Some time ago, I had lunch with a friend who was facing a layoff. We were talking about her prospects when she mentioned a conversation with her mentor. Our discussion then shifted to her relationship with her mentor—a long-time associate she had not worked with, but who understood her career goals as well as the industry she worked in.
The conversation with my friend was timely, as I had just been elected to the position of director of professional development for UXPA, and one of my goals was to reinvigorate UXPA’s Mentoring Program. This goal was partially born out of requests UXPA often receives to help match members with mentors.
In the old days, learning a craft was something you did at the side of a master. An apprentice spent his early time in a new discipline learning about the tools, the methods, and the process—often by cleaning tools and doing the “dirty work.” Over time, he would begin to practice the craft under the supervision of the master until reaching a level of skill that would enable him to complete a project independently.
In the early years of user experience and web development, the mentoring process took a similar path. One person would learn a little HTML and teach another. One would conduct usability testing and the other would observe. The number of “apprentices” grew in proportion to the needs of the industry as the Internet became a new communication channel. Unfortunately, as our industry has matured and role specialization has occurred, these types of mentoring opportunities have declined.
In order to reverse this trend, the UXPA’s new mentoring program will begin in early 2013. Its primary mission will be to provide services to those who are young in their UX careers, be they students or those seeking job and career transitions.
Program protégés will soon be able to review information about mentors on the UXPA website. Once a protégé applies to the program, our volunteer professional development team will help connect her with a suitable mentor—someone who lives in the same geographical area, who works in the same field, or who has specific expertise or experience.
Mentors will be able to help protégés improve upon skills such as working with multidisciplinary teams, giving client presentations, “managing” their managers, developing professional relationships, writing business proposals, or solving workplace conflict.
Mentors and protégés will negotiate the duration and terms of their relationship. It could be that a protégé needs to learn a new skill and be guided through a set of exercises with feedback over the course of a few months. Or, if a protégé has just finished school and landed her first UX job, a mentor might want to work with her for a year or longer to help her navigate this new role. UXPA will provide various tools and forms of support to help both mentors and protégés achieve success.
We are in the process of finalizing many program details; once complete they will be posted to the UXPA website. So stay tuned! In the meantime, if you have any questions, or would like to enroll as a mentor, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Elisa Miller
First and foremost, thank you for your contribution to the global UXPA community through this high-quality magazine. I have enjoyed reading it over the last couple of years, and its articles have often made me stop and think or rethink UX matters.
Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. Although the magazine is distributed globally, it often comes across as if it was addressed to the American audience only. For example, the UX 11.4 article “Should We Conduct This Usability Study” by Swierenga and Pierce only makes a reference to the U.S. regulatory bodies. While I would not expect the authors to know the equivalents around the world, a simple statement “or any equivalent regulatory body in your country” would suffice to make your global audience feel included.
In contrast, Caroline Jarrett in her article “Trust and Data Quality” mentions the social security number (which applies only to the U.S.), but takes on a more inclusive approach: “If you are from the U.S…. From elsewhere…”
So, may I please suggest that you remind the contributing authors that they are writing to a global audience, and review their articles under this light, too? I am confident that this will increase, if only subtly, the value of the UXPA membership for members of local chapters.
—Stavros Garzonis (UK)
Thank you for your thoughtful letter and the important reminder! We would also like to encourage non-U.S.-based UX professionals such as yourself to submit their ideas and articles to the magazine and help represent their locations and cultures.