My Product Design Fellowship Journey - Sayani De

Sayani talks about her experience being part of cohort 1 of the Product Design Fellowship by ownpath.

My Product Design Fellowship Journey - Sayani De
Stories from ownpath

Sayani is a Product Design Fellow from cohort 1 of the Fellowship where she has worked on projects in the Fintech and Healthcare domains under the mentorship of Aprajit Kar (Product Design Head, Gojek) and Vikalp Gupta (Product Designer, Obvious). Sayani has joined Gojek (Fellowship Hiring Partner) as a Product Designer, after graduating from the Fellowship.

I have been designing experiences for three years. I've worked as a UX Designer with Tech Mahindra, where I have worked in diverse domains like banking & investments, IoT and fleet management, oil and gas, and healthcare. I presently work at HomeLane, a highly innovative tech start-up in the interior design space.

I was on the lookout for a design program to help me build on my existing skills, and a friend recommended ownpath's Product Design Fellowship. It's curriculum and mentors were what appealed to me and pushed me to finally apply. After being accepted, my roller-coaster journey with ownpath started.

With a full-time job though, the experience has been challenging to say the least. For example, I had to bid goodbye to my weekends for 4 months and on weekdays, I'd be working on our projects with my partner, after work. It was intense towards the end when we had two projects to complete, and we were working on both simultaneously. However, with time management and determination, we were able to overcome the issue.

The learnings that came with the fellowship and the feeling of being pushed to my limits, made it a highly rewarding and fulfilling experience.

ownpath's curriculum is designed to enable us to practise what we learn from masterclasses through our projects.

I was fortunate to use most of my learnings from masterclasses as part of my work. For example, Rikta's masterclass taught us about the intricacies of conducting user research and understanding research findings. This in turn, found direct applications in the projects I happened to be working on, at work.

Shivani's masterclass on Design Psychology introduced me to designing for the "non-conscious", and framing behaviour change to make products impactful.

Key takeaways for me from Padmini's session on Ethics for designers were, understanding how to conduct ethical user research without being overly extractive, intrusive, or harmful and how as designers, we can make responsible choices.

Abhinit's class on designing for delight offered a deeper understanding of how delight can be the best differentiator and could evoke positive emotions to make first impressions. It was super exciting to be able to apply this directly to our project Coinwise, where we had the mascot (A joyful coin) cheering for you whenever you got answers right.

Having somewhat explored speculative design and design fiction already, I was particularly excited about the designing for emerging tech workshop that was hosted. Rishikesh's session introduced me to No-UI, Natural Interfaces and gestural input systems. He also provided interesting reading material that was simply delightful for me, due to my keen interest in the field.

Through the fellowship, I wanted to explore problems around healthcare and the education space. Having struggled to do our finances and with FinTech being a new space for us, we decided to 'Make Finance Easy for GenZ' through our project CoinWise. Under Aprajit's mentorship, we utilized a gamified approach to learn finance helped by lessons in the form of stories, interactive quizzes, and rewards.

I enjoyed exploring gamification, improving my visual design skills, and learning about finance. Admittedly, we were overwhelmed with the jargon-heavy financial literature and were always second-guessing our decisions, but Aprajit, always guided us back on track and helped us in executing our ideas.

I've always wanted to work on designing wearable tech that includes features for self-care technologies, engaging speech assistance, etc. So for the second project, I was very keen on working in the healthcare space, mainly to learn how effective research is conducted in the domain and to explore solutions that were not purely digital.

We had conducted the initial research on how emergencies work in India. But, given the complexity of the domain and the situation, first-hand user research was challenging. Our mentor Vikalp helped us narrow down the problem.

He helped us synthesize our initial research through a customer journey map and a service blueprint. We identified 'moments of truth' to be solved through this activity, at each stage in the customer's journey. After this activity, we brainstormed a few possible solutions, but we hit a wall. Vikalp at this point, encouraged us to sketch as many ideas as possible and time box them, to help us get back on track. I struggled with it initially but quickly got the hang of it. This was a liberating experience for us, and we ideated quite a few possible solutions, which were a mix of digital, physical, and speculative.

The past few months have been filled with many ups and downs due to the intensity of the program and balancing it with work. Yet, I have met some of the most humble and talented designers here and connected with wonderful mentors from whom I've learnt a lot. From juggling work and the fellowship to successfully completing two projects, it’s been an extremely enriching experience for me. As our mentor says, "It's a journey, and we're always learning.", this has been a great journey, and I'm excited to explore what's next.

UPDATE: I'm super happy to share with y'all that I have joined Gojek and it's been a great first week so far! I'm super grateful to ownpath and all the mentors for guiding me and helping me achieve this career milestone!

After the Fellowship, I wanted to join places where I could measure the impact of what I was designing, in real-time (preferably) and was especially interested in how regional factors are taken into account when designing for users in those places. Gojek seemed to fit the bill perfectly, for the kind of company I aspired to be at and I was super pumped to apply to the same after my fellowship.

Looking forward to all the new challenges I'll be tackling and learnings that come with it, at Gojek.

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