By: The Making it in Manhattan Staff
With the technology we have today at our fingertips, it's possible to bring almost anything we can imagine to life. For Christiana Perla, co-founder and owner of Makelab and Tangent Design, this has become her everyday. With a background in industrial design, her interest in 3D printing has flourished with the growth of her companies. In April 2017 Tangent Design acquired Makelab, which employs designers and tech innovators to bring ideas to life through the art of 3D printing. With insight into one of the fastest growing technology fields, Perla is also passionate about educating youths as women who are interested in the male dominated field. Read ahead for some of her best advice for #MakingIt as a female in the tech industry.
What did you wear on your first interview?
I actually haven’t had an interview yet, but when I was recently on a panel with other female leaders in tech, I wore a simple professional but sleek look: black shirt, red over-sized scarf, skinny jeans, and Calvin Klein pumps.
When did you land your first internship, and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
One of my first internships was with a small design and fabrication company for custom built furniture. The two owners of the company really handled their business well. I learned first hand what it was like to handle clients and offer a kick ass service as a small service bureau.
What was the big picture you had when you started your company?
When we first acquired Makelab, we had the vision of making 3D printing accessible for all industries by providing knowledge, educating our clients, and making our services easily adaptable to any industry.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a 3D designer?
I was in high school in New Jersey. To put it bluntly, I was bored of the 2D world in school and wanted to explore more, problem solve using my hands, and get creative. Anything else sounded really boring to me.
Was there one project in your career that was your favorite?
Yes! Our recent project with Oath was my favorite. We were trusted with bringing their brand campaign to life and creating 15 beautiful orb structures from a digital rendering which will be used as decorative pieces in their offices. I haven’t been challenged like that in a while, and it was so good to really sink my teeth into a project like this and get lost in it. Some of the brands under Oath include big names like Yahoo!, AOL, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, Engadget, and Tumblr so it was an exciting and rewarding project for us.
Where would you say are some of your go-to places to search for inspiration?
I like Instagram a lot. There are a ton of users on Instagram and a great deal of them are visually-driven and creative.
What role do you think 3D printing could play in fashion today?
Well, 3D printing has already semi-made its way into the fashion world. Frances Bitonti had created a few fashion pieces that made headlines a few years back. I think this technology really brings the robotic, futuristic aesthetic to the fashion world in ways that fabric just can’t accomplish.
Was there one person in your life who really influenced you in the pursuit of your career?
I don’t have just one person who I have been inspired by. Instead, I try to take inspiration from a variety of surfaces. I admire Beyonce, Christine Souffrant Ntim and Sophia Amoruso, just to name a few.
Taking on one business is a lot. With two businesses, how do you manage your time?
Oh man, well first of all, it’s always a challenge. I use a lot of apps and digital tech to help me out. Siri’s reminders and alerts are amazing for on-the-go commands and appointments. Evernote is my go-to notetaking app. And I try to log my time as much as possible so I can easily pick back up when I am pulled away. I also set time aside for my reactive tasks verse my active tasks. I do a lot of reading on the subject and no one is ever perfect at managing time.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career, what would it be?
I would tell myself that it’s all possible even though the experience may not necessarily be there right away. A quote I live by is, “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.”
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
Before I started Tangent Design with my partner Manny, I freelanced for clients for product design. I once did a project without a written agreement and of course it went horribly. At first, the client was super happy about the ideations I had presented, but then he changed his mind and didn’t want to pay me because he wasn’t satisfied with it. But the thing is, the work was done and typically there are at least 2 rounds of revisions. They eventually paid me after I spoke with my lawyer on how to approach the situation.
What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
I love the freedom to really create and have full control over the businesses. It’s up to us to determine the speed at which we work at, the clients we work with, and what types of services we offer. Having that freedom is really amazing, and I feel so lucky to be able to do this.
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