Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Gravity Sketch co-founder, is both an experienced innovation designer bridging science, engineering and design, and an entrepreneur pushing to build ideas into successful realities.
With a focus on finding new growth opportunities and strategic priorities, Daniela is shaping the future of the company. Prior to founding Gravity Sketch, Daniela graduated from The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London with a masters in Innovation Design Engineering, whilst simultaneously working as an Innovation Designer at Jaguar Land Rover where she was responsible for developing interiors technology that would combine smart materials and AI to create alternative experiences for autonomous vehicles. Daniela was recently awarded Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Daniela Paredes, I am 33 years old and I was born in Mexico. Four years ago I started a company called Gravity Sketch along with my co-founder, Oluwaseyi Sosanya, who I met at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.
Based in the UK but with global reach and customers, Gravity Sketch is one of the fastest growing 3D creation start-ups, providing designers of any level with a tool to quickly and easily create in 3D. The idea for Gravity Sketch originally started as a university project and was born out of a shared interest in how spatial intelligence has the ability to enable designers to quickly visualise and conceptualise their designs. In terms of my current role, I co-run the company with Seyi but am predominantly focused on working with educational institutions to integrate our design software into the classroom.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I wouldn’t say that I necessarily planned my career but from a very early age I was interested in design engineering. As I got older, I realised that I wanted to learn more about it and about how it can be used to solve different problems in different environments, so I decided to formally study Innovation Design Engineering whilst simultaneously working as an Innovation Designer at Jaguar Land Rover. This not only provided hands on experience but, as my role was focused on developing interiors technology that combined smart materials and AI to create alternative experiences for autonomous vehicles, I understood very quickly about the potential growth opportunities in this space.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Of course. There are multiple challenges that I have faced and that I continue to face but I welcome all of them as they force me to think differently and to stay focused on the end goal. A daily challenge we face for instance is the speed at which technology changes. We need to be constantly evolving our software while at the same time testing it to ensure it meets the needs of our users. From some people we received feedback that we are being too ambitious with what we are trying to achieve but, in contrast to this, our users have continuously supported and worked with us to deliver a market ready product which is now changing the game in the way that people design.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date has probably been taking what started as an idea and growing it in to what is now a fast-growing company that is delivering much more immersive design experiences. Not only that but during this process we had to challenge the status quo and encourage people to think differently about how they approach design. This is not yet a done deal, as education takes time, but we are definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to getting people to try Gravity Sketch as an alternative. This perseverance is now paying off as we continue to grow our business pipeline and sign new partners.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I think it has probably been both self-belief and the belief and support of the people around me. Be that from my co-founder Seyi, my family, our users or our team, all have played a key role in us getting this far and will continue to play a key role in my continued growth both as a person and our continued growth as a business.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Finding mentors along the way has been crucial for my career. I feel it is important for younger or less experienced people to be able to talk to someone that has taken a similar path to you. When you are just starting out you think that there is so much knowledge you need to have, or that there are secret tricks for everything you’re trying achieve. The truth is that the real secret is finding your own way of doing things, learning a lot, asking many questions and considering the advice you received from other people along the way.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
There are multiple strategies for accelerating the pace of change for Gender Parity but my belief is that a lot of it could be improved by insisting on greater accountability – making both people and organisations more accountable for their choices and their actions. So, setting clear targets for everyone in the workforce that they can be measured against and providing the same help, assistance and mentoring along the way to everyone – it needs to be fully inclusive. Companies should also be set the same targets. Whilst I fundamentally believe that a person has to be right for the job, regardless of gender, if everyone is given the same opportunities then gender should become less of an issue. Organisations should be transparent about progression metrics and should be held accountable when it is clear that people are not being treated the same.
How would you encourage more young girls and women into a career in STEM?
This is obviously a hot topic as, like so many areas of education and business, females are grossly underrepresented in this field. Firstly, I would advise young girls not to be put off by gender stereotypes and the fact that just because there are more males in STEM it doesn’t mean that, as females, they are not equal or they are less capable of achieving the same goals and status. It is important to instil this belief at a young age as it will set them up with self-belief from the start. At the same time though it is important to teach them that failure is often the route to success and that, whilst there will be challenges along the way, the trick is to learn how to overcome those challenges. Secondly, I think it is important for females to have role models – people to whom they can relate. And this doesn’t just have to be women. Equally men can and do serve as positive ambassadors for getting more females into STEM. Finally, it is about creating opportunities for girls to be successful in this field. Both in the classroom and in the workplace, we need to be cognizant of creating environments where everyone has the same chance to learn, to grow and to ultimately succeed.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
To persevere and stop thinking that things might not go according to plan, because they don’t! If you work hard and put your heart into it, things will work out in their own way and you’ll be surprised and probably really happy that they turned out like that. Remember that ambitious goals are not easy to achieve and you’ll see all your friends move forward a bit faster than you at first. Just wait and keep going and things will start to come together eventually.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Business wise, our next challenge is to expand our product range and take on three additional enterprise verticals. We will also grow our team by adding new headcount in design, development and sales. Ultimately we want to create the most flexible product for delivering more creative workflows. Personally, I hope that I will continue to grow as a person and that, through the technologies that we create, I will make a significant contribution to augmenting the science, the art and the design scene. I also got married last year so I hope to spend some time enjoying married life!