Tayo Rockson: TCK on a Mission

One-on-One with Tayo Rockson

A Third Culture Kid on a Mission

By Alison Cavatore 

Published in Global Living Magazine – Issue 19 | July/August 2015

Credit_RocksonPhotographyTayo Rockson is a self-described Third Culture Kid on a mission: to build the next set of global leaders by encouraging students, global nomads, and third culture kids to embrace their identity and use their difference to make a difference. Clearly not one to shy away from a challenge, Tayo is the founder and President of UYD Media, a company that produces written, audio and visual content from the fields of travel, entrepreneurship, art, culture, leadership and lifestyle through magazines, podcasts, courses and documentaries meant to help build the next set of global leaders. UYD Media recently launched UYD University, an online university that educates young, globally-minded thinkers to be successful in all things international, and to thrive in a global world.

Growing up as the child of a diplomat, a diplomatic kid, Tayo lived in Nigeria, Sweden, Burkina Faso, Vietnam and now the U.S. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, he subsequently moved to Stockholm, Sweden for two years before returning to his passport country, Nigeria, to complete elementary school. He then spent four and a half years in French-speaking Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, before returning to Nigeria to finish high school at boarding school. In his senior year, his father was posted to Hanoi, Vietnam, so he finished high school and then moved to Hanoi to join his parents and brothers. He then headed for Virginia to attend university before moving to New York City, where he has resided now for about two years.

Global Living’s editorial director, Alison Cavatore, spoke to Tayo about his global life and how it inspired him to inspire others to embrace their identity and make a difference in the world.

You’ve lived on four different continents and identify as an (adult) Third Culture Kid. What was the moment like when you found and accepted that identity, and how has your life changed since then?

I’d say it was sometime in high school when I just realized that I couldn’t be everything to everyone. I was always going to be the kid with the different accent, mindset or opinion. I was not Nigerian enough. I was African American but yet I wasn’t. I didn’t know the term Third Culture Kid back then as a 16/17-year-old, but I identified as a citizen of the world. 

Tell us a bit about your company, UYD Media.

UYD Media is a publishing platform that provides tools and resources that enhance cross-cultural management experiences for today’s millennials. We are about building the next set of global leaders because we believe that effective leaders need to know how to communicate across different cultures. It is a movement aimed at encouraging millennials all over the world to use their difference to make a difference. We want to help solve the world’s problems one issue at a time.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an entrepreneur?

Hmm… I’d probably say a combination of capital and bandwidth. When you’re bootstrapping a company with limited resources, you end up wearing many hats, which can lead to sometimes spreading yourself too thin. On the flip side, you learn how to be creative, how to prioritize and how to be effective with your time because you know you have a lot on your plate. 

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What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

I’d have to say hearing from my listeners and readers about how the stories and people resonate with the stories I produce. It’s like they find themselves and reawaken a passion in them. This is really important to me because I like to emphasize the importance of being yourself in a global environment. It’s why I do what I do. 

Credit_Alejandro GutierrezYou are also the host of the popular podcast, As Told By Nomads. How has the show grown and what kind of a role do you see it taking in the future?

First of all thank you for your kind words. It’s kind of grown organically. It started off as a platform to show other third culture kids how to embrace their global identity and it has evolved into a platform that educates others about global issues, business, advocacy, entrepreneurship and leadership. I’d love for it to be the voice of millennials and generation-Zers as they are the most diverse and digital-savvy generation ever, and we tackle all relevant issues as it pertains to these two generations. 

UYD Media’s motto, use your difference to make a difference, has inspired many expats to take a look at their lives and examine how they too can make a difference in the world. What is one inspiring story you’d like to share that you have featured?

Ooooof – that’s so tough. I can’t really think of just one, but what I have found inspiring about a lot of the stories I get is the bravery that these people exhibit by coming to terms with who they are and pursuing a passion of theirs. I had a lady tell me the other day that she was going through a lot, and listening to the podcast helped her discover herself and realize she wasn’t weird. She’s now actively investing in companies she loves and she feels more fulfilled with life and work. 

How did you come to the realization that you wanted to use your difference to make a difference?

I have always wanted to make an impact on the world. Growing up, it always frustrated me seeing people using what was different about them (whether it be race, religion or ethnic groups) as what I call ‘Berlin Walls’ to drive people away, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to show others the beauty in diversity and how it fosters innovation and improves conflict resolution. 

What advice do you have for a global entrepreneur looking to start a business born from their experience living abroad?

I’d say, just do it. The beauty of today’s world is that we live in a digital age, and what that means is that you can create a platform from anywhere you are. Start a blog, podcast, teach a course and leverage the existing community you have. You’ll be surprised what happens when you start building and cultivating a community. In today’s world, the power is in your email lists and community.

When not running a successful business, how do you like to spend your time?

I’m a Netflix and sports guy, so if I’m not playing or watching basketball, soccer or tennis, you can find me binge-watching my favorite TV shows on Netflix. 

READ MORE from this issue of Global Living Magazine

Favorite place around the world to visit?

Santorini and New York City. 

How would you describe your personal sense of ‘home’?

My personal sense of ‘home’ is wherever I am really. I’ve gotten to the point where as long as I have my basic amenities, I feel fine.

Do you have any plans to move again in the future?

Never say never, right? I think I’ll be in New York City for at least the next year, but we’ll see.

What’s next for UYD Media?

We’ve got a few projects lined up – specifically online courses about cross-cultural communications and leadership. That, and we are now ramping up production of our daily content, so expect anywhere from 5 to 10 pieces of content per day as we build our contributor network. Also, we are going to start producing more video content.

For more information about Tayo Rockson, UYD Media and more, visit www.uydmag.com and www.uyduniversity.com.

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[Images: © Rockson Photography;  © Alejandro Gutierrez ] 

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