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Annalisa Valente – Meet the Mentor

Mentoring is integral to growing your career and becoming a better designer and leader while you share your knowledge with others. Here is my experience with MentorCruise so far.

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I started mentoring designers many years ago and engaging with someone who has had a different but also similar experience enriches my life in a variety of ways. I’m passionate about supporting others to take advantage of their potential and grow in their career as designers. As someone who has been on the same path, I’m extremely proud and humble about the idea of sharing my experience and expertise with others to help them realize their goals.

What goes into being a mentor?

A good mentor should have empathy and be a good listener. The most important thing to remember is that as a mentor you should also be ready to offer constructive criticism to help mentees progress toward their objectives. Sometimes we underestimate the importance of giving constructive and actionable feedback. When you are a mentor, you need to learn how to provide this feedback in the best way to make the mentorship efficient, pleasant, and engaging. This isn’t always easy, but it’s crucial for you to grow not only as a mentor but also as a design leader.

How did mentorship influence your career?

I was lucky enough to have amazing people around me during my career path who supported me, cheered me on, gave me feedback and advice, and helped me become the designer I am today. For example, having mentors when I moved from Italy to London impacted my career trajectory significantly. I found it challenging to adapt to a new city and a new language, but I was lucky to meet my mentors, some of whom are now my friends.

How does mentorship impact you today?

It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or how senior your position is, you always need a mentor. Currently, I have a coach that helps me identify how to improve my skills. We discuss everything from improving my leadership and management to how to improve my public speaking, and it helps me figure out how to best advance my career.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

Being a mentor not only enhances my leadership skills and communication but also exposes me to new ideas and ways of thinking. If you are thinking about being a mentor, empowerment will make your mentorship successful. Mentor–mentee pairings always result in learning from one another. Today I help designers in different ways that go from reviewing portfolios and CVs to giving insights and direction to grow their design skillet, or with product design strategy.

How do you usually set up mentorships?

A mentoring relationship lasts for different periods of time, sometimes for years, sometimes it can be a shorter relationship, for example, when people seek support with a specific topic.

When a mentee reaches out to me, I first try to understand what they want to learn. We then set up an informal contract to track goals and topics and featuring milestones and deadlines. I like to review these points from time to time because it’s super important to keep track of the progress and to see if we achieved the goals we discussed at the beginning. We then set up a 1:1 to meet once a week. Those 1:1 meetings are an opportunity for the mentee to ask questions and receive feedback and furthermore build a solid relationship.

How do you track progress and meetings?

To track meetings, we use a simple calendar and to keep it simple we try to meet at the same time and day every week. Every couple of months we do a kind of informal retrospective to see what went well, what didn’t, and what we need to do next to improve the mentorship. Each person is different, it’s super important to be aligned on expectations but also to make sure we both feel that we are in a safe space where everyone feels supported to express their opinion.

Who is your ideal mentee?

An ideal mentee is someone who will learn and has a positive attitude. To build a trusted mentoring relationship, I value honesty and curiosity the most. Mentoring is my favorite thing because I enjoy watching mentees take reasonable risks, challenge themselves professionally, and solve problems creatively.

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