At UXmentor.me, we have spent the last 6 years mentoring people who have taken UX courses or bootcamps to help them transition into the world of work.

The problem

We have a community of over 1000 mentees who have learnt, or are learning UX Design and Research and transitioning into the world of work.

Every day we see evidence that these members are struggling to apply practical learning into their real jobs.

It is this gap we want to close with our projects.

UX courses and bootcamps teach students ideal processes and models and not:

  • adaptability in thinking or approach
  • dealing effectively with stakeholders
  • practicing UX Design and Research in a world where you don’t have the luxury of unlimited budget, time or buy-in.

Our goal

To solve these issues we wanted to set up live projects which teach mentees how to apply the UX theory they have learnt to the real, imperfect and messy world of work.

We’ve just completed our beta of what we imagined that would look like.

We want to be transparent with our learnings and demonstrate what improvements we will be making to the projects going forward.

About the Beta

We put out a call in our community for mentees who wanted to take part in the project.

  • 4 mentees
  • Commitment of around 4 hours a week
  • One rotating ‘Sprint Lead’ per sprint – responsible for project management
  • Dedicated UX Design and Research mentoring via Slack from our two mentors (Chris & Christina)
  • 8 week project (with 4 sprints)
  • Show & Tell and blog post each sprint
  • ‘Curveballs’ to challenge adaptability and model the real world of work

What went well

All of our mentees put in full effort to deliver the project. They worked around difficult logistical issues to coordinate between each other to deliver a high standard of work.

We also believe they gained value in learning how to present their work back through the Show & Tells with the community and on the blog – skills vital for creating effective UX portfolios.

What we learnt

Base level knowledge

In a validation of our original intention of the audience for the project, it was clear at least a base level of UX Design and Research techniques and methods would be needed to get the most value out of these projects as a participant.

Our overall intention with the projects is to teach application of those techniques rather than the techniques themselves.

Saying that, even our mentees with less experience managed to get up to speed and deliver good results.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will make it clearer what the required level of UX Design and Research knowledge is for those that wish to take part. At the minimum a recognised bootcamp or UX course should have been completed by participants.

Time Zones

We didn’t want to exclude any country for this project. However, we ended up with each mentee being in completely different and extreme time zones.

Whilst it is not uncommon in the real world to have to work with colleagues in another timezone, four different ones would be unusual.

We found this added unnecessary complexity to the project logistics and did not ultimately add any additional value to our mentees learning experience.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will group mentees by timezone, starting with the UK.

Tools

We left the brief open as to what online tools the mentees should use to solve their issues and communicate on the project.

Whilst this freedom is good, an unnecessary amount of time was spent discussing and deciding on tools rather than the right approach for the project.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will set up the necessary tools to be used before the project starts.

Time commitment

We estimated the time on the project would need to be around 4 hours per week per mentee. This turned out to be unrealistic and exacerbated by the timezone issues and extra workload for the Sprint Lead.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will focus more strongly on helping the Sprint Lead delegate tasks.

We will also set out fixed times for team catch ups/calls and other activities so it is clearer where time should be spent.

Project expectations

In order to represent the real world as much as possible, we wanted to run the project with real deadlines, real constraints and real consequences for missing these.

We believe it wasn’t clear enough at the start of the project that there were defined activities that had to be completed and could not be missed, and others where it was acceptable to push back.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will improve the kick off process to make these expectations clearer and ensure certain activities are built into the sprint plan.

Client vs mentor

As part of the project the mentees had to engage with a client sponsor as they would in the real world.

There was not a clear enough differentiation between when we were acting in the role of the client rather than mentors and mentees were not clear on ‘who’ they were talking to.

What we’ll do differently next time

We will have a dedicated time each week for discussions and updates with the client.

Retrospectives

Towards the end of the project engagement in the retrospectives tailed off, partly due to time zones but also partly due to them being conducted asynchronously on Slack.

This meant actions were not being set or followed up on, leading to long running issues not being solved.

What we’ll do differently next time

It was clear retrospectives should not be conducted asynchronously. We will set up defined times for retrospectives to happen live to enable proper discussion and reflection.

Interested in our next project?

If you:

  • Want to learn to apply UX theory in the real world 🌎
  • Want to do user research with real users 🙅‍♀️🙋‍♂️
  • Want to Improve your presentation skills 📣
  • Live in the UK 🇬🇧
  • Can commit to 4 hours a week 🕓

Then you can find out more about how to join.

Categories: Projects