Advice on Finding the Best UX Mentor

We’ve all been there… in a place where we wish that we had a mentor or someone more experienced to help us become better.

The UX Athlete

From designing plays to designing experiences... Lis Hubert shares with us her insights on how to become better in what we do.

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In the field of UX it seems that mentors are lacking more than ever, and that we may never get the help we seek. What then happens if we never get the mentors that we are looking for? Do we just sit down and sulk. No, indeed we do not. What we do instead is turn towards a lesson learned from sports: Mentorship comes in many different forms, it’s up to us to recognize it.

Every sports team has a captain, right? Unfortunately, that person isn’t always the best person to lead the team to victory. This is the same in the field of UX. In fact sometimes, in UX, this person doesn’t exist at all. Thus we have two choices in order to solve this lack of mentorship. We could sit down and grumble or we could make like an established athlete and recognize our other options.

When I found myself on sports teams that did not have the mentorship I wanted, I went out and looked for it elsewhere. I observed other team members who I wanted to play like, and whenever they had a free moment, I asked them to show me a new move, or explain to me their line of thinking. I would also play sports outside of my ‘official’ teams, and there I would find mentors as well. The important thing to note is that by exposing myself to different experiences, and not rooting myself in my anger at not having a mentor, I was able to see beyond my situation and grow as a athlete. You see, mentorship is a two way street. Sports taught me this.

By applying this same methodology to my UX career, I was able to find mentors without waiting for someone to assign them. I could then extract the type of information and insight I needed to grow into the UX professional that I wanted to be. Mentorship is something I’ve learned both how to do, as well as to extract from others. By doing so, I have become the master of my own destiny, and you can too. Thus, the best UX mentor for you is out there, just maybe not all in one place. It’s up to you to find them.

Elisabeth Hubert

Lis is a UX & Strategy Consultant making her way around NYC and beyond. She also is the Chief Experience Officer at 8coupons. You can follow her on Twitter via @lishubert.

5 comments on this article

  1. lynn on

    And don’t be embarrassed to ask them. Put yourself in their shoes: a smart interesting person comes up to you and asks you to be their mentor. WARM FUZZY! Just ask. The worst that can happen is they say no. The best is a lifelong friendship with someone you admire and respect.

  2. Matthias on

    Hi Lis, as much as I love it that you brought up this topic, I don’t think I agree with your conclusion. What you are describing in your article is a strategy one should try out if there is no mentor available. Your article should therefore rather be titled “Advice for when you don’t have a mentor or can’t find one”. The main advantage of the mentor-student relationship is that the student continuously has a person they can turn to and ask for advice, and they don’t have to look for someone all the time. It also goes much deeper than that, and can be much more satisfying, because you can learn from them even without asking questions, simply by having this close relationship. I don’t think this can be compared with sports. I used to compete a lot, and could learn from people all over the place by watching them and training with them. However, asking someone what would be the best next move in a match, or how a project should be run are two very different things, no matter how nice it would be if that metaphor worked…

  3. Lis on

    Thanks for commenting guys!

    I think that what the article is describing is a way to be proactive about finding a mentor, and is showing that that is the best way to find the “perfect” one for a specific individual. I agree that the mentor to student relationship that you describe is a key to success, but many times that just isn’t possible in this profession. I don’t seem them as different things (understanding physical movement strategy vs. project management strategy) they are very much along the same line of thinking. The main point is that we have it inside all of us to make our own destinies and there are skills we’ve learned along the way in our lives to help us to do that. Thanks for reading :-) .

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  5. xian on

    not to be too prosaic about it, but also please be aware that the IA Institute has a thriving mentorship program that helps match mentors and proteges, the IxDA has efforts in this area, and other local design organization may also offer de facto opportunities to meet, get to know, and seek guidance and feedback from more experienced colleagues.