Fellowship Experience: Surya Narreddi

Surya Narreddi has changed his field from architecture to product design. Here, he shares how Ownpath guided him in the journey.

Fellowship Experience: Surya Narreddi
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Placement stories

Surya Narreddi was in the 9th cohort of the Product Design Fellowship in Ownpath. Currently, he’s a freelance product designer with clients in Hyderabad and the UK. Before joining Ownpath, Surya had already developed a passion for design, but he felt he needed some additional guidance to help shape his career. In this interview, he shares his journey before and after joining the Ownpath program:

I’m in C9 of the fellowship with Ownpath. Prior to that, I had a bit of a discursive journey. I studied architecture. But then when I came into the workplace, I was doing more speculative design or futures design.

I was kind of just exploring my path, trying to see what interests me, and what I wanted out of my career. During my time working with the indigenous communities in the western ghats, I helped build a website for them to sell their forest-grown produce. I saw how design + tech helped this Community, which faced a legacy of exclusion, to formally partake in the economy without leaving behind their rich traditions. This experience gave me an idea of how technology and good design can be utilized to create alternative ideas that have a lasting impact. I decided to shape my career in this direction, leading me to join Ownpath. I have now almost completed the program with just two more classes left. Currently, I work as a freelancer or solo practitioner in product design. I collaborate with a company located in Hyderabad and another client based in the UK.

Before transitioning to product design, I attempted to do it on my own by exploring free resources online, and I made significant progress in the process. Although I was getting interview opportunities, the final stages of the interview always centred on the fact that I lacked completed product design projects, which was a valid concern for the interviewers. Naturally, one would not want to hire someone who has never built a house to construct their house. That's when I discovered Ownpath, which offered live projects. After a brief call with Jo (Jyothsna) and learning more about the program and available work that interested me, I joined Ownpath.

Once I joined Ownpath, I contacted Shreyas for opportunities aligned more with my interests and desired project types. I specifically expressed my interest in working on projects related to sustainability or social impact, as I have had previous experience in such areas. Additionally, I hold a strong belief in alternative technology ideas that are not the current status quo. Shreyas and I had an initial conversation about my interests, and he was accommodating and receptive to my requests.

I was really excited when I was chosen to work on a project around climate change with the ALFA group at MIT CSAIL. They wanted to design a website that informs the general public about climate change through interactions with climate advertisements that have been shown on social media.

To begin the project, I conducted interviews with the researchers to gain a better understanding of their objectives and the specific requirements for the website. After gaining insights into their target audience and their specific demographics, I collaborated with the researchers to develop digital artefacts that could align with their vision and appeal to their target audience. We engaged in an iterative process each week to refine and improve the artefacts, bringing their vision to life effectively.

In the beginning, I recall feeling uncertain about the brief and unsure of what direction to take. However, the process was enjoyable, especially getting to work alongside Aruna and Eric and other researchers from MIT. We were able to interact with them regularly, and they provided us with additional information and reading materials that helped us better understand the project. It was all very fascinating.

Overall, this project has been a great learning experience for me. It is also one of the first digital products I have built, with a level of complexity that I was not entirely prepared for. However, I embraced the challenge and collaborated over the past couple of months, and it is nearly complete now. We are looking to go live with it soon.

I think one of the things that I also appreciated about ownpath was that it provided a community of people that were also going through the same thing and trying to figure it out I also met, Yasir, Aishwarya and Divya, and we still have a group where we always discuss our ideas, and we help each other out and practice. So aside from just mentors, I think the community's always great to interact with, especially when you're learning. It's a great learning environment.

If someone is considering joining the Ownpath program, I would highly recommend it! The mentors have always been extremely supportive and guided to ensure that I was learning and practising correctly. Ownpath offers numerous resources and opportunities, but it's important to take ownership and agency over your journey within the program. It's crucial to approach the program with the right mindset to make the most out of the opportunities provided. However, with the freedom to utilize what is given, you can shape your journey, just like the company's name suggests.

If you’re a designer, you can join our Product Design Fellowship. The next cohort begins soon!

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