Heather Williams

Introduction to Coding, October 2017

Heather, 33, was working as a maths teacher in a secondary school when she started thinking about a career change. She heard about Tech Returners on social media.

I had been working as a secondary school maths teacher since 2010 when I started thinking about a career change. I’d never really planned to go into teaching and the longer I was doing it, the less I was enjoying it. Career changes can be daunting however, especially when you have a lot of experience and don’t want to start again at the bottom.

I had originally applied for a job on a graduate training scheme as a software developer and thought it had been secured, so I quit my job – but unfortunately it ended up falling through and I was left without a plan! I decided to have an impromptu career break and went to Australia for five weeks as I was desperate for a change.

I think I’ve always had an interest in tech. About a year ago, I went to a free workshop for people who wanted to get a feel for programming and did an hour of coding. I really enjoyed it as it covered the technical side, incorporating my maths background, but I also have a degree in graphic design so it felt really creative. My interest was there, but I wasn’t sure how to progress it.

When I came back I heard about Tech Returners on social media. I thought it looked amazing, but wasn’t sure I was what they were looking for. I went for it anyway by filling in the online form and was open about how I had ended up on a career break and why I was looking to move towards a career in tech. I was thrilled to be accepted!

I was part of the first 11-week Tech Returners cohort. From the first week, I loved it and felt really comfortable straight away with Beckie and Laura. I had felt like a bit of a phony initially as my career break hadn’t been for long and I don’t have children to factor in, but I think my confidence had lowered when I had my career break leading me to start doubting whether I could find a job. I was really shocked at how fast that happened.

Even though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after Tech Returners, I now realise that I was getting a lot of help with my real skills development every week in a really subtle way, like confidence boosting. It was very inspiring to hear from other women who had made a career change into different roles in tech on the course - the more I spoke to people who had done it, the more it felt possible. There were tips and advice on starting a new career path and it was hugely valuable. I was actually offered a job while I was taking part in Tech Returners, but the new role wouldn’t allow me the flexibility to complete my course at the same time as working so I turned the job down.

Towards the end of the Tech Returners course, I suddenly felt like I was ready to move forwards. I was confident that I could use it as a springboard to decide what I wanted to do next and keep moving forwards – this was the confidence boost Tech Returners gave me. Even though the course was ending, the support was still very much there from Beckie on an ongoing basis.

I saw a role as a tester online with AO.com which coincided with a workshop on Tech Returners on rewriting CVs – Beckie had given me some feedback on my CV and I applied for the role, not even thinking I was going to get it. I was offered it! Part of the feedback I received from my new employer was that by taking part in Tech Returners, I had actually gone out and done something practical about a career change and it was this which made me stand out from the other applicants.

I started my new role as a tester in April and absolutely love it. It is an ideal role for me as it uses a lot of my tech skills, but also the people skills I have from being a teacher. I work closely with the marketing team developing product pages.

My family say the difference in me in three months is amazing and I’ve gone from teaching and being stressed out to working in tech, loving my job and loving going to work. It’s amazing. I still think at some point I would have made a move into tech, but not with the confidence I have now and certainly I wouldn’t have applied for my job.

Tech Returners gave me the ability to go out and do something about changing my career, helping me determine my next steps. It’s completely changed my life and I would definitely encourage other people to do it.