2021 was the busiest year yet for DIA Design Guild. Having gone through one year with our first cohort of apprentices, bringing on double the number of apprentices in the second half of the year, we're learning about what it means to develop an apprentice program from scratch the hard way.
Using the end of the year as a time to do a retrospective of DIA's 2021 journey, we've summarized a few takeaways and plans for the coming year.
Good things that are working out
Every project presented new opportunities to shape the apprentice relationship in different ways. We'll be continuing with these tried-and-true approaches.
- Having weekly 1:1's with each apprentice give plenty of time for apprentices to ask questions about career, job search, and project questions.
- Identifying and setting long-term and short-term apprenticeship goals help keep our apprentice-mentor conversations on track.
- Having apprentices at diverse levels of experience to teach and mentor each other to combat imposter syndrome.
- Working with community or nonprofit projects provide apprentices with low-barrier opportunities to develop on their own from stakeholder research to project brief and planning.
- Providing apprentices with networking opportunities through community or nonprofit projects that also help an introverts meaningfully build networks.
- Continuing to provide non-mainstream UX projects to give apprentices the messy experience of taking projects from start to end.
Things that we could improve upon
We've learned a lot over the years about communication, project management, and soul-searching. Here are some lessons we've come away with:
- It's going to be hard to keep things personable with the number of apprentices we have so far. I've started to take notes as I meet with each apprentice to track issues and questions they bring up and the resources I've shared. It's working well so far to see how each person is progressing.
- Keeping project documentation and communication aligned. We've moved from tracking tasks on Asana to sharing ongoing Google Docs to now using a private Github repo for each person as well as a project Github as a group. We're still figuring out the information architecture of documentation as a soft skill that every team member develops.
- Timing and pacing. For some people who are working full-time or job-searching, the pace has been flexible and fluid enough not to put too much stress or pressure. This gives people time to learn and digest. For others, it might be frustrating to see how long decision-making and collaboration takes. Process takes time.
New things that we're thinking of doing next year
We're adding more structure to the program next year with more team communication and networking.
- Running monthly workshops on various topics for networking, sharing real experiences from other apprentices who have started working, etc.
- Hosting apprentice mixers to provide a space for people to learn from and support each other.
- Developing a UX Body of Knowledge that is curated by DIA Design Guild advisors, mentors, and apprentices as a learning and teaching tool (to be announced).
No one ever said that designing a learning experience was easy. Let's figure this out together.... after the new year. Happy New Year!
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