Julia Kitchen talks to Harsha Kotak, Design Manager at K2 Space and Founder of WOD (Women in Office Design) at the new K2 Space studio in Barnsbury Square #womengettingthingsdone
Julia This is the first time I have visited the new home of K2 Space. It is a fantastic place to work. Congratulations on a brilliant design. I know that you have been at K2 Space for a few years, tell me about that and about what you did before
Harsha I have been at K2 Space for just over eleven years. Prior to that I worked as an interior designer in India and in the US. I did my Masters in Interior Design at Savannah College of Art & Design, USA
Julia It must be unusual for a designer to have experience of working in three different continents. We first met because I knew K2 Space founders Mark and Jeff. I first worked with K2 Space at Morgan Stanley. I was on the client side and they were supplying all the high end meeting room furniture. Mark and Jeff were efficient and easy to work with which is not a combination you come across very often. I have kept in touch with them ever since and have no doubt they are still efficient and easy to work with though K2 Space has grown and changed a lot since those days
Harsha They are great and they have been very accommodating with me. I work three days in the office and two days at home which gives me some flexibility with family life and a good work life balance
WOD at Clerkenwell Design Week 2019
Julia So important. You are also the founder of Women in Office Design (WOD) which has had a hugely successful year or so since its inception. You must be thrilled with the impact it has had
WOD event at Isomi
Harsha It has been amazing. I launched WOD in May 2018 and since then it has gone from strength to strength. We have over 500 members now – designers, architects, project managers, manufacturers, saleswomen and operations personnel. We also have a Spanish chapter which is thriving and well-developed plans for other international chapters. I visualised it as a global network of women coming together to learn, prosper and grow – a movement to elevate the status of women in the industry by empowering them with knowledge and support. We want to support the professional development of women in office design through networking, mentorship, education and advocacy. I am so pleased with how it has taken off
Julia Entirely to your credit
Harsha It started as a LinkedIn group to connect women in office design across the globe but it has grown really fast. I had contacts across the globe as a result of working in India and in the US and I wanted to bring those women together. We meet regularly with time to network and to listen to different speakers from the industry
Julia How did the Spanish chapter come about?
Harsha Spanish office furniture manufacturer Actiu hosted the WOD Christmas party in London and Soledad Berbegal Roque, Brand Reputation Director and the daughter of the family who own Actiu, was there. She is very keen to promote women and the Barcelona based Spanish branch of WOD was born. We are also doing events in Madrid and Valencia. There has also been a lot of interest from other countries. It is really taking off. WOD is not sponsored by a company – we want to be independent and plan to be a non-profit. Suppliers to the industry support us by hosting our events
WOD Christmas party at Actiu
Julia It is fantastic what you have achieved in so short a time
Harsha We also have a collaboration now with onoffice magazine which is spreading the word even further
Julia I have always said that women do things differently. Sometimes I am asked if I am disappointed with how few women there are on FTSE 250 boards. I am disappointed by that, of course, but not discouraged. I recognise that women do things differently and their success cannot be measured by a conventional male measure of success. Some women, like Margaret Thatcher for example, do it the men’s way but many, many more women forge real success at work and in life in a different way – running small businesses, leading teams, inspiring others and juggling family and work
Harsha WOD is not about feminism as such or campaigning for equality though of course it not against those things. It is about supporting and inspiring the next generation of women in the industry. We are currently talking about a mentoring programme and even speed-mentoring….
Julia I will need to get my head around the idea of speed-mentoring! What do you do when you are not working?
Harsha Mainly I look after my son who is 15 and plays a lot of cricket and I also write for some American and Indian Design & Lifestyle Magazines
WOD launch event
Julia Julia Cricket is very time-consuming. My youngest, who also plays cricket, is 18 now so I am coming to the end of the day to day childcare. I have brought up four children and have only been able to do that with any success at all due to being able to work flexibly. Sometimes that has meant working very early in the morning or very late at night but always doing it around the needs of my family. I have just posted an interview on the blog with recruitment consultant, James Saunders from the Talent Locker, and he told me that the number one thing almost everyone is looking for these days – men and women – is flexibility at work in terms of place and time. It is no longer salary and a company car that are the most important things
Harsha I am lucky to have had that flexibility here at K2 Space
Julia Yes, but you probably would have gone elsewhere had that not been the case
Harsha True. How are things going with the blog?
Julia I have been neglecting the blog a bit for the last few months due to too much project and consultancy work. I need to carve out some time each week to focus on the blog. I also need to convert it to a revenue stream as that will help me with having the confidence to do less fee-based work. I am very excited about it – in essence I want to stay at home more in my home office, do less rushing about the UK, influence workplace thinking, support the next generation and share the wisdom and experience of my long career
Harsha We would be happy to support you in any way we can
Julia Thank you. Likewise, I would be happy to support WOD in any way you need. K2 Space used to be an office furniture business but is now Design & Build with furniture and you will have seen that transition in your eleven years here
Harsha Moving to Design & Build has been a way to grow organically as a company and an opportunity to influence and direct the whole process rather than just the furniture element. It has been a hugely successful strategy for us
Julia Delighted to hear that. Thank you for sparing the time to talk to me. I know how busy you are. Good luck with WOD’s global growth
Twitter & Instagram: @wod_uk