Running a successful design mentorship program. Part 1

We are all aware of the importance of good mentorship programs. They help propagate important technical and cultural know-how within an organization. However when it comes to successfully running one, we cannot always claim good results.

Sometimes the mentor and protégé hit it off well. Sometimes it is a disaster. But more often than not, both think of the relationship more like a chore.

A design mentorship program runs into a few more issues. The number of designers in any organization is much lesser than other employees so, as a designer, the opportunity to mentor is much lesser. Moreover designers tend to touch upon many different aspects within the company. I’ve seen designers being shared between product teams, marketing teams. And even HR.

So for a mentor to remember to share details on all areas of contribution is difficult. As is for the protégé to remember everything.

Ideal mentorship programs are ones in which the protégé finds value in the program.  The mentor feels they have made a significant contribution. But most importantly, the organization retains the knowledge, culture and talent.

If you keep these three goals in mind, you would certainly be running far more successful mentorship programs.

However that does not complete the whole picture.

Let’s look at how mentorship programs are usually structured.

People take up mentorship assignments either because they are forced to take on the responsibility or because it will help them meet their quarterly goals or OKRs.

A protégé, on the other hand, is new to the system and just goes with the flow of being assigned a mentor.

Wouldn’t it be better is there was mutual respect between the two people being put together? Chances of having a sharing/learning session would increase.

One of the ways you can do this is by having a interview based system and one that allows people to choose mentors. Maybe even a mentor ‘speed-date’ might work. Another way would be to match based on skills and aspirations. So the protégé can choose a particular skill area they want to work on and a skilled mentor in that area will then interview the said protégés and if they are satisfied with their potential, they choose to become their mentors.

In both cases there is mutual consent before entering into a mentor-protégé partnership. And chances of success are more.

In upcoming parts we will explore other aspects that make up a successful mentorship program.

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