The Power of Mentorship: How We Elevate UX/UI Design Teams to New Heights at Eleken
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Darina Silchenko has been a part of Eleken for over 3 years. She started as a UI/UX designer and recently got promoted to design manager. Darina creates fantastic designs, offers valuable insights to the clients, and helps Eleken’s designers to hone their skills and knowledge.
Mentorship in Eleken comes in different shapes and forms, from individual advice coming from fellow colleagues to lectures and workshops. In this article, we want to share Darina’s story about how she started nurturing our design teams.
Let’s start with a brief introduction. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your journey with Eleken, and how you became a mentor.
I have been working at Eleken for more than 3 years already. I joined the company when the design team was relatively small, 5 or 6 people only. I helped design Eleken’s website and started taking on responsible projects immediately, as my skills were already quite strong when I came here.
So when we started hiring new designers, I helped them get to know how we do things at Eleken, how our designs should look, how designers could improve their work, and so on. At first, I did that occasionally, but then I started mentoring new designers permanently. At the same time, I started teaching UI design at Beetroot Academy.
Did this experience help you later on with your mentorship in Eleken?
Yes, a lot. Working with students helped me find an individual approach to everyone and explain one and the same thing differently, depending on the student’s previous knowledge and experience.
It also helped me improve the feedback that I give to my mentees. When you teach someone, you cannot simply say, “This element feels out of place; let’s remove it .” Instead, I had to support my arguments with design rules, so the students would memorize them and use them later in work.
My mentorship approach also improved. After you explain something to someone without a design background, delivering the same information to someone familiar with design becomes much easier.
Teaching also helped me develop my own study program at Eleken.
A study program for Eleken’s in-house designers. Sounds interesting! Please tell us more about it.
Sure. So, I’ve created a series of lectures for the Eleken newcomers. Just the basics, you know, typography, composition, color theory, and all that jazz. I’ve recorded the lessons to make them easy to access.
We also ran a series of workshops to help new employees get familiar with Eleken’s approach. I gave a new assignment to designers and then conducted a review, explaining what was good and what could be improved. At first, we did it occasionally whenever I had time. Later, we structured it a bit and turned it into Eleken’s Mini UI school.
This whole in-house teaching experience at Eleken sounds very special, right?
It is special. I genuinely believe we have a unique and open culture at Eleken. We can reach out to our colleague designers anytime, and they will gladly help with anything. Thanks to that, I’ve never felt alone and isolated in my work, even when I was the only designer working on a client’s project. Even then, I could ask anyone from Eleken to give me feedback and some advice. I think that’s why we are so good: we share knowledge and experience, and because of that, we learn and improve our skills quicker than a single designer could alone.
What’s more interesting is that we didn’t even have a hierarchy at first. All of us were just designers, no seniors or juniors. Even now, when we started developing the hierarchy, we did this mostly for mentorship purposes, so that more experienced designers could help less experienced ones.
Speaking about helping — do you believe that anyone could become a mentor? Or does it require specific skills?
In my opinion, those who want to become mentors have to enjoy sharing their knowledge and expertise. They also have to like interacting with people in all their shapes and colors. All mentees are different and require an individual approach.
Being able to resist stress is also a must. Sometimes many people turn to you at once, which could feel overwhelming, especially when you have your own work tasks to handle. You need to set priorities and ensure that everyone gets enough of your attention and support. It takes a lot of energy.
But although mentorship could be challenging, can you say it’s rewarding at the same time?
Definitely. While you give a lot of energy, you also receive a lot in return. Mentoring also helps me grow professionally. It encourages me to improve my skills to find new interesting information to share with my mentees. It also improves communication. When you explain things in simple words on a daily basis, it’s very easy to explain your point of view to the client.
Do you have any success stories to share about your mentorship journey?
I have one that I remember the most. One of my students from Beetroot Academy, Nastia, now works at Eleken as a designer.
She came to me with zero experience in design. But she was so motivated that she took the most out of the course and got hired by Eleken.
Do such success stories of your students inspire you?
Certainly. We are all people, and we have our ups and downs. Whenever I feel stuck, out of motivation, and the impostor syndrome starts creeping in, I remind myself that someone sees me as a role model, someone is grateful for my mentorship. And this helps. This is definitely worth all the efforts invested.
So great to hear that. You do talk about it with passion. To add a final touch, what would you advise those thinking about becoming a mentor?
Prepare yourself that it would take a lot of time and resources. You have to be prepared for that.
Also, having enough energy to put into mentorship would be crucial, too. You need to feel ready to share your knowledge, communicate a lot, and work with different people who perceive information in their own unique way.
Mentorship is about communication, patience, and putting your ego aside to help people. If you see it the same way, you are most likely ready to try it.
Thank you for sharing all this with our readers. That was such an enriching and interesting conversation!
Thank you too.
If our approach to mentorship and growing new design talents speaks to you, you can see how this will work for your projects. Reach out to us to experience the power of Eleken’s shared experience and collaboration yourself!