Power Up Mentor Experience (Summer 2021)

Hear from 4 design and marketing industry mentors about their experience mentoring students.

What is Power Up?

Power Up is a 10-week summer design program that prepares UCSD students for real-world innovation by pairing student teams with BIPOC-owned and minority-owned businesses seeking to refine their branding, redesign their website, or boost their exposure. Our program is driven by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, which is intended to support BIPOC communities in the San Diego area and give underrepresented design students more opportunities to develop their skills. In order to better aid these BIPOC and minority communities, we brought together design and marketing students alike to provide comprehensive deliverables for these small businesses.

We expanded on our previous summer program, Level Up, to include more:

  • Students (from 20 to 25)
  • Mentors (from 10 design mentors to 14 design and marketing mentors)
  • Roles
  • and 5 real clients

Each student team received guidance from 2–3 industry mentors as they crafted sustainable designs and deliverables that’ll live beyond the scope of the project. Mentors came from a variety of companies: Google, Adobe, Facebook, ServiceNow, Hulu, Intuit, Sony UJIMA, Skylight, Renewable Energy Test Center, and The Walt Disney Company.

Meet 4 Power Up Mentors

Lavanya Kumar — Blendees Mentor

Sr. Product Designer @ ServiceNow

Lavanya (Lavy) is currently a Senior Product Designer at ServiceNow. She received her B.S. in Cognitive Science from UCSD and M.S. in Information Science from the University of Michigan. From there, she started out in Austin at the IBM Design Studio as a Design Researcher and then quickly transitioned to design consulting at the IBM Garage in San Francisco. After years of traveling and working with clients all over the world, she returned to the in-house, product environment at ServiceNow in San Francisco.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from mentoring students in the Power Up program?

Giving the students specific project feedback in combination with career advice was great experience for me. As a senior designer who wants to pursue a career in management, I felt being a Power Up mentor allowed me to provide feedback regarding design as a craft as well as a career.

Q: What did you enjoy most about Power Up?

I loved the integration between design and marketing — it was great to have discussions between the two disciplines and see how they impacted each other. As a design mentor, I learned a lot from the marketing team which helped influence the advice I gave to the team as well.

Tarrea Tolbert — Blendees Mentor

UI Designer @ Google

Tarrea is a UI Designer at Left Field Labs (Google) with a passion for user-centered design and crafting inclusive experiences. She is from San Francisco and has worked at tech companies, such as Wish and IBM, where she shipped and executed business-facing products to help improve user experiences.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from mentoring students in the Power Up program?

I had the opportunity to provide constructive feedback to students who were seeking guidance on different areas of their projects.

Q: What did you enjoy most about Power Up?

I truly enjoyed meeting with students every week to see the progress they were making, whether that be through design or marketing.

Jean Ly — Cafe X Mentor

Senior Originals Marketing Manager @ Hulu

Jean is a Senior Originals Marketing Manager for Hulu’s original series. After spending time as a designer working in publishing and tradeshow industries, she made a leap into entertainment. Previously, she has worked at Amazon Prime Video on their original series, Illumination Entertainment on the Despicable Me/Minions franchise (& more), and Walt Disney Motion Pictures.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from mentoring students in the Power Up program?

I have two takeaways from mentoring students in the Power Up program. Challenging the mentees to do some of the critical thinking that comes second nature to me has reinforced my knowledge while also providing me a new perspective on my own soft skills. Secondly, having a co-mentor gave me the opportunity to learn some new things about a different marketing vertical and the strategic thinking that goes behind her specialty compared to my own.

Q: What did you enjoy most about Power Up?

I really enjoyed some of the social time I got with my mentees when we would finish a meeting early. Getting to know each other on a more personal level is just as valuable to me as learning from each other is.

Jennie Yoon — Kini Koffee Mentor

Senior Product Designer @ Intuit

Jennie is a hybrid product & service designer working at Intuit, specifically in the data sphere. If she’s not working, she’s usually playing/watching Minecraft and trying to keep her plants alive.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from mentoring students in the Power Up program?

I loved the open mindedness and willingness of the team I mentored. They applied what they learned, pivoted where needed, and grew as a team. I was really amazed at how much work was produced in such a short time period! 10 weeks fly by and the team did so well in going through the entire design life cycle.

I believe a program like this is essential for students since it’s a great way to connect with industry professionals but also a way to practice design thinking and skills with real customers. Working on projects with real customers is tough to come by so a structured program like this is super beneficial. Gaining design experience can be tough to come by outside of class projects and internships.

The work done with this program is a solid project to put on resumes and portfolios as well.

Q: What did you enjoy most about Power Up?

I really love mentoring students and early career (especially from UCSD since it’s my alma mater)!

The reason why I mentor: I’ve been there — as a student I wished I had direct connection with industry professionals so that I can learn and grow as a designer. Am I doing the right things? Am I thinking through this problem from all angles? Are there other things I should consider that I haven’t thought of? It would have been so helpful to have that mentorship and guidance when I was a student and I’m glad this program exists to connect students to mentors.

I know design is a tough industry to get into as an early-career so every bit of help is so useful. It was really awesome that Design Co had multiple designers from different companies, focuses, and expertise to help each team.

Any final words about your experience?

Tarrea Tolbert

I am super grateful to have been a part of the Power Up program as a mentor, and I would be thrilled to join again in the future!

Jean Ly

Go Team Café X!

Jennie Yoon

I highly commend the Design Co team for putting together Power Up. It was very thoughtful and organized and was really an awesome space for early career students to practice and gain more experience. I used to be part of this organization (used to be called Design at UCSD back in the day) so it brings me a lot of joy at how much this org has grown.

Hear from 4 Power Uppers from Blendees, Cafe X, and Cut & Dry Barbershop in this article.

Hear from 3 Power Uppers from Furlicious and Kini Koffee in this article.



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Design Co

Design Co is a pre-professional student organization at UC San Diego that bridges the gap between designers and industry.