by Kat Price
At age 34, Todd M. Shrider is bridging the gap between the analytical and the creative. Despite starting his career in engineering as a dot com-er he now resides as a hair stylist with DL Salon, a freelance hair stylist and art director, a marketing committee member with the Indianapolis Fashion Collective, and a blogger at ahairguy.com. Over french pressed coffee, Todd explains the intricate nuances of a complete career change and the importance of a full plate.
KAT PRICE: I have to begin this conversation by expressing my genuine surprise that your previous identity was that of a Linux programmer.
TODD M. SHRIDER: Yeah, I rode the wave. I spent a considerate portion of my twenties in San Francisco as an engineer working amongst the Open Source movement. We all know how the story ends, but it was a tremendous and life-altering experience that has brought me, boom and bust, to this point in my life.
PRICE: What are you doing professionally now?
SHRIDER: Well, after deciding that my sojourn in the field of technology had ended, I felt the need to come home and indulge in the classic cliche of getting back to my roots, or going back to where I started, which turned out to be a quite fortunate venture. Due to my creative interests I found myself as an artist’s apprentice, which I like to consider my rebirth or restoration of sorts. I enrolled in cosmetology school on the whim of a certain curiosity and found that what I initially dismissed as a passing phase developed into something of a passion. After I graduated I was lucky enough to get a first year position at DL Lowry.
PRICE: DL Lowry is quite particular in the training and integration of their stylists. The first year is a training process. How was that transition?
SHRIDER: So many of my fellow students were chomping at the bit to assert themselves as individuals, but I was actually somewhat relieved to have that extra year to develop all the things I had just absorbed in a structured environment in which stylists are not only encouraged, but required to continually evolve and learn new skills. My first year I took an intensive workshop with Ruth Roche in New York, followed by my first training seminar with Steve Moody of Vidal Sassoon. I felt like I was in graduate school and was later given the opportunity to assist on multiple projects for both of these mentors, which is where I really started to open up a whole new line of thought regarding my career as a work in progress.
PRICE: You must be heavily occupied at the moment with DL Lowry opening up the new DL Salon, but what other projects are you currently involved in?
SHRIDER: I very recently started getting involved in the marketing committee for the Indianapolis Fashion Collective. It is an eclectic group of local designers, photographers, make-up artists, hair stylists and pretty much anyone involved in fashion; a few boutique owners even. This is a fairly new effort, under a year old, and we’re essentially trying to increase awareness of these creative people doing work in Indianapolis and the potential for creative collaborations within this network.
PRICE: You’re blog is much like a chronological record of your most recent discoveries with link to link connections, and clearly, cool stuff as it comes to you.
SHRIDER: That is a very accurate insight because, personally, I treat my blog as a brain dump. There are a ton of people blogging in similar tumblr-style formats, and for much longer than I have, but the problem with the basic blog is they seem to come and go.
PRICE: You go to some really creative people’s websites and see that they haven’t blogged in several months.
SHRIDER: I say people come and go in digital times, but I think that at least within this local style and design collective we’re building, we will be able to pop up and get involved through the larger organizations like Midwest Fashion Week, the Indianapolis Fashion Collective, Indianapolis Fashion Times etc, as well as give the people that are actively blogging the realization that there are people who are actually interested and they’ll be motivated to do more.
PRICE: Blogs, in general, tend to fall into specific areas with their own little niche audience. Do you write with a specific audience in mind?
SHRIDER: I’m trying to communicate to a pretty diverse audience. I’m interested in clients from the salon being able to get something from it, I’m interested in people from the local fashion community finding something in it, and ultimately individuals who are interested in collaborating. As I mentioned before, I use my blog as a way to simultaneously organize and share my artistic ideas/interests, and through sharing, find others who share either a similar sensibility or overall vision.
PRICE: You were deeply immersed in the dot com days as a engineer and have a pretty progressive carry over in this vain. Did you begin blogging under a corporate context for career purposes, or was this just a way to transpose your computer skills onto a more creative canvas?
SHRIDER: Right now my blog is a personal blog. It could easily turn into something else down the road, and I certainly have a consistent onslaught of ideas about that, but I also need to let it take it’s own course and develop of it’s own accord. So, from a blogger’s perspective there’s that. And then from a community perspective it’s just about building relationships, I think.
PRICE: To say you hit the ground running seems like somewhat of an understatement when considering your rapid ascent within an extremely fast-paced and often cut-throat industry. Is it ever overwhelming?
SHRIDER: When you work in a busy salon you have to learn to juggle. From day one as a stylist’s apprentice I had more than a handful on my plate and I knew if I was going to make it through the program I just had to deal with it, over time what might seem impossible becomes the norm. Over the years that attitude tends to carry through into the way you live. I find now that if I don’t have a full plate, then I’m not really happy. When you’re busy it’s always exciting to see what the next day will bring.
Kat Price is a freelance writer who most recently interviewed Keir Gilchrist for Bullett Magazine. She resides in Indianapolis as a advocate of all things creative.