Design Mentorship at Bukalapak

Since early 2019, I've been collaborating with the design leadership team at Bukalapak to create a learning program for designers and provide 1:1 mentorship.

In early 2019, when Yoel (The ex VP of Design) approached me to join Bukalapak for the second time, I was quite reluctant. I couldn't picture myself there again, and there were many questions like, what kind of impact could I create? Would it be aligned with my goals in the long run?

I was glad that he didn't come with something set in stone. He asked me what would be the best arrangement and what I would love to do there.

Our conversation seemed to recall my dormant passion, a design mentorship for the past two years.

I once built a design course

I left Bukalapak in 2017, and I wanted to set up a product design course/school – Helping new and young designers meet industry needs. I created a quick syllabus and tested it on five people. They only paid $100 for a two-month pilot course.

After the pilot course was over, I retrospected all my efforts. I knew it; many things were not perfect, the course materials, the approach I delivered the materials, and some other accommodation stuff.

I felt overwhelmed and quite in contrast to a kind of good feeling when I started it. It was still good, though, seeing students were thriving. We're still in touch after the class is over.

Eventually, I decided to freeze all my plans for the school to have time to learn and understand more the realm of product design – hoping someday I could resurrect the project again.

Not for so long, I joined Hanno, a UK-based product design agency, for a full-time position.

The journey as a design mentor

In the beginning, my responsibilities were more sporadic and isolated from the whole design organization in Bukalapak.

I run a 1:1 mentorship session for those who need it as the primary function. Sometimes I discussed with design managers to understand more of their designer's problems. Sometimes I joined weekly design meetings to observe designers.

A tailored learning program

One day, Budi Tanrim (Head of Design) initiated to scale my effort in mentorships across the design organization. That initiative also part of a manifestation of our design mantras: Keep on learning.

I co-lead the initiative with Devita Mira, a long time partner in Bukalapak, a researcher. We make a perfect match as her research knowledge helps me develop design materials with different perspectives.

We started the initiative pretty much like a design process. We took some time to deep dive into the problems our designers and researchers had at that time. We interviewed a bunch of designers, researchers, and also their managers.

Long story short, we boiled down into some topics that needed prioritization. There were effective communication for designers, interaction design, and some research topics. We delivered those topics to designers through classes and mentorship. We believe that classes won't go far, especially in our condition that designers work on a wide variety of projects. Meanwhile, mentorship sessions will complement the courses, for providing space to apply the materials in their real task.

One of our worries was that whoever joins the program might think they will be judged as someone not good enough – or maybe whoever teaches and is the mentor might sound patronizing. We realized learning in a work environment is not the same as formal education. A non-judgemental, friendly, and peer-like feeling should be there, especially for internal programs like ours.

Anyway, it's been an exciting journey and more like an educational experience for me. I learned many things during the interaction in classes and countless mentorship sessions. I had to re-learn and get deeper into different design topics and learning to mentor others. I hope, soon, I can share more about the stories or insights in my blog. 🤞