The Optimism of Youth – An Interview with Nikhilesh Mohan
Nikhilesh studies product design at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI).
It used to be that a person selected their degree based on fairly linear career options. Today, students and established professionals alike have no idea where they will be even in the medium-term. Do you think a career is something you will have to carve out in your own image?
In the near future, I believe each one of us will be opening our careers up to unforeseen opportunities and realms unimaginable today. The thought that 60% of the jobs in the future don’t even exist today fascinates me; it’s a scenario that gives us the opportunity to carve out a future of our own making. It also demands that we be more thoughtful of what we want to make of our careers.
As a product designer in the making, do you think it’s possible to succeed in your field without operating completely in the virtual world? Is there a life for a product designer in analog?
Personally, I am someone who thrives in the digital design space. I enjoy playing around with different computational tools and figuring out how they can enhance design outcomes. I find that this mindset creates an immense respect for the analog side of design where people can communicate intricate ideas just from pen and paper. The ideal situation would be for a 3D render to be backed by an array of sketches and explorations – to have virtual and analog spaces support each other.
As a student, you have always been surrounded by people of similar ages, similar experiences, similar outlooks. As part of the workforce, you could be joining multi-generational organizations where perspectives, working styles, attitudes differ drastically and clash daily. What sort of organization do you want to work for? Are you willing to compromise on your personal vision of your future?
At university we go through our courses with a rosy image of what we would pursue in the field of design, but quite often the reality is nowhere near the picture we had in our heads. In my opinion a work environment surrounded with people willing to teach and to learn without inhibition would yield the best results.
I think we all must be open to the idea of being proven wrong and take that as a point of strength. I believe we are prone to clouding our own judgement, but we need to see making mistakes – and correcting those mistakes – as a part of the process.
Do you think that in a world where businesses use flatter, more collaborative modes of work, that youth and inexperience will not count against you as much as it would have in the past?
I am confident that these lines are slowly fading away and giving room for far greater collaborative opportunities. Today’s youth have inculcated a healthy habit of adapting themselves to a variety of environments quickly, and the online universe gives them opportunities to tackle an array of topics at far greater depths. There is an ocean of unexplored potential in the youth that has yet to be understood and developed. It’s not just their skills, but the ways they exploit so many different tools to their benefit.
In the same way we went from industrial computers to the personal computer, do you envision a scenario where individuals will be investing in their own algorithms to stay competitive?
The thought of the general public developing personalized algorithms is highly fascinating, but I believe there are various reasons for which it might not be viable. Rather my perspective in this would be to have algorithms and systems that adapt and modify themselves based on the way we function on a daily basis. I would like to pick on the fact that personal computers haven’t yet become personal it is simply that each one of us have access to a computer. There is still a long way to go for computers to become personal and create true synergy between man and machine.
Will an employee’s experience become little more than data to plug into a business’s institutional memory? What does memory mean in times of such rapid change?
For customers, engaging with the heritage and story of a business moves them away from a merely transactional relationship and towards a deeper, more human, connection with the institution. Employees are the ones who prove the institution’s value system, who give it life, and who serve as a link between the past and the future institution. They will never be replaced with data sets in that way. The long-term value of a business will always lie in its human capital.