Career spotlight: Rebecca Nambiar, Design Director

General News

Rebecca Crawford, Design Director, John Cullen Lighting

We caught up with our Design Director Rebecca Nambiar in celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 to ask her some questions about her career experiences as a woman in the lighting industry.

With over 12 years in the lighting design industry, Rebecca believes passionately about creating immersive experiences with lighting, in even the simplest of spaces. Her university education and formal introduction to lighting started with a degree in film and television and she believes strongly in translating the drama from the stage to the home, and into the mind. Rebecca takes her inspiration from the natural rhythms of light and understands the huge importance of daylight vs artificial lighting on the human mind. She believes that in a world that only gets busier by the hour, the importance of creating a personal sanctuary in the home is more important than ever. Rebecca has worked with John Cullen Lighting both in the London and Dubai offices since 2014 and now heads up the leadership team in our Dubai studio alongside Sales Director Jamie Rosso.

Why is it important to you to celebrate International Women’s Day?

The significance of this occasion for women folk world over is undeniable. We live in a time when women are still being celebrated for so many ‘firsts’ in areas that have historically been male bastions. I’m a terminal optimist and believe that we are not far away from achieving gender parity at the workplace across societies.

If you humour me, I would like to share a personal anecdote. Before joining John Cullen in London, I remember the roles that I held at the start of my career and being amazed at the pay gap compared to my male co-workers. The difference in salary was hurtful and frustrating. I remember even verbalising this prejudice to my colleagues! The fact that we have more women today in decision making roles is a big leap forward and occasions like these enable us to move the dial further on key issues for women professionals.


Have you faced any challenges in your career as a woman and if so, how did you overcome them?

Yes, particularly at the start of my career. Interestingly, I have faced fewer issues since being stationed in Asia – it could be down to some societies being more matriarchal in their establishment or just the fact that as an outsider, I wasn’t subject to the same gender biases.

Every now and then, I still find myself in situations whereby my demeanour as a woman is an assumed weakness, and I can even be ignored entirely. I have now adopted the confidence to listen intently and ensure that when I do need to speak, it is from a position of knowledge rather than projecting frustration with the situation at hand.

Kitchen lighting design with linear LED strip shelf lighting

Lighting scheme Rebecca designed for Eggersman’s showroom. Kitchen by Eggersman Design.

Is there another woman on whom you would like to shine a light, in the industry and why?

Naturally this section would be empty if I didn’t nod my head towards Sally Storey, for she has certainly played a huge part in my development as a designer, and as a woman in lighting. She has taught me – amongst the endless design details over the years –  that in order to be heard, you do not need to be the loudest in the room.  When it comes to incredible female figures that I have worked with within the industry – and there are so many – I must also give a special mention to the fabulous Kate Instone from Blush International. She is a remarkable woman who has always celebrated in raising others up, whilst also continuously making her designs copious amounts fun to work on.

How can we encourage more women to pursue roles in the lighting/design industry?

We must all lift each other up, in order to allow this industry to nurture the new talent together. Often it can be tough to receive criticism for design work completed, sometimes devastating. However we must remember to give praise where due and ensure that we all realise the importance of kindness and unity when required. This in itself can be the very reason for why we do what we do – for the love of it. The best projects from my portfolio are from when all parties involved in the project gave each other the deserved respect for their talent and really did lift one another up when new and exciting ideas emerged.

Lanterns lit on wall with uplighters in the distance as part of a courtyard scheme

One of Rebecca’s projects designing the courtyard lighting scheme on a Kuala Lumper residence.

What is the best advice you have been given?

I used to always worry too much about the smallest of problems, so much so that it would impact my creativity hugely. I remember – sadly not by whom – being told that if I am able to resolve the problem one way or another; why worry? Likewise, if you are unable to resolve the situation somehow, why are you still worrying. What will be will be, by worrying about something you are only putting yourself through it twice.

Bathroom lighting with uplight and mirror lighting

Interiors by Louise Bradley Design. This scheme was designed to enhance the curved architecture with an uplight casting shadows across the ceiling plus a backlit mirror to provide a focal point and lighting to the face.