Dara woke up early with us to shoot amongst the famous University of Washington cherry blossoms before heading into work. At Microsoft she can usually be found kicking ass making Windows Experiences a more inclusive and supportive place to work, or mentoring entrepreneurial fellowships in East Africa(!).
Tell us a little about you.
I’m Dara – I’m a 23 year old creative technologist who loves to create beautiful things and build products for the world. I’m currently a Program Manager at Microsoft by day, and a lifestyle blogger, photographer, and designer by night. I’m motivated by two ideas - that fulfillment is found in living a life of impact and love, and that creativity and innovation can empower communities and unlock human potential.
My two homes have influenced my pursuit of these concepts greatly - Lagos, Nigeria and Austin, Texas. I was born in Lagos and relocated to the United States when I was 7. Growing up in Texas, I picked up design and programming at a young age out of pure interest in creating digitally. I went on to study Computer Science with minors in Math and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and continued my learning adventure with the Windows Experiences team at Microsoft after graduating.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
I’m wearing a blazer I had made in my home country, Nigeria, of a fabric called “Ankara”. One of my favorite things about being in Nigeria is the creativity and autonomy that individuals have over their personal style. Since tailors are readily accessible, it’s easy to curate a wardrobe that is self-designed, unique, and custom-made for you. For the rest of my look - my top is by Zara, Jeans by Levi, and Pumps by Jessica Simpson
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
I think my personal style has been and is still evolving, just in the same way that I am. It’s gone on a journey with me and been the visual expression of my growth in life and womanhood. I’ve always loved incorporating aspects of personality into my style - although that daily style varies depending on my mood. Ultimately, I aspire for each outfit to tell a story about who I am, what I’m feeling at the moment, and to hopefully exude the confidence I’m always trying to embody.
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
If you’re passionate about creating, innovating, and building the future, don’t let anyone or anything stop you from that. One of the most amazing things about tech and STEM are the infinite intersections with other industries. For me, the most important intersection was how well my passion for technology merged with creativity.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
Recently, I’ve been part of an amazing small group of people at Microsoft who have been committed to supporting entrepreneurs in emerging markets. We started with a fellowship of 25 individuals in Nigeria who were building amazing products and companies that will impact their communities and countries, and are now doing the same thing in East Africa. This has ultimately been some of the most fulfilling work of my career thus far, reaffirmed the values I believe in, and was a great reminder that there are passionate people working toward social progress, and that I have a part to play in their journey.
Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?
I think often people have a concept in their minds of what they believe people in tech look like, think like, care about, etc. Whether you’re an artist, multidisciplinary creative, or care about things like ocean policy - there’s space for you in tech.
Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?
Boxes are boring - never let anyone put you in one.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
I blog my life at daraoke.co, share my adventures visually at https://instagram.com/daraoke_ and tweet about tech, design, and emerging markets at twitter.com/daraoke.
I’m fortunate enough to have wound up working in the same building as Dara, but for those of you who aren’t in such close proximity please get yourself onto her blog - she shares some great tips and experiences over there <3