Ethan Schmidt

Credentials: Toast, Inc.

Position title: Menu Onboarding Consultant

Photo of man wearing a blue and peach striped shirt with glasses smiling at the camera

Major:  Communication Arts (Radio-TV-Film)

Certificate: Digital Studies

Graduation Date: December 2017

How did you end up working at Toast, Inc.?

I worked on a film remotely during Covid and needed a financial breather from the creative grind after the pandemic so I pursued a job in tech while living in Los Angeles. I never thought I would be working in tech, but trying to make it work in Los Angeles during the pandemic made me rethink my approach to my life and career. Some people can work a restaurant job that is flexible and act or work on films on the side but that was something that just wasn’t realistic for me personally, especially without a car in one of the most car-centric cities in the nation.

My background in restaurants while pursuing digital studies was actually what I believe helped me land my job, as I was familiar with programs like Google Suite and had a background in working collaboratively on a variety of digital projects, whether it be editing or social media management where deadlines and organization are key, all while working in the food service industry. I applied for many jobs once things opened back up from covid and the one that got back to me was one that combined my two different past backgrounds into one. It’s not what I want to do forever, but it has been a good jumping off point for future endeavors, as I have learned how to use different software and met a lot of different people in different departments, such as creative marketing.

Working at Toast has allowed me to have the space and time to focus on other creative venues and take the time to listen and figure out what I like and dislike, as it isn’t what I’m focusing on to pay my bills. Eventually I would like to get involved in some smaller productions again that I can balance with my day job, ideally more on the animation side.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

I meet with customers and build out and program menus for the Toast POS system. What that means is that I work with restaurant owners to translate their food and bar menus into a point of sale system that will work with their specific needs. I use technologies like Google Drive to share documents and ideas as well as Salesforce to manage accounts. I use the software that Toast has created to build out the menu and make sure items are organized to the best of UI rules. It can get tricky sometimes, as the system has limitations, or glitches you could say, that make certain setups like combos not work. This is where some of my creative background comes in, as I figure out the puzzle and find a setup that works within the boundaries of the software.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

Knowing how other digital programs run and even the basics of things like html and how errors in code cause issues has helped me to know how to program menus and foresee issues before they arise.

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class or professor when you were a student?

I really liked Art 107: Intro to Digital Forms because it’s a good hands-on intro to digital creative tools. I learned a lot about the Adobe Creative Suite in that class, and it got me into exploring more with Illustrator, which is what I use now to create webtoons and prints.

And though this course no longer counts toward the certificate, I did love Com Arts 357: History of Animation because it’s gotten me into pursuing those comic book/animation projects.

I also have to mention Com Arts 465: Editing & Post-Production for Video & Film. I took it because I liked editing, not because it counted for the certificate. Kaitlin Fyfe was the teacher when I was there and she was one of the best instructors I had at UW. She was very passionate about her work and it bled into her teachings. She was always super supportive and gave excellent feedback, seeing the potential in my work that I couldn’t at times. Because of those experiences I felt comfortable working with Director Kellie Madison on Never Back Down 4: Revolt as a Post-Production Assistant and speaking up on continuity errors when I saw them.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Get involved and meet people as much as you can. Studies are important but implementing those talents into what you’ve learned and creating pieces to display your talent is what people care about. Also, don’t put yourself in a box! Allow yourself to breathe, pursue projects you care about, and take yourself less seriously than you already do. There is a pressure in creative fields to feel the need to punish yourself to make art, to be the starving artist and support yourself on your own art. There is no one true path to success in this field, and success is all subjective.

I heard this advice from a motion capture actor at a panel at LA Comic Con: she said to be patient with yourself and take care of yourself first and foremost. It’s true and something I try to live by, as you do your best work when you are full and can bring yourself to your work. People will see that too when you audition or submit your work, that you are full outside of this work and you don’t need it in order to eat. Again, there is no right way to pursue a creative career. Some people thrive in that starving artist lifestyle and do their best work in that. It’s all about finding the right balance for yourself and trying new things to figure that out.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

I’m most proud of getting my name in the credits of a film, even if it was just released as an in-flight Video On Demand movie. It was such a fun project to work on, and so rewarding to be able to watch scenes I worked on in the editing bay in an official movie. I never thought I’d be watching an in-flight movie that I worked on. It felt very rewarding.