One piece of career advice I keep hearing (for instance in Whitney Hess’s interview on the UX Intern Podcast) is to get a mentor.
Why Get a Mentor?
The value of that is obvious: A smart, experienced person who you meet with regularly and learn the craft from? Sign me up!
The Hard Part
There’s no actual sign-up sheet? You mean I have to actually go find someone and convince them to spend hours of their free time with me, chatting and teaching me about their career?
That’s the hard part.
It’s a really BIG ask.
So I’d been procrastinating on this for ages.
But then in late-2016 I met Mark Plant. He works at my company, ION, but in a different department. Whereas my team works on a specific product, Mark’s team is more of an internal design agency, working on developing various products, both internally and externally.
Basically, he’s doing my dream job 🙂
Testing the Waters
So I bought him a coffee and peppered him with questions about his career and the field of UX. It also came up that he’s into skiing and mountain biking, much like myself, so I asked him a lot about that as well.
Somehow the barrage of questions didn’t scare him off, so I offered to go for another coffee a week or two later. And by then he was already going through a step-by-step explanation of not just UX, but the wider fields of Service Design, Experience Design, and more. It was like he had a curriculum developed and was just waiting for some young designer like myself to ask him to teach them.
And before I could even ask him to be my mentor, he offered!
We now meet every week or two to design a new app based on the Explor app from the AngelHack hackathon I did last year.
He’s given me career advice, he’s shown me specific techniques, and he’s broadened my horizons beyond just pure UX.
For instance, I previously rolled my eyes at marketing. I sort of felt like it was UX but without the cool tech and research aspects. Mark suggested I read On Brand by Wally Olins, and boom. I am now filled with respect for the discipline of marketing.
By the way, I won’t be as slick of a teacher as Mark, but if anyone reading this is just starting out in tech or UX and have a few questions or even just want someone to bounce design ideas off of, let me know! I’d love to have a mentee of my own.
It’s the circle of life!