[We loved meeting University of Michigan Wolverine (#GoBlue!) Rachael Miller, an all-around renaissance woman whose style has evolved from “hiding” to embracing her inner punk-fairy-princess. She specializes in tech and dabbles in RPG games, art, sculpture and floating through the woods in the most beautiful maxi dress we’ve ever seen! ]
Tell us a little about you.
My goal is to make tools for people that help make the world more awesome! Right now, I’m a product manager intern at Microsoft working on Word. This is my third internship here, and I love how there’s so many ways to have an impact on the product and on our customers. When I’m not in Seattle, I’m a computer science student at the University of Michigan and a consultant/programmer at the UM3D Lab, where we help students and professors from all fields bring their ideas to life with 3D printers, visualization tools, workshops, and all things 3D. I’m also one of the leaders of gEECS- Girls in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Michigan’s club devoted to improving the gender balance in tech.
Outside school and work, I’m a huge geek about tabletop RPG games- I play D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Dark Heresy, and any other game that comes my way. I’m also a tea and coffee snob, and occasionally an artist/sculptor.
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
The white dress I’m wearing is how I discovered that maxi-dresses are quite possibly my favorite thing. They’re so comfy while looking so grand! I love that this one has layers that make it interesting and a bit mysterious. My friends named it my hippie princess dress. I’ve also got flash tattoos on my knuckles, which I like because they’re just light, sparkly adornments (that go really well with my ring).
I found my green dress during my first internship and fell in love with the cut, especially the flouncy skirt. It’s really fun and versatile.
The cardigan is my go-to for cooler autumn days in Michigan, and it has pockets! The shoes were a total impulse buy from a mall window. They looked cute from afar, but when I tried them on I discovered that the t-strap and chunky heel make them the most comfortable heels I’ve ever owned, so I snagged them on the spot.
My red-dress outfit is my absolute favorite thing in my closet. During my first internship, my friend and I both tried on this same dress. I adore the color, the cut, how floaty and pretty this material is, everything. I love the faux leather along the bust, especially in this sweetheart shape- I think it’s an interesting contrast. The jacket is also faux leather, and I pair the two together because I feel like the jacket amplifies the hint of toughness coming from the leather detail on the dress.
The pendant necklace is one of my go-tos, and for some reason people often ask me what it means, or if it’s symbolic, or something. What it means is I saw it and thought it was neat, so I bought it.
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
I have been through so many style transitions! When I was younger I felt awkward in “girly” clothes, and I was afraid of being made fun of, so I stuck with plain clothes that wouldn’t get me noticed. Once I discovered that feeling awkward and weird is just part of growing up and not something preventable by a change of clothes, I started exploring style more. I made a point to push boundaries and find unexpected combos, and started to gravitate toward “punk.”
Eventually my tastes started to broaden, and I had fun flip-flopping between flowery dresses and business attire and studded belts on a daily basis. Now, I like to think my closet is pretty flexible- I can feel like a rebel in a leather jacket, or an ethereal fairy princess in a flower crown, or both at the same time.
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
- Jump right in and meet as many of your peers as you can.
- Find a women-in-tech org, or make one.
- Find some way to cultivate a support network and get inspired.
- Be loud and brave and stick up for yourself and your ideas.
- Don’t ever let anyone talk over you, dismiss you, or push you away from technical work.
- Be confident in the skills you have and be eager to learn the ones you don’t.
- Most importantly, ask questions without fear or apologies.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
This one! I am (and have been for four years) working on an interaction system that will help scientists examine complex data using virtual reality. Our brains weren’t made to think with flat planes, mice and keyboards- they’re made to comprehend the 3D world!
The tools I’m building will make it possible for people to see information in a clearer way, which will in turn help them make discoveries, and I’m proud that I can contribute to that.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
And there you have it! It was such a pleasure to get to know this versatile, multi-faceted young woman (dd you see the prize she won for her research around virtual reality–for HoloLens’ers like Beth and me, this was simply dreamy!).
Till next time, stay sweet everyone!
Dona + Beth