Founder's Story: Building a Career as a Creative Designer
Few weeks ago, Ali Akbar Sahiwala, our Founder & Creative Director shared his story behind Rehla Design. Here’s a brief recap of the virtual dialogue with QLC.
How do you switch between designer and entrepreneur?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs so I’ve understood how important leadership and effective decision-making is from a young age. Throughout school, I enjoyed pursuing art and design because it gave me the freedom to express myself creatively. For me personally, there is no tension between being a designer and entrepreneur.
How do you future-proof your firm?
By building alliances. As a young company in a new country, we have so much to learn. Through strategic alliances we aim to collaborate with more established firms operating in complementary fields. While we may not be able to completely claim ownership for such projects, it helps us sow seeds for the future as we become adaptable and offer nuanced offerings.
How do you build creative confidence?
Make an effort to know your own strengths and stretch-steps, and accordingly harness your team’s strengths to achieve goals. We conduct a simple test called Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 with all our employees as it helps us understand each other’s skill sets better. When we know where our strengths lie, we automatically feel more confident about ourselves.
How do you build strategic alliances?
The first line of building your network is reaching out to connections you know. Keep an eye out for business chambers, co-working spaces and creative meetups. As the creative field evolves, more nuanced fields of expertise continue to form, all of which require people to come together from varied disciplines, in order to tackle complex challenges.
What are some early-stage hacks for people to become better designers?
There are lots of courses available online and offline, whether from reputable institutions or esteemed design firms. Investing in learning is very important. Also, join design organisations to learn from more experienced people and attend conferences!
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Trying to achieve balance between family, work, health, social life, etc. All these elements are important to consider and not neglect, which is easier said than done…
How important is mentorship, in your opinion?
I believe mentors are key to helping aspiring designers determine their own creative path and honing their skills. I’ve personally benefited a lot from mentors since college. It’s important to mention that mentorship is a two-way street; it can benefit both parties across boundaries and age-groups.
How do you balance revenue coming in with the types of projects you work on?
Try to maintain a healthy mix of projects, that span across sectors and complexity. Engage from time-to-time on passion projects geared towards a creating social impact, these projects may not pay as much in terms of revenue, but can be highly rewarding experiences to benefit from.
To listen to the entire interview (audio format), click here.