Connections Prompt Plan Adjustments


It’s week two of the mentor process journey and I’ve finally heard from all my prospects.

Unfortunately, ′L,′ a subject matter expert (SME) in the topic and audience of my senior project, won’t be able to meet me until she completes an all-consuming major office move in mid-April. I will follow through and eventually meet her but it won’t be until after this term ends. As a back-up, I’m reaching out to ‘N,’ another SME who oversees communications and stakeholder relations for one of Ontario’s CCAC and is a former employer.

I had my first meeting with ′M′ on Tuesday morning. In the high level agenda I sent the Sunday before, I outlined the overall purpose of the meeting as to get a preliminary overview of her background and transition to digital. I also expressed an interest in learning about recommendations for boosting my analytics knowledge/skills.  M’s reputation precedes her and so as predicted, she was warm, congenial and professional. (Off the top, she inquired about my professor, who she knows, and thought teaching and yoga were great fits.)

M said her transition to digital was back in 1996 (earlier than I initially thought). In the early days, she explained how she made sketches with buttons and draft screens to outline to developers how she wanted a solution to look and act. Today, she works for a global agency with very specialized divisions and experts to handle those details, leaving her to oversee clients and accounts.

We talked about what I see as the challenge of being a generalist in a competitive world where experts are held in high esteem. I explained that in the PR world (where I cut my teeth), you had to master strategy to execution across the board. Ideally, you also had to keep a hand in tactics, even as you rose in seniority. M suggested that large teams with specialists/experts are great but also expensive. In contrast, smaller teams with more generalists are more cost efficient. M prefers them as you get fewer but more committed people on the team. She sees account teams shift between both types, as accounts evolve and budgets often need to scale back.

I suggested that I’m particularly interested in content strategy but also want to work toward roles where I’m engaged in developing digital strategy — or as M described it the “why” of digital. M deemed either goal feasible and saw them as integrated. She stressed the value of an effective CMS and content strategy in the projects she manages for financial service clients, as well as a large retailer.

Specifically, M said an effective content strategist can:

  • Identify and reuse consistent content across platforms
  • Develop a foundational content library with just the ‘right’ quantity of consistent assets for effective use across platforms.
  • Manage the ‘how’ components of the customer’s journey along a smooth path to purchase.

She also asked me about Centennial’s program, which gave me the opportunity to weave in my senior project, along with other highlights.  M quickly grasped the value of my project and appeared interested. She asked me if I had a field placement yet and proactively volunteered to look into options at her agency but cautioned there may be an age bias. She wants to introduce me to one of her content strategists, who can give me more insight and look at my work. As for analytics, she admits to only scratching the surface but may be able to connect me with an expert who can offer more in-depth advice.

As per action items discussed, a sent her a link to an overview of Centennial’s program, field placement dates, my available meeting times and resume. I did not expect her to express an interest in me as an intern at this stage but it’s wonderful that she did. So I’ll do my best to follow through and see what happens.

I was also recently in touch with ‘MH’ a web designer, who I’ve hired and referred on several occasions. When he learned I was studying interactive media management, he suggested we meet.  So although MH was not part of my original mentor plan, I think meeting with him will complement it.

Illustration Source: Godidwlr via Morgue File.

First Foray into My Mentorship Strategy

Untitled design

I sent out three meeting requests to three prospective mentors in the past week (on March 11, 12 and 13), through three distinct approaches/channels: a referral, a cold call and a continued LinkedIn conversation.

  • The first was a referral request a friend sent via LinkedIn on my behalf to ‘M,’ a digital sector veteran, who happens to be her cousin.
  • The second was a cold call email to ‘L,’ a subject matter expert in caregivers, my senior project’s target audience.
  • The third was shifting a LinkedIn conversation I had previously began with ‘D,’ a UX designer, to the meeting ‘ask’ stage.

Then, I had a nail-biting week waiting to see if any of these prospects would respond and for awhile, it looked somewhat grim. As life often throws off the best laid plans, M took a week to response because she was away in Salt Lake City. After waiting three business days for L, I followed up by phone, discovered she’s on vacation until March 23 and left a voice message. D responded after four days.

So I now have my first meetings tentatively set with M for this coming Tuesday (March 24) and with D on Saturday, March 28. The later first meeting with D gives me time to work up draft wireframes of my senior project, which he previously agreed to look at.

In the interim, I’m planning for these meetings and learning what I can about these individuals.

M’s facebook profile tells me she’s a skier and a mom with two little girls but I can’t see into much of her recent life, as she wisely tightened her privacy settings last spring. Her LinkedIn profile seems to show her major transition into digital came in 2000, about six years into her career, when she worked in the Toronto office of a US digital agency. She also has strong staying power, having stayed a minimum of two years in all her roles and nine in her current role as an Account Director for a global agency.

I’ve committed to send her an overview (i.e. agenda/POAD) on the weekend. One of the first things I’d like to learn is how she made the leap from ‘intense’ hard copy government/financial services account management to digital. I think it may also be safe to add enquiries about tools/training to boost my analytic skills to the agenda for this first meeting.

As for D’s background, he’s pretty quiet on social media. From what I can tell, he has a LinkedIn profile and Twitter account, which he’s set aside for a couple of months. Still, his tweets tell me he’s interested in classical music, Toronto trivia and its congestion challenges, plus innovative apps, designs and data visualizations.  I re-tweeted his post on a data visualization project from MIT to help build support and because it was interesting. His background is a mix but I really want to learn about best practices in UX to incorporate in my senior project and elsewhere.