Shelby Corbella – Meet the Mentor

Written by Shelby Corbella Nov. 25, 2021

California based designer with 6+ years of experience working in start-ups, mid-size companies, and larger enterprises. I love using design as a language to communicate complex ideas and file them down into a simple user experience.

Shelby Corbella – Meet the Mentor

About the author

Shelby Corbella

Shelby Corbella is one of our professional mentors on MentorCruise and works as Senior Product Designer at MasterClass.

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Becoming a role model in the workplace

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I became a mentor to help others who have been in my shoes at the beginning of my career. When I started, there was no handbook on how to become a Product Designer. There was no streamlined way to meet mentors and what type of questions to ask them. And during the pandemic, MentorCruise allowed me to connect with others around the world, virtually. Mentoring is also my way to bring more underrepresented groups such as women, BIPOC, and those within the LGBTQIA+ groups into the Product Design field across the world. As a second-generation Japanese-American, it’s extremely important to have this representation throughout Design as diversity breeds creativity/innovation and creates endless opportunities. Growing up, I wish I had had more role models in the workplace that looked like me that I could look up to!

How did you get your career start?
While I worked on my BFA in Graphic Design from the Academy of Art University, the buzzword “product design” hadn’t existed yet. And towards the end of my senior year, I felt Graphic Design was becoming an ancient art form, and I hated how grades were based on a teacher’s opinion vs. metrics/facts. That’s when UI/UX piqued my interest, where my design decisions utilized user research, user testing, and design principles set to be my north star metrics. When I began working at Zillow, I realized we didn’t have a centralized assets library that all designers would work off. We essentially didn’t have a similar toolkit to build a unified and polished product. That lead me to create style guides and the curiosity to discover design systems. I realized that most websites were not built for all walks of life. How unfair it is to have a product that only works for the majority and exclude those who have limitations visually, hearing-wise, with mobility, reading comprehension, and so much more. Now, I work at MasterClass, where I lead our accessibility efforts within Product Design on our growing Design Systems team.

How do you usually set up mentorships?
I treat each mentorship like a typical design brief mixed with “take-home” assignments. We set up goals, why they are essential, what steps we’ll need to take, and what metrics for success will be. For example, let’s say, as a mentee, your goal is to get a new job at MasterClass. Why is it important to you to work there? Is it that you want a good work/life balance? The type of product is it? You’ll need to take steps to have a strong resume, a portfolio that reflects the kind of design thinker you are, and a few more minor details. We’ll break down these milestones, so the work isn’t overwhelming, and each session will come with actionable items to do until our next meeting. I expect my mentees to be dedicated to doing the work, setting their own deadlines, what feedback they are looking for, and what help they need from me. I see it as less hand-holding and more of a guiding force rather than telling my mentees what to do. I’ve always loved having managers who give me a project to work on, figure things out on my own, come back with suggestions, but ultimately they let me be the lead. I like to have my mentees try this same type of thing out!

“Encouraging mentees not to give up”

What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?
My favorite part is helping mentees beyond the professional aspect of mentorship. Sure, we can talk about how to set up a portfolio website best or negotiate an offer letter all day long. But I think encouraging mentees not to give up when they’ve gotten a rejection email, battle imposter syndrome, and navigating conflict in the workplace are things schools didn’t teach us how to do. These more interpersonal skills and mental fitness exercises I love working through with mentees.

I once had a mentee start our meeting frazzled and on the brink of tears. My mentee wanted to dive straight into business and what type of mentoring she needed. Before we did, I asked her how she was doing. She said she was ok and admitted she rushed to get her portfolio done moments before our call. I could tell she wasn’t in the right headspace. After a few exchanges, she admitted that she struggled to work on her portfolio due to her 60+ hour work weeks and no energy left to focus on updating her portfolio after work. And at the peak of the pandemic, she had decided to leave her career in fashion design to pursue product design. You know that this can be scary, difficult, and daunting for anyone who’s done a career change. Imagine doing it when the world already feels like it is on fire (thanks, COVID). She was burned out. I encouraged her to take a break and that her portfolio could wait. Her mental wellness and happiness came first. She was already kicking ass and taking names with all the work she’s doing, and a week stepping away from it all would help immensely. She felt a weight come off her shoulders through her tears and was empowered to take her mental willingness seriously. She made sure to message me later how thankful she was we met and how I could get her out of that negative headspace. These types of moments are what I live for with mentoring!

What are you getting out of being a mentor?
I get to help others get that much closer to their professional goals and make connections along the way. I’ve never been great with professional networking. I always found them daunting and hit or miss when attending professional mixers at a bar or office space somewhere downtown. The pandemic made it more challenging to connect with others in the professional world. Mentoring helps make those stronger connections with others in my field and builds upon my leadership qualities. As we continue growing at MasterClass, mentoring has helped me figure out what qualities in a Product Designer we should be looking for and how to build out our design community to encourage others to work with us.


About the author

Shelby Corbella

Shelby Corbella is one of our professional mentors on MentorCruise and works as Senior Product Designer at MasterClass.

Visit Profile

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