Meet the hard-working techies getting a Geek Style Reboot, just in time for tonight’s GeekWire Gala

Teresa Teresa Konopka and Daniel Robbins
Boeing airplane safety engineer Teresa Konopka, left, and HTC UX designer Daniel Robbins are getting a Geek Style Reboot before attending the GeekWire Gala in Seattle on Wednesday night. (Photos courtesy Konopka and Robbins)

Creating user experiences for virtual reality or making sure that airplanes don’t fall out of the sky might rank as more important pursuits than deciding what clothing to wear to work.

In sometimes style-challenged Seattle, the popular stereotype seems to be that casual Friday bullied the rest of the days of the week into just wearing fleece. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tech geeks out there who want to look — and feel — better.

And now GeekWire has stepped in, with big help from Nordstrom, to give two lucky readers a first-ever Geek Style Reboot just in time for Wednesday night’s annual GeekWire Gala at the Museum of History & Industry.

Our two winners, selected from entries last week, are spending half of the day at the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store, getting pampered and primped and outfitted in time for the big holiday party. They’ll hit the Nordstrom spa before meeting with a personal stylist and beauty consultant — part of an amazing day of reenergizing — that will conclude with them appearing on stage at tonight’s sold out Gala.

Good humored and open for a fun challenge, both agreed to have a reporter (that’s me) follow them around for the day.

They both answered some fashion-related questions and shared images ahead of time so we can get a better understanding of their style thought process before Nordstrom gets a hold of them.

Learn more about our Geek Style Reboot winners below, and check back tomorrow for how everything came together before and during the Gala.

Daniel Robbins

Daniel Robbins
(Photo courtesy Daniel Robbins)

Robbins, 48, is a Principal UX Designer in the Creative Labs group at HTC-Vive. He’s also a husband, father, sculptor, maker, strategist and Burner — code for someone who attends the Burning Man festival. He says he has extensive experience leading the design and strategy aspects of high-profile, future-oriented technology projects.

  • Daniel Robbins
    (Photo courtesy Daniel Robbins)

    Describe why you’re the hardest working geek in town, and need a day of pampering. I work in the VR/AR industry and because of this our projects and deliverables change all the time. … but the real reason I’m working harder than ever is that my wife recently went back to nearly full-time work and I am doing my best to help with childcare, kid pickups, making breakfasts and lunches and basically many of the tasks that women all of the world have shouldered for age immemorial. It’s hard and humbling work but I am thrilled, on top of my day job in tech, to support her in her career and her side passion of singing with a band every Tuesday night.

  • Who’s your style icon — real or imaginary? Erlich (Bachman, from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”)
  • What’s your favorite work uniform? My summer clothes tend toward shorts, button-down short sleeve, and sandals. The other 50 weeks of the year I wear long pants (rarely jeans) and a button down shirt, and beat-up leather loafers. People react with surprise when they see me in a shirt that isn’t plaid.
  • Describe Seattle style. Aggressive fleece and privileged slouch.
  • What’s your favorite accessory? Bluetooth earbuds for my daily bicycle ride to work.
Daniel Robbins
(Photo courtesy Daniel Robbins)

Robbins told Nordstrom that he likes wearing his work shirts unbuttoned and that all of his pants already have belts in them so he doesn’t have to move one belt from item to item. (We call that Larry David style!)

“I grab whatever is in my closet with nary a look in the mirror,” wrote Robbins, adding that his favorite color is purple and he also likes to wear pink.

Daniel Robbins
(Photo courtesy Daniel Robbins)

When asked where he typically likes to shop, Robbins said, “Huh? I don’t understand this question. Things just appear in my side of the closet, magically. And then sometimes they disappear. This process is a mystery to me.”

As for what he would usually wear to an event like the Gala, Robbins said he’s been making do with hand-me-down, 20-year-old wool Nordstrom suits from his uncle George, who in no way shares his body type.

“I never know what to wear when I have a special event to go to,” he said. “And two years ago when I tried to get my shoes shined, the guy in Columbia Tower said he couldn’t help me.”

Teresa Konopka

Teresa Konopka
(Photo courtesy Teresa Konopka)

Konopka, 26, is an Airplane Safety Engineer at The Boeing Co., where she has worked for four years. She says that understanding all the ways that an airplane could crash — and making sure that doesn’t happen — is very stressful work.

  • Teresa Konopka
    (Photo courtesy Teresa Konopka)

    Describe why you’re the hardest working geek in town, and need a day of pampering. Working stresses out most people, but how many people’s job is it to worry? How many people’s work performance can mean life or death for the customer? Welcome to my world! As an Airplane Safety Engineer at The Boeing Co., it is my job to think of all the ways the airplane can crash. Yes, you read that right. This involves thinking through all the failures, malfunctions, threats, scenarios and probabilities. I must review airplane designs and meet with various teams. The end goal is to ensure that the plane can still safely fly and land in the event of an emergency. There is no slacking off at my job. If I mess up something, the safety of the plane is compromised, which can lead to a catastrophe. My job is very important, but also very stressful. The average person gets on a plane without a care in the world, completely trusting the airplane and even making plans for when they land unharmed at their destination. I worry and work and design and troubleshoot hard every day so the flying public can enjoy this peace of mind. You’re welcome for keeping your airplanes safe!

  • Who’s your style icon — real or imaginary? My style icon is Audrey Hepburn. Her style is classic yet fashionable.
  • What’s your favorite work uniform? My go-to work outfit can be seen in my Blue Angles picture (above). It is a simple conservative dress paired with leggings. Help me dress more hip, please! I want to go to the Gala looking FLY.
  • Describe Seattle style. Seattle style is a mix of casual meets professional. There are blazers paired with jeans, skirts paired with T-shirts, and briefcases alongside backpacks. It is very hipster meets Calvin Klein.
  • What’s your favorite accessory? My favorite accessory is a wide-brimmed hat. It keeps my hair dry in the rain and keeps my skin safe in the sun. Very practical!
Teresa Konopka
(Photo courtesy Teresa Konopka)

Konopka told Nordstrom that she typically shops at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. She almost always wears dresses or pairs skirts and blouses. She likes bright colors and prints.

“I really like outfits that can go from work to fun,” Konopka said. “When it comes to shoes, comfort is No. 1. I am not very good at walking in high heels and prefer some sort of cushion inside.”

Now that you’ve met our geeks in need of a reboot, here’s a look at the schedule for Dan and Teresa’s special day. Make sure to tell them how good they look when you see them at the Gala. And follow along for some of the fun tomorrow afternoon and evening on GeekWire’s Twitter account, where I’ll be tweeting using #GeekStyleReboot.

  • 11:30 a.m.: Arrive at Nordstrom downtown Seattle store.
  • 11:30 – 1 p.m.: Spa Nordstrom massage.
  • 1 – 2 p.m.: Lunch at the Nordstrom Grille with Kristen Mauck, director of IT at Nordstrom.
  • 2 – 3:15 p.m.: Appointment with a Nordstrom personal stylist to select an outfit for the GeekWire Gala.
  • 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.: Complexation consultation with a Nordstrom beauty stylist.
  • 5 – 5:45 p.m.: Haircut at Gene Juarez.
  • 5:45 p.m.: Leave for GeekWire Gala!
  • 6:00 p.m.: Arrive at the GeekWire Gala
  • 7:20 p.m.: Dazzle the crowd with their rebooted style on the Gala stage