Meet the Geek Style Reboot winners ready to recharge and bring a new look to the GeekWire Gala

Lana Neyolova, left, and Kellen Ball are seen in “before” photos they submitted to earn selection as this year’s Geek Style Reboot winners. (Photos courtesy of Lana Neyolova and Kellen Ball)

One is a “funcle” — a fun uncle — who says he’s got a strong “dad look” when it comes to his style. The other is a hard-working single mom who is interested in learning more about this so-called “pampering” thing. Meet this year’s Geek Style Reboot winners — two lucky readers who will get a day of pampering and fashion help from the pros at Nordstrom in Seattle ahead of the annual GeekWire Gala on Thursday.

Lana Neyolova, the manager of engineering at Sine Draco Aviation Technology, and Kellen Ball, a program manager at Remitly, seem to each have a finger on the pulse of what passes for style in Seattle and in the tech industry — it’s usually pretty casual and it could usually use a bit of a tune-up.

The two were selected from a pool of entries and will spend a chunk of the day at the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store. They’ll decompress in the Nordstrom Spa; get their hair styled; get a consultation with a beauty stylist; and meet with Nordstrom personal stylists to select an outfit for the Gala.

On Thursday evening, a short ride away at the Showbox Market, Neyolova and Ball will take the stage to show off their refreshed looks and help celebrate the year in style with a crowd of fellow tech geeks. You can see this reboot firsthand by attending the GeekWire Gala, a festive holiday party with more than 800 in attendance. Tickets on sale here.

I’ll be following them around a bit at Nordstrom and through the night at the Gala, so you should be following GeekWire on Twitter and Instagram for updates — and watch for a full recap with photos to be posted on GeekWire on Friday.

Learn more about our winners below from some questions they answered and images they shared ahead of time:

Lana Neyolova

(Photos courtesy of Lana Neyolova)

Neyolova has been in the aerospace industry for 11 years and is currently a manager of engineering at Bellevue, Wash.-based Sine Draco Aviation Technology. She got her Master of Aerospace Engineering at Bauman University in Moscow, with a focus in rocket launch pads and supporting systems.

“My journey in aviation started during my junior year when I accepted a position at Boeing Russia and I quickly fell in love with airplanes (although rockets are still a big passion of mine),” Neyolova told GeekWire. “After graduation, I moved to Seattle to pursue career opportunities and explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest.”

She has previously worked at LMI Aerospace and Boeing, where she was responsible for planning, leading and tracking the progress of large-scale aircraft modifications.

“Most of my experience is tied to structural analysis — also known as stress engineering — where the structure is analyzed for the worst load cases and proven to be airworthy,” she said. “Right now I’m working on the aircraft decompression analysis, researching outcomes of a rapid pressure loss in the cabin. Fun!”

  • Tell us why you’re the hardest working geek in town, and need a day of pampering. I work hard during the day and I work even harder as a full-time single mom of two little LEGO experts. I don’t know what “pampering” is at this point but I heard good things about it.
  • Who’s your style icon — real or imaginary? My grandma, who was the “it girl” back in Moscow. Think Russian Grace Kelly who was also a lead architect/ civil engineer — all in the 1960s. I hope someday someone makes a show about her life. She had a signature shade of red lipstick and was rocking fur coats like a boss.
  • What’s your favorite work uniform? My work uniform is a nerdy T-shirt, jeans and white kicks. Dr. Martens for winter.
  • Describe Seattle style. Rain jacket + beard + craft beer as an accessory.
  • What’s your favorite accessory? iWatch. It reminds me to breathe! No accessory has ever cared about me as much.

Neyolova told us that she’s been so busy with her career and parenting that developing her style hasn’t been on the priority list.

“I’d describe my style as basic,” she said. “I’m definitely playing it safe when it comes to fashion and I tend to gravitate towards simple and functional items that will stay around for awhile. It would be helpful to learn what looks can be flattering and get out of my comfort zone when it comes to latest styles.”

She also said her go-to party look is jeans, a white shirt, black blazer and heels. She said it’s basic and works for a lot of occasions. Make sure to check back to see whether Nordstrom stylists agreed with that self assessment.

Kellen Ball

(Photo courtesy of Kellen Ball)

As a compliance experience program manager at Remitly, the Seattle-based digital remittance company, Ball identifies broad friction points for customers and works with compliance officers and the company’s product team to implement new solutions.

It’s a new job in a new city after Ball spent nearly a decade at Capital One on the East Coast, spending his last four years there working for tech incubator Capital One Labs.

“It was a fast-paced environment that was on the cutting edge of product development, big data, and design thinking,” Ball said.

He took the plunge on a new job and moved across the country after getting the chance to meet Remitly CEO Matt Oppenheimer and being encouraged by his sense of humility and enthusiasm.

  • Tell us why you’re the hardest working geek in town, and need a day of pampering. Having moved to Seattle in February, this will be my first full winter.  It’s only been a few days of gloomy skies and I’m already dreading the long, grey weather. A day of pampering is always good to lift the spirits. Further, the time with a personal stylist to course correct my standard outfits would be just the trick.
  • Who’s your style icon — real or imaginary? Who hasn’t grown up with James Bond as an idol? He’s always impeccably dressed and perfectly accessorized.
  • What’s your favorite work uniform? The same tan chinos and a different button up shirt — basically, the picture above.
  • Describe Seattle style. Seattle is all about comfort, yet looking like you’re not trying too hard: flannel, skinny jeans/chinos, and a Patagonia fleece.
  • What’s your favorite accessory? Like most fellow geek’s, I love data.  My Apple watch is my everyday staple. During cycling rides, I’ll have a heart rate monitor and/or cadence sensors.

“My style tends to be business casual, and always comfortable,” Ball said. “Give me a nice sweater any day. And pair it with a pair of LuLuLemon ABC pants. That’s basically the dream.”

If Ball had to dress for the GeekWire Gala, or any other party, right this moment, his go-to look would be a blue suit and speckled shirt/tie combo. He’s interested in learning how to thoughtfully elevate his style game, otherwise he’s likely to keep going back to his usual picks, or a slight variation, for years.

“One question that must be answered throughout this reboot — and will settle a long time disagreement between my fiancé and me: Are shorts ever appropriate for the office?” Ball said. “My sense is, if you pair them with a belt and tuck your shirt in, you’re fine. This does resemble the dad-travel look, so maybe it’s best just for the weekend.”

Geek Style Reboot
Daniel Robbins and Teresa Konopka, before and after their Geek Style Reboot at Nordstrom in Seattle ahead of the 2017 GeekWire Gala. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Now that we’re into our second year of the Geek Reboot, it will be interesting for Neyolova and Ball to connect with last year’s winners, Dan Robbins and Teresa Konopka.

Robbins, a principal UX designer in the Creative Labs group at HTC-Vive, and Konopka, an airplane safety engineer at Boeing, came out of their day of pampering at Nordstrom looking like sparkly new geeks.

We checked in with them again recently to see if any of the style lessons have stuck over the past year.

Daniel Robbins and his wife Stephanie at the 2017 GeekWire Gala. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Daniel Robbins wears what he calls his “first real suit,” which he got with help from a Nordstrom stylist, for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Robbins)

“Let’s be honest, the bar for physical appearance in the Seattle tech industry is quite low,” Robbins said. “I mean, how are we to know where anyone is in the socio-economic pecking order when that guy in the fleece at Goodwill might have just sold a startup?”

Robbins said that the inaugural Style Reboot allowed him to see that there’s more to life than what he called his usual “ill-fitting, faded slacks and a plaid snap-front short sleeve shirt.”

“I gained a window into how I can feel special about how I look, how I present myself, and how I look on my wife’s arm,” he said. “Since that amazing experience, I’ve been back to my ‘personal stylist’ at Nordstrom several times. David Meyr has helped me secure wonderful outfits for multiple occasions, including my first real suit for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

“It’s easy to be complacent in how we look,” Robbins added. “It’s easy for one day to slack into the next. But please, take a few moments, look at yourself, and ask, ‘Can’t I feel special?’”

GeekWire founders Todd Bishop, left, and John Cook are joined on stage at the 2017 GeekWire Gala by Daniel Robbins and Teresa Konopka. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Teresa Konopka loves her dresses, as seen in various images from the past year that she shared with GeekWire. (Photos courtesy of Teresa Konopka)

Last year at Nordstrom, Konopka said she wished she could have the same experience every day. In a recent email to GeekWire, she said the Reboot changed her own style perspective over the past year.

“I am more stylish and fashionable,” she said. “Instead of just leaving the house in whatever junk I have, I make a dedicated effort to look nice, if only for myself.

Konopka shared several photos of herself wearing dresses, adding that a dress that fits perfectly will feel just as comfy as sweats and that she likes dresses because they’re just one piece with no matching necessary — all the work is done for her.

“I learned from last year’s makeover that a well fitted dress can do wonders for my overall look,” Konopka said. “Fashion does not have to be painful!”