Why I Left Teaching to Become a Software Developer

Andy Hartnett
4 min readNov 10, 2020


At 21 years old I made the decision to switch my major from Business to English Teaching. I loved writing, found joy in those classes, and frankly if I heard about widgets one more time in ECON 101 I was going to jump out of a window. Thus began my journey into teaching.

I always admired my teachers. Well, not all of them. But there were a few who were bonafide heroes to me. And those heroes taught creative writing.

Those heroes taught creative writing

My grandparents were both teachers. My grandfather was a basketball coach, and I played basketball in high school. Team sports were a large part of my childhood and as a teacher I could continue to coach and keep sports as a large part of my life. Growing up I constantly heard “You would make a great teacher” or “You will make a great coach someday”. So when I changed my major I felt as if I was answering my calling.

The teaching classes were easy! This helped my assurance that I was going into the right field. Where I used to work my ass off to maintain a B average I was now coasting along and receiving all A’s.

So I graduated with a degree in English Teaching. I spent half a year student teaching 7th Grade English at a middle school in Missoula, MT. Then I spent another year substitute teaching in Montana and Utah before finally calling it quits and changing my career.

Southeast Asia

While substitute teaching I was lucky enough to live in my parent’s basement why working as much as I could. I managed to save $1,800 and used that money to travel through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for 5 weeks. I had spent the last 23 years of my life following a well established pattern and I needed a break. So I hit the road.

I didn’t have a plan to meditate on my future. But foreign lands and infinite free time lead me to doing just that. What did I want to do with my life? Who did I want to be?

The problem with teaching

The problem with teaching, isn’t the teaching itself. It’s the bureaucracy that goes along with it. It’s the administration, the paperwork, the common core, and everything that’s not teaching.

I loved teaching. I loved working with my students to improve their lives. But that wasn’t really my job.

No, my job was to meet the common core requirements for reading and writing. It was to develop lesson plans that met those requirements and have them approved by the Principal.

I was told I could not teach literature that was not either a part of the cannon or non-fiction. I was currently using “The Hobbit” as my main text, and the Principal didn’t believe that was appropriate literature for a classroom. I disagreed. The point of an english classroom is to improve reading and writing, and the best way to do that is to get the students to love to read. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t in charge. The teacher isn’t in charge of the education, the administration is.

It blows my mind that we have teachers that are professionals in their line of study, and we don’t entrust them to run their classrooms and teach.

The Travel Bug

The other problem that I had was that I fell in love with the road. Teaching provides ample time in the summer and during the holidays to travel, but it doesn’t provide the salary to do so on a whim.

Teaching is an act, not a profession

I realized that teaching is something you do, not only a job that you can have. As an engineer I can mentor and train, both are acts of teaching. As I go through my career I can share my experiences and help others along the way, also a form a teaching. I realized I can still be a teacher without working in the public education system. So I made the change.

When I got back from my trip to SE Asia, I stopped taking calls for substitute teaching jobs and started applying for jobs as a developer. I had worked as a web developer in college so finding a job wasn’t very difficult. Read my article about learning if you’d like:

Going Forward

I have been in the software development world now for 10 years and I’m completely content in the career I have chose. There’s a great work life balance, I have the time and money to travel and see the world, and I still get to teach.

One day, after I’ve retired from my career, I may give the public school system another chance. But if I can help it, when I go back into education, I’m going to rewrite the system so that I can be the most effective teacher I can. But that plan is for another day.

But while you’re here, let’s connect on twitter!