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Rein Meirte about Work fashion in tech and assumptions

Rein Meirte, Co-Founder Clusity - Work Fashion Talks Podcast by The Acquired

She started her career in a non-traditional way and left for South America to get to know the world and herself.  After working for a while as a digital marketeer, Rein Meirte is, at the age of 25, co-founder of Clusity, whose mission is to help women in tech develop and inspire themselves through a network, workshops, events and career opportunities.

Rein is passionate about innovation, tech and science, and clothing can also be added to this list. She brought her passion for fashion and technology together in a digital wardrobe.

“Assumptions are there, but you can also turn them to your advantage and use them as a positive element. This is by presenting yourself in such a way that your appearance and the first impression you make correspond to who you are or how you want to be perceived.”

Listen to the Work Fashion Talk episode here in Dutch or read the summary in English below.

Rein’s definition of work fashion

I have always had a passion for fashion. I like to be engaged in how I dress and to look at how others dress. Clothing is a tool to express myself. To provoke a reaction from the person I’m sitting opposite. But also to feel good and self-confident. Comfort is also very important. I would never wear anything that wasn’t comfortable. Comfort is the number one most important feature that my clothes must have. But on the other hand, I also use work fashion to come across as more serious or accessible. I use it very consciously to express myself and to create an effect.

Dressing as a junior in a tech environment

When I had just started working – 2.5 years ago – I had no idea what the norm was or how you normally dress. It starts, of course, with job interviews. How did I dress? I put on what other people were wearing. It was as simple as that. I checked how formal or informal the people there were dressing and then I adjusted it accordingly. At Cronos Group, there are the extremes. You have people walking around in short jean skirts and others in full black suits with ties. But there are no rules, so everyone does what they feel like, and that’s a freedom that I also found here. You can wear what you like. For me, it was always something in between: not too formal and too informal.

In the beginning, I dressed more informally because I was young – a student fresh out of school. I dressed how I felt then, as a beginner, a junior. As I became more confident in what I could do and my skills and value-add, I started to dress more accordingly. This may have come from the insecurity of what can I actually do here in the business world, so I dressed less formally. If I had dressed very formally in the beginning, I would have suffered a lot from imposter syndrome and felt too fake. Other juniors in the company also wore jeans and T-shirts, so I did too. Little by little, I started developing myself, looking at what I can do and what value I can add, and that translated into my clothes. Though still with my personal style in it.

Of course, a lot depends on the company culture. In the legal profession, for example, it is a no go to come to the office in jeans and trainers. In the environment I worked in, certainly as a marketer, jeans and trainers do fit the profile that you are young, creative and innovative. How you dress is very context-specific: where you work and what your job is.

Assumptions

As a marketer, I also dressed in a more creative way so that people who saw me would also assume that I am creative, and therefore can be an added value. This is perhaps a bit of a vicious circle as if it is expected that marketers dress more creatively because people think they are creative. For me, it was mainly: I am in this role, I have these skills, creativity is very important so I dress accordingly.

Assumptions are very human and in the professional world, it is no different. Everyone makes assumptions and has their unconscious bias. At Clusity, we often talk about this too, from the point of view of gender inequality.

Assumptions are there, but you can also turn them to your advantage and use them as a positive element. This is by presenting yourself in such a way that your appearance and the first impression you make correspond to who you are or how you want to be perceived.

If you are completely unaware of assumptions or believe that it is wrong to have them, it will work against you. Everyone has an unconscious bias and a limited view of the world because everyone lives in their own reality. There are some people who are aware of their own assumptions and correct themselves accordingly, but for the majority, it is a blind spot and in that case, your clothes can help you to avoid the negative effects of it.

Assumptions are based on stereotypes and stereotypes can be broken by, for example, putting forward role models. Over time, the general image and stereotypes that exist – of young women in tech, for example – will shift. The assumption will no longer be the negative one that a young woman is less competent or that she got that position because she is a woman and not because of her skills.

I hope there will be a shift soon and until then you can use clothes and looks to your advantage to start the shift and become the role model yourself.

The importance of your personality in your clothes for your career

I always think it’s important to dress for myself in the first place. If, in the end, you don’t feel at home in your clothes and you don’t feel that those clothes belong to you, then whatever you create from those clothes – be it a career or an impression – is never going to feel completely like yourself. So the personal aspect of your clothes is very important. You can then adjust it according to your environment or what you want to achieve. I will never wear something that I feel uncomfortable in just to impress someone. But I will take a variation on something that I really like to wear, for example, to look more professional. I always look for a balance.

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