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Team

Design Mentorship - thoughts on fulfilling a growing need and stewarding our…

January 12, 2018 at 8:09pm

Design Mentorship - thoughts on fulfilling a growing need and stewarding our industry

January 12, 2018 at 8:09pm
I've had a lot of thoughts lately about design mentorship and how it seems like it's a growing need that is unique to the field. Is it just me or are senior/lead designers given more expectation to set aside time to mentor junior designs than other professions like engineering or management? With engineering, it seems those who are entry-level grow from just working experience, but junior designers need more in-person guidance because it's difficult to fact-check UX problems as it is with development. I've also seen many engineers and new managers who could probably benefit from mentorship, but the need for 1:1 help doesn't seem as openly stated.

Bootcamp-styled design courses don't always produce great talent / foundation

I recently chatted with a young designer who took a few months of a design crash course and her idea of design and why she was interested was quite vague. I've come across similar designers who went through the same process, and I found it difficult to gauge their passion and wondered if all these bootcamp ads promising lucrative careers is sending mixed messages. I'm not saying everyone from bootcamps are missing the point, but do we rely on these bootcamps or other resources from the design community (like designbetter.co or ideou.com) to nurture the next generation of designers?

The need for experienced designers is increasing

More colleges are starting to offer HCI courses, the topic of UX is in virtually every business article, but many companies, big and small, are desperate for talent and are hiring juniors and leaning on their seniors to mentor them. When I was at FB, there was mention of wanting to hire hundreds of designers in the next few years. We were all asking, "where are they going to find so many?" This is quite a taxing requirement.

Have you been mentored or mentored someone? What are your thoughts on how to grow in or grow our community?


January 12, 2018 at 10:17pm
Your point about the bootcamps is interesting. Designers going through these should be designing in some capacity before they enter. If they aren't, then they nor anyone else should expect them to be ready after 10-12 weeks of exposure to design. Selective bootcamps tend to be a better concept, as opposed to larger ones who have large enrollments.
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January 13, 2018 at 2:28pm
A lot depends on the mentors, their leadership skills, and how well they know the field. As I'm getting better at asking the right questions and explaining complex scenarios in a simple way, my students become better geared up towards the future tasks. I also tend to pass on my informal thoughts about the state of the industry, the place of the design process in the company hierarchy, the tips on how to effectively communicate your design ideas. I will share this post with my students and see if they have any thoughts.
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January 16, 2018 at 9:34pm
thanks Tom! You make a good point about "getting better" because even as mentors or senior designers, we need to progress in how teach others.
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January 23, 2018 at 6:37pm
I'm a bit of a noob so forgive for my next question. By designers do you mean the aesthetics of an app or site? I know web design and graphic design are two completely different animals.
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"many companies, big and small, are desperate for talent and are hiring juniors" maybe the case in the valley but as someone looking for a more junior role in the UK I'm finding most companies are looking for more senior people 🤔
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I should rephrase, everyone wants senior designers but there are not enough so they resort to hiring juniors and lean on their seniors to mentor them
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I live in Middle Georgia and my options for local dev work would be from all of 2 companies who are full up on what they need..
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designers meaning ux/ui. web design and graphic design both have aesthetic needs, but design is more than just aesthetics.
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understood. I'm all of a few months into this so I'm still learning the parameters of some of the terminology.
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welcome to the field :) Spectrum should be a great resource!
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What I've seen so far has been amazing. I was just telling the guy who introduced me to Spectrum how this is a culture shock for me because in my previous career everyone held their secrets and knowledge to themselves and in the industry everyone is so willing to help people learn and grow. It's a complete 180.
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yup, it's awesome. Sharing is caring!
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March 28, 2018 at 6:39pm
I've actually been yearning for mentorship at my company for quite some time. I'm self taught and have been working at the same start up for 3 years. This was my first job in tech and I was, essentially, thrown in the deep end and had to learn on the fly. That's all fine and good until you hit that wall of: I can only learn so much, flying solo. There's a senior designer here but she's not mentor material (at least not to someone with a few years under their belt). How do you reconcile this sort of in between state where I have experience but need to revisit lots of the basics before I can start pursuing more career growth. Also, on somewhat of a sidenote, how do you show your skills when you're entire portfolio is under one company with a strict NDA?
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April 2, 2018 at 5:10am
I think you're not alone in this. I was very fortunate to have worked alongside great mentors in my first tech job. Have you brought this up to your manager? They may be willing to let you attend design workshops if they care about your concerns. Other than being mentored, I heavily leaned on workshops, design talks, and online / book resources. My mentors were a huge plus to me, but I really had to take it upon myself to learn and progress using other means outside of work. I would spend my mornings at work reading through my design feed of articles and lessons. It really helped me advance my design knowledge quickly. To your second question, your portfolio should include projects outside of work and for your current company, you can talk through general concepts while removing the actual details of the project. I recommend remaking all the screens into wireframes and stripping any details that are under NDA. You could also explain that your profile shows just general concepts, and if an employer wants to know the details, you can present it to them in person. One thing I did in one of my portfolio projects is I would say "Section 1, Section 2" instead of showing actual names of anything. If none of this is possible, just include in your cover letter or email "I’m unable to show my work from [Company X] on my portfolio, but I can speak to my work and show examples in person." and just have a PDF or offline presentation ready.
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April 2, 2018 at 6:11pm
thank you for the advice. I've brought it up a number of times and am waiting for approval to take off for UX coursework. The books and articles help, of course, but nothing really helps inform process (applying said lessons) so that's where I start thinking "maybe I should start looking at larger companies". The NDA workaround is good. Thank you!
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December 16, 2018 at 1:01am
I agree with a lot of what you've said in this thread. We've seen the same need in the Product Hive community as well and have created a mentor matching program with 100+ Mentors and Mentees. If you're looking for ways that you can connect with mentors or want to actively mentor outside your company you should check it out. If individually you're not interested please share it with those looking for mentorship or wanting to mentor. https://www.producthive.org/mentors/
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I've actually been yearning for mentorship at my company for quite some time. I'm self taught and have been working at the same start up for 3 years. This was my first job in tech and I was, essentially, thrown in the deep end and had to learn on the fly. That's all fine and good until you hit that wall of: I can only learn so much, flying solo. There's a senior designer here but she's not mentor material (at least not to someone with a few years under their belt). How do you reconcile this sort of in between state where I have experience but need to revisit lots of the basics before I can start pursuing more career growth. Also, on somewhat of a sidenote, how do you show your skills when you're entire portfolio is under one company with a strict NDA?
I think you really have to reflect on the gaps that you feel in your craft. There are certain things that only a digital designer could help you with, but there are also a lot of ways that you can benefit from a non-designer. Some of the best advice that I've gotten that has been applicable to design has come from engineers, architects, and people from even further removed domains.
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June 21, 2019 at 12:15pm
I'm currently working one-on-one with an early stage UX Designer for free with the expectation she later help me with my paid work for others as a favor to me and to gain real-world design experience that I'll be sure to hold her to high standards with. I'd actually enjoy working with 1 more mentee if I came across someone motivated.
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