#Ep 53 | Darine with Praveeni Perera: Discover How To Find A Perfect Balance Between Your Profession And Your Passion
[00:00:00] Darine: Who says you can't be anything you want? And today our STANDOUT guest, listen, she's quite impressive. From Monday to Friday, she's a weekday college professor, but on the weekends she has a second career and she's a fashion force to be reckoned with. And her incredible story is prove that you can have it all.
[00:00:29] Darine: So, hello, welcome to STANDOUT From The Crowd, the first live podcast about no BS leadership. So if you like us, tell your friends and colleagues to go over on Apple Podcast and Spotify to give us a five-star review because I do believe we are worth it, don't you? We are also available on all your favorite podcasting platforms, how cool is that? Praveeni Perera our STANDOUT guest today. as I said, she's a professor, she's an author, a blogger, and an influencer based in Ottawa, Canada. She started her blog as a hobby in 2017 after friends and coworkers kept asking her where she got her outfits from. And during our conversation, we are going to discuss how she balances her weekdays as a professor and her passion for fashion on the weekend.
[00:01:26] Darine: So please help me welcome Praveeni to the STANDOUT podcast. Hello dear!
[00:01:34] Praveeni: Hi Darine, how are you?
[00:01:35] Darine: I'm doing fantastic, how are you doing?
[00:01:37] Praveeni: I'm doing well.
[00:01:40] Darine: So Praveeni, first of all, I wanna thank you for being here with us today because you have two careers, so two busy life in one and still you found the time to spend half an hour with us today. So thank you so much for that. I have a question that is burning now, and I wanna start with this question. What did come first, your passion for teaching, for education or your passion for fashion?
[00:02:04] Praveeni: Oh, I've always had a passion for fashion. From the time I was a little girl, I loved putting outfits together. I loved watching my mom get ready and I had you know, my own little purses and I would stuff it with Monopoly money cuz I didn't have any real money at the time. Uh, so I'd have to say my passion for fashion from the time I was a little girl. But I always enjoyed teaching and, that was essentially my dream job. It became my dream job and something I was always aspiring.
[00:02:36] Darine: So teaching was your dream job, that's what you're telling us, right?
[00:02:39] Praveeni: Yes, and I did. I fell into it by accident. I didn't know that would be my dream job. I very stereotypically, as a good South Asian student, wanted to be a doctor. It's very stereotypical. But then I realized that was not something that I actually wanted to pursue. And then over the years I discovered teaching and training, and that's how I fell.
[00:03:03] Darine: And so I'm curious to know, how did you choose teaching over fashion since fashion was your passion since a very young age, it's something that you could have pursued as a career in the first place, right? So what made you decide to pursue education as opposed to pursuing fashion as a career?
[00:03:23] Praveeni: Um, I think that I never quite thought about working in fashion. I just liked fashion and I liked participating in fashion. I didn't so much think about being a fashion designer or working you know, for a fashion house or anything like that.
[00:03:38] Praveeni: I was more so a fan of it and, and the participant in it. Whereas when it came to my career, I was very focused on sort of what I wanted to do and those particular goals. But you know, you've asked a very interesting question because I don't know why I never thought about working in fashion, but I was more so a participant.
[00:03:57] Darine: Okay, now you discovered your passion for education, you know, for teaching, and you decided to pursue a career into it, and you are quite successful at it because you are a full-time professor, a full-time college professor, which is great. Uh, now can you tell us about the moment you realized that hmm, you know, there is something that I can do with fashion?
[00:04:22] Praveeni: I think, like I said, I fell into it by accident, I was always a participant. I loved putting outfits together. I loved you know, mixing and matching pieces and I wanted to be a little bit more creative with my work wear as well, and not wear the classic sort of black, gray, blue that we often wear here in North America in, and I would try to experiment a little bit at work, and then I had my coworkers asking me about where I found my clothing. Friends would ask me of the weekends. I would really get to have fun with my outfits if we were going out to eat or going somewhere, going on a trip or something like that. And then, It wasn't until one of my coworkers actually said, you know, I saw some of the photos you're posting on social media.
[00:05:10] Praveeni: You're quite the fashionista on the weekends that I thought about maybe starting a blog and calling it the Weekend Fashionista because. Of just because of what she said, and then I essentially started it so I wouldn't have to constantly be telling people, this is where I got this piece, or sending an email and I could just have it on online, on a website, and then have Instagram and just have the photo and then the explanation.
[00:05:36] Darine: I Would like to know your process into starting following a more formal route into fashion, running a blog, did you at some point feel like, okay, should I do it? I shouldn't do it? Will people judge me? Because like many of us, we have our professional career, right? Being an entrepreneur, being a corporate leader, and of course we are multi-passionate as individual. . And sometimes I feel like even myself, right? I'm passionate about a lot of things, but sometimes I feel, yes. Listen, Darine, you have been doing like building your career for 10 years. I have built a personal brand around women's leadership and women's empowerment and so on.
[00:06:20] Darine: And let's say if tomorrow I wanna start a skincare line, and be focused onto makeup or, because those are the things that I like also, right? I'm like, yeah, people will think, what? What's going on? She's lost, she's losing herself and mind. And so, you know, Through that, sometimes there are like things that I would like to pursue, but I don't because I don't know if the fear, if it's the fear of judgment of just myself, you. Thinking about, okay, I wanna remain credible in my industry. So is that something that you experienced? Is that something that you felt or maybe that you thought of? What was the process?
[00:07:00] Praveeni: Yes, that's definitely something I thought of because some people view fashion and blogging as being a little frivolous, right? And I think, and I did myself as well when I started it, I did think, okay, you know, this is just for fun. It's just something I'm gonna do off and on as a hobby. But once you start to learn more about it and look at how people have actually built very successful businesses as blockers, as influencers, I think there's a little bit more respect that comes with it.
[00:07:32] Praveeni: But if you don't know a lot about it, there's certainly that fear of being viewed as, as not as serious or a little frivolous. So, um, something I still deal with, I mean, I position myself as you know, just only doing one thing. And I think that's important. We should always look at multiple streams of work and income as well and it's part of my brand and I like to say weekday professor, weekend fashionista, and it just works so well with the name of my blog. But it's definitely something that I had to deal with. And I find women more so than men have to deal with that because we have to work a little bit harder to establish that credibility.
[00:08:16] Darine: That's very true. So your main platform as an influencer, and you said something we went live. You said something very interesting. I'm not a, I'm not an influencer, I'm a work influencer. Tell us more about that.
[00:08:28] Praveeni: I caught myself that because I worked, full-time as a professor, I love what I do.
[00:08:35] Praveeni: I absolutely love teaching, love the program I'm teaching, I'm very thankful for the opportunity to interact with so many different, uh, diverse groups of students. Uh, and then I'm, I also have this, uh, you know, blog and the work that I do as an influencer. But because I'm not a full-time influencer, I have a, another full-time job I thought of calling myself a work influencer because I work, but I'm also doing some work as an influencer.
[00:09:02] Darine: So, and how do you, how do you balance
[00:09:05] Praveeni: It takes a lot of time management as anything would, right? It's just planning and organizing your day and your priorities. And sometimes you do need to say no to campaigns of things that don't quite align with your professional brand. I've declined my fair share of work, of campaigns because I didn't feel that it would be beneficial to my work as a professor.
[00:09:31] Praveeni: And I think that's important to keep in mind because if you are a work closer, you also want to maintain that level of professionalism. So it's just knowing what to say yes to and what to say no to Prioritizing your time. I love to plan my day. I still have an old school planner that you actually write in. So, that always helps me too. I need to write things down if I want to remember them, especially, you know, due dates and meetings and things like that. So, I just think it's. Time management and it is a skill and I'm not perfect at it. Nobody really is. But just managing your time well and prioritizing the things that matter and not over committing , say it again, and not over-committing.
[00:10:16] Darine: Oh, ooh. That one is very important, right? So how do you draw the line between? Okay, so we understand now, you know, you wanna keep your professional image, so you say yes to opportunities and partnerships that only align with your personal brand as a professor, also, because you are both, you're not one.
[00:10:38] Darine: On the other, you are both together, so that's very important. So how do you learn to draw the line about not over committing? Because this is often time where we start getting overwhelmed and when we start, things start falling apart.
[00:10:53] Praveeni: Yes, I had to teach myself to do that. And last year I called it the year of no, because I was going to actually start saying no to a lot of the collaborations that I was in.
[00:11:04] Praveeni: And I did because I had done so many collaborations for so many years and I was working full-time throughout all of that, and I thought I'm not really enjoying it. So the moment you feel like you're not going to enjoy something, that's almost like a gut feeling or a trigger to say: no. I mean, you can't say no to your work because we all have to do things we don't particularly enjoy as part of our job.
[00:11:28] Praveeni: But when it comes to something like a hobby or going to a social engagement if you are not going to enjoy it unless it's absolutely mandatory. You know, weddings, funerals usually mandatory, but, if you're not going to enjoy it and you feel a lot of anxiety about it, then that might be time to revisit whether or not you should actually participate.
[00:11:50] Darine: Mm-hmm....mm-hmm... Yeah, follow your gut. Usually your gut tell you the right answers. It's just that we are not used to listen to it.
[00:11:59] Praveeni: Yes, yes, and we don't like to say no. I think people always wanna say yes and be positive and be that dependable friend or you know, spouse or sibling or child. But we do at some point need to say no to certain things.
[00:12:16] Darine: So you have over a hundred thousand followers on Instagram, so congratulations. And you keep posting pictures and stories consistently. And so I'm wondering when did you realize that? Okay, you know, my fashion project, my fashion blog and my image on social media is something that I can create revenue. So that's a way to monetize your personal brand. So when did the shift happen and when did you realize it?
[00:12:49] Praveeni: Um, so I have to say that when I first started on Instagram and started my blog, I had no idea that was outlet for a revenue stream. I have absolutely no idea about it. I thought, I genuinely thought, and this is so naive, that these bloggers went to the stores and bought things on sale and posted them, and one, the main way that they made an income was through, like, to know it, or affiliate links.
[00:13:16] Praveeni: I honestly thought that. Uh, so my main goal was to get accepted on the like to Knowit platform as a blogger. That too took a long time. Cuz at that point they were not accepting a lot of people. I think I got rejected twice from that, okay? Because I didn't have the following and I didn't understand how any of that worked. But I did have a brand reach out to me in 2017. I think I had under a thousand followers then. And it was Susie Sheer. Mm, and my goal was just to get reposted by them, but they reached out to me and they wanted to collaborate. That was the first ever collaboration. And they were offering me you know, it was a gifted collaboration, but I had no idea.
[00:14:02] Praveeni: I thought I had to go buy all items myself, and that's what everybody does. That's what all the bloggers do for all the brands. So I had no idea about gifted collaborations. I had no idea about paid collaborations. But as I gained more momentum, I was also doing more research into blogging, seeing how I could collaborate with other brands.
[00:14:22] Praveeni: And then I learned about creating your price list for the type of. Uh, deliverables and content that you were creating? I learned about creating a media kit pitching to brands. Pitching to brands I didn't have to do too much work because as a business professor, I was aware of, you know, how you have your pitch and make business all yourself and things like that.
[00:14:45] Praveeni: But Creating Media Kit, totally new for me. I had never done it before. I didn't even know what you were supposed to put in it, o I did a lot of research. A lot of it was self-taught. Uh, you know, online talking to other people, observing other bloggers and influencers that are so successful and talking millions of followers and what are they doing?
[00:15:08] Praveeni: Uh, are they giving any advice? Sometimes people would post stories, lives, things like that. So that's really how. Came to the realization that you can monetize it. Now, talking about monetizing your Instagram is another way that people make money. as well, they do the whole training on it. So, um, by accident and trial and error is how I discovered it.
[00:15:31] Darine: And so a big part also of being successful on social media, not especially becoming an influencer, but you know, we talk about influencer work, influencer, entrepreneur, influencer, something like this. You know you can be an entrepreneur and an influencer. So for example, on LinkedIn, which is my main platform.
[00:15:53] Darine: And I think about Gary Vee, for example, who is generating revenue from his personal brand, leveraging social media. But he has a huge community. But beyond, you know, having a communities also being able to communicate and create that bond and connection with the people who resonate with your message.
[00:16:14] Darine: So my question then is what were your steps to building such a big engaged community? Because I know a lot of people posting on social media and putting a lot of effort in promoting their personal brand, sharing good quality content, providing value, but where, you know, they get discouraged and then they give up because of the lack of engagement or their inability at that moment.
[00:16:43] Darine: Build a community or to build an audience at least. So what would be your tips or recommendation and how did you do it?
[00:16:52] Praveeni: So I think my main tip would be that the main goal is to create the content you wanna. put the content out there and it's, you are not really responsible for the results because you cannot guarantee the results.
[00:17:06] Praveeni: Even I will have a post that does really well, you know, so many people commenting, liking, sharing, and then I'll have one that I think is amazing and I'm so excited, and it's a flaw, right? We can't predict how people are going to react. But this, it's also important to stay true to you and which you believe.
[00:17:24] Praveeni: I mean, I am very aware of the fact that my content is not for everybody. It won't resonate with everybody, and that's okay. And I think you, you need to be a little, little mature in thinking that, or understanding that, it's not for everybody. Not everybody is going to like your content even if they see your content.
[00:17:44] Praveeni: Not everybody is going to engage and that's absolutely fine. But there are people who will see it, who will share it, who will tell other people about it. And just as a side note, everybody gets discouraged. I, myself was very discouraged yesterday. I had engaged with the brand that I had supported for years. I've wanted to collaborate, they declined my proposal to collaborate and I was quite discouraged myself. So everybody gets those moments of anxiety or doubt as, and one thing I had to tell myself is the most any brand can say is no, that's the, or the worst they can say is no. That's the worst, that's the worst case scenario is they can say no.
[00:18:29] Praveeni: Uh, once you kind of get over that, it's fine. You might get nos, but you'll have one ye and that yes is gonna count.
[00:18:39] Darine: So, oh a hundred percent. Usually you receive more nos than yeses. Oh, it's important to understand that.
[00:18:47] Praveeni: But it's the one yes that's gonna make your day right. So just, you know, keep creating the content, growing that community.
[00:18:55] Praveeni: Also, it's important to engage with other creators like you so that you are on their radar. Sometimes they might not even know you, but if you are liking and commenting, engaging on their posts, then they'll notice, right? And they'll say, Hey, oh, here's a person like me. Let's follow each other. Let's be Instagram friends right? And that'll help grow your community as well. Also important, respond to the comments and engage with your followers. So you do wanna follow some of them back and make sure that they know that it's reciprocal. It's a two-way street. It's not just you asking them to do things for you, or follow you.
[00:19:34] Darine: Very true, yes.
[00:19:36] Praveeni: Two-way street.
[00:19:36] Darine: Yeah.
[00:19:37] Praveeni: And provide value. I try to provide content that is valuable, that people might find useful. Uh, you know, you wanna provide content. Yes, that's entertaining, that's fun. But also that's useful. That's not just gonna clock somebody's feeds there, there needs to be some value add in the content that you're pushing out there rather than, this is a beautiful picture. Okay, and what else? Right?
[00:20:02] Darine: Yes. The end is very important because this is where you can differentiate yourself, I believe. Posting pictures, posting videos. Let's get back to posting pictures, because I know posting videos can be still challenging for a lot of people watching us and listening to us, but posting a graph or maybe just a picture of yourself, everybody can do that.
[00:20:22] Darine: What is, where is the added. That's the thing, and this is where you're going to stand out from the crowd actually, because of the added value that you bring to a simple picture, uh, in the first place. What does your family think about it? Because as you said, you know, as a traditional Southeast Asian, I believe you said, right?
[00:20:45] Praveeni: South Asian, yes.
[00:20:45] Darine: South Asian, you know, like my family were expecting me to become a doctor and a lawyer and, you know, an engineer. I mean, this is known, so, what does your family think about you having two careers, completely different, you know, but successful careers, being so far away from the idea that they had of what it means to be successful for their daughter?
[00:21:14] Praveeni: My family has very supportive of it, and my mom was the one who took all my pictures when I first started. She took all my photos for the blog. And she was also one that sort of encouraged me to do it. And whenever I was slipping in my fashion sense, she would always tell me. So it almost felt like a natural transition.
[00:21:36] Praveeni: And to this day, if I'm doing still photos, it's, she takes my photos so she's been very supportive in that. I'm an only child, so it's just my parents and myself and my dad has also been very supportive. He would drive us to different locations to take photos and things like that. And my fiance has been very, very supportive of it too.
[00:21:58] Praveeni: I mean, I think I've dragged him to so many different blogging events and you know, different networking events and things like that. So because they've seen the good that can come out of it and the fact that it's almost like a fun way for everybody to engage and interact, they've been very supportive.
[00:22:18] Praveeni: And also I think I've also been very true to myself in the blog. And I don't take on, like I said, collaborations that go against my good conscience or my values. So I think that's helped them as sort of see that, yes, I'm doing this, but, and it might be a little bit out of the norm, but you know, I'm still.
[00:22:41] Darine: And I think now we are, I think now we are in the era where people understand the power of social media and how you can create a career and, you know, become successful by learning how to leverage social media. So I believe, you know, back in the day, that could have been more challenging, for more people, you know, to accept social media as a courier and an opportunity, you know, to become successful and to generate revenue.
[00:23:08] Darine: But now most of us, so we are millennials, but also the generation before, I do believe they understand now the potential of social media and how you can, you know, create multiple couriers now on social media because everything that you do, With the power of social media doesn't require you to be there 24/7.
[00:23:31] Darine: Like when you are a professor, you are required to be there because you are teaching your students, right? But when it comes to social media, you can create so many streams actually of revenue out of being on social media, building your personal brand on social media and building an audience, and then a community on social media.
[00:23:52] Darine: So I think it's important to understand the power of it. It's important to understand also that now you don't have to limit yourself because you have the potential to do and to be anything that you want, as long as you learn how to use and leverage the tools that are here at your dis at your disposal, social media is free.
[00:24:21] Darine: So yes, creating content, it takes time, it takes commitment, it takes energy. So there is an investment to do, you know, but if you learn how to leverage it, you can still be you a hundred percent of the time in your day-to-day job or your day-to-day career. And then you can decide to be someone else or, you know, to express another side of your personality, I should say leveraging social media without, you know, having to sacrifice your lifestyle and who you are and what you want to become in your day-to-day physical career. I don't know if it makes sense, but this is listening to you, this is really how I understand it and this is really how I see you.
[00:25:04] Praveeni: Absolutely. I mean, you don't need to put yourself in a box and limit yourself If there's something you enjoy doing, by all means make time in your day and in your schedule to engage in that, right?
[00:25:15] Praveeni: It, it's important for us to have time for our hobbies, things that bring us a little bit more joy and satisfaction. And that might very well be your job very much. Uh, I love being a professor, like I said, I think we were talking before we went live. It is my dream job. That is something I always wanted to do, and I would never leave that to pursue social media full-time.
[00:25:42] Praveeni: That's not, I just know that's not something I want to do. At least at this point in my life, that's not something I want to do. And if that's what you're aspiring to do, then by all means go for that as well. But never really limit yourself. Say, oh, you know, I'm, I don't know, a project manager, so that means I can't do this.
[00:26:00] Praveeni: No, it doesn't mean you can't do that. You just have to be a little bit more creative with where you make the time for that and how you frame that.
[00:26:08] Darine: And just to give you a concrete example, there is this lawyer, I don't know if you know her, I don't remember her name, she's based in Florida.
[00:26:15] Darine: She's a lawyer, like highly successful lawyer for likeI think the magazine Elle, like something big anyway. And she's so, she has so much fun on social media, you know, she's into fashion as well and she dances and she loves and she motivates people and she plays the star, you know, showcasing her outfit and she's a lawyer.
[00:26:41] Darine: So when you think about the lawyer, you think about, you know, the serious person, kind of boring person. I'm sorry for all the lawyers out there, but this is the perception, okay? This is the perception tied to the seriousness of your profession. But then, and she's highly successful on both as a lawyer and as an influencer, and because of her personal brand on Instagram, she's gaining clients for her own practice, right? So it is a win-win.
[00:27:08] Praveeni: Yes, absolutely, I'm gonna have to look her up, she sounds really fun.
[00:27:12] Darine: I'll send you her profile on Instagram. Like, she's amazing.
[00:27:16] Praveeni: Yeah. And I think you said something important where she's almost like breaking that stereotype of what we think a lawyer would be right? So that's also something I've been sort of working towards is, uh, just, you know, just because they're a professor doesn't mean that they're not fun, right? Granted, you know, like the students that I teach may not be my ideal audience or my demographic for the type of content I'm posting, but I think they're quite surprised when they find out that I have this blog and I don't start off advertising that in my introduction to them that it is important to be comfortable sharing different aspects of your life within reason of course in your professional life too.
[00:27:58] Darine: Yes, you said it. Also, thank you so much, Praveeni for being with us today. That was a wonderful conversation and I see you stayed from the beginning to the end, so thank you for watching the live. We will look at the comments. If you have any questions, comments, feel free to drop it below.
[00:28:16] Darine: And Praveeni so for those of our listener and viewers today who wanna follow you on Instagram and, you know, get some tips from your fashion blog, where can they find you?
[00:28:27] Praveeni: You can find me on Instagram at so the weekend fashionista, so @thewkndfashionista, but it's W K N D for weekend Fashionista.
[00:28:40] Darine: And we will put the link also in the comments. So feel free to check it out and to click on it so you can get some inspiration. And you can see like the beautiful outfits and pictures that she post over there on Instagram as well. So thank you so much Praveeni, that was a wonderful conversation. Again, that was a privilege to be able to talk with you today.
[00:29:00] Darine: For those of you who are new here, we will be back next week for another live episode of STANDOUT From The Crowd and you can scan the QR code here if you wanna subscribe and listen to more inspirational stories of Canadian women leaders because yes, we are portraying and showcasing the stories of Canadian women leaders who are successful in their own terms, and we love it because it is very inspiring.
[00:29:29] Darine: Thank you again, Praveeni, you take care. You stay safe, and I will see you soon. Bye-Bye everyone. Bye.