Nini Ikhena shows us what she’s got
Meet Nini – a passionate, hilarious, fellow Microsoft-fashion-blogger. She grew up in Nigeria and cares deeply about empowering women and advancing tech in Africa, and her fashion blog (The Nerdly Beautiful) is absolutely darling.
Tell us a little about you.
Growing up in Kano, Nigeria I realized I had a deep interest in Math and Physics pretty early on in secondary school, and this inspired me to move to New York after graduation to attend college at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I first discovered programming in my freshman year, and fell in love with the concept of being able to create experiences through software. This discovery led to my first internship as an Explorer at Microsoft, which played a pivotal role in enabling me pursue a career in Computer Science. I now work as a Program Manager on the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (Log Analysis) team.
In my junior year of college, I started the fashion blog Nerdly Beautiful as a creative outlet and to, in some way, go against the perpetuated stereotypes about “nerds”. Over the years, Fashion has evolved from being an outlet to an absolute passion of mine and through my blog I’ve had the privilege to meet other multifaceted beings who continue to inspire me.
My other passions include women empowerment, gender equality, and advancing technology in Africa.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
In my first outfit, I’m wearing a sweater from Free People, one of my favorite stores to shop at. They have the most unique pieces! I particularly adore the sleeves on the sweater; the bigger they are, the better! I love the versatility and class of denim and paired the sweater with a denim on denim to preserve the blue color palette.
My second outfit shows a different side of style and my love for lace and all things Victorian. I got this dress from Free People as well, and paired with a burgundy coat. I love the edge the choker brings to the dress, and I finished up the outfit with a lace up boots I picked up from Long Tall Sally.
The last outfit is one you’ll probably find me wearing on a typical day! I’m all for oversized capes that allow you to layer up easily, and I picked up this one from Zara.
I started off having no clue what personal style meant.
Growing up, my younger sisters and I always wore matching clothes and so moving to New York allowed me to explore and play around with different types of style – from street style to bohemian.
I went from wearing whatever I saw on everyone else, to viewing my style as a form of art and expression. I now love being able to transform my style based on how I’m feeling, or sometimes (rather random) what genre of music I’m obsessing over at the time. It’s ever-evolving, and I’ve grown to love and accept that.
Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?
I love a number of brands ranging from African designers creating amazing Afrofusion pieces to haute couture. I’d say – Stella Jean, Delpozo, Georges Hobeika, Grassfields, Ofuure, AAKS, Zuhair Murad, Elie SAAB, ASOS, Free People, Zara, Iamisigo, and the list goes on!
It’s hard to pick one style icon that inspires me. I find that I gain most of my inspiration from other fashion bloggers, street style photography, people watching in downtown Seattle (it’s worth it!), magazines, and designers I love and follow.
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
There’s a lot of variety in STEM, from working as a data scientist at Microsoft to working as a cosmetic engineer at MAC. I’d suggest doing research on STEM careers in different fields, and seeing what you lean towards.
I believe in following your interest or curiosity, doing that could lead to developing a passion or discovering skills about yourself that you never knew you had. If while doing research you find a career path that interests you, take a class or two, or speak to students and professionals in that field about their experiences. These will help you sort of test the waters, before deciding if you want to dive in, but pursue the interest and see where it leads.
If you end up taking a class and not enjoying it, that’s okay too! It’s worth giving it a try.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
At work as a Program Manager, I recently shipped a product called the OMS Gateway, that helped unblock a number of our top customers who were unable to send critical data to the cloud from thousands of servers that had no internet connectivity.
Lighting up these servers enabled our customers to get insight into key metrics about their servers, which in turn helped them to make better business and technical decisions. I’m proud of this project because it allowed me to grow technically by delving into a space I initially knew very little about and it gave me the experience of driving the end-to-end process of building a product from scratch – working with other software engineers and collaborating with legal, marketing and other partner teams to ship out the Gateway to the eager customers that actually benefitted from it.
Along a different vein, I partnered with a fashion illustrator, poet and fashion photographer in December, to put together a Christmas shoot tailored towards showing the duality of emotions experienced at Christmas time for individuals and families dealing with loss. Receiving messages from people expressing how much it meant to them, or feeling comforted by the post was beyond rewarding and humbling.
Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?
You can be interested in a STEM field and have other varying interests as well. I wish I was more aware of this in college and spent less time feeling bad about not fitting in. One of my favorite designers, Tom Ford, is an architect, fashion designer, screenwriter and film director and I’m fascinated by how multitalented he is and the way he honors each facet. You don’t need to enjoy playing video games (if you do, that’s completely fine too!) or spend all your free time developing to be considered a true developer or to validate your love for the field.
Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?
I’m a strong believer in living life from a place of love, and not fear and each day I aspire to live out this truth. I’d love to encourage everyone reading to do the same, and face life authentically and fearlessly.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
I love connecting with new people, you can find me here:
Dona & Beth