CommunityIn Less Than a Year, Laurie’s Career Aspirations Became a Reality


Faye Bridge
writes on September 25, 2015

Laurie’s personal interest with the web industry came from running WordPress sites using purchased themes and finding himself intrigued by how everything worked. He had no background in the web but reached a stage where he decided to embrace his curiosity. He began learning some basic concepts of HTML and found himself hooked.

Soon Laurie realized that his interest could potentially transition into a new career path. January 2015 marked the start of the learning experience that would lead him to accomplish that. He set himself goals and began learning. However, Laurie struggled to grasp the concepts and skills he needed to move forward. Then he found Treehouse.

Over the next four months, Laurie excelled through courses and applied his skills to personal projects. Today, Laurie has his own freelance business and recently landed a part-time job as an in-house developer. What was a career aspiration in January of this year, has become a reality and Laurie can now confidently say he has found what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

We caught up with Laurie to hear more about his experience transitioning into the web industry and the advice he’d share with aspiring web developers.
Laurie Gray

What first drew you to the web industry?

I had a few WordPress sites up and running using purchased themes for my small business and they were doing a decent job. However, the bizarre thing was that I was just too interested in how everything worked. Even though I had no real background in the industry I felt drawn to the point where I just couldn’t resist finding out more. This was purely a personal interest at the time and I began to dabble with simple HTML concepts for a few evenings here and there when I had time.

When I discovered how many technologies were available for those who could understand and wield them I realised two things: if I’m going to do this it is going to be a huge, huge learning curve and secondly, despite all this, I just know that I am going to absolutely love it! There was just something so exciting at the thought of finally getting to grips with web technology for me.

I put off really going for it for a short period though until one Christmas holiday I had some time to think and then, at the turn of 2015 I finally decided to pursue a career in the web industry. I don’t remember the exact day it happened but I do remember thinking: ‘this is possible, it’s going to be difficult, but something has to change in my life and the only person who can change it is me.’

I set myself the target of being able to build a custom WordPress theme and site from scratch using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP by December. I had no idea if this was even possible or realistic but all I wanted was to be able to understand the concepts and the core of the languages and then gradually deepen my grasp of them as the years progressed.

What work were you doing when you first joined Treehouse & what encouraged you to learn with us?

I spent from January until June trying to chip away at everything. This was the most frustrating part of the journey as I achieved very little if anything at all as I was constantly searching the internet, on forums and trying to find reliable tutorials in a way that made sense to me. It is so easy to be put off when you just don’t get something and I had to try not to be discouraged.

In June, however, it finally happened: I found Treehouse. In an instant, it all made sense, better than sense it actually seemed fun. It was so reassuring knowing that it was all there organised in a progressive manner with encouraging teachers along the way. Then I noticed my points going up and I was getting all these badges! It was like an MMORPG for learning and I wanted to level up so bad that I got to 11,000 points in 4 months. This really kept me going and the daily emails made sure I was progressing even a little bit each day when I was busy.

I want to describe the truly pivotal moment for me when I knew what I was doing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life:

I was in a coffee shop, had spent a few months learning about SAAS, GIT and the rest of the web track. I had my customised matrix-looking terminal open, my SAAS was being compiled on the fly and my site appeared and BOOM! It worked! It actually worked! My screen had windows open all over the place and my code looked so cool and complex to me at the time that I just felt sheer elation. It was like completing a 2-month raid and I had attained the item of my dreams to show everyone. I was re-born as a geek in that second and it is something I won’t forget in a long time.

How would you compare your experience with Treehouse with other online learning resources?

Treehouse doesn’t try to hide the fact that a lot of what you’re going to do is self-learning and self-driven. At every stage, they encourage, reassure and direct you making you feel super positive and ready for anything. They really help you build a skill set which has you solving problems on your own and you are never left feeling confused.

The teaching level of the videos and the explanations are blended perfectly allowing you to pick up the pace when it’s too easy, and really slow down when it’s too hard.

The support is the best I have found, heck I’ve even been emailed by course tutors a few times to help out and this makes you feel like we’re all on the journey together.

You now have your own freelance business and recently landed a part-time job as an in-house developer. Tell us a little about how your career has evolved since learning with Treehouse and the work you’re doing now.

Treehouse prepared me for working in the web industry by not only teaching me the skills I needed to know but also my workflow. They engrain the need for modern, non-cowboy coding skills from day one so that by the time you are working on a real project you have a really solid base to go from.

What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?

Learning with Treehouse has made my dream of working in the web industry possible and also at a rate much faster than working on my own. It has fostered a real, tangible positivity about my new work and reaching each new badge has become kind of an obsession for me.

What are your plans for the future, and what’s up next on your learning path?

Many of the skills I’ve learned since June are still fresh in my mind and there are many more things to learn along the way. In particular, I want to improve my JavaScript and PHP. However… I can’t resist learning more about iOS and Ruby. I know some people think I’m crazy for learning so many languages, but Treehouse doesn’t make it seem so crazy. It’s right there and it’s taught in a way that makes it seem really simple and rewarding.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with new students who are just starting out?

When you start out you may have anxieties or doubts about your ability. Just let me say this: Sit down with a course and start to code and you will get the bug. You’ll see your code come to life and you’ll be lost in a world you wish you found long ago and you will love what you do. Keep going and someone will pay you to do what you love doing. It’s not overnight, it’s not necessarily easy, but some things are worth it. Treehouse makes it possible for you to change your career all on your own.

Every day I get up early now so excited that what I wanted back in January which seems so long ago is now a reality for me and the future is bright. Come join the ‘guild’ on Treehouse!

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


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3 Responses to “In Less Than a Year, Laurie’s Career Aspirations Became a Reality”

  1. Laurie Gray on January 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm said:

    Hey guys. Glad I could be of help to you both. It’s amazing how fast you start to learn things when you get interested in them and start applying them. I’m also an iOS developer now for a company as I just couldn’t resist moving in that direction.

    Dreams become reality. Exactly one year ago today I decided to go for it. Who would have known I would be where I am now?

    All the best and let me know if you need any help.


  2. Miqdaad Shaibu on September 29, 2015 at 6:19 am said:

    Great story… This will really inspire me. I have had roadblocks starting out in web design till I just read your story. This really helps… I will also start today with the web design track and move on and on and on and on and on…………. THANKS A LOT…

  3. This is a prime example of why I always recommend Treehouse to people that are interested in starting their adventure into web development. Good job, Laurie! You’re a great inspiration with proven patience and enthusiasm. Best of luck to you!

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