Monday 22 Aug 2016
Speaker Spotlight: Interview with Uday Gajendar
Fluxible's “Speaker Spotlight” series features an interview with a 2016 Fluxible Conference speaker. We asked Uday Gajendar some questions about his work, his inspirations, and what he's most looking forward to at Fluxible. Here is what he said:
You are an educator, speaker and consultant. What does a typical day look like for you right now?
Yes, it's quite a busy cycle! I do have specific days dedicated to certain clients which helps maintain some regularity. But it’s a very “dynamic” schedule otherwise, with phone calls, meet-ups in SF, or doing webinars. Even if I end up working entirely from home some days, however, I always dress up like I’m ready to impress a client — it just helps to instill confidence and project a designerly aura!
What was your path into design leadership and education?
I am what some may call a “classically trained” designer, having done my BFA in industrial design and MDes in interaction design in formal university programs. It was upon joining industry at a large corporate design department (over 200 people!) that I started to really grok the notion of “leadership” and “influence” in design contexts — all the politics and minutia that school rarely teaches! I had to learn the hard way of being a brazen revolutionary, flaunting the corporate design rules and nearly getting fired ;-) haha. But I thankfully found some sympathetic mentors along the way who guided me with their own wisdom and lessons, too! Very grateful for that.
You've talked about "prototyping" your career, why do you think it's important to look at your career as a design challenge?
Because I don’t honestly know what's the final end state—a career is quite amorphous! I’d rather enjoy the journey and approach it all as a continual learning process via iteration and evaluating, to see if I’m maximizing personal value and also generating value for someone else along the way. At each stage the problems or goals may vary as you traverse through life stages and experiential growth curves, perhaps hitting some plateaus too. A design lens helps to properly, or at least reasonably, frame that which is constantly evolving… identifying ways to focus yourself on what matters most at that moment. Else it all kind of devolves into a hazy meandering mess of “meh” and then you wonder what hapepened to your life. Who wants that? Keep prototyping and learning and improving!
What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
Well, certainly not the pay! For me, It’s about sharing my insights towards awakening their latent curiosity, triggering a spark of passion for something they (the students) maybe didn’t realize could be truly fun and engaging — maybe it’s a framework of problem analysis or a model of tackling “big data” or realizing how grids can shape a coherent design system engineers can actually build, etc. Not to mention the prospect of inspiring a new generation of designers who will no doubt be smarter and better than me!
What makes being a designer meaningful to you?
Envisioning something that can somehow add little bit of beauty and meaning in someone’s life. There’s so much complexity and ambiguity (and yes, drudgery!) in our work, but seeking those opportunities to add a bit more aesthetic charm is vital for ourselves as creative professionals and our customers, who have daily struggles in their own lives. If we can somehow improve that in way that's memorable, great!
What books/movies/music have inspired you?
Lots! I’m an omnivore when it comes to indulging in pop culture and media, often finding bits and pieces that inspire new thinking or ideas… But two big ones stand out for me: The Matrix for its daring attempt to visualize philosophies of reality and rebellion into a true cinematic tour de force. Frank Herbert’s Dune for blending social, political, and religious themes into a powerful epic rooted in what the world might become. As a designer I feel I’m constantly creating pieces of a new world and embodying various contradictions of ideas, theories, philosophies, or styles in a way that maybe inspiring or even cautionary
What are you looking forward to most at Fluxible 2016?
Well, I heard there were goats last year, so I’m eager to see what tops that! And of course making very good Canadian UX Friends in case the US Elections in November don’t work out (hint, hint). But otherwise I've heard such positive reviews from past Fluxible events, so I'm excited to finally experience it myself.
Will attendees find you sampling beer or at the espresso machine?
Neither, sipping damn good whiskey!