How I Leaped: Three leaps and counting


For some people, this may be described just as life taking shape, but for me it's been all about the comfort zone.

By Ambica Prakash, Principal at Eighty2degrees LLC.

India to France: Leap #1 In my first leap, I was working at an advertising agency in India when I decided to apply for a scholarship offered by the French Embassy in New Delhi, India. The idea was sparked as I was nearing my diploma in French from the Alliance Française de Delhi.

I wanted a new experience and a new challenge, as I had never traveled abroad by myself, and this dream came true when I was awarded the scholarship to attend L'Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in St. Etienne, France.

The reality of the situation hit me when I landed at the airport in Paris, followed by a whole week of headaches as my brain tried to keep up with the fast-speaking French.

A month went by before I had my first dream in French! I'm not sure if it's possible to dream in a language, but I remember this one felt distinctly French.

Student to Professor: Leap #2 After intense experiences in France, I came to the U.S. At least this time I knew the language!

My first few years were spent in an undergraduate program where some of my professors challenged me to discover "my voice."

This provided the impetus for me to think about what I "really" wanted to do with my life and career. I had always been preconditioned to look for a well-paying and secure job.

Secretly, I was mocking this whole concept of finding my voice. I thought it was just a deep philosophical and artistic endeavor by my professors. Perhaps it was a Western concept that I wasn't buying or grasping. But it was this introspection that led me to graduate school, allowing me to explore this voice I was beginning to identify as my own.

During three rigorous years at graduate school, I thought, wrote, created, explored and strengthened my belief in responsible graphic design practice and pedagogy.

Inspired by my teachers and mentors, I actually became a full-time university professor for four years. I started sharing with my students my philosophy of stepping out of one's comfort zone.

My theory has always been to challenge oneself. If it doesn't work, one can always return to the old ways.

Here's the leap: teaching in two new cities and finding myself in an unfamiliar but rewarding situation that I had never visualized.

The idea that one day I'd be a professor had never entered my mind when I was younger. This was never in "the plan." That vague plan in my head, which kept being challenged by life over and over again!

Professor to Entrepreneur: Leap #3 Now, I'm beginning to recognize a pattern: every 3-5 years, I'm confronting and embracing a completely new situation never imagined or planned.

I'm beginning to observe this pattern, realizing that I'm leading the life I once preached to my students.

It was this theory that I reiterated to my students when I resigned. I think they understood, though they may not have been happy.

For me, Eighty2degrees LLC—my own business—has been the latest leap... of faith, adventure, passions and beliefs in creating work and a life that I can call my own.

Nine months in, and I am feeling fortunate that the business is really growing. With a small team, the focus is on our passion for making a positive difference with our work.

Our motto says it all: doing great design for great people.