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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Megha Tolia

The president and COO of Shondaland talks about her transition from consumer packages goods to entertainment, her biggest risk, and her first car—which she nicknamed the "love boat."
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Megha Tolia relocated with her husband Nirav Tolia—the co-founder of Nextdoor—to Dallas in 2021. Megha serves as the president and COO of Shondaland, a television production company which got its start producing Grey’s Anatomy. Over the last year or so, Tolia says her proudest moment was releasing Inventing Anna and Bridgerton‘s second season—both of which are two of Netflix’s top hits of all-time.

In her full 2023 Dallas 500 Q&A, Tolia talks about her transition from consumer packages goods to entertainment, her biggest risk, and her first car—which she nicknamed the “love boat.”

Education: Harvard University (MBA) University of California, Berkeley (BA)

Birthplace: Los Angeles

First Job: “My first job out of college was at Neutrogena, a Johnson & Johnson company. I was hired into a program called the Marketing Leadership Development program focused on developing high potential future leaders of the company. I learned an incredible amount and these early years shaped the foundation for my career. Specifically, I learned the importance of mastering fundamentals and the true value of cross-functional teams.”

Best Advice: “Consider life as a jungle gym and not a ladder. There is no one straight path to success. Whether in my business or personal life, I’ve found that sometimes you have to swing forwards, sideways, and even backwards to get to the best destination.”

Dinner Party: “I would love to have dinner with Allie Beth Allman, a remarkable businesswoman and human being. She is an absolute trailblazer of her generation and has built a bonafide empire. All the while, she leads with values and embodies grace and kindness in everything she does. I would also choose Sarah Perot, who is another wonderful role model. Sarah is one of the greatest philanthropists in our community—not just financially, but in how she shares her time and provides leadership to all of us who want to make DFW better.”

Destinations of Choice: “Rome and Florence, Italy; London in the U.K.; and Delhi and Mumbai, India. The first is where I spent two magical years with my family, the second is my favorite big city in the world, and the third is where I spent so much childhood and represents my roots and heritage.”

Nonprofit Cause: “My family has created an ashram in Gujarat, India, with a mission of bringing education to those in rural areas who do not otherwise have access to basic resources. Spending time there has taught me a notable philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘high thinking and simple living’—which means challenging your mind to be the best you can and to think of others first, while simultaneously being genuinely happy with what you have.”

Hobby/Passion: “My hobby and passion have always been dance. For me, dance is a form of self-expression that requires mental and physical prowess to succeed.”

Industry Change: “I’ve spent most of my career developing successful consumer packaged goods. I wish we could find a way to simplify the complex supply chains and capital requirements that even simple products require to get off the ground. This would enable speed to market and a step change in innovation.”

Local Fare: “Bilboquet is unimpeachable and I love the Dover sole with a side of their famous french fries.”

Do-over: “I’m not sure I would redo anything, but perhaps I should have taken more risk and explored different industries early in my career. It’s never too late, though, as I’ve now transitioned from CPG to the world of entertainment!”

Fun Fact: “I have a great love of languages. After living in Italy for two years, I am fluent in Italian. I am also conversant in Spanish, and (arguably) in my native languages of Gujarati and Hindi.”

Go-to Adviser: “I love talking business (and life) with my husband, Nirav Tolia. He is an incredible visionary and master entrepreneur and I enjoy solving complex problems together as a team.”

Toughest Challenge: “The first ten years of my career were spent at Neutrogena, a large company with endless resources and well-oiled processes. When I moved to the Bay Area to be with my husband, I switched to a small, scrappy creative-led company called Method. It was a great – but welcome – challenge to be as effective in this new environment as I was in my former one.”

First Car: “1985 gold Chevrolet station wagon also known as the ‘love boat.'”

Proud Moment: “Early in 2022, Shondaland released Inventing Anna and Bridgerton season two, both of which have become two of Netflix’s top hits of all-time.”

A Better DFW: “I was born and raised in California, so I miss seeing the ocean and I miss even more my family. But to be honest, I think Dallas is an incredible city with so much to offer: strong community values, abundant resources for kids and families, and easy accessibility to great restaurants and the arts. Let’s just keep it going!”

Pivotal Moment: “Almost twelve years ago, I met my husband and one year-later we were married. I am a rigorous planner and this was an unexpected (but really positive) development. But to change my job, my hometown, and pretty much everything else about my very organized life was a major transition.”

Walk-up Song: “‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ by Aretha Franklin because it’s a great song with a powerful message.”

Must-read: “I highly recommend The Power of Habit as an effective tool for your business and personal life. Gaining an understanding of how simple habits can create outsized outcomes is invaluable for all of us.”

Spirit Animal: “I would probably say a bear. They are outgoing, direct, and powerful—plus I love sleep and the idea of hibernation sounds magical.”

Alternate Reality: “I would be on Broadway doing musical theatre. I love the stage, whether watching or performing.”

Biggest Risk: “After almost 20 years in consumer-packaged goods, I took the job as president and COO of Shondaland, in an industry where I had little direct experience. It has not always been easy, but has been a tremendous learning opportunity and I am grateful that I went for it.”

Bucket List: “I would love to live in London for a few years. It’s one of my favorite cities and I am a big believer in the value of living abroad.”

Key Leadership Strategies: “I value directness, high expectations, and accountability. But when it comes to leadership, I find it essential to combine this performance-centric approach with empathy, passion, and humor.”

Future Forecast: “After moving around for three consecutive years, our family moved into a new house in 2021 that we built from the ground up. I look forward to making great memories in this home with my family and continuing to deepen my roots in Dallas in general.”

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…
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