How to Build a UX Mentorship Program

In 2014, we created our UXPA chapter’s mentorship program to provide guidance to members interested in UX or just starting their career and looking to learn foundational concepts.

Over the past three years, our mentorship program has provided significant value to both individuals and our community. Mentorships from the program have not only educated mentees, but have also helped mentees land their first UX job. As our program evolved, mentees have become mentors and continue to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained, which has created a ripple effect throughout our UX community.

If you think a mentorship program could be of value in your community or organization, then we hope you consider building one too! Creating something ambitious is a lot of fun, especially when you have the support of your friends or colleagues.

The Steps of Building a Program

The first step is determining who will help construct and facilitate the program. This could be one person or a small group of people, who are directly responsible for determining the structure and launching it. For our chapter, we created a Mentorship Director position and their goal was to launch the program within a year.

Next, there are a few key considerations:

  1. Figure out how people are going to sign up. It could be as simple as a Google Form embedded on your website—you just need a way to capture who’s interested in being a mentor or a mentee.
  2. Think about how mentors and mentees will be matched. Do they match themselves or does the program leader help match people? We use a self-service model in the Triangle UXPA program, where mentees can browse a directory of mentors. This means that mentees can find someone that they believe can more likely help them achieve their goals. Reaching out to a mentor might be too intimidating, so you might consider hosting “meet and greet” happy hours to help facilitate pairing.
  3. Consider how facilitators will follow up. Decide how you will follow up with mentors and mentees after they sign up and how you’ll get feedback on how to improve. For the Triangle UXPA, we email each mentor and mentee with directions and best practices after they sign up and we receive feedback via Slack and email.
  4. Figure out how your program will scale if it becomes successful. You want to avoid creating a program that can’t be expanded easily and efficiently. Figure out where you could have bottlenecks in the registration or matching process and take care of it while the program is still small.

Best Practices

Every mentorship program will be different and should address the needs of the community or organization it supports. However, there are some best practices that apply to any new program.

  • Start small. Starting a program can take some effort, so keep the program small and manageable until a format evolves and the logistics are worked out. This will help increase the success of your program.
  • Get support. Look to your local professional chapters of the UXPA, the IA Institute, IxDA, etc. to get support for the program. They might be able to help promote the program, host mentorship events, and provide other opportunities to spark interest and facilitate mentoring matches. Leaders from other established UX mentorship programs might be able to offer insight.
  • Don’t give up. Getting a mentorship program off the ground might be tough at first, but the value of trying to start one is worth the endeavor. You’ll meet some cool people along the way and you’ll be doing your part to help grow the field. Try different things along the way, take note of what worked and didn’t, and modify your approach with different solutions as needed.