Monthly Archives

January 2016

Students

Rachel Painter Brightens Our Day

Welcoming us back to our series on the fabulous students at the University of Edinburgh we have Rachel Painter (she actually does paint!). Rachel warned us that she wore primarily dark colors, so Beth and Rachel met up in the Grassmarket to use the colorful doors as backdrops (and take advantage of the cute coffeeshops to change and buy tea, because gosh was it cold!).

Tell us a little about you.

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Hey, I’m Rachel. I’m a second year student at University of Edinburgh studying computer science and I’m from America (small town in eastern Massachusetts specifically). I do art, play videogames, enjoy fashion, and am slightly obsessed with my cats (and cats in general).

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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As a plus sized person, especially shopping in female oriented lines, there aren’t a ton of options compared to straight sizing so about half my wardrobe is from Asos’s Curve line which I really adore. It is modern and interesting and my cropped top, jeans, and long cardigan are from this line (not currently available).

I also really love Loft’s Lou & Grey line although I’m not wearing any of their pieces in the photos. I do shop a bit in the men’s section – my favorite is H&M, specifically their “divided” line where my hat is from.

For shoes I particularly gravitate towards the brand Vagabond which in terms of quality have been outstanding to me, and I really abuse my shoes. I like that they offer a range of very pristine menswear inspired shoes to punk type flatforms to high top sneakers. My chelsea boots are from them and the loafers I’m wearing is the modern loafer from Everlane. Everlane is also the makers of my backpack (their classic modern snap backpack in reverse denim). For makeup I tend to fill in my brows, put on an interesting lip color, and sometimes I do some foundation/concealer/blush. Most of my lip products, and the ones I use the most, are from MAC (my orange-red lipstick is So Chaud by MAC). (How great is it that Rachel changed not just outfits but also lipsticks for us? *swoon*).

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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Oh god, my style used to be all over the place. I’d like interesting “edgy” items but then flip back to super feminine dresses and cardigans to jeans and tops. Teenage years were an odd slightly embarrassing mix of hot topic and the local department store.

When I was seventeen I started really getting into online fashion communities (specifically the subreddit /r/femalefashionadvice) and trying to narrow down what I really wanted in my wardrobe. I decided I didn’t like traditional feminine silhouettes, that I love high waisted things, and trying to step away from black was a huge misstep. Now my wardrobe is about 75% grey. I love grey. A lot. I find it has the nice neutral tonality of black without the harshness and the lighter nature of it really allows for textures to pop.

Lately I’ve been re-incorporating some more feminine elements into my style but I try to avoid anything twee, cutesy, or retro. I’ve particularly been taken with body con dresses, especially midi length ones.

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

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Don’t be intimidated. This is obviously easier said than done but there is a huge misconception that STEM is only for geniuses who know exactly what they’re doing and what they want to pursue. All throughout my childhood and high school I had an affinity for the humanities but it was certain aspects of science and math that really interested me and with my love for computers I decided to challenge myself and major in a subject that I’m passionate about, even if it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I came into this major with no real background in programming, just a vague idea of how computers worked from my personal usage particularly from gaming. It isn’t easy, of course, but I’m doing it and I’m no super genius.

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

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No specific large project stands out in my mind but I get a lot of satisfaction and pride out of the art I create. I rarely share it, and if I do it is usually with a couple close friends, so it is purely just for my benefit. I love being able to create and express myself and I find it a more unlimited and personal expression than fashion.

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I’m mostly self taught when it comes to art and have about zero experience drawing people and so I’m largely intimidated by it. This  piece started as an easy way to dip my toe into drawing a person without crashing into the uncanny valley, by using a self-portrait as reference. I didn’t want to get caught up on all the nuance of color that people have in their skin and eyes so I just picked some colors that were vibrant and I liked and mixed and matched. I actually tend to shy away from mixing in so many different hues but I felt like it worked in this loose and quick self portrait. Fun fact, in the reference image I took I am wearing the same dress as in my first outfit (photo above. I think this took me roughly 3 hours to complete.

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

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To be honest I think most of the stereotypes associated with computer science have a basis in reality but it isn’t nearly as overwhelming as portrayed; You won’t be the only not white/cis/straight/dude, you won’t be the only one who isn’t consumed by the newest technology or nerd culture, and you won’t be the only one who does or doesn’t like video games.

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

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Don’t take yourself too seriously with clothes, or in general really. Have fun, experiment, try really hard or don’t try at all. Clothes are like fun playgrounds that you get to show off to everyone so wear what you want unapologetically.

We love when people share their art with us, and it’s so perfect that this piece of Rachel’s features the dress she wore on our shoot! Traipsing around Edinburgh with Rachel (and hiking up those crazy steps she sat on to see the upper street layer) was so much fun, and her elegant but playful style is everything we love.

Keep creating,

Dona & Beth

Students

Ria Bhatia Open Sources Her Life

All this talk of The Great Northeast Snowstorm has got us thinking back to last July when we met Ria Bhatia from Penn State. It was easily 90 degrees out when we did this shoot, but her faux fur vest was so luxe that we all had to try it on!  We bet she’s happy to have it in the frozen northeast right now! Ria was kind enough to open source her day-to-day and share with us what keeps her so busy. Read on to find out more about this mentoring-minded computer scientist. 

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I’m a rising Junior at Penn State, where I’m majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Mathematics and Engineering Leadership Development. Outside of school I’m involved with a couple different clubs and organizations:

  • Mentoring incoming freshman in Engineering
  • Helping students out with resumes and give them career advice
  • Giving prospective students tours of Penn State’s Engineering College next year
  • I’m in an engineering sorority (which isn’t as nerdy as it sounds!)
  • I’m also Parade Captain for Penn State Homecoming!

So, school is super hectic but being busy keeps my mind free.

I also have a huge adventurous side to me so hiking, rowing, and swimming in random lakes are all game (especially in the Seattle summer).

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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My blue dress (Forever21) really shows off the fun colorful side of me – since I’m Indian I have dark features and bold prints are something I can actually pull off. I love this dress because it makes a statement and it can be dressed down or up.

My other outfit is an American Rag vest with some dark wash skinny jeans and gold Ann Taylor flats. Penn State is so cold in the winter time so this vest really embodies the huge parka I wear around campus while being way more stylish. Jeans are a staple of my outfits so finding super stylish but also comfortable jeans is always key – these ones are Hollister.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My style evolved from Hollister print shirts to a more sophisticated look, probably because I graduated high school. Big milestones along the way were realizing that skirts will always look a little off on me (so I finally stopped investing in them), and discovering the true genius of Sperry’s after breaking them in for a year.

Statement necklaces also became a thing in college but I definitely haven’t worn my statement necklaces to their full potential; that’s a challenge for another day. This one is from a palace in Beijing.

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

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Find a mentor to look up to asap; being in any STEM field is difficult and you’re going to need a mentor to help guide you even when you feel like quitting. You are capable of achieving anything but you need support and resources to help you achieve anything, so always ask for help and remember that you’re never in this alone.

We all have the power to create and build, so don’t let any historical notions or words of others tell you differently.

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

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Last summer I got to work in the Open Source Technology Center and I wrote networking providers for Linux servers. This experience exposed me the world of open source operating systems which is something I really knew nothing about before. I learned so much about how to produce code in a team setting. I got through my internship by asking loads of questions and that’s something that I’m not afraid of anymore. I used to think asking questions was a sign of weakness but really when you’re asking the right questions it can be a sign of knowledge and understanding.

I’m looking forward to the future when I can work on more projects at Microsoft and make huge impacts on people’s everyday lives.

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

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We absolutely adored the feline’esque Ria and her passion for mentoring newer students as well as infiltrating the amazing world of open source technology. We know she will make some killer contributions–spreading her mentoring and wisdom even further!   We are amazed at Ria’s busy schedule of formal coaching/mentoring, being in an engineering sorority, parade captain, outdoors activities, and oh yeah, classes!  This awesome young woman is absolutely killing it at Penn State this year and we can’t wait to see what she does this summer. 

Stay warm, Ria!

Love,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

Alex the Great

Alex graciously agreed to get up early on a Sunday morning and take Beth on a run-through of her regular weekday commute. Gallivanting around Fremont to find the most perfect lighting with this badass woman was a delight that we can’t wait to share with you, so without further adieu…

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a designer and artist living in Seattle, WA for the past 4 years.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2012 with a degree in Computer Engineering (emphasis on architecture and embedded systems). Desperate to get out of the Midwest, I took a job at Microsoft and moved to Seattle.

I worked as a Program Manager at Microsoft in System Center and then Internet of Things for a total of about 2 ½ years. I wore a lot of hats and gained a lot of valuable and not-so-valuable skills, but the most important thing I learned was that my real passion lay in design. When I was attending, my college had few (if any) HCI or UX design classes, so I didn’t even discover the discipline until post-graduation.

I felt conflicted for many months, trying to decide if and how I should make a career transition from PM to design. My design portfolio was non-existent, so I stood little chance of getting a design job at another company. I had no idea where to start, and was terrified at the prospect of just quitting cold and starting on my own.

Still too scared to quite, I bought an Adobe CC license and every night after work would spend hours teaching myself Photoshop/Illustrator/Indesign. I started looking for freelance work to get myself started. Then, one day at work, management announced that our project was effectively getting shelved and we would get redistributed to other work. This felt like a sign if there ever was one — a large majority of the team left in the following months, and I was one of them.

After leaving Microsoft, I had no problem finding steady work as a freelancer doing UX, visual, and graphic/production design. Although I was successful, I missed working with a team and yearned to contribute to larger scale and longer term projects. I had gained an interest in data visualization and design challenges around the subject while working on previous projects, so I decided to shoot for the stars and took a job with the top company in the field – Tableau Software.

By day, I work as a UX Designer at Tableau solving amazing problems around data visualization and analytics. By night, I create art, run, and do graphic design. Chances are you’ve seen some of my work on light poles, wheatpasted poster walls, the Seattle Times, and too many magazines for me to remember.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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For my first outfit, I’m wearing a vintage London Fog raincoat that I couldn’t pass up from the thrift store. I’m complimenting the boxy, dramatic look of the coat with a form-fitting dress and Oxford shoes. I like how the dress is understated enough to not compete with the coat, but can still stand on its own.

I decided to wear something more casual for my second outfit. This is what I usually wear when I go out after work to my neighborhood bars, and is one of the outfits I feel most comfortable in. Also, I’m always cold so I like layering! The t-shirt is by Actual Pain, purchased from Alive & Well in Capitol Hill, Seattle. The earrings are from a thrift store, and so is the jacket.

This third outfit is a little more formal. I’m wearing a shirt that’s easy to get out of the closet and over my head in a rush but still looks pulled-together. These are my favorite headphones; I get so many compliments on them and they were only $5 at Target!

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My style has evolved from something I’ve envisioned for a long time but have never been able to execute. I grew up in a very conservative household where deviating from the norm was heavily looked down on. Every aspect of my appearance was monitored and I wasn’t allowed to do things like cut my hair short or wear certain styles.

In college and even a few years after graduating, I sometimes continued to struggle with this mentality. Even now that I could dress how I really wanted to, I oscillated between the self-image I had in my head and a style that made me blend in. Worrying about what other people (especially men) thought took up way too much of my time.

For a while during this time, my style was more on the showy, attention-grabbing side and changed a lot. It wasn’t bad per say, but (like everybody else) I was trying to find myself and decide what I really wanted to do in life. Changing my clothing and trying every box hair dye color on the shelf was my way of coping with these insecurities.

I didn’t discover real confidence in myself until I moved into design and started freelancing. I started with an empty portfolio and no connections, and within 2 months was booking 40 hours a week doing something I loved. For the first time in my life I felt truly independent, and finally started caring less about everybody else’s opinions.

It’s a continual journey to true self-assurance, but I’m a lot closer than I was before. Today my style feels casual, polished, and 100% me.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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I’m most inspired by the people I see in my own neighborhood. The people of Seattle have a unique style that puts individuality and functionality over being sexy or attention-grabbing.

As for brands, I like the understated, classic style of American Apparel but don’t shop there much anymore because I’m not a fan of some of the recent issues with the company and how they treat their employees. I do a lot of thrift store shopping now instead. My biggest issue is that because I’m so small, it’s hard to find things that fit right!

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

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About 90% of what you learn in school you will never use in the real world. About 90% of what you use in the real world you will never learn in school.

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

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During one freelance project, I designed the UX + UI + Visual library for an entire web application that serviced 3 very different user types in only 40 hours (the client had a time constraint). It was an insane week but to this day I consider it one of the strongest projects on my portfolio.

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

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When I was young, I was told that if you want a good STEM job you have to take it at a STEM-focused company. For example, if you wanted a good software engineering job, you should go to Microsoft.

This is utterly wrong. There are plenty of companies that produce products that have nothing directly to do with STEM but still have awesome STEM jobs and employ some of the best in the field. Take a job at a company that does something you’re passionate about and you’ll enjoy your job a million times more.

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

While I work in design for software, I also have strong skills in print production, which is a little unusual for someone in my role. A lot of graphic and advertising design nowadays ends up in digital media like website ads and e-mail flyers, but I like being able to seamlessly move from RGB to CMYK. So much of our lives nowadays are spent moving between digital and physical interactions, and I find that so interesting.

My interest in print came about from my interests in art and drawing, and a strong admiration for vintage concert posters. I was able to get steady contract work from an advertising agency that specialized in wheatpasting for events and brands and it was one of the coolest jobs I’ve had. You gain such a greater appreciation and insight into your own work when you can touch it and hold it with your hands – something I can’t do with the software interfaces I design!

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

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Instagram: @baneyro

We love that Alex brings her passion for graphics into the STEM world – and also clearly into her outfits! It was such a privilege shooting someone with such confidence in herself and her abilities – thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us all Alex!

Love,

Dona & Beth

Students

Lina the Stereotype Slayer

Beth was lucky enough to go on a whirlwind recruiting trip to Edinburgh in November, where she met some fabulous Comp Sci students – you’ll see their profiles over the next few months.

For this shoot she hung out with Lina Andersson  in Old College- the part that looks the most like Hogwarts. Unfortunately the CompSci kids don’t actually do any classes in here – much to Lina’s disappointment – but it was a great place to squeeze a shoot in between rain showers.

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a second year student at the University of Edinburgh, originally from Sweden and Finland but I grew up all over. I’ve lived in France since I was 12.

I study Computer Science, but I also take classes in Economics and Maths – I still haven’t decided quite what I want to do yet. Right now, I want to get more involved with art and theatre, something I did when I was younger but that ended up kind of fading away when I got to university.

Five things I love are Matt Corby, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, sushi, the beach, and dogs.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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In this outfit, I’m wearing a vintage wool cape, a thrifted silk blouse, and a denim skirt from Monki.

In my more colorful outfit I have a old Petit Bateau raincoat (thrifted), a navy sweatshirt (thrifted), the same silk button-down shirt (thrifted), running tights (H&M), and shiny black Doc Martens. My backpack is from Jansport and I got the hoop earrings at Topshop.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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I got really into thrift shopping when I was little – I’d say around age 11. I’ve picked up some pretty interesting pieces over that time; my favorite is an old belt with gold Egyptian landmarks on it that doesn’t close properly so I’ve never worn it.

I’m pretty into art, so I’ve always wanted to have a unique curated look. I’ve never managed that – all I really wear is a stained navy sweatshirt and jeans. I like the kind of clothes you can just throw on and go, very laidback and easygoing. My ideal look would be Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon.

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

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Before I came to university, I hadn’t done any programming or really anything related to Computer Science. I based my decision on the fact that I really liked math and I really liked sci-fi, which in retrospect was not the best idea.

I found the first year rather intimidating, which was mainly because I didn’t put in a lot of effort. Now that I’m more confident, I’m really excited about it, although my programming skills are still not great. I would advise anyone to try some programming beforehand but not to be nervous – it looks complicated from the outside but it’s all very logical and everyone’s here to help out.

Also don’t base your degree choices on your favourite TV shows.

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

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I wouldn’t really say there’s any one thing I’m proudest of, but I’m pretty excited about lots of things!

I’ve recently moved into the Edinburgh Student Housing Co-Operative, which is a set of apartment buildings run by the students that live there. It’s a very cool project and we’re the largest co-op in the UK. I also volunteer at Food Sharing Edinburgh which is about reducing food waste.

I worked last summer at a nature reserve teachings kids about wildlife conservation, and I’d really like to do something next summer that would combine my experience with tech and economics with conservation work.

I think STEM fields have a massive impact on the world and it’s really important to think about what the consequence of that impact is.

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

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I’ve gotten a lot of weird reactions when I say I do Computer Science – sometimes even disbelief. One guy told me to switch course; he thought I’d do better in journalism or something like that. There’s a lot of stigma around studying Computer Science, and the stereotype that it’s very antisocial, geeky field is something that I was worried about when applying.

However, I’ve met so many super cool people, and I’m really happy I chose it. There’s so much support, and University of Edinburgh has two great societies that I’ve made so many friends through – CompSoc and especially Hoppers.

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

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I’m not super active on social media, but you can follow me on Instagram (1996anders) or find me on LinkedIn! I also have a pretentious Tumblr.

Picking her degree based off her favorite TV show seems to have served Lina alright so far – and Beth’s definitely used similar decision making methods in the past!

All in all, meeting Lina was a blast. She’s a great example of how diverse the University of Edinburgh is – everyone you meet is from somewhere interesting, but not from Edinburgh! Stay tuned for 4 more Edinburgh profiles.

Love,

Dona & Beth