Dean’s List is Treehouse’s way of showing the world people who are passionate about learning, bettering themselves and making a difference.
This edition of Dean’s List features Treehouse Member Nicki Rios. Nicki is an avid learner with a talented and creative mind. After re-educating herself into the web industry, Nicki was contracted for her first freelance job earlier this year, and has since been working with ad agency Garrigan Lyman as a front end developer. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs, spends most of her spare time working on side projects, but also enjoys discussing philosophy with her husband, creating jewellery, crocheting, and reading. You can check out some of the impressive projects Nicki has worked on recently on her Portfolio Site [www.nickirios.com].
When did Nicki get her passion for web development? Well, 2007 was a big year for her. She had to move home to be with her ailing dad, but in the process met her husband, had a religious awakening and switched careers. Interesting, eh?
How did you learn about Treehouse? What drew you to Treehouse?
When I first started learning about web design and development, I immersed myself in any tutorials, podcasts, and RSS feeds I could get my hands on. I learned about Treehouse from one of the podcasts I listened to (I think Sitepoint) and then also heard about it from ThinkVitamin as the transition was made.
I was attracted to Treehouse because it seemed like the perfect resource to help me fill in the gaps from what I was learning in school. Since I kept up-to-date with outside resources, I knew that what I was learning in school was a bit behind. Because the tutorials were organized well, it was clear to me where I was in my skillset, which was important to build my confidence and help me know which jobs to pursue.
What’s your background, particularly within the web industry?
My first job was a 4 month contract with a startup as a designer and front end developer earlier this year, and now I’m working as a contract front end developer at an ad agency called Garrigan Lyman. I received a web design diploma from The Art Institute, but most of my knowledge has come from experimenting on my own and doing Google searches when I get stuck.
Tell us a little about your decision to change careers.
I went through a huge life transition from 2007-2008. I had to move back in with my parents to help take care of my dad, met and married my husband, had a huge religious awakening, took a semester off from school, decided to switch my major from vocal performance to no longer pursue opera, and moved from Houston to Seattle.
At the time, I was working in accounting as an administrative assistant. I knew I could be a good accountant if I chose to pursue it, but I really wanted to do something more creative. The only thing I enjoyed about accounting was making and tweaking charts and graphs in excel. Because I was working full-time, I looked into online schools and discovered web design as a potential career. I started taking classes and discovered that it was the perfect balance of my creative and analytical abilities.
What would you tell your friends about Treehouse?
Treehouse is a great, inexpensive resource for any newbie learning web design or development. The videos are arranged logically, so it’s easy to build skills with little to no gaps and really make substantial progress in a short amount of time.
When you feel stuck while programming, what do you do to motivate yourself to get coding again?
I think of all the times I’ve had ‘ah-ha’ moments after being stuck on something, and I know another moment like that is on the way.
If I’m really having a difficult time figuring something out on my own or am worried I can’t do it in time to meet a deadline, I ask for help in a forum or at a coding meetup.
What does the future hold for you in the web industry?
I’m not really sure. This field has really opened up, and I think I got involved at a good time. Part of the reason I chose web design was because of its flexibility. I might open up my own shop one day or just finish paying off my student loans and take it slow. I like that I have the option to mold my career around what happens in life, and I plan to simply take things as they come and enjoy the ride.
From your learning experience, is there any advice you would give other Treehouse members?
Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Because everything in this field is constantly changing, everyone is always in a process of learning, even people that are much more experienced. I think most people in this field are generally understanding and very helpful because of that. We all help each other out, so ask for help when you need it and pay it forward by helping someone else.
Get Involved in the Community
One thing that helped me get a job was networking by attending coding meetups. Meetups are great for getting help, and you can get a good sense of what your skills are compared to others in the field. Plus, if you have complimentary skills to the people there, it can be a great place to get work. My advice would be to politely solicit peer feedback for your work as often as you can. Don’t shy away from showing your work if you think it isn’t good enough. They’ll either praise you for your work or point you in the right direction on what to learn next – neither are bad.
People that like what they do, like sharing what they know, so get involved in meetups and forums and soak in all you can. It’s the best way to keep up with all the changes and really learn the nuances of your craft.
A big thank you to Nicki for sharing her fantastic story, experience and insights. We really appreciate it.