The value of mentoring is something that we talk about a lot, but I haven’t heard many real-life stories. Who has a mentor? How often do you communicate with them? What is the most valuable thing that they offer you?
I’ve got a creative thinking mentor. It’s not UX mentoring, but we cover a bunch of things that can be considered UX-related (such as communication, technology, how the brain works and storytelling) as well as things that aren’t very UX-related at all (like language, maths and politics).
We used to mainly communicate via handwritten letter (I keep meaning to go back to that) or by phone, but these days it’s via email every week or two.
I find him invaluable for inspiration, focussing on what I find important and developing my critical thinking. He’s quite a lot older and is great at bringing both innovative and forgotten things to my attention, and loves to ask questions that it takes me weeks to work out what he’s ultimately getting at. =)
My mentor has provided some up front direction as far as the visual design, user behavior and communicating the reasons beyond your design work. He has a wealth of knowledge design-wise and is highly respected in the design community. The draw-back to that is the amount of communication which is limited to possibly once per week via email.
This actually helps me because in knowing that his time is very limited,[B] it forces me to be extremely clear and concise on what I’m requesting for feedback or a specific problem that I’m facing[/B]. He’s a few years older although I shed light on consumer product design and dev and he provides valuable visual references and advice. You learn to work with the relationship and it forms as you understand each other more.
The Ying & Yang of Analog and Digital Design Experiences