Meet the Mentor — Mina
UX designer Mina wishes she’d had Design Club when she was at school. She now helps young designers through a Saturday club at the Science Museum.
Tell us a bit about you
I’m a UX designer based in London, currently working at IBM. The best part of my job is that I get to work closely with people to design digital products that make their day-to-day lives a bit better: whether it’s buying a car, booking a vet appointment for their cat or making better business decisions.
Why did you start a design club?
When I first heard about Design Club on Twitter, I knew I wanted to get involved.
Growing up, my school didn’t have the resources to support my interest in making silly websites for all the bands I loved. I had to learn by myself, which frankly often felt like a lonely and frustrating experience. If only Design Club had been around back then!
For children, attending a free Design Club is not only a lot of fun — it can also have a huge impact on their lives. They learn valuable problem-solving and empathy skills to apply in everyday situations. Design Club can also open them up to consider career paths that they didn’t even know existed.
What advice would you give to someone starting a club?
First of all: Well done and welcome to Design Club! By starting a club you are stepping out of your comfort zone and joining a great community of mentors that will support you along the way — you’re not alone.
During my time as a Design Club mentor I have picked up a few tricks. Here are some to get you started:
- Be pro-active and don’t give up
It might take a bit of back and forth with venues and schools to get things off the ground. Some might take weeks to reply and some might not reply at all but don’t be discouraged! Keep chasing and be pro-active in your approach. I emailed dozens of venues before I found the right one and even then, it took a few months of discussing details before we got started. Reach out to other mentors for advice if you feel you are not making progress. You could even help mentor at their clubs if you want to get some experience while you’re setting up your own.
- Be prepared
Get familiar with the space before your first day. Ask teachers or staff members about any specific technology you might need: will you need adaptors for screens? Will all children have access to a phone or tablet that’s compatible with the Marvel app? Even things like having enough chairs, printed worksheets or felt tip pens will make a difference to the experience children have on the day.
- A prototype is worth a thousand words
Children are much more engaged and excited at the beginning if you show examples of what other kids have created. The Design Club Showcase is a great resource, full of amazing prototypes you can share. If children are stuck or feeling uninspired, you can also show examples of real apps in the same problem space: Scream Go Hero is a fun app to demonstrate voice-control and get young ones to think beyond standard UI controls.
- Keep getting better
The Science Museum Design Club I run is part of a monthly CoderDojo event. It’s different from a typical after school club as there are up to 100 kids and we usually have around 10 mentors helping out. I love running retrospectives after each club to reflect on what went well and what we can improve. We’ve recently created a Trello board to track our progress. If this sounds a bit too much you can always ask for feedback from children, parents or staff at the end of your club. In the past, we’ve used online surveys that people can fill in quickly on their phones. After your first day, you’ll want to keep getting better and better — right?
What’s the best thing that’s happened at your club?
Every club is a rollercoaster and we’ve had some great moments. I remember the first time a kid told us they wanted to be an app designer when they grew up. It’s great to see children and parents realising this is something they can carry on doing for fun and even as a profession when they get older.
The best thing is definitely the community of mentors around our club. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by this brilliant group of people that support each other in and outside the club and volunteer their skills and spare time to give something back.
If anyone is interested in coming by and joining us one Saturday, let me know, either by commenting below or via Twitter. It’s a great way to see what Design Club is all about!