What do you do if you’ve just completed your hard-earned MA in Sustainable Design degree while working full time with two kids and, just as you think life might finally get back to normal, the pandemic hits? For many of us, the answer would be to back-burner or postpone as much work as possible and look for as much support as we can get. But not Ajda Mesic (MASD 2019).
In Ajda’s words:
Given the current global circumstances many permanent changes have taken root personally and culturally, I had to evolve and adapt to the changing nature of life on Earth. My online degree has prepared me for virtualization in the workplace and taught me how to engage and lead my team remotely. I am becoming somewhat of a wiz at homeschooling as well. But the most profound thing I have learned is that the coronavirus crisis holds profound lessons that can help us address climate change and environmental resiliency.
During my final semester of school I put together a virtual portfolio showing some of the key professional and academic accomplishments. My work ranges from art and fabric designs to personal leadership ideas aimed at changing the world for the better, one person or one garment at a time. Besides my children, my most praised work of genius thus far is my thesis. It is focused on identifying and understanding how socio-cultural norms shape consumer behaviors, somewhat based on personal experiences with the phenomenon of extravagant and wasteful nature of birthday parties for children.
Subsequently and interestingly enough, the frameworks I’ve used to do the research and make my hypothesis and thesis prepared me to better read demand signals and spending habit shifts of consumers today. As I look back at my work, I recognize that there was an opportunity to make meaningful connections and conversations with my audience digitally, those I am hoping to reach and influence.
During the first few weeks of the stay at home order I jumped to doing something I knew well. I built a website — OBPDM FAMILY — as an information hub for my team and kept updated daily and nightly. A community was born, and the site became shared with the outside community of “family members” or “moms like me” reaching over a thousand followers in a span of 3 weeks. Thankfully, the need for the simple work I was doing has slowly decreased as everyone has established and come to terms with their new normal.
Another epiphany emerged from this experience. One is that a number of trends in the post-COVID-19 world, the “next normal”, could make digital and analytics play an even more important role in design for impact, and two, I have a weird way of connecting to people through storytelling. I am excited to discover the untapped potentials that are hiding in plain sight and figure out a way to expand my impact personally and professionally.