vol. 4 Conditioning

Credit: Sana Rao

02 / 02

Sana Rao:
"Poetry is an inherently feminine act"

Designer & Poet & Painter

A chat about unlearning conditioning, comparing art vs. design, catching trains, and the poetics of everyday moments.


Jun 7, 2021 | As told to Cherie Yang

Flower girl in chief and poet in residence. That’s what it says on Sana’s Twitter bio.

Sana is currently a VP of Product and Design at Peanut, the social networking app for women. She’s a longtime member of the tech community, having earned her stripes at places like Apple, Twitter, and Deliveroo. Sana grew up in India, and has lived in New York, San Francisco, and London.

I was interested in Sana’s multi-hyphenate identity—but not just the jobs she’s held, where she’s lived, or how she defines herself on a social networking app.

There’s her work with understanding feminine-coded communications, which stemmed from her own exploration of creating safe and equitable workplaces.

And there’s her exploration of her own femininity.

“I didn't make peace with my own femininity for a very long time. I had associated femininity with whatever Asian cultures associate femininity with: weak, small, demure, sensitive, and emotional. But, over the last few years, especially with weightlifting, I made my own understanding of what femininity is for me, and realized how complex it is and how misunderstood it is in wider society.”

Her identity is ever-evolving, she says. She’s spent the last few years unravelling the parts of that were given to her: what bits she accepted, versus what she discarded. And what of the parts of herself that she’s created? She’s relearned, or reintegrated, those parts that were natural to her, and re-examined aspects she had taken on because she felt she needed them to ‘succeed’.

The hour-long conversation sped by as we talked about her obsession with tea, calling herself a poet, and the femininity of creation. As for where poetry fits into her identity, she quips, “It’s part of life, isn’t it?”

Find Sana on her website, Twitter, and Instagram, and subscribe to Found Poems, a poetry newsletter curated by Sana.

All photos are courtesy of Sana Rao.

  • Poetry, I've been doing for a really long time, probably about 15 years now. But only recently on my sabbatical did I really start pursuing it seriously. . . .
  • &: Your Twitter bio says you’re ‘flower girl in chief’ and ‘poet in residence’. What does that mean?

    SR:

    I've always been a little bit obsessed with flowers. A lot of people around me get annoyed by that. That's where the flower chief comes from. I set out on a project last year where I was drawing flowers and painting flowers every day.

    Poetry, I've been doing for a really long time, probably about 15 years now. But only recently on my sabbatical did I really start pursuing it seriously.

    I started connecting with other poets in the community, writing and submitting and publishing. And I started my own poetry curation newsletter, Found Poems, which I try to send out twice a month.

  • Growing up, I was always really into art. I was never the academic student in the way that the Asian community defined academics, which was very much route learning. . . .
  • &: Drawing, painting, poetry. Have you always been interested in these as a kid?

    SR:

    I came to poetry surprisingly late in life.

    I only started reading poetry in the last year of uni in India, where I did graphic design. I picked a poem as a part of my graphic design final. I had to illustrate this amazing ballad—the longest ballad written. That's when I really got into poetry.

    Growing up, I was always really into art. I was never the academic student in the way that the Asian community defined academics, which was very much route learning.

    I was interested in mathematics and English and decent enough at it, but I was a visual thinker and a visual learner. I always found myself in the fine arts department of the school just hiding away from all the other academics, whenever there was a Hindi or mathematics happening.

    I would just go to the fine arts department and just make some sculpture. [laughs]

  • That was very much the intention where I would be the person trying to find or curate a little bit of poetry so that. . . it will become more human and accessible.
  • &: What’s the story behind Found Poems?

    SR:

    ‘Found Poems’ is a little bit of an inspired name. If you know about the found art of found poetry movement, it is all about moments of beauty or serendipity that you find in the ordinary.

    That was very much the intention where I would be the person trying to find or curate a little bit of poetry so that—for people who don't look at poetry as an accessible thing, or like poetry very much, or read much poetry because of the way that they were taught poetry growing up—it will become more human and accessible.

    Like you’re walking by on the street and you notice a little verse on the little street corner, and appreciate it in that moment.

  • Identity is a really good word. I think a lot of people who work in the tech community, or generally in a capitalistic society, tend to look at work as the way that they define their identity.
  • ... I started to pick apart what identity even is, and why I felt the need to define my identity by the achievement or the day job or the work that I do and the employment that I have.
  • &: Your ‘day job’ is at Peanut, where you’re VP of Product & Design. Alongside that, you’re a flower girl in chief and poet in residence. How do these roles fit into your identity?

    SR:

    Identity is a really good word. I think a lot of people who work in the tech community, or generally in a capitalistic society, tend to look at work as the way that they define their identity.

    It was very true for me as well, because of my Type A personality and Asian background. You tend to use career achievement to define your identity.

    When I left my previous job and I was on a little bit of a sabbatical, I didn't have work and I wasn't really achieving or producing something. I started to pick apart what identity even is, and why I felt the need to define my identity by the achievement or the day job or the work that I do and the employment that I have.

    That’s when I actually started defining myself as the ‘poet’ or the ‘painter’. I was always hesitant to claim these titles in my identity, because I wasn't achieving something in them or I wasn't employed [in those roles].

    If you look at my Twitter bio or anywhere else, I actually now say that I am a poet first. And on the side, I also ‘work’ in product. It’s not to say that I don't derive any joy from my ‘work’, which I absolutely do at this moment, but it is not the primary source of my identity.

  • During that conversation, I realized that the thing that gives me most joy, I don't have to have any external validation, or external employment or achievement in order to claim that as a part of my identity.
  • &: When did you feel comfortable calling yourself a poet?

    SR:

    It wasn't very long ago, even though I've been writing for a really long time.

    It was probably a year and a half ago.

    I was working with a leadership coach during my sabbatical. I wasn't ‘leading’ anyone during that time, so I thought I didn’t need to work with the coach anymore. But that coach said, “No, you're, you're still leading, you're leading yourself. Let's talk about what's important to you and what your values are.”

    During that conversation, I realized that the thing that gives me most joy, I don't have to have any external validation, or external employment or achievement in order to claim that as a part of my identity.

    I'm going to call myself a poet because I'm doing it. I'm writing and I'm going to poetry open mics. I'm going to workshops and courses.

  • I was very burned out by being in the tech community, mostly early-stage hyper-growth startups . . . . These environments were hegemonic and very monoculture.
  • &: I want to talk about your sabbatical a little. What led to you taking a break?

    SR:

    I was very burned out by being in the tech community, mostly early-stage hyper-growth startups, or in environments which generally weren’t really set up for my success or for a person who looks like me. These environments were hegemonic and very monoculture.

    It was also the pace. I hadn't taken a break for a decade. I’d intended to take a month off. But my body was just not having it. It was like, “Nope, you're not going back.”

  • A ritual during sabbatical: Day 27 of #the100dayproject

  • &: What did you do on sabbatical?

    SR:

    For the first few months, I tried to still do some “productive” work by reading, painting flowers and writing poetry.

    But for the most part, I was doing nothing. I was talking to my friends, reconnecting with people, painting when I felt like it, reading when I felt like it, and writing when I felt like it.

  • I'm now very regimented about looking at my energy levels. So if I feel like my energy is dropping, if I'm feeling mentally fatigued, I will book a mental health day. And I make sure that everyone on my team knows that I'm taking a mental health day so that they can feel that they can take it too.
  • &: You talked about listening to what your body needed. What are some routines or rituals you have in place now that help you stay connected with what you physically or mentally need?

    SR:

    The reason I had the burnout was because I didn't have any practices in place.

    Now, it's interesting because working from home has really allowed me to do that. The one positive of the pandemic is that, when you're in your own space, you're in control.

    You can check in on your body. If you're feeling fatigued, you can step away from the computer. You're not in an external environment where you have to be visibly there and on your computer and working all the time.

    I'm now very regimented about looking at my energy levels. So if I feel like my energy is dropping, if I'm feeling mentally fatigued, I will book a mental health day. And I make sure that everyone on my team knows that I'm taking a mental health day so that they can feel that they can take it too.

    I try to take a mental health day every two or three weeks, where I will not look at a screen, not think about work. I will just read, write and do whatever it is that I want to do and recalibrate.

  • I do therapy every week in the middle of the week, which allows me to refocus away from everything else and everyone else that's happening, and just focus on myself and what I need from any situation that I'm in.
  • &: That’s a wonderful practice—to treat yourself.

    SR:

    Exactly.

    You also need to have other practices that constantly prompt you to think about what you need from a situation, which I think a lot of people don't do.

    I do therapy every week in the middle of the week, which allows me to refocus away from everything else and everyone else that's happening, and just focus on myself and what I need from any situation that I'm in.

  • A lot of what I've learned is that, as women or as women from Asian culture or minority communities, a lot of us are socialized into fitting in and hyper-performance. I had normalized so much of it because I had spent so much of my time figuring out how I can fit into a community.
  • &: Focusing on yourself—what has that taught you about you?

    SR:

    So much. Where do I even start?

    A lot of what I've learned is that, as women or as women from Asian culture or minority communities, a lot of us are socialized into fitting in and hyper-performance. I had normalized so much of it because I had spent so much of my time figuring out how I can fit into a community.

    Certainly, in the early stages of your career, you are trying to achieve something and make it in your career.

    But at this point, the biggest thing I've learned is that I can step away from environments, people and relationships that don't support me.

    There is always a choice in where you choose to spend your time and your energy and attention. That's the most precious things that you can give to anyone or anything, and so you have to be very, very careful about where you spend it.

  • Sana's new home

  • &: What are some things that you’re devoting your time and energy to now?

    SR:

    I'm in the middle of purchasing a house, so a lot of my energy is going towards nesting, or trying to figure out what I want the space to be. I've never really had the privilege to be in a space where I could do it up in the way that I wanted.

    Also, I’m focusing on my physical wellbeing. I lift weights a lot.

  • There's not a lot of talk around what it does to your brain. . . . It just makes you feel like you own the room.
  • &: How does weightlifting contribute to your physical or mental health?

    SR:

    In huge, huge ways.

    Obviously there are so many hormonal benefits that are already written. But it’s a thing that I feel women don't do because there are all these notions around what weightlifting does to your body.

    There's not a lot of talk around what it does to your brain. And especially for women who are constantly told to, or socialized to, be the subservient people in society, I feel like weightlifting gives you a strength. I wouldn't call it dominance, but yeah, just a kind of strength. Something changes in our brain—there's a chemical change in your brain. I don't know if it's an attitude thing. It just makes you feel like you own the room. Maybe it makes you feel like a man does all the time!

  • It was always a thing for me. What is home? I felt unmoored for a really long time. I always defined home as a place that I wasn't.
  • After about five years or so of not having a permanent residence, I just started looking at home as wherever I am.
  • &: Shifting gears a little, let’s talk about home. You’ve lived in India, the Bay Area, and now London. How would you define the concept of ‘home’?

    SR:

    It’s a really great question because I feel like any immigrant struggles with that question.

    I left India about 10 years ago. I thought that it was going to be just for a two-year master's program and I’d return, because my entire family, including my twin sister, is in India.

    When I moved from San Francisco to London, it again was also supposed to be a temporary six-month assignment with Twitter. The plan was that I would go back to San Francisco, but I never ended up going back.

    It was always a thing for me. What is home? I felt unmoored for a really long time. I always defined home as a place that I wasn't.

    When I would go back to India, things would look and feel very different. It felt like it’d moved on without me, and was very disconcerting.

    After about five years or so of not having a permanent residence, I just started looking at home as wherever I am.

    I started feeling a lot more settled. Now that I've been in London for five years, and I've actually bought a house, that feels really momentous. I’d never thought that I would want to commit to a place long enough to buy a property.

  • I’ve stopped defining home as a geographical place, and almost more like a metaphorical place. Wherever feels comfortable, or whatever place feels like you've been here before, you are free to be yourself.
  • &: Can you have more than one home?

    SR:

    That's the thing. Even though I have bought a place here, and I'm here for now, my family is in India and India is home as well. Some of my close friends are in San Francisco and New York. A lot of my books are still there.

    I’ve stopped defining home as a geographical place, and almost more like a metaphorical place. Wherever feels comfortable, or whatever place feels like you've been here before, you are free to be yourself.

  • But what I realized when I left was that I burnt out because I didn't feel safe in those environments. There wasn't overt racism, but safety is created when all views are equally present and valued. When I first joined tech, because I was so junior at that point, I always thought that it was just a way of communication that I have to learn, but I never thought of it as a masculine style of communication.
  • I remember thinking early in my career that any of the women I saw in exec roles or senior leadership talked, walked, dressed exactly like the men on the team. I remember pointing it out to my boss, going “I'm not like any of them, so am I never going to be one of those people? Or is that how people talk when they get to that level?”
  • &: You’ve got an interest in “feminine-coded communication.” Earlier on in our conversation, you mentioned that you were working in a lot of hegemonic environments. Can you share how that interest came about—are those linked?

    SR:

    I did a talk very recently actually at the Leading Design conference. It was about, and how do you create safety?

    When I had burnt out, one of the things I realized was that I was excelling and I was getting promoted. It wasn't that I had a dearth of opportunity.

    But what I realized when I left was that I burnt out because I didn't feel safe in those environments. There wasn't overt racism, but safety is created when all views are equally present and valued. When I first joined tech, because I was so junior at that point, I always thought that it was just a way of communication that I have to learn, but I never thought of it as a masculine style of communication.

    Now, because I've done so much research into this, I realized that there are distinct styles of communication. Because the tech industry in general is so dominated by men, the communication style that people are conditioned to adopt, or be judged or evaluated by, is very much defined by those people.

    I remember thinking early in my career that any of the women I saw in exec roles or senior leadership talked, walked, dressed exactly like the men on the team. I remember pointing it out to my boss, going “I'm not like any of them, so am I never going to be one of those people? Or is that how people talk when they get to that level?”

    There are a lot of things I found in research coded in terms of the way women communicate: the ‘just’ and the ‘sorry’ and the ‘like’. Stop saying that, stop apologizing. Just be clear, just be direct.

    Many aspects of masculine coded communication are about dominating and superiority. It’s not about giving everyone an equal chance to talk, or wanting to connect. Those are seen in feminine coded communication styles, which women are socialized to do and naturally do anyway.

    This is something I see very much in Peanut. The app is all for women. The kind of content you'll see on Peanut is drastically different from any kind of open platform. The way women talk to and communicate with each other, the vulnerability, and the trust on the platform.

    That was the first time where itI actually hit home for me: that’s what happens when you have a space where that masculine coded communication style just doesn't exist.

  • The yellow book is by Jennifer Armbrust.

  • &: Were you actively seeking out a role in a company where feminine coded communication would be centrestage? Or was that happenstance?

    SR:

    It just happened.

    In my sabbatical, one of the first books I’d picked up was by the researcher, Jennifer Armbrust. She's written this book called “Proposals for the Feminine Economy.”

    I am obsessed with that book. It's literally always on my table. I had been thinking about that space for so long and wanting that for myself, but at that point, I didn't think that existed in any tech companies specifically.

    In the back of my mind, I was thinking I might have to do it myself. I might have to start a company where that kind of culture exists. [laughs]

    When I talked to the CEO of Peanut, Michelle Kennedy, and talked her through these principles and heard from her side, I realized that there couldn't be a better fit.

  • But at the moment, my focus is to just tell as many people as possible, and especially women, about it so that they understand that there is validity in the way that they communicate and they don't have to adapt and change their styles, or their natural way of being, just to be fitting into a system that doesn't appreciate it or isn't designed for it.
  • &: This feels like an academic interest, or a subject matter expertise. Where do you see yourself going with this?

    SR:

    I don't have an endgame to this. It's something that I’ll forever be interested in.

    It’s like a side academic research interest. Maybe I'll write a book about it, or do more talks about it.

    But at the moment, my focus is to just tell as many people as possible, and especially women, about it so that they understand that there is validity in the way that they communicate and they don't have to adapt and change their styles, or their natural way of being, just to be fitting into a system that doesn't appreciate it or isn't designed for it.

Poetry & Peanut

What's the connection?

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  • But for me, poetry is an art and is about creation. And what's more feminine than creation. And Peanut is a social network. Social connection is to me inherently feminine in nature. I tend to rationalize a lot of emotions, and poetry helps me come back and get back in touch with the emotions and the humans and the vulnerability behind everything.
  • &: This is a “side academic interest” that fits in so squarely with your “day job” at Peanut. What about poetry? Is there an intersection, or are they completely separate?

    SR:

    At the moment, they are completely separate. But Peanut uses a lot of poetry, actually, in our branding and messaging.

    Poetry is, to me, an inherently feminine act. Any kind of creation is, really. But poetry is about acknowledging your feelings.

    A lot of people think about it as an intellectual activity, and that's fair.

    But for me, poetry is an art and is about creation. And what's more feminine than creation.

    And Peanut is a social network. Social connection is to me inherently feminine in nature.

    If you had to draw a connecting line through all of my work and all of my interests, this (feminine nature) would probably be one of those core connecting lines.

    I tend to rationalize a lot of emotions, and poetry helps me come back and get back in touch with the emotions and the humans and the vulnerability behind everything.

    That’s probably the reason I like poetry.

  • A lot of my poetry is about human relationships or about meta patterns that you see. A lot of art and design is about connecting the dots and patterns where an ordinary person or someone outside those disciplines might not be able to see those patterns or similarities
  • &: How would you describe your poetry and creations?

    SR:

    It's changed a lot over the last year. I've become much more confident as a poet in the last year, especially since I've started claiming myself as a poet.

    A lot of my poetry is about human relationships or about meta patterns that you see. A lot of art and design is about connecting the dots and patterns where an ordinary person or someone outside those disciplines might not be able to see those patterns or similarities.

    The way I write poetry is very much the juxtaposition of, or moving between, two entirely dissimilar things so that you can reveal similarity in them.

  • And she says something like—a poem is like a train. It just comes by, with a big rush. You either jump on it in time or it leaves you. And sometimes you realize too late that it's passing you by and you try to pull it back. And it comes in backwards.
  • &: Does the poem find you, or do you find the poem?

    SR:

    That's a really good question. Have you read Anne Lamott's “Bird by Bird”? It's a beautiful book.

    And she says something like—a poem is like a train. It just comes by, with a big rush. You either jump on it in time or it leaves you. And sometimes you realize too late that it's passing you by and you try to pull it back. And it comes in backwards.

    That's a metaphor that I can totally relate to. Poetry is not a thing that I do intellectually. I don’t sit and say I'm going to craft a poem.

    It's a train. I have a little niggle, or a thought, or something has happened. The last poem I wrote was when the George Floyd incident had happened. It had just been sitting in my head for so long, and I'd been thinking and thinking about it. I had to write about it and I sat down and it just came in a big rush.

    As an artist, you're always critical about the work that you're doing, but that would probably be the poem that I hold up to people and say is the best thing I've ever written. Because the train was coming and I jumped on right at the right time. And I caught that thought..

  • The main thing that I feel like I need for myself, in order to write or create anything at all, is solitude.
  • When things were open, I would just take one of my favorite poetry books, go to a cafe and sit by myself, with music in my ears.
  • &: How do you prepare yourself to be ready to jump on the train?

    SR:

    The main thing that I feel like I need for myself, in order to write or create anything at all, is solitude.

    You need to be able to keep yourself away from all the other people, all the other influences, and all the other responsibilities to understand “What is your voice?” and “What are your thoughts?”.

    When things were open, I would just take one of my favorite poetry books, go to a cafe and sit by myself, with music in my ears. And take one of my favourite poetry books and just read, with no expectation that something would come.

    You have to have a couple hours of that—taking everything away from your brain to make space for new creative things to come into the brain.

    I don’t remember when I’ve not done this, at least since I started writing 15 years ago.

  • It's just ambient music. Because I write poetry in English, I listen to music in Hindi so that it's not. Interfering with my English thoughts.
  • &: What music do you listen to?

    SR:

    It's just ambient music. Because I write poetry in English, I listen to music in Hindi so that it's not. Interfering with my English thoughts.

    The music is just sitting in the background, and it's comfortable there, because Hindi my mother tongue so I can hear it and yet not get distracted by it.

    And it's the opposite. If I'm writing in Hindi, I listen to English music.

  • &: Do you write poetry in Hindi too?

    SR:

    I write a little bit in a combination of Hindi and Urdu, but I'm not very fluid at it. I've been outside India for so long that English now has become the default language I think in.

  • Open mic night

  • On my very first open mic, I was terrified. I had never shown my poems to anyone, or actually recited them in front of anyone. . . .
  • &: When did you start sharing your poetry?

    SR:

    Poetry’s a very personal thing for me. For the longest time, I had a blog but it was private. It was never really for anyone else. I was doing it for myself to process my own thoughts.

    I started going to the Poetry Cafe in London, which (pre-COVID) had the longest-running open mic nights on Tuesdays, 7 to 10 pm.

    If I hadn't discovered that, I don't know if I'd be able to claim poetry as my own. I started going there just to listen to people. When I saw the variety of people who were taking a chance, I thought, “Why not me?”

    On my very first open mic, I was terrified. I had never shown my poems to anyone, or actually recited them in front of anyone. I was in front of 60 people. Because poetry is so emotional and personal for me, a lot of those poems were extremely raw and extremely vulnerable. It was like opening up your heart to a group of strangers. You don't know how good you are, but also it's really personal.

    I remember shaking as I was standing in front of people.

    I think I just started saying that I'd been writing for 15 years, but this is the first time I had an open mic night for me. And people just lost their shit. They were clapping and hooting. And it was really amazing. After that, things got a lot easier.

    The community is really supportive. You can write absolute trash and they would still cheer you on as if you are the most poetic genius. The community really helped to build up my confidence in claiming that space for myself.

  • You can always tell when a poem originated from paper or from a screen. You approach things entirely differently. . . .
  • &: Writing poetry: pen and paper, or laptop?

    SR:

    Pen and paper.

    I've had this conversation with my boyfriend a lot. He writes with paper, and I used to write by typing.

    You can always tell when a poem originated from paper or from a screen. You approach things entirely differently. On a screen, it's quicker. You can edit, you can look at meanings, you can Google names, you can look up the thesaurus, you can get distracted. The language is much more rational and clear-cut whenever I write on the computer. But when I'm writing on my paper, it's more fluid. it's more exploratory.

    I don’t know if there’s any logic to it.

  • To me, it's more about the moment. You can't rush it. You have to boil the water. It has to be a specific temperature. You have to strain it just so. You have to sit and enjoy it. You can't rush it because you’ll literally burn your tongue.
  • &: Do you have any other rituals when you write?

    SR:

    I usually like being outside in a space that's away from any distractions. You get a good cup of tea, you'd sit and listen to music and you write.

    I’m obsessed about tea, although I didn’t grow up being crazy about tea.

    To me, it's more about the moment. You can't rush it. You have to boil the water. It has to be a specific temperature. You have to strain it just so. You have to sit and enjoy it. You can't rush it because you’ll literally burn your tongue.

    You have to be very patient, which is not something I can say I am in other parts of my life. [laughs] It forces me to slow down a little bit.

  • &: Is poetry a form of self-care?

    SR:

    A hundred percent. It is the most nourishing thing for me.

    If I’m physically or mentally exhausted, just spending an hour on poetry completely recharges me.

  • It's a thing I do on the side, and it doesn't need to be something I capitalize on or monetize on. And that takes the pressure off.
  • &: Does it get stressful if you feel like you’re not able to write?

    SR:

    I don't think it's ever been that way for me, maybe because that's not my primary source of employment. I don't depend on poetry to make money.

    It's a thing I do on the side, and it doesn't need to be something I capitalize on or monetize on. And that takes the pressure off.

  • Tech generally, but especially screen-based design, is a very rational headspace. Design is for other people. It's not about self-expression. It's a much more rational act. But art is self-expression. It's more poetic, it's more fluid. I would find it very different and difficult to move from that rational headspace to the poetic headspace, and I actually still do.
  • &: Are you in a different headspace when you’re creating poetry vs creating for Peanut?

    SR:

    A hundred percent. I used to struggle a lot earlier on with moving between those headspaces.

    Tech generally, but especially screen-based design, is a very rational headspace. Design is for other people. It's not about self-expression. It's a much more rational act.

    But art is self-expression. It's more poetic, it's more fluid. I would find it very different and difficult to move from that rational headspace to the poetic headspace, and I actually still do.

    I hate Slack and those things that morph what you're trying to do in. You always say ‘the medium is the message’ right? The medium changes the way you communicate and how you design what you design.

    I don’t do hands-on design very often now, but when I do, I try to actually start with writing. I'll start with writing about the narrative, about the person, about the user who's trying to use this product. What is their life like? What do they want from it? I’d write a story, make it a little bit more artistic, make a sketch, before you can go into the details.

    The moment you start doing anything on the screen, your focus is zoomed in and narrow. And you forget about the bigger picture, or about why you're even doing this in the first place.

  • They don't give you a specific visual. You're not fixed in what you see and what you imagine. When you're writing, or when you're listening, you can imagine whatever you want and you can let the brain do the work. I think that's probably why I'm attracted to those modalities more.
  • &: You’ve got all these different mediums of creativity: writing, drawing, painting… Which one are you most comfortable in?

    SR:

    Definitely writing. Definitely words.

    One of my thesis projects in my master's program was about sound. You’ve got Clubhouse and all that now, but this was back in 2013. My thesis was around sound being completely forgotten in technology. The reason I was doing that work was because sound and writing are two things that let your imagination work.

    They don't give you a specific visual. You're not fixed in what you see and what you imagine. When you're writing, or when you're listening, you can imagine whatever you want and you can let the brain do the work. I think that's probably why I'm attracted to those modalities more.

    You have more space to imagine, to interpret and actually maybe humanize it or to make it more relevant to your life.

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Off the Cuff

with Sana Rao

Ampersand
  • 2020! We are forced to re-examine our spaces and what we need from those spaces, because we’re spending all our time in them.


  • Tactile. I used to do a lot of pottery when I was going through a lot of mental health issues as a way to ground myself. When you're doing pottery, especially with the potter’s wheel, there is no way you could do it if you're not grounded. You have to focus. You have to guide it. Otherwise it's a complete mess and it goes in disarray.


  • Internal. My definition of success has changed very drastically in the last couple of years, from external markers to internal markers of success. That's changed the way I choose things and jobs and people.


  • I'll always love Twitter. I love it as a platform. There's so much beauty and joy in it. I’d spent so much time thinking about it and building parts of it, and I'm very active on it. It has a lot of potential, although there are also a lot of vectors of abuse on the platform, which hopefully the team is starting to change now.


  • Color and beauty. And the ability to balance softness and hardness.


Ampersand Next up

01 / 02

Terumi Murao

I always was comfortable code-switching through different environments. I don't mind being a chameleon.

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