Changing careers: how I swapped Teaching for Development

Team Glean's Jonathan Mew talks us through his journey from teaching to working at Glean as a Solutions Architect.

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 2 Nov 2023
Author Jonathan Mew
Changing careers: how I swapped Teaching for Development


Ask a group of Developers what they studied at university and you might be surprised. Sure you’ll likely have some Computer Scientists and Mathematicians, but it’s not at all unusual to find people who studied Science, Music or Languages too.

My degree was in Biology, (though admittedly I shoehorned in as much Maths as I could).

Life before Development

After finishing university without a clear direction, I had a couple of short-term jobs before deciding to train as a science teacher. After an exciting year teaching in China, I went through my PGCE and completed my NQT year in sunny Cornwall.

By this point, it was becoming clear that I was missing a couple of soft skills. Skills that, while not by any means essential, could cut a lot of the stress from the career. Not just that, but I’d noticed that some of the most talented teachers at the school, who had been teachers for five or six years and had those soft skills finely honed, were still working their weekends and half terms just to keep up.

I just couldn’t imagine working like that and being a parent, something that was part of 'The Plan'. So I sat down and thought about what else I might enjoy. 

I had especially missed the logical problem-solving side of studying maths. I’ve also always been intrigued at how things worked - it’s certainly part of what drew me to Biology.

I sunk plenty of hours into the family PC as a teen, and naturally got to wondering how it worked. I’d fiddled about with JavaScript in the late 90’s, worked through some Project Euler puzzles in C++ at university and tried a bit of PHP and MySQL while teaching.

Maybe software development was something I’d enjoy doing full-time.

Ways into the industry

The next step was to research ways into the industry. There were Bootcamps, which seemed rather expensive for the contact time, and I wasn’t sure how valuable they would be to a potential employer.

Likewise, I found academy programs, many with some rather suspicious strings attached. Open-source projects can be a great way to get experience in a project you are excited about, but I didn’t really feel confident enough to ask the right questions to start contributing.

I also now know there are plenty of recruitment agencies that specialise in tech jobs, or apprenticeship schemes, that might be worth a try for anyone considering the switch.

As someone who now interviews potential candidates, at Glean we are looking for confidence, awareness and understanding of a single language more than any specific credentials.

My wife was incredibly supportive and helped me to track down some companies that might consider hiring Developers based solely on potential. Eventually we had a shortlist of six companies and I began applying.

It wasn’t easy to coordinate interviews while working as a full-time teacher in Cornwall. I somehow managed to get to a full-day assessment in London and a half-day interview in Leeds.

I was turned down by the first company, but was offered a job at the second and snapped it up. Fortunately, as we were renting and didn’t have kids yet, relocating wasn’t a challenge.

Working as a Developer at Glean

The first tech company I worked for was unusual in its processes and attitudes, but very driven and focused. I will always be grateful that they gave me the core training and experience I needed to land my subsequent jobs.

After spending one to two years in my first three Developer jobs, I’ve now worked at Glean for five years and counting. I’ve had the opportunity to grow with the company and try my hand at various Engineering roles - mostly due to the size of the company and the growth it has experienced while I’ve been here.

I’ve had plenty of chances to teach as well!

With the constant evolution of tools and the wider ecosystem, and the steep learning curve for new developers, everywhere I’ve worked we’ve had a need to coach and share knowledge and experience. So in the end I’ve got the best of both worlds.

I’m confident that Software Development is a better fit for me than teaching was. I’m grateful to work at a place like Glean, with a mission that I care about and which does a great job of nurturing and supporting its employees in this fast-paced industry.

Maybe it would be a good fit for you too…

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