How being a mentor has made me a strong leader

Around 5 months ago I decided to apply to be a mentor at DesignLab. I was looking for a side gig that had flexibility, was outside of the roles I was used to, and could help me grow as a leader and a creator. DesignLab hired me and I accomplished all of this and so much more. 

Once I received the email that I was hired, my first cohort of students was assigned to me. I immediately started getting notifications that projects needed my feedback, I was both nervous and excited to get started! I reviewed wireframes, style tiles, idea generating, high fidelity mockups, logo concepts – you name it DesignLab covered it. Providing feedback really made me stop and think. How can I articulate my thoughts in a positive and constructive way that also provides understanding and fosters success? This was much more challenging than I anticipated and sometimes required continual back-and-forth, thorough explanations and visual examples. What I learned in the end? How to be a successful communicator. I quickly realized that I needed to cater my communication to different students’ learning styles. What an invaluable skill. Poor communication is so often what hinders projects, makes team members feel isolated or unappreciated, and not to mention can waste countless billable hours leading to frustration.

The other component to the DesignLab program is a weekly one-hour video session. This part of the program was where my students and myself were able to achieve better understanding and clarity when it could not be achieved through written feedback. Most importantly these sessions personalized the experience and enhanced comfort levels which in turn broke down boundaries, and built the confidence to grow and succeed. If you think about your everyday life, how many times do you get the opportunity to have a one-hour conversation with someone you have never met before? Who has a completely different background from you and different experiences? The answer for me was almost never. What I have gained from this is the ability to build relationships and have empathy for others. When you are working with professional teams, especially with different perspectives and skillsets, building relationships that foster understanding and empathy can create a strong foundation for success and leave team members feeling valued and respected.

Lastly, to work with students who decide to follow their creative passion regardless of where they are in their lives professionally or personally has been inspiring beyond words. This alone has pushed me to achieve more and to strive to grow beyond what I perceive is possible. I truly believe this has allowed me to be a strong leader with the skills that REALLY MATTER – communication, relationship building, empathy and understanding for others.


  1. i love your insight. I have too often used “my way or the highway “in my professional career. Only in last few years have i come to realize that every person learns differently. Thank you for reinforcing this!!!!!

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