Early Career

Yevdokia Mashak dresses to inspire

Yevdokia Mashak is currently a Technical Artist working on Virtual/Mixed reality projects at Microsoft – which is where I was fortunate enough to run into her. She stops by my desk to say hi and update me on the status of her tiny desk plant Penelope once a week or so, and I’m always delighted to see what inspiring outfit she’s come up with. I’m very excited to introduce you all to her;

Tell us a little about you.

I’m a steampunk programmer empowering creativity and self-expression wherever I can. At work, I empower artists by writing customized tools, plugins, and shaders. At home, I rearranged our apartment so that my husband (Jacob Mashak, composer) and I each have a spacious creative studio. Everywhere I go, I wear steampunk clothes to show people that it’s safe to be self-expressed.

If right now you’re wondering, “What’s steampunk?”, I’ll whet you’re curiosity further by simply saying it’s a movement based loosely on the idea “What would happen if people from the late 19th century created sci-fi technology?” If you want to know more, check out the documentary Vintage Tomorrows, available on Netflix and Amazon. There’s also a companion book by the same name.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

I think this outfit is one of my favorites. It’s very steampunk, and it’s a good representation of all the different kinds of places I find my clothes. Bottom to top:

  • Boots from Amazon
  • Tights from a garage sale in Mountain View, CA
  • Overskirt and blouse from Fantasmagoria
  • Corset from Corset Story
  • Belt from a thrift store in Seattle
  • Leather harness commissioned from Tormented Artifacts
  • I made the earrings and necklace using sewing and jewelry-making techniques with a variety of random bits I had lying around

Oh, and in case you’re curious, my hair was cut and colored by Siddal at Vain in Downtown Seattle. She’s awesome.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

One day, it hit me that there’s no dress code at my job. I realized, “T-shirts, hoodies, and jeans aren’t the work uniform. I can wear whatever I want!” This epiphany blew my mind. I asked myself, “Okay, so if I could wear anything I want to work, what would I wear?” Myself answered immediately: “Steampunk!” So, I resolved to come in the next Monday in full steampunk regalia.

The problem was I didn’t have anything steampunk in my wardrobe. I looked in my closet anyway. I noticed that if I wore this with that other thing and used some safety pins to adjust the drape, I could actually cobble together a pretty convincing steampunk outfit. So, I showed up at work wearing steampunk.

I was so afraid. I thought people might not take me seriously. I thought someone would tell me, “That’s not appropriate work attire.” Or I thought my manager might pull me aside and tell me he’d “received some complaints”. None of that happened.

The first day, people just asked me, “What’s the special occasion?” I said, “I just decided to start dressing like this.” You know what they said? They said, “That is so cool!” It wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

As the days went past and I kept dressing in steampunk, people I didn’t even know started coming up to me and thanking me. They told me how much I inspired them!

Outside of work, I had other strangers coming up to me to give me compliments. People of all ages, races, cultures, genders, orientations, and socioeconomic status: homeless people, people in suits, punks, hippies, housewives, little old ladies, grunge kids, and a tiny Chinese girl in a pink dress. I realized this was the perfect way for an introvert to meet people! I didn’t have to do anything. People approached me! And my clothes gave us an instant common interest to talk about.

Over time, my entire wardrobe has transformed. I’ve worn some version of Victioriana, steampunk, goth, or post-Apocalyptic punk every day, and I’ve never been happier.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

Because of how broad some of the brands are that I use (Hearts & Roses, I’m looking at you), it would probably actually be more helpful to list the places that I shop. Aside from thrift stores like Good Will and Value Village, I’ve gotten most of my favorite clothing from:

and by searching “steampunk X”, where “X” is the clothing item I need, on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.

I also currently have about two dozen corsets that I’ve collected from Corset Story (Warwick, UK) and Timeless Trends (Austin, TX, USA). Currently, I’m saving up and doing research to get myself my first bespoke corset! (By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about why some people wear corsets, I highly recommend reading this article and/or the book Solaced by Lucy Williams.)

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

Yes!

There is plenty of information and advice out there about how to get into your chosen STEM field: what schools to go to, what to study, how to interview, and how to be successful in your career once you’re there. Do that, fine, but while you’re doing it, LIVE.

Have hobbies… or even other professions. Spend time with your family (blood or chosen). Meet new people. Travel. Do whatever is important to you.

For example, school helped me become a pretty good programmer, but what helps me be a creative programmer who can understand the needs of a wide variety of people is having access to the different perspectives I’ve acquired through my hobbies (crocheting, dance, fashion), other jobs (teaching, daycare, running an online yarn store), being to other places (Australia, China), and interacting with the people in my life and that I meet day to day.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

Recently, that would probably be my Wacky Week project. On my HoloLens team at Microsoft, we got to try anything we wanted for one week, so long as it had something to do with HoloLens. I decided to try to demonstrate that we can already create truly immersive experiences with existing tech, so long as we’re careful about how we design those experiences.

My hypothesis was that if I made haptic gloves with vibrating motors in the fingertips and palms, I could set the vibration to very low and trigger it when you “touched” a hologram, and it would really feel like you were touching something. I figured balloons feel kind of staticky in real life anyway, so I could create an experience on a HoloLens with a Leap Motion strapped to it that would let you play with virtual balloons in your real environment. Three other people joined me in the project (which is fortunate, because I knew nothing about hardware) and it was a riotous success! Playing with virtual balloons that you can touch is waaaay cool.

Anything else you’d like to share?

“Be excellent to each other.” – Bill S. Preston, Esq.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I’m not consistently on social media, but for what it’s worth you can certainly follow me on Facebook.

This shoot is the longest I’ve ever done – 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon, with 5 different outfits. The lighting (in true Seattle fashion) changed every half hour, and it was a challenge coming up with new looks and poses for each outfit.Luckily Gasworks Park has a lot of space and variety, although we earned a lot of strange looks in the public restroom we used as a changing room! 

It’s also definitely one of the most rewarding – Yevdokia is an unendingly interesting individual, and a great storyteller, and her outfits are an honor to behold. So I’ll leave you with a bonus photo:

xx,

Beth

Early Career

Nini Ikhena shows us what she’s got

Meet Nini – a passionate, hilarious, fellow Microsoft-fashion-blogger. She grew up in Nigeria and cares deeply about empowering women and advancing tech in Africa, and her fashion blog (The Nerdly Beautiful) is absolutely darling.

Tell us a little about you.

Growing up in Kano, Nigeria I realized I had a deep interest in Math and Physics pretty early on in secondary school, and this inspired me to move to New York after graduation to attend college at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I first discovered programming in my freshman year, and fell in love with the concept of being able to create experiences through software. This discovery led to my first internship as an Explorer at Microsoft, which played a pivotal role in enabling me pursue a career in Computer Science. I now work as a Program Manager on the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (Log Analysis) team.

In my junior year of college, I started the fashion blog Nerdly Beautiful as a creative outlet and to, in some way, go against the perpetuated stereotypes about “nerds”. Over the years, Fashion has evolved from being an outlet to an absolute passion of mine and through my blog I’ve had the privilege to meet other multifaceted beings who continue to inspire me.

My other passions include women empowerment, gender equality, and advancing technology in Africa.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

In my first outfit, I’m wearing a sweater from Free People, one of my favorite stores to shop at. They have the most unique pieces! I particularly adore the sleeves on the sweater; the bigger they are, the better! I love the versatility and class of denim and paired the sweater with a denim on denim to preserve the blue color palette.

My second outfit shows a different side of style and my love for lace and all things Victorian. I got this dress from Free People as well, and paired with a burgundy coat. I love the edge the choker brings to the dress, and I finished up the outfit with a lace up boots I picked up from Long Tall Sally.

The last outfit is one you’ll probably find me wearing on a typical day! I’m all for oversized capes that allow you to layer up easily, and I picked up this one from Zara.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

I started off having no clue what personal style meant.

Growing up, my younger sisters and I always wore matching clothes and so moving to New York allowed me to explore and play around with different types of style – from street style to bohemian.

I went from wearing whatever I saw on everyone else, to viewing my style as a form of art and expression. I now love being able to transform my style based on how I’m feeling, or sometimes (rather random) what genre of music I’m obsessing over at the time. It’s ever-evolving, and I’ve grown to love and accept that.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

I love a number of brands ranging from African designers creating amazing Afrofusion pieces to haute couture. I’d say – Stella Jean, Delpozo, Georges Hobeika, Grassfields, Ofuure, AAKS, Zuhair Murad, Elie SAAB, ASOS, Free People, Zara, Iamisigo, and the list goes on!

It’s hard to pick one style icon that inspires me. I find that I gain most of my inspiration from other fashion bloggers, street style photography, people watching in downtown Seattle (it’s worth it!), magazines, and designers I love and follow.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

There’s a lot of variety in STEM, from working as a data scientist at Microsoft to working as a cosmetic engineer at MAC. I’d suggest doing research on STEM careers in different fields, and seeing what you lean towards.

I believe in following your interest or curiosity, doing that could lead to developing a passion or discovering skills about yourself that you never knew you had. If while doing research you find a career path that interests you, take a class or two, or speak to students and professionals in that field about their experiences. These will help you sort of test the waters, before deciding if you want to dive in, but pursue the interest and see where it leads.

If you end up taking a class and not enjoying it, that’s okay too! It’s worth giving it a try.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

At work as a Program Manager, I recently shipped a product called the OMS Gateway, that helped unblock a number of our top customers who were unable to send critical data to the cloud from thousands of servers that had no internet connectivity.

Lighting up these servers enabled our customers to get insight into key metrics about their servers, which in turn helped them to make better business and technical decisions. I’m proud of this project because it allowed me to grow technically by delving into a space I initially knew very little about and it gave me the experience of driving the end-to-end process of building a product from scratch – working with other software engineers and collaborating with legal, marketing and other partner teams to ship out the Gateway to the eager customers that actually benefitted from it.

Along a different vein, I partnered with a fashion illustrator, poet and fashion photographer in December, to put together a Christmas shoot tailored towards showing the duality of emotions experienced at Christmas time for individuals and families dealing with loss. Receiving messages from people expressing how much it meant to them, or feeling comforted by the post was beyond rewarding and humbling.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

You can be interested in a STEM field and have other varying interests as well. I wish I was more aware of this in college and spent less time feeling bad about not fitting in. One of my favorite designers, Tom Ford, is an architect, fashion designer, screenwriter and film director and I’m fascinated by how multitalented he is and the way he honors each facet. You don’t need to enjoy playing video games (if you do, that’s completely fine too!) or spend all your free time developing to be considered a true developer or to validate your love for the field.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

I’m a strong believer in living life from a place of love, and not fear and each day I aspire to live out this truth. I’d love to encourage everyone reading to do the same, and face life authentically and fearlessly.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I love connecting with new people, you can find me here:

My Blog – nerdlybeautiful.com
Instagram – @thenerdlybeautiful
Facebook – nerdlybeautiful

xx,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

Jasmine Lawrence keeps it 160

Jasmine is the living embodiment of a multi-hyphenate. She’s passionate, hard-working and good at putting a positive spin on things whilst also not taking no for an answer. And with all the cool projects she’s got going on, she definitely knows how to dress for the different roles she plays in different spheres.

Tell us a little about you.

I’m a multi-passionate maker who loves to travel and learn. I currently serve as a Program Manager on the HoloLens team at Microsoft and as the Founder & Chief Experience Officer at EDEN BodyWorks.

My undergraduate degree is in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology and I am working to complete a Master’s in Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

Today you’ll see 3 looks that I’ve named CEO, Sweetheart and Techie.

My CEO look is mature, sexy and professional; As an entrepreneur I am often meeting with new people around the world and negotiating deals to drive my company forward.

My Sweetheart look can be described as cute, colorful and feminine; This look captures my high energy and fun approach to life.

Finally, my Techie look is a casual, comfy and chill style that you can catch me in most days of the week; It compliments my laid back work environment where we’re more focused on what you do rather than how you look while doing it.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

My style grew as my careers developed and changed. There are definitely ‘uniforms’ in different industries but I like to put my own twist on them to make them personal. The clothes and accessories I wear match not just my situation but my mood and outlook for the day.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

Two of my favorite brands are Merona and Converse.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

STEM is a huge field with many different ways to make impact. For a young person looking to get into STEM, I would challenge them to explore different roles and industries through internships and interviews with people who are at different stages in their careers. The more exposure to the possibilities that are out there, the more likely they are to find something that is a perfect fit for them.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

The project I am the most proud of is Clubs on Xbox Live. This feature allowed gamers across many different gaming platforms to create their own communities to play, connect and share with other gamers around the world. The feedback for this feature so far has been very positive and I believe that this feature is doing a lot to increase social connections and fun on Xbox.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

Yes! A PM needs more than just good communication and leadership skills. Technical, business and/or design skills are very important if you want to be a dynamic PM. At their core a PM is not just an amazing communicator but also a continuous learner. If you are able to learn to speak the languages of your teammates fields you can do a lot more to help them work effectively together.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

To close I want to share how important it is to surround yourself with people who will encourage, challenge and inspire you. Good friends as well as experienced mentors are great assets for a thriving career (and in life in general).

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

You can find Jasmine on Twitter & Instagram (@edensjasmine), and at jasminelawrence.com.

 

We’re definitely more inspired to get out there and bring our ideas to life, after reading about everything Jasmine’s up to. We hope you are too!

Until next time,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

Anna Sokolova ‘only’ speaks 3 languages (not counting the coding ones!)

Tell us a little about you.

I love math, statistics, and basically all the world’s most stereotypically boring subjects you can think of. I think programming is what makes all that mathy stuff applicable to real life, and that’s why I’m a software engineer.

Before coming to school in the US to study computer science I worked for the Ministry of Education of Russia and volunteered at a summer camp for children. To this day, using computer science and math to empower education and assistive technologies is my passion.

Besides that, I’m crazy for learning about other cultures. My dream is to speak at least 10 languages and visit all countries in the world – so far I’m only at 3 languages and about 37 countries, but at least I had a rad old film photo camera to capture it. (For real, her photos are great! You should check out her travel instagram – link below).

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

The skirt I found in a small boutique in Utah. A pair of Converse is a must-have in my closet; by now, I have retired four pairs of this same model.

The bag I got in Moscow. I can’t say these bags are very reliable, I had a couple of them grow old pretty quickly. But I just can’t resist amazing prints they have! So, life teaches me nothing.

The jacket I got in Lithuania. No story behind the heels, they are just cute.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

I think as a teenager I went through every hair color and every clothing style. At some point I decided not to choose one style but to have it all (sorry, capsule wardrobe fans). Right now my style can be described by two rules:

  1. Never wear things that make me feel uncomfortable
  2. Always wear something different from what I wore the day before

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

If you think that STEM doesn’t have what you’re interested in, think again. There is so much more to it than coding, pizza, and computer games. I left STEM when I was 18 because I thought it was too limiting.

It took me five years to realize that it actually opens endless possibilities. You can be a freelance developer and travel all the time, you can work on socially significant projects that help humanity, you can master your social and communication skills to perfection working as a project manager, you can make animated movies and 3D effects… If you have something in mind, there is a good possibility you can do it with technology and make a greater impact.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

Weirdly, not a flashy one but the one I had to beat my head against the wall for the most – migrating a data mining pipeline onto a completely new technology. It sounds a little boring – let’s pretend I said a toy fridge robot that comes to your office. I did that too.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I just started two travel photo accounts – @anyameetworld! facebook, instagram

Personal instagram: anyaeats160carrots

We love Anna’s travel photos, her insatiable curiosity about anything she’s heard is boring and her straightforward approach to style. (Also, those heels!).

Until next time!

Dona & Beth

Industry Veterans

Michael Gourlay uses the powers of Evil to commit acts of Good (mostly)

Dr. Gourlay, I presume?

This fascinating gentleman skated into our lives a few years ago and whilst we were immediately taken by how brilliant he is (he was the lead of the team that created spatial mapping for HoloLens – NBD!) we also saw how…human-centric he is.  We became immediate friends and have been looking for EXACTLY the right time to do a photo shoot.  I think we can all agree that this is probably the most unique feature yet: Holograms! Space pants! Tron!

Nerding out in Fremont will never be the same.

Tell us a little about you.

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I try to live in the future. I often live in my head.

I am a serial careerist and hobbyist. My motto, apparently, is “never get too good at any one thing”.

I think of myself as a game developer but I now get paid to make platforms (like HoloLens) and fluid simulations. Still, I write game engine code every week — almost every day.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Tron is my go-to outfit for any occasion where I can get away with it. Which is perhaps more often than you might think.

Another motto I have is “Put on your tight pants; the future is here!”

The galactic onesie and tight pants are another homage to futuristic looks science fiction has prepared us to expect.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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I used to subscribe to the fashion sense espoused by Einstein, Obama, Zuckerberg — have replicas of the same thing, and save your decision-making cycles for more important topics. But then I also like to go to cyber goth clubs, so I always had this “business in the daytime, party at night” fashion dichotomy. One day I heard a colleague described as “works like a coal miner, dresses like a rock star” and I thought, that’s what I want for my epitaph, so I gradually started looking for items that I could wear every day that had a more distinct sense of style.

Not quite rock star, but more stylish than a closet full of hoodies.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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I love our local designer, Michelle Conley, who runs Mishu Boutique.

I love window-shopping Cryoflesh and Rebels Market.

I also love Chrissy Wai-Ching Leung, but I can’t wear her stuff — mostly bridal.

I envy the variety of legitimate and stylish looks women have. Men have less variety and most of what variety there is bores me.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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I feel the same way about coding that I hear poets and novelists describe their passion for writing. Either you can’t help but write or you do something else. Because coding at upper levels is something you have to want to do. It’s how you spend your free time. It’s what you’d do if you had fuck-you money. That’s me. My dream is to make $10 million then focus 100% on making game tech that I want to make.

The advice is: Get into STEM because you can’t be kept from it. Don’t pursue STEM for the stability or lucrative nature. Follow your passion.

(Note from Dona: We at Fibonacci Sequins are strong believers in passion. After all, this project was done because we *couldn’t NOT*, but we also believe that at the start of people’s careers, it’s hard for them to “know their passion”, so we are also believers in interest/enthusiasm/curiosity. If you are enthusiastic about learning something and get kind of good at it, passion will naturally follow. Pursue enthusiasm and learning…and don’t be afraid to toss it aside if you don’t like it. You do NOT need to get married and have babies with every idea you come up with!)

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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HoloLens, especially the parts where we took broken or incomplete ingredients and turned them into viable products.

We used to classify HoloLens into 2 categories: Hard and Miracle. We used to have enough in the Miracle category that we figured, realistically, there was a strong chance the project could fail to deliver on its promise — it could get cancelled. But we had our eyes wide open and we worked on it anyway because we couldn’t imagine a world without HoloLens. So we made it happen, one miracle at a time.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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That STEM is for nerdy guys. Wrong on both counts.

Conversely — Have you ever seen a beginner fashion design kit not marketed toward little girls?

I wish there were a (serious) Klutz Book of Fashion Design, or some such kit, either gender-neutral or aimed at boys and men who want to get into making their own style.

Similarly for cosplay. And here’s where STEM comes full circle: to get exceptionally intricate with cosplay and ultra-stylish looks, you must be deliberate and calculated with your designs, and you must integrate exotic execution techniques like computer-aided design (CAD), computer numeric control (CNC), circuit design and other high-tech stuff. Look at styles you see at Burning Man — you need mechanical, electrical and software engineering skills to pull off some of those outfits. I want to see this merger become commonplace in elementary, junior and high schools, not just elite and esoteric design schools.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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The most important aspect in life is sharing it with others. Who you’re with is more important than where you are or what you do. Find people who synergize with you, form a team, and grow that team together.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

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You can find me on twitter: @MiJaGourlay.

We love, love LOVE Mike’s philosophy on life, “to be shared with others”.  Though he claims to use the powers of evil to commit acts of good, we can attest first-hand that his is one of the most giving, kind, community centered people we have ever known. He is always the first one to organize a lunch or a happy hour to get to know people better–to him there is no difference between work and life.

It must all be lived how it’s supposed to be lived: with great passion and love.  And we couldn’t agree with that more!

Love always,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

Bayo Olatunji knows how to pose (or was that code?)

Bayo was such a delight to shoot. After rescheduling our shoot multiple times we finally met up on a grey morning in Volunteer Park. Bayo’s love for uniqlo was apparently, but it was amazing to see how he came into himself in his second outfit. We had a blast talking and posing, and hope you have just as much fun reading through his interview :)

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a Nigerian that moved to the United States in 2000. This is where I discovered Windows 98 and decided I wanted to work for the company that made it (Microsoft). I thought Microsoft made the whole computer E2E: the OS, the hardware, and the whole internet. This false assumption is what drove me find a way to join the company.

While at MIT, I learned about the Explorer program at Microsoft. I got to intern at Microsoft 2x, and now I am a Program Manager on the Windows Experience team.

I believe the sky is NOT the limit – our imaginations are. This belief lead me to my passion, which is to pioneer the future. I plan to leverage this passion into something that can help others grow; I want us all to shoot past the sky.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

I used to be very much anti-chic, but my sister has made it her mission to fix that.

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I  usually like to find clothes that are simple and elegant. When I was in China, I discovered Uniqlo, which I have to say is high on my fav store list now. I got a few nice button up shirts, T shirts, and a simple Jacket. This (hopefully) usually keeps me in the simple-yet-elegant bucket.

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This is a Nigerian outfit that was made when I went home last year. Every time I go back home my mom always commissions our tailor to make us a new outfit for that year. The jacket is one I got made when I was in Thailand. I noticed they pair very well together and have combined them since. It’s multi-cultural :)

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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As I mentioned earlier, I used to not be a “chic” person. I kind of wore whatever was comfortable. I couldn’t find a good intersection between comfort, elegant, and NOT STUPIDLY EXPENSIVE. My sister wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass her when we are out together (jk), so she started buying me nice looking clothes as gifts.

My sister’s efforts + being around chic people + having $$ has allowed me to start exploring different styles. When it comes to elegance, I have to say I do like the super formal look, but I like simple even better.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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Uniqlo hahaha. I just discovered it and I will rave about their clean and simple style to the world.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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STEM is basically seeping into everything, so STEM can probably lead you into any interest. This path you are about to choose is going to be difficult, but trust me, it’s definitely worth it. Here are some things to remember:

  • Never be afraid to ask for help.
  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong. “When you’re scared, you can’t learn.” Definitely try to not make mistakes, but embrace mistakes when they happen. Learn from them. Don’t dwell on them.
  • Be open to feedback, but don’t give up on important goals too easily; that is how you grow. Now, the hard part is learning to know what feedback to give weight to. Sadly, this you get through experience. You need to learn to get as much objective/real data around your goals. Feedback should be another input.
  • Oh and go intern somewhere. Internships are amazing.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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I have worked on so many things at Microsoft and believe me, I am very proud of them all. For this let’s do a throwback – at MIT I took a class called 6.111 which focused on digital systems. For our final project, we decided to create the game, Guitar Hero, using FPGAs and real guitars. The number of things we had to learn was ridiculous but so much fun. Some at the top of my mind are:

  1. Learn to play the Guitar
  2. Learn about Fast Fourier Transforms
  3. How to get an FPGA to display something

We basically lived in the lab that semester. The project started without even knowing If it was possible, but we managed to break down each obstacle into a simper problem and solved them. Even though the class was divided into teams, the whole class basically worked on all projects since most of us picked things that were way beyond us. By putting all our heads together, we were able to do amazing things. At the end, when we got it working…. Oh the feels

I know many of you have stories of living in the lab, I’d love you to share them with me (find me on fb/insta/twitter below).

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

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Facebook / Twitter (I should use this more) / Instagram

xoxo,

Dona & Beth

Students

Vanessa Villa is fluent in gummy bears

We were won over instantly by Vanessa’s versatile outfits – somehow grunge and chic at the same time? Read on to hear about how gummy bears help her program, and the ways she disconnects from the world.

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m entering my last quarter at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, majoring in Computer Engineering. My small hometown of Fillmore, CA is agriculture based so I wasn’t really exposed to tech until I reached college. The family thought that since I was able to set up computers, I must be some sort of tech genius…That isn’t exactly how things worked out the first time I stepped into class. The introduction course was in robotics in C and it wasn’t till about the third project that things started to click. After that, every time I programmed I always did it with gummy bears or with friends and snacks.

One positive of coming from a town that was primarily Mexican is it did allow me to develop a deeper understanding of my heritage, animal/plant based agriculture, and speak Spanish fluently. Once, I was asked to give a speech to honor the high school AP Spanish teacher, Ms. Juarez, and had to present it in English and Spanish. She also was my first introduction to Salsa dancing. Little did she know I would later become dance obsessed in college. I love to dance; Salsa, Tango, Country Line and many others due to joining the Cal Poly Ballroom Team. This may explain my recent interest in sparkles.

Whenever things start getting busy in the quarter, I make sure to go out to the Rodeo Arena and take photographs, sketch, or just hanging out with the horses and cows. It is a space with little to no WiFi and a different perspective. Sometimes, that is exactly what a person needs to solve that coding bug.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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My first outfit is very versatile. I wear it for those days that I have a presentation and want to go dancing later. Its comfortable and edgy with just a little bit of class.

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My second outfit is more on the daring side. I like to think that it’s fun and certainly the best for exploring around. You never know when you are going to need to twirl or run around.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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When I first started playing around with different styles, I knew that I had to be comfortable in what I was wearing. I liked to think of myself as a bit of a rebel sometimes and quickly fell in love with the alternative/punk look. I also loved the iconic and classic looks of Coco Chanel. Why not wear pearls with your black skinny jeans and acid washed top? Lately, I have been experimenting with brighter colors and I can’t wait to see how it goes.

I also can’t help but to have been influenced by my surroundings; I’ve become enamored with both steel toed cowgirl boots and just regular old riding boots. I always wear high tops when going out on an adventure. There is just something about them that means I feel invincible when wearing them.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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If your field punches you in the stomach (which it will…last minute assignments are the worst) , punch back and do it the way your gut tells you to – if that’s by eating gummy bears at a hackathon, cool! If it’s by wearing a cowgirl hat while you code, that’s cool too!

Get an internship, shadow a professional, explore all of the field and find out what interests you and what you are passionate about. I think it’s very important to try and figure out what you like and don’t like about the field early on. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities…you may surprise yourself.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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There was a project this past year where we had a client that wanted an app to count cell colonies in a petri dish. Between working on the problem with the assigned group and in a Computer Vision class, we made a kick ass algorithm that was better than anything currently available in the mobile app market. I really feel like that project gave us valuable experience in designing a product from start to finish for a client.

This was the first time that I had worked with these people. I had seen them in classes but never really interacted with them. It was really exciting to know that we were able to get this done even while coordinating around other classes. By managing ourselves in a way we were comfortable with, we were able to become friends and get a good portion of our project done. We got really close as a group and still are – it created a support system in my major that I didn’t even know I was missing.

The algorithm was a great product but the experience and bonds created is what I value more.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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Don’t worry about what other people think and do what makes you happy!

At school I’m the unhappiest person when I’m stuck in my room by myself. My professors condemned collaboration in the introductory classes so that everyone would learn the material, but I do my best work in the computer lab. I need to goof off and have people around me to eat snacks with or talk about puppies and kittens.

Everybody has a different comfort setting and different interests, so acknowledge those and find ways to work around these situations.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

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You can find Vanessa on Facebook or Instagram :)

 

Students

Julia Wu is handy with a handbag

The lovely Julia Wu turned out to be the embodiment of graceful elegance when we met her at Microsoft during her internship. She was bubbling over with cool projects to talk about, and we can’t wait for you to read on and see them!

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a senior at Brown University studying Computer Science and Economics. I’ve interned at Microsoft and at a Brazilian IT firm, and I’m intrigued by technology that can augment the knowledge of people and businesses.

I’m passionate about creating things outside of the classroom – in the past, I’ve shared my rendition of an intelligent handbag with the global CFO of Chanel, and collaborated on a web application that retrieved on-campus events with free food so that my classmates could save time with Ctrl+F “free food” on Brown’s events calendar.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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In this first outfit I’m wearing an orange Versace dress that my mother gave me (right, mom?). I love the brightness of its color, and I can create a more or less fancier look depending on the shoes I pair it with. Right now I’m wearing a pair of nude heels by Christian Louboutin, and I appreciate how comfortable and sleek they are. To finish the look, I’m holding a white clutch with shiny jewels.

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I love this chiffon blouse from Forever 21 I’m wearing in my second outfit—I can wear it with shorts, jeans or pencil skirts. I’ve worn it to conferences as well as social outings, and I love the detail on the sleeves. I’m also wearing a pair of navy blue shorts I bought in a small city in China, along with sparkly Versace heels that are actually pretty hard to walk in—I’m not very graceful in them.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My mother is an entrepreneur with her own brand for travel goods. She’s extremely chic and loves dressing fancy with colorful and shiny pieces. She’s a huge fan of classic designers, and we happen to be very similar sizes so we often share clothes – although I’d say that I’m not as bold with the colors and shine as she is.

I like to dress well because it helps me feel more ‘legit’ both in and outside of the office/classroom. I would say that my style is classy and delicate; I sometimes seek inspiration from fashion bloggers Jessica Ricks and Chiara Ferragni. I also love Blake Lively’s style.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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  • Ask for feedback as much as you can, and don’t let either the constructive or the negative feedback discourage you.
  • Focus on what you want, and stay focused when you’re working towards it. You have to be willing to jump on rocket ships, but also to say no to things that don’t matter as much (because there may be many shiny opportunities).
  • A quote I really like, but not sure who the author is: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullsh*t story you keep telling yourself.”

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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About a year ago, I began working on an intelligent handbag with a couple other women in tech. I found a wearables hackathon online and thought, “I’ve never heard of this but I’m gonna go.” It was before the sign-ups opened, so I just e-mailed the organizers saying I was going. So one weekend last fall, my teammate and I took a bus to New York City and spent Friday night tinkering with firmware we’ve never touched before and then slept on the floor at the hackathon. The development also led to learning about iOS development, web design, writing business plans and patent applications.

Fast forward a few months, my teammate and I are sleeping on buses to get to Carnegie Mellon University from Brown, in order to pitch as finalists at a venture competition. I’m proud of this project because it helped me get a sense of how challenging and fulfilling it is to build a technical product and take it forward completely independently.

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Wow, we can’t for things like Julia’s handbag to become a reality (we hope they’re half as stylish as the ones she brought with her for our shoot!)

Love always,

Dona & Beth

Students

Alex Kearney shows us the dapper side of practical

Beth met Alex when she was on a trip to Edinburgh with Microsoft – Alex’s style is both unique and deliberate, which is always a joy to hear about. We traipsed around Edinburgh as the weather changed from sunny to blustery and drizzly; and her outfit performed exactly as well as she said it would! (Unlike Beth’s….).

Tell us a little about you.

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Part way through high school my parents wanted me to get a job. I’d just finished a computer science class which prompted me to look at working as a programmer. My local university happened to have research-based internships available to high school students, which gave me a chance to try out some of the things I’d been learning in school.

I had done First Lego League as a kid—a competitive robotics competition using Lego—so I was put with a group that was working with robots: the Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence lab. For six weeks I sat in a pen full of robots, making them learn from interacting with the world around them.

After the internship was finished I decided Machine Learning was pretty neat, and maybe I didn’t really want to study economics in university after all. I wanted to continue playing with AI, so I left Canada to study Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Even though I moved away, I come home every summer and work on biomedical robotics at the University of Alberta.

Basically, I’m a computer scientist now because my parents told me to get a job.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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The weather in Scotland is variable. One minute it could be a beautiful day, the next you could be struggling through gale force winds. Dressing for the elements is your number one priority. To keep cozy, I’m wearing a wool peacoat from Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer Jeans, and a pair of obscenely comfortable Green Doc Marten 1910s. They’re all practical student-staples for traipsing across the city.

When you’re limited by weather, prints and patterns can make practical outfits more interesting. I’m wearing lord and Taylor blue button down and an outrageously bright Au Jour La Jour jumper. The sweatshirt is one of my prized finds: It’s funky and unique. The combination of sunshine-yellow and printed hyenas makes this my favorite piece.

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Continuing with weather considerations, in my second outfit I’m Layering. To keep the chill off I’m wearing a checked Uniqulo flannel shirt and an Eddie Bauer vest. The best part of that vest? It has pockets: so many pockets. Underneath, I’m wearing an Apollo 13 printed tee I got on a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. Just in case the weather gets a bit testy, I’ve brought a scarf along that I nicked from a family member.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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Western Canadian style can be described as “whatever’s appropriate for the weather”: it’s very
Practical. What you wear has to withstand the elements, whether that’s protection for wading
through snowdrifts at forty-below, or something to keep cool during heatwaves. What you’re wearing has to fit your environment.

Weather also plays a large role in Scottish style, but it’s a touch less casual than Canadian. I try to balance the two by mixing casual and formal pieces.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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I’ve been enjoying the androgynous trend in mainstream fashion. My favorite manifestation of this is Esther Quek; an authority on all things menswear and fashion director at The Rake. She effortlessly blends street-style with spectacular suits. Not only that, but her command of structure, wild prints, and popping colours is unparalleled. She has a fresh street-wear meets dandy style which you don’t often see.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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There’s no harm in exploring tech to see if you like it: give it a try. Check out your local community, hit up a few meetups, find a hacker-space, talk to people. If there’s anything tech people love to do, it’s help people that want to get started.

f you’re wary of heading out to events, the internet is your friend. Asking questions with a few well placed hashtags on twitter will garner an outpouring of support and advice. That’s how I started learning about interaction design.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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Over the past few years, I’ve spent my summers working with myoelectric prosthetics—or bionic limbs. When someone has an amputation, they have the option of replacing their missing limb with a robotic prosthesis. I’ve worked on ways of improving control of these limbs by developing methods of anticipating user control signals. If the arm can anticipate a user’s intentions, it can partially take control, improving an amputee’s speed at completing tasks.

Watching an amputee wear a limb made by a team I was working with was incredible. A device I contributed code and research to was a literal extension of a person: a bionic replacement for their biological limb. It’s the ultimate example of wearable tech.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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People often seem to be wary of tech-related geekery; they avoid it because they don’t want to associate with its basement-dwelling anti-social stereotype: a very limited view of tech. Technology touches everything; its influence is far-reaching, impacting up and coming fields—like digital humanities—and established fields—such as medicine. STEM fields can be mixed and matched with anything you want to do. In that sense, STEM is the opposite of its reputation: it’s a liberating field with almost limitless opportunities.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I’ve got an indieweb blog, but I can be found on more traditional social media. My handle on most things is Kongaloosh, including twitter and instagram.

The work Alex is doing with bionic limbs is so fascinating – definitely follow her advice and ask (her) some questions on twitter if you’d like to learn more about it! Wearable fashion is fascinating to us, and we’re grateful to Alex for letting us showcase the more altruistic side of it :)

Love always,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

Nayomi Mitchell designs herself to design your life

We had such a darling time shooting Nayomi as a Microsoft intern, and we’re stoked to feature her on the blog now as our way of saying welcome back! Her outfit is the definition of timeless-chic-with-a-pop-of-color, and we love everything about it.

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a recent graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology. I didn’t study Computer Science, but rather a combination of computer science, design, and psychology all rolled up into one major called Computational Media – I’m very passionate about programming things that look nice and have good usability.

Outside of class and work, you can catch me singing and playing either the ukulele or the harp. You can also find me playing Xbox or PC games. Right now, I work at Microsoft as a Software Engineer.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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This is one of my more quirkier and fun outfits! I’m wearing my polka dot dress with pink tights, black flats, and a navy cardigan. To top it all off, I’m wearing my brown watch and black purse.

The dress is from H&M, which I shop at frequently. I found the cardigan and flats while thrift shopping, the watch is from Fossil, and the purse was from my mom’s closet.

As you can see, I get my wardrobe pieces from everywhere – you tend to find the best things in the strangest places.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My style started out as an amalgamation of my parents’ fashion sense and popular wardrobe staples. My parents, who lived through so many great decades, influenced my music tastes and also my fashion sense. I’m a big fan of things like bright 80’s patterns but also simple pieces like chambray shirts and A-line dresses.

Over time, my style has gotten more refined. I started thinking more about fit and body shape and began to buy wardrobe pieces that looked good and felt good to wear. I try to have staples that can be accessorized to create exciting outfits, rather than having a lot of over-embellished items in my wardrobe. I really wanted to make getting up in the morning and finding something to wear as efficient as possible! When mostly everything matches, I can practically grab anything out of my closet and look polished.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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Find mentors! It’s definitely one of the best things to do. It’s really beneficial to have a mentor who can provide experience and encouragement. (Look to your lecturers, your coworkers on internships, older students in your degree, family friends, or get twitter stalking!).

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
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In my final semester of college, for senior design, my group and I made a 3D dragon-fighting video game that used the Leap Motion and the Oculus Rift. The idea was that people undergoing occupational hand therapy could play the game, which forces them to make gripping motions to find ingredients, make potions, and throw those potions at dragons. It was incredibly fun to make and we ended up producing a really cool demo of our game.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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I feel like a lot of people think that working in the tech field means that everyone sits at their computer and code endlessly through the work day. There’s a lot of collaboration that comes with programming, whether it’s building something with others or code reviews. I get up regularly to ask questions and work with my peers. Being a developer is a lot more social than people might think.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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It’s really random, but a couple of months ago, I wanted to keep track of my wardrobe. I decided to make a spreadsheet where I listed every clothing I have. I like being really, really organized!

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I would say Instagram (@nayomitchell)! I post there very regularly.

How do you improve upon building something in 3D with dragons? You make it useful for occupational therapy! It’s so inspiring to us to consistently see the wonderful people we feature on here using tech to improve the world. Do reach out to Nayomi on instagram if you want to hear more about it :)

Much love,

Dona & Beth