What is a tech returner?: Exploring their potential for your business

When a business decides to invest in top tech talent to drive innovation and growth, we can probably guess what avenues are top of their minds.

“We could scrape the internet and find the most experienced person who lets us view their CV… Wait, what about a graduate programme? Maybe let’s dial back the budget and go with internships. But we want to think more long-term… so what about apprenticeships?”

While these talent pools often take the spotlight in recruitment, there exists a group of individuals that regularly fly under the radar. A group that possesses unique qualities, a wealth of experience, and enthusiasm that can provide a refreshing boost to your tech team. We’re talking about those that we like to call tech returners, and we’ve gotten to know hundreds of tech returners through the Tech Returners programme.

What is a tech returner?

A tech returner is an individual who, after once pursuing tech careers in disciplines like software development, took a break and put their career on pause.

Why? For many reasons. Sometimes it’s out of necessity to address a health problem or raise a family. They may have gone on a personal journey to switch careers or start their own business.

Regardless of the reasons for taking a career break, many returners have that ‘penny drop’ moment and realise it’s time to get back to their true calling in the tech industry.

These returners, with their rich technical backgrounds and life experiences, embody resilience, adaptability, and a profound commitment to making an impact with their return to tech.

Let’s explore five reasons why returners are the missing piece in your tech team.

1. Returners Can Hit the Ground Running

Tech Returners possess the ability to hit the ground running, thanks to their previous commercial experience and motivation to pick back up where they left off. One of our partners, expressed this perfectly: 

“Our Tech Returners have been able to add value to their team far quicker than many new starters. Whether that’s because of the variety of different jobs they have done in the interim, that has given them a little bit more work confidence, or whether there’s a combination of that and the drive to get back in and make their mark.” – Will Faulkner, Director of Engineering at

Whether it’s adapting to new technologies, jumping straight into collaboration with other teams, or troubleshooting complex issues, Tech Returners bring a unique readiness and enthusiasm that can offer instant value to your organisation.

2. They Offer Loyalty Because You’ve Invested in Them

“If you were to come to me and say I can give you another developer, software engineer Level 3. They’ve moved jobs three times in the last four years. And you said, or you can invest a little bit extra money to bring in a returner […] the amount of loyalty they will bring to your business because of the fact you’ve invested in them, I’d go with the latter.” – Richard Holt, Head of Engineering at On the Beach

It’s likely that any new tech starter in your organisation will need a hefty period of time to acclimatise to your systems, platforms and ways of working. Imagine investing that time and training into someone who will jump ship a few months later. That lost knowledge, and the time needed to familiarise the next new starter, is worth a lot more than the little bit of extra investment a returner needs.

Returners’ brand loyalty in their new companies is not just about tenure, but also a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity. It translates into a team member that’s motivated to achieve both personal and organisational goals.

Northcoders students

3. They Offer Transferable Skills from Their Career Breaks

It’s no secret that traditional recruiters will discard applications from candidates with a gap in their CV. By taking this approach, they’re missing out on some quite frankly remarkable skills that returners have gained from their time away from the tech industry.

Let’s take a moment to highlight a few inspirational individuals who have completed the Tech Returners programme:

Meet Huma. On her career ‘break’, Huma raised three children and helped her husband set up a business. Said business became so successful that it won an award, and allowed them to move to the UK on an Innovator Business Visa. Huma gained skills in research, branding, office set-up, operations, communication and leadership. Huma is now thriving again as a software engineer at

Meet Laura. On her career ‘break’, Laura founded an artisanal bakery business. Over time, the business grew exponentially. Laura learned about managing time, finances and that delegation to trustworthy people is essential to be able to run a successful business. Laura is now thriving again as a software engineer, also at

Meet Marcus. On his career ‘break’, Marcus became an IT Recruitment Consultant, set up a marketing business, and pursued his hobby as a portrait painter (reaching a professional level!). Through these ventures, Marcus developed skills like communication, negotiation, presentation, people management, and time management. Marcus is now thriving again as a software engineer consultant at Daemon.

Impressive, right? Rather than being a stain on an otherwise promising CV, we know that a career break can take returners’ skills, adaptability and resilience to new heights, which can only be a positive addition to your team!

4. Returners Increase Diversity in Your Team

We know that diversity and inclusion are essential components of a thriving tech team, the research is even there to back it up. Employers have noted that returners offer a distinctive perspective, shaped by their diverse experiences during their break. This brings a wealth of fresh and varied ideas to your team, setting them apart from candidates sourced through conventional recruitment methods. In essence, embracing returners is a valuable way to enhance your team’s diversity of thought.

Along with diversity of thought, lots of tech returners bring diversity in other ways. Many returners are women, people of colour, and often skew older than your average software engineer. The people building your tech need to reflect the people who will use it. Just as our partners at The Guardian summarised:

“We believe that the lack of diversity in technology is dangerous and something we should work to improve. Otherwise, it will result in non optimal and non inclusive technical solutions that will be divisive and reinforce existing bias.” – Mariot Chauvin, Director of Engineering at The Guardian

5. Returners Are Experienced

With tech returners, you’re not getting junior developers.  Echoing’s aforementioned point, returners can hit the ground running because they have previous commercial experience. We’ve seen returners have 10, 20, and even as much as 33 years’ commercial coding experience. Tech Returners’ 2022 research also found that of their returners who identify as women, 25% have commercial leadership experience. 

Couple that with a refreshed skillset and Career & Mindset coaching like you get on the Tech Returners programme, and you’ve got a truly unstoppable software developer that would be a great addition to any team.

So, are you starting to see the value a tech returner can bring?

Investing in Tech Returners isn’t just a tickbox exercise; it’s a strategic move towards building a dynamic and resilient tech workforce that’s ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the future.

At Northcoders Business Solutions, we’re committed to helping you tap into this exceptional talent pool. Contact us today to learn more about how Tech Returners can transform your tech team and drive innovation in your organisation. Your future tech leaders are waiting to return.

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