Academy Xi Blog

You don’t have to navigate your career alone

By Academy Xi

Mentoring programs can greatly benefit all parties involved, presenting mentors and mentees alike with amazing opportunities to develop personally and professionally. We caught up with Designer in Residence mentor Joanna Grygierczyk to hear about  her career journey so far and the experience she’s had with being a mentor.

Q: Hi Joanna! Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background

I graduated from Design in Visual Communication at UTS with first class honours in 2012. It was my dream then to work for a brand agency (…and be ‘in’ with the cool kids). However, dreams don’t always go as planned and my first role was in a property consultancy where I had a fantastic director who encouraged my development and was supportive of my talent. 

I had the great opportunity to travel to various destinations, build brands, websitesall with the support of an external design mentor as part of my career development plan. This mentor was my champion and kept saying that “to grow you need to immerse yourself alongside other designers”.

In 2015, I landed my first role at a creative advertising agency, but I soon realised it wasn’t for me. 

After a night working on a pitch till 4am in the morning and coming in blurry eyed the next day, I thought, ‘I needed a job that energises me and something that isn’t driven by awards or egos’.

I found myself transitioning to a digital design focused agency called Canvas Group, learning how to design websites (in photoshop back then!). 

This is where I fell in love with digital and helping businesses and users navigate the digital realm. 

I landed my first role in UX/UI Design at Vodafone, which opened many doors to similar roles such as BWS where I worked on their e-commerce app. I then settled into a permanent role at Bilue – a mobile and emerging technology company, where I’ve been working on developing my breadth of knowledge in the end to end process. 

Reflecting on my journey, I couldn’t be any happier and also grateful for making the transition from graphic design to product design where I can focus on creating products that make people’s lives easier and daily interactions better.


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

I’m currently at the stage in my career where I want to mentor and develop my mentoring skills, as well as share my knowledge with others and help young designers navigate what can be a difficult landscape and industry. 

I’m also a natural empath and feel fulfilled giving advice and seeing my mentees grow and become confident practitioners. When I heard about the opportunity to participate in the Designer-in-Residence program, I thought it would be the perfect alignment to my career and personal goals. 


Q: How was the whole experience of being a mentor? 

This is my first time being part of the program and the experience so far has been really rewarding. I’ve been having regular catch ups with my mentee where we align on what the goals are and work together on what they’d like to learn. Sometimes I might prepare something before running a session, other times I give feedback on their work or just let them ask questions about what they might be concerned or confused about. 

I also like to help them from an empathic level by reminding them that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that your professional career takes time to develop. I let them know that it’s important to remind themselves that they don’t have to be an expert in their craft at this stage of their career. Making mistakes is part of what makes you a successful designer


Q: Has mentoring at Academy Xi helped you professionally or personally? 

Mentoring has definitely helped me on a professional level to build my skills in teaching, advising and communicating. It’s also a good platform for moving towards a lead role as the team grows. Personally, it has been gratifying to help others and see them be so appreciative of your advice and support. Further to this, it builds my network with other mentors and designers in my industry where we share our tips.


Q: How can one get the most out of a mentorship program?

I think to get the most out of the program it’s good to take part in the regular Designer-in-Residence catch-ups where we share our mentoring experiences and tricky situations and how to tackle these. You not only build your network, but also knowledge through a Slack channel where all the mentors share resources.