People + Places
In conversation with Sarah Young, a Dublin-based technician, aspiring bodybuilder, and all around cool gal. Sarah shares her captivating story, from the challenges of a female in a male-dominated role to her personal motivations and how she navigates the delicate balance between training and life. Keep reading to learn more about her inspirations, personal style, as well as her passion and unique approach to slow fashion.
June 28, 2023
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The moment I met Sarah, I knew this was a seriously cool gal. Full of energy and conversation, I was instantly impressed by her unique story and fun 'alternative chic' style.
Sarah is a 29-year-old Dublin native, currently working at Intel and just beginning a journey into the world of bodybuilding. And she is also a model and brand ambassador for Bon+Berg!
Sarah's journey is a lesson in how to embrace opportunities, rise to challenges, and follow your passions with unwavering dedication!
In a recent conversation, we talked about the trials, motivations, and the lessons she's learned along the way. She also shared her personal journey towards sustainability, her unique style influences, and her thoughts on the fashion industry's impact on the environment.
Finding an accidental career
Interestingly, Sarah tells me she originally pursued a path in art, spending a year to compile an art portfolio. She soon realised this path may not be financially sustainable, and switched gears completely to pursue science.
Sarah discovered her aptitude and love for physics and chemistry, and achieved a degree in industrial and environmental physics.
After a short stint working in a lab in Canada, Sarah ‘almost accidentally’ secured her current job at Intel, she explains.
Following this, she discovered she had a particular interest in medical physics. So, despite working full-time, by saving up her holidays and using them strategically for exams and assessments, she went on to specialise in this area.
The journey wasn’t easy. It was an intense experience, but after two years of study, she successfully completed a Level 8 degree as an add-on to her original degree.
Sarah’s passion for learning and her enthusiasm for physics definitely shine through and are almost contagious. I ask her what she likes most about the subject.
“I think I just like learning and there's always something new to learn in physics”, she chuckles. It fascinates her because there are always new discoveries and unanswered questions to explore.
Fitting into the technical world
As a technician at Intel, Sarah plays a vital role in maintaining the production process and ensuring quality control. Her job involves fixing motherboards used for testing the electrical quality of semiconductor chips.
She explains, it’s a dynamic role that keeps her engaged. There’s always something different to work on. She loves the hands-on nature of the work, which involves tasks like soldering, trouble-shooting errors, and repairing computer hardware.
“With my current job, I like doing stuff on my hands. It's a very hands-on job. A lot of soldering and that type of thing. I like that stuff."
We touch briefly on the gender dynamics on the job. While her undergraduate courses had a good mix of male and female students, Sarah tells me Intel is a predominantly male-dominated environment. There are only three women on her team.
"I've definitely encountered a lot of mansplaining… that's the thing that frustrates me the most. The job itself is incredibly challenging but dealing with people is probably the most challenging part of it.”
Her advice: Choose your battles wisely and recognise that some individuals may be set in their ways.
Fortunately, her current team is both supportive and friendly. And Sarah’s positive attitude allows her to remain undeterred by the occasional sexism she faces.
While enjoying her job at Intel, Sarah’s aspirations don’t stop there. She hopes to move into the medical field and work in a clinical setting or hospital.
“I am currently saving up to do a Master's degree, hopefully next September, then I may go into radiotherapy or something similar."
The road to bodybuilding
“So how did you go from being a gym regular to stepping onto the bodybuilding stage?”, I ask.
Like many of us, Sarah was unable to hit the gym during the pandemic. It was during this period that she realised just how much she missed weightlifting.
“I had always enjoyed lifting weights and staying active”, she says. “But after lockdown, I decided to push myself further and try out some bodybuilding.”.
About bodybuilding she says, "I never thought, Oh, I'm gonna do that… Even just the act of getting onstage in a bikini in front of people is daunting."
Sarah was just somehow drawn to the discipline and dedication it demanded. Not one to take the easy road, she made the choice to challenge herself, both mentally and physically.
Sarah explains that preparation for competition requires incredible discipline. Strict adherence to diet and exercise is crucial.
"Once you start prep, you don't get days off."
When I asked Sarah whether anyone can do bodybuilding, she had some valuable advice to share.
She assures me bodybuilding is a sport for everyone. Regardless of age, weight, or physique, anyone can embark on this journey – it's simply a matter of setting personal goals, putting in the work, and being mentally prepared for the sacrifices involved.
Bodybuilding, according to Sarah, can be a fantastic way to build strength, challenge yourself, and boost confidence.
"It's a good test of your confidence and also a way to build your confidence!"
Personally, I don’t think I’ll be trying out bodybuilding any time soon. But it’s great to know that it’s an option for everyone!
Balancing training and life
Sarah also candidly shares with me that she suffers with endometriosis, a chronic condition that can affect energy levels and hormonal balance.
As part of managing the disease, Sarah approaches her bodybuilding journey with caution.
She finds that regular exercise and mindful eating help alleviate symptoms. And she emphasises the importance of paying attention to your body and making adjustments accordingly.
She further explains, listening to her body is top priority to avoid burnout and is crucial for achieving sustainable progress.
Sarah advocates for a healthy mindset in the sport, encouraging others not to succumb to disordered eating habits or the temptation to use performance-enhancing substances.
Making more sustainable choices everyday
We switch topics and I ask Sarah about another subject she is incredibly passionate about, sustainability.
Sarah describes a pivotal moment of realisation when she moved into her grandparents' house during the pandemic. She was suddenly confronted with the excess amount of material possessions she had accumulated over the years.
"I felt so bad throwing it away. You're just looking at stuff like, why did I buy this? Like, I've never used it, I've never worn it or whatever. And it's just been sitting there."
For Sarah, this experience triggered a deep reflection on the impact of consumerism and waste on our world.
"The amount of pollution that the fashion industry causes, not just from waste but also from their factories is terrible... I think slow fashion is very important."
Every choice has an impact, and choosing sustainable options can make a difference, she explains.
"There's always something you can do with an old shirt. The amount of pollution that the fashion industry causes drives me insane."
A knowledge of environmental physics helped Sarah develop a better understanding of the detrimental effects our actions can have on the planet.
"I took a couple of environmental physics courses and learned how much of an impact everything has on the world and the universe. It’s terrifying."
Sarah is a big believer in repurposing old clothes or donating them to those in need, rather than contributing to the growing problem of textile pollution.
"I wear a lot of the same things over and over again because if I buy something I love, I'll wear it to death... I always try to take really good care of my clothes."
And, she suggests hand washing and air drying clothes, including jeans, to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
Sarah’s approach to sustainable fashion is multifaceted. While she admits to occasional impulse buys, she conscientiously aims to support sustainable brands whenever possible, and aligns all of her purchasing decisions with her values.
“If I'm buying something brand new, I'll try to buy from a sustainable brand.”
"Big brands bring out new styles every five minutes. Then everyone's like, oh, I need this because it's new. They wear it twice. Then never wear it again", she fumes.
Sarah highlights the value of timeless, classic pieces over fleeting trends.
Knits, second hand treasures, and an effortless alternative style
Sarah certainly understands that embracing slow fashion is crucial in combating the pollution caused by the fashion industry.
So what’s your personal style?, I ask.
"I've never worn the latest fashion. I love knitwear... I think that’s where my love for clothes came from."
Sarah’s affinity for knitwear, a cornerstone of her personal style, is largely influenced by her grandmother, who taught her to knit. She has been designing her own knits since she was a child, giving these pieces both sentimental value and versatility.
Sarah’s style effortlessly blends alternative fashion elements, like Doc Martens, admittedly a key component in 99% of her outfit choices!, with cosy, timeless pieces, to create a distinctive and comfortable aesthetic.
Sarah’s main advice for anyone trying to be more sustainable – explore secondhand shops.
Sarah fondly recalls finding an epic graduation dress, a beautiful red dress with a unique beaded design, for only €15 in a secondhand shop!
"In secondhand shops you find stuff that isn't on the high street or whatever, because it's not in fashion. But you find really cool stuff..." She says the same of her grandparent’s wardrobes, if you can!!!
“My granddad's jumpers are great. Whenever he decides he doesn't want one anymore, he'll give it to me.”
Finally, I ask Sarah what she loves most about the brand and what her favourite Bon+Berg piece is.
"I love how soft the underwear is, it's so soft. And I also think the style of the underwear is really nice. It's really flattering."
“My favourites are the Macha thong and the Aura triangle bra with criss-crossed straps.”