Mentor Connection

Design Brief and Task

Mentoring can be a great way to share knowledge and help someone be successful in their personal or professional life. But many potential mentors are often too busy to commit to regular meetings, or they have a hard time connecting with people seeking help.

Design an experience where prospective mentors and mentees can be matched, based on similar interests, location, and availability. Show your process and how you arrived at your solution. Please include a sequence of high-fidelity mocks from your design solution.

Who didn't thought of how great would be to have a mentor that guides you through the career, to achieve a personal goal or to just become better at what you're doing. I would bet that almost everyone. In the era of technologies where it's the most common thing that people are getting to know each other and having a big part of their conversations online, it's a surprise that many people don't have a mentor/mentee. 

Some of the problems to create this connection would be localisation, trust and reduced mentors availability. In order to display the process I would take for creating a Mentor Connection platform and solving the problems, I will split the task in three sections. First will be the Upfront Research, the second – Ideation, and the third – Visual Solutions and Interactions. 

1. Upfront Research

Based on the user’s core problems and needs, I have to devise product features that solve that main need as best as possible. In doing all this I have to take into account stakeholders expectations and the existing market, all together is a part of the process that have an influence on the product.

For the upfront research I have used six of the following methods:

  • Stakeholders Interview
  • User Interviews
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Problem Valuation
  • Solution Valuation
  • Personas

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Stakeholder Interview

The very first step in gathering information should be the stakeholder/client. In this case, since I didn't have a connection to the stakeholder, I have extracted from the task definition, the statements which helped me define the value proposition. The benefits of doing a stakeholder interview are to first get in contact with people behind the request, to understand the provided information better and get answered the most critical business questions. The data can be gathered either in a Design Thinking or Design Sprint workshop where the designer can a more intense interaction with them.

Questions & Answers 

What problems do users have that this offering solves?
Many potential mentors are often too busy to commit to regular meetings, or they have a hard time connecting with people seeking help.

What is the core value prop of the offering?
A platform that makes the connection between mentors and mentees easy, respecting, and adapting to the mentor's busyness.

What are the main marketing messages?
Find the right match and create lasting relations with a mentor. Find value concerning mentors time. Create sustainable, mentorship programs.

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User Interviews

Gathering information from the users is essential. In finding the right users, I focused myself on two categories that would benefit from the platform, mentors, and mentees. Ideal users would be those who had an interaction with mentorship, are familiar with web and mobile apps, and can share some insights about their experience. Because of the short time, I had four interviewees, two mentors, and two mentees. Some answered the questionnaire online, others in verbally. Here are the questions and answers I collected.

Mentee Survey

What does your typical weekday look like?
1. Having a coffee in the morning, doing sports,  going to the office, working.
2. Breakfast, e-mails, editing, sports, e-mails, social interaction online or face to face.

On a typical day, at what time do you first use the internet?
1. I try not to use it first thing in the morning, but between 8-9am I'm already using it.
2. Breakfast time.

Can you name some of the apps and website you use the most?
1. Feedly, Gmail, Calendar.
2. Instagram, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube.

Tell me about the last time you tried to find a mentor?
1. Last time when I was looking for a mentor I discovered a library with hundreds of persons, but only three of them were related to UX and none of them available.
2. There are way too many platforms out there claiming to be the best, but they are either particular to a country, region, or a specific line of business. I don’t know one popular enough to be identified and used by the majority.

What’s your relationship like with mentor platforms?
1. I use companies internal platform but once or twice a year.
2. I don’t use any online platform for finding mentors; however, I would be interested in doing it. 

How do you currently go about finding a mentor?
1. I'm using the available internal portal for finding mentors and coaches.
2. I'm using the network of friends and relatives.

Mentor Survey

What motivates you to be a mentor for someone?
1. It is a great fulfilling pleasure to be of Service.
2. In our society, I think we take the responsibility of the upcoming generation, and we have not only to understand it but also, helping them by transferring our achieved knowledge.

How do you usually get connected with a mentee?

1. It is mouth to mouth recommendation.
2. I use the available internal platform to get new connections. 

What factors are the most important for you when choosing a new mentee?
1. I do not choose, I expect to be Chosen, trust and interest to learn is most important.
2. A good mentee is that one who has the right growth mindset, allows herself to be vulnerable to get to the core problems, and is persistent in achieving the goal.


What’s your relationship like with mentor platforms?
1. I prefer human contact over any non-personal platform.
2. My primary relation with mentees comes from a mentoring platform, so I’m using it regularly when I’m available.


What frustrates you the most in connecting with a new mentee
1. It is not a matter of Frustration. If there is no trust and/or interest, there will be no Mentoring.
2. I’m disappointed when mentees are dropping at the first session, but I understand it since this is a test for both of us whether we can work together or not.



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Competitor Analysis

There is nothing new under the sun and it's nothing bad about. Most probably any problem has already some products that are solving or trying to solve it. Competition analysis can be divided in two: direct and indirect competition. In my research I chose tree competitors that are the broadest and claim to be the most successful.

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2. Ideation

Problem Valuation

Competition analysis is a great way to understand problems that users are dealing with. All the problems mentioned by stakeholders and users can be divided in three categories of importance. This helps to focus on the most important ones and the features to be included in the design. 

Not really

Many mentees don't know what mentoring means and what to expect from it.

In some areas there very few mentors available on that platform.

Important

Many potential mentors are often too busy to commit regular meetings.

Crucial

Mentors have hard time connecting with people seeking help.

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Solution Valuation

Any stated problem should have a solution, and this is the role of the product, to be better than the competition and solve these problems. 

Problem

1. For both mentors and mentees, it's difficult to find the right person to communicate with.

2. Many potential mentors are often too busy to commit regular meetings.

3. Many mentees don't know what mentoring means and what to expect from it.

4. Even if many don't acknowledge it another issue is the trust.

Solution

1. Matching and constant improvement through user feedback and machine learning. Key factors can be location, skills, interests.

2a. Other mentoring types, like group mentoring or collective mentoring can be used when some mentors are busy.
2b. Topic based newsfeed can also help in here.
2c. Group meetups on a specific topic with a mentor can answer multiple questions at once.
2d. A chat bot, trained to simulate the the most common issues and answers can save a lot of mentors time.

3a. Mentees have to understand they can benefit not only from renown great achievers, but to look for mentoring to their peers, their manager or a more expert person in a specific field.
3b. Education on how to take the most profit out of mentoring.

4a. To ensure trust in people, we should build communities in which they have a bigger trust.
4b. Provide rating, feedback and activity history to have an impression of the person and build trust.

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Personas

Personas are a representation of the real target audience data, gathered in a previous research such as user interview. Persona is simply a representation of the most common target audience. It’ll help standardise needs and get solutions faster. Once I gathered information I started to see patterns and the most typical users for mentees and mentors. Based on these findings I've created the following most common personas.

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Visual Solutions and Interactions

User Flow

The best way to start designing is to envision what would be the golden path for our personas in realisation their goals. The shortest way is usually more appreciated. To understand the complexity of the system and the path for the users I've created the following user flows, one for the mentee and another for the mentor.

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Wireframes

Profile Page

The layout includes its main navigation in a sidebar. It can be open or minimized. The decision to go to the sidebar in favor of top menu navigation is because of a more precise presentation for available navigation options of the system.

Top bar includes burger-menu for opening and collapsing the sidebar, title of the platform in the usual left upper side. On the right side, we can find the search, profile settings, and notifications.

The profile page is significant in the decision making for both, mentor and mentee. It's a private personalized space for the user and the most public space that differs from another user.

The main content is structured in the following way. Upper part it's the summary of the user that reflects what's public for others, and help them decide to make the connection or not. This includes a profile picture, current goal statement (can be public or not) on a cover to set up the right tone. Other essential parts are the name, age, occupation, location, and intelligent matching with the viewing person. Additionally, there is a rating based on the feedback of others.

Few paragraphs consolidate the background description. The last three sections emphasize the interests, goals, and how the user is available to meet.

Newsfeed

A newsfeed is an unusual approach to the mentor platforms; however, I believe this is a great addition and engagement for the users and let me try to explain the benefits I see with it. First, the platform is about the community created behind, and the best way to make community communicate is to allow them to do it publicly. Think of it as a mix between Quora topic discussions and LinkedIn/Twitter posts.

Many competitors platforms have blogs, but this is only one-way of discussion. Having the option and being encouraged to engage and to learn from others bring to the game group mentoring or collective mentoring. We mentioned before; it could be a solution to the mentors' busyness.

The posts are a great way to share expertise, knowledge, engaging in discussions which all leads to getting more noticed and having more chances to connect with a mentor/mentee. I imagine the content gets updated and published from both: subscribed topic discussions and updated posts. The user has to be able to see a clear distinction between these types of content. Based on the following principle and afterward editing, user should get only relevant data.

Mobile Experience

Matches

For sure, a modern platform would have to be available for any device. An excellent way to interact with it at any time is to have it accessible on the mobile phone. Here's an example of the matches screen. Based on the interests of our users they introduce during registration or later updates, the system provides connection suggestions. These results can be optimized with the filters available on top (location, interests, matching values).

When searching for the right connection, the user should have enough information displayed to stay interested and dive deeper for more details when needed.

The mobile application has two specific adaptations. One is the adapted top bar without the brand name and second is the navigation bottom bar instead of a sidebar. 

Mentoring page (for mentee)

Once the connection has been made, and mentoring sessions started, it's important for the mentee to keep track of all the discussions and all the relevant details about the current mentorship.

After the summary, the page is split into three sections: tasks, sessions, and notes — each of them providing more details within that group. For example, in tasks, the user can review the progress, details, deadline, and update the status at any time. The tasks should come out of the notes and add by the user. They can be agreed and shared with the mentor beforehand.

Sessions include details about the time, duration, scope. Here the user can create an appointment for a new course with the mentor.

Notes can be either linked to the sessions or independent from them. Here the user can add anything, and it should be private by default. 

Search and Filter

Here’s a typical situation when mentee is looking for a  mentor through search and filter. She has the option to select someone available now, for a meeting and not far away. Typically in this situation there will be zero results. How do we deal with this situation. Initial thought is to have a digital mentor that could jump in and cover some of this interaction. 

I think it’s a great idea, and this was as well a trigger point for me to think why not focussing all the application around communication. A digital mentor can save a lot of mentors time and reduce much of the mentees frustrations.

Now, all of this has to be in a good balance between the intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) and the real mentor. It’s important to have a clear border and the user has to be clearly aware with whom she’s speaking.

Anyhow is time for Draft 2.

Draft 2: Communication is the 🔑

Process

I have started with new scribbles and ideas on how to materialise this approach. First thing, it has to be clear what’s expected to be done by the Digital Mentor (Virtual Assistant).  The main goal is to fill the conversation when mentors are not available. Here’s a brainstorm of what I think could be a great help from IVA.

  • Give recommendations
  • Introduce someone to the system 
  • Educate what to expect and how to behave.
  • Suggest mentors based on the matches
  • Suggest resources on the goal (articles, topics, books)
  • Create alerts when someone is available
  • Inquire in a conversational way for matches.
  • Give questions where inner answers are solutions
  • Create tasks and follow up on them.
  • Help with creating appointments.

Onboarding

The first interaction with the IVA t is at the on boarding. It has to be clear what’s the role of it. The initial conversation should be easy and straightforward when expected. 

That’s how the initial conversation can look like. As you can see at this point our IVA got a name – Menty.

Matching and Goal Definition

To test this particular example I’ve created a small prototype to test firsthand the experience of conversing with an IVA. For this particular case there are five different paths to go. I think it’s important to mention voice recognition and interaction can be very helpful and feels natural. 

Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) Journey

Structure

Result

Because of the focus on communication, application got much simpler. There is one main screen, focused on the goal initially set with IVA and then consolidated with mentors. There can be multiple mentors working with the same person. We have resources in place which can be marked as done, removed or saved. It’s important to mention that these resources can be internal and external. I think the goal of the application shouldn’t be to move all the content from different platforms, but rather allow saving it and use it seamlessly. 

All the communication should happen behind the emphasised button, being it with IVA or a real person.

The mentor on the other hand should just get requests for collaboration, and doing the job she’s doing the best – mentoring, this can happen through any channel, being it chat, voice, video or meeting. In my opinion this simplified approach will save a lot of time but in the same time fulfil the initial goal set by mentoring. 

Another important point in my opinion is to allow the user to drop off the conversation and use the system in a more traditional way if she’s willing to. Of course this shouldn’t limit any system capabilities.

Conclusion

Conclusion

As a general output I think this is a great approach to the current problem. It should reduce a great amount of time which is the main issue we found. In the same time it encourages a natural way of interaction the system. So here are is a list of benefits:

  • Intelligent Virtual Assistant fills the gap and reduces frustration when the mentor is not available
  • Asynchronous chatting will respect each others schedules
  • Through natural language processing and machine learning the platform can be fully operated by voice. Huge inclusive advantage
  • The mentees are more educated and can benefit from a more meaningful discussions
  • The feeling of achievement can be greater.
  • Possible integration in home devices

Next Steps

  • Consolidate the missing parts and Navigation
  • Create a prototype
  • Validation with users and stakeholders
  • New iterations
  • Development checks and estimation
  • Planning on time and resources
Using Format