how to match?
1. What structure should the relationship have?
Since the mentorship system was specified between freshmen and upperclassmen, I made the assumption that Tom can only be a mentee, while Jerry can only be a mentor. Now the question is: How many mentors do we allow Tom? And how many mentees for Jerry?
After evaluating pros and cons of 4 alternatives, my decision was: Tom may have multiple mentors, while Jerry may also have multiple mentees.
2. What makes a good match?
Based on early-stage user interviews and analysis, it ultimately depends on mentors’ capability and motivation to help mentees.
As shown by Chart 1, I mapped all factors affecting Jerry’ capability or motivation as a mentor, and rated the priority of each factor based on these two dimensions. Jerry’ capability to help with certain topics depended on his: major, minor, career plans, class, skills, experience, organizations, courses, personality. And Jerry would be motivated mostly by shared topics: shared hobbies, shared values, languages they both speak, same hometown, same high school, same ethnicity, same nationality, and mutual friends.
Based on Chart 1, I prioritized factors with enough impact on Jerry’s capability or motivation and mapped them on Chart 2, to evaluate their priority as well as feasibility. Feasibility measured how easy and comfortable it was for Jerry to provide the information to the system.
As a result, I sorted the priority of information needed as inputs from Jerry as: Major, Minor, Class, Career Plans, Courses, Languages, Organizations, Hobbies, Hometown. While as a mentee, Tom’s priorized information was a subset of mentor’s: Major, Languages, Hobbies, Hometown.
Considering the “N Mentors - N Mentees” structure mentioned above, it’s neither necessary nor feasible to ensure that every match is a perfect combination of all these dimensions. So how should I incorporate this info into the matching process?
To answer this, I had to figure out how the match should be initiated.
3. How to initiate the match?
Let’s assume a match between Tom & Jerry: Who should take the initiative to reach out and start the matching process?
The essential trade-off occurred between the info asymmetry as a con of A and the invitation overload as a con of B. I decided on B over A since I found B easier to solve by design decisions. For info asymmetry, early-stage interviews have revealed freshmen’s difficulty in elaborating their own needs; and sometimes freshmen know what they want to ask only after knowing some upperclassmen. Therefore, it’s difficult to incorporate “My Needs for Mentors”/“My Expectations for Mentorship” as part of mentees’ profile.
While for potential invitation overload for mentors, solving it required me to figure out the detailed matching process.
4. How to maximize good matches while limiting mentors’ burdens?
As I’ve confirmed the general approach, I drafted an initial process flow for Tom to invite Jerry to be his mentor, and proposed 2 solutions for the invitation overload issue mentioned above, from both Tom’s and Jerry’s side.
I chose to limit invitations sent by Tom, since this would help Tom to be more thoughtful and responsible in sending the invitation, thus limiting invitations for mentors, and increasing “#Good Matches/#Total Invitations”.
Sounds good! But…
Now the limit could bring thoughtful and responsible invitations, while avoiding leaving the poor Tom with 5 declined/expired invitations without any chances to invite anyone else…
And of course, I decided to allow Jerry to respond to the expired invitation 10 days after Tom sent it. Since the expiration mechanism was to help Tom move on to more opportunities. If Jerry checked the invitation after 2 busy weeks of mid term and found out that Tom could be an ideal mentee, he should still be able to accept the invitation and strike a match!
Let’s look at a further concern: What if Jerry gets overwhelmed by too many paired mentees?
I proposed 3 solutions after updating the invitation process flow based on decisions described above.
I rejected option A, since early matches are not necessarily good matches. Option B was just too cruel…imagine what Tom would think if Jerry accepted his invitation first and then “unmatched” him? Option C seemed good so far. But, how should Tom kick off the contact? Solutions to this problem will be discussed in the “HOW TO KICK OFF?” part later. Before we even talk about that……
How would Tom find Jerry and decide to send the invitation? And how would Jerry decide to accept or decline?It’s essentially a “2-way selection”. Remember we talked about factors affecting mentors’ capability and motivation to help mentees? It’s time for mentors’ and mentees’ prioritized info to join the game!
For Tom to find Jerry among hundreds of potential mentors and make the decision to invite Jerry, I proposed 5 methods to incorporate Jerry’s info into Tom’s selection and listed info suitable for each method. I then rejected the 2 methods which barely fit any variable.
Once Tom invited Jerry, the only job for Jerry would be checking the invitation and deciding to accept or decline based on Tom’s info. Also, info flowing from Tom to Jerry would be way less than the other way, since freshmen had no minor, courses, or student organizations to tell. Even if they did, these variables would barely affect Jerry’s motivation to help them. As a result, I decided to show Jerry Tom’s name, photo, major, hometown, languages and hobbies in both the invitation list and the detail page.