Winner of Jumpstart Fellowship 2020
Your ‘Grammarly for video calls’ plugin that demystifies video call etiquette by correcting distracting habits and monitoring call quality

Duration: 8 weeks
Tools: Figma, Javascript, HTML/CSS, UX Research
Team: Jazz, Della & Ana

The Project

The COVID-19 pandemic propelled distributed work to the mainstream seemingly overnight. Jumpstart, a networking platform, announced their #WorkTogether Fellowship as a call to action:

Thousands of students have their internships, campus events and career fairs cancelled — what product would you create to help students connect with companies during these tough times? 

In our quest to help students overcome hurdles due to the complete lack of face-to-face interaction, we took on the challenge and built the VirtuallyBetter prototype over the course of 8 weeks. VirtuallyBetter emerged as one of the three winners of Jumpstart #WorkTogether Fellowship. Our team built VirtuallyBetter as a startup project from design to development to production.

View a short demo of VirtuallyBetter: 

Our Process

From the prompt, I broke down the 3 key objectives of what the solution should meet: 

1. Allow mentor and mentee to discover each other

2. Facilitate matching and create opportunities for mentor-mentee to connect

3. Help potential student mentors to discover their mentoring abilities and encourage them to be peer mentors

These 3 key objectives will subsequently help achieve the overarching objective:

Strengthening school community through student mentoring


Understanding the context

Although I have heard of mentoring programs and know students who have mentors, but I have not personally get acquainted with mentorship in school. I did some research online and explored other mentoring app or programs and started gathering some initial thoughts. Many knows and feels that mentoring is impactful and helpful to someone, but why is it not as prevalent as it should be? Why do mentoring programs have huge dropoff and disengagement rates?

I wanted to learn more about the wider context, what motivates mentors and mentees, what are the current channels, and what struggles are they currently facing now.

I wanted understand the underlying motivations, factors and the root cause(s) of why the current ecosystem does not meet the needs of students completely. I then researched and explored the following key questions:

What makes a good mentor-mentee fit?

How do mentors and mentees currently discover each other?

What do mentees need? What do they look out for?

Why do students who wants a mentor did not successfully find a mentors?

What motivates a student to be a mentor and are they looking for?

Why do experienced students not want/is not a mentor?


This was also what sparked my initial design question:

How can we encourage and allow mentors & mentees to discover & connect with each other?

User Interviews

Currently, peer mentoring is very much structured and embedded in the school’s ecosystem. What we might be used to are ‘buddy system’ or orientation facilitators, and in colleges, there are mentoring programs. I decided to talk to someone right at the heart of the ecosystem, Hafiz Kasman, a co-founder of a student-led successful mentoring program TMC to understand what sticks and what is common among successful mentor-mentee relationship. I also interviewed 5 other students to learn more about the answers to my key questions.

As the common themes emerged during my research, what stood out to me was the vastly similar expectations and struggles across all students in peer mentoring. That is not to say that students have similar mentoring needs and those needs were not met instead, student’s mentoring needs are very (very) nuanced. Current mentoring programs tries to scale mentor matching to see who matches who, sort of trying to structure mentee’s needs into boxes without giving them space to explore. Technology cannot be the focus of mentorship discovery (because there is simply no one-size-fits-all), but the community (giving mentees the right kind of communal opportunities to discover their mentors). There are some key insights that should be highlighted: 

Mentoring is not a one-off ‘Hi-bye!’ interaction,
it requires high-touch in-person engagement

The problems with the current ecosystem falls into 3 main issues: 

1. Low-touch: Career counsellors or peer facilitators are providing just one-off advice. The ‘relationship’ becomes transactional – engaging only if I need some answers from you. We need to limit in-app interactions and focus on encouraging in-person interactions. 

2. Overly structured: Because most mentoring program stipulates what you need to do at what stages, it exudes an artificial, forceful ‘mentorship’. If the mentor/mentee fails to follow the ‘structure’ in place, it encourages disengagement. 

3. Gap in helping Year 1 Freshmen and Year 2 Sophomore assimilate better: Alumni mentoring program would not be able to help them answer curriculum questions, and so their workarounds include school advisors & classmates, both of which perpetuates a one-off question & answer session. 

What does that mean?

I have decided to embrace the nuances of mentoring needs by keeping mentor discovery open and versatile. The solution would not have pre-defined structure that a mentor-mentee should do, rather it should encourage and enable in-person interactions. The solution should also help freshmen & sophomores to get access to students who could mentor them on their curriculum and in-school needs. 

Most successful peer mentorship typically forms when students are often in the same environment or space

This was revelation to me. It made alot of sense – same environment meant more organic opportunities for high-touch interactions. So, what else works? 

1. Developing trust: Both mentors and mentees need to have trust for each other to share personal struggles, as well as for providing and accepting advices. What’s apparent across students are ‘somewhat knowing my mentors, rather than some stranger’ and ‘sharing common challenges such as women in tech’. 

2. Opportunities for face-time: Current students who have mentors, often externally, commonly engage them through events and workshop.

What does that mean?

I need to design ways for students to learn more about their mentors beyond what interest them. The solution should leverage on what currently works – events, workshops, and create new opportunities to put potential mentors and mentees in the same environment.

Reframing my focus

I discovered that many students have a preconceived notion that mentors = professional, non-student individual who has probably accomplished many things in his/her life. While having these mentors may be helpful, peer mentors help us navigate through the complexities of our academic journey as a friend and as someone we look up to.

Partly due to this existing expectation of a ‘mentor’, potential student mentors shies away from mentoring others for fear of their ‘inability’. While in the previous design question, it was framed in the assumption that the role of a mentor and mentee is already recognized and form.  Hence, I reiterated my design question to focus on discovery > connect > (long-term) mentorship.

Exploration & Ideation

Design Principles

Based on what potential users prioritize, I came up with 3 key design principles that eventually guide the rest of the process.

Builds trust

Perpetuates trust in the app, the interactions as well as with their potential mentors


Feels familiar to the apps students commonly use without much learning curve.


Flexible, allows exploratory and does not constrain users to just matchmaking with mentors.

Ideating to solve the problem

To expand on possible ideas based on current problems and challenges, I conducted a simple How Might We exercise and eventually gave rise to my design requirements. 

Design Requirements

Keeping in mind the overarching goal: 

Strengthening school community through student mentoring

The overarching goal could then be achieved by satisfying these 4 core design requirements:

Facilitate nuance mentoring needs

Enable high touch interactions

Facilitate multiple mentor-mentee connection

Prompts potential students to be mentors

Sketching & Wireframing

With the design requirements and features in mind, I started to put pen on paper and wireframed what the typical user flow would be like. 

After several iterations and understanding the core user flow and features for this app, I decided to move my sketches into low-fidelity screens using Figma. 

Prototype & Test

Design Exploration & Low-fidelity

From my sketches and low-fidelity screens, I came up and explored with two concepts that would satisfy my goals: Commonalities-driven Model & Community Questions-&-Answers Model. The key difference in these two concepts are on the signing up/onboarding process as well as the content that is shared on the app. I will be going into details of my design rationale.


Concept 1: Commonalities-driven Model

Key Insight: New students often struggle to assimilate into school. Challenges such as lack of curriculum and co-curricular advisement with little guidance.

I delved into what new students struggle to know in their first years that experienced students would be in the best position to help – curriculum advise and co-curricular activities. To do this seamlessly I figured that since it is an app by the school we should be able to sign in via the college’s SSO. This concept is also driven to display mentors and suggestions based on commonalities on top of ‘interest-fit’ – such as courses taken, events attended, background, program, goals etc. 

There are no skip button mainly because the app is a relatively new concept in school and students briefly capture the main idea of how the app can help them by scanning through the onboarding pages. 

Because of the SSO functionality, student’s basic information such as their name, program, major, and courses enrolled could be used to ensure seamless, low-effort onboard. What the users only need to complete would be what we don’t know, i.e. what they are looking for (their goals etc.)

Although over time we are able to know what user’s interests are, it is still imperative to ask them. We want to be able to display information about their program, related mentors right at the onset before students feel that the app is irrelevant.  

Key Insight: Student mentoring needs are very (very) nuanced 

In general, both the homepage and discover page presents itself as an exploratory app that allows you to figure out what works for you. Mentors who has similar experience with you would be suggested, based on what you searched for as well. In this example, the app knows that Jane took the course HCDE 518, is a first-year student and hence suggested mentors who share similar courses with her (so mentor-mentee could empathize with each other). If the suggestions does not pan out, students could always go back to explore groups and events that displays other mentors.

Key Insight: Creating more opportunities for face time

I leveraged on what already works (e.g. events, workshop) and added a functionality to invite mentors (or others to the event) – to create more in-person engagement. However, the more impactful feature is the ‘Coffee chat’ feature that prompts potential mentee (for texting for some time with the mentor) to invite the mentor to for an in-person chat. 

Key Insight: Mentoring should not feel forced or structured

These ‘coffee chats’ or reminders are prompts set in place to encourage students to have in-person engagement, rather than to rigidly push them that they ‘have to meet’. 

Concept 2: Community Questions-&-Answer Model

I explored the assumption that school’s SSO could not be used and I wanted to test if it benefits students to read what other mentors’ advice and tips are in various interest topics. Hence, what is different between concept 1 and 2 is that the latter promotes mobile sharing of advice and knowledge – similar to ‘Quora’. Mentors or members of the group can post advice that others might find useful, and in return, mentee could also consider mentors based on their responses and advices. In the screens below, I highlighted the main differences between Concept 1 and 2, mainly the onboarding process and how mentors interacted in the app (via a question-answer model rather than through community groups).

Concept Testing

All 4 users that I talked to prefers a commonalities-driven model, namely for the following 2 reasons: 

1. The attributes it considers are multi-faceted (courses, goals, interests, events went, groups and others) relative to apps that considered only interests or hobbies etc. Mentoring needs are nuanced and the app successfully encompassed the nuances of mentorship.

2. By encouraging questions-and-answers, we are perpetuating more in-app interactions among mentors and mentees (not what we are looking for! We want to limit in-app interactions and our app should be an enabler for in-person engagement.).

With the feedbacks from my testing, I iterated and designed my high-fidelity screens. In the next phase, I highlighted the essential screens and my rationale behind them.

Iterate & Design Solution

So, what was considered in the hi-fi solution?

From the basics, I stuck to the bottom navigation with 4 main views that follows a sequential flow: 

1. Home

2. Discover

3. Messages

4. Profile

At the user’s Home, it is where personalized feed and content appears. Aligning to current students’ mental model, I decided to follow a similar infinite scroll interaction where users could browse mentors who shares common experience with them, recent events that I might have interest in (or if my mentors are attending), group activities and so on. I will be highlighting on the 3 main flow of the mobile app in detail.


From my testing and research, I discovered that in looking for a mentor, they are pretty focused on what they are interested to relate with and talk about. They want to talk to mentors who share similar experience AND at the same time, knows their stuff (their domain/discipline). Mentee will be taking advice from these peer mentors and they want to trust that their mentors are informed in their domain. Similar hobbies are secondary priorities. Hence, in understanding their interest, I focused on domains and topics of discussion, not hobbies. Students could input their hobbies in their profile thereafter if they like. 

As I mentioned previously, with the school’s SSO login, it allows us to pull basic information about the student (name, program, major etc.) ensuring a seamless, quick and easy process as information are auto-populated for students. 

In the onboarding process, I wanted to keep this open – knowing what they need and explore hence ‘I’m looking for’ instead of ‘Mentors I’m looking for’. The subtle difference frames students’ mind as they onboard the app.And in the process of exploring Circle, if they need a mentor, ‘here are some great ones!’

Here are some of the main onboarding screens:

Home & Discover

Encouraging in-person interactions will happen in these 3 channels:

1. Events
This is what works now and I hence I leveraged on to help mentees discover mentors. 

2. Interest groups 
Encouraging mentees/mentors to discover interest or domain groups (e.g. Accessible Technology Group, VoiceUX Group etc.) This promote the sharing of the same environment with group activities and interactions. 

3. Coffee chats (by prompts)
While chatting with mentors in the app, as the app detects increased exchanged of messages, it will prompt students to interact face to face for more impactful relationship. I wanted to be clear not to encourage too much in-app interaction if they could converse face-to-face.

From my testing, some users like the fact that in Concept 2, mentees could view what mentors shared and advised, at the same time, some were not sure if all the advice would be relevant or constructive. An insight gathered from the testing was that students in the group might want to engage in conversations. To ensure that non-group members could glean the most constructive information or conversation from the group in the fastest way, I iterated the hi-fi screen to include a feature called ‘Pins’ in the group screen. 

From my research, what works in some mentoring programs is when there is a Community Lead, someone who actively promotes mentor-mentee engagement and touchbase with existing mentor and mentees without being intrusive. I adapted this concept with the group and have Community Lead manage what to ‘pin’ publicly their group page. Pinning meant that only a selected few conversations or exchange are displayed/highlighted so that students could get the most within a quick scan. 

Here are some of the screens on Home & Discover:
(Due to technical limitations, pardon me for the extended images on the phone’s mockup)

Profile & Messages

When I was designing for the in-app messages, I considered having coffee chats scheduled (e.g. requesting coffee chats with date and time picker), but it seems like an attempt to structure interactions. Hence, I brought in encouraging prompts that reminds and promote the effectiveness of in-person coffee chats. I figured if the students are truly interested in the mentorship, this reminder would be a sufficient push for them to start engaging.

What was interesting was my contemplation to remove the term ‘mentors’ entirely. Requesting for mentorship seems like a very awkward process, and the term ‘mentor’ might push some students away. But through my research with students and student mentors, I realized that the term ‘Mentors’ and officially requesting for ‘Mentorship’ is necessary to formalize the relationship to ensure commitment and responsibility.

To help experienced students recognized that they could be a mentor, we remind them that ‘Hey, you have experienced how impactful peer mentoring was for you. And now you have something to offer to others. Start mentoring!’ Often times, experienced students do not even know that they could be mentors, so a push in the right direction could help them take the first step.

Here are some of the screens on Profile & Messages:
(Due to technical limitations, pardon me for the extended images on the phone’s mockup)

Stretch Goal & Retrospective

Stretch Goal

I have always considered how we should also encourage students to have external mentors, yet at the same time, refrain from overlapping functions with current channels such as LinkedIn. External, working professional mentors are impactful for experienced students, especially in providing the right career advice and direction. I did not want to create a new LinkedIn, but instead I wanted to leverage on the current Circle app to encourage in-person interactions with mentors outside of campus. 

In the mockup above, I wanted the tablet to be displayed in events, workshops and other publicly UW-external activities. Currently, the school has many events that external professionals or alumni are actively participating in and I wanted to leverage on that. Professionals who come to the event would see the tablet and get prompted to join Circle’s mentoring community to meet other mentors and UW mentees.

We could display mentors or mentees currently checked in in the event and after connecting, these professionals could have an external Circle’s login that allow them to connect and engage with mentors and mentees in the app. Features such as ‘Potential mentees currently at ConveyUX…’ or ‘Meet other mentors at ConveyUX’ would be useful. This promotes in-person interaction as well as allow students to expand their network and engage in external mentorship. 


As I looked back over the 5-day sprint…

What was helpful
Engaging in-depth, empathizing and talking to students and an ‘expert’ within the ecosystem first-hand was probably what grounded my design decisions the most. Even as a student, I was unaware with the many nuances of mentoring as well as challenges that current students faced. I know I wanted to interview a range of users: Current student mentors, mentee who has a student mentor, students who do not have a mentor, experienced students who are not mentors. This gave me such well-rounded insights across the board. 

Given more time,
I would conduct more design exploration with more students. Reason being, I realized that showing these design exploration with students helped them to visualize possible scenarios and challenges. Without these explorations, it would be difficult for them to pluck out what they thoughts are immediately given that for some of them, they might not even had a peer mentoring experience. Lastly, test, test and more test! Testing and iterating is fundamental to my design process. With more time, I would definitely have done more testings and iteration! 

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