Academy Xi Blog

Whether it’s industry-related topics, career advice, job search, best work practices or leadership lessons, having the right mentor to bounce ideas around with can help a young professional break into a field and build a lifelong career. We chatted with Designers-in-Residence program mentor Daniel Foulds about his experience with our DiR Program and how it’s been so far. 

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Q: Hi Daniel! Tell us a bit about yourself and your design background?

I’m a UX-er currently working on Kmart Online’s new e-commerce experience. Like many of us in the field, I shifted my career trajectory from a different work stream a few years back. After formal qualifications in Graphic Art (print), I landed my first job working for a Swim/Sportswear wholesale company. From there, I held a number of product design and management roles working primarily in apparel within the street, surf & sportswear, and sporting hardgoods segments.

One of the speed humps I encountered in my professional career was being made redundant. It was a discussion with my brother-in-law who discussed with me the potential of a career switch to an emerging field with opportunities that are becoming more available. This is where the UX seed was planted. 

I got stuck into some initial thoughts and discovery about a career switch. I met and spoke with a few people. At that time, I had just gotten married and my wife and I were expecting our first child so there was a bit on my plate.  However, I fell back into what was easy and what I knew best and that was a design role at Kmart. 

Fast forward 8 years later, along with some pro-bono work, creating my own UX case studies, formal UX training, plenty of upskilling & reading, a couple of role changesplus a lot of grit and determinationI’m proud to be able to reflect on where I am today. 

Q: What made you want to become a DiR mentor at Academy Xi? 

When I first saw the post on LinkedIn relating to the DiR program, it piqued my interest. I thought, not only does it align with where I would like my professional career to be, but also an opportunity to help the next wave carve their path, which I know a little bit about. Also, one of the aspects of this industry that I’m in which I’ve always been impressed by is how giving people are with their time, knowledge, and experience. So I thought to myself, sure, I would love to throw my hat in the ring at this opportunity – an opportunity that aligns with my personal and professional values.

Q: How’s the whole mentoring experience going?

I am currently mentoring my second student! As a whole, it’s been ultra rewarding. The feeling of giving to someone to help guide them as they embark on a new professional experience is really fulfilling. 

To date I have experienced two contrasting individuals as my mentees which has kept me on my toes and given me the opportunity to think differently with how I handle our relationship, there’s definitely been some growth on a personal front. The one constant piece of advice that I would pass on is pretty simple: you really do get out what you put in and, ‘it takes two to tango’ if you will. 

This has rung true in my professional career as well. I encourage my mentees to come up with agenda points, send out the meeting invites and schedules and let me know how I can help them or ask them what is bothering them. 

I want them to know that I am here to help make a difference in their professional (and sometimes) personal journey in this industry.

Q: Any advice or anything else that you want to share to our community? 

As a mentor, an analogy I like to use is that I’m the guide rails on a bowling alley to stop the bowling ball from going down the gutter. If the ball happens to go in the gutter, that’s ok, we pick ourselves up, go again and learn from it. It might begin to sound a little cliche but I am a firm believer that persistence pays off when applied in the right manner.

One of the topics we discussed with our DiR group is that we aren’t ‘know-it-alls’ and don’t have answers to everything in our chosen fields. What we do have is depth of experience in different scenarios (and that could sometimes intersect with other industries) that can help steer, provide feedback or pose thoughts for our mentees to approach a topic perhaps from a different angle. 

In the program we have access to a massive knowledge pool via our various Slack groups and regular lunch and learn discussions and the like. I feel more than confident that if I receive a curly question or something I haven’t experienced in the past, I have a group of team mates ready to help and assist me and ultimately my mentee, who is in a really fortunate position to be in.