When Paul Sohi was a teenager he was pretty sure he was going to be an architect. He even studied the subject at university. But when he ended up drawing toilets every day he decided the career was not for him. So he took the skills he learnt at university and started his own product design practice. Today he works as a product designer at Autodesk, a US 3D design company with offices around the world, including in the UAE. Mr Sohi, based in London, was recently in Dubai for the ING Creative Festival. He speaks about the future of 3D technology and a typical day in his working life.
I am fine in the mornings. I am one of those rare individuals who doesn’t sleep much and copes quite well with it. I am a Fusion 360 specialist, which is our latest and greatest software. It is designed for product design and mechanical engineers. I joined Autodesk just under a year ago. There isn’t really anything such as a typical day for me.
I arrive in the office. Usually I will spend some time checking my emails. I work with an international team. There are seven core members – five are in the US, there’s one in Japan and then there is myself. We are usually catching up on what interesting projects we are working on. Each member of my team has their own specialisations and skillset and we work together to make the most out of that. That takes an hour tops.
Depending on the day I go straight into doing some design work myself or meet with one of the start-ups I am working on to see what they are doing. I will spend a lot of days meeting different companies to get to know them and understand what it is that they are doing to support them. I also run workshops for wider audiences and meet and connect with Makespace coworking spaces to support them and their members and then of course I do my own direct design work like the prosthetic, which is what I have been working on. I am working with Denise Schindler, who is a German Paralympic cyclist. She won the silver medal at the London Paralympics and we have been working with her for the last 10 months to develop a completely new type of [lower limb] prosthetic using 3D printing. She is going to be the first Paralympian ever to use a 3D printed prosthetic at the Paralympics. Using 3D printing we can make something that is absolutely specific to her. We can manufacture it very quickly. But one of the great things about doing it this way is we can make it lighter than carbon fibre. So her previous carbon fibre prosthetic was 1.2kg and the polycarbonate one that I have made for her is 812 grams.
I tend to eat lunch relatively early. My job is pretty front facing so [I also] update Twitter, letting people know what I am up to, where I am going to go.
I get back to the office. From there I am going into other meetings or doing my design work until I leave around 5pm.
Most nights I also run a meet-up, so these are live events with people who are interested in learning about product design. This is generally hosting a coworking or Makespace [event] which runs for about two or three hours. It is like a mixture of presentation where people learn about who I am and what I do, what is product design, what does manufacturing mean these days. There is a company called Local Motors which is currently in the process of looking at really cool manufacturing techniques for car chassis. Houses are already happening. They are doing 3D printing with concrete. As a technology it is probably one of the fastest moving out there right now. Sometimes I might have two or three in a week or I might have one. But I absolutely love what I do so I don’t really feel tired.
I get home. I am studying a PhD part time, so usually when I get home I’m working on that. Either it’s writing a paper or doing some design work. Otherwise if I have an evening off I will be playing videogames. I also like to read. I do a bit of reading before I go to bed. I am reading Neuromancer by William Gibson.
I go to bed. I don’t really sleep a lot. I actually feel worse if I go to bed earlier.