We had the good fortune of connecting with Siladityaa Sharma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Siladityaa, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I will preface my answer by saying that I did not have any work-life balance initially, especially during high school and my first year of college. I was utterly dead focused on just getting the most work done possible to get good grades, and guess what? I did not get good grades or social life. See, the thing is, since high school, I had always been able to put off work till the last minute and come up with good work by pulling all-nighters. This became a habit that did not bode well in college—especially at a college like ArtCenter. At ArtCenter, in many majors, there is a common belief that if you didn’t pull all-nighters to do your work, it probably isn’t very in-depth or good because you did not put in the hours. When you come straight from high school, it is very easy to fall into the idea that not sleeping is the same as working harder. I, myself, was the victim of this. I would stay awake in my room till 4-5 am and then head to class at 8 am. I would skip meals and keep working on campus and the computer labs for days without proper sleep (sometimes no sleep at all).
It was essential to realize that creating quality work for my projects would require hard work and a healthy mind and body. I needed to eat better, get out more and make friends. So, I did that. I started making time for my peers. I started working on homework assignments instead of being alone in my room. I began prioritizing my sleep, making me procrastinate less and work more efficiently. I love to drive, which meant a lot of random fun drives and road trips. A proper work-life balance enabled me to travel guilt-free and have some fun. Which brings me to – what does balance mean? I guess it’s easy to say than to do it, working and playing equally. When I think of work-life balance, I think of doing either without worrying about the other. To put it simply, if I am working, I should not feel like I am missing out on having fun, and when I am out with my friends, I am not stressing out about work. When work and life can survive in isolation, that’s balance for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I grew up in an environment where engineering and computer science was the coolest thing to pursue as a career. This trend influenced me, and initially, I focused on studying computer science and making that my goal for higher education. However, as I grew up, I realized my interest in design. I was unaware that one could make a living in this field. After talking to my friends pursuing design, I was convinced that I wanted to do this. To form my design portfolio, I started gathering all that I had ever made, motion graphics, posters, etc. I was lucky enough to get into every art school I wanted to go to, but they were all graphic design majors, and somehow I did not want that to be my discipline. Somewhere inside, there was a piece of me who did not want to lose touch with his love for technology. I was very passionate about the tech industry and tinkering and hacking as a hobby, and I tried to find common ground between design and technology. ArtCenter has an undergraduate Interaction Design program, and it was the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about UX, visual design, and combining these principles with tech. Even during ArtCenter, I had a lot of pivot points in my career. For example, I initially thought I wanted to design mobile and desktop apps, but I gradually realized that was not my passion. I wanted to work on experiences that went beyond a screen-based interaction. I wanted to work in the speculative design field. I like to position myself as a design technologist who can speculate design concepts with proof of concepts and proven viability with future-scoped technology. I have had many opportunities to experiment with speculative concepts during my college career. I am very excited about my upcoming internship at Facebook Reality Labs as an AR Product Designer. Hopefully, I will learn more and create a more significant impact as I move ahead in this industry.
I wouldn’t say it has been a smooth road for me. It has been indeed a very challenging path. I faced many obstacles academically during high school, and I used to think it was because I was not good at any of my classes. Still, once I got rid of the self-doubt, I realized it was because of my lack of interest in what was being taught to me. In college, life was much better. I was doing well in classes, and I had a good bond with my peers and faculty. I was thrilled with the education, and everything excited me to learn. However, no matter how hard I worked on my portfolio, I could not get an internship when looking for internships. Self-doubt came creeping back in. I started thinking that I was not good enough for these companies. It took many interviews and talks with industry professionals, friends, and family to understand that the right fit would come by, and it did! I want to say this to everyone who might be doubting themselves and their abilities; please don’t. Keep your head up!
As mentioned earlier, I like to position myself as a design technologist. I found my strengths in prototyping, visual design, and sufficient development skills to support my concepts. I enjoy working on speculative design concepts and future-scoped projects that utilize upcoming technologies to create solutions for today. One of the projects I am proud of is Arter, an AI-powered storyboarding tool. This project is the perfect example of how I enjoy using existing mental models and solving simple problems by borrowing technology that hasn’t been developed yet for this purpose but is a possible use case. Arter tries to solve the pain point of people who need to work in a creative environment and express their ideas visually but are hindered by their inability to sketch well. It lets people enter their vision as a few words, converted into a sketch with machine learning. You can learn more about this project at arter.xyz
Besides art and design, music is my second passion. Even though I have no formal education in music theory, I dabble in music production, preferably hip hop and trap music. Most of my background in music comes from online education, Youtube ftw, haha. I like to think of creating music as another creative outlet to express myself. It is fun, exciting, and experimental, everything I care about in art. Recently, I have started taking production a bit seriously and have had the opportunity to collaborate with different artists and improve my craft. I go by the producer name 6Rings and have posted regularly on my Soundcloud and sometimes even Spotify.
I do not belong to the category of designers who believe that aesthetics are less important or beautiful design concepts cannot co-exist with practical design projects. It is approachable to create beautiful designs to follow the basic UX principles that help solve a problem. Experimentation and excitation are the two most important things for me in design. I need whatever I am working on to be experimental, fresh, and a chance to do something new. I also think it is essential that your design excite you and someone interacting with it. It should spark some emotion, and it doesn’t always have to be comforting. It is okay for an experience to cause discomfort if it is a part of the design and helps inform your design. Provocative ideas are the backbone of innovation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Two words, Howlin Ray’s. If you’re coming to LA and not going to Howlin Ray’s I think you hate good food. Go to night markets for the best street tacos. Skip the mainstream tourist traps like the walk of fame and the Hollywood sign. Go for scenic hikes like Eaton Canyon and more. Another. cool place to visit would be Santa Catalina Island. It’s a great break from the city and you get to relax a little. Hit up Fairfax to cop some streetwear (gotta get the new dunks), Koreatown, and Little Tokyo for some of the best Asian food, and I reiterate don’t forget to eat at Howlin Ray’s!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely could not have done college without my partner, Bhavika Rana. She’s a computer science undergrad from IIIT Delhi and the only constant throughout my professional journey who was there to provide me with professional and emotional support. I cannot even imagine someone wanting to stay up with me all night in the States, but she did this with a 12.5-hour time gap. I want to give her a shout-out and let her know that I value all the mentorship, support, and love that I received from her. I also want to give a massive shout-out to my best friends from college, Akshay Agrawal and Nishit Gupta. They are some of the best designers out there right now, and I have grown so much with them. We have learned from each other a lot and hopefully will continue to go out there and make great new things.