Before DSI, 2018 alum Hrudaya Veena Yanamandala worked as an engineer with a focus on electronics and communication. In her field, she found herself struggling more and more with the lack of connection between humanity and technology. This led her to take the initiative to enroll in online courses focused on human-computer interaction as a first step in understanding this divide. While engaged in these classes, she came to a critical revelation that served as her gateway into the world of design.
“I still felt constrained in the world of technology, and that it was very artificial. When I started learning more and practicing human-centered design, I realized that technology can be just one step in solving a problem rather than the whole solution.” This moment inspired her to enroll in a one year design diploma program in India to get her bearings as a designer. While in this program, she came across DSI online and found herself drawn to it due to the way it blended her interests in technology, politics, and sociology.
Now, Hrudaya is combining her social design degree with her background in engineering to make big changes in the patient, caregiver, and clinician experience at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Since starting her work as a Design Strategist with the Design and Innovation Group at MSKCC, Hrudaya has made use of her diverse skills in design research, storytelling, prototyping, mapping, and facilitation to create moments of joy for patients and practitioners within the institution. She learned this practice of designing for delight from her thesis advisor and our current chair, Miya Osaki, and it’s a framework she uses as much as she can while on the job. Currently, the primary deliverable of her work is the development of a program to provide 24/7 access to proactive care for high-risk patients.
Since this program is new and involves the creation of innovative roles within the institution, Hrudaya has been re-designing the ways MSKCC utilizes technological systems to prioritize simplicity and role clarity for incoming clinicians. Alongside this project, and in partnership with the Applied Data Science team, she is helping to prototype predictive algorithms that can understand user value and create a business case for predictive models within MSKCC.
Though she is now deeply engaged in the clinical design field, it is far from her only interest. Since graduation she has also taken advantage of opportunities to work in politics and design practice. This includes a position as a Public Access Designer with the Center for Urban Pedagogy. In her time there, she collaborated with their youth education program and the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice on a project that unpacked marijuana laws in New York City. In addition to this job, she and fellow 2018 alum Ishita Jain co-founded Social Design, India—an initiative created to enhance human-centered design practice in India among various design communities.
With everything she’s accomplished since completing our program, in both her work and personal life, Hrudaya has kept what she learned at DSI in the forefront of her mind. She especially indicates the impact of Karen Proctor’s Leadership class in helping her map her journey as a designer and define the impact she hopes to make in her career, and the entrepreneurship course for its guidance in navigating complex systems in the workplace and emphasizing the use of cross-disciplinary collaboration to solve the problems that these systems give rise to.
When asked what advice she has for students of DSI, Hrudaya emphasized the importance of making every challenge an opportunity and having the flexibility to reframe these challenges in work and in life.
“You have the ability to design, so use it in your life and reevaluate your ways of thinking, where you want to be and what you want to be. We can make change one step at a time; realize the scope of what you can design within and how.”