Interview:Hari Kumaran Babu(Chem-2013)

I am Hari Kumaran Babu, a.k.a HKB. I did my UG in B.Tech, Chemical Engineering from NIT Trichy. I will be graduating my PG in M.Des, Interaction Design from National Institute of Design soon.

Could you explain your current profile?
Currently, I am working as an Interaction Designer in Spime, Trimble Inc, at Thiruvanmiyur, Tidel Park, Chennai. My current job involves in actively designing experiences for Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality / Mixed Reality based Applications. My core project is on designing 3D Mixed Reality interactions for Microsoft Hololens Applications within Trimble. Other than this I am also actively designing mobile, tablet and web experiences for different products within Trimble. Design generally isn’t just graphics alone, it also involves in giving experiences to a user too. What I have told about design is just a small part, in reality, it is a lot broader than one thinks it to be.

What made you decide to pursue a career in design?
Self-Awareness & Passion. The standard answer everyone would have expected from my case is just Passion, but to me before passion, one must be self-aware to follow his passion, then only one can recognize their own abilities. There is a quote which I personally relate to,
Look around, there’s a difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand Euphoria! – By Bill Watterson “.
While I was at NITT, I actively pursued in extra-curricular activities and that too especially in graphic design be it for Festember / Pragyan / Feeds / Nittfest / Club Activities, because, it gave me immense satisfaction to do design. Engineering was never my cup of tea, but nevertheless, I didn’t abandon it. While in college, I got PPO in Reliance Industries Limited and took it up since my initial dream was to work in the petroleum sector. But once I started working, I didn’t like the job and the growth prospects I was getting to see, nor I found it to my liking. I was getting paid well, a good place to stay but something was missing. That’s why this quote relates to me so much. I was not at all satisfied with my job and I knew, I can never ever continue doing this type of job for the next 10 years.
At this juncture, I have witnessed many people opting for Masters or MBA. In my case, I was confused, so I decided that before I take a decision, I had to be very clear with my direction ahead. It is at this point, I knew, Self-Awareness was the key. I knew I am not MBA material. Neither I was interested in doing a Masters in Chemical Engineering. The only thing which elevated me during this period of depression was graphic designing. No matter in what mental state I was in, I just loved designing. That was when I decided to pursue a career in design.

What are the challenges in pursuing such a career?
Many. But no matter what the challenges be, I believe, one needs focus, commitment and endurance to pursue one’s passion. Any person, who follows this will find the challenges as dust in sand. Nevertheless, the challenges I faced are,
Mental Challenges: – Especially when you are breaking away from the societal norm and shifting from one field to another. When I decided to take the plunge, no one supported me and my decision. My family was totally against it. Only friends gave a positive word but with a word of caution. More than all these factors, it was my mental fear of whether I would end up being a loser. But there was this one thought that was stronger than any other thought – If I don’t take the plunge now, then I would regret my whole life and I knew it would haunt me forever. I didn’t want to live my life with regret, it’s better to be a loser in front of the society than to live a life filled with guilt and regret in shadows. So I took the plunge.
Financial Challenges: – I had given up a high paying job to work in a design job that just paid me enough to survive every month.
Physical Challenges: – With minimum support from family, I did what I can, earning as a designer for a startup and be working part-time as a freelancer and simultaneously preparing for Design Entrance Exams for my masters.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
In retrospect, I wish there was more awareness inside college about design and also know about the various opportunities and courses present in Design. I would also love to have known the kinds of job careers available in design and where all does it play an active role.

What should one do in college to help them pursue a career in design?
The most important factor is one needs to have interest in Design in order to pursue a career in it. When that interest blossoms as love towards design, that is when one will find a purpose in pursuing a career in design. I know many people, who have become designers after completing B.Tech in NITT. Each of them has their own direction on how they pursued a career in design. Some were part of the NITT Design Team, there were some who weren’t at all. Thus, it all boils down to interest and one’s decision and commitment towards it.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, internships etc.
More than skills, I believe, its the mindset and the right attitude. Skills are important yes. But the mindset is also equally important. According to me, being a designer is actually a very tough and responsible job. We need to know almost everything depending on what we are working on. The ability to design for any situation, any topic, any issue. In order to do that, we need to have a fair idea of it, if not then we have to research on it and then start designing for it.
For example, if your theme for Festember is Retro, then the overall design has to be based on the 970s – 1990s retro style. It takes even more effort to bring out something original on the creation of design and it is that ability which is highly respected. For that, we need to research properly and execute our ideas well. NITT Design Team provided me that opportunity and it is totally on ourselves to whether to bring about a change and showcase our skills or just let it pass and do a mediocre job.
Thus, in order to pursue a career in design, the work ethic of originality and the thought process is absolutely important. Ultimately, it is not the best skills, but the thought process which helps in pursuing a career in design. In my case, while in NITT, my stint with the Design Team working on Festember, Feeds simultaneously without compromising on quality helped me sharpen my skills. Also giving equal importance to Pragyan, Nittfest and other club activities helped me sharpen my skills.
While I was in NID, I undertook multiple freelance projects, along with my college projects which helped me in bringing in adaptability to different scenarios.

How can one be sure that a certain career path is right for them? What is a good way to make that decision?
Self-Awareness and Research.
I would recommend everyone who is at crossroads to do this small test in order to decide on their right career path. Take a sheet of paper or open your notes in mobile. Make a list of things you are good/ excellent at, another list you are not good at. Write them down honestly and make it an exhaustive list. Once done, read the whole list of things you are good at and the list of things you are bad at. Compare your current scenario/situation in what are you doing. Question yourself, ask yourself whether you are satisfied with what you are doing. Answer your questions. If you don’t find an answer for it, then go in search of it. Take as much as time possible. This process helps in establishing one’s self-awareness.
Proper in-depth research about the career path and its future prospects is crucial to making a decision on one’s suitable career path. Before making a decision, I insist everyone ask this one question to themselves, whether one’s prime motivation would sustain even after 10 years in the career path they have chosen. This motivation differs from person to person and it is unto the person to make the decision whether that motivation would sustain.

How does one effectively transition from engineering to a career in design? Is enrolling in a specialized course in design a good option? How do Indian design colleges compare to foreign ones in this regard?
This is a very subjective question and I believe each person has different perspectives on how one goes forward in their career. It is definitely a really good option to do a specialized course in design as you learn a lot from it. Depending on the courses, Indian Design Colleges compare well with the foreign colleges. Again, its a very subjective thing as there would be differing perspective in this regard. Ultimately, it boils down to how one uses the resources provided by the colleges and how one develops their skills. If you ask me, in addition to coursework study in design, the right attitude, commitment, and endurance to effectively succeed in design are necessary.
The ideal preparation to follow a career in design, after completing engineering, according to me is first to prepare a portfolio with your designs and creative works and
-To apply for Masters in Design by writing Design Entrance Examinations ( CEED ( which is for design courses in IITs & NID Entrance Exam )) also there are many famous private Design colleges in India.
-To apply for Masters in Design for Universities Abroad.

What are the job opportunities in a career in design in India? How do they compare to an international standard?
The current scenario is quite good and there are lots of job opportunities in design. Again, in design, there are many courses within it, say Interaction Design, Information Design, UI/UX Design, Digital Game Design, Product Design, Digital Retail Experience, Universal Design, Graphic Design, Animation Design, etc etc. In general, there is a demand. Currently, the majority of the demand sticks to UI/UX Design and Graphic Design. Overall, the job prospects are set to grow more in the future in design. In comparison, the job market is on near par with the international standards, especially in terms of pay for reputed companies.

How useful is the technical knowledge you gained at college in your career now?
The technical knowledge I gained at college is very useful in my career as design involves understanding everything in order to provide the right experience for a person. How the code works, what is the algorithm behind the code, all these are important for a designer to understand while he working together with front-end developers, so that he is able to guide them to provide the right output required. If one is designing a mobile application for mechanics to detect problems in a vehicle, the ability to understand the physics behind the working of rotation mechanics plays an important role in designing the mobile application, simultaneously the designers also have to understand how the mobile works and how the sensors work, how the data transmission takes place. The more technical knowledge one knows, the more precise a designer is able to provide solutions to the problem. Though it is not a necessity to know all the technical knowledge, to gain an understanding of it helps in the long run for designing applications.
Being a designer is fun. You get to solve problems every day. The only difference being, you solve the problems creatively and logically, not by formula or equations.

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