One day Beth and Dona were nonchalantly strolling through the woods when, lo and behold, we encountered the one and only Alice.
“Where are you going?” we asked.
“To Wonderland, of course!” she replied.
Okay, so that didn’t actually happen, but when we met Vivienne Jaehn-Kreibaum this summer, we were struck at how very Alice in Wonderland-like this lovely young woman was. Adventure on to discover her story, her ambitions and how a pair of knee-high purple boots plays a very important role in her life!
Tell us a little about you.
I entered the tech industry to develop skills that I can use to hopefully revolutionize the clean energy industry. I have a vision of integrating science with art: to engineer a world that uses its food, water, and energy resources more intuitively, while showcasing STEM design through edgy film documentaries and art exhibits.
Working for a company like Microsoft that is always pushing innovation has really set me up for that “hack” mindset I need to put my ideas into action. I hope to work with imaginative filmmakers, technical designers, and brilliant entrepreneurs to bring more than just the functionality—but also the beauty—of engineering projects and design to the public. Check out what Vancouver’s eatART Foundation is doing to raise energy awareness through art!
When I’m not driving my mentors crazy with questions, I love to dance! I am training in ballroom dance (think Quickstep, Waltz, Rumba, Tango, etc.) to hopefully compete at a professional level one day, but I also like to let loose with Salsa or Swing at the local ballroom on weekends. Dance is what ignites me, and I hope that I never stop learning and practicing.
My other interests include scuba diving, rugby, hiking, reading (voraciously!) and tinkering with my Arduino kit.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
Baby Blue Dress
This baby-blue dress is from H&M—a simply modest and flattering piece that suited my student budget. It’s actually the first piece of brand new clothing that I bought from a chain retail store in over a year (I secretly dread clothing shopping!).
Last fall, my back to school wardrobe update consisted strictly of vintage and consignment finds that I picked up at a flea market that regularly visits campus. However, when I realized that I needed more office-appropriate summer threads, the flea market wasn’t my first stop (…because I couldn’t find it!). I love how lightweight this dress is, and how it could take me from office to school, or from a networking event to a wedding reception (expertly paired with some nude pumps, of course).
My pearl-toned earrings are from my local Salvation Army thrift shop, all the way out in Trenton, Ontario. If I’m not wearing these, I pair the dress with my retro red plaid earrings. I bought the lace hair accessory from a freelance vendor who makes her own hats and hair clips.
Black Salsa Outfit
I like to think that Macklemore is my personal style icon, because that vest came straight from a thrift shop (#itwas99cents), and the skirt is actually a bathing suit cover-up in disguise! It’s one of those reversible dresses that can be worn many ways – I have taken this thing from white sand dunes in the Caribbean to high school semi-formal dances.
You can’t really see it, but underneath it all I am sporting my favourite black bodysuit – a steal from Momma Jaehn-Kreibaum’s 70’s-era closet. Bodysuits are so versatile, and are especially great for nights when you’re dancing for hours on end.
I wore my favourite earrings here because they add a pop of colour and wildfire to the otherwise dark outfit. They remind me of a tiger—though tigers do not live in the savannahs of Africa, where these earrings were purchased (Moshi, Tanzania).
Alice-in-Wonderland traipsing through the woods
Can you guess who designed this dress? I can’t! It was a lucky find at the Eastside Flea Market during one of its many visits to UBC’s Vancouver campus. Whoever it was originally designed or manufactured by, their brand has since been revitalized into a reworked piece of recycled fashion. I love supporting local vendors, flea markets, and consignment stores to give old fabric new life; I believe that there are more than enough quality pieces of clothing out there to suit my every need—it’s just about finding the right way to reuse what is already available. It is also a great way to reduce consumption of raw materials and ensure that I’m not supporting unethical labour.
Sheer fabric is intriguing, and I use that feature of the piece to take the outfit from work to date night. Floral is not to be underestimated, because it really changes the mood of an outfit and makes me feel like I fit into the natural environment.
The earrings that I like to match with this outfit remind me of a solar system, or a beautiful illustration of centripetal force. But I digress… it is amazing what you can find when digging through your mother’s or grandmother’s collection of jewelry!
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
Back in elementary school, I definitely went through a tomboy and punk-goth phase. High school saw me grow into a more classy and modest individual, but I definitely explored some questionable outfits along the way. Now, working at a tech company allows me to lounge in jeans and a sweater on those cold rainy days, or playful summer dresses and bright skirts when it’s 30+ degrees outside (in Celsius, because I’m Canadian).
I am not one to wear heels or makeup because I find myself most comfortable in my knee-high purple boots, a casual dress, and lazy air-dried hair – I actually use baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and coconut to clean my hair, and so long as I am sporting a tasteful coffee (or spicey wood) scented perfume, no one complains about the vinegar smell.
I like to think that my style is classy bohemian (see how I just put two fashion-forward words together to invent a style on the spot?), with bonus points if I can dance or do yoga in it.
Earrings are typically my only accessory, and I love lace and high-waisted or high-collared pieces.
Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?
Since I mostly shop consignment, I don’t often purchase from big brands. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t cultivated an indulgent Instagram following for companies like Kit and Ace (ethically produced cashmere), For Love and Lemons (abundantly lacey clothing and lingerie), Freddy (jeans that are girl’s butt’s best friend), ALO Yoga (great for working out, dance, and… yoga!)
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
- Do not be turned off by the words “boring” or “difficult”; frankly, working in STEM makes you feel like you can do anything! STEM is a field based upon service, and chartered by innovation and creation – the products we create empower people to push the boundaries of achievement. After all, Engineering is just a fancy word for ‘inventing’ and Technology is just a fancy word for ‘cool gadgets powered by math and science’.
- If you feel that you would miss out on your artistic side by pushing yourself into STEM, think again! There are many examples of visionary organizations who are out to change the world by using STEM design to reach out to people through art.
- Always listen to feedback with an open mind. Those that take the time to suggest opportunities for growth, whether it be on your communication skills or your method of problem-solving, are doing so because they care enough to want you to improve. Taking criticism is tough, but it is one of the most valuable byproducts of being in a team.
- But most importantly, please explore. Attend hackathons: two- or three-day events of intensive project “hacking” in teams. They are a great way to get ramped up on new technology and subjects quickly, as well as to meet new people, including mentors that can help you with a project or be a useful contact later in your career.
Always ask questions, and never stop creating! I recommend websites like Instructables to get the creative juices flowing – projects like building an aquaponics system, or programming your Arduino to turn on the Thermostat when the house gets too cold.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
For professional purposes, feel free to check out my LinkedIn account; I follow a lot of companies in the tech and renewable energy industry, and am always updating my profile to reflect the kind of person that I envision myself being. I get a lot of great inspiration and ideas from other professionals.
Did we not promise an amazing woman? It’s rare that you meet someone who you feel like you’ve known forever, but also feel like you’d happily cross country lines to go hang out with them and get to know them more. Vivienne, we are dying to road-trip up to UBC to come vintage hunt and woods-traipse with you!
Dona & Beth