ArticleNovember 8, 2022 · 4 min read time
I joined Nitor in spring 2021 as a UX designer. Although my background is deeply rooted in user experience design, I had also done some service design and developed an interest in it. When Nitor launched a mentoring pilot in spring 2022, I was excited to jump on board – this would be my chance to deepen my expertise in service design.
Most of my work is still focused on UX design but in addition to my main customer, I had time to work on other projects in the spring. Nitor makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to focus on the things and themes that they’re interested in.
When we received an offer request from a potential customer for creating an analytics and digital strategy, we saw an opportunity to also make use of it as a basis for mentoring. The offer was accepted, which meant that I’d get to improve my skills in the area I wanted while producing real value for our customer.
Service design mentoring without a concrete project is challenging. Compared to, say programming, service design is on the more abstract end of the spectrum. While you can learn to code through personal projects or exercises, service design is all about the approach and you can’t really learn that without a real case.
The customer, a company operating in the social and healthcare sector, had identified the utilisation of data and knowledge-based management as the essential factor distinguishing it from the competition. To support that, we set out to build a digital strategy, involving end users and other stakeholders in the process. The objective was to gain a good understanding of the current situation as well as the major pain points and the solutions to relieve them. In terms of my own development, the project was particularly interesting. I also found the opportunity to receive feedback on actual customer work valuable.
A real-life customer project as a prerequisite for a designer’s development
Mervi Rauhala, who has solid experience in service design, stepped into the mentor’s shoes. Mervi was, and continues to be, there to help me whenever I need a sounding board or a fresh perspective. I think this encapsulates the benefits of Nitor’s internal mentoring programme perfectly: we can develop as professionals while genuinely helping our customers with their challenges and needs. Pragmatism is one of our values and is present in everything we do, including our personal journeys of growth and development.
The timing of the customer project was ideal with regard to the mentoring. In practice, my mentor Mervi wasn’t directly involved in the project, but we always had a joint sparring session before major steps such as workshops or user interviews. Mervi shared with me her own best practices, such as tips for different methods and ways of running workshops. We assessed the success of these methods and planned the next moves. This went very smoothly: possible non-disclosure agreements are already in order at Nitor, which allowed us to delve deep into different scenarios together.
“Together with Nitor, we managed to create for our company a successful strategy for analytics and data services, which will certainly attract attention in the future. Thank you for the smooth cooperation, efficient sparring in refining ideas, putting thoughts and needs into written and visual form and fruitful workshops!”
As a service designer seldom works alone, I was a part of the project team with a strategic designer and a data scientist. Together, we ensured that the customer’s data strategy would be designed to also work outside the whiteboard.
Together with the customer, we identified the relevant business cases that produce business benefits and validated the solutions with the customers to ensure that the solutions will actually benefit them in their everyday life. Although the project didn’t entail any actual application development, given that the focus was on strategic planning, the involvement of a data scientist ensured that the solutions that benefit business and the customer, will also be technically feasible in the future.
A consulting company is the sum of its parts – continuous development guarantees customer satisfaction
I found participation in the mentoring pilot worthwhile for both Nitor and me. I still focus mainly on UX design, but now I can also take on increasingly challenging service design projects that hold a different kind of appeal to me. It feels good to have both the employer and Mervi to support me. Nitor sees development as an investment and encourages employees to spend part of their working hours on it.
In addition to mentoring and conferences, each Nitor employee is entitled to Core time, which allows them to use up to 10% of their working hours to work on various projects that improve both them and Nitor. Some companies think that learning should take place in employees’ free time. The risk here is that it tends to get brushed aside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Nitor not only enables personal development, but also actively encourages it.
One way to support development is the mentoring framework utilised in the pilot, which provides general guidelines but leaves room for each pair to plan the content themselves. Clear common rules and structure contributed to the success of the mentoring. There were six pairs of us starting at the same time, and the joint meetings and closing ceremonies with diplomas, built both team spirit and the right kind of peer pressure.
I’m really happy about the opportunity I was given! It’s been wonderful to see that competence development is also important to my employer. At Nitor, you don’t have to stay in one box: everyone has the opportunity to forge their own path as an expert.