30 UNDER 30: Zaheen Somani, designer

Zaheen Somani designs interactive products. - Katya Slepian
Zaheen Somani designs interactive products.
— image credit: Katya Slepian

Age: 29

High School: Richmond High

His friends and family might not understand exactly what it is Zaheen Somani does but they’re proud as can be of the Simon Fraser University engineering grad.

Somani originally came to SFU thinking he would go into business but ended up focusing on designing interactive systems and graduated in 2007 with a degree in engineering.

He started off working as a user experience designer for Blackberry back in 2006 and now runs a team of designers at Ensemble who design interactive products for clients all around the world.

Inspiration? “There’s a couple of things. To stay cutting edge is one of them, I think one of the number one fears we end up having is to become obsolete, to become something that’s no longer necessary and if I stay at the cutting edge of the forefront of that, hopefully that won’t happen to me. [My inspiration] is just always to be learning and staying in front, to be one of those leading generations of learning new technology and be willing to explore and try it, rather than being a laggard in the adoption phase.”

Most proud of? “Definitely finishing university. It’s something that nobody will ever be able to take away from me. If I lose my job, if I don’t have anything else, I still have that fact that I completed that [degree], studied really hard and I got through the whole thing. No matter what you’ve done up till now or what you’ll do in the future, you’ll always have that and you’re respected because of that, you’ll find that people will talk to you differently, look at you differently and it’s good.”

Advice? “In any design field, you get a lot of criticism. No matter what kind of design you do, it all comes back to being able to take criticism constructively. So I’ve been told numerous times that things I do aren’t very good or that this sucks but you have to understand that it’s all subjective, so if you can validate your design with good data research and usability testing and things like that you’ll be fine. Don’t get demotivated and sidetracked by detractors.”

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