In June 2022 I joined ADPList as a design mentor.
A few things preceeded this decision: I‘d been more actively involved in diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging (DEIB) initiatives at Buildkite and wanted to extend my experience beyond organizational walls; my own design coach had encouraged mentoring others as a way to build confidence, that I had built up enough experience of my own to understand most problems; lastly, I wanted to meet with designers early in their design careers and give some support.
The focus on my profile is still the same: to make space for designers with a couple years’ experience to talk about career progression, to clarify UI and UX processes or tooling, and to find confidence in storytelling and in designing for impact.
Here are some things I‘ve learned in the last 10 months. If anything, talking to designers has strengthened my own belief in designers being the glue between technical craft and empathy.
At all levels of being a designer, from 2 years to 10+ years, myself included, there is no sure way to feel 100% confident.
In my own journey as a recovering perfectionist and somewhat socially-averse individual, I‘ve learned that the way to navigate this uncertainty is to instead talk about the journey so far and use my own personal experience to support why I am a designer. There is no right way to do this but it helps people learn a lot about someone and how they make decisions.
To tell a good story is to edit relentlessly.
The more we edit the story of how we got here, the easier it is for our story to become memorable, for a stranger at an interview to understand our North Star, and to develop our own points of view. The minute details within an artboard or research piece are important if they contribute to the story, like a major turning point, but it is best to lead with broad strokes and to talk about the the impact and lessons from having done the work.
Working with people is the most important aspect of shipping excellence.
This includes building relationships by sharing work early, involving others in the process even if it doesn‘t cover their technical areas, and generally sharing the story of why and how we got here.
Sharing the why is at the heart of what we do as designers.
When people have described themselves as being the only champion of UX/UI improvements in an org where most people don‘t seem to care, we have to get them on board by sharing why it is important even if minor, like a button colour. For example, to reflect our company‘s values of empathy and to lessen frustration, it is necessary for the empty states in our interface to explain clearly why something is not working and to project a feeling of ease via comfortable illustrations and even-keeled copy. Sharing our why helps our ideas to spread and for non-designers to champion those values and messages.
I personally believe that there is no greater power than sharing stories and in celebrating our full selves, wherever we are at, not as a projection of the shape of a role.