AUD gave me my tools and taught me how to use them. I had to go out and develop those skills in the real world in the years to come. The program at AUD is on the pulse with new developments in the industry and ensures they are implemented into the assignments and tasks provided on a daily basis. I learned most of my technical skills at AUD, and still apply them through my career. It also gave me a platform to shine. I won a design competition that put me in the spotlight with many employers and helped me land an exceptional internship, which helped with my first job. I was also part of the SGA, which helped develop my organizational and leadership skills. I often participated in fashion shows and cultural events that also helped boost my confidence to perform in front of large audiences. I now have no issues addressing a room full of people for one of my talks or a large presentation.
As Design Director for the ID Lifestyle Studio at Design Worldwide Partnership (dwp) in Dubai, Maliha Nishat works with an award-winning network of architects and interior designers.
“Working as Design Director with a striving, talented design team is rewarding and challenging,” says Nishat. “My role involves being a lead designer on hospitality and lifestyle projects, which places me front and center with clients, operators and developers on a daily basis. Some of the challenges involved include managing client expectations, meeting deadlines and delivering excellence in design on a daily basis.”
She says there is no time to have ‘off’ days. “You need to bring your ‘A’ game day in and day out. Every client wants their property to be the best, and it is your job to deliver. Sometimes that can be a little challenging but the rewards do outweigh the challenges.
“My win of Interior Designer of the Year at the Commercial Interior Design Awards goes to prove that my constant drive for excellence did get recognized, and that there is great potential for local homegrown talent in the region. I was also featured in the top 10 of the Commercial Interior Design Power list and have since had multiple publications in numerous local and international magazines.”
Shortly after graduating from AUD as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, Nishat worked with great mentors in the industry and moved to Melbourne, Australia to join Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA). After a decade in Australia, she decided to return ‘home’ to Dubai.
She still regards her time at the university as instrumental to her success and reveals her choice to study at AUD was driven by the fact that she didn’t need to travel far to receive a respected American degree. The campus, however, looked very different when she joined back in 1996.
“It was one of the first few universities over here at the time, and was much smaller in size than it is today,” she adds. “The campus was in Jumeirah in a large villa and the classes were intimate. I wouldn't swap my experience at AUD for anything. The university has of course expanded tenfold since and is currently one of the leading educational entities in the region. There is some exceptional talent coming out of the university and some of the region's best professors, so it is always a proud moment to see a student of AUD excelling in the outside world and making a solid name for themselves, or a professor on the power list.”
Crediting her time at AUD with providing the right skills to break into the industry, Nishat now specializes in hospitality and lifestyle and her current projects include a number of hotels, high-end residential towers and large-scale mixed-use developments. With a goal to never stop learning and designing, she hopes to do more for the community as well.
“My two greatest passions are designing and travelling, both of which I do passionately and exhaustively. Both feed off of each other - I travel to learn design and I design to implement what I have discovered along my travels. I have also been involved with a lot more design talks and student mentoring. I judged the Marina Home Remake Project and spoke at the designMENA Summit and Design Talks at Index. I love sharing learning experiences. I think I learn just as much from students I mentor as they do from me.”