If you’re a fan of The Call, our podcast that features intimate conversations with mission-driven women about their journey to answer their life’s calling and change the world, then you already know its host, Erica Williams Simon. It’s also possible you haven’t listened yet! Whether you could recognize Simon’s voice three aisles over in the grocery store or are totally new here (welcome!), it’s time to get to know the woman behind the mic. See below, have a listen to few episodes, and stay tuned for news about Season Two of The Call.
You’re a social critic and media personality. Where were you before this point and what were you doing?
I started off in my hometown of Washington DC working in national politics and advocacy. I built youth programs, developed civil and human rights policy and did a bunch of cool media stuff (Real Time with Bill Maher was probably the highlight). Eventually I pivoted away from hardcore politics into digital media. Most recently I was an editor and creative director at Upworthy.com. Then, I left it all to pursue my own calling, which is basically to be a one-woman “important-conversations” business.
When you’re not recording The Call, you are…
Writing my book, creating more original content, launching event tours, moderating panels, hosting an online talk show, speaking on college campuses…working. But late at night, when all of that stops, I sing 90s R&B and gospel and cry while watching old Whitney Houston videos on YouTube. I really miss the 90s.
What did you go to school for?
Public policy and African American Studies. But that’s honestly just because I transferred colleges after my sophomore year as a journalism major and was told that at my new school, I would have to wait a year to get into their journalism school. I was way too impatient for that so I Kanye-shrugged and switched majors. Not wise decision making, but it all worked out.
How did you get started with Man Repeller?
Patty Carnevale, my former Upworthy colleague and friend, reached out to me and asked what I was up to. When I told her that I was interested in launching a podcast, she told me MR might be the perfect home for it. I met Leandra and Kate and the rest is history.
Favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of hosting the show is actually hosting the show. I really do love having conversations with these dope women! My favorite part of my overall job is the variety and independence and freedom to execute any project that I can imagine.
Least favorite part of your job?
Being an entrepreneur and a content creator means being solely responsible for everything that happens. The buck stops with me. If a show sucks or no one buys my book, there’s no one to blame but moi. That’s a lot of pressure.
What’s one thing that surprised you in your path up until now?
I’ve been most surprised by just how “fly by the seat of your pants” it’s all been. I’m very Type A so I always thought that my path would be…well…a path, one with clear steps and a clear destination. Instead, I’ve just been trusting my gut and making it up as I go along. And that’s been pretty great. I never thought I would have had the emotional tolerance for that.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A spiritual old lady with an extensive home library and gorgeous hair.
What’s one piece of advice you can offer to someone who wants a job like yours?
Determine your own metrics of success. Making things that have deep personal value to you (versus making things that someone else told you to make) requires a lot of effort and a lot of vulnerability and there aren’t always immediate external rewards. You have to know what to look at to decide if you’re doing okay. For The Call, it means hearing how certain interviews really inspired, challenged or encouraged people. At the end of a tough day, reading the positive comments, emails and tweets reminds me that I’m doing okay.
What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who has no clue what she wants to do?
We tend to look at the journey to find our purpose as if everything is wrong until it is right. But that’s not true. All of the jobs and experiences that you have on your journey to find “The One” can be right for you in the moment if you use them as learning opportunities. Be on the lookout for signs and hints, not answers. There was no one “AHA” moment for me, no book or process that immediately told me the answer to what I’m supposed to do. But there were a lot of indicators along the way that certain things were right or wrong for me. Notice the lessons that each experience teaches you about what you enjoy, what environments help you thrive, when you feel most excited, what you’re consistently drawn to, what questions you always ask, what roles you naturally fill in various spaces. All of those things are like little guideposts that gently nudge you closer and closer to a calling. You just have to pay attention.
Tell me something weird about you.
I have an irrational fear of and obsession with alligators. I have a Google alert on my phone for alligator attacks and will not travel to Florida since I found out how many alligators there are in the state: 2 million. TWO MILLION. They could be a voting bloc! I am convinced that at any moment, they will kill us all.