Companies within the tech industry tend to adopt an “open” dress-code and while this is a definite perk, it can be difficult to navigate at first. Caitlin Mulroney, talent operations and community engagement manager at North (formerly Thalmic Labs), faced this challenge and as a recruiter for a tech company, she is frequently asked what sort of clothing is acceptable.
About a year ago, Mulroney created the Instagram account @mytechwardrobe and began posting regularly to share her outfits, recommendations and positive messaging around self-confidence. As a result, she has provided support for people in the industry looking for fashion inspiration.
“It took me about two years to cultivate my own personal style and get into a rhythm. It was a process of trial and error — partly because I didn’t have a resource,” she explained.
“My intention with creating this account was to help people. Even if you’re not working in tech, but maybe your formerly conservative workplace just relaxed its dress-code, what do you do? How do you transition that, if you can? I wanted to provide a framework and try to build a community if I’m lucky – which has started to happen!”
Mulroney connects with her followers over Instagram direct messaging and through the comments in her posts. She appreciates getting real-time feedback and enjoys being an extra person to tell people “this is okay” when they need to hear it. Because she believes that feeling comfortable in your outfit can increase your confidence, she advocates for personal style as a means of self-expression.
“It takes time, but [your personal style] is something you can define yourself, and it’s a really fun process,” Mulroney said.
“I think too often, specifically in business-casual, people tend to let go of that part of themselves.”
Mulroney’s biggest hope with the account was to provide a resource for women specifically. She strives to represent women in tech, and while she is not in a technical role herself, she highlights them in her work.
“Women in tech is a very broad topic and I have a lot to say on that. I think women in tech need to see other women in tech to connect with them,” she said.
When it comes to what a woman wears, Mulroney recognizes that there are often stereotypes and anxieties to overcome.
“It’s that “skin” thing. Women have skin and we can’t show too much of it or else we are not professional,” she said.
Mulroney said that she’s also read resources that have said things like: women interviewing for a job shouldn’t wear earrings that are too big because they might be distracting to your prospective employer, or don’t wear heels because they’re too loud on the floor.
“That is all total crap. If an employer is distracted by your big earrings, they are not the employer for you. Be who you are, because that is the person they’re hiring – don’t edit yourself,” Mulroney advised.
She aims to encourage women to ignore these ideals.
“If [the company] has said the dress-code is open, truly use your best judgement for what makes you most comfortable,” she concluded.
Posting every weekday at 5:00 p.m., Mulroney hardly ever takes a break from offering support through @mytechwardrobe and has no intention of slowing down. With the account recently reaching over one thousand followers, it is safe to say Mulroney has succeeded in providing a much-needed resource for navigating open dress-codes.
Jenna is finishing up an English and Business degree at the University of Waterloo while working in KW’s tech industry part-time. She also has a passion for journalism and is a freelance writer. When she’s not working, you can find Jenna singing around town, picking through the poetry section of used book stores or soaking up the sun whenever she has the chance.