Why did you decide to become a mentor?
When you’ve been designing for as long as I have, there comes a point in one’s career where your own skills start to level off and the challenge is no longer about mastering your craft but about expanding your skills to include having impact in other ways. For me, that has meant sharing my knowledge and experience with others and helping them grow in their careers. I led a design bootcamp 8 years ago, and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had.
I consider it one of the highlights of my career to have been able to help hundreds of students achieve their goal of becoming professional designers. My students have gone on to work for Amazon, Google, IBM, Yelp, and it gives me tremendous gratification to know that I played a small part in their success.
I decided to become a mentor on MentorCruise.com because I believe in the power of mentorship and I wanted to give back to the community by sharing my experience and knowledge with others. By connecting with mentees, I can help them navigate the challenges they face in their careers and help them grow and reach their full potential.
How did you get your career start?
So…my path to design was somewhat of an unconventional one in that I was entirely self-taught. I fell in love with the web when I was a freshman in college (many moons ago), and this was during the infancy of the web at the time. I immediately became enamored with the Internet and saw its potential to connect people and share one’s passions with others, and this really motivated me to learn HTML and CSS and start building my own website. Eventually, I became passionate about designing and creating websites, which led to my becoming a designer. Because there weren’t any courses or many books on web design at the time, I had to teach myself how to become a designer. This is why I’m so passionate about teaching and mentoring, because it gives me an opportunity to help others avoid the lonely and difficult process that I had to go through myself.
What do mentees usually come to you for?
I’ve had the benefit of mentoring folks at all stages of their career. However, I get the most inquiries when it comes to honing one’s portfolio and landing their first full-time design job.
In terms of structure, I like to start by reviewing and auditing my mentee’s current portfolio and experience, and highlighting opportunities for improvement. From there, I usually schedule regular check-ins to set goals, review progress, and provide feedback. I also make sure to provide my mentees with resources, examples, and other tools that will help them succeed.
My mentees can expect to receive support and guidance on a wide range of topics related to design and career development. We might work on creating a portfolio that showcases their skills and experience, developing a personal brand, and networking with potential employers. I also provide guidance on how to prepare for interviews, negotiate job offers, and make the most of their first design job.
What’s been your favourite mentorship success story so far?
There’s a former student of mine who I’ve had the pleasure to mentor for the past 7 years, and it’s been truly amazing to see them grow from being a bootcamp student to a product designer at Facebook. In many respects, I feel like they would have been successful even without my mentorship and tutelage. In fact, that’s the feeling I get with all of my best students and mentees. They’re always intrinsically motivated and committed to the process, so all I really have to do is to identify their strengths and weaknesses and provide a framework for their growth. I suppose, the best mentors and coaches are just vessels to be both a sounding board and guide.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
On a personal level, being a mentor allows me to find success in other people’s growth. At this point in my career, there are fewer and fewer achievements to be had on my own. And I see my most important impact being to leverage my skills for good and empowering and building up others to do their best work.
From a professional perspective, mentoring allows me to sharpen my leadership skills as it requires me to communicate effectively and provide constructive feedback when guiding others to reach their goals. Mentoring has given me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, knowing that I am contributing to the community and helping others achieve their full potential.