Do What You Love

In partnership with SytyleBee

Natasha Reuter - Operations Manager at StyleBee

Photography : @salaam_ali

Photography : @salaam_ali

When I was a child, I loved acting so much that I went to a theater studio for kids. I danced as a ballroom dancer, too. It was wonderful. But as I grew older, I encountered new interests. Science and math came naturally to me and I liked them; by middle school I was enrolled in a specialized physics and math school, where I stayed until I graduated high school. When I enrolled in college at St. Petersburg State, I studied what appealed to me at the time, which was history and languages. It was only after I graduated with my first Bachelor of Arts degree that I thought again about acting.

I knew I wanted two things: to study drama and to study it somewhere that wasn’t Russia. My mother, who’s involved in drama, encouraged me to think about options abroad, and after some advice from a friend, I decided on San Francisco State University. Ironically enough, I moved to San Francisco to pursue a childhood dream of becoming an actor, but once I graduated with another bachelor’s degree, my thoughts turned practical. I needed a job.

I became an intern at StyleBee, where I supported customers, did spreadsheets, auditioned makeup stylists and hair professionals, and worked on other little projects. I found that I was good at it and I liked it. While neither of my college degrees were very technical, my earlier education in math and physics was: I already had knowledge of all the math I’d need, and I had experience using computers for work-related projects. Before long, I had a fulltime job at StyleBee as an Operations Manager.

At times, working at a startup can be challenging. While corporate jobs have strict titles and clearly defined responsibilities, it’s more ambiguous at a startup. I’ve had a number of skills, some of which aren’t really related to my job title.  It can be exhausting trying to manage my time and all these tasks. Still, the work has to get done, so I do it.

Being a woman can also make working at a tech-related startup challenging. While I’ve always gotten along well with men, I can understand the frustration some women feel about always being surrounded by men at work. It can feel like you don’t have allies—that there’s no one to have girl talk with.

And sadly enough, sometimes the lack of women in STEM can lead to toxic competition, rather than solidarity. I experienced this when I was enrolled in the physics and math school. My grade had maybe two or three other girls and while I got along with the guys, one girl would pick on me. When that girl made fun of me, I thought, I’m a ballroom dancer, I know I’m beautiful. My response, I think, reflected an attitude that’s helpful for women in STEM: know your inner value and do what you love.

Written by Josiah Nelson

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