[This post is part of a series on Mentors and Heroes]
Amanda Jahn is a lead user experience designer at Yahoo! in London where she leads UX for Yahoo! Answers globally. Previously she was a web designer for Investis. Follow her on Twitter @yahnyinlondon.
Amanda Jahn’s mentors are…
Wesley Corbett, Head of Design at Investis
Hilary Cinis, Senior IA at Yahoo!7 Australia
How long have you known each other and how did you first meet?
We must have known each other for about five years now. I was hired by Wesley in 2004 as a Junior Designer. He was actually my first manager who was also a designer. In previous companies I had reported into various managers, with the designers I worked being peers rather than senior. Although we haven’t spoken as much since I left the company in 2006.
I met Hilary in 2008 (via teleconference) as she was assigned to be my mentor as part of the Yahoo! UED Mentor program. I’m really hoping I’ll be able to meet her later this year when I visit Australia, although she is sadly no longer with Yahoo!
How would you describe how you relate to your mentor?
With Wesley, I was his direct report so I related to him, as anyone would with their boss.
With Hilary, we went by the typical mentor / mentee terminology of the Yahoo! program but we were closer to peers in some respects.
How formal or structured is the mentorship? Do they know you consider them a mentor?
My relationship with Wesley was very formal, given he was my manager. It wasn’t a structured relationship, more just creative direction and review on whatever I was working on at the time. It’s funny, I actually emailed Wesley to ask him whether it was ok to write about him and he was worried I’d write something bad! I don’t think he had even realized how much of a mark he’d made on me as far as my skills and working practices.
Hilary and I had regular calls, once every few weeks or once a month during the mentor program which ran for a year. The calls weren’t particularly structured, I’d just discuss hot issues and share some key pieces of work.
What is one piece of advice your mentor gave you that has stuck with you the most?
Wesley will probably kill me for writing this but whenever I would say “assume” he would respond with “assume makes and ass out of you and me”. I still laugh at that now but it’s really valuable piece of advice. You shouldn’t assume anything about your audience!
Hilary taught me that sometimes the leadership team will request to see something right now (usually prior to having time for research and proper exploration). Sometimes it’s ok to jump ahead and do some high fidelity visual design concepts with the big caveat that it isn’t finalized. I’ve found this has taken the pressure off me which has meant I can get on with the research and exploration piece after.
What else do you want the world to know about your mentors?
Both of my mentors are wonderful at what they do and have had a huge effect on my career so I’d like to say thank you to them both. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them! Given that Wesley is now running his own business in Canada, it seems only fair that I give him a small plug: http://www.wesleycorbett.com/ Hilary is now working for the ABC in Australia, I hope she is enjoying her new role.
Thank you Amanda for sharing your mentors with us!