This week we meet UCL alumna Isha Maggu, who studied Human-Computer Interaction at UCL and is now working as a Product Designer at a healthcare startup. Here, Isha chats to us about her experience making pottery at the Institute of Making and favourite galleries around London.
What did you study, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?
I chose to study Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL as I’ve always been curious about technology, design and human behaviour - I was lucky to find the field of HCI that covers all these areas.
I am fascinated by our interactions with technology and their effect on the future of our societies - especially in light of the pandemic when tech is intertwined with our lives at a whole new level. I believe that design is at the core of how we understand the world around us, influencing our thoughts, feelings and decisions. It is in our power, as well as our responsibility, to design technology in a way that is empathetic, meets our needs, and enhances what we do and love. My goal is to work at the forefront of designing and humanising what these interactions will be.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen, or got involved with while at UCL?
One of the most interesting things I’ve been involved in at UCL has been working at the Institute of Making - I find it a really exciting place, where you feel you can create almost anything. I’ve made pottery here, designed and printed 3D objects, used laser cutters, and even taken sewing and screen printing classes.
As part of my degree, I also took a class called ’Physical Computing and Prototyping’, where we needed to create a physical prototype using electronics and an Arduino - I ended up building a smart hula hoop from scratch, which measures how many hoops you’ve completed and correspondingly changes colours. Coming from a background where I’ve done a lot of digital design on screen, I loved the opportunity to build physical things with my hands!
Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?
The roof terrace on the top floor of the student centre served as a bit of a calming sanctuary for me, especially as a break spot between long legs of studying. I also loved the Jazz nights on Tuesdays - there was always such a buzz in the room filled with talented musicians. Finally, warming up during freezing winter days with a hot chocolate from any of the student cafes is always a comfort (I’m biased towards Gordon’s, having worked there as a barista!).
Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London
It feels strange to be writing this list in the middle of lockdown! But here’s some for when things open up:
- Just walking around the city. In terms of parks, some of my favourites are St. James’ park, Hyde park and Hampstead Heath - when it’s warm, have a swim in the lido! I’ve currently moved East where there are fewer parks, but I’ve found some amazing spots here - especially Shad Thames and Maltby Street Market.
- Checking out live music venues, from intimate ’speakeasy-vibe’ venues such as Oriole and Night Jar, to more upbeat music at Oslo Hackney or Phonox.
- I also love checking out galleries and exhibitions - my favourites are the Design Museum, Somerset House, Tate Modern and 180 The Strand.
What’s one thing you’d like to see in a post-COVID world?
With the majority of the world’s activities going online, I’ve come to understand the weight of issues caused by internet inequality. Those who have not had access to reliable internet services and devices have been left behind during an already challenging time. I find it difficult to accept that some students across the world had to leave their education because they could not access online teaching. I’d want to see connectivity as a basic right as it’s something so many of us take for granted.
Who inspires you and why?
For me, inspiration doesn’t come from one specific person - it comes from the people, space and ideas around me. My family and friends inspire me on a daily basis, and thanks to the internet, I’m able to follow people I admire online, ranging from designers to entrepreneurs to philosophers. Usually, anyone who is motivated, who loves their craft and is content inspires me.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
Whenever I tell people I’m Czech, they’re quite confused (if you meet me, you can see I’m quite clearly of Indian/Asian origin)! I was born and raised in Prague and speak Czech fluently.