Learning and Growing: Alipta’s Here Now Story

Learning and Growing: Alipta’s Here Now Story

Before this mentorship, I would discredit the link between being BIPOC and certain experiences. Speaking with the mentors validated my feelings.”

To kick us off, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

Hi I’m Alipta ! I moved to Sydney in 2018 from India to pursue my bachelors degree. I graduated from UTS with a Double Degree in Visual Communication Design and Creative Intelligence and Innovation. I came to SYD specifically to pursue this unique combination of study in a place which had numerous design studios and agencies I looked up to as well as an environment that I believed had a thriving rich creative scene.

As a designer I enjoy engaging with branding & identity strategy, editorial design, illustration and love all things print. Outside of design, I like obsessing over the opera and theater, exploring exhibitions, playing indie horror games and watching art house films. I have a bit of experience within the industry, through internships and paid positions. I worked briefly for a creative media agency in Shanghai - working remotely. I’ve also interned for various Film Festivals, marrying my passion for film and design. 

What attracted you to the Here Now program?

I felt a distinct lack of professional community for me specifically post university. During COVID, I was on exchange overseas, and for the entirety of my last year of my design degree it was online. I therefore missed out making crucial relationships with lecturers and people in the industry. 

So I had this gap beyond my network that I couldn't reach out to to get feedback and advice for someone who was trying to get into the industry. In addition, I had a desire to meet other designers in the industry. At the end of the day, a part of my love for design comes from interacting with people who love creativity - and make cool things because of it!

I came to the program through following one of the mentors - Olivia Chen - on LinkedIn and I thought it could be one of the ways I could get back to making these connections and engaging with industry professionals. 

What insights have you gained from being part of Here Now?

There are a few different ones, but the broader insights I got from engaging with the mentors and other mentees were around advocating for myself and having confidence about my work. Things like getting to know a bit more about what the industry is like and insights around presenting my work and being able to talk about it. I was encouraged to keep strengthening my core competencies while making active improvements on areas that required it. 

We all had questions around applying for jobs and getting your foot into the door - it is important to know what kind of work you like to do and having that reflected in your portfolio and the people you reach out to. I learnt that if you figure out if this is the field you want to work in, take the time to build your outreach which is more beneficial in the long run than blindly reaching out to positions that are unsuited to your current needs as well as long term professional aspirations.

I was very hesitant pre-this program reaching out to industry professionals. I now approach it from a no harm done perspective - I am reaching out to make a connection, get feedback or advice. If none of these happen, then I’ve just said hi to someone new and that's great on its own since you never know who will be in the same rooms as you in the future.

One last thing - which is, when you ask for feedback, be prepared for the feedback. Take what you want - but be prepared for when people have opinions about the work. When I first heard this from my mentor it made me laugh because it was seemed so straightforward but in reality receiving feedback and being able to take the important bits from it without letting it feel personal is a great skill to develop as early as possible since it will be something that as a professional I will have to engage with everyday.

How was the experience of connecting with BIPOC individuals within the industry?

Prior to this program, It's very rare that you are able to broach a topic that is so intimately linked to your identity as a person. We had many sessions with our mentors and we connected sincerely on this topic. It was so much easier to get into the depth of conversation around what it means to be BIPOC in this industry.

My personal struggle was having bits of experiences but having self-doubt around my identity. Before having this mentorship, I would try to discredit the relationship between being BIPOC and the outcomes of certain experiences. In speaking with the mentors, my feelings were validated. 

In Uni, a lot of the work that we were looking at and that was considered good were very influenced by Western/European ideals. It was very rare that I would see examples of Eastern inspired design. It's a question of what we consider valuable in design, and I was feeling like people were not being taught this other output of design. It made me think, are my designs being judged through a different lens if we are not seeing Eastern design as valid?

Connecting with other BIPOC individuals also brought an issue when applying for a job - that is there might be a cultural fit issue. Studios might not have a single POC and you are seen as othered. Especially because studios thrive on tight knit cultures and being able to integrate is crucial in being able to do great work long term.

How would you describe your experience of being BIPOC in the creative industry?

Being BIPOC in the creative industry can lead to a variety of experiences that might are difficult to simply categorize into good or bad. They are what you make of them. At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche - everything is a learning experience if you chose to see it that way. I’d love to point out an instance where it has been explicitly advantageous. While being involved in film festivals that spotlight asian films, I have been able to lean into my love for language films because of my identity as a multilingual individual - and further on have been able to use my love for asian design trends and philosophies to successfully understand the needs of the project and deliver results accordingly. This has also solidified my confidence in myself as a professional, that I know I will be able to work on a wide range of projects not hindered by language and cultural barriers.  

However, the other side of being BIPOC in the creative industry is sometimes feeling isolated in your experiences and facing barriers that most people might not have to.

For example assimilating seamlessly into studio culture might require more effort if you are the only person of color there. It is also this that makes you hesitate in applying or reaching out to these workplaces as mentioned earlier. Having other BIPOC creatives in the workplace can go a long way in being able to provide a sense of solidarity gained through shared experience. This can help boost morale and also drive individuals to find their own unique way of being rather than trying to just fit in.

Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share?

I want to express my deep gratitude to all the mentors and mentees involved in the program. Everyone I have interacted with has been so encouraging, kind and welcoming. To talk to all these wonderful people and build these connections can be such a good motivating factor as you continue to push forward professionally. I look forward to seeing everyone at the next catchup : )