Creatif Conversations: 14. Harsha Kotak

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that few people have had such a wide-reaching and genuinely positive impact on the workplace design sector as Women In Office Design founder, Harsha Kotak.

In addition to her role as Design Manager at K2 Space, Harsha created WOD in 2018 as “a global networking group for women in the workplace design industry”. Just over two years later, WOD is now one of the most recognisable brand names within the sector, boasting thousands of members, an online digital platform and regular events in collaboration with some of the industry’s most recognised brands and thought leaders. We caught up with Harsha to find out more about WOD…

Creatif: In your own words, what is Women In Office Design?

Harsha Kotak: WOD is a global network of like-minded women in the workplace design industry. It’s a platform for us women to connect, collaborate and create through thought-provoking learning and networking events.

Creatif: And how did WOD get started?

HK: During my years in the workplace design industry I noticed the disparity in numbers of women executives. I – as I’m sure many others have, and still do – questioned what the future of the industry I am passionate about, would look like without a change. I wanted to make an impact and I felt that the best way to do that was to create a network capable of supporting and fostering women’s career growth within the industry.

WOD started back in 2018 in London but has expanded really quickly. We now have well over 1,500 members spread across chapters in the UK, Europe and beyond, with more joining.

Creatif: How does the industry get involved with WOD events and activities?

HK: We have received great support from the industry and welcome companies and individuals who want to collaborate with us. Our events are always hosted or sponsored by manufacturers and suppliers from the workplace design industry as this helps them reach designers and workplace experts and promote their products to the right target audience.

We also partner with individuals and thought leaders from our industry and give them a platform to share their insights. Our collaborations with industry leading magazines like OnOffice and festivals like CDW and London Festival of Architecture gives us an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the work of our members.

Creatif: It’s always great to see an industry leader such as yourself using their voice for positive change, especially when it inspires other to do the same.

HK: Thank you. With WOD I wanted to build a unique environment where women can inspire one another and where the industry’s leading female voices could become accessible mentors to our growing community.

I’m very fortunate to have met some truly inspirational women within our industry over the years, many of whom (just like me) share the same passion for workplace design and the need for a community like WOD. Without the help of my many WOD colleagues, the speedy growth of this network and its impact would not have been possible.

Creatif: Events are a huge part of WOD’s offering. How have you navigated that during the recent pandemic?

HK: It has been difficult, but we never stop. I developed and launched ‘WOD Digital’ – a first of its kind app-based online platform for the workplace design industry. Much like the rest of the world we have had to adapt to using technology more. I realised that our members needed regular interactions and learning more at this time when they were stuck at home. We needed to continue learning and stay connected with the industry and ‘digital’ is the way forward.

‘WOD Digital’ is a simple tool to connect with your peers from the industry, by sector, company or country. Our events and courses are now accessible through this digital platform which allows our members to stay updated. We have also set up a WOD Careers page on this platform to support our members who lost their jobs during this pandemic.

While the future is unsure and we are unable to go out and meet our industry friends, this online platform helps us to stay connected and learn from each other. The members are enjoying chatting with each other, sharing articles and information and the WOD community is thriving as a result.

Creatif: A dedicated platform? So, like a social network for your members?

HK: Yes but more than just a dedicated social network. Members each have their own profile and communicate with each other both directly and via several groups dedicated to specific topics.

Using the platform we’re able to organise online events such as workshops and panel discussions. We also partner with industry experts to deliver video courses on a range of workplace and business related subjects.
The feedback has been really positive so far. Personally I think given the current pandemic restricting our ability to get out and see people, it has been really nice to stay engaged with the community directly.

Creatif: I’m sure you get asked this question a lot… What is your policy on men when it comes to WOD?

HK: Haha. Yes it has come up before… I would like to clarify here that WOD is about inclusivity and about making our industry powerful.

Men are always welcome to join and attend WOD events. We encourage them to join us in changing the conversation. We’ve worked with leading male voices within the workplace sector in the past to deliver some excellent seminars and workshops.

The group was created because I noticed that women were less likely to network compared to men, which naturally hinders the career growth of female professionals. By creating a network that encourages more women to connect and learn with their peers, we foster our career growth.

Creatif: How do you feel about WOD’s journey so far? Are you happy with what the community has achieved?

HK: Of course, I’m very pleased that we have built such a fantastic and passionate community. However I’m sure the rest of the WOD community would agree that we’re not done yet. Hopefully we can continue to grow in numbers to empower more women and in turn make our industry more inclusive and powerful.

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