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Industry Veterans

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

Industry Veterans

All the World is James Whittaker’s Stage

This week’s Fibonacci Sequins post is dedicated to a very special person. James has been Dona’s longtime friend and mentor and she credits much of her career successes to the advice that he is not shy about giving.  After she read his Career Superpowers book on an offhand recommendation, she knew she had to meet this Master of Stagecraft.  After a month of stalking and hustling, she attended one of his jaw-dropping talks and convinced him they should obviously be friends. 

A few weeks ago, we took advantage of a sunny spring day to do a fun photoshoot at James’s fave spot: a place with WiFi and beer. We did get yelled at for climbing a tree and kicking people out politely asking people to let us use their table, but hey, rules are someone else’s opinion, no?

Today we’re happy to showcase a behind-the-scenes, dare we say, *softer* side of  Mr. Do Epic Shit!

Tell us a little about you.

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I specialize in enjoying life. I’m really picky about the activities I engage in and the people I surround myself with. Life is short and working on cool shit and being around interesting people is, I’ve found, both the meaning of life and the secret to success. It’s a simple philosophy but if you think about it the work you do and the people you spend your time with have a great deal of impact on your life. Whatever else you do is minor in comparison. If there is anything you really want to control it is those two things. If you want a better life, those are the two levers you need to adjust.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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I have on cool socks. Socks are the fashion equivalent of your soul. They aren’t on full external display and people have to be around you for a while before getting a glimpse of them. Mine have little beer mugs on them (we found them!). Yep, that’s my soul all right … it’s a little malty. I enjoy exerting my personality with my clothes. I wear a lot of music t’s that I buy when I go to concerts with my kids. And, of course, I have built a brand out of my “do epic shit” shirts. Those are fun and almost serve as a warning to people about what I am really like as a person.

(Um, side note, THOSE SHOES YO! These want to be as cool, but nowhere near as cool as the ones above)

I have to admit I am attracted to people with a sense of style that reflects their inner self. I go out of my way to talk to people dressed a little weird or who have a look that broadcasts their inner personality. I want to get to know them to see if my impression of their appearance fits the person. I do like people with style. There are enough boring people in this world already.

This is one reason I don’t wear suits. The European suit culture, to me, screams conformity and I am glad its fallen out of fashion over here. Especially on the west coast. Those things have too much cloth in all the wrong places.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My style is low-effort. I am blessed by sharing my life with people who like to shop. They pick things out for me. Sometimes I come home to a great big pile of clothes and I get to try on things while they assess my look. I love those days! Whenever there is an intersection of “dad that looks good on you” and “this feels good on me” then I keep it. Anything that fails either of those tests goes back.

When you grow up wearing mostly hand-me-downs, clothes that fit and feel right are a big deal. And when someone with style tells you it looks good … well, I don’t care who you are, getting compliments on how you look feels good. That’s right, I said it, looking good feels good. Go on demand my man card, I’ll gladly give it up.

Einstein famously didn’t give a shit about how he looked. I’m not so sure I believe that; he had the coolest hair and if he really didn’t care then he would have blended in but he didn’t. His clothes made him stand out. They made a statement. I am different. I am me. In “not caring” how he looked he made the biggest fashion statement of them all.

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

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Caution advised. Careers in STEM are great. Education in STEM … not so much. I think we over rotate on math and arcane facts and figures that just aren’t useful in real careers. When was the last time anyone, other than an 11th grade math teacher, needed to factor a trinomial in their actual job? STEM edu tends toward the rote but a STEM career is everything but rote. It requires a lot of creativity so do not let the educational system take away from your creative self. Never neglect the arts. Never neglect your creative lifestyle. If you are going to study STEM, get a creative side hustle going to ensure your creative juices remain nice and liquid.

Seriously, look at the true STEM heroes like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. They were creative as hell. They weren’t successful because they work in STEM fields but because of their creativity and critical thinking. The people who neglect their creativity end up being minions for those who don’t

Having said all that, learn to code. It’s the last human skill that will be useful after the robots take over.

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

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My most recent one, the class I am giving on Creativity. But ask me again next year and I’ll tell you something new. Like Bob Dylan said: those who aren’t busy reinventing themselves are busy dying. I don’t like resting on my past glories. I’ve done cool shit, but I did that cool shit yesterday and yesterday stopped mattering the moment the sun rose today. I disappointed a lot of people off when I stopped teaching my Career Superpowers class but I had to do it. It was getting too easy. I could just step up and slay it every time. I felt a need to challenge myself to do something new, something I have to learn to get good at. Something I might be a little scared of. Something that might just beat me.

People put a lot of expectations on you to keep doing what you are doing. They like to label you and freeze you in time. Don’t let them. That is the path of stagnation. You’ll grow old and have only one story to tell. I want to grow old and surprise my grandkids with stories they’ve never heard before. I want to do this every time I see them. I hope the last words out of my mouth just before I die are “guess what I just learned—“

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

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@docjames on Twitter and at my new website docjamesw.com (recordings of his amazing talks!)

I also blog on medium.com/@docjamesw

And there you go. In typical James style. He arrived. He said smart things. He left us reeling and wondering what we’re even doing with our lives.  If you haven’t read Career Superpowers, James’s incredibly practical advice for the non-prodigies and non-privileged among us, yet you definitely should. We can say with 100% certainty: it changed our careers.  It taught her our most important skill: story-chasing.

We can’t wait to share with you what James does next. Hint: it’s going to be epic. 

Till next week!

Love,

Dona & Beth

Industry Veterans

Jennifer Marsman: A Tale of GitHub and Ballgowns

Dona’s had the pleasure of knowing OF Jennifer Marsman for many years, but only got this meet this lovely, brilliant, hilarious lady during during a rendition of her infamous Career Advice To the Tune of Glee. Since then, Dona knew they had to be best friends forever. Read on to find out more about Jennifer’s amazing job, her style and her advice for the next gen of people who want her job!

Tell us a little about you.

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I have one of the coolest jobs at Microsoft.  I get paid to play with all of our cool new technology for developers, and then go out and share what I’ve learned, by speaking at conferences, blogging, tweeting, and webcasting.  I’m fortunate to work from home most days if I’m not travelling.

On a personal note, I’m happily married with 3 incredible kids.  I love reading, theatre, and ballet.  I’ve read all of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books (that’s the book series that the “Game of Thrones” TV show is based on), and I can settle Catan like a boss.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Dona and Beth caught up with me in Houston, where we were all participating in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  Unfortunately, that was near the end of a month of travel for me, so for this impromptu photo shoot, I didn’t bring a wide range of clothing.

But!  Earlier this year, I spoke at a GitHub conference called CodeConf in Nashville, and they gave it a “country” theme where all of the speakers got authentic cowboy boots by J.B. Dillon, and I even got a GitHub belt buckle like the MC of the event wore, which are custom-made on Etsy.  Since the Grace Hopper Celebration was in Houston, I decided to bring my fun cowboy accessories with me, and rocked out the cowboy boots and GitHub belt buckle one day with my Microsoft shirt.

The dress I’m wearing is from BCBG.  I love long, flowy dresses.  I adore navy blue and brown, and wear altogether too much of those colors.

In terms of jewelry, I wear two rings that I never take off: my wedding ring on my left hand and a sapphire ring on my right hand. The latter was a gift from my grandfather on my 13th birthday, which I’ve always treasured. I wear earrings every day as well, but those I switch up based on my clothing.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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I have to speak at a lot of conferences in my role at work.  When I first started out, I dressed more “business casual” in skirts or nice slacks.  After being asked if I was in sales or recruiting a million times, I started wearing jeans and t-shirts to fit in with the “developer” guys.  This is sad, but there was a noticeable difference in the way I was treated when I looked the part.  It’s great that Dona and Beth are leading this charge with their blog, highlighting the fundamental idea behind #iLookLikeAnEngineer, that we come in lots of different looks which are equally valid.

A second fashion evolution that comes to mind is my wardrobe after having kids: I became very anti-dry-clean-only.  I still have young kids (under the age of 2), and it’s just not practical to wear clothes that need to be dry-cleaned when you are constantly holding little cuties with sticky hands and runny noses.  Everything I wear needs to be able to go into my own washing machine.  Ann Taylor has some nice quality pieces that can still be machine-washed.

Finally, let’s discuss maternity fashion!  There’s a major style evolution that needs to happen when you become pregnant, as your normal clothes suddenly no longer fit and different looks may be more flattering with your cute baby bump.  My sister Christina found a great boutique called Patty Mama; their clothes are beautiful and have held up very well.  I lived in this sweater in dark brown through multiple pregnancies; the fabric is not too thick which is perfect when you are pregnant and always warm.  I also recommend buying a pair of not-too-expensive jeans or dress pants in one size bigger than your normal size when you become pregnant.  These are great when your stomach is getting bigger, but it’s not big enough for real maternity clothes yet.  Then they come in handy again when your stomach is slimming back down, and you are dying to get out of maternity pants with stretchy waistbands but you can’t quite fit back into your normal size yet.  Finally, scarves and fun jewelry can dress up a simple maternity top, and you can still wear them after the baby comes and your body returns to normal.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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If I could choose one person’s entire closet to steal, it would be Kate Middleton. (I’m trying to get fascinators to catch on in the US…no luck yet!) I like tailored, classic pieces. Currently, in the fall, I like layering a blazer or a jacket over a top with jeans, and adding a scarf for extra elegance (and warmth!). Another go-to look is leggings with a long sweater and boots. (This is super comfy when you’re just working from home.)

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

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I work with students often in my role.  I’ve been asked for advice enough that I decided to have fun with it, and created a presentation where I map popular songs to career advice.

But for Dona and Beth, some new content:

Stick with math, even if you don’t enjoy it now.  I hated math in elementary school.  Memorizing multiplication tables was not fun.  But once you master the basics, wow!  Algebra was the best thing ever.  Figuring out the value of x was like solving a puzzle.

Technology evolves quickly, so this is not a field where you get your degree and you’re done.  But that also gives you nice off-ramps and on-ramps during your career.  If I wanted to take a few years off and stay home with the kids, I could.  Then when I’m preparing to come back to work, I just study up on whatever the latest language/technology/platform is.  Let’s say HTML6 has just come out, and there’s a demand for people who know it.  Guess what?  EVERYONE is just learning it now, so you’re not behind!  It gives you a nice on-ramp to come back.

Above all, find your passion.  There are so many cool subfields just in computer engineering: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, gaming, compilers, operating systems, natural user interfaces, databases, web design…you will be working for at least 8 hours/day for most of your life, so don’t waste it on something that you don’t love.

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

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When I was a software developer working for Microsoft in Redmond, we built a Natural User Interface Platform.  I had just graduated from college and was the most junior developer on the team, so at the beginning, I owned Logging (whoo hoo!).  But I set out to do the BEST LOGGING EVER, and because I contributed quality work, I continued to get more and more responsibilities.  By the end of my time on that team, I was developing our intent processor for grouping clusters of similar search sessions together, for which I was awarded a patent.  (So whatever you are doing – do it 110%.)

Currently, I’m working on using EEG (brain waves) and machine learning to perform lie detection.  I have the EPOC+ headset from Emotiv that reads EEG, and I put it on my husband and had him lie and answer truthfully to a series of questions.  I fed this labelled dataset into Azure Machine Learning to build a classifier which predicts whether he is telling the truth or lying.  I’m continuing this research now, looking at more sophisticated methods of feature extraction to build a classifier that would work on anyone.

Finally, I’m extremely proud of my 3 kids.  They amaze me every day with their empathy, intelligence, and curiosity.

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

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The technology field is sometimes portrayed as very isolated work.  In the media, we see programmers holed up in their offices (or their basements) cranking out code.  We do this sometimes, but in reality, building software is very much a team sport.  As a software developer, I worked daily with program managers who helped chart the vision and specify the software’s behavior and with testers who would use very creative techniques to catch as many bugs as possible before the software went out the door.

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

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Believe in yourself! There is a phenomenon known as impostor syndrome, in which high-achieving people feel like impostors or frauds that are not truly deserving of their success. They feel like they are fooling everyone else into believing they are more intelligent than they actually are, and will one day be exposed as an impostor. Impostor syndrome affects people across the board, but it is especially common in women.

I can share a personal example. Many years ago, a colleague and I were scheduled to present a day-long event with many technical sessions at a large corporation, and we were dividing the session topics between us. One of the topics was Silverlight, which had just been released at the time. I didn’t really feel like I knew Silverlight that well…I had read some blog posts, seen a video or two, and downloaded some demos, but I hadn’t written any of my own code with it yet. My colleague said that he knew Silverlight pretty well, so we agreed that he would present it. Fast-forward to his talk: he presented a marketing slide deck to developers (which is never a good idea), didn’t show any demos (since Silverlight is a visual presentation-layer technology, you can’t fully appreciate it without seeing it in action), and didn’t do so well answering questions. It turns out that he had just seen the Silverlight announcements, and yet he felt confident enough that he “knew” Silverlight from that, whereas I (with more actual knowledge, in this particular instance) did not.

In my job, I have seen so many success stories, especially in the “women in tech” space. Women who are pregnant during demanding times like graduate school, single moms, women from cultures where they weren’t encouraged to work – these ladies all worked through difficult situations and emerged triumphant. Don’t stop believing in yourself; with the right mindset, we can all accomplish great things.

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

I use Facebook for personal stuff (i.e. pictures of my kids) and Twitter for work-related stuff.  If you are interested in machine learning or other tech topics, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my blog.

 

We are simply obsessed with Jen’s GitHub belt (must have!), film noir-esque photo shoot (a first for us!) and fantastic, practical career advice. We love that this powerful woman is a technical overachiever as well as being a dedicated parent and an excellent friend. We did this photoshoot, literally by cell=phone light outside the Grace Hopper conference center before and evening of networking and learning. That kind of multi-tasking is what Jennifer excels at and a skill we admire tremendously. Till next time! 

Love,

Dona & Beth

 

Fashion Post, Industry Veterans

Wake Dona Up When September Starts (No really, do, I love fall!)

Ah, fall. Where a not-so-young woman’s thoughts turn to…cozy mornings spent with a hot cup of coffee wrapped in knits and (faux) furs. I LOVE fall. It feels like…new beginnings.  New year full of possibilities. A chance for reinvention.  But first thing: The Fall Wardrobe.

No lie, the big, fat issues of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s, Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour, MORE and many others are what I live for in September.  I easily spend two entire weekends learning all of the latest trends and watching repeats of the New York Fashion Week coverage over and over.

Then comes the best part, the shopping.  This year I did what I usually do – got some lower-cost basics as well as a few statement pieces.  Here are some of the outfits I’m loving:

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OMG this coat. This coat is my favorite thing I bought this year and is reserved for fashion events and date nights with my sweetheart.

I got it in NYC during my book launch event with consumer press. I was walking through SoHo and I saw it in the window of a little boutique called 3NY. I practically sprinted across the street to investigate. It looked steampunk, futuristic, elegant…and terrible, impractical white. I had to have it.  It’s by an independent designer named SoHung (Tom) Tong of SoHung Designs who went to Parson’s School of Design and his works are legit pieces of art. Each one is hand-made and one of a kind. I am wildly in love with his work.

I wore this to the Rachel Zoe show at Bellevue Fashion Week and just random people kept asking where it was from. I felt so bad I didn’t have cards to give credit to Tom. The man is a genius. I will be making a stop into both 3NY and Tim’s boutique every chance I get for sure.

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The piece de resistance of the whole shoot? The boots. OH THE BOOTS! I have been lusting and longing for these Stuart Weitzman Highland over-the-knee suede boots for 2 years. Last time I was in NYC in 2013 I tried them on 3 different times and talked myself out of buying them since they were expensive.  I instead, “bought around them”, where I got 3 other pairs of boots that I didn’t like as much, that weren’t as good quality and wound up spending as much as I would have on these!  I wear these pretty much every day.  The heel is high (around 4 inches), but is chunky so I can walk around in them all day. I found these lower cost ones that are a great intro pair for other boot addicts.

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This next outfit (featuring said boots) is something I’d wear to work, around town to brunch, or take on a trip. Just great basics that can be mixed with many other things.

I fell in love with this mustard coloured skirt at Zara. Zara always has fun, trendy things that are generally work-appropriate and when I took this skirt into the dressing room and tried it on with every single top I’d chosen, it went with literally everything. I have a serious love affair with yellow things. Anytime someone is wearing a yellow thing, I have to comment on it like some kind of moth to a flame problem. Here is something similar.

The black off-the-shoulder sweater is also from Zara and something I’ve been looking for for a while since my last year’s one is all stretched out and pilly and weird.  Something similar is here. The faux fur is from a few years ago from the Saks Fifth Outlet in Minneapolis where my sister lives. I love it because of the fun memories of me and Bonnie (sis) doing serious damage at Saks while our husbands looked amazed at our ability to hunt down the best deals ever.  I have felt this strong affinity with wearing white after Labour Day this year for some reason and I kind of randomly threw the vest on as I was about to leave my apartment and I really liked how it looks. Something similar is here

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The last outfit is just fun.  This is something I’d wear for a stroll around town in any city in cold weather, but especially somewhere glamourous like NYC, Paris or Madrid. I got the hooded cape in NYC (similar here) at my favorite vintage place on earth, New York Vintage. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s Rachel Zoe’s favorite. I mean, check this out. That’s pretty much me every time I’m there. I got an amazing pair of vintage Alexander McQueen ankle boots there and this cape. And the best part is that you get to NEGOTIATE which is pretty much the best thing in the whole world.

A lot of people ask me about my fuchsia lipstick that I wear almost every day. It’s this incredible long-wearing liquid-turned-matte by Kat Von D called Bauhaus. Extremely flattering on all skin-tones.

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Under the cape, I’m in suede pants from Rachel Roy, who makes really good quality basics and a sheer white blouse with gold, metal tassle things from my Zara haul. The shoes are trusty Fluevogs, lovely ones called Ludovika,  a pair I got in San Francisco during the HoloLens team’s //BUILD event in San Francisco (BONUS! You can see our very own Beth Crane in this vid). I love these because they are cute with the laces in or pulled out.

So there it is, some of my favorite fall looks. I’m about to hit the road for a month long adventure starting with Grace Hopper in Houston the past week, then a 2 week book tour in Spain, France and the UK where I will be visiting and speaking at MBA schools about tech + business, followed by a week in NYC teaching a coding + cocktails event to members of the consumer press. I’m feeling pretty good about my fall looks and fashion hall. For the first time, I will be practicing capsule dressing with 4 tops and 3 bottoms, 2 jackets and 2 pairs of shoes. I’ll post updates. Wish me luck!

Till next month for the mid-season update.
XOXO
Dona