| Case Studies

Quitting Corporate Life at The Top Of My Game To Teach Maths

Cohort: September 2020 – June 2021  

Region: South East England

Subject: Maths

James had spent over 30 years working in IT and was an Executive Partner at IBM when he decided to become a maths teacher.   

My career change was sparked by the publication of the World Economic Forum’s paper on Education 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution which showed that there was a skills gap in industries dependent on mathematical sciences, while at the same time as schools were struggling to hire and retain maths teachers.

I’m not a mathematical genius, but this is a good thing. It means I can help students learn the tools to solve mathematical problems on their own, just like I had to. After taking the necessary time to research teaching and plan my finances, I made the move from the boardroom to the classroom. 

I’ve enjoyed being at the bottom of the rung again and not having to worry about things like budgets. At this stage of my life, I just want to be a humble teacher.

Redefining career success 

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I developed corporate IT experience, particularly in AI Analytics, working at PwC and IBM in Africa, the USA, India, the Middle East and the Far East. I was promoted every few years until I finally became Executive Partner at IBM.

At 52, I had reached what I had considered to be a decent and rewarding level within the company, but I wanted something more. After a career spanning over three decades, I felt I would have a greater impact on society preparing young people for the future world of work.

The importance of planning

My decision to change career was not taken lightly. It took me two whole years to plan my move because I had to consider if I was prepared – both mentally and financially. There is a vast difference between an IBM partner’s salary and a teacher’s salary, so I needed to do a lot of planning around pensions and savings before leaving my corporate career.

One of the reasons I chose to teach maths is that it is a priority subject, and this means that there was a bursary available for my training year. 

I decided to join Now Teach because I felt I needed extra support choosing my teacher training route, finding a suitable school and writing my job applications. I was also keen to have a peer support group of people like me, as making a career change can be a very lonely experience.

After exploring the various teacher training routes, I decided to do a PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University combined with the salaried School Direct route at St Thomas More Catholic School. This enabled me to gain the PGCE qualification while also developing valuable experience in the classroom from the very first day of my teacher training year. 

Finding my rhythm in my new job

The moment I knew I was meant to be a teacher was when I was asked to cover for my colleague early on in my training. I was very nervous beforehand and spent a couple of days preparing for it so I would feel comfortable on the day. However, when I entered the classroom, I saw that I was gradually able to engage the students and all my worries slipped away. I knew then that I could overcome whatever came my way during my training.

Due to my corporate experience, I was asked to teach four hours a week of business studies during my training year, where I was able to share real-life experiences from my previous career. I am now teaching both subjects full time, which was my original aim when I entered teaching.       

I’ve enjoyed being at the bottom of the rung again and not having to worry about things like budgets. At this stage of my life, I just want to be a humble teacher. I am glad I didn’t jump in when I first had the inkling to leave my job. By planning ahead, I was able to make the transition to my new role as smooth as possible.   

James received a salary while working as a trainee teaching maths, but there are also bursaries available for maths as it is a priority subject. Find out about the other priority subjects and the bursaries and scholarships available for them.

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