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Life at Perficient

How Mentoring UX Professionals Has Helped My Career, Too

I have been mentoring budding user experience (UX) professionals for several years, and there’s one thing I always tell my mentees: “It’s never too early in your career to mentor someone. You have valuable expertise that someone else needs. Set aside your doubts and just go for it.”
The advice has proven valuable for me as well.
How I Became a Mentor
In 2014 I was invited by the founder of UX Mentors, Diane DeSeta, to join her new organization based out of Atlanta. The vision for UX Mentors was simple and meaningful: “To give back to our community by sharing our knowledge, tools and expertise with anyone who is interested in creating great experiences.”
I recall being involved in many start-up meetings with the original members, including Diane, as we applied design thinking to solve many important challenges. We would white board ideas to decide everything from the non-profit revenue model (i.e., Should all or only some services be free? Do we collect any dues?) to how to decide who “qualifies” as a mentee or mentor.
My Contributions So Far
In the two and a half years since the start-up, I have mentored two UX professionals, one in Philadelphia and the other in Atlanta. We typically met online at least twice a month, and when the opportunity was right, we met in person. Each mentee had similar requests for my advice, such as prepping for a job interview and the best way to evaluate companies before that first interview. Some of their interests were individual and included everything from wire-framing tools and design critiques, to research methods for mobile design.
By no coincidence, both “Jan” and “Julie” had two-to-five years of experience in the field and master’s degrees. They were both high achievers and willing to take calculated risks to advance their learning and careers. Jan left a secure job in higher education to leap into the commercial sector to broaden and deepen her skills in user research and usability studies. Julie moved back into her parent’s home in her mid-20s to step out of the workforce and pursue a year-long web design certificate program. Today, they are both employed in user-centered design. Did I have a part in that? Yes, but a small one.
As I reflect on our conversations, I was learning as much from them as they were from me. I was a sounding board, sharing my own anecdotal experiences, but it was their tenacity and intelligence that opened new doors of opportunity for each of them.
More recently I began an informal, ad-hoc mentoring relationship with a budding UXer with a graduate degree in anthropology from Georgia State University. He sought me out after I spoke at an event for IxDA Atlanta. I’ve met with “Ryan” a handful of times since the summer, and we’re due to meet up again soon.
The Best Thing About Mentoring
What I relish about mentoring him and the others is that I can “bake in” a lot of goodness into their professional lives based on my 20-plus years of working in digital. I am a Senior User Researcher for Perficient Digital, and obviously, working for the digital agency has exposed me to countless scenarios and learning opportunities (a huge reservoir of knowledge and experience). The knowledge I’ve gained helps me to steer mentees to the best resources and people for continuous learning.

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Lisa McMichael

Lisa McMichael is a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility, CPACC with the Detroit Business Unit.

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