A New Equation: Why an Eighth-Grade Math Teacher Went Back to School for UX/UI
Chase Hart has always loved education. But after two years as an eighth-grade math teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, he was ready for a different equation. “I wanted to do something in the tech field,” said Chase, “and I wanted to continue learning — whatever my career.”
While researching different technology boot camps, Chase found himself drawn to the field of user experience (UX). Suddenly, he realized: the skills I’ve honed in the classroom would suit me well as a UX designer. “Eighth grade students aren’t always great at communicating their problems,” said Chase. “Every day, I had to think through different situations from another person’s perspective.”
Though he didn’t know it at the time, empathy would soon become his competitive edge.
In December of 2019, Chase enrolled in Georgia Tech UX/UI Boot Camp. “I taught two years as an eighth-grade math teacher and chose this program because it promised to give me professional experience while in the classroom,” he said. “I knew I’d be in an agile environment, working with stakeholders, and that would be beneficial to getting a job after the boot camp.”
Looking back, he can safely say that his theory proved true.
Putting down roots
In the boot camp, Chase found an instant sense of community. “Everyone around you wants to change their career or learn something new,” he said. “It’s so encouraging to see you’re not the only one who wants a fresh start.”
For his first group project, Chase created a plant management app called Thrive. By conducting a series of user interviews, his team moved beyond a paper persona and into the mindsets of people struggling with plant maintenance. “We got to solve a real problem and create something that people can use daily,” said Chase.
The experience was also an invaluable primer for the workplace. “We learned how to communicate well, stay on task, manage our time, and prioritize deadlines,” he said. “That was direct preparation for the professional world.”
Halfway through the boot camp, Chase’s class moved online as a response to COVID-19. Naturally, Chase wondered whether his educational experience would change during the outbreak. Looking back, he said that it did — and for the better.
“Being remote actually helped me,” Chase explained. “It forced me to be more intentional and accurate with my communication. In person, classmates could see what I was working on. Online, I learned how to write out what I was doing so everyone could be on the same page.”
In the absence of a physical classroom, Chase and his classmates found new ways to connect on daily Zoom calls and in digital breakout rooms. “We wound up staying in touch more than we had before,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I missed anything.”
A new beginning
With each passing week, Chase’s support network only continued to grow. In April of 2020, he started applying for jobs in the tech industry. Three weeks later, he secured a UX Designer role at the tech company Centauri — and his classmates immediately joined in celebrating his success.
From the outset of his search, Chase had been nervous about navigating an unstable job market. But the team at Centauri was quick to recognize his passion, professionalism, and potential. “My interviewers wanted me to have a sound understanding of the design process,” he said. “That’s what we learned in the boot camp, day in and day out. The projects I’d worked on gave me talking points and showcased that I can apply industry knowledge. Five days after my interview, they hired me.”
As a former educator, Chase always knew he wanted to work at a company that invests in learning and development. “I don’t ever want to feel as though I’ve achieved my full capability,” he said. “Teaching instilled that in me — I want to continuously grow.”
Finally, he’s found a place where he can do just that.