One of the things we are proud of at Academy Xi is being creative, agile and adaptable to the changes. This is a story about how we were able to reimagine one of our community-based initiatives for our students.
A few years ago, we organised our first Student Showcase event (or Industry Night as it became known), it was the main event for our User Experience and Service Design courses which students worked towards throughout the 10 intensive weeks of theory and client projects. This event represented the graduates’ first official introduction to the industry community as specialists, a networking opportunity to make a first impression in front of their potential employer and receive invaluable feedback from the experts that would bring them a step closer to their first interview.
As we ran many Industry nights, we also gained deeper insights to help improve each time. As such we recognised that our graduates valued more time connecting with industry practitioners, and so we introduced mentoring rounds to Industry Night. Before opening the night to everyone, the students would have rounds of brief sessions with the experienced UX and SD specialists who would provide their feedback on the student’s portfolio and would answer their burning questions one-on-one.
Being dedicated to our values and caring about the student experience, we’ve been seeing incredible outcomes resulting in 87% of all our full-time students landing their first job within 6 months after graduating.
With the arrival of COVID-19 we had to iterate once again, this time taking the mentoring rounds digital. It is important to mention that we’ve been incredibly lucky to have had the support of the amazing HCD community in Sydney and Melbourne. No matter what, they always were there at our Industry Nights as experts, at our events as thought-leadership speakers, at our courses as Instructors, mentors and clients for students. So when the pandemic struck, they stayed with us and kept giving back to the community no less than ever!
Again, what we find most important in our work, is to keep listening to our students and everyone involved in the courses. Through the internal and external feedback, we realised that the way we organised the final step of the course experience – feedback and networking with the industry professionals, was not sustainable anymore. And this is how our newest project was born.
We launched Designers In Residence (DIR) program with the huge support from Matt Tsourdalakis, a Design Lead and Consultant passionate about design leadership and having an insanely inspiring idea of transforming Melbourne into the capital of the UX knowledge and leadership. Being used to dreaming big at Academy Xi, we teamed up with Matt to gather the first cohort of DIRs to mentor our full-time students throughout the 10-week program.
Believing in that value of diversity of experience, we chose to focus not only on industry veterans but also engaging our talented alumni and early specialists. With this in mind, we’ve built the the program the way that it would support not only our students but also our DIRs in their growth as mentors and people leaders. Filled with numerous learning sessions for the mentors, check-in sessions and active slack community discussions, this program is designed to empower mentors to share their own experience and pass on their knowledge and expertise to the next generation.
Throughout the 10 weeks, our mentors have fortnightly catch-ups with the students helping them in setting their mentee’s short and long-term goals by guiding them on the way to achieving them through practical steps and advice. Besides the sessions with their mentees, mentors also have regular meetings with the Lead DIR and each other where they discuss different techniques, tools and approaches to mentoring.
At Academy Xi, we care about every single student walking through our, now virtual doors and we want to be able to support them not only while they’re studying with us but also after they finish the course. DIR is our first step to building a greater Xi community with a vision of become a learning hub for our alumni and other designers in Australia.
At Academy Xi, we see this program as a step to building the learning hub which would be a place of life-time growth for our community. You might start with a course and later come back again as a mentor working on your leadership skills or a speaker willing to build your personal brand and practice public speaking, or having your own company you’d like to offer a client project to our students and explore external creativity of a fresh mind. With this one step closer to our bigger goal we look forward to building out our DIR program next year!