Apprenticeship conversation at IxD11 ... Your stories

16 Feb 2011 - 9:09am
5 years ago
2 replies
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Dave Malouf

During Interaction 11 in Boulder a very small group of us got together to talk about apprenticeships as an overall concept. Elena Moon, Jason Mesut and myself got together over lunch and discussed our very different point of views and we decided that it would be great to expand the conversation amongst our peers here in the community.

Elena's perspective was one of taking on an apprentice to her freelance practice. She is creating a deep and long lasting relationship with someone who is trying to get into the industry and grow as a designer. Her experience is both very personal and very deep as she continues to nurture another designer through their adolescent practice.

For myself, apprenticeships are also very personal. My very participation in IxDA from before it was IxDA till now has always been about being around people whom I respect and can learn from. I have never formed a formal relationship the way that Elena has, but the informal relationships I do have are very personal. For me I have mostly been the apprentice and not the mentor in these relationships. However, when I was a manager and now that I am a professor, I am accutely aware of my role as mentor to those I manage and teach and have always strived to give the same level of attention as I had received from those who have taken the time to mentor me.

(Jason came a bit late, so we didn't get his story.)

One of the things that interested us is that while we admire the mentorship program and in no way want to stop or criticize what seems to be working for so many, it doesn't seem to map against our own experience of successful mentorship. Our histories is one of informal and natural connections instead of artificial relationships. We also feel that mentorship is not about giving "advice" or "evaluation" feedback, but is about demonstration through life and practice guiding principles that can only be communicated through close relationships.

So with all this in mind we are interested in your stories and hope you'll share them here (list and linked in). To help y'all get inspired I suggest you check out Whitney's great collection of stories from some great people (ok, I'm included) talking about their mentors or heroes:

While heroes is an important concept, especially for designers, I think I'd like to keep this thread about mentors, so I'd appreciate the focus. (Of course, what is the difference is something we should definitely talk about.)

Oh! and we are interested in these stories from both the apprentice and the mentor perspective.

-- dave


17 Feb 2011 - 12:47am

I'll chime in here. I'm a current student in the iSchool at the University of Washington (MLIS, MSIM, and some HCDE) who has just recently returned to academia to lay the foundation for a new career. I am particularly interested in IxD and IA and I am curious about the best ways in which to solicit a mentor or arrange an apprenticeship. I'm in my late twenties and have a decade plus of experience in the service industry. I hold a BA in English lit. These are the cards I am holding in my hand. Any recommendations on how to best market myself to the industry? Thanks to all for your input!

17 Feb 2011 - 12:09pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus

Thanks for getting this going, Dave. 

Mentorship/Apprenticeship was a recurring theme at Interaction'11, and one that's increasingly important to our community and practice.

I have a couple stories I can share. I met one of my most important mentors at a series of lunch time discussions I attended at a local company's office. I started going to the discussions out of curiosity, and because I felt like I needed a more active way to develop my career and practice.. plus, I missed the feeling of being in school and that type of casual discussion appealed to that urge as well. Going to those every month helped me connect with a person who's advice I sought out a couple times, and that evolved into regular lunch dates where we talked about design, careers, companies, and plans. This person helped me decide on a few career moves, and eventually I ended up working for him at his company. I've grown immensly through this relationship, both personally and professionaly. 

I also feel that I've found a few more casual mentors through the IxDA discussions, namely our very own Dave Malouf. I've learned more than I can express through our conversations on this forum, Twitter, and in person at the Interaction conferences. This type of mentorship isn't formalized through a mentor/apprentice (or protegee) relationship, but does much of the same job.



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