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Early Career

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

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

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

Early Career

Sneha Jayaprakash is kickstarting her career

Sneha joins our ranks as another socially-minded budding entrepreneur; she likes thrift clothes, is already tri-lingual, and her startup just kick-started $13,000. Pretty freaking cool, right? Read on for her story.

Tell us a little about you.

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I am a newly minted graduate from UC San Diego, and I’ll be working at Microsoft full-time as a Program Manager starting in January. I’ve always been interested in the STEM fields, but becoming a software engineer was a complete accident. I actually applied for a Bioengineering major, and later realized that I had to take computer science classes for my Bioinformatics specialization. After one Intro to Java class, I was hooked, and immediately switched into the Computer Science department.

My favorite aspect of software development is understanding how that technology will be used to impact someone’s life, though I love algorithms and back-end development. I spend my free time learning new languages, both programming and linguistic! I am trilingual (English, French, and Tamil), and I am hoping to master Spanish by the end of this year.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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I try to live sustainably, so most of my clothes come from a women’s clothing exchange group at UC San Diego, thrift stores, or small local vendors at street fairs. Reduce, reuse, recycle! I’m also really sentimental about clothing and jewelry that other people give me, so I tend to wear gifts more often than the clothes I buy for myself.

The red shirt was a gift from my grandfather, who passed away last year, the flats are from my aunt and uncle, the tan top is from my mom, and the octopus necklace is from my former college roommate.

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

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Just go for it! Don’t overthink it and let yourself feel overwhelmed by the challenge. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and if STEM is what you’re passionate about, the best way to get involved is to immerse yourself in the field.

Start applying for internships even if you feel you aren’t ready, because real-world applications are the best way to learn. Join recreational STEM clubs, set up lunches with professors and mentors to learn more about their journeys, and experiment with new technologies on your own.

We live in the golden age of the Internet, and there are so many free resources available to you. Don’t let self-doubt or the impostor syndrome keep you from pursuing your interests – while that’s easier said than done, take it one day at a time, and set small goals for yourself day by day to learn a new skill or make a new connection.

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

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Outside of work and school, I run a social good company called Giventure, with the goal of enabling anyone to volunteer anywhere, anytime. Our mobile and web platforms are your personal assistant for volunteering, helping you find community service opportunities with nonprofit organizations supporting your favorite causes.

Running Giventure has introduced me to some truly incredible opportunities; I was recently a panelist at San Diego Startup Week, and last summer, I was invited to be a speaker at the Special Olympics Youth Summit. We also completed a successful Kickstarter campaign just last month and raised over $13,000. The platform will be publicly launched by the end of the year, so if you’re interested, follow us at fb.com/giventure and sign up to join the community at www.giventure.org.

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

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I post pictures of all of the octopuses I run across on my Instagram as @simplysneha, and I’m on Twitter as @thisissnehaaa.

Y’all definitely need to check out Sneha’s octopus photos, and the giventure site – their homepage is as cool as the concept (which is saying a lot!)

All the best,

Dona & Beth

Early Career

I spy Alison Spiess kicking some serious a**

What do you do after a week of being surrounded by women in tech at Grace Hopper? Well if you’re Beth, the answer is travel 2 hours to seek out another one! Alison did a semester abroad at the University of New South Wales, which is where I met her – she actually hosted my first ever Friendsgiving. Austin is a beautiful city, and I’m so glad I had Alison to show me around – I only wish it had been a little less hot!

Tell us a little about you.

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I lived in Iowa for the first 22 years of my life where I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. I moved to Austin 2 years ago to work at National Instruments and have stumbled upon an amazing team and a couple of cool managers. I love living in Austin. It’s such a funky town with tons of cool people, outdoor activities, music, and good food. I decided I want to stay in Austin for a good while longer so I’m in the process of buying my first house and enjoying doing all the fantasy interior decorating that goes along with it.

One of the first things I did after moving to Austin was buy a pair of rollerskates and join the Texas Rollergirls Recreational League. Austin is a huge city for roller derby, being the source of the modern revival in the early 2000s. I was drawn to it for being a kick-ass woman’s dominated sport where there is no shame in being who you are. Plus, beating up on other women (safely!) is such a thrill! Over the last 2 years, I’ve been working my way up into the Rec League’s most advanced level, Team Reckoning. Next year, I’m hoping to try out for Texas Rollergirls League proper, so be on the lookout for me!

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Most of what I am wearing is second hand. The dress, the shoes, the vest, the purse, as well as all of the jeans I own. I found them all on different visits to Plato’s Closet. Thrift shopping is the easiest way to get exposed to a ton of different styles, especially things you wouldn’t normally pick up. It’s also super budget friendly, so I don’t feel bad buying something I’m not sure I’ll wear. The hat is from World Market where I stumbled upon it on my mission to get Tim Tams.

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My coworkers joke that I own hundreds of shirts with cats on them. I’d like to use this opportunity to point out that I only own 3 cat shirts. I think I got this particular funky space cat shirt from the men’s department at Kohls. It pays off to browse different sections sometimes, you might just find something you like. The jeans are American Eagle, but I got them from Plato’s Closet along with the sandals.

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My typical roller derby outfit is a baggy shirt (we LOVE this one), a pair of shorts, and a bright sports bra for a bit of pop. We practice in a warehouse so the hot summers can be brutal if you don’t have proper air flow and skin exposure. I caught this shirt during a sponsored SXSW party last year. I thought the sassy-ness matched my personality so even though it was far too large for me, I cut off the sleeves and repurposed it into a workout shirt. The shorts and sports bra are from Target’s activewear section. I bought my skates from the local roller derby shop, Medusa Skates, about four months ago. They are my babies.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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I used to be a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. Well, I still am, I love to be comfortable. You won’t find me torturing myself with heels for long periods of time, anything too tight, or bulky jewelry. The simpler the better for me. My style initially started developing in college when I was figuring out who I am. I started gravitating toward to a lot of muted colors and dark neutrals in solids or stripes. I think of it as sort of a laid back, moody, classic style.

The Austin mentality has really started influencing the types of clothes I’ve been buying lately though. People here are really down to earth and stylish hippy is big. I’ve been picking things that are bright, flowy, lacey, floral patterned, and great for warm weather. It’s different than what I’m used to, but I’ve been enjoying branching out and trying something new.

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

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I think it’s important to remember when you’re getting into STEM that you have to be ok with failing sometimes. It’ll be difficult. Despite that, you shouldn’t forget to praise your own small successes and don’t let the mistakes get to you. I always have a hard time admitting when I don’t know something, but it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to know everything and no one can fault you for that. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t let other people dictate what you should think of what you’re doing.

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

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My senior design project has to be it. My team created a home automation system that’s goal was to mesh different standards in an easy to setup and control platform. We covered the whole spectrum of programming from kernel and user-mode development, to web back-end, to web and mobile apps. I spent most of my time working on the web page which was something totally different than I had ever done. While I did learn a lot, I’m most proud of our team dynamic and how dedicated we all were to the project. I want to be that dedicated to every project I work on in the future.

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

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Twitter – @alispss
Instagram – @alispss

Buying a house, kicking ass at roller derby, working at National Instruments and (not that she mentioned it) baking up a storm too! All that plus some great advice – reading this definitely has me inspired to kick my productivity up a notch, although I don’t think either of us’ll be brave enough for Roller Derby any time soon (not that Dona would let me anyway!).

xx,

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

Early Career

An American in Paris: Meet Melissa Lim

Have you ever wanted  to move to Paris?

Yes, us too!

It’s not often that you meet someone who’s actually fulfilling her life-long dream of moving to Paris—on New Year’s Day!  What better way to ring in the new year on Fibonacci Sequins other than with Melissa Lim, animal lover,  ardent fashionista, tech maven and soon-to-be Parisian.  

Melissa is moving to Microsoft Paris on 1/1/16 and we felt very fortunate to have had time to do one of our most memorable photo shoots in Seattle’s Japanese Garden on a rainy fall day.  Read on to find out what Melissa is up to in Paris as well as who that gorgeous internet famous dog who photobombed us is!

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m excited to be here! I grew up in Alameda, California, studied Cognitive Science and Computer Science at UC Berkeley, and now work as a PM at Microsoft. And here’s the big news: I’ll be transferring to our Paris office in January (eeeeeeeek)! Living abroad has always been a dream of mine, and it’s still a bit surreal that it’s finally happening.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Well first of all, I think Honus Wagner steals the show with his beautiful fur coat :) (It’ s not every day we run into a dog at the park who has more Instagram followers than all of us put together!) It was fun bumping into Seattle’s celebrity dog during this shoot! The world basically stops whenever I see a cute pup (I admit to running through a stop sign during my first driving test because I was distracted by a beautiful golden retriever.)

Anyway, this first outfit is what I’d wear to work or dinner with my girlfriends. The pieces are a Kate Spade dress, Zara coat, and Harrod’s scarf. I love the simple high-quality rings Bony Levy makes, and my other amethyst one was a fun vintage shop find. 

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My second outfit is something I’d wear when it’s a bit gloomy outside and I’m feeling more “edgy” (yes, this is as edgy as I get). I still try to dress it up with a statement necklace (from Baublebar) and heels (from Barney’s). I’m wearing a cozy J.Crew beanie, All Saints top, Zara shorts, Burberry trench, Chloe gloves, and Wolford tights. Stockings are my version of pants, and ever since one of my best friends told me Wolfords “feel like butter”, they’ve been my go-to brand. I wear this YSL purse every day to work and I stumbled across this adorable macaroon keychain during my last trip to Ladurée in Paris.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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When I was little, I was a collector of pretty sparkly things. I had a million different hair bows with dresses to match. At 5 years old, I cut out photos of jewelry from my mom’s fashion magazines to assemble the contents of my first “jewelry box”. I would say I was a pretty stylish little kid.

However, during my college years, I spent most of my time camped out in the library or computer lab, so as you can imagine, very little effort was put into my wardrobe. I definitely blended in with the free tech t-shirts and sweatpants. When I moved to Seattle for my first “big girl” job, I became much more independent and more comfortable showing my personality from both inside and out. My friends describe my style as “classy, feminine, and chic“ and my boyfriend says, “Modern, neutral colors, and no pants. Make sure you get the ‘no pants’ part.” Fun fact: I haven’t worn jeans for 3 years (and counting)!

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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Aimee Song, garypeppergirl, Olivia Palermo, and Audrey Hepburn are some of my favorite style icons. I also get inspiration from my best friends. Even though we all live in different cities, my BFFs and I still shop “together” on weekends and send pictures of different clothes we find. We even plan to wear the same necklace or perfume on the same day as a way to remind ourselves of our friendship :)

Lately I decided to only purchase pieces that I really love and opt to invest in fewer but higher quality items. I enjoy bargain hunting at outlets and finding other creative ways to fund my love for fashion. My co-workers jokingly refer to my stack of patent awards as my “shoe fund”. Microsoft gives us money for inventing cool things, so whenever I see a pair of Jimmy Choos I really want, I pull some people together to brainstorm and file a patent. I’d say it’s a win-win situation!

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

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  1. Be proactive.
    Figure out what you want, find the person who tells you “yes”, and go get it.
  2. Cherish and spend time building relationships.
  3. Apply technology to a cause you care about.
    During my time at UC Berkeley, I researched and taught a class on how to use technological interventions for positive effects on mental health. I also worked in a neuroscience lab with EEGs and fMRIs to understand memory consolidation. These projects were very personally rewarding to me, and I hope to work more in health technology later down the road.
  4. Pick a job that not only challenges you professionally, but personally as well.
    For me, moving to Seattle from San Francisco was the best life decision I’ve made so far- living in a city with nobody I knew forced me to discover myself and become much more independent. I’m excited to see what Paris will bring me next :)
  5. And lastly, if you’re a woman in tech, you’re going to stand out anyway. ROCK IT.

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

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The project I’m most proud of is one I can’t share in detail as it never shipped to the public. I was very personally invested in the effort as I believed it would change the way humans interacted with technology. I did everything in my power to get it on our product’s roadmap. Although it ended up cut for the release, I learned more from that project than any other one that could be considered “successful”. Something I heard repeatedly at Grace Hopper this year was, “It’s not failure, it’s learning.” I built really strong relationships with my colleagues and I do believe that feature will happen one day!

A broader project that I’m really proud of is Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. We built her from the ground up. That founding team will always be family to me. (We LOVE this article about Melissa and her friends’ work on Cortana!)

Who is your role model?

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My family is my biggest role model. I had a wonderful childhood that taught me the importance of hard work, appreciating life, and cherishing relationships.

My dad has had an extremely successful career that I’ve always set as an example for myself. He was a VP at Salesforce and Oracle, and is now giving the start-up world a spin. On top of that, he always made it home for dinner and set his business trips so weekends were spent home with our family.

My mom is my best friend. She makes time to explore her passions such as learning piano better and volunteering at the shelter. I hope to be as great of a mother as she is one day :)

My little brother Ryan also works at Microsoft and he’s waayyyy smarter than I am. If you ever meet him, give him an unsolved Rubik’s cube- he can do it extremely fast blindfolded, left-handed, …and even with his feet. He’s ranked nationally ;)

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

Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / LinkedIn / Blog

From her move to Paris, to her “patent’ed” shoe fund, to her love of the furry critters, to being a “citizen of the world”, Melissa is someone we can’t help but be obsessed with. She is a modern day technical Audrey Hepburn in our eyes!  If you are at all interested in living abroad (or knowing what it’s like to do so), we highly recommend checking out her blog where she shares her step-by-step process for how she did it.  We are so excited to live vicariously through her adventures in Paris–whatever she does next, we know it’ll be extraordinary. 

Happy New Year friends–to a fun, fashionable and even more fabulous 2016! 

Love,

Dona & Beth