In July, we were delighted to support UX Brighton in the launch of a series of events as part of their mentorship program. Designed to inspire and help people gain clarity on what they want to achieve from a mentor/ee relationship, we heard from a group of speakers with mentorship hints and tips.
We spoke to Lewis after the event to find out more about his background and journey into UX, his advice for someone starting out as a mentor, the future of work, and more…
Tell us a bit about you and the work that you do…
I’m a freelancer senior user experience/service designer and researcher. I work with teams in the public sector to deliver projects that improve everyday lives. The last project I worked on was with the NHS, helping improve physical health checks for people with severe mental illness. People with a severe mental illness like psychosis die 15-20 years earlier that people who do not, all from preventable causes. It was a challenging project due to the strain on the healthcare system at the moment but it’s important work.
Did you come up through a “traditional” techy route, or has your career taken a bit of a different turn?
I studied Law and Multimedia computing at Oxford Brookes university. I was a mediocre student before university, but I somehow came out with a first class honours. That was mostly down to me realising that I find reading incredibly boring and I really enjoyed the programming, design, and video production side of my course. I got really hooked on that and ended up doing really well.
Six months before I finished uni I joined a local development agency as their first web designer, which meant I did pretty much everything from design to development. I’ve now ended up in a more strategic role mostly because I kept asking the annoying “why?” questions and was willing to do the research when no one else was to answer those questions.
To me, the ultimate questions are usually “Why does this project even exist? What problem is it solving and is there a better way of solving it”. This led me towards the UK government digital sector, as they have a strict process around discovery to justify spending public money on projects.
Is there a moment that helped define your career?
I can’t think of a singular moment but early in my career I got involved in the Drupal community. It’s an open source content management system with a very passionate community. I was really interested in improving the administrative user experience, especially mobile. It’s was a big source of support for me at that stage of my career. I lot of people encouraged me, and I ended up speaking at a lot of conference, and leading a lot of the user experience work in the Drupal 8 release. I miss the community and I’ve never really found a replacement for it.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Trust your values. The rest will follow. Don’t shy away from difficult questions and conversations.
What was the inspiration for your recent talk? Any key highlights / takeaways for anyone who missed it?
I spoke about how to develop an effective mentoring relationship. It’s all based on the findings from a research paper I read when I was first starting out as a mentor and it was influential for making me a great mentor! The most important advice I can give to someone starting as a mentor is to build a personal relationship. Understand the other person outside of work. The lines between the two are always blurred and you can’t consider either in isolation.
What’s your big tech prediction for 2022?
I believe that the pandemic showed a lot of people that there is a lot more to life than work. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are looking for a better work/life balance or are less willing to compromise their lifestyle based on the demands of work.
I predict we’ll see an increase in flexible working, a 4-day working week in particular. I think that the productivity increase from better mental health will become clear over the next few years. For work places that are unwilling to accommodate flexible working, I think we’ll see an increase in freelancing.
The power to choose when you work, what projects you work on, and where you working, is so valuable for me. I’ve lived and worked from a campervan before, and I’ve also housesat full-time in the past. Working from other people’s homes. I’ve loved being a nomad.
And finally, Silicon Brighton wouldn’t be here without people like you giving back to the community, so what does the word community mean to you?
Community is a collection of people who support each other. I think successful communities have common values and a shared goal.
Missed Lewis’ talk or want to watch it again? Check it out below…
Working hand-in-hand with Brighton’s tech community, we run a range of free meetup groups that cover a broad spectrum of specialist areas; from marketing to programming, product design to data. Check out what’s coming up here and join our community of like-minded individuals in the local tech scene!