CommunityDean’s List: Ricardo Diaz


Etan Berkowitz
writes on November 17, 2012

Dean’s List is Treehouse’s way of showing the world people who are passionate about learning, bettering themselves and making a difference. This is where we where highlight some of our extraordinary members.

Everyone, please welcome Ricardo Diaz into your lives. He’s our newest Dean’s List member and an inspiration. Ricardo was a factory worker for the majority of his life when one day it clicked, he wanted to learn something new and create extraordinary things. After successfully creating and managing an online forum Ricardo’s love for the web blossomed and began seriously learning web development. Check out his wonderful personal website here:

The Interview:

What is your background?

I am currently a web designer for Herman Miller. But I also run my own business Black Lion Media. It’s still in the works though as I go through the whole process of registering the name, logo, and lawyers. Starting a small business takes lots of work and, apparently, money but it’s a great feeling doing what you love to do.

What were you doing before Treehouse?

Before Treehouse, I was a factory worker specifically an assembly worker. I spent long hours putting together all different types of things over the years. From safety glasses to server cabinets. I did it for over 10 years and seen many in the industry lose hope and their health. Seeing someone who is just 10 years older than you struggle with pain in their joints or barely being able to stand for longer than 4 hours throws up a warning flag. I know it did for me.

One day I told my supervisor that I was going to college for web design. I remember he stared at me for a second and told me something that to this day I remember. He told me that he was talking to his wife the other day about me. He told me that he saw something in me that he didn’t see in the other workers. That I didn’t belong there. He said lots of us here are working this field because life just happened to drop us here and we got stuck. But you…you can do better. Don’t end up like us ok?

A year later I told him I was quitting to move to Michigan. He was taken by surprise but told me that he never wanted to see me here again. He knew that I was going there to start a new life and he was just happy for me. The following year I graduated from college with an associates in web development and a passion to be better off than my parents, family, and those cool guys in the assembly line.

What made you want to learn web design?

Funny story but I just happen to have it drop on my lap one day. I was a teacher for a forum at the time. We were using Phpbb to run the site. We actually happen to get a good following of 100 members. Then the founder decided to one day abandon the forum and leave.

People were kind of shocked and started leaving. I decided to start my own forum and recruited all the other teachers to it. Students from the school made their way to mine and it grew pretty fast within a couple of years. During that time I spent a lot of time modifying the code and making the website more interactive and even designed a website for the forum. That’s when the design bug hit me and I began my journey.

How has Treehouse helped you get to where you are now?

Treehouse managed to do quite a bit in making me a better designer and developer. When I was going to college a lot of the things they were teaching me were outdated by about 10 years. For my HTML class they were teaching me to use iframes to create a three section website.

I remember my first paying client was a friend of mine. I was so proud of the site I created for him. I created it using iframes and CSS on top of the page and I thought this was it. I made it! I laugh now but I couldn’t believe how naive I was back then. Within a few months he changed the site and didn’t tell me.

I was crushed but mostly disappointed in myself. So I told myself that I wasn’t learning what I needed to learn. I began reading books on top of what I was reading for my classes. One day I stumbled upon one of Nicks videos. It was free at the time and I gave it look. I fell in love…not with Nick but with what he was teaching me. I never knew that learning HTML and CSS was that easy. I absorbed everything he taught me and became a member. Getting badges was addicting to me and I wanted to get them all!

What are your overall goals?

My overall goals are:

1) The best father I can be to my kids. To lead them by example in everything that I do and to show them that they can be blessed if they make the right decisions in their lives.

2) To be the next Chris Coyer or Nick Pettit in that I am known in the community as a teacher and good designer. I know I am still young but they had to start from somewhere and so do I. Give me a few years and I might surprise some people.

3) To make nonprofits and Church websites better. I hate going to these sites and seeing the severely outdated design and cheesy graphics. I always leave enough room in a month to do one of these sites on the side. I personally believe that I was given this gift to make the WWW better for these types of organizations. I am currently 2% done with 60+ years left to complete my mission. Wish me luck I need it!

How does your lifestyle from before compare to what you have now?

The major difference is that I am happy now. I also have three kids, a wife, and a passion that I never had before. I spend my days at work, my afternoons with my family, and my nights working on side projects.

I never get tired of reading articles on web design. I get kicks creating fun projects on my vacation. Most importantly I love what I do. I never had that feeling with factory work only when I was able to punch out and go home. So yes, I am in a better place now.

When you’re stuck in a coding rut, what do you do to motivate and inspire yourself?

From my experience getting stuck in a coding rut usually means you are trying too hard to solve a problem. I usually just lay back on my chair and close my eyes for a minute and think through the process.

Sometimes just stepping back for that minute and looking for anything out of place or missing is 90% of the problem. I can’t tell you how many times I have spent trying to solve an issue only to discover I forgot a closing tag. It happens and I promise you that it will happen to you more than once.

What piece of advice would you give any aspiring programmers and coders?

My advice for those wanting to get into this passionate relationship that is called the web is: you get what you put into it. Being a web designer is like being in a long term relationship. You need to spend time studying it, understanding it, and finally being ready to embrace it.

If you ignore it or don’t take it seriously then it’s going to leave you and tell everyone else how bad you are. Seriously! It will tell others through blogs, forums, and social networks. So be nice to it or else.

Ok, maybe it won’t but the biggest piece of advice is that even the best designers out there are their worst critics. I once watched a Chris Coyer video as he was redesigning CSS Tricks. He loves to say what he is thinking and you can really get into his mind watching those videos. If you get a chance to watch them you see him go through his ups and downs. Then you get those small breaks of reality as he starts critiquing himself because he missed something small. First time I saw that I just paused the video and said to myself I do that too, don’t I?

We are all hard on ourselves in this business but we don’t need to be. Your human and you will change, grow, and become better every day that you do this. So keep your head up and know that you are not the only one that critiques themselves.


Thank you Ricardo for your inspiring story! – The Treehouse Team

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