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

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