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  • Writer's pictureWomen In Design

Mona Sharma

Monthly Feature // June 2021

Passionate about creating, making, and leveraging technology, Mona knew industrial design was her calling. Mona graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a master's in design, from where she went on to intern and work at a range of unique design firms.

On her journey into design

Passionate about creating, making and leveraging technology, Mona knew industrial design was her calling. Mona graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a masters in design, from where she went on to intern and work at a range of unique design firms. "During my time at university, I did a couple of internships; one of them was in Valencia, with a studio called Mut design. Then after graduation, I worked at a Danish packaging company called Faerch." she shares, where she got opportunities to work with quite a few core clients like Wagamama, KFC, and most major UK food retailers such as Tesco, Morrisons, and so on. Meanwhile, she worked with Gantri, on her light design 'Buddy' as well as the WIID - Chicago community. In May, Mona moved to Copenhagen to work with Jabra, a leading company specializing in audio and video tech. In just 4 years from graduating, Mona has gained tremendous experience and we're excited for her to be a part of WID India's Monthly Features.

As a designer, our USP is our identity. "So far, I've learned that I like to experiment and just make – I don't mind if it looks bad, or if doesn’t solve every problem straight away. I like to look for inspiration in the most ordinary things. I've learned that I'm okay finding things to keep myself busy and inspired. Even at the toughest of times, like a pandemic" - with which we agree; keeping yourself busy and inspired at times as tough as a global pandemic is challenging. "I'm still building my identity, but so far I can say that I like the simplest things, and the most personable experiences." As a growing and exploring creative, Mona expresses how the multiple industry experiences helped shape the designer she is today, "I've learned to appreciate how much of a big and complex thing sustainability is. My previous role was in the plastics industry. It was so interesting to learn both sides of the story, around the debate on plastics" she shares, "I hope to become more well-rounded and more knowledgeable about our impact on the planet".

On challenges as a designer

"Probably the biggest one is finding a job." Mona empathizes with us. Finding a job as a creator in the industry is a practical problem affecting creatives everywhere. "I kind of had to go for anything I could get. I didn't mind, but I just couldn't pick and choose." she shares. "This could relate back to my interests in working with Women in Design groups – for example, in the UK, the majority of designers are 95% male. But in academia, it's 50:50, girls and boys. So statistics suggest there is something going on there." However, the biggest challenges within the job search, Mona points out, is finding employers that are open and willing to teach you. "I’m so grateful for being hired at Faerch, straight out of university. You just need one place to kickstart your career. Hopefully, as I progress, it'll be less of an issue. I think, having more experience helps." It's the typical 'you need more experience' but you need a job to get more experience, but you need more experience to get the job. We know, it's the worst.

On Opportunities, women in design, and more

"I'm grateful for taking the opportunities that I did receive, and I'm glad for being interested in design as a whole – a hobby as well as work" she gives us the example of how she found out about Gantri through a design blog she was reading - which led to an incredible opportunity resulting in 'Buddy'. But, we wanted to know what were the few things she wishes she did more of, along the years. "I wish I knew how to talk more about my salary when starting out. I think as a creative industry we can all be very willing to take what we get" she touches upon how we may end up taking things simply because the job seems important, or it looks great on your CV, but there is a balance. She also discusses how she wishes she knew more about how to apply to jobs. "We got help at university, but there's only so much that can be explained. It's difficult to communicate with potential employers in the right way without sounding overly keen, but I understand it comes with practice" It's something that comes naturally to some, while for others it's a skill awaiting to be unlocked.

Mona moves on to chat about how she started out collaborating with WIID - Chicago. Like most of us freshly entering the industry, Mona too wasn't aware of the depths of imbalance the industry was withholding. "I didn't even think about it or worry about the fact that there might be an Indian girl, a girl, a young person, or even a graduate trying to look for work - I just tried my best" but in her initial years into the industry, Mona came across a report put out by the Design Council in 2018, discussing and highlighting the imbalance in the design industry. "I thought 'hmm, that's not good – or what I expected'. And then I heard about the Women in Industrial Design team in Chicago, because they were looking for people to join their group, open to applications from all around the world." she says, "I thought, well, it feels like I'm quite a minority. I'm very grateful for the position I am in to be able to say that I'm a designer. So I should use that in a good way, I should probably give back somehow" and it's been a journey for her ever since. Over the years of helping students with their research, uplifting women and empowering creatives, it's safe to say Mona's used her power and privilege to channel more good into the world.

On transitioning into the industry

"I think the biggest transition from being a student to an industry professional is probably time management. Another big learning curve is to not be picky and choosey - just be excited about the opportunities that you get, because you can always change your path if you wish. And then the next learning curve is to embrace whatever it is that you're in, and learn the good and bad sides about it. So to understand that you won't be in it forever. It doesn't define you. And you can learn a lot of things from it, and do so much good whilst you’re there." As creatives, sometimes it's overwhelming and we may feel as if the job we're currently doing defines who we are. That's not at all true - it's merely a pebble in our journey. "There's also an element of patience. I mean, I'm still trying to learn how to be patient. It comes with age, I think. So take it easy, and keep looking for opportunities. Don't just stop. Don't just think, that's it."

Takeaways for upcoming creatives

Mona's inspiring pieces of advice were "To not worry about your position as a graduate. You don’t have to know exactly what you want straight away" sharing further, "If you feel you're a minority in some way, there’s no need to overthink it. When you're talking about your work, and you have your CV, make sure you talk about your accomplishments. Share your achievements and your involvement, and be confident in those. Just really sell yourself, don't be shy about selling yourself." Another great piece of advice she shares "Carve your own path. So don't worry about traditional routes, don't worry about 'Oh, I should work at a consultancy or I should be designing here, or I should have this position when I'm at this age – if you’re enthusiastic about your chosen industry and a driven person as a whole, it will build up naturally. Think of it as a journey – if you have longer-term goals, then that’s great. But otherwise, just do your very best." The last piece of advice was to, "Just keep applying, and keep your options and interests open, inside and outside of work - the right employer will look for you and see your skills. That's something I'm really grateful for all the companies I have joined!"

A little more about Mona

What is your favorite Art movement?

Memphis, Modernism, Minimalism.

A city you enjoyed traveling to?

Copenhagen, Valencia and Berlin.

What are you currently reading?

'The Vegetarian' by Han Kang.

'Know your onions' a graphic design book by Drew de Soto

If you could host dinner at home, who are the top 3 names on your guest list?

Dieter Rams, Ray Eames, Nina Simone

We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!

With 🧡 Team WID.


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