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Interview: Prof. Nien Siao, Director, Pearl Academy, Noida

1. How do you look at your association with Pearl Academy, Noida?

My association with Pearl Academy has been a journey of understanding and then developing Design pedagogy for the purpose of training students to become design professionals. Together, we shared an enriching journey that began during the dawn of design education in India. The level of acceptance and recognition of design education and careers that we witness today is the result of efforts put in by design institutes like Pearl Academy, as much as by the Govt. supported institutes. Needless to say many visionary design thinkers and academicians such as KT Ravindran, IM Chisti, Jatin Bhatt, late MP Ranjan to name a few, along with a supportive industry made space for the design graduates. It is humbling and I feel honored to be a part of this revolution.

Today, the students are aware of design education and careers and make choices of the domains of design that they aspire to join. It is the right time for all senior academicians to push design as a value proposition that finds its application in industry and make a difference to the economy of our country. At Pearl, we are striving to bring together the industry and education to strengthen the design landscape of India.

2. Any of the significant challenges you faced as Director of Pearl Academy, Noida?

Pearl Academy is known for its global academic standards. Some challenges that come to mind are: to explore new ways to make learning design interesting and effective; constantly raise the bar of quality and output every year; ensure that the curriculum consistently addresses the needs of the industry at the same time aspirations of students; prepare learners to lead future industry or rather evolve future careers. At Pearl, we ensure that the curriculum delivery, quality of faculty and Industry connect doesn’t fall short of global standards at any point of time. It is my aim to embed this quality design education in Pearl Academy, Noida, so that graduates can form the frame work of design quality and standards that can support to bring value to the umpteen product industries in UP & North India.

I was attuned to what was expected of me from the beginning. I joined Pearl as a course leader and moved up the ladder to become Director of its Noida campus. The journey has been fantastic and would not have been the same without the seamless support of the spirited, intelligent and highly responsible team of faculty at Noida campus. I consider myself lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Pearl has been an intrinsic part of my life and it won’t be wrong to say that Pearl DNA has its presence in me along with some deep rooted values and ethos of the brand.

3. How do you tend to enhance the value of Fashion & Design program with Pearl Academy, Noida?

Pearl Academy, Noida has a location advantage as numerous fashion export houses, print & TV, New media, Product MNCs and Building industry are stationed here. The supporting economy, professionals and expertise are mushrooming here. There is an immediate recruiting of graduates as the Academy is able to provide quality professionals as per the demand.

The environment at Pearl provides the learners real time experience of the industry work culture. With active participation in live industry projects, Pearl graduates learn professionalism and formalities of the trade and are ready to ‘Plug and Play’ when they join the industry.

Apart from that, each faculty at Pearl is more than a teacher - a mentor, a friend and a guide helping our students in various aspects of life. It is a very beautiful bond that they share and I am saying this from my personal experience. Many of my students are still in touch with me and they are doing extremely well in the industry.

4. How do you stand against the established brands of Fashion and Design Institutions?

I see Pearl as one of the most practical, forward looking, and a visionary organization in the fashion and design education. Our industry-integrated courses cater to all segments including fashion, media, design, retail, luxury, merchandising, and E-Commerce to name a few. Whether it is global exposure or industry placements or online-blended learning for students, the Academy is ready to adopt new technologies, new ways of thinking and take action to prepare for the changing paradigm. 

We have more than 30 global alliances that enable us to offer exchange programs and opportunities to attend world forums to our students and faculty. Over 200 students visit foreign universities from Pearl every year adding immense value to their personal and professional growth.

Pearl understands the millennial generation that eats, sleeps and breathes technology. We have ensured technology integration in the course curriculum. This helps in connecting with the students better as well as make them ready for the future industries. Our pedagogy and international quality standards have earned global accolades in the Laureate International Universities Network for innovative teaching tools and approaches.

Our pioneering initiatives such as Creative Career Conclave, What’s Next, 21st Century Teacher and Creative Pearl among others enable us to connect with, communicate and understand each of our stakeholders including students, parents, alumni, teachers and industry. 

Further, conducive academic environment at Pearl nurtures and nourishes the design sensibilities of its students. Our graduates are not just professionals but are socially responsible citizens who believe in giving back to the society. We empower them with the ability to have a bird’s eye-view, locate the real issues and find out the relevant and sensible solutions for the betterment of the society.

5. What according to you are the things that the Design program teaches and nobody else teaches?

Design in itself is a vast discipline. It has an edge over others by its core essence of innovation and the process of looking at any issue from 360 degree. Such concepts are embedded in the curriculum to help learners create and apply design to identify and solve problems ultimately to create changes, improve and make our lives more comfortable. Design brings out individuality, the core creative competencies in a person and pushes the boundaries of imagination to the farthest possible limits.

6. How your curriculum ensures best practices of Industry?

The course curriculum is designed in conjunction with the requirements of the industry yet considers the needs of the future environment. It trains the student to be life-long learner and an explorer. The curriculum is updated at intervals and establishes a link between the learner and the environment within the industry.

The pedagogy evolves as per the need of the time, industry and students. With technology occupying every little space in our lives, education too had to adapt to these technological advancements by integrating new methods of L & T such as online and blended, smart classes, etc. One of the crucial requirements in graduates is industry-readiness. Recruiters want polished, adaptable and hands-on students who can take on responsibilities producing results within a short time of joining. This is achieved through mandatory internships, field visits, industry interface and live projects for real time industry experience, etc. These students are the most sought after design and fashion graduates.

7. How does becoming a designer help in all fields of life?

Designers are vital for every field irrespective of the domain. Design is everywhere, affects function in all products, communicates effectively and provokes thoughts. For instance, a simple application of design can help the super market sell the costlier items by placing these products at eye-level on the shelves. I would say that opportunities are endless because design applications can do wonders anywhere.

A career in design helps an individual to think, dream and achieve beyond the usual. Designing is about evolving and innovating. And, a designer has these two attributes that allow him to develop a different kind of an outlook towards everything setting him apart from the rest.       

8. Your take on employability vs. placements w.r.t program?

The youth of this generation is very interesting. The ‘millennials’ hunt for challenges, take risks and explore rather than following the safe; tried and tested paths are obvious and boring for them. While placements are students’ prerogative and college’s responsibility to ensure former’s safe future, it’s employability that should be the topic of concern. In fact, I would also like to add entrepreneurship here.The creative industries are very competitive and dynamic. Uniqueness of the product or services is what keeps the business entities sustained and striving. Hence, they need a task force that can adapt to the dynamics of the industry quickly. For the same, the need of the hour is an employable student who does justice to the demands of the industries. There is huge demand for designers and creators in all the creative industries. With the increasing awareness of the advantages of design thinking and applications, now even the heavy or main-stream industries are hiring designers. 

The EY Megatrends 2015 report pegs nearly half of the world’s entrepreneurs between the ages of 25–44. This indicates that entrepreneurship will attract a bigger chunk of youth in the coming future and the education sector can contribute immensely to this. At Pearl Academy, we nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and encourage them to follow their entrepreneurial instincts. The members of faculty act as mentors; they guide the students through the initial phase of their entrepreneurial journey. We have numerous alumni who started their own ventures and are doing remarkably well in their respective fields today.   

9. How do you look at enhancing holistic development of students at Pearl Academy, Noida?

Student and industry interface is vital not only in terms of learning but also to build a bridge between the two in order to understand the needs of both the sides. At Pearl, we organize a number of seminars, workshops, expert talks, industry visits and more for the students.A mandatory internship is integrated in the course curriculum and the feedback on students’ performance is taken from the companies, which is considered extremely seriously by our faculty. Students are required to submit their report on internship in which they have to cover learning, exposure, skills and knowledge gained during their stint with the company.

Our Corporate Relations Department (CRD) has devised a unique training module – ‘Parichay’ for Pearl graduates that includes trainings on soft skills, body language, market knowledge, resume building and interview skills. The training is scheduled just before the placement season to ensure maximum and quality hiring which tends to be a win-win situation for both the students and industry. Apart from this, CRD regularly invites industry representatives to organize interactive sessions for our students where they can pose their queries and get answers from the horse’s mouth directly.

10. Tell us more about new courses like Product Design/Jewellery Design and their future prospects.

As per industry reports, India is one of the largest manufacturers of gold and diamond jewelry and the exports stood at US$ 34.75 billion in FY 2013-14. I think this figure is enough to establish the fact that jewelry designers are already in demand. Our programme in jewelry design helps students learn skills and art of the field. The curriculum exposes our graduates to not only to design, but to various other aspects of jewelry such as different manufacturing techniques both handmade and casting, different craft techniques like filigree, kundan, granulation, enameling, makume, etc.; visual merchandising, packaging, different export markets, retail, gemology, fashion jewelry, etc. After graduating, students can start their own label with their unique offerings in jewelry articles. Those who want to work with the industry first, get readily absorbed by jewelry manufacturing companies, retail chains and exporters.

Product design is a new age career and futuristic in its approach. The 4 year program in Product Design at Pearl provides learning pathways in distinct levels of subject complexity and differentiated areas of specialization covering lighting and luminary design, Interior accessories and objects d’art, kitchen/-ware, bath-ware, products for hospitality industry, eco-friendly and sustainable products.

11. What is your message to the students who wish to join Pearl Academy, Noida?

Pearl Academy, NOIDA is a Design school. A student generally looks out for the reputed faculty; to absorb knowledge and experience. You can make a difference with your innovation and creativity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek to connect with industries. Find out your core strengths and hone them to perfection as only these will make you stand apart from the rest. ‘Love what you do and do what you love; it is the mantra of excellence and success’. Don’t be afraid to step into any environment - showroom, shopping malls, factory, and companies, to learn the processes as they will help you grow as a professional. Keep asking questions and be curious. Visit places, meet people, experience cultures – they add enormously to your experience and learning.   

 

Brief Bo: Prof. Nien Siao

Prof. Nien Siao is currently serving as the Director at Pearl Academy's centre at NOIDA (NCR Delhi), an institute of design, fashion, and creative businesses. She graduated from NID, National Institute of Design with specialization in Industrial Design (Textile Design). Her stint in the industry as a fashion and textile designer included design development, training in the fashion, home furnishing, carpet, and craft industry. She has been associated with Design Academics department at Pearl Academy for nearly 20 years and embarked on this journey as a course leader followed by the role of Head of Department of Fashion Design. Her research papers have been presented at IFFTI (International Federation of Fashion Technology Institutes) conference Paris, RMIT, Australia, and nationally. As a professional trainer, she has worked with corporate businesses, SMEs, NGOs, craftsmen and entrepreneurs in areas of design, skill, and product and strategy development. Her contribution through education as means to build the design future for the society and would like to focus on the development of Indian Fashion and Design industry and markets.

Last Updated - 17 Sep 2015

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