Aug 17, 2021
Design
10
 min read

My first 30 days as a Design Mentor

It was a Friday afternoon, I got a message from a colleague.

It wasn't the first time I was asked to connect with designers to give career advice however it was the first time I realised how much people could benefit from my experience in the industry.

If you think about giving someone career advice it could shape their career, it could open new doors and shut others, we are talking about someone's livelihood, it's such a heavy responsibility and I shouldn't take that lightly.

Regardless, I went ahead and connected with people. It felt natural to me. It felt like I was "giving back" and contributing to this very young design industry, It felt good.

I began sharing my experiences, my journey and hoping someone out there somewhere could take something from it, learn, grow.

Coincidentally, one evening while scrolling through LinkedIn, I kept seeing posts about ADPList when it was just starting out with an excel sheet of names of designers who were let go during the unfortunate pandemic.

The person behind ADPList, Felix Lee, was based in Singapore so I reached out to him, we met up for dinner and told him what a great platform he was building. Not long after, more than 3 months later, I finally took the plunge and signed up as a mentor.

Why did I choose to be a mentor?

If you are reading this, or have come this far into my post, I'm sure you are already a Design Mentor (on ADPList or others), or thinking about being one. This post is for you 🥳

There was a lot of hesitation at first to join because it's a lot to consider to be a Design Mentor.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • How can I make an impact on my mentees? (I call them protégés 😜)
  • What are the valuable lessons I've learned during my career that I can offer?
  • Do I have any available time in my current schedule? What do I need to give up or replace?
  • What does being a Mentor do for me now and in the future?
  • Personal brand - Do I have one? Do I need one? What are my values and design principles?

After spending some time figuring it out and finding answers to the questions above, I started to gain some confidence and felt that I was more prepared and ready to provide guidance, motivation and support to my future mentees.

The 30-day mentorship experience

Day 1

Writing a good enough description of myself

Take your time to write a good, clear description of your career. I noticed that majority of my mentees have told me that they booked a session with me after reading my bio. This what I wrote on mine and what I'd like to convey so that mentees can have a better picture of who I am and if we share similar experiences. It is important for mentees to find the right kind of mentorship. I have acknowledged that I cannot help every single person so a well-written bio will help reduce the possibility of a mismatch.

About Me @ ADPList.org

My schedule

I decided to open up 3 slots per day from Monday to Thursday, with 30 mins each session. And as soon as I was settling in and preparing myself, I received 4 bookings within that day! They actually do come in thick and fast. I guess its also I was eagerly sharing my virtual swag that I started mentoring on ADPList. So a reminder to future mentors, only share about your availability once you are completely ready.

Here's my thought process for each session

Firstly, I do a bit of homework - It goes without saying, a quick 10 min prep before each session. Mentees usually leave a note together with their booking to give me an idea what kind of advice they are looking for. Their profile contains a link to their LinkedIn where I go through their work experience and also a quick glance through their portfolio if it's available.

The first session with a new mentee is set to 30 mins. I feel that's ample of time to learn more about my mentee, having a two-way conversation and they are usually very light. Through conversations, I am also able to assess their skills, understand their knowledge about UX, design process and work experiences. It's important for me to build that relationship with them, as they will embark this journey as a mentee with me for an extended period of time.

Start a document with them to identify what their Goal is. They tend to be around these 3 common themes:

  1. Portfolio structure
  2. Career path to choose between IC or Manager
  3. Sole designers

Here's an example of my 1:1 document that is shared to my mentee. After the session, they will fill in what their goal would be and I will then break that down into tasks.

Follow Up Sessions

After our first session ends, I asked them whether they are happy with it and if they would like to continue with follow-up sessions. The follow-up sessions are usually an hour long. This is where we go through the document in detail.

Portfolio structure

I created this template after my 3rd mentee had very similar issues with her portfolio with the first two. I realised that their porfolio structure could be better and they were missing some very important ingredients. Hence, I decided to duplicate my own portfolio that's stress-tested and proven to work (hehe), I call it the Steroid for UX portfolios 😇, and replaced the content with what I felt was necessary. If you'd like a copy of my portfolio template, please reach out to me @sherizan.

Career Path

As for this topic, some of my mentees are in a limbo of choosing between being a manager and individual contributor. Having both experiences myself, I usually share my experiences doing both and also described what I do currently as a Principal Designer on the IC path at Grab. We also touched on the subject of salary expecations and career progression.

Sole Designers

This is definitely an interesting topic that I've had while mentoring. I do get some of my mentees who are the sole designers in their company. Typically, one would hire their first designer and they tend to be very experienced so that they can come in and set the right expectations, introduce a working process amongst product and engineering teams and having the right tools to run activities such as workshops and usability testing on their own. This is what we call a Founding Designer. But in my case, most of them are junior UX or completely new to UX. This immediately shows the company's UX maturity level and lack of understanding the value of UX. This is where we talk about having clear processes and structure very early on that they can bring into their company.

NNGroup UX Maturity

On a positive note, it is the best time to be the only designer because they have the leeway to fail and learn from their mistakes. Try different methods, see what works for them, and that is where the opportunity to grow is 10 times more than working in a mature organisation. They don't run into different layers of bureaucracy and approvals.

It does make sense for them to find a design mentor. This is usually the group of mentees that I do my follow-up sessions with. Not having a Design Manager or mentor in their organisation is a huge disadvantage. Someone who can guide them, giving constant design feedback and more importantly managing their career progression is clearly needed.

Day 30

What have I learned so far?

It's been relatively easy and made possible with ADPList. The entire experience so far from onboarding to my sessions with mentees have been seamless.

Helping people is addictive. When mentees left reviews or feedback, it's been very eye opening to realise how important mentorship is.

“When we help ourselves, we find moments of happiness, when we help others, we find lasting fulfilment” @simonsinek

The next 30 days

What's next? Full steam ahead for August. No slowing down.

Next Steps:

  • Track past mentees progress based on the 1:1 document
  • Keep in touch with my mentees regularly
  • Find a communication channel with my mentees individually
A token of appreciation from one of my mentees :)

That's all folks, thanks for reading. I always tell my new mentees,

"Let's go from 0 to 10, 10 to 20, etc. No shortcuts."

Ready for your mentorship session? Book a session with me.

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