Laura McDermott on founding the HST Mentor Program & making lasting connections

Meet the inspiring alumni making students’ lives easier while forming lasting connections and building their skill set. These alumni are part of the HST Mentor Program, and today we’re talking to the woman who started it all: Laura McDermott.

Every year at HST, thousands of students come in and out of programs, learning from their professors and each other along the way. But in a time when remote working is the norm, something needs to maintain and strengthen those connections over time. Something needs to allow alumni and current students to communicate, share ideas, and learn in a consistent way. 

That “something” came about thanks to Laura McDermott, Master in Customer Experience & Innovation alumni and founder of the HST Mentor Program

In this interview, Laura explains the inspiration and challenges she and her colleagues faced when creating the program. 

What inspired you to start the Mentor Program?

I saw how valuable it could be for students to have support during their learning journey, and for alumni to stay actively connected with the HST Community while enhancing their skills.

What can mentees and mentors expect from the program? What will they get out of it?

Mentees can expect to meet enthusiastic and empathetic people from other generations of their program, learn about how to manage and grow in their program, and build connections.

Mentors can expect to meet people who are going through a similar journey to theirs, as well as honing their design and facilitation skills and strengthening their connection to the HST Community.

What have you learned along the way?

I’ve learned that community and connections between people don’t just make themselves. That’s why design-thinking techniques and the use of empathy and creativity are at the core of this program.

How did the Mentor Program force you to step outside your comfort zone?

The biggest step outside my comfort zone came with the first pilot of the program in 2018. At that time, we had big ideas for the program but had no idea how it would evolve. At times, it was challenging to start something so unique from scratch, but we have taken a very lean approach and learned so much over time. I’m extremely grateful to have been able to experiment with the program alongside my former professors and now colleagues/friends. 

During your master’s program, how important were your classmates in your learning process? Are you still in touch with any of them?

My classmates were at the core of my learning journey in the program. Our class had very diverse profiles, so it was amazing to learn from them, not only on a professional level but also on a personal one. I’m still very close with some of them, and what’s great about the Mentor Program is that I’ve met so many more alumni from my same program over the years, who I consider to be just as important in my learning process.

For more information about the HST Mentor Program, visit the official webpage.


Laura McDermott is an Irish design and innovation consultant based in Madrid. She is the Design Lead in the Center for Social Innovation at IE Business School, Project & Design Lead for the Faculty and Student Experience at HST, and Adjunct Professor and Mentor in the Master in Customer Experience & Innovation. Laura consults on innovation projects, specifically from a behavioral lens. She has published articles in The Beam and Global Voices, as well as receiving two IE Awards for the Humanities for her writings on ethics, democracy, behavioral design and sustainability.