How a Great Mentor Match Can Help You Learn UX Design

Words: Emilyann Gachko / Illustration: Gina Medranda

We know it’s important for our students to be seen as individuals, and treated as such, as they move through our UX Academy program.

Different students have different needs when it comes to their education, as well as different ways in which they feel best supported. Students may also have an area of focus that’s more important to them than someone else who’s coming into the program from a different background or walk of life. That’s why we take a number of factors into consideration when we match our students with UX design mentors.

Since mentorship is such a large component of the learning journey with Designlab, we try to ensure that students and mentors are an optimally compatible fit. In this post, we’ll explain our approach to mentorship and what’ve we’ve learned over the years to ensure that students and mentors are a good fit.

A Unique Approach to Mentorship

Since starting Designlab back in 2013, we’ve worked to continually incorporate student feedback into our course curriculum and structure. As a result, we know that mentors are of central importance, and that many of our students select a bootcamp like UX Academy because of the personalized, 1:1 mentorship experience.

We’ve continued to think about mentorship on increasingly deeper levels over the past couple of years in an attempt to understand what aspects, on both the student side and mentor side, go into making a good match. It’s important to us that we approach mentor matching with the same rigor that we tackle other parts of the program, such as writing curriculum, cultivating strong portfolios, and helping our students land a job. Taking such a focused and individualized approach to mentorship is a key part of what makes us different from other UX design course providers, and also means our students have a more enriching and supportive UX design learning journey.

Our research has shown that each of our students has their own needs when it comes to how to best facilitate their learning. Taking on a new skill and making a career change can feel daunting, and mentors serve as a major source of feedback and support for students during this time. That’s why we put ample thought and effort into matching our students with one of our great UX design mentors, to help guide and support them on a personal level through this eventful and life-changing journey.

Why Mentor-Student Pairings Are So Important

Pairing students with a mentor they’ll be compatible with is an important part of ensuring that they’ll be properly supported on their educational journey. Mentors serve as a main source of feedback, supplemental information, motivation, and critique as students move through their coursework. Thus, it’s important for students to have a strong working relationship with the mentor they’re matched with.

To achieve this, we strive to place students with mentors that will encourage and help them produce their best work. This is why, over the years, we’ve continually solicited feedback from both students and mentors to find out what the most critical factors of good mentorship are. Our community is one of the most valuable resources we have when it comes to improving our program, and we therefore always make sure to ask, listen, and iterate our mentor matching process based on what we’ve learned (and continue to learn) from our community.

What We’ve Learned About the Mentor Matching Process

Through these invaluable insights from our community, we’ve learned that two of the most important factors our students look for in their mentor are similar styles of learning, and compatible means of providing feedback.

For instance, we want to know about a student’s style and personal approach to learning when they start learning with us. This helps us understand how they like to learn, and what types of resources will be most useful. Our mentors will often provide supplemental information to students, so we want to know if they’re auditory or visual learners: do they prefer podcasts versus articles? or YouTube videos over static images?

At the same time, it’s also important to understand what type of feedback students like to receive. We know that some people prefer more direct, challenging feedback, while others might benefit from a softer and more nurturing approach. We want the mentor-student experience to encourage and enhance learning, and we appreciate the means of motivation looks different across our unique student body and do our best to support that.

We’ll also want to know if there’s a particular niche in the industry, such as UX research or UI design for example, that students would like their mentor to have had experience in. That way, if there’s a facet of the industry students might be considering, we can pair them with someone who has that type of experience.

In order to collect this information (among other things), we start off every UX Academy course by sending out a survey asking students questions about themselves and their learning preferences. Mentors are also asked to self-assess their strengths, what type of feedback they’re most comfortable and proficient in giving, and if they have any specific expertise within the industry. All of this data comes together to help us match our students to mentors in a way that creates an optimal learning environment for them during their learning journey with us.

How a Great Mentor Match Affects the Student Experience

Taking a deeper look into how we match our students with mentors has been a main focus as we’ve continued to grow and enhance our UX Academy program. Using the factors mentioned above when pairing students with mentors has made a tremendously positive impact on the overall student experience and, since implementing a more robust mentor-student matching system to account for these considerations, we’ve seen a huge increase in student experience satisfaction and success.

Thinking about how students and mentors are compatible with one another (on a deep level) sets UX Academy apart, because when students start off with a support system tailored to their needs, they are set up for success from the very beginning. This enables our students to get the most out of their mentorship, and in turn, their coursework. Setting our learners up to reach their full potential is our first priority with UX Academy, and the comprehensive way in which we approach mentorship is just one of the many ways in which we strive to reach that goal.

If you have more questions about mentorship or are interested in our UX Academy program, you can reach out by emailing If you’re interested in becoming a UX design mentor, we encourage you to apply here.​

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