How I Went From Project Manager to UX Designer in 3 Months

8 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today’s story is from Elena Gorman, a 40-year-old UX Designer at the UX design studio Qrious, living in Gateshead, U.K. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“When I was in my last job as a Project Manager, we were developing an online platform that would connect people with digital and tech jobs. I kept reading about user experience, and I thought it just seemed like a career that was exactly right for me.

At the time, I was learning Python and blogging about it, because nobody who knows me would believe that I’d go into coding. I decided to sign up for a free evening course on UX, and within a few minutes, I just knew that it was going to be for me. Everything about UX felt right: the creativity, coming up with new ideas, and the approach to research.

Elena resigned from her job and poured her time into coding and studying UX.

Then, something changed at work, and my entire team resigned. I thought, I could either find another project management job and learn UX on the side, or I can just really throw myself into it, try and learn everything I can now, and see if I can get a UX job.”

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How I made time to learn

“It is an absolute juggle, and some days it works and some days it doesn’t. I have to be flexible, because there isn’t really time. I will work a full day, pick up my two children, cook for them, get them to bed — and my children can wake up at any time multiple times. So it’s normally late nights and early hours in the morning that I’ll study.

Finding time to learn with two young children can be an “absolute juggle,” Elena says. 

When I was out of work and looking for a job, I was literally up until 1 or 2 in the morning studying and trying to learn. But I loved it so much that I had to pull myself away from the computer to go to bed. Learning is like a luxury for me. After being off with the children for maternity leave, I feel like I’m building up my career again — and that’s something for me, and also for my children to see that it’s possible for women to have careers, progress, and follow their dreams.”

How I saved up enough money to switch careers

“I was really lucky that my employer at the time [Durham University] gave me temporary access to a Codecademy Pro account, as we had bought a batch of Pro accounts for our learners on the TechUP programs. There was a spare account that I could use, so I didn’t have to pay for it myself.

The only money I’ve parted with is about £120 for an annual membership at the Interaction Design Foundation. All the other things that I’ve done have been free, apart from a one-day boot camp, which was about £200. The boot camp was out of my budget with the kids and being out of work, but my current job said that they would cover it for me because I was going to move into the company. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without their support.”

How long it took me to find a job

“I started my first UX course in April, and I resigned in the middle of May, with my last day of work in June. I got hired as a UX Designer in July 2022.”

How I got in the door

“This has been a completely different job-searching journey for me than with any other role that I’ve had. I used LinkedIn massively and it completely transformed everything. I spent a lot of time during my training trying to build a portfolio, and I shared my journey on LinkedIn.

The absolute most important thing for me in getting this job was just speaking to lots of people who work in UX in different sectors, companies, in-house agencies, and consultancies. Some of the people I just contacted out of the blue and said, ‘You’ve got my dream job. I really want to work in this area. Would you have 15 minutes to spare to just chat about what you do?’ Almost everybody replied saying, ‘Yes.’

I also applied for 10 or 15  jobs on LinkedIn as a UX Designer, and I didn’t get a single response apart from one very badly worded automated response from a recruitment agent. That can be soul-destroying.

Qrious, the experience transformation design studio I’m with now, didn’t even have a vacancy advertised, but they saw my LinkedIn post where I explained that I want to get into UX and bullet-pointed all of the things that I think make me good as a potential hire.

Elena shared updates on LinkedIn that got the attention of recruiters and C-suite executives.

Apparently the CFO saw it and sent it to the CEO. At the same time, I spoke to a recruiter and they said, ‘I’ve been forwarding your CV to these people about a completely different role at the same company.’ So they were seeing my CV and profile from different places and they thought, Oh, follow this application.

They had the capacity within their team to take on a new UX Designer. So they’ve brought me in as a UX Designer, but the company shaped the role slightly so that I could come in from day one and contribute my project management experience, and help them with funding applications, while learning about all the projects they’ve got. Now I’m taking on some UX work, and they’ll train me up so I can get involved in projects.”

How I nailed the interview

“I ended up speaking to the COO first, then I spoke to one of their UX Designers, and went into the studio to meet the [18-person] team as a whole. I went in again and they got pizza, and we all sat around and talked. It was the most wonderful experience. It didn’t at any point feel like I was interviewing, it just felt like we were just seeing whether we could work together.”

It was important for Elena to find a job at a company that shared her values.

How I evaluated the offer

“You have to find the right place, and you don’t know that until you speak to people at a company several times. Listen to how they talk about people who have left the company, and what they do to support people within their organization. What do they value? Through those conversations, I got a sense of what it’d be like to work from home, what a UX Designer means in their company, and what their vision is for the future.”

How day one & beyond went

“It was absolutely amazing. I had a good feeling about it, and I really tried to find a company that I felt shared my values and would be supportive, and I think I’ve landed on my feet. I’ve learned a lot — my head is full of stuff! And I’m also very aware of all the stuff I’ve got to learn coming up and I’m so excited. It’s going to be really good, and the people are lovely.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“Before I started learning, I thought that the gold standard would be to do a boot camp, but they cost thousands of pounds. When I resigned from my job, I decided: That’s it, I’m going to make my own boot camp. I pulled together my list of books, blogs, and courses and I worked my way through it.

To be honest, I wish I’d known about Codecademy’s UI/UX course really early because that would have been brilliant for learning Figma. It’s so good because you come out of it at the end with projects and something to show, which I think is so great if you’re building up your portfolio.

I would have liked to have had a mentor who’s working in UX who could help me connect with other UX Designers, because it can be hugely overwhelming. When you have very little time outside of your life, you need to use it wisely. A little bit of guidance would have given me more direction.”  

Related courses

3 courses

You can also jumpstart your journey into UX by taking our new free courses Learn User Research: Generative and Learn Design Thinking: Ideation. In these beginner-friendly courses, you’ll learn about the methods that UX teams use to conduct research, analyze their findings, and brainstorm possible design solutions using the visual collaboration platform Miro.

Not sure where to start? Check out our personality quiz! We’ll help you find the best programming language to learn based on your strengths and interests.

Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don’t forget to join the discussions in our community.

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