Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

This Is How I Went From Being a Teacher to a UX Designer

Eva Penzeymoog
Eva Penzeymoog

Eva Penzeymoog—now a UX designer at 8th Light—never thought she’d end up in tech. She always thought she’d become a teacher, and that’s exactly where her career started. After graduating from college, she became a City Year AmeriCorps member and started teaching non-native speakers.

While Corps members typically move on after one year, Penzeymoog signed on for a second year as a team leader. And after that, they hired her as an operations manager. Two years later, she was ready to “leave the incredible bubble of City Year and try something new,” she says. She just wasn’t sure what.

One day, while on the phone with a City Year tech expert, he told her she should pursue a career in tech.

“I think I started laughing out loud,” she shares. “But, he explained that I was one of the few people who always tried figuring out why a problem occurred so I could prevent it in the future. Most people just hang up after their issue’s resolved. Eventually, I realized he was right—I did enjoy quietly puzzling through a computer problem.” So, Penzeymoog started researching careers in tech, and ultimately was drawn to writing code.

“I love language, so why not learn the language of computers?” she says. So, she enrolled in a 10-week web development immersive with General Assembly.

A few weeks before it started, though, she got into a bicycling accident. Due to her injuries, she had to put off the immersive for a few months. In the meantime—not wanting to lose steam—she took front-end classes two nights a week, which helped Penzeymoog realize she loves front-end design.

Keep reading to learn more about Penzeymoog’s story.

What Happens When an Immersive Program Ends?

Most people who come out of a program like mine—even if they had no previous tech experience—are ready for a job as a junior designer or developer or for an internship or apprenticeship. Of course, being ready for those jobs depends on how much you put into the program. I worked really intensely for those 10 weeks and did everything possible to get myself ready, which paid off.

I had a few offers for internships and contract jobs and ended up getting the one I wanted most: an apprenticeship at 8th Light, a software consultancy where designers do both design and front-end development. At the end of my five months, I completed a series of challenges and got hired as a designer. I’ve been with the company almost two years now!

What’s Your Favorite Part About Being a UX Designer?

I love UX because empathy’s a requirement. Using empathy in your work is a skill, which is something I actually learned during my time at City Year, as it’s one of their 10 values. With UX, you have to be able to put aside your ego in order to do the proper research, discover the best solution, and figure out how to build it in a way that’s the most intuitive to people. That human interaction, that human part of building software—that is what I love about UX.

What Career Advice Do You Have for Others?

A skill you don’t have is just a skill you haven’t learned yet.

A lot of people see tech workers as doing work they themselves could never understand. I used to think that way, too. But pulling back the curtain on design and development showed me that these are just skills, and skills can be learned.

There’s no magic going on here, just a bunch of specific skills that you can pick up with the right dedication and learning environment.