How did we come to be where we are today? Looking back we recall myriad decisions; some good, some poor. Milestones; moments of right place, right time. Wonderful people that either encouraged us or pointed us in a more focused direction. Those encouraging people may have shared a moment with us while others have been with us for a lifetime. Whichever category they fall in, we call them Mentors. People who share their deep insight and experience that is beyond our own – and therefore, extremely valuable.
As designers, we think back to who mentored us. Likely it was a parent who saw artistic or problem-solving ability and pointed us toward industrial design or engineering. Perhaps a teacher took extra time to customize a project, making it more interesting and inspiring. Some of us were lucky enough to have a successful leader occasionally take us to coffee for unfiltered Q&A ranging from personal to business. Here at Salient, we are grateful for those people in our own lives, and so we take mentorship very seriously, and try to give back too.
Salient brings in a handful of students each year to shadow on real-life projects, as part of the Salient/HATCH Mentorship program. We give students a chance to see how they might fit in a design career prior to graduating from college. Having a chance to work side-by-side with professional designers on a project that will actually be manufactured and sitting on the shelves of Target is a stark contrast to the educational scene that can only engage the theoretical. The theoretical is a necessary stage, but having the opportunity for hands-on creativity gives students a better idea of what they might enjoy or be good at in a way the classroom cannot.
Forming character is similar to creating good design. It does not take shape on accident. When designing a new product, we create many sketches, and often have to iterate and test many prototypes. Before landing on an ideal product, we sit down in a group and brainstorm the possibilities from multiple perspectives. By the time we are done, the product has been touched by the whole team in one way or another, and has the signature of the collective creativity of Salient.
In the same way, character is formed through a process. It is honed when we re-invent and test ourselves. It is created when we regard others’ insight. Just as the first version of a product hits the market and we call it 1.0, there are more versions to come. We keep developing the 2.0, 3.0, … 6+ versions of our character. We never stop growing, inventing, prototyping, and making. That synergistic magic takes place on both sides of mentorship, it stamps its mark and its benefits on both the mentor and the mentee alike. We’re grateful to be on both the giving and receiving ends of Mentorship.
David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.