Sejal Patel is a Design Director, influencer and trendsetter, committed to supporting positive change in society through her work. From her office in the UAE, she talked to The Industry Leaders about how she got into Interior Design and the challenge of leading a project with worldwide stakeholders during the lockdown period.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
As far as I can remember, art and creativity were always at the core of my life. I grew up in a very colourful environment with my dad being in the textile business and my sister in the fashion industry.
I remember watching my dad working on the iterative design and fabrication process and loved absorbing all the colours and patterns. Hence, from a very early age, I realized design was the route for me to take. I then went on to study Interior Design at London Guildhall University and commenced my professional career with HBA here in the Middle East. After enjoying a thriving career for 15 years between Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) and Gensler, I decided to take a new step in my career and joined Kristina Zanic Consultants as a Design Director.
What kind of work does your role involve?
As Design Director, I guide my team towards the constant goal of striving for creative design excellence.
I love to explore designs and challenge my team to ensure that the best solutions are put forward, improving user experience and successfully delivering all projects to an aesthetic that is as beautiful as it is functional. My work's heart is always in the detail, whether it's designing a hotel, a restaurant, or a piece of furniture.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Being associated with the design industry gives you a creative license to dream the impossible, build unimaginable, and develop innovative solutions to elevate the everyday.
I have been blessed in my career with several opportunities that have allowed me to engage and enrich the human experience through participation in community, charitable and non-profit organizations. I have made it a personal cause of mine to ensure that I can connect these within the industry and support these initiatives in whichever way I can.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The world is your oyster - and I've never looked back since.
What, or who inspires you?
Many things inspire me - Art, Fashion, Tradition, Nature, Design, Travel, Food. Most often, I draw inspiration through everything around me. I make a conscious effort to keep myself current through research, books, and magazines.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I believe that keeping an open mind to new innovation is essential for both personal and team growth. As a market influencer and trendsetter, I am committed to supporting positive, enduring change in the region and to create a sustainable impact on society.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
Amid the new world we all live in, adapting to 'new normal' was one of the biggest challenges of 2020. However, the most challenging project was a very recent one where we designed a boutique resort in KSA., which is fascinating and by all standards a very unique experience.
It's a very organic, never-done-before design which makes the project very challenging yet fun and exciting. We are collaborating with consultants from all around the globe, from the Middle East to Japan and the United Kingdom up to the United States and coordinating your work around the world, following an integrated design approach, was a challenge. However, we managed it - even through the darkest lockdown period - and we've produced a very inspiring design.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Right! Where do I come to pick up the cheque?
How do you switch off after a day at work?
My favourite way to unwind after a day's work is to hang out with my family and friends.
I also love to binge-watch my favourite shows on Netflix.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
To never stop dreaming.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I enjoy listening to design TED Talks.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sejal-patel-05975848.
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