Originally from Spain, product designer Alejandro Lara has lived and worked in Germany, Austria and China, joining Hydrix in late 2019. Here he shares a little of his product development journey, and the value of experience.
The experience of working in different countries, and cultures
When I was a student, I learned things one way, from one perspective inside the design world. Making the decision to move abroad and pursue an international career forced me to step outside my comfort zone giving me the opportunity to develop new skills and have new experiences while maturing professionally.
Working for international companies, you get to experience totally different ways of working, communicating and collaborating. But in living in these diverse countries, I feel I’ve really broadened my horizons, and learned how diverse working cultures can be, even on similar projects, and how exciting it is to work with different people, perspectives and approaches. For example, in Germany and Austria, the work environment is quite organized, structured and methodical. Even in the creative environment of a design company, there was always a process to be followed, sometimes with less room for ‘improvisation’.
When I moved to China, I experienced the opposite. A very dynamic and fast-paced environment, and the pressure was on. It required a lot more flexibility and adaptability. Of course, there was a process, as a guideline, but from time to time we needed to improvise and change according to the need. It is then that you start to realize there is more than one way of thinking, especially when your workplace is so diverse, with people from different backgrounds and varied expertise working in the same project. As a professional, it is fascinating because you become aware there is more than one approach a problem, more ways to innovate and resolve challenges.
The move to Australia
My partner and I were considering the possibility of leaving China before deciding to move to Australia. After our first visit in 2018, we fell in love with Melbourne. We really like the atmosphere and uniqueness of this city, so decided to make the move.
Melbourne has lots of interesting companies developing great technologies and that’s how I ended up finding Hydrix. I was excited about developing medical products from scratch, and gaining experience on a product’s full lifecycle, shaping the device from beginning to end.
One current project which reflects this full development approach is developing digital concepts for a market where there is no current solution for an actual problem; developing implantable technologies for children with cardiac problems/disease. While much of the industry is focussed on making smaller more powerful devices, we’ve started from the user experience perspective – that of the child, the parent, the physician. I believe this approach has revealed new design possibilities and solutions.
This approach aligns with my design philosophy of developing to the needs of requirements and functionality, but always maintaining the focus on the user. The user always gives concrete details that help us to create the best solution for their needs.
Over Christmas, I took my summer holidays in Mallacoota, about 6 hours east of Melbourne. It became one of the towns hit hardest by the recent bushfires. It was a scary experience: I’m new in the country and didn’t know what to do, what to expect, how to act in such an environment.
The moment from initial warnings to evacuation seemed to go very quickly. We packed our things and headed to the evacuation point. Sirens were sounding, the wind was strong, there was a lot of smoke, the sky suddenly turned red then black. There was no electricity, so we were saving our phone batteries in case we needed to contact someone. We were trying to be patient and stay calm with people around us remaining helpful and calm. Australians are friendly and even in this sort of situation they maintained a calming atmosphere. After 10 hours the fire front passed, and we were isolated in Mallacoota.
We were eventually evacuated by the navy. My car is still there. I’ll make the journey to collect it when the roads re-open.
The value of experience
I believe all these experiences ultimately enrich me as a designer, and most importantly, as a person. As designers, we need to understand the world around us, be a good observer and an active listener, in order to deliver the best outcomes. As time progresses, I believe my experiences are allowing me to become more intuitive, empathetic of problems that people face. I think the more I can understand the human condition, people’s needs and desires, I more likely I can then create more informed design solutions. For me, if through my design work I’m helping people, even indirectly, it is more rewarding and meaningful.