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From Primary School Teacher to UX Designer

After 21 years of teaching, Emma reached a crossroads. Should she stay in teaching or leap into a new career pathway? Combined with the extra responsibilities of parenthood, Emma began exploring new pathways.

From Primary School Teacher to UX Designer


Tech Talent Engine


Since her earliest memories, Emma always set her heart on becoming a teacher. Whether babysitting or working in a nursery, this passion for children set the trajectory for her career.

After completing a gap year in America, which further instilled her passion for working with children, Emma enrolled at Sunderland University to pursue a three-year primary school education course. Opting for the quickest route to teacher certification, Emma embarked on this intensive programme, eager to see what lies ahead.

Upon completing her degree, Emma chose Sunderland as her professional home, eventually dedicating 21 years to teaching. Looking back, Emma reflects on her time as a teacher fondly, adding:

I felt like I was making a big difference to the children’s education. I had a great work-life balance initially and the job was really enjoyable.

However, it wasn’t until Emma became a parent that her priorities changed.

A change of plan

Despite enjoying 21 years in the teaching profession, Emma reached a point where teaching no longer brought the same joy it used to. This was due to several reasons - one being the introduction of Ofsted regulations and the second a reduction in the work-life balance she had always praised. Emma adds:

My days started to become longer, I had to be at work by 8:00 am and I wasn’t leaving until 6:00 pm. After that, I was then doing another four hours in the evening after work – it just wasn’t the life I wanted to live anymore.

My work-life balance was completely off. The workload was unmanageable, pupil behaviour had worsened since COVID, and teacher autonomy was dwindling. This made it a far less enjoyable profession.

Combined with the extra responsibilities of parenthood, Emma began exploring alternative pathways within education. Given her passion for IT, she initially cultivated these skills as a hobby, eventually advancing to manage the school website.

Code First Girls

During COVID, Emma dedicated her spare time to refining her technological skills and enrolled in a course with Code Girls First. Spanning 8 weeks, the course introduced Python and various coding languages.

Once she had gained confidence in this course, Emma then quickly progressed to other courses which gave her more confidence to pursue coding and designing websites.

In one school holiday, she had signed up for an online five-day free code camp with the Code Institute. As the boundary between teaching and home life became blurred, Emma’s confidence improved. Having completed the 5-day course Emma then signed up for a one-year Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development through the City of Bristol College. Emma remembers the moment it all became clear:

I sat down with my husband, and we chatted about my career. We decided that I just needed to take a break from teaching and pursue a career in IT.

Receiving a job offer at South Tyneside Council

After dedicating 21 years to teaching, Emma made the bold decision to transition out of education in 2022, a move she has never regretted.

When a job opportunity cropped up at South Tyneside Council to be a Service Desk Officer, Emma readily applied as it offered the chance to work with IT systems. This passion had been nurtured during summer breaks, where she completed courses like Code First Girls and the Code Institute.

Only a year later, having completed the Level 5 diploma, an opportunity to be a UX Designer came up on a three-year secondment within the team, which she readily applied to.

UX Designer role

As a UX Designer, Emma spends a lot of her time designing usable and accessible websites and digital services.

This includes producing accessible HTML documents for the website to meet government standards, providing a web platform that works for all users and regularly updating campaigns.

When it comes to updating websites, this involves council campaigns such as Young Health Ambassadors or the ‘a better u’ site. As a UX Designer, I support the build, launch and maintenance of the websites and applications.

What is it like working at South Tyneside Council?

Moving from education to IT was daunting initially but has significantly changed Emma’s life. Alongside an improvement in her general work-life balance, Emma also praises the flexibility at South Tyneside Council.

As a parent, flexitime is a massive help. So, if I need to clock off early to pick my kids up from school, I can do that. Whereas flexible working isn’t possible in teaching.

In situations when personal matters arise, such as unexpected family emergencies or medical appointments, Emma finds the understanding and support of her colleagues and supervisors invaluable.

This willingness to accommodate Emma’s needs fosters a sense of mutual respect and trust, allowing her to navigate both her professional and personal responsibilities with greater ease and peace of mind.

There’s also a great option called stuck not sick, which allows you to take a personal day. For example, if your car has broken down and you don’t want to take a holiday or sick day. These are just a few examples of why it’s a fantastic place to work.

From educating pupils to communicating with clients

As a teacher, a core aspect of Emma’s role involves being able to communicate with her pupils in an easy-to-understand way.

This ability to engage with individuals of all ages seamlessly translates to her current profession, where she frequently communicates with clients to identify the root of the problem. Similarly, time management skills are crucial to ensure a steady management of student homework and lesson preparation.

As Emma spent more time in her role, it became clear that there were several transferrable skills in this sector, adding: “As a teacher, I’ve got deadlines that I’ve got to try and meet. It’s the same with the council.

Especially with working from home, you’ve got to try and manage your deadlines and make sure you are working to those timescales without getting distracted. Problem-solving and time management skills are two factors that are crucial in coding.

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Always push yourself and believe you can do it

Transitioning careers at any point can be daunting, especially for Emma, who shifted from a non-IT sector. She firmly believes that with sufficient motivation, anyone can accomplish anything.

Her advice to others? Never be afraid to change.

It’s never too late to change your career. I’m 47 now, so I’m later in my career. I think if you have something in mind that you want to do, just go for it. Think about what your strengths are and head down that path. I think if you work hard and you build strong relationships with people, then you will be rewarded further down the line.

Further to this, demonstrating a willingness to go the extra mile is crucial for career advancement. This indicates your dedication and effort beyond your expected objectives.

Sometimes, I think it’s good to have that flexibility of being able to help in other areas. Even if it’s not to do with your traditional job, saying you will help with something but also recognising your barriers.

Start your journey in the tech sector

Emma’s story proves that anyone can enter the tech sector at any stage in their careers, regardless of background or education.

If you’re considering switching careers in the tech sector, allow us to help you make this transition. Tech Talent Engine can help you find a job, network with employers and access upskilling opportunities.

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