the stories, writing the newsletters, finding freelance writers who can contribute additional articles, attending photo shoots, and of course, looking for the “next big thing” that’s happening in the Bay Area.

Basically: my job is to make sure that every article we publish is totally exciting + intriguing for our San Fran-based readers.

I love that I have a lot of creative freedom, and every day at work feels a little bit different!

Lots of people dream about working for super-hot websites and blogs. How did you get started in this line of work? And how did you land your dream job at Refinery 29?

[Angela]: I’ve always known that I wanted to work in publishing.

Even as a teenager, I was fascinated by how great magazine headlines + stories are crafted. I would study my favorite magazines from the perspective of a journalist, not necessarily as a casual reader.

After I graduated from college, I did a series of internships for small, local magazines… and then eventually worked my way up to a few bigger publications, like Angeleno Magazine.

While working at Angeleno, I got my first taste of what it felt like to create content for the web — not just for print magazines.

Online media was fairly “new” in those days, so “blogging” and writing “online articles” felt innovative and groundbreaking. I loved it, and realized quickly that I wanted to work in the world of online publishing.

A couple years down the line, I got a job as a freelance writer for Refinery 29. That freelance gig eventually turned into a more permanent position as the Editorial Assistant. And after three months, I was promoted to the Editor.

The leaning curve was very steep, but in many ways, it was a great experience to have it all happen so fast! It forced me to grow as a writer, editor and curator, very quickly.

Your current job rocks, but there was a time when you felt really frustrated because you couldn’t land the kind of job that you wanted. Tell us more about that experience — and how you got through it.

[Angela]: After graduating from college, there was a period of time where I applied for so many jobs, I practically lost count. I must have gone on 20 or 30 job interviews, and nothing was panning out.

At one point I thought my dream of working in publishing — as a paid employee, not just an unpaid intern — was never going to happen.

But… I was persistent. I refused to take “no” for an answer.

Even if someone turned me down for a position, I would follow up and politely ask “why?” I kept the conversation going because I wanted to show people I was serious — and also because I wanted to stay on their radar for future positions.

I knew that if I just kept at it — reaching out, following up, keeping the lines of communication open — one day, a door would finally open.

It took time, but my persistence paid off.

What are some of the most exciting things that have been happening for you, lately?

[Angela]: So many awesome things!

Since becoming the San Francisco Editor for Refinery 29, I’ve been able to meet so many local people doing incredible things — folks that I find so inspiring and who are role models for women and entrepreneurs, everywhere.

I got to interview the designer Zac Posen… and I just had an amazing conversation with Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code.

These kinds of conversations have given me a fresh perspective on how to approach my writing, my work… and my life.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Angela Tafoya

You’ve already unlocked so many doors for yourself — and your hard work has led to great success. What’s next for you?

[Angela]: Back when I was fiercely hunting for my dream job, the job-hunting process took up a lot of my time and energy.

But now that I’ve landed a job that I love, I have a lot more energy to pour in other directions — like wellness and fitness.

For example, last year I was invited to run half marathon. At first I said “no.” But then I realized I spend so much time at my computer and I had not worked out in a year. So I went for it. It was life changing.

Up next? More physical challenges — like that!

It’s been awesome to be able to bring my “non-work” passions into my work — writing articles on health and exercise, based on experiences I’m having in my own life.

It’s pretty fantastic when “life” and “work” can blend together — each side enhancing the other.

Last but not least: What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?

[Angela]: Be persistent.

Don’t be afraid to follow up and keep a conversation going — even after someone has said, “No.”

Be brave.

Always introduce yourself at parties and gatherings. Put yourself out there. Be open and talk to lots of people. Share what you’re up to — and what you love.

Ask questions.

When you see someone living your dream — or working at your dream job — say to them, “I like what you do. How did you get there?”

Most of all:

Pay close attention to the things that you love doing — whether it’s reading, running, photography or exploring your city. Whatever you love to do, there’s always a way to turn it into a career.

Believe the expression: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!”

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Angela Tafoya

UNLOCK yourself

Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.

1. Even as a kid + teenager, Angela was obsessed with magazines and loved studying great headlines to try to understand why they worked. That was her first clue that she wanted to work in publishing.

: What’s one of your personal obsessions? (Get specific: Not just “watching TV” but “watching TV because of the amazing set designs and costumes.”) What kind of career would allow you to indulge in that obsession, every day?

2. Angela loves the fact that her job feels a little bit different, every day. She’s rarely doing the exact same task, all day long.

: Do you crave a job that’s consistent, where you know exactly what to expect each day? Or would you prefer something with tons of variety? Or something in the middle?

3. After college, Angela felt frustrated after going on 30 job interviews — and getting rejected for each one. But she was persistent and refused to give up.

: Have you ever experienced a “dry spell” where the world just felt like one, big locked door? What did you tell yourself to get through it?


For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.

Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.

See you next time for another inspiring conversation!

Photo: Refinery29 | Maria del Rio.

UNLOCKED Links: September 22, 2014

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links

Every month, I curate the best links on how to find work that you love, be excellent at what you do, and unlock any door that stands in your way. Here’s your list for today!


Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links


Are you telling yourself a story that keeps you stuck in a job you don’t even like? Here are 5 lies that could be ruining your career … and your life.

Even Leonardo Da Vinci had to apply for jobs! Here’s the “cover letter” that he wrote to the man who eventually commissioned him to paint The Last Supper.

Having a terrible, no good day? Sarah Von Bargen writes about how to re-start a bad, annoying or unproductive day.


As an entrepreneur, you’re often told, “Never take no for an answer!” But sometimes, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

Fantasizing about opening up an artisanal bakery? (Please invite me to your grand opening … especially if there’s warm, fresh, buttery bread!)

So many emails, calls, tweets, texts … and meetings! Here’s how to organize your day to maximize productivity + happiness.


Need to raise some cash before you can launch your new business or finish designing that prototype? Here’s a terrific funding resource.

There is the World Cup in soccer. And then, there is the World Cup of everything else.

Is the art of handwriting going to be lost, forever? Maybe… not.


Following your dreams might be overrated. How about following your skills?

It’s the oldest art form on the planet ― and it’s the key to success, in any industry. Do you know how to tell a powerful story?

You don’t find time to do things ― you make time. Designer Debbie Millman shares her stance on what it takes to design a good life.


Thinking about getting an MBA? Before you commit to a two-year program, consider a one-day start-up school, first. Classes are offered all over the world…including the mother-ship, Silicon Valley.

Feel like you’re nevvver going to be able to move out of your parents’ house? This one’s for you.

We hear this again and again and again…because it’s true. Exercise is the single best way to get smarter and happier.So, make this the last blog post that you read today, get outside…and go break a sweat!
Find great work. Do great work. And have a great week!


Images: Willie Franklin

Susan Hyatt: Professional Life Coach and Web Series Creator

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

Ever wish you could sit down with a super-accomplished person and ask, “What does it take to break into your industry? What’s it like to be you? And when you’re looking to hire someone, what does it take to impress you?”

With Pick My Brain, that’s exactly what we do. Enjoy this week’s installment featuring life coach and web series creator Susan Hyatt.


You’re a professional life coach, trained by Oprah’s personal coach, Dr. Martha Beck. You also recently launched your own web series, Life Is Delicious TV (which is now being syndicated on Congrats!) Do you have any advice for someone who’s dreaming about creating an online TV series? What’s the very first move?

Creating an online TV show is crazy-fun and very rewarding. But I ain’t gonna lie — it’s a lot of work.

People are often surprised to find out how much time, effort and money goes into creating an itty-bitty fifteen-minute episode. Writing the script, finding the perfect guest, locking down sponsors, booking filming locations, rehearsing my talking points, and of course, the actual filming and editing… there’s a lot going on behind the scenes!

The end result is totally worth it. But you’ve got to really, really want it.

If you want to create your own online TV show, I’d recommend asking yourself:

: What’s my highest intention for the viewer?

Your answer to this question will shape everything.

Through your show, do you want to help solve a particular problem (like helping people lose weight)? Do you want to teach people something new (like how to cook vegan food)? Or maybe you just want to be entertaining and make people smile!

Get clear about your highest intention — the effect that you want to have on every viewer. This will give you a focus for the show.

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

: Who is my ideal viewer?

Let’s pretend that we’ve gathered a group of your ideal viewers around the table for a cup of coffee (or a shot of wheatgrass or vodka!).

What do your ideal viewers want? What are they struggling with? What scares them? What makes them happy? Where do they hang out? What do they read, watch, eat, and do for fun?

Get clear about who your ideal viewers are. This will shape your content (what you do + say, during your show) as well as your marketing.

Ellen Fondiler | Pick My Brain: Susan Hyatt

: Why TV?

Let’s face it: there are plenty of wayyyyy easier and cheaper ways to reach an audience than through an online TV show!

You could blog (free!), start a podcast (also free!), hold workshops in your hometown, start up an advice column like Ms. Ellen did… there are so many options.

What is it that appeals to you about TV, specifically?

Does being on camera make you feel like the best version of yourself? Are there certain things you want to do — like creating instructional videos, or doing hilarious comedy skits — that could only be accomplished through the medium of video?

Get clear about why it’s gotta be TV. Then, commit to that vision, completely.

You don’t necessarily need a big budget or a team of stylists to make it happen.

You can start with a simple webcam, set up in your living room.

But whatever you choose to do, make sure that your focus is always on serving your viewers — inspiring, motivating, entertaining and striving to make a positive impact on every single person who’s watching.

Images: Susan Hyatt.

How Do I Write A Jaw-Droppingly Amazing Resume?

Ellen Fondiler | Advice

Dear Ellen,

My question is pretty simple (and I’m sure it’s one that you get ALL the time).

I’m fresh out of college and applying for jobs. I haven’t been able to land any interviews, and I think it’s because my resume kinda sucks. It’s boring and sounds like it was written by a robot. But isn’t that what employers want — a “professional” tone?

There’s so much advice out there about how to write a great resume, but I’m feeling overwhelmed. I just want to present my skills in the best possible way — and get noticed.

Do you have any tips on how to write a jaw-droppingly-amazing resume?

Please help!

Big Dreams, Sucky Resume

Ellen Fondiler | Advice

Dear Big Dreams,

Ask ten people “Do you like writing and updating your resume?” and you’ll hear ten incredibly loud NO’s.

You’re not alone, Big Dreams. Most people hate working on their own resumes, and will do just about anything to procrastinate and avoid the dreaded task!

(That’s why there are people like me — “resume” oddballs who love resume editing + are happy to help!)

I LOVE resume editing because I LOVE stories.

And that’s exactly what your resume needs to do: Tell a great story.

Here are three pieces of advice for you, Big Dreams, and for anyone else who is struggling to craft a really, really good resume:

1. Tell your story so that the reader understands what you get EXCITED about. (Remember: when somebody asks, “What kind of job are you interested in?” what they’re secretly asking is: “What are you PASSIONATE about?”)

2. Be specific. Just don’t say, “I was a columnist for the Daily Californian.” Say something like, “I was a sports editor for our award-winning school newspaper, The Daily Californian, and wrote 50 columns over the course of 2 years.”

3. Make sure your resume is attractive and easy to read. Use a SIMPLE template — no fancy, swirly fonts. Double-triple-quadruple-check for spelling mistakes. You can use to electronically spell-check and grammar-check your resume. (It’s amazing!)

Want a little more help? Check out my free worksheet: How To Craft A Resume That’s Inspiring To Read (And Inspiring To Write!)

Want even more help? Hire me to do a professional editing job on your resume.

It’s one of my favorite things to do — and over the years, I’ve helped many, many people go from “ignored” to “hired!”

Writing a resume isn’t impossible, Big Dreams, and it doesn’t have to feel like a chore.

If you can fill out an online dating profile…or write a bit of info about yourself on Twitter or Facebook…or have a conversation with a friend about what excites you + what you want to pursue in your career…you can write a resume, too.

Remember: you already know how to tell a good story. You tell stories all the time. At school. At parties. On dates. With friends.

Your resume is just a simple story about someone you happen to know very well…you!



Image: Willie Franklin

Anna Derivi-Castellanos and Lenore Estrada: Three Babes Bakeshop


Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Three Babes

To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with 20 and 30-somethings who chose a path + made it happen.

A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Anna and Lenore of Three Babes Bakeshop in today’s installment of UNLOCKED Stories.

These two women have overcome incredible challenges, together ― they’re a perfect example of what real friendship + partnership is all about.

Read on, and don’t miss the powerful reflection questions at the very end.

And if you happen to live in the Bay area, visit these gals at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, every Saturday ― their pies are simply amazing!

What do you do?

[Lenore / Anna]: We own Three Babes Bakeshop ― a pie shop in San Francisco.

(The name is a bit of a misnomer ― there are actually only 2 of us! But that’s a story for another interview…)

We bake seasonal pies using local, organic, sustainably grown ingredients.

We’ve been super lucky with press and have been honored as one of America’s best pie-makers in a whole bunch of magazines, including Food+Wine, The Huffington Post, Saveur, Travel+Leisure, Bon Appetit, Rachael Ray Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Esquire, as well as on The Cooking Channel and The Today Show.

Where did the original idea for your pie shop come from?

Lenore: We have been best friends since childhood, and we used to bake together all the time, just for fun.

We both went away to different colleges, but kept in touch … and we always talked about starting a food business together.

A few years after college, after a few career twists + turns, I moved back to San Francisco to start a business. I picked San Francisco so I could be close to my mother, who was battling cancer.

Anna was already living in San Francisco ― so, for the first time since high school, we were both living in the same place. Anna decided to start a business with me- which was wonderful on so many levels.

After shuffling through LOTS of ideas, we decided on pies because they’re one of the foods that we loved making with our families when we were younger (who doesn’t love pies, right?) and we believed that pies would give us a way to create a business that reflected our values. We decided to keep that first summer low-commitment and just do a pop-up pie shop for a few months and see how it went.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Three Babes

What were you doing before you founded Three Babes?

Anna: After college, I worked for a small chain of organic grocery stores. Then I went to culinary school. And after that, I tried to start my own Mexican restaurant. It didn’t get off the ground, so I moved back to San Francisco and started working for a natural foods co-op. And then … it was pies!

Lenore: I had a much more eclectic career path than Anna. I worked as a luxury wedding planner in New York, in solar sales and marketing at Chevron, as a substitute Spanish teacher … at one point, I even had a job at Google!

After bouncing around for several years, I realized that I was unhappy working at corporate jobs. I really wanted to become my own boss. I wanted to find work that gave me a sense of purpose, and entrepreneurship turned out to be the right fit.

What was your biggest “locked door” moment?

Lenore: Opening a bakery is not cheap ― or easy.

It takes a lot of money and an incredible amount of energy + persistence to get things going.

For a long time, it was really hard to make enough money to pay ourselves a decent salary. And then, right at the end of our first year in business, my father died. Then my mother ― who was dying of cancer ― lost her home.

No matter what kind of career you choose, that kind of grief + loss can seriously knock you off course.

I’m so grateful that I had my best friend + business partner, Anna, right by my side. We cared for my mother as she died, and somehow, we kept the business going. It was exhausting. There were many, many moments where we considered calling it quits.

But you didn’t quit. How did you get through that dark time … and find the courage to keep going?

Lenore: After my mom died, we closed up the pie shop for a few weeks and I took a trip back to the East Coast to meet with some friends and mentors.

During that break, Anna and I both realized that even though our pie shop wasn’t where we wanted it to be yet, we had built something really beautiful. We’d worked so hard, and we had every reason to be proud.

So, we decided to stick with it and get back to business.

Running the shop is still an incredible amount of work, for not-too-much money, but we love it.

Every day, we just roll up our sleeves + keep baking those pies!

You’ve already overcome so many challenges, together. What’s the next big door that you need to unlock?

[Lenore / Anna]: Our next big step is opening up our first brick + mortar pie shop here in San Francisco.

Up until this point, we’ve been working out of a rented commercial kitchen space, baking pies and then selling them at farmer’s martkets, or delivering them to local businesses. But there wasn’t anywhere for our customers to gather + hang out!

We’re looking forward to finally having a “coffee shop”-style community space where people can get together and enjoy our pies, seven days a week!

Getting our own space requires a significant amount of money, so lately, a lot of our work has been figuring out how to fund our growth.

This will completely change our business model ― but we’re so ready!

Last but not least: what’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?

[Lenore / Anna]: For us, running a successful business is all about relationships.

Relationships with friends, mentors, people in your community, and of course, with your customers.

When you surround yourself with positive, encouraging people, it will absolutely impact the work that you do ― and help you get through hard times, too.

Seek out people who are already on their path, doing great work.

You’ll get inspired … and eventually? You will find your own way.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Three Babes

UNLOCK yourself

Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.

1. Anna and Lenore have been friends since childhood, and they loved baking treats together … even way back in high school.

: What’s something you loved to do when you were younger? Have you ever dreamed about turning that passion into a business, or a side-business?

2. After Lenore’s mom passed away, Anna and Lenore closed up their shop for a few weeks and took a break, to see if staying in business was really what they both wanted. Soon, they found clarity ― and got back to work.

: Are you long overdue for a break? How could you give yourself a little extra “down time” to rest, breathe and get clarity, this week?

3. The gals from Three Babes Bakeshop believe that surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging people is THE secret to success.

: Who are three people who love you ― and support you unconditionally ― no matter what? (Maybe it’s time to say “thank you” for all the support!)


For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.

Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.

See you next time for another inspiring conversation!

If I Finish My Work Early, Can I Just Go Home?

Ellen Fondiler | Advice

Dear Ellen,

I’m working in marketing (yay! I love it) and we’re always operating on pretty tight deadlines.

I’ve always been a total nerd about organization, and I’m obsessed with finding productivity hacks to speed up projects and get things done, faster.

As a result, I often finish my work for the day by 2 or 3pm — when I’m being paid to work till 5pm.

I usually spend the last couple hours of the day goofing around on Facebook, reading blogs, or chatting with friends — but I’m starting to feel kind of guilty. And honestly, if I’m done by 3pm, I’d rather just be allowed to go home!

I know that my boss is happy with my work, and she’s always impressed with what I’m able to complete in a single day … but even so, I’m nervous about just saying, “So … can I go home now?”

What would you recommend that I do in this situation?


Too Speedy For My Own Good

Ellen Fondiler | Ask Ellen

Dear Too Speedy:

Ah, what a delightful “problem” to have!

I often wish I could go home early … but since I work from home, I’m already there!

Maybe I should set up a designated zone in my house that represents “off-duty” … complete with tropical beverages and mini umbrellas. Ahhh…

But I digress.

As an employee, you’re being paid to complete certain tasks.

So, once those tasks are complete, shouldn’t you be allowed to call it a day and go home?

Some companies say: No.

But, other companies say: Definitely!

More and more companies are referring to themselves as “results-only work environments,” which means that as long as you do the work that you’re being paid to do (making 50 sales, licking 500 envelopes, sorting 5,000 names in a database, whatever!) it doesn’t matter if it takes you one hour or five days. They just want you to get the job done — in other words, get “results.”

There are many companies that have used the results-only model, with great success — such as Zappos and Best Buy. Some government agencies have adopted it, too. And up until recently, Google allowed its employees to take one day a week to work on personal and creative projects for the company — a policy that produced Gmail and other innovations.

I’m guessing that your company isn’t a results-only work environment, Too Speedy — but more of a traditional one, instead. If that’s the case, asking to go home early probably isn’t a smart career move.

But don’t worry. You can still work this situation to your advantage, and make it a win-win for everyone.

Have a conversation with your boss, and say something like this:

“I’ve gotten into a rhythm where I can usually complete my work for the day by 2 or 3pm. I’d like to talk about what to do with that extra time at the end of each day. I’ve got a few ideas…”

…and then pitch your boss an idea for a project that YOU would love to work on!

That way, you won’t be frittering away your time on Facebook, feeling guilty for pretending to work, or feeling resentful and bored. You’ll have a juicy project to dig into — one that will help you to stay engaged and excited about your work, build new skills and add more value to the company.

Take initiative, Too Speedy. Your boss will thank you. Your co-workers will be impressed. And soon? You’ll have to change your sign-off from Too Speedy For My Own Good to So Valuable That Every Single Company Wants Me … And Wants To Double My Salary.

I’ve got an inkling that your career is about to charge forward at an astonishing speed. Good luck!



Image: Willie Franklin