We caught up with Aashi from TTP about her experience on a placement year at TTP as a Product Designer.
Tell us a little bit about your background and journey into Design.
I study Product Design and Technology at Loughborough University and I’m doing this placement in the third year of my course. My interest in Product Design began well before university. I’ve always been creative and have loved sketching and drawing, but I was unsure of how to turn my passion into a career. In Year 9, I had DT teachers who weren’t your traditional kind of DT teachers, as they introduced some really exciting things like 3D printing, robotics, and more. This is where my interest in DT began, and from there I went from strength to strength in the subject. My teachers always encouraged us to think about the subject in its wider context and to apply it outside of the curriculum where possible, so I did some design awards (Triumph Motorcycles Design Awards and also MTA’s TDI Challenge) and things like that alongside studying. This allowed me to discover how I could use DT in the real world and led me to choose to study Product Design at Loughborough.
On my course, we cover lots of different areas of Product Design and Technology, but I’ve always gravitated towards actively picking medical products and healthcare. That’s why I was drawn to TTP, they’re a healthcare consultancy in Cambridge, with a large Heath Tech business unit, so it’s right up my street in terms of where I want to take my career. As well as this I was drawn to the fact that every project at TTP has a real-world impact. So that’s how I’ve ended up here! My teachers and parents put a lot of effort into helping me grow in the subjects I was passionate about and got me thinking about the subject in its real-world context - where I am now is a testament to that.
When it came to applying for placement years, what stood out to you about TTP?
TTP did a placement talk at Loughborough where a current placement student and senior designer explained what TTP’s all about and what projects a placement student could get involved with. This gave me a very raw view of what the placement experience is like, which I appreciated at the time. From there, I did more research into TTP and the areas they specialise in. After discovering that TTP is heavily involved with medical products and healthcare design, it was a no-brainer that I would apply. This year, I did the placement talk at Loughborough because I recognised how important it was for me last year to hear someone’s authentic experience first-hand.
What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities in your role?
TTP has three business units, each focusing on different market sectors. All of the business units are multi-disciplinary, containing a mix of engineers, designers, and scientists – all of whom collaborate on projects. I’m within the Healthcare business unit, where the designers are a close community, forming their own Human Factors team. For me, the term human factors means putting the user at the heart of design and development - it’s a very human-centric approach to design. This means thinking about how the product affects the person using it (and vice versa) and how the person’s views on the product affect the way they interact with it – that’s the kind of stuff I’m interested in!
Day to day my role changes a lot, depending on what projects I’m working on. I’ve done a lot of prototyping: detailed CAD design of devices that we are taking through to user studies so participants can interact with them as a research method. I also do a lot of sketching work and brainstorming sessions to come up with concepts and mechanisms for particular concepts. As I mentioned, I love art and anything creative so this has been great fun. I’ve done other things including workflow analysis where I looked at the user experience of a particular product to understand how patients interact with it, as well as working in a variety of product development areas.
What’s been your favourite project to work on at TTP?
A stand-out project for me was for an eye care device. Although I was only a month into the internship I threw myself into the deep end and had to quickly get up to speed with the project. My role was to come up with unique concepts for different elements of the device with the end goal being to test it with the intended users that had the condition we were designing for. In addition to this being a novel project for me, Covid meant added complexities in how we could run our research. I loved having to overcome this challenge and work out how we could test on real people despite the constraints.
First, I had to design the concepts through brainstorming with the team and creating rough sketches. Following this, I used CAD to bring these designs to life and allow them to be prototyped. Although there was an extensive amount of modelling which proved to be challenging I thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning something new. Seeing your thoughts and quick sketches turn into prototypes that users are interacting with and giving feedback on shines a light on areas that you might not have considered before – validation and user research is essential.
Through working in this practical environment, where there’s a client on the other end, I understand the importance of doing my best work to produce something that delivers value to them. A pivotal moment for me was being able to organise and run the user study. At university, the research I did lacked a strong purpose, but here I was speaking to participants who would be helped by my work and would also help define/validate designs. This was an incredible experience as I got to see the project from start to completion.
What’s your favourite thing about working at TTP?
Working here is fantastic because there's a wide range of people who all bring their unique skillsets and I am fortunate to be able to learn from so many of these talented people. I like that the work environment is multidisciplinary as it allows me to access a broad set of knowledge that I can use to enhance my learning. I also love that I can have independence in my work, choosing what I want to do, where I want to progress, and what experiences I will gain.
Where do you think you’ve grown the most?
Personal development – I’ve been much more focused on reflecting on the way that I am learning, constantly evaluating how I am developing as a designer and how I could improve this in the future. As a student, I spent little time reflecting on how I approached my design work and what my methods were (instead of focusing on achieving grades and meeting deadlines) but throughout this year my mindset shifted. I realised the importance of reflecting on what I want to gain from the experience, the new skills that I want to develop, and where I want this to take me.
Skills as a designer – I have developed this year, primarily due to gaining confidence in my work. Working in this professional environment I understood more about how to tell the story of what I’ve done to different audiences and have been able to deliver work that I am proud of. TTP is unique in this sense.
What has been your experience with TTP culture?
Multidisciplinary is an apt way to describe TTP’s culture, particularly compared to life as a student where you’re only exposed to things on a conceptual level. This style of working was so eye-opening and, through project work, it was evident that there were different streams of work including mechanical, electronic, and business elements. Brainstorming sessions with these diverse teams allowed me to see multiple perspectives, this was invaluable as a placement student – you’re building on your knowledge and becoming more confident in your field. It was so insightful to witness how people with different perspectives collaborate and how at the end of the session there is a balanced outcome. This was one of the best things to come out of TTP and makes the experience unique.
My team was incredible, I was constantly challenged by the people I worked with and was encouraged to push myself. I think that as a placement student you shouldn’t be in a monotonous environment, you should be able to stretch yourself to learn new things and develop your skills. At TTP, the culture is so open and friendly, where you're given great support - this came from my mentor, development coach, and the wider team of people I worked with. As a placement student, I felt valued and could see that a lot of thought was given to how I could be supported.
What is next for you?
Following my experience at TTP, I want to continue exploring the healthcare design field. I had considered a Masters, but this year has shown me that I need a practical environment where I am pushed and can develop my technical skills and knowledge. Going forward, I'm going to prioritise my continued development as a designer and pursue a career in this field where I can continue to explore the challenges within healthcare innovation.
What advice would you give to someone applying to TTP?
The biggest learning curve I’ve had over the past few years is around how to present yourself as a designer in your portfolio – it’s really important to tell a story through this. People are of course interested in the end product, but there’s been a huge journey to get to that point that needs to be conveyed. Explaining the journey of arriving at a solution is just as important as the way you present that solution. TTP made me feel very comfortable throughout the process, so I was able to take control over what I was saying and how I was presenting my work. I would also say have a good think about what kind of skills you have and what you want to develop. The environment and culture at TTP is one in which you have a lot of freedom, allowing you to push yourself in the areas you have a real interest, as well as to challenge yourself in brand new ways and in areas you might not have had the chance to explore previously
What advice would you give to help students get the most out of their placement?
Get as involved as you can – exposure is a massive thing in any placement role. As a placement student, you’re only there for a year so make the most of it, get maximum exposure in the business, and gain as much experience as possible. You'll be working on real projects developing practical skills like client management and commercial awareness. Don't be afraid to seek out and take new opportunities. Having conversations with people on what you're interested in will open the door to amazing things, and TTP encourages open communication from placement students as they want to help your professional development. Finally, just enjoy what you’re doing and be curious about it, you have such a unique opportunity to gain knowledge from industry experts so make the most of it. Most importantly, have fun and do things that you can look back on and be proud of.
If you're inspired by Aashi's story and want to follow in their footsteps - check out TTP's profile.