Interview by Michelle Hundley
For our second monthly Young Professional Profile, we sat down with Shalanda ”Shasie” Turner to ask her about her careers, the millennial generation and changing perceptions. She’s not your “typical” engineer, and she’s proud of that.
So, you have two careers…most people can only handle one….tell us about them.
I do (smiles). By day, I’m a project engineer for Kaneka, North America, and outside of that work; I’m a fashion blogger and style editor.
Wow! Those seem to be very distinct careers. Let’s talk about your “day job” first. Did you always want to be an engineer?
To be honest, no, I went through several career ideas in high school from a movie director, to teacher, to opening my own business. I actually applied to college as a business major and was accepted at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. But when I took a chemistry class, I realized how much I loved it! I wanted to learn and do more. That’s when I learned about Chemical Engineering, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
What is it about Project Engineering that you like the most?
Well, I kinda like being in charge (laughs). Managing other people is fun, executing a project well is great, even though some have challenges it’s always good to do it well. Every project is different and so it allows change, and I’m big on change.
You like change. Interesting, not everyone does. Do you think liking change is a generational thing?
I do think it’s a generational thing. Around my parents’ generation they stayed close to home, they lived in the same neighborhood and kept the same job until they retired. Now, with travel easier and communication opportunities, people can do things like work from home, it makes it much easier to change jobs. So change is something we look for.
We’ve covered your “day job” – tell us more about your other career. How did you get into fashion blogging and style editing?
I had a love of fashion long before anything else. When I was younger I dressed uniquely. I always had that extra piece on where people would tell me, “Oh wow, I never would have thought of that!” I didn’t think about blogging full time or even for fashion until it became a “thing.” I used to change my profile picture on my Facebook page almost every day to display my outfits. One day in 2010, a friend told me I might want to start a blog to archive my outfits. So, I wondered what a fashion blog was and looked it up. I started getting into it and now it’s a second business, a second career. It was a hobby, something I was passionate about and now I’m earning money from it, and traveling to New York for fashion week, and am really having a lot of fun.
I understand you also started Houston Fashion Bloggers (HFB). Tell us more about that.
I was looking for a group of people I could connect with here in Houston. You have a support group on line, but I was looking for a support group in Houston. So, I started to follow some local bloggers and would meet them at events. I began to offer that we should meet up for coffee once in a while and then it just grew from there – our meet-ups became Houston Fashion Bloggers. Since 2011, we have made a name for ourselves. Other state bloggers look for us and come to us for advice. Our group has grown to over 160 bloggers. In fact, even company brands come to us to assist with their campaigns. It’s really great for new bloggers because brands won’t know to find them, but if they go to HFB, we can act as a “middleman” and assist them with finding the right blogger for their brand.
Do you feel like blogging has changed the fashion industry?
Absolutely! For years, women have been forced to look at other women in fashion magazines which typically don’t “look like us” – whether it’s height, or skin, or size – we don’t look like them. But with blogging, now there are girls that we can identify with, that look like us, that wear these clothes and we think, “Oh wow! She looks like me and she’s wearing that, so maybe I can give it a try.” You can find a blogger to identify with anywhere now, which has made fashion a more open community than before.
You are an engineer and a “fashionista;” what would you tell young ladies looking at either of these roles?
If a young woman is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM), then I would never want to discourage them. There is a stigma against women in these roles. My advice to them is they can be whatever they want. If they want to be a fashion designer, then do that. If they want to be an engineer, then do that. There is no reason why they can’t do both. They can do more than one thing – they can have more than one career. They don’t have to be “boxed in.”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
I would say my personality (laughs). It’s not a “typical engineering” personality. Or at least what people think it should be. I’m very vocal and opinionated in both of my roles. I let my thoughts be known, and some people can’t take that.
Again, there’s that “change.”
Yeah (laughs). Changing people’s mindset can be good. It’s good to break the mold. Sometimes I get offended when people are shocked to hear I’m an engineer at fashion events. I’m like, “Yeah, why can’t I be an engineer?” What do they think an engineer looks like? It’s funny, because I get the exact opposite reaction from my engineering colleagues. They think it’s pretty cool I’m in fashion.
Follow Shalanda on Live Life In Style: http://www.live-life-in-style.com/
For more information on Houston Fashion Bloggers: http://www.houstonfashionbloggers.com/
About the Young Professional Profile
The Young Professional Profile is an effort to create a forum for those under 40 who are excelling in their respective fields across Texas. There is a depth and breadth to the Millennial generation as a group of adults that is marked by a commitment to higher principles in the work they do, the ability to professionally marry what were traditionally separate streams of expertise, and a voracious appetite for new skills.