CommunityBryan Knight Landed a Life-Changing Career As a UI/UX Engineer For a Startup

Faye Bridge
writes on September 23, 2015

 

In April 2014, Bryan was a father of five working as a lead Concierge for a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and making $43K as the sole provider for his family. He worked full time at his job, but knew that he wanted a significant career change. In the past, he had worked in Real Estate making a good salary but had been uninspired and unmotivated by the work. This time around Bryan was determined to find the balance between making a good living and having a passion for what he did.

In the 90s, Bryan briefly attended college for Management Information Systems, where he was introduced to programming. He loved his programming classes, but didn’t enjoy the rest of the curriculum and dropped out to join the United States Air Force and life continued. 16 years later, faced with another career crossroad, Bryan decided to pick up where he left off with programming.

He chose Treehouse and launched himself into the courses. 10 months later, after dedicating his free time to learning, Bryan landed his first job as a UI/UX Engineer. 6 months after that, he moved on to work at a local startup where he now develops the UI for a daily fantasy sports application. The work is not only inspiring for Bryan, it also came with a significant salary increase, which in turn has given him the opportunity to move his family into their dream home. But for Bryan, it’s not about the money. He now gets paid to do something he’s passionate about, which has given him the opportunity to change his own life and those of his family as well.

We asked Bryan to share his story with us. Here it is, in his own words.

Bryan

I can truly say that Treehouse had a huge hand in me changing my life and the life of my entire family.

The long and short of it is that up to February of this year I was working as a lead Concierge for a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and made $43K as the sole provider for a family of 5. I got my first professional programming job at the end of February as a UI/UX Engineer for a local airline company (Allegiant Air) and got a bump in pay up to 55K. After 6 months in that position, I got an offer from a local startup company to come and work on their brand new, greenfield product, building out the UI for a daily fantasy sports application. I accepted and that bumped my pay up to 70K for the first 90 days with another bump after that.

So in the span of less than 8 months I’ve increased the income for my family by 63%. But it’s not all about the money. I go to work every day and can’t believe that I get paid to do what in the past I had to scramble to find time to study for. I’m a father with kids at home. I was working my concierge job full-time, and I knew that I wanted a change in my life.

A little backstory. I went to college the first go round in 1999 for Management Information Systems with and emphasis in Programming. While I loved my programming classes, I was totally not into the core course classes and it showed. Long story short, I wasn’t ready for college and ending up dropping my GPA to the point where I lost my academic scholarship that I had earned out of high school.  I dropped out and ended up joining the United States Air Force and spent 4 years overseas in Okinawa, Japan working on Avionic systems for F-15 fighter jets and traveling all over the pacific region. I spent the last year of my 5 year term here in Las Vegas, NV and decided to stay here when I exited the military. I’m from a small town in Mississippi called Soso (population 379 and they are all my cousins 🙂 ) and let’s just say there’s not much industry to go back to there if you’re looking to build a career.

I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I started selling real estate here and did really well, but I learned a valuable lesson. Although I was making more money that I have ever made in my entire life combined, I wasn’t happy. I was burning myself out working upwards of 18 hrs/day in order to make that money. That taught me that there had to be a balance between making a good living and having a passion for what you do to earn that good living. I decided to go back to school for one of my three passions (cars, music, and computers). I had already done a little college for computers and I didn’t want to work on cars for a living even though I enjoyed it as a hobby, so music it was. I went to the local Art Institute for a BS in Audio Production. My life changed however during the course of school. I had my first son and had my daughter on the way by the time I reached my last class for graduation. This threw a monkey wrench in my plans of moving out to L.A. and “bumming it” for 6-12 months before I could start making money recording music. Also while I was in school, I picked up the job on the strip to help cover the bills and when it was time to graduate my career advisor at school told me that the entry level audio positions locally in town paid less that what I was making working at the hotel on the strip.

So I was at another crossroad. I decided to get back into programming. I knew I didn’t want to go back to college for it after just going for Audio Production, so I looked at what online options were available. I started off with YouTube Videos, and then on to Lynda.com. While I loved Lynda.com, I found it very frustrating that I just “didn’t know what I didn’t know” and thus I didn’t know the order of what courses I should be taking or for that fact Which courses I should be taking. That’s when I found Treehouse. It filled the void that Lynda had with the nicely laid out tracks that walked me through the courses that I needed in the order that I needed.

I jumped in full force with learning. It wasn’t easy. I had a lot of time constraints with family duties and full-time work. I would go to work early and sit in the dining hall to study, or I would head to local lounge after work to do the same. My lady got frustrated with me “always being on the computer” because she just didn’t see where it would get me. But I keep going. I started asking local independent contractors and small businesses if I could build their websites for them at no cost as long as I could use them in my portfolio. This gave me real world projects to work on to gain the necessary experience.

I think that I took my first course on Treehouse back in April of 2014. Fast forward 10 months and I get my first professional programming job and in less than a year and a half after taking that first class I’m in my second professional programming job, working on a really cool product on which I have direct influence on the user experience. I work daily on the front end in Javascript mostly using the AngularJS framework. I constantly come back to Treehouse stay current on technologies in the space.

This month I moved my family of 5 from a tiny 2 bedroom condo into a 3000+ sq ft home in an awesome neighborhood. My lady in reflection told me “I’m sorry I would give you a hard time for being on the computer so much when you were always studying. I get it now of course!”.

I can truly say that Treehouse had a huge hand in me changing my life and the life of my entire family. It’s a great platform for learning. Every time I run across a new technology, I wish that Treehouse had a course on it because I learn the best using the treehouse way of teaching.

To read more student success stories, check out the Treehouse Stories Page.

16 Responses to “Bryan Knight Landed a Life-Changing Career As a UI/UX Engineer For a Startup”

  1. Dominic High on April 8, 2016 at 10:28 am said:

    Hey Bryan, I am so excited having coming across your story! I am actually older than you(49) and have decided to change my future. No time better than the present. So I gone Treehouse nearly seven months ago, have to admit that I hadn’t taken it as seriously as I could(I was using multiple sources, but I think I will settle in and go full steam with Treehouse.
    Thanks
    PS I am studying the Full Stack Javascript track.

    • Faye Bridge on April 18, 2016 at 2:37 am said:

      Hi Dominic! That’s great to hear, thanks so much for learning with us. We’d love to hear how you’re getting along, so please keep us updated. 🙂

  2. This is a great story, and congrats to you Bryan as you work on your UI/UX career. I’m currently on the Front-End track myself, and hoping to double back to the Web Design track after I’m done. It’s always fascinating to see how others use their Treehouse learning to embark on a new career.

    I have one question for you if you don’t mind – as a UI/UX engineer transitioning from another field, how was the tech interview process for you? Do you have any advice or tips for doing well on interviews for design/developer positions?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks Ivy!

      My advice would be to have several projects that you’ve worked on that you can refer to during the interview process. I used my projects as a point of reference for questions that I was asked throughout the interview process. Also don’t be afraid to say what you don’t know when asked about something that you’re unsure of. Don’t try to BS it. I would say “You know, I’m not sure about that” or “I haven’t had to deal with that issue just yet. Would you mind explaining how to handle that issue?” Or I can definitely follow up with an answer for you on the subject. I’d like to learn more. Just showing you willingness to admit what you don’t know but your willingness to learn will get you a long way.

      I was super nervous for my interview. My first company had a three part interview. A phone interview, a coding challenge, and an in person interview that lasted 3-4 hours. Each step of the way I thought “Well I didn’t get that job!” but I did end up getting it! So never quit. When I was sitting in the parking lot before the in person portion of the interview, I happen to have a book on design patterns for PHP. I quickly brushed over the major points of several of the design patterns and wouldn’t you know during the interview I was asked if I knew anything about design patterns and if I could name a few! I recited the information that I had just read in the car and was told that they were impressed that I knew about design patterns at all for my limited time programming and they they ask some college graduates about design patterns and they can’t even name one.

      So you never know what to expect. Just study up and do as much hands on work as you can.

  3. Rohit,

    Thanks for the high 5! I would say it really depends on the employer. I’ve heard both from interviewers. Some consider what you’ve done before and others only care about the programming work that you’ve done. That’s why I’d always recommend doing some projects on the side that will give you something to show off to potential employer. Do a write up on each one that talks about the planning, implementation, the challenges that you ran up against and what you did to overcome them. Employers will love this. It shows that you’re doing work and it give them an insight on your problem solving / thought process.

    Hope this helps! Never stop. Go get em!

  4. High 5 to Bryan!

    I am curious to know: Do employers consider non programming background or non-developer work when evaluating a profile or deciding on compensation.

    Or they only looked at TH portfolio and and your skill sets?

    Appreciate your response.

    • Rohit,

      Thanks for the high 5! I would say it really depends on the employer. I’ve heard both from interviewers. Some consider what you’ve done before and others only care about the programming work that you’ve done. That’s why I’d always recommend doing some projects on the side that will give you something to show off to potential employer. Do a write up on each one that talks about the planning, implementation, the challenges that you ran up against and what you did to overcome them. Employers will love this. It shows that you’re doing work and it give them an insight on your problem solving / thought process.

      Hope this helps! Never stop. Go get em!

      • Thanks for the valuable info Bryan.

        Brief: I am a technical writer and work for software industry. I create user manuals, online help and tutorials/case studies. Will that experience be counted.

        Did you follow front end dev track or web design track?

        Also can you show projects done under treehouse to employers?

        What is the mean salary for web devs in US? What technologies you are working on currently?

        Thanks in advance.

      • Man i am literally in tears after seeing this im from a city where there aren’t many opportunities to do good unless you get lucky and score a warehouse job. I am a father also man i stumbled across this and now i feel as if i have a chance to do something my family would be proud of bryan if i ever get a chance i would love to meet you and anyone from treehouse that I could thank i will be starting the courses next month THANK YOU

  5. Congrats to you, Bryan! I would like to know which track(s) you focused on to obtain a UI/UX job since Treehouse only offers a class or two on UX, but not a specific track, per se. UI/UX is something I’m very interested in and it would be great to find more affordable options than GA or other UX bootcamps out there.

    • Thanks Andrea!

      For UI/UX I would recommend taking the frontend development and the web design tracks. If you really want to go the extra mile, take the full stack javascript track. If I’m not mistaken some of the frontend javascript course cross over to that track as well so you’ll already have a head start on completing it. The experience with NodeJS can really come in handy.

      So to sum up get really good with Javascript. Learn at least one front end framework, (AngularJS, EmberJS, BackboneJS), get really solid with HTML and CSS (learning a CSS pre-processor isn’t bad, SASS, LESS, Stylus etc. ) and you’ll be good to go!

      • Andrea M. on October 3, 2015 at 11:37 am said:

        Thank you so much for sharing about which Treehouse tracks will help me transition into UX – I’ll be signing up here on Treehouse within the week. I’m currently attending a UX class through Girl Develop It, and am completely hooked on this profession! I’ve always had an innate focus on user-based design in most things I’ve done in life, and am looking forward to putting my creativity and love of problem-solving to good use. Of course, I also look forward to earning a better living, too.

        Thank you again for being so generous in sharing your experience and knowledge not just with me, but with the others who’ve asked you questions here. Congratulations again on your UX job, and I wish you all the best in the future.

  6. Great motivation Bryan! I am curious to know which courses/tracks you focused on before you got your first programming job. Congrats!

    • Thanks Carey! I started out taking the PHP development track, then I took the Frontend and Web Design tracks. The funny thing is I actually got hired to do Javascript work even though I had done more PHP work thank Javascript. The team that hired me just said that I had demonstrated that I have the ability to learn and the passion and drive to do so and they were willing to take a shot on me picking up Javascript. So the first month on the job I came to work everyday, sat at my desk and watched tutorials on Javascript, AngularJS, Git, and Command Line.

  7. Inspiring! Dedication and discipline are important factors in success, something I should work on. Thank you for sharing!

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