UX designers need a buddy

Senior UX Designer Daniel Abbott shares his top 10 tips for making the most out of having a mentor or workplace buddy:

Daniel Abbott
Mar 23, 2021 · 4 min read
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Having mentors moulded me into a more rounded designer. At comparethemarket.com, we have a buddy system in place where everyone is paired with another designer to form relationships and share ideas.

Buddy: someone who does an activity with you so that you can support and encourage each other.

Cambridge Dictionary

But it doesn’t end with design. I’ve found the buddy system to be a great route for personal and professional growth. Here are my top 10 tips for maximising your buddy relationship.

1. Get out of the building

Take an hour a week to go for a coffee or a short walk around the neighbourhood. Don’t fight for a meeting room, get some fresh air and a fresh perspective on the problems you’re both facing inside the office.

During the pandemic I’ve switched to Teams calls, but that works too. It makes it really easy to share work and ping things around, and a one-on-one conversation will always be private.

2. Kick it off yourself if you need to

Carving out a relationship with any other designer will always be rewarding, so be pro-active. Sometimes the slightest comment about your design or alternative way of thinking will flip your mindset into an illuminating direction.

3. It’s not just about the pixels

Talk about personal stuff first. How are you? What’s going on? How’s the family?

You may not know much about the person you’ve been paired with. It took one meeting to find out that I had a lot in common with my buddy. We soon worked out that both of our other halves had their own business and that we both help out as our side hustles, supporting on anything design, social media or web. My daughter was due when we first started out and my buddy already has two kids. If you’re open, you’ll find that people think of ways to help you out.

4. Dissect the company culture

Put the corporate world to rights, share your frustrations at your start-up, laugh about how the agency hustle makes you feel. There may be change or new hires going on at your company, learning someone else’s take on these things can be very reassuring.

5. Forget the ego, you need help

Share your design work. Actively seek feedback and work together to identify areas where you can improve. You don’t know everything about design. Nobody does! Don’t hold back with feedback and don’t be too polite. Be bold enough to pick apart a more senior buddy’s work.

6. Don’t worry if you’re the more junior one

My buddy demos stuff he’s been working on and I give feedback as another designer with a fresh pair of eyes. As a lead, it’s useful for him to get feedback from someone who is in the engine room, working on products that he doesn’t normally work on. Don’t get hung up on who is the mentor and who is the mentee.

7. It doesn’t end when you leave

Chances are you’ll keep on talking to your buddy for your whole career. What could be more valuable than a close ally that understands how you work? You’ll be able to trade stories and experiences from new jobs and even new careers!

8. Get a UX research buddy too

Don’t just stick in your design bubble, seek out a research buddy too! It’ll help you both.

Working in partnership with a user researcher and spending time to reflect on how we work together has been invaluable to me. We’ve come together on things like what designers need to validate in order to progress designs and how to ascertain the best level of fidelity in our prototypes, keeping them lean but realistic. We’ve also been able to tackle tricky conversations together and present the value of UX to the company.

9. Don’t stop at UX

Make sure you’re talking to other people too. Engineers can tell you how they are building stuff and how you could do a better job of handing over your designs to them. Get to know the SEO, marketing, customer ops CRM and content professionals and you’ll soon see how this can help you design for better customer outcomes.

10. Everyone’s a winner!

If there’s part of your full stack UX arsenal that doesn’t have much firepower, you might need regular interaction and buddying with another UX expert to help tease out your potential. Both buddies will get a lot out of the relationship and even the most senior UX pro will learn something from someone from a different background or perspective on UX and indeed, life.

We’re currently expanding the team at comparethemarket.com and are looking to hire UX researchers and designers. Get involved.

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