My Product Design Fellowship Journey - Mudita Sisodia

Mudita is a developer turned designer who has taken up the fellowship full time. She has been mentored by Pragati Mehrotra (Product Designer, Obvious) and Kenneth Dsouza (Senior Design Manager, Gojek) during the fellowship, for her projects in the femtech and speculative design domains. She has also published a research paper on improving accessibility for people with dyslexia.

After spending 1.5 years at a fast-moving start-up as a junior product designer I know what I want out of my next job; I want to work at a design-mature organization where I want to hone my craft with mentors who have deep knowledge on the subject. This wasn’t my original plan though.

I was supposed to be applying to colleges for a relevant Masters, but the pandemic happened and it got me reconsidering doing a Masters at all. But despite all the uncertainty, I knew I wanted to take time off from work to devote it to immersing myself in all things design and regain my bearings. More specifically, I wanted to better understand my personal relationship with design, work on my process, and interact with people I admire.

The ownpath fellowship checked all the boxes (I mean, have you seen the mentor list?) so I applied and got through! It’s been working out really well for me so far. It’s very enriching to be exposed to so many different ideas, not just in digital design but also beyond.

I particularly enjoyed the chat we had with Ankit Bhargava about his work in urban design and Rishikesh Joshi’s masterclass on Emerging Tech. I’m not a big fan of Pictures Under Glass and never romanticized the futuristic tech aesthetic, so ideas like No UI and Natural User Interfaces intrigued me. The second project I took up helped me explore this space as we decided to try designing interactions beyond finger-taps.

As a self-taught designer who used to second-guess every design decision she took, the mentorship sessions have been a huge morale booster.

You know that you’re receiving great mentorship when you leave a design critique session feeling pumped about the things you need to re-think in your work, even if the list is long. I navigated pretty ambiguous problem spaces for both the projects I worked on and it’s been very rewarding to see my ideas slowly crystallize, shatter, then be reformed, with the cycle repeating over and over. I learned to trust the design process and my ability to drive it, however convoluted it gets.

Each masterclass has been incredibly interesting but one learning that changed how I view an aspect of design was in the Psychology in Design class. Here, Shivani asked us to keep our minds open to leveraging not just people’s positive emotions but the negative as well. I didn’t like the idea when I heard it first. Aishwarya and I were working on a PCOS-related project and it almost seemed cruel to leverage any of the many negative emotions there are around it.

But after doing a branding exercise for Abhinit’s Designing Delightful Experiences class I realized that channeling people’s PCOS-related frustrations in tone and visual design of the product would actually be the perfect way to show them that they are understood - a feeling that can be tricky to evoke without sounding patronizing or pitiful.

Another aspect I never really paid attention to before, but that kept coming to mind during the fellowship was “facilitation”. After innumerous user interviews, facilitating a co-creation session, and attending workshops conducted by the mentors, I saw just how indispensable effective facilitation is.

As someone who truly believes in the inherent creativity of each individual, regardless of their background, I’m very keen on honing this skill.

I’m glad I decided to take this up full-time because I have the satisfaction of knowing I was able to give my projects the time and effort they needed. On a personal note, aside from the hours I spent on the fellowship, I was able to spend more time with my parents, learn to cook, and finally focus on my health and wellbeing. I created habits that will now stay with me. I also managed to significantly reduce my social media hours; something I’d been struggling with for a while. I started writing weeknotes instead.

Moving ahead, I’m excited about exploring more B2C products (femtech and healthcare being particularly close to my heart). I’ll be looking for a job that every designer wants - one that has them solving a challenging problem in a fun team under great mentorship.

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