The Ethnic Diversity Excellence Programme: Catching up with Jun, Zahrah, and Nicole
2021 marked the launch of our Ethnic Diversity Excellence Programme – an 8-week industry placement for three final year university students from Ethnic Minority and Heritage Backgrounds.
We’re excited to announce that our three successful applicants, Jun, Zahrah, and Nicole, have now finished their time with us at KD and are back to working on their final major projects at university. Read on below as we catch up with all three students and see how the internship helped shape their projects.
Why did you apply for the scheme?
Jun: After hearing about this scheme through my university, it felt like such a golden opportunity to get my foot into the design industry. I want to pursue a career as a design engineer, and I feel this scheme would give me the tools and knowledge to do so successfully.
Zahrah: I applied for the EDE scheme because it falls so perfectly in line with who and what I want to be in the future. My goal is to not only be a designer, but also a name for truly inclusive design. I have personally experienced many design flaws that essentially stem from systemic racial bias and the EDE scheme is my stepping stone to help stop these occurrences.
Nicole: I wanted to look for some experience that could help me decide what career to go into as I have always felt unsure. The EDE programme looked like it was targeted towards individuals like myself, so I applied to see what would happen. It was an opportunity for me to look into the product design industry which was directly seeking ethnic minorities, so I was curious to see why this was the case.
How did it help shape your final year project?
Jun: I’ve always wanted to do a user-centred design project, especially around design for disability. With KD being a user-centred innovation consultancy, I wanted to match my project to the skillsets of the company to best gain value from this placement. My final year project ‘Video Game Controllers for an Aging Demographic’ has greatly benefitted from discussions and feedback from the designers and engineers at KD.
Zahrah: I was able to speak to different people within KD and part of the council, to then gain credible insights for what and how I should be designing for my final major project. When it comes to the physical designing of my project, the designers at KD have been invaluable as they have extensive knowledge that I do not yet have at my level.
Nicole: From the two weeks that I have spent with KD I have gotten a great deal of help with idea generation as I was without a project idea, and I had time to submit a self-proposed concept towards my final year project at university. I met with Sophie and Alex in the design team to go over ideas. It was really fun and got me thinking outside the box with things I haven’t looked into but were within my topics of interests. Although I couldn’t finalise an idea in the end and had selected a project from the list of projects at university, I had gained the experience of looking at problems before deciding on a solution and will use this approach towards my final year project.
What was your favourite part of your time at KD?
Jun: My favourite aspect was being able to talk to and sit in on sessions with the people at KD. Everyone here has been very generous with their time and guidance, and it has been great to learn from them, whether it is advice with my university projects, guidance on careers, or general discussions about design.
Zahrah: Having regular check-ins with my supervisors, although it doesn’t sound as interesting, it was actually so important to me to have someone to vent to and just make me feel more rational if the weeks have been full on. They were always positive and willing to help.
Nicole: I really enjoyed networking with individuals in the range of teams. I was particularly interested in the electronics/technology products as I was amazed at the products they were working on and how new the ideas were that I’d never considered myself. I also enjoyed being in the idea generation sessions to get a feel of how individuals work with each other and saw how ideas could build from one person to another. That showed me the value of speaking up because you could really have a small but lasting effect on projects. I also liked hearing about behaviour studies, because human behaviour interests me and I am keen to learn how user-centred design can be adapted from these studies.
How has the scheme benefited you?
Jun: This scheme has benefited me in being able to shadow engineers in their work and design sessions. I’ve learnt effective design processes which are applicable to my university work.
Zahrah: I’ve had many opinions on my final major project that I alone wouldn’t have even thought about. This has helped me massively as it’s opened many avenues and new possibilities for where my project can go. All this is going to help me produce a better version of my final major project.
Nicole: So far, I have met ethnic minorities successful in their careers and I could relate to their challenges with fitting in and adapting in uncomfortable situations. They advised to just be myself and have offered a support network in the growth of my career. They are incredibly smart people and are leaders in what they do so am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to engage with people with confidence of not being discriminated. This has given me some role model aspirations to look up to.
I have also benefitted from gaining an insight into the work people do in product design consultancies. I gained an insight from engineers, product designers, human factors, manufacturing and saw the range of ongoing projects. I learnt real world information that I wouldn’t have at university (eg. 3D printing on draft angles to optimise structural strengths) just by having a short conversation. An assigned mentor has enabled me to discuss final year project ideas as well as project planning. Building relations with KD members is a special opportunity to get extra external help throughout my final year project. This so far has been in idea generation, but it could also be in prototyping, experimental design and technical software skills.
Why do you think schemes like this are important?
Jun: Schemes like this are important to give university students both the knowledge and confidence to enter the working world effectively.
Zahrah: They are extremely important as people like myself in ethnic minorities need to know their chosen career path is validated and they have opportunities to succeed wherever they want. The council as a part of the scheme are also very important as they are existing examples of people like me in many different workplaces and they are all present in the encouragement of people of colour taking on more roles and therefore increasing diversity in the workplace.
Nicole: I really like how KD is a community and I have felt an inclusive nature whilst being at the office. One important aspect of this scheme is the aim of personal development – not just skills and experience wise but as a person. It is important for me to feel recognised and part of something as I am so used to feeling ignored in society. I think the EDE programme really aims to make ethnic minorities feel safe and welcome. It has also shown me KD is an example of a company who really cares about diversity at work through the attitudes of all members of the company. I have been listened to and I can tailor the experience and grow my confidence this way by having the opportunity to control how I use my time on the internship. I want to build my confidence and be comfortable with interacting with colleagues without having my ethnic profile affecting how someone will treat me. Schemes like this should teach us that we can be ourselves without feeling intimidated or anxious, whilst knowingly being different and without being treated differently in retrospect. Schemes like this can really help shape who I will become by giving the support for self-confidence to grow.