At Designlab, UI/UX mentorship is a huge part of our courses, and is one of the main learning components of our career-accelerator bootcamp, UX Academy.
We have over 500 mentors on board to support our students — all of whom are industry professionals with a wealth of experience in the UI/UX design world, as well as people who are highly invested in student growth and the overall learning experience.
If you’re someone who’s never worked with a mentor before, it can be tricky to understand how best to utilize your mentor’s support and guidance. In this blog post, we’ll cover who our Designlab mentors are, what to expect from their 1:1 UI/UX mentorship, and how to make the most of it!
A mentor is someone who will help guide you through the course materials, project work, and overall learning journey as you begin on your path to becoming a UI/UX/Product Designer.
Enable You to Grow Your UI/UX Design Skills
Your mentor will help you grow the skills that you’ll want and need to cultivate, and can help point in the right direction as far as which area of the UI/UX design field might be a good fit for you to pursue. In essence, you can think of a mentor as a role model that you can look up to for support as you work your way through UX Academy.
Play Devil’s Advocate With Your Design Decisions
What’s important to realize early on, is that your relationship with your mentor will change and evolve as you progress through the course material. For instance, your mentor might start out as more of a guide andthen, as you become more comfortable and confident, they will start to challenge you by playing devil’s advocate with your design decisions.
Assess Your Growth and Needs
A mentor will be also able to see how you’re growing through the program, and assess your needs as an individual. They’re there not only to teach you what’s right and wrong, but also to help you understand the UI/UX design process as a whole, so that you can make critical decisions for yourself in regards to your work.
Provide Honest Feedback
Your mentor will be honest with you, and will always be able to have necessary conversations, even if they’re not always easy. This will help you improve your skill set and continue to move in the right direction.
At Designlab, we work with over 500 mentors, and the volume is always climbing! All of our UX Academy mentors are industry professionals with an average of 5–7 years of experience in the UI/UX design industry, each with their own unique backgrounds. They each have a large network of fellow designers, and, as such, will be able to help you feel comfortable walking into a design role, because it’s a space that they’re highly familiar with themselves.
Perhaps most importantly, our mentors value their mentees as people. Our mentors chose to partner with us because they want to positively impact the next generation of future designers. Your mentor should make you feel seen as both a student and as a designer, and you should feel that they care about you in both respects as well.
We partner with mentors from companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, HubSpot, Walmart, Etsy, Google, and many more. Our mentors are diverse in location, timezone, gender, teaching style, age, and experience. One thing they all have in common, however, is a deep investment in helping their mentees learn! You can read more about our mentors in the mentor spotlights on our blog.
On the launch day (or first day) of your course, you’ll receive an email which will detail who your mentor is, how you can go about connecting with them, and a link to schedule your first meeting together. Exciting times!
The most important aspect of UX mentorship is meaningful feedback and dialog.These are key to ensuring that you’ll continue to build your UI/UX design skillset, and thrive throughout the UX Academy program.
Throughout UX Academy, mentorship feedback and interaction is conducted in two major ways: regular written feedback on assignments, and 1:1 video-based mentor sessions — and here’ we’ll discuss a little more about each of those!
Regular Written Feedback
To begin, as you work through your practical project work, your mentor will review your submissions to make sure you’ve understood the deliverables and met the necessary requirements of each project. Every time you upload a completed project, your mentor will have 24–48 hours to respond with written feedback.
Generally, this feedback will be in the form of specific written commentary geared towards creating another iteration of your work. After your mentor leaves their notes, you’re always free to comment back, ask questions, or provide clarification on any of the design decisions that you’ve made.
One good thing to keep in mind is that design is very iterative in nature, and oftentimes, you’ll have to work through several versions of a project before it’s ultimately approved by your mentor. This isn’t a bad thing!
Providing thorough feedback, asking you to make changes, and getting you used to questioning your design decisions, is all part of your mentor’s job. Remember: the UI/UX design field is very collaborative and iterative in nature, and that’s why UX Academy is designed to be this way.
1:1 Video-Based Mentor Sessions
Additional feedback will come within the regularly scheduled 1:1 calls with your mentor (via an app such as Zoom or Google Hangouts). These calls will be an hour long each, and are a great opportunity to discuss your work more in-depth, chat through any questions you have in regards to your course progress, troubleshoot areas of difficulty, or talk about the UI/UX design industry in general.
It’s important to know how you can make the most of the time you have with your mentor, and we would therefore recommend doing the following:
Be Transparent About Your Expectations
Your mentor has more experience than you in the industry, but you’re the one who’s going to be working with them. If there’s something that you know helps facilitate your learning, or a particular skill or topic you’d really like to focus a session on, don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know.
Voice Your Questions
We know it can be daunting to approach someone new, especially when you’re also learning a brand new skill. And it’s important to be receptive to feedback, but if something isn’t quite making sense, or if you have an idea that’s different to what your mentor proposes, don’t be afraid to speak up. It can be easy to shy away from what might feel is talking back to your mentor, but in fact, sessions should be critical and dynamic. Don’t forget: you belong in the conversation too!
Create an Agenda
If you’re not totally sure what to bring to the table during your mentor sessions, create an agenda. Start by going through your project work, and writing down some points or topics that you’d like to discuss. This can help to keep the conversation flowing, and ensure that the areas of most importance (or concern) in regards to your learning needs and goals are addressed.
Chat About the Wider Industry
Don’t forget that your mentor is a working designer too, and also experienced their own journey into the industry! A really good way to get to know them is by asking how they became a UI/UX designer. You could also approach your mentor for industry guidance, or have some questions laid out about a specific real-world project that you’re really excited about and want to work.
Remember, your mentor is there to help and support you as much as they possibly can. They’re an expert on all things UX Design, so anything you feel could use some additional knowledge or clarity, chat to them about it!
What’s good to remember is your mentor is not (and should not) be your only source of support and guidance through your UI/UX learning journey.
You also have the wider support of fellow students, alumni, and the wider Designlab community there for you to reach out to and network with. For example, if you have any questions and your mentor isn’t immediately available, you can always reach out to the Slack community, which is a great resource for all of our students. Slack can be used for questions related to specific modules, with a channel dedicated to each area of learning.
There are also Slack spaces specifically for feedback on your work, so if you’re feeling like you need some tips, motivation, or guidance ahead of connecting with your mentor, you can always lean on Slack in the meantime. Slack is full of students, alumni, mentors, as well as the entire Designlab team, and we highly recommend that all of our learners get involved so you can make the most of our community, network, and collaborate!
Ultimately, UI/UX mentorship is one of the pillars on which our program is built, and we’re excited to be able to partner with such talented individuals to help our students make the transition into the UX/UI design space. If you’d like to learn more about who our mentors are, we encourage you to check out our Mentor Roster.
If you have more questions about mentorship or are interested in our UX Academy program, you can reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in becoming a UX/UI design mentor, we encourage you to apply here.