Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This is just something silly and random (but still super-cute) and I just have to share!

EcoHawk is one on my close friends who is also a mechanical engineer. Let me start by explaining the name... Smart grid technology is arguably the future of energy in the USA (already used in Canada) and perhaps the world at large. The EcoHawks are a group of ugrad and grad students at the University of Kansas who have been involved for a few years in projects concerning cleaner technologies. This year's group built a mini smart-grid and ran a popcorn machine off it. (The choice of a popcorn maker wasn't random either: they wanted to reduce waste and make the system as sustainable as possible. So popcorn means that the hungry EcoHawks are able to eat the output of their test-runs!  (Yes, this was in their report!) Cute!!!)

So EcoHawk was commissioned by his parents to install some cupboards in their house. And just look what he found: his mum's toolbox!

Isn't the little hammer just adorable?

How awesome is this? I say, why not?! If anyone else have any feminine tools and wants to share, send them along and I'll post them! Also, does anyone know where I can buy a high-quality, pretty multi-tool to fix things around the house? 

Thanks so much EcoHawk for sharing! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

10 Wardrobe Must-Haves for any Engineer-Chic

So my last two posts dealt with the importance of image and marketing yourself at professional engineering event such as conferences and seminars…

 For this post, I want to wrap up by going into a bit more detail on key items that (in my opinion) every woman needs in her closet to be Engineer-Chic!
Engineer-Chic Must Have # 10: Colour
The cardinal rule of professional dressing is to stick to sober colours. You can’t go wrong with black, grey, navy, beige and chocolate brown as the basis of your suit or ensemble. But its still important to let your personality shine through! This can easily be done by pairing a neutral suit with a brightly-coloured blouse or shirt. I have been quite daring with this, pairing grey trousers with a fuscia top, but if you prefer to stick to a muted colour palette that’s ok!

Try to stick to the same hue, and ensure the colours you choose always complement each other and never clash! Also, try not to mix up beiges and greys. If you’re wearing a beige suit, choose brown shoes. If you go for a grey suit, choose a daring midnight blue (matched to the same colour of blouse). Black is safest and usually goes well with everything.

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 9: Understated Accessories

Invest in a good pair of diamante earrings, a classy watch and a delicate necklace to add a timelessly classic look to your outfit. Alternatively, you could opt for just one, strategically placed fashion item such as an over-sized bangle or cute belt. Stay away from chunky or dangling jewelry that will detract from others concentrating on you when you talk.
A neat, oversized handbag could work well to keep your conference material in so you won’t have to carry papers around all day (and its always handy to keep your make-up with you in case you end up going out for an impromptu dinner with colleagues).

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 8: The Skirt-Suit

Always remember to stay feminine, no matter how submerged you are in our manly field. During the work-day, we trudge about mines and plants in our overalls, but we are equally as capable of looking fabulous in a skirt! Choose one that works for your body shape, and try not to bury it under tights or leggings. As long as it’s around knee-length, show off those gorgeous legs!

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 7: Leather Document Folder

No plastic! Leather will last you years and looks professional. Invest in something quality!

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 6: Good Maintenance!

No excuses. Even if your nails are short, manicure them and make sure they’re neat and pretty. I know you don’t have time, (which is why I do my nails myself on a Friday night!) Get your hair done for the event. You need to take care of yourself once in a while – you deserve it! At the event, wear your hair clipped back or let it hang loose. Don’t be afraid to turn on that glam!

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 5: The Wedge Heel

I personally love the wedge heel. It gives your body the height and the streamlined shape without killing your feet or causing you to hobble around all day in pain! As an engineer, you will appreciate the support – simply, you’re spreading the pressure surface right? Plus, they still look great and can be very sexy, while remaining classy at the same time! Try them, you will love them!

Engineer-Chic Must Have #4: The Crisp, White Shirt

This item is an amazing must-have of every woman. Its versatility, simplicity and professional look adds style and class to most ensembles. It’s the trusty friend you can rely on when everything else fails. Choose a good, trendy fit and replace it often to avoid yellowing or fading.

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 3: The Famous Shift Dress

Now I appreciate that not all body-types look good in this style. Curvy and hourglass shapes (myself included) beware! But if you can its great - see previous post. But if you happen to be ‘gifted’ with a full or curvy figure, try a simple A-line fit that nips at the waist and flares out to the knee, or pair with a belt for a trendy look. The reason that this is #3 is that it can be dressed up or down or spruced up to go out for cocktails!

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 2: A Signature Item

Every woman is unique, so let a little personality finish of your look. My personal signature item is stone grey pendent of Africa I wear on a black string around my neck. It almost doesn’t fit in with some outfits, but in a way it works! I love it because it’s unique to me and shows where my heart is J (and I love the conversations that it sparks up)

Engineer-Chic Must Have # 1: Clothes That Fit!

And the number 1 must-have is definitely a good fit for your clothes. I know you may feel self-conscious showing your shape, but if you’re swimming in your clothes, it only makes you feel uncomfortable and look 10kgs heavier than you are! Likewise, if you’ve recently gained some due to a very happy Christmas (trust me, I know the feeling), its ok to get a slightly larger size of pants (I know you plan on losing the extra few pounds soon, but you don’t want to feel uncomfortable in clothes that are just too tight!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What does Business-Casual mean anyway?

Now this is a really tricky one because there is just so much that can fall into this category...A neat skirt-suit can be business-casual, and on the other hand, you can get away with dressing up a pair of jeans too! So let me start by describing what business causal ISN'T.

 What Business Casual Isn't #1:    Business Formal

A business suit you would wear to a job interview would be slightly too dressy for the business casual look. Business-formal implies a tailored suit and tie, the type of outfit you would reserve when meeting with high-end clients or attending a technical seminar (or ASME committee meeting). Here, women have a slight advantage since items such as skirt suits and dresses can be dressed up or down to fit either category depending on what you pair them with...

Take a look at this classic black shift dress with a blazer. This is perfect business-formal attire...

but pair with a trendy shirt and belt and shoes, and it changes the look entirely! Below left would definitely fall into the business-causal category. Its cute but still very neat and clean-cut.

and something every woman should have in her closet: a crisp, white shirt!

I also love the fact that you can throw on the season's hottest accessories and wear the shift to a cocktail party! Which means you get three sophisticated looks from just one item! If you want to buy a dress to wear in both business casual and formal categories, keep to natural fabrics and sober colours: black, grey, cream and beige are good.

 What Business Casual Isn't #2:   Casual (aka Scruffy)

There are plenty of occasions to wear your most comfortable pair of worn out jeans. Although I love my own pair of 100% cotton, tattered and patched jeans (ok fine, I bought them that way), they are not something I would take to a conference...at all...not even just for a conference golf day or museum tour!

Not business-casual!
 So you're clued up enough to know that torn jeans are out. But can you still get away with jeans at all? Here's the good news: yes you can! I do it all the time. But you gotta be careful to make sure they are neat, fit well and paired with a good pair of heels and a well-fitted shirt or blouse and a blazer jacket. No baggy jeans! No bell-bottom jeans! Stick to straight-cuts or skinnys. And as for tops, a neat blouse is best, but a collared polo shirt is acceptable apparently (although I wouldn't wear it). Nothing with logos! Make sure it fits well too.

Perfect for the business-casual look

As an alternative to jeans, you can try a pair of sleek, straight-cut or skinny trousers (or a slight flare of you are tall). I personally love my charcoal pair from Mango. They fit beautifully, and have the slightest sheen to them which make them also super-trendy! You can also try capris or long, flared shorts for a fashionable summer-look as an alternative to dresses and skirts. The rule with any trousers is to make sure they fit well-not too tight and not loose and bunching everywhere!

What Business-Casual Isn't #3:   Too Much Skin!

The point of many business-casual events you would attend is to mingle, network and conference in general. You want to give a give a good impression, and tartiness isn't the way to do that! Make sure you never show too much skin. On the other hand, don't be afraid of letting your femininity shine through. We are women, after all, and women have curves, women are charismatic...women draw attention. These things cant be ignored, they are part of what we are and should be embraced and used to our advantage! The idea is to use our feminine attributes with class.

Clothing should not be too tight. No cleavage should be revealed, stomachs, lower backs and buttocks (and that includes g-strings!). Try and avoid revealing bra-straps and panty-lines if possible. And lastly, keep the skirt-lengths around the knee  although exceptions do exist (you may be able to get away with pairing a neat mini with a suit jacket, stockings and closed, formal shoes).

What Business Casual Isn't #4:   What Your Grandma Would Wear!

And lastly, I know many of us are students or early career engineers, new to the working world. After years of campus life in our jeans and hoodies, w may have somehow come up with this idea that 'business' attire means boring or old. This is the area that I think we as engineers need to work on the most. "Business attire" means neat, clean and presentable, not washed out, repressed and dull! Let your personality shine through, don't hide it under layers or neo-feminist frump! 

Business casual lets you be a bit more expressive than business formal, so accessorize! Stand out, make a statement and get noticed! 

 My next post 10 Wardrobe Must-haves for any Engineer-Chic, will deal more about specific features - handbags, shoes, colour and cuts...So keep the suggestions rolling in! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Selling Yourself: Where Engineers get it Wrong!

I have just returned from an ASME leadership training conference (LTC) that was held in Dallas, USA where I had the chance to meet a whole bunch of interesting people from all over the world.

I was busy talking about my bright pink hard hat, when I got a 'OMG, are you Engineer-Chic?

This was a real treat! Noha is the president of ASME's latest initiative, Engineering for Change or E4C. Of course, it was great connecting with other young women who are also engaged in developmental initiatives, but after exchanging business cards, the conversation drifted to lighter (yet very important) topics: clothing!

Noha is a pretty, young, middle-eastern woman who I thought looked very stylish and well put together. Iana, another awesome E4C initiator, lamented over how difficult it was for engineering women to know what was appropriate to wear to these occasions. I have to agree with her on this one.  I've been to a couple of engineering conferences where the dress-code was set to business-casual...and I know first hand how difficult it is to stock your wardrobe to accommodate both engineering 'work-clothes' and formal meeting attire and on top of all that, the elusive set of garments that fall into the 'business-casual' category. I think that we engineers have an even harder time of dressing for business-casual than business-women since we don't wear business-casual clothing to work. We wear jeans and comfortable shoes, or clothes that we don't mind getting quite dirty!

So does this mean that we have to go out and buy clothes specifically for conferences and business-casual events? 

Wait for the shocking answer...Yes it does!

I know all of your logical minds are thinking, 'But why? Why must I spend all that cash on clothes that I will wear a few times a year? Is it really all that necessary?'

And, again, yes it is necessary! Conferences and events are amazing opportunities to network and market yourself. You are an independent, strong and smart young engineer, and others need to SEE this when they look at you. First impressions always count and you will have to dress the part to get the recognition you deserve!  But for some reason, this is something that doesn't come naturally to engineers. Two key learnings from the LTC was that engineers are really bad at marketing ourselves, and that we tend to think that reason and logic are superior means of attaining power and influencing people agree with you.  But this is a complete myth- totally wrong! Just looking at the (soon changing) ASME website tells us how bad we are at selling ourselves and our products. I recommend the book Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, which has a whole section on the importance on MARKETING YOURSELF. There are multiple ways of getting and leveraging power, and one of the fastest and easiest is by being attractive!

"Now, don't go hating on me, I'm not saying you have to be pretty to use this type of power, but everyone can be neat, clean and appropriately dressed", said speaker Elaine Seat, in her talk titled: Selling Your Ideas in the Absence of Authority (aka how to get power and use it to influence others).  "Think of the money you spend on good clothes as an investment in yourself that yields unbelievably high returns!" Said Ron Rosenburg who delivered the Plenary Session: Outrageous Association Marketing.
(Hint: google this guy!)

So yes, it is extremely important to market yourselves. You will have to learn how to dress the part. This isn't easy, but I'm here to help. In my next couple of posts, I will be exploring this in a little more detail, so stay tuned. 

Can you think of some SUGGESTIONS on what would be appropriate conferencing gear in the BUSINESS CASUAL category? Comment on this post or email me with hints, tips and PICTURES!!!!