“My career path has been anything but linear, which comes as a bit of a surprise even to me!” says Sharon Ng (MAcc ’04). “I had traversed several different finance functions and industries before making the transition to a much less traditional role.”
Here’s the back story. Sharon started out in audit for her first co-op work term at KPMG in 2001, soon moving into cross-border personal taxes and estate planning. On graduating from UW, she joined the corporate tax function at Deloitte & Touche. In 2006, armed with her new CA designation, she crossed over to a large department store retailer, where she soon served on its Finance Special Projects team. Five years later she became Director, Corporate Reporting for an international hotelier, and then Corporate Controller at a financial institution.
Serendipitous events led to her rejoining the retail industry in 2013 – this time as a merchandise planner for women’s contemporary apparel. “It was a career move I had contemplated for years,” Sharon reports, “and I was finally ready to take the leap.” This position means she can merge her strengths in finance and accounting with her unbridled enthusiasm for fashion and retail.
“For the first time in my career, I can make decisions that drive top and bottom line results for a commodity I feel strongly about,” she told us. “It’s a refreshing new perspective.”
Backseat Stylers is Born
Interesting as all that is, it’s still just the back story – at least for this posting. Sharon’s daytime job is one big thing, her nighttime job is quite another big thing – and that’s the front story: “The Backseat Stylers” fashion blog that Sharon and her sister Tara started in 2009.
“We had watched Canadian label DSquared2’s fashion show during the Toronto International Film Festival,” Sharon recalls, “and we were intrigued by this world that was so different from what we knew.” What began as a casual exploration spiraled into “a fervent addiction to fashion week coverage, magazine editorials, and style blogs.”
Sharon and her health-sciences-student sister began thinking about how to explore the industry as more than consumers and how to bring Canadian fashion design and street style to the forefront. “One day we simply decided to do something about it,” Sharon says. “We came up with a name for our very own blog, registered it, and away we went!”
Peek into Fashion World
The flourishing, highly regarded Backseat Stylers blog is always evolving but sticks to its original raison d'être: to give the public a peek into the fashion world through the eyes of outsiders “sitting in the back row” of runway audiences.
“Though our seat assignments have improved,” says the UW grad, “we haven’t ventured far from our purpose.” The duo also regularly collaborates with national and international brands, recently serving on the judging panel of the Danier Design Challenge, and participating in Lancôme’s 20 Bloggers for a Rose Luminato installation and the social media committee of Fashion’s Night Out Toronto.
Winner of the 2012 P&G Beauty and Grooming Award for Best Fashion/Beauty Blog, the Backseat Stylers site has become a trusted source for Canadian and international fashion and retail news as well as a medium for Sharon and Tara to document their adventures in the industry. “We’ve been blogging for over four years now, and it’s been quite a ride,” laughs Sharon, who stresses that success has come not only from passion but from hard work -- and much external support.
“We’ve had to rely on the generosity of many people,” she continues. “Designers, retailers, marketing professionals, mainstream media personnel, bloggers – they’ve all had a hand in our success. These relationships are invaluable.” PR practitioners keep the women in the know, journalists feature Backseat Stylers in news stories, and other bloggers challenge and inspire the duo to reach ever greater heights.
“We’re incredibly passionate about the fashion industry and the business of blogging,” Sharon told us. “That comes through in every post we publish, and it’s what our readers relate to.” As well as reporting fashion buzz, the sisters work hard on building their relationship with their audience. “We’re committed to delivering unique, high-quality and informative stories in a timely manner. We hope our readers will keep coming back – and tell their friends about us!”
Life Beyond the Backseat
“I’m a merchandise planner by day and a fashion blogger by night, but the mother of a rambunctious four-year-old around the clock,” Sharon reports. “Playing hide-and-seek with our son, watching him develop his hockey skills, reading together – these are the very best parts of my days!”
Sharon is married to Geoff Hayes (MAcc ‘04), a fellow student in one of her first math classes at Waterloo. “The life we’ve created together started in the hallways of UW, and we share many fond memories of our time there.” Geoff is immediate past president of the SAF Alumni Association. For Sharon and Geoff, former classmates are far more than fading memories.
“I keep up with many of my fellow alumni,” says Sharon. “Just as they were there for key moments during my UW years, they’ve been there for all the important life events since graduation. We celebrated passing the UFE together, we partied like we were frosh students at my wedding, and one of them was even present when my son took his first steps.” Such relationships, now well into their second decade, are among those she values most.
Even if you’re not (yet) a fashionista, you’ll want to check out the fresh, frothy and photo-saturated Backseat Stylers site. You‘re bound to find the sisters’ enthusiasm to be infectious. We invite all alumni to share their career stories too, non-traditional or otherwise.