A good mentor can help speed up the learning process
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
A lot of people in my industry don’t have degrees and it can be pretty difficult to know where to start in terms of landing your first job. Given my background I feel I’m in a unique position to help guide a lot of people in the right direction. I think as humans we all enjoy teaching at some level. Sharing the gift of knowledge has always been satisfying for me. I also enjoy sharpening my leadership skills and connecting with like-minded individuals.
I have the opinion that individuals in my line of work become mentors implicitly at some point in their career. We have to develop leadership skills to advocate for the end-user and explain our reasoning. We are constantly educating others on our team about UX! In a way my love for UX has given me the skills needed to be a good mentor.
How did you get your career start?
I took a bit of an unconventional route to get to where I am now. I started developing websites shortly after High School. My initial goal was to create a stream of passive income, but I found I thoroughly enjoyed the design process. I started taking whatever freelance jobs I could get and eventually had a portfolio that helped me land a contract at a start-up.
Having an online portfolio in my opinion is one of the most important things in regards to obtaining new clients. As you start doing more freelance work, it's a bit of a snowball effect; you get more referrals from people you've worked with. When people can type in a URL and see your work and shoot you an email it's frictionless and puts the ball in your court. They saw YOUR work and reached out to YOU. You have an opportunity to craft your own digital space and sell yourself to essentially the world. That is the most powerful tool for us in this industry.
The start-up really liked my work and brought me on full-time where I was blessed to work with so many seasoned individuals. I had an amazing mentor and it made me realize how valuable mentorships really are. When you have a guide it can save you a lot of time from venturing down time-wasting paths. While mistakes are a part of the learning process, a good mentor can speed up this process which allows you to learn more in a shorter timeframe.
Emotional support is also the role of a mentor
How do you usually set up mentorships?
As far as communication I tend to go by what the mentee feels they need at first. Once you start to know someone and see what kind of progress they’re making you can makes tweaks and changes. A baseline I always offer is constant contact through a medium such as email or a messaging application. Virtual / phone meetings will usually depend on the workload the mentee has, but it usually doesn’t vary between 1-2 times a week frequency.
Everyone is at a different point in their career, so every mentee is different in terms of what they need to work on. People are usually pretty transparent about their weaknesses and generally have a very good grasp of where they need to improve. Once you start working on projects together it becomes much easier to see where they need additional help.
What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?
I was contacted by someone looking for a career change. She had actually just moved to the country and had always had a love for design. She felt as though she had more opportunities in the states. She was very anxious, but I did my best to instill confidence in her skills. We laid out a game-plan that helped her focus on only what needed to be done. In a few months she landed an internship and was on her way to advancing her career.
This is my favorite story because it showed me how important emotional support can be in the role of a mentor. This mentee had all of the skills required to find employment in this field, she just needed someone to reassure her. Having a set plan to follow also reduces many anxieties related to job searching.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
I enjoy giving back to the community and helping people improve their skill sets. Mentoring isn’t all about teaching; I also learn a lot of interesting things from the students I have. It’s a bit of give and take in that regard. Teaching something is also a great way to know if you truly understand it. One of my favorite quotes is from the great Richard Feynman, “If you want to master something, teach it”.