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Sakshi Kanar, Project Director FF&E, HBA Dubai

Sakshi Kanar grew up with a love of art that guided her into a career in design. Now, as FF&E Project Director with HBA Dubai, Sakshi took some time to talk to The Industry Leaders about her journey.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

I have been surrounded by art for as long as I can remember. This is thanks to the encouragement I received from my family to chase my passion, find and live my purpose.

Growing up, art permeated every aspect of my life, from the relentless sketching hours to artistic presentations to Marquette making.

I did not know of anyone personally who was in the design/ architecture profession. My family celebrated my passion and perseverance and encouraged me to apply my skills by pursuing Interior Architecture in Mumbai.

I came to settle into Dubai in 1999, and I was fortunate enough to see this place blossom into the wow Design hub that it is today.

In subsequent years my interest grew beyond just CAD drawings. My "aha" moment came in when I acknowledge that I yearned for a more materiality and finishes-focused role to play in a project team. This was when I committed to FF&E specifically and never looked back.

What kind of work does your role involve?

FF&E is as significant to a project as any other discipline. Some designers will prefer more knowledge of the technical side of design, while others prefer to work more with the softer /aesthetic side of the design.

Specialising in FF&E, I've had the privilege to work on and deliver some well-established hospitality projects. Contrary to what some believe, it's not all about cushion fluffing and pretty pictures! It involves so much more.

I have been working on project sites where I'm engineering and developing FF&E alongside the project construction rolling out. My role is primarily client/operator facing and heading the FF&E package. It includes visiting factories locally and internationally to oversee progress. The goal is always the same: to tell the client's story through design.

What gets you excited about your industry?

The design industry has a major influence on our environments and how we experience the world and move through it. A well-designed space has a big impact on one's emotional well being.

We design for the end-user to experience. As designers, we have a direct relationship with future users and can really make an impression.

The exciting part of doing what we do is that no two projects are the same. Each entails its own set of challenges and learnings, its own set of unique scenarios, thus keeping us always wanting to comprehend, impart our expertise, learn and grow.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Among the bevvy of learning nuggets gathered along the way, the best advice I was offered was to work from a place of love and authenticity- not to sweat over failures or be judged.

Skills can be taught, but the right attitude is eventually a winner! I've learned that you have to be willing to pivot and be flexible.

Ultimately it's your persona/energy amalgamated with your inner light that makes up the unapologetic unique YOU.

What, or who inspires you?

Any person taking charge of their own growth and allowing themselves to shine amazes and inspires me. It's all about finding your purpose, isn't it?

I'm genuinely impressed by people/designers/ mentors who work selflessly with a common goal -to deliver - without looking for fame, glory or money.

I admire those who choose to share their experiences and guide budding designers on how to identify attributes that make them venture into the unknown confidently and successfully. It's indeed an innate gift to give back to society.

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

Learning is all around... it's all about fuelling that spark within and continuing education. Travel has always been a teacher to me and never ceases to tease and expand the mind.

I am also a sucker for online material libraries. I strive to ensure I am staying abreast with industry developments and product launches.

We're spoilt for choice with all that online content available to us at the click of a button!

In my personal experience, I tend to foster authentic relationships with knowledgeable reps who approach us in the name of design — not necessarily to make a sale. In turn, this camaraderie serves to educate and enlighten us (the oh-so-busy-designers) on the product's technical aspects, which is equally important to just look and feel.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

On a personal side, can I say "myself"?

Overcoming preconditioned beliefs and a limiting, confining thought-process was a gratifying experience. Undoubtedly, I'm a self-proclaimed work-in-progress, but I would never have come this far without my family and mentors' support and encouragement. I found resilience by remaining true to myself.

On a professional side, winning clients and operators' trust on live site projects by comprehending and acknowledging the challenges that come with constraints on budget, timeline and resources, yet manage to deliver as expected. This is something I find very gratifying and immeasurable.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

As cliche as it may sound, winning all that money will not change much for me – at least that's what I think.

I am a content soul and happy with what I have. Saying that, it's easier for me to give rather than receive…

Make no mistake, of course, it is nice to have something in your bank account though, as it will be the money that will allow me to improve my loved ones' quality of life and thus mine in return.

I'll still continue doing what I do as I have found my quest for happiness. I would want to be connected with the right people though, as I would invest part of the money in an interesting project or NGO. It would be something that could significantly impact our society.

How do you switch off after a day at work?

Donning many hats of being a woman, a mom, a wife, a designer over time, I have conditioned myself to conscientiously define the boundaries between work and play, which at times do get blurry.

I believe in the saying, "you cannot pour from an empty cup," so it is imperative to switch off work to relax and rejuvenate. But, then again, if it's been an exhilaratingly productive day, who wants to switch off?

I'm truly blessed to have an amazing family - they are my anchor. I find it very therapeutic to meditate and just be at home, spending my time with my boys.

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

We have incredible global diversity, but having diversity in design still needs work, I guess. As for an inside look, the importance of design originality and authenticity cannot be emphasised enough.

If the industry pioneers could work from a place of passion and humility and not self-righteousness or ego, it would surely bring back the profession's lost joy.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

It's a sure catch, to name a few of the myriad of books!

Frank Lloyd Wright Designs is a book I go back to. It sheds light on the development of certain iconic projects.

Another one is Architecture: A World History. This one comprehensively exhibits the most significant design styles highlighting works of iconic architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry etc. and travels in time.

I also recommend the podcasts compiled and featured by Dezeen on architecture and design documentaries to binge on from recent times. Impressive podcasts by Patricia Urquiola, Yabu Pushelburg, are worth catching up on too.

How should people connect with you?

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