How Mentoring Junior Colleagues Can Level Up Your Own Skills: Insight from SeatGeek’s Katya Hott
Katya Hott, currently the UX Research Manager at SeatGeek, was a committed researcher long before she officially moved into the world of UX.
That set her up for success in the field in more ways than one, including to learn more about UX itself: when she was first starting out, she combed LinkedIn to find people who were working on the same things that she was. She cold emailed a few—and ended up with her first-ever mentor.
It wasn’t a traditional mentor-mentee relationship: it wasn’t arranged by a program or company, and both Katya and her “mentor” were at about the same places in their career.
“We didn’t treat it as this formal mentor partnership, but we started meeting regularly,” says Katya. “We were growing our teams at the same time, and we’d share advice over email or coffee.”
Experiencing great mentorship from an industry peer made Katya wonder if she could pay it forward by mentoring someone else. Even if she was just a few years into her career, she had insight to share, right?
Thus kicked off Katya’s homegrown intern mentorship program—and a long history of learning by helping others.
We sat down with Katya to talk more about her experience, from how she got into UX research in the first place and how mentorship has influenced her approach to management.
Language and Learning, Together
Katya has a thing for languages. That includes learning them, making them up, and studying them.
“I knew from when I was little that I wanted to be a teacher,” says Katya. “I was just very interested in words and how language shapes reality, or the other way around.”
That led to studying linguistics, which introduced her to technology. “A lot of what we can do with language study is totally enhanced by technology,” she says.
Katya got hands-on experience working at the intersection of language and technology when she worked as a teacher in Boston and New York. “I was always the youngest teacher, the techie teacher,” she says, referencing the apps she built into her lesson plans. When her principal told her about a grad program at NYU that combined learning and digital media design, she looked into it—and ended up enrolling.
“I was researching what makes a good learning game and how people learn through game play,” she says. “So much of that tied back to what I had learned about how people learn through language and communication.”
She got an internship writing content for an educational games start-up. When she realized no one on the team was doing formal user testing, she offered to bring the game to her teacher friends to get their feedback.
“They were like, ‘Sure, we're a 10 person startup, do whatever you want,’” remembers Katya, smiling. She went out into the field to get feedback, then developed a simple framework to convey the different types of feedback she was getting. The design team was immediately impressed, and Katya realized she’d found her next career pivot. “I loved being the bridge between people who use technology and people who design it,” she says.
Katya then spent a year in edtech doing “playtesting,” the games word for user research, along with some project management.
Along the way, she realized that all the learning she’d done throughout her career, from being in the classroom to writing game content to researching how users used it, was something she could pay forward.
Embracing Mentorship: 3 Key Lessons
When Katya joined that edtech startup full-time after her internship, she knew she had limited experience. “I had training from grad school, and that was about it,” she says. Thus the LinkedIn research and the informal mentorship.
When the next class of interns joined her company, Katya realized she could be a really helpful resource to them.
“I knew exactly what classes they were in. I knew who their professors were. I knew what things they were studying. It became very clear that for each intern that came after me, that I should be involved,” she says.
So she set up weekly meetings to coach them. She did the same thing when she moved to a different company, this time helping to set up their internship pipeline to her grad program and again making the space to help them. Along the way, she was continuing to build her own pool of mentors.
“I was reaching out to people who are more junior than me and to people who are more experienced than me, and realized they must be doing the same thing. There's this whole chain of people who are just learning from each other without being direct managers or teammates,” she reflects.
In mentoring others, Katya learned a few key lessons:
- How to give feedback. As a mentor, Katya found herself in a great environment in which to practice giving feedback. Since she wasn’t the person making the final decisions on whether the interns would get offers back or not, giving them feedback was lower stakes. “It can be a little rattling to give feedback to a direct report, because it feels like it’s so tied to eventual performance reviews. With a mentee, there’s no agenda behind it,” she says.
- How to break complicated ideas down. “I found myself explaining things that I knew inside and out in a way that I didn’t have to do on a regular basis with [my peers],” she says.
- How to maximize productivity as a player-coach. “One-on-ones can be extremely productive,” explains Katya. “I just had a meeting with a more junior team member on our design team who was interested in helping out on a project I’m leading, and instead of giving them homework, I said, ‘We have 20 minutes left in our meeting—let’s do some work.’ If I had said that I didn’t have time for that kind of check in with someone who's not even on my team, that would've never happened.”
All of that experience set Katya up to be a great manager of people when it came time for her to do that. “Everything I needed to do to be a good manager, I’d been practicing for years,” she says. “Becoming a new manager became less scary immediately once I realized I could draw upon my years of experience mentoring.”
A New Challenge at SeatGeek
During the pandemic, Katya’s feelings about working in edtech changed. “The blurred lines of what it meant to be a parent and a teacher were fuzzier than ever,” she says. “It all felt too close to home. I saw the world was pivoting, and thought it was a good time for me to pivot as well.”
She started looking for a role where she could build out a research team (because she’d loved doing that in her past position) in a new, challenging setting. When she saw a UX research role at SeatGeek, she was immediately curious.
“I thought, ‘This is a live event ticketing company in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—how is this job even posted?’ It piqued my interest,” she says. She reached out, and in her conversations with the SeatGeek team, Katya found herself impressed.
“They were so smart, so resilient, and so creative, steering a company through what could have easily been the end of the organization and figuring out ways to come out much stronger,” she says.
Katya was intrigued by working in a brand-new industry with a brand-new set of challenges, and when they offered her the role, she took it. She spent her first year embedding herself within the organization, learning about what she calls the “research appetite” on different teams, and showing the value that user research and data could add to different parts of the process.
This second year, she’s ready to start setting up her team. Katya is currently hiring for several roles—meaning she will have plenty of opportunities to apply the management approach she’s honed through mentorship.
Go Pay it Forward
Katya has found her mentees naturally, including via people who reach out to express interest in her work. If you’re looking for people to mentor, she recommends leveraging:
- Employee resource groups
- Internship programs
- MeetUp and Slack communities
If you think that you might have something to offer as a mentor, even if you’re earlier on in your career, Katya has one message for you: make the time and do it.
“Don’t be afraid to add more meetings,” she says. “I always make space for mentorship. Doing this work is one of the highlights of my job. Being that open door is so incredibly gratifying, and makes me feel like I’m still learning and growing soft skills. Make the time for it.”
💎 Partnerships in remote environments is one of the most important aspects to construct in a company. Watch the video to the end to get good tips on how to do it successfully.
📼Wondering how to create partnerships in remote environments? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you to achieve it. You'll hear from Olga Shvets, HR Business Partner, and Viktoriia Litvinchuk, People Team Operations at Unstoppable Domains, who will explain the essentials of this process.
📼How to build partnerships in remote environments? Tip #1: Communicate Effectively. Communication is the key to enabling your remote team to be successful. Choose the channel that works best. For this, chat with your employees and see what they use to communicate, that's how you find the best solution. Also, make sure your team is on board with your internal tools and they know what, how, and where they need to use them.
📼A requisite for building partnerships in remote environments is Tip #2: Show appreciation. Appreciation is shown through your actions. Let your employees know that you value everything they do for the company. Create a special gratitude channel where everyone can share their appreciation for their colleagues for some contribution. Celebrate some wins, promotions, and everything that is important for the company. If you appreciate the employees, employees do the same for the company.
Create Partnerships In Remote Environments Using Trust - Tip #3: Give Honest Feedback
Use engagement surveys! They are a quick and effective way to receive honest feedback from your team and you can see what's working well and what needs to be improved. Your main priority is to create spaces where managers and employees can share honest, relevant feedback.
📨 Are you interested in joining Unstoppable Domains? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Olga Shvets
If you are interested in a career at Unstoppable Domains, you can connect with Olga on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains is bringing user-controlled identity to 3 billion+ internet users by issuing domain names on the blockchain. These domains allow users to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human-readable names, host decentralized websites, and much more.
By selling these domains direct to consumers for a one-time fee, the company is making a product that will change cryptocurrency and shape the future of the decentralized web by providing users control over their identity and data.
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
💎Want to know what engineering teams are like at Workiva? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 Engineering teams at Workiva are constantly hiring. Marie Yue, Senior Engineering Manager at the company, tells you what they look for in a candidate and what the dynamics of teamwork are like.
📼 The typical path in the engineering teams at Workiva is that you grow into a senior, and then you move into a lead role. From there, there are a few different tracks that you can take depending on your interest. You can become a staff engineer, an architect, or even an engineering manager. What are you waiting for to apply?
📼In the engineering teams at Workiva every member should feel empowered to do their job effectively. For this, each has to understand how the work they do day to day solves customers’ problems. Managers will always seek to be aware of members’ career path aspirations so that they can look for opportunities and projects to help each person reach the next step in their career.
Engineering Teams At Workiva: A Safe Space
Marie Yue’s team is a safe space for people to make mistakes and ask for help, and each member feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. She wants to make sure that everyone is individually empowered to lead and make decisions. For this, the team has regular meetings where they do fun things like play virtual games or eat lunch together, and they also like to re-review and add to their team working agreement once a quarter.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Workiva? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Marie Yue
If you are interested in a career at Workiva, you can connect with Marie Yue on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Workiva
Workiva was founded to transform the way people manage and report business data with various collaborators, data sources, documents, and spreadsheets. Today, people all over the world use their platform to seamlessly orchestrate data among their systems and applications for transparent and trusted connected reporting and compliance. At Workiva, they are innovative in everything they do—from how they build their software, to how they serve their customers, to how they treat their employees.
After two years of remote programming, we’re excited to welcome the 2022 NIKE, Inc. Internship Program back to our U.S. offices this week!
This year’s class of 318 represent the top 1% of 34,000+ applicants from 113 universities – including 10 Hispanic Serving Institutions and five historically Black colleges and universities. And that’s not all! Many of this year’s interns are Division 1 student-athletes, representing Track and Field, Rowing, Soccer, and Volleyball, to name a few.
During the nine-week internship – built around the theme of Never Done Shining – interns will work across Nike, Jordan and Converse taking on meaningful projects for the business areas they’re supporting. We can’t wait to watch this talented, diverse group kick off their Nike journey and shine!
Want to learn more about the program? https://jobs.nike.com/internships