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Khushil from Kenya, interior design director

Khushil M. Shah
From: Kenya
Studied: BA (Hons) in Interior Architecture/Design at the University of Portsmouth
Now: Director at SC Group, a construction project management company in Kenya

'I had always wanted to finish my higher education (degree level) outside Kenya for several reasons, such as understanding what it is to be independent, learning about various cultures and generally having an adventure in life.

'The diverse, friendly and welcoming nature of the UK made it a simple option for me to choose. I thought, “This is where I want to go, and it is the place that will enable me to pursue my goals.”

Living and studying in the UK

Study architecture in the UK:

'The teaching style in the UK is more project-based, compared to the education I had in my country. This is really helpful as it guides an individual on how to work in
a team as well as working alone. It enables an individual to brainstorm towards a more powerful core of ideas and workmanship.

'But my number one memory from Portsmouth University is having gotten to see
my first snowfall ever!

Part-time jobs and work experience

'Throughout my time at university I worked as a bartender. I initially started work at
a bar and lounge in northwest London, then later I got offered a job at the famous Liquid nightclub in Portsmouth. In my final year I left Liquid and joined the Slug and Lettuce pub, in order to balance my university work and the part-time job. The work hours were favourable and enabled me to balance my time perfectly with my university studies.'

Khushil (middle row, far right) with friends at university   (Photo ©Khushil Shah)

Starting my career as a UK graduate

'From being a Junior Designer to now being a Director at SC Group is a very satisfying feeling. The goals I have wanted to achieve in my career are slowly coming into place.

'In September 2013, after returning back to Kenya, I initially started working in my family’s business while I was applying for a job in interior design. At the start of October I joined an interior design company in Nairobi called Studio 62 Limited.

'I was straight away given to work on various projects, including an airport hotel called Lazizi Premiere that has just broken ground, an office fit-out for the luxury travel agency Abercrombie and Kent, an office fit-out for the International Livestock Research Institute, and I was given the chance to design the new Business Lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. I worked at Studio 62 for six months, and it was an interesting range of projects!'

Interior design plans for one of Khushil's projects   (All images ©Khushil Shah)

'A company called SC Group approached me in April 2014, and it was a huge opportunity to progress my career. I started as a junior designer, but with the skills and knowledge that I’d achieved from my education at Portsmouth University I was able to move a stage further to become the Principal/Senior Designer. I have worked on turnkey design projects such as clothing stores, restaurants and corporate offices.

Moving up the career ladder

'The Board of Directors saw my capabilities and asked me to be a Partner in the company. This was a great opportunity and I took it up. I also took an online course to learn more about project management, as the firm’s core business is construction project management.

'We have successfully finished an iconic new building in Kenya, The Oval, and I’m currently working on more than 3 million sq ft of construction for various buildings. I’m project managing and overseeing interior design for one of Africa’s leading law firms, Africa Legal Network (ALN), and I am also project managing various residential developments and two hotel projects.

'My ambition for the future is to be able to educate the less fortunate and help them in building up their careers.'

A varied portfolio: Left, a hotel lobby designed by Khushil, and right, a simulation of the new ALN office building

My secrets of success

'Travelling the globe, and seeing the various different forms of design all around the world, is what generates my creative thinking process – it’s about learning and understanding the different cultures and ways of life of different individuals together with nature. To me, when someone asks what creativity means to me, my simple answer is, “The sky is the limit!”

'My advice for students in general is to NEVER GIVE UP! You will have both a boom in your career as well as a slump, but the one who knows how to get back up on your feet when you have fallen is the one with great capabilities.'

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