12 Feb 2022 • 6 min

Our “why” in Design Mentorship

The 2nd edition of the mentoring program is slowly coming to an end. I am doubly happy because we are achieving our goals, but the hypotheses that I set myself a year ago when I started the first edition also work. The DM program is about people and working with them on their development as well as the organization, but let's start from the beginning.

Smiling young woman

Two years ago, I began to observe the training market and how classes from the offline world moved to the online world. The number of webinars, meetings, trainings overwhelmed many designers, topics “how to make a portfolio” were plentiful on forums, groups on social networks. But is the portfolio an end in itself? Of course not. The market was bursting at the seams with fabulous theories and processes, and the work of a designer is rarely like that. I noticed a certain discrepancy between the way we learn and what we experience in working with clients and colleagues. Another thing that was a nuisance to me was that each designer was UXem, not distinguishing between his skills and responsibilities, not to mention the name of the position.

After the trainings, I stayed “on the links” with the students to explain individually what they can do as young designers. I saw that I started mentoring 1:1 myself, but also that they are still lost, despite the training.


After observing, I decided to investigate the market. I did a study that took more than 400 people in which I tried to find out how people acquire knowledge and disguise themselves. The results showed me clearly that people go to training because they usually have no other option, and they consider 1:1 work and collaboration with others to be the most effective learning method. Then I asked myself: do we have such a space in our market? Of course not! From this quantitative research, I moved on to qualitative. There were supposed to be several conversations, and there were more than 100 hours of conversations with designers who shared my opinion about the training “bubble” in the market. I also learned from them how they recruit, what they pay attention to and what they expect from the market. People are eager to share knowledge. You just have to ask them about it:) Also during the study, I began to deepen my knowledge of psychology such as: behavioral economics, predisposition and learning processes. Certified Gallup Coach Julia Lenarczyk, showed me very thoroughly how important it is to understand your strengths and how this knowledge helps in understanding yourself, others and working with them. It was the next step where I realized that with such a fast growing industry, we must bet on personalization, because constantly and quickly learning new things will have the best effect if we understand our own capabilities and predispositions.

Psychology as a piece of the puzzle

To this puzzle was added meetings with psychologist Joanna Flis, to whom I told at one of the meetings what she planned to do. She is an ambitious and hardworking person, she knew how much work lay ahead of me. She knew that in order to develop and achieve goals, I needed to receive feedback and have a person with whom I would discuss and “take a course” on this path, that is, I should find my own mentor. Feedback is part of healthy and effective development.

Without your own “reorganization” of the acquired knowledge, processing and discussion, it makes no sense to grab another book or article. Many people have millions of tabs open with articles or a list of books. Maybe it's better to read one rather than three and take a closer look at it?

Business - is it a startup?

After months of research, it's time to act — is it a startup? Mentoring platform! There is no way to think of a solution and a product without... a defined value proposition. And so I spent 4 months on documentation, formal, substantive stages, pitches... It turned out that I rushed into a corner because I created “something” on the pages (paper will accept everything) without tests, mvp and contact with a potential user. However, it was not a waste of time - I understood how startups work, what the environment is like and how much we, as designers, can help them build better products and services already at the pitch level. Startups think of a solution and a product...

The platform to which I started did not give me the opportunity to test and go to the market to verify hypotheses, so I gave up and started building value, that is, the 1st edition of the Design Mentorship mentoring program. I've written to a lot of people who said “I'm getting into it!” even though I didn't have a built and well-known brand in the market. I think that each of the Mentors agreed with me about the idea of the program - we show the broadly understood design #morethanux, we collaborate 1:1 and show the real world of practitioners' work. During the week we had more than 600 applications for 13 Mentors. I didn't think it would sound like that! We were not prepared for this - I will not hide. We focused on personalized recruitment - that is, Mentee and Mentee had the opportunity to match - it was not an automatic process. The second stage consisted of a conversation, even a short one, to feel if there was “chemistry”. It would seem that a 20-minute conversation will not change anything, but nevertheless. You can feel the energy, the pace of speaking, which suits our own or not. Even though the whole recruitment took a long time, it had a long-lasting effect because the “chemistry” worked.

1st edition of Design Mentorship

This program was quite an experience - I knew I had to talk, observe and follow the needs of the users, because there is no proven prescription for mentoring. There were couples who worked more dynamically, that is, on current topics and problems of Mentee, but there were also mentoring based on the process, the project. Each of the people had the opportunity to have an individual conversation with Gallup Coach Julia Lenarczyk and HR Manager Ewa Kirsz.

At one of the first meetings with the Mentors, we did not touch on design topics only... self-confidence! We noticed that the development of our Mentee is not only about showing tips, tricks and what the work environment looks like, but psychological support. Then my attention turned more to Mentors - they are also participants in the program who need development in soft skills if they have such a responsible role. Salary is not one of the factors that should motivate work (and this is often the case in work environments). Unfortunately, many Mentors programs are not taken care of, and it is they who generate the unique value of this process.After this edition, I saw the value of personalization, but also that part of the mentoring work was transferred to Mentee companies. Suddenly, mentoring was not only about the relationship between Mentor and Mentee, but also companies, organizations, etc. We helped create, for example, processes or design departments in companies. Thanks to this, we had a very broad spectrum of action and I knew that we could support on a larger scale, hence the idea of designing a triad: Mentor-Mentee-Company.

“These teams not only had mentoring and working with a real client, but they created small project teams where they learned to collaborate with each other! “

It was a real challenge to organize the 2nd edition of Design Mentorship. The Mentor-Mentee connection did not concern me in full, but joining them with a business partner already:) Moreover - making project diagnoses, that is, the scope of work for 3 months, I knew that it would be a big burden for one couple. Therefore, several projects received double support, i.e. 2 Mentors and 2 Mentees, and even in one project 3 Mentees:) These teams not only had mentoring and working with a real client, but created small project teams where they learned to cooperate with each other! Perfect maching. To create such a small ecosystem, I took into account Mentor's mentoring area, Mentee's direction of development, but also their personality and stage of development, as well as accessibility. The goal was to create interdisciplinary teams that complement each other, but also able to work together. It wasn't an accident. It was a great experience for the participants to share with others.

In our organization there are also numerous meetings with experts, trainings, as well as Creative Hour meetings, where we all participate in the exchange of experiences to help each other, but also to build relationships. Mentoring is a personalized relationship, independent of age.

Now it's time to give our participants another support, that is, the creation of a Talent Base. We put in it information about designers, their skills, recommendations, and then we help them in recruitment, but also our business partners.

In 2018, when creating my second company, I wrote down the elements that I would like to combine in my work, namely: business, technology, design and psychology. After each experience, one of these elements “fell out”. When I was training, there was no place for business. When I worked for a smaller company, there was no time for psychological aspects or research. And when I already had a big project, it wasn't design, because you had to stick to company standards.

Design Mentorship has combined all this to effectively approach development, design and create a space where 360 feedback and experiential learning (Kolba cycle) work.

I love working with people, especially 1:1, as well as experimenting, connecting and creating practical solutions. Looking for non-standard, but for that simple solutions - this is it!

(sometimes I feel a bit of an artist in business - that would be consistent with my education and I guess only that:)) 3rd edition of Design Mentorship

We are currently preparing further areas of action!

On our website you can read about:

  • Mentoring program - registration starts on March 7th!
  • Entrepreneur Design Club — you can now apply
  • About support for business, i.e. design, recruitment and Talent Base

First of all, you can get to know the entire Design Mentorship team, without whom this and the next edition would not have happened! Special thanks to Dorota, Piotrek, Eva, Monica and Aneta 💛

And also our Mentors who support us all the time: Justyna, Wojtka and Arka! 💛

I still stick to the maxim that DMs are made by people and I'm just connecting the dots :)