How I Became A UX Designer After Working As A Teacher For 8 Years

Tod tells us about his journey into UX following an 8 year teaching career…

by Jaye Hannah on 17 April 2019

tod khanian

Tod’s story begins in the melting pot of London, where he settled into a secondary school teaching career following a degree in product design. During his 8 year tenure, the subject of wood technology evolved into product design, and Tod’s hard work, dedication and determination saw him progress into an esteemed head of department role.

Having spent the latter 3 years of his teaching career in a senior role, Tod felt that his natural career progression would take him into a management position—but something was holding him back. He realized that making a leap into management would mean less teaching and more administrative responsibilities.

Tod felt conflicted. On the one hand, he wanted to progress to the highest possible level within his field. On the other hand, he felt that the new role would be too far removed from his passion for teaching. Sensing deep down that educational management wasn’t his true calling, Tod knew that it was time to explore other options.

Having kept up to date with design trends and practices alongside his teaching vocation, graphic design seemed like a logical place to start for Tod. Drawing on the parallels between product design and graphic design, he felt he’d already developed a strong portfolio of work that could aid him in his career change. However, once he’d taken some time to understand the semantics of graphic design, he felt unengaged—and quickly decided that graphic design wasn’t for him.

Remaining proactive, Tod took to the drawing board once more—this time adopting a word of mouth approach. There was one field that repeatedly surfaced in conversation: UX design. Probing further, Tod discovered that UX was a perfect amalgamation of all his core professional skills. He’d hit the jackpot.

“I found that UX was halfway between graphic design and teaching. You have the creative side, but I could also combine my educational background when considering the human psychology and behavioral elements that are so integral to UX. I also loved the idea of running workshops and interviews, as it incorporated the planning and workshopping aspect of teaching that I enjoyed so much.”

As he had already started putting together a portfolio in graphic design, Tod wasted no time and started working independently on UX design projects. He soon began exploring viable bootcamp courses—but felt overwhelmed by choice in a city with an increasingly flourishing UX scene. In the end, it was CareerFoundry’s flexibility that stood out amongst the competition. He was particularly drawn to the fact that he could do the course both part-time and online, meaning he could continue to work full-time while studying. Impressed by the exceptional level of support he’d received during his initial phone call with our team, he soon enrolled as a student.

Through learning with CareerFoundry, Tod became captivated by the world of UX. He reveled in the psychology that powered the design thinking process, and loved seeing his ideas come to life—from usability testing through to wireframing.

“I really enjoyed getting stuck in with the projects on the course, notably the immersion course project. I got completely carried away with it and thoroughly immersed myself in it.”

Within 3 months of completing the course, Tod found himself a job at an award-winning international design agency that services a myriad of high-end clients, such as the Bank of England, Cancer Research, and Mitsubishi Technologies. Tod accredits the job prep course to his success, emphasizing the importance of sticking to the advice given by your mentor, and setting realistic targets for yourself—for example, applying to 5 new jobs a week.

Tod also stresses the value of attending networking events during your job hunting period. Visiting at least one weekly meet-up, Tod made sure he spoke to a handful of people at each event and even took the extra step of following up with his new contacts on LinkedIn the following day.

“Of all the jobs I applied for, the ones that progressed to the next steps were the ones that came from a connection that I’d made at a networking event. None of the jobs I applied to randomly through a job board turned into any solid leads.”

Entering into the field of UX design as a professional was undoubtedly a learning curve for Tod. Having taught for almost a decade, he worried that he would find it hard to adapt to his new environment. Nevertheless, he remained enthusiastic about this new chapter of his life and soon settled into agency life.

As his new agency had a strong UX focus, Tod started noticing similarities between his professional projects and the projects that he’d completed while studying with CareerFoundry. In his first few months, he found he would often log back into his CareerFoundry student portal and draw on inspiration from his past projects to help him navigate a mental block he was having with a task at work.

The variety of Tod’s new role as a UX designer drives his creativity and makes him excited to come to work every day. Alongside the adventure of having a such a mixed bag of clients, Tod loves working in a place where no two days are the same. One day he might be putting together wireframes, another might see him sitting down with clients and discussing their needs. Tod also notes that while UX is largely perceived as an online vocation, he has no shortage of face-to-face communication when leading user research sessions and workshops.

For those who are considering a career in UX, Tod asserts that it’s all about your portfolio. Building up a substantial body of work and wholeheartedly immersing yourself in your projects will enable you to seamlessly navigate interview questions, showing future employers that you’re passionate—and ready for a career in UX.

Tod is thriving in his new role, and plans to stay at his current agency for at least the next few years. Reflecting on his journey, Tod’s closing statement was one that rings true for anyone on the cusp of a major career change:

“Expect to have highs and lows, and make sure you’ve got strategies in place. Above all, believe in yourself!”

The future is bright for Tod, and we can’t wait to see what he does next!

Want to follow in Tod’s footsteps and become a UX designer? Then get in touch with us today—we can’t wait to hear from you!

Want to know if a career in design is right for you? Try your hand at UX or UI and sign up for a free, introductory, short course.

Interested in reading about more of our graduates? Check out the stories below!

by Jaye Hannah on 17 April 2019

About the author

CareerFoundry Marketing Content Editor Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah is a freelance content writer and strategist, based between London and Lisbon. She's worked in EdTech for over five years, inspiring career changers on their journey into tech. When she's not writing, you'll find her whipping up new recipes in the kitchen.