I remember well that moment in which I decided that my career will not be the one that I prepared in my college than in faculty and master.
During my volunteering time at Mozilla I’ve discovered that being there for people, helping them with the navigation and with the whole experience, understanding their needs and their actions are the things that are making me involved, happy and involved 100%. It was a hard time, but not for me, for the ones around me because they expected me to do something else. And I started to learn everything step by step, around 2013 I facilitated the first usability testing session and I was amazed by the boost of information users’ gave me.
The years, since then, were very challenging because in the beginning, here, in Romania, not many companies had the UX designer or Usability Specialist open positions. So, I was a tester for a time, combining the testing activities with usability and user research, but after a while, I was confident about my skills and I’ve made the final switch with a company that believed in me. That moment was in 2015, and, since then, I am doing magic every day.
How I became a mentor
Sometimes, during the moments I’ve learned by myself to become a UX designer, I needed someone with experience to show me the path, to not learn everything by the hard way (from mistakes), but I am not complaining, it was very good in this way, appropriate to my style since I was a kid. But starting with this September, after a talk with 2 ex-colleagues about user experience and their need to learn it, I’ve decided to become a mentor for them. In the beginning, the idea was pretty challenging because all it comes out of the blue, but having in my mind the structured I’ve followed during the years I’ve studied to become a UX designer and the experience, I’ve managed to put everything on paper and to have a structure of the program.
Setting the rules
First of all, I established some rules for this program, the rules that I’ve discussed with the girls first, to see if they agree with them or not. To have an idea, the rules I have for this course are the following:
- honesty (If they can’t accomplish a deadline, to be honest with that and let me know, and if they don’t like a task, again, it’s important to let me know to see how we find a solution in this direction.);
- ethics (It’s important to not steal content from the Internet or from other sources. Stealing is not representing success, and it will not make you a good professional either.);
- ‘I don’t like it’ is not allowed (This rule is applied just in terms of designing for users, not related to a task or so. So, the users’ needs are those which will dictate the product and you, as a UX designer (or any specialist), need to have this in mind and to respect the fact that sometimes, the user has different points of you than you.);
- never are enough questions (With this rule, I tried to cover two areas. The first one is referring to those questions you have during the UX process when you are working on a project. The second one is referring to the fact that they can ask me anything about the tasks I gave to them, to ask me questions until they are sure what to do.);
- have an idea, share it (I like to share ideas and I consider this mandatory for being active and involved in something. And beyond this, it’s challenging to discuss the subject and needs from different points of view.);
- have trust in yourself (I guess this rule no needs for further explanations.).
Creating the structure of the program
The whole structure of the mentoring program was structured based on my learning curve, my experience I’ve gained as a professional and, the most important, from my mentees. After a pleasant discussion with them, I’ve found out what they will want to reach, what they will want to learn, and the most important, why they will want to learn about User Experience domain and its processes. They are coming with an IT background, one is a front-end developer and one is a software tester, so they have a strong mindset in their specialties, but this thing was a challenge for me, as well.
What I’ve found from them and how I translated into learning modules and tasks:
- they wanted to know how to deal with users, so I introduced in the program a whole chapter about user research and usability testing;
- they wanted to know how the UX process it’s handled, so, I created the following curricula: Project Introduction, Competition analysis, User research, User profiles, personas, storyboards and user stories creation, Information Architecture, Wireframes (for desktop and mobile), Usability testing plan (with scenarios and tasks) and report creation and, not in the end, the creation of a portfolio;
- they wanted to read good books and articles about UX, and I recommended them those books and articles that I’ve found clear enough for creating a UX critical thinking base.
What I’ve learned until now
The program is still ongoing (it started at the beginning of October 2018), but every day I am learning something new from my amazing mentees. They are very curious and even they have questions, I am very happy that I have the possibility to train my rusty brain and to improve my ability to search and to answer questions. My mentees, also, are an example in terms of enthusiasm and happiness. When they are having tasks they are not complaining, and they are asking for new challenges and I am amazed by their energy of learning. So, to summarize, my mentees are, also, mentors to me.