Lara-Maria Kullak-Ublick is a 35-year-old mother of two living in Portugal.
While having two young children, she decided to reskill as a product designer.
She found aspects of reskilling with two young children challenging, yet she'd do it all over again.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lara-Maria Kullak-Ublick. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
After I had my second child in November 2020, my husband and I traveled from where we were living in Germany to live in the Bahamas for six months. I left behind my job in sales, instead just focusing on my freelance work in social media marketing. It was a dream. I worked flexibly around the schedules of my young kids and got to be close to the sea so I could chase the waves on my surfboard.
During those months, I was living my dream, and it made me want to continue having the right work-life balance in the future.
When our visas were due to expire, we moved to Portugal, where a couple of life changes made me rethink what I wanted out of a career. My husband got a job in Germany, where he was going to work for seven months while the kids and I stayed in Portugal. Just like that, I effectively became a single parent. Around the same time, I lost one of my biggest clients.
At this point, all I wanted was a stable job where I could be creative and develop professionally. When I started looking at jobs in the field I had left before the Bahamas, I could feel my confidence drop. I just didn't feel I could perform like I used to after such a long break.
It was time for a career change
I felt like it was time for a change in my professional career. And that felt scary. Change is always intimidating – especially when two little lives are depending on you. I didn't have any family and had only a few friends around me to help, because we just moved to a new place. My husband was working away. But after having two children, the need for a fulfilling job and a desire to advance my career was brewing inside me.
A friend told me he reskilled to be a data analyst. It's what made me think I wanted to totally change careers. I decided I wanted to get into the tech industry, thinking that with the way the world was going, I'd have my choice of flexible working jobs. Tech is innovative, and constantly evolving. It was the direction I wanted to go in.
After looking around, I enrolled in a flexible asynchronous UX Design Program with CareerFoundry. I wanted to be a UX Designer. This was a big decision for me, though. I wouldn't be able to work during the course, which would last nearly a year over three parts, so would have to use my savings to pay my way. Even though my husband was working, I wanted to remain the independent woman I am even through the training, and because of CareerFoundry's job guarantee, I could get a full refund on my course if I didn't find a job within six months of graduating — it felt like a safety net. This was going to be an investment in myself — it was worth it.
It was a hard balance studying and being a mom
But the training was certainly challenging. It demanded countless hours of dedication and continuous learning. Getting the balance right as a mom of two young children was a huge challenge. I studied in the daytime when they were in nursery and school, collected them from school and did evening routines, and then studied again till 1 am once I put them to bed. I didn't get very much sleep.
I kept reminding myself I was doing this for me but also for my children. I wanted both my son and daughter to know that they could do anything as they get older. I wanted them to see me reskilling to have my dream job eventually.
Although the first two parts of the course are meant to last for a little over nine months, I completed them in five. I knew if I finished earlier, I could get a job while continuing with the final part of the course.
One of my biggest motivators was my mentor who closely supported me throughout the program. We spoke every week and he encouraged me to start applying early as the job search after the course can often take several months. To my total surprise, when I applied for a job as a UX designer in March 2023, I got it. I landed my dream job. I felt so proud of myself. Incredibly happy and thankful for the privilege to reskill and for the new job opportunity.
I'm now working a fulltime remote job I really love, but still able to see my kids. I drop them at nursery and school, pick them up, and spend time with them in the evening. Anything I didn't finish up in the day, I work on once they have gone to sleep. I feel fulfilled. Reskilling, even as a mom, was definitely the right choice.
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