My Mentorship Journey at ownpath

Pragati Mehrotra is a Product Designer at Obvious and also a mentor in ownpath’s Product Design Fellowship. In the article, she talks about her journey in design and her mentorship experience during the fellowship.

I have worked as a product designer in various domains, from television interfaces to enterprise software to e-commerce. As a design consultant with Obvious, I am responsible for delivering great experiences to our clients that their users love. I enjoy connecting with designers in general because I also play a role in hiring for our design team.

How I got associated with ownpath

In early 2020, Shreyas and I stumbled upon each other at a casual lunch conversation at the Obvious office. I learned about the ownpath fellowship program and remember really liking the idea. Often, one hits a point in their design career, where they are unsure if they are honing all their possible skill-sets in design, or if a formal education is required to be a successful designer. Later during that year, when Shreyas reached out again to ask if I would be interested in mentoring a team for their first cohort, the answer was a definite yes!

While I have been a manager at work, this was the first time I was signing up for formal mentoring outside of Obvious. Naturally, I wanted to ensure clarity on what was expected from me, how much time should I set aside, what were some of the end outcomes we were hoping to achieve etc. The ownpath team offered a very well documented ‘Mentor Pack’ that came in handy right from the beginning, as well as all throughout the program.

I was confident that this would be a great learning opportunity not just for others, but for me as well. How often do you get to network with young designers, understand their current challenges, and hopefully learn a thing or two about mentorship otherwise?!

Motivations to be a mentor

  1. I strongly believe that teaching is one of the best ways to learn new things time and again. Sometimes you come across design problems for which you don’t have answers readily available, irrespective of number of years of experience. And pairing with a designer is always fun for me, because it helps discover new problems and brings along new learnings as well.
  2. The mentorship felt less like something I had to do and more like something that I wanted to do, to not only explore a new problem area but also break some monotony of my day to day work. To be very honest, If there was a similar program 7-8 years earlier, I would have loved to join it as well!
  3. There are many things one learns in the real world, on the job. I have worked with many talented designers who do not have any formal education in design, but demonstrate good design thinking, probably because of their sheer determination to learn and passion towards their craft. And this has always been a driving force for me to meet and connect with such designers.

Interactions with the fellows

I was assigned two Fellows, Aishwarya and Mudita. When I first met them, I was impressed by their clarity of thought on their goals for the fellowship. We would check-in once a week, set a roadmap with detailed goals, and work towards them throughout the week. They also kept me updated on the progress during the week, which soon got me equally vested into the project.

Over the course of fellowship, we ended up forgoing the traditional mentor-mentee relationship to pair designing with each other– thinking of ideas together, picking each others brains, and mutually learning from each other during those discussions.

While I felt unsure of the kind of questions they might have in the beginning, we managed to find a starting point and progress after a few interactions. Both Aishwarya and Mudita came prepared for each discussion with clear objectives and areas they required my help on, and asked questions as and when they needed to. Of course I didn’t have all the answers all the time, but I managed to share some options that could work. As project owners, they were the final decision makers in the process.

Often, we get deeply vested into creating the perfect design solution, something that works for all users, looks great, has all features validated and makes a ton of business sense as well. In this case, rather than the end outcome, we decided to work with assumptions, understand the design process, and continuously iterate on our designs.

Playbooks are a good starting point, but often, processes need to be tweaked, to achieve desired outcomes. For example, with remote working, it was difficult to meet users and interview them, zoom calls can also come in the way of truly connecting and empathising with your users. So we decided to conduct a diary study, which would not only let users share their thoughts asynchronously, but also take lesser time in transcribing and synthesising the study results.

The first demo day presentation was an important milestone of the fellowship program and obviously important for both Mudita and Aishwarya, and they not only articulated the problem space well, but also showed great team spirit as partners. Even though we planned and prepared for it well in advance, summarising 3 months of work: setting context, explaining process, as well as the design solution, all within 15 minutes was a good challenge and an interesting assignment on story telling—a skill that is greatly valued in designers.

“When you lose sense of time during a mentorship session, it’s both a good and a bad thing! Good for the project since it demonstrates passion and drive, maybe bad for the mentor, since she needs to learn time management!”

Mudita <>Obvious

Mudita is a self driven and hard working designer. Post her fellowship, we had a couple of technical interview rounds with designers at Obvious, and it was unanimously decided that she is a good fit for us.

Conclusion

It was a great experience to be part of the fellowship program, and I’d love to explore how I can contribute more for the next cohort. If you are looking to have a flavour of design school projects feel like, I recommend signing up for this. It’s going to be hectic, you may find yourself working hard, but I assure you that it’s rewarding and a lot of fun 🙂

-Team at ownpath

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Learn with Pragati

Pragati is also a mentor and speaker for ownpath’s Product Design Fellowship.

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