CommunityJoe Goes From Security Guard to Full Time Web Developer

Faye Bridge
writes on November 25, 2014

After his first daughter was born, Joe decided he needed a career change. Not only to supplement his income, but also to find a job he would be passionate and proud to do daily. While working two security jobs, Joe began learning with Treehouse in his free time and building up a portfolio of projects. A few months later, he landed a full time web developer position and was able to quit security. Between his new job and Treehouse, Joe is continuing to learn, while getting valuable real world experience. He now embraces a career that he loves and enjoys the added bonus of having more free time than ever to spend with his family.

We caught up with Joe to ask him a few questions about his learning experience and changing career path.

What first drew you to the web industry, in particular web development?

I’ve always loved creating things, whether it was building something with legos or drawing in a sketchbook. Being able to show someone something you made from anywhere in the world is pretty neat too.

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

After having my first daughter, it became very clear that I needed to make more money to support my family. I was working two security jobs at the time and was not passionate about either of them. I worked as a security guard for a large corporation during the day, and was a bouncer at a bar downtown at night. I was also getting tired of the same routine and decided to start teaching myself about web development at home. A friend told me about Treehouse and I decided to begin the free trial that night. I messed around with WordPress a few years back, but I used pre made templates and everything was very basic. I knew little about what I was actually doing or what I wanted to do. Treehouse showed me what I wanted to do with my life, and to this day learning web development from home has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life. I left both security jobs and now work full time as a web developer for a booming local company.

What is your educational background?

I am a high school graduate and have 3.5 years of college under my belt. I was a computer science major in a software engineering track, but my school really had no web development classes of any kind. Treehouse taught me everything I know today with HTML and CSS. I did have basic programming knowledge in Java (which you can now also learn on Treehouse) from my college studies and I would say it helped me a lot with the Treehouse PHP track. At the same time thought, I am still learning tons of new things that college never touched base on.

“Treehouse showed me what I wanted to do with my life, and to this day learning web development from home has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life.”

Specifically what Track did you learn on Treehouse and what were the most useful features for you?

I spent 4 to 8 hours a day and focused mainly on PHP. It was very exciting, and the courses have you working hands on from the beginning. There was not one day where I wasn’t learning something new. The videos were easy to understand, and the instructors broke things down perfectly.

A few months landed your first full time developer position (congratulations!) Please tell us a little about the experience starting out in the industry.

It was a huge change of pace from every other job I had in my life. The culture where I work now is just unlike any other employer. I wake up and look forward to going to work, and tackling projects assigned to me. I mainly build custom WordPress themes for clients, tailored to their specific needs. My Treehouse knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, and Javascript/jQuery play a crucial part in my day to day coding while at work.

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

It has given me an opportunity to completely change career paths. I plan on finishing my college education at some point but as of right now, between my new job and Treehouse, I am learning way more stuff while getting real world experience, and for a fraction of the cost. Plus it means I can stay home with my daughter instead of leaving to go to class on campus.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with new students who are pursuing a career in web development?

Keep learning. Build your portfolio. You can’t learn it all so focus on one thing in particular and build off of that. Don’t say you’re an expert at something, because you’re not. An employer will not hire someone with that kind of attitude. You may know more than the next guy, but it takes a lifetime to master something. Just be humble about your new talents and let your work speak for itself.

A lot of big corporations require a 4 year degree in order to filter out applicants. Sometimes you can get by this depending on your experience level. I’d suggest applying to smaller web companies that care more about your passion and ability to learn. There is nothing wrong with a degree; in fact, it can open doors for you. But who wants to work for a large corporation anyways? You generally don’t have as much creative control as you would will a smaller company. Also, don’t wait for a hiring ad to pop up. Once you have a good amount of work to show, start contacting web design companies in your region and show interest about working for them. Send them your work. They might like what they see and make room for you.

To read about more student experiences, check out our collection of Treehouse Stories.

9 Responses to “Joe Goes From Security Guard to Full Time Web Developer”

  1. A good and encouraging article. I’m in the same boat as Joe at the moment. I’m working full time as a storeman, have a wife, a 2 year old, another on the way and a great desire for a career change into web development. It can be difficult to find time each day between work and family life to fit in self-learning; I can average about 1-2 hours a day, but not everyday though, it used to discourage me but I’ve learned that I need to be patient and just enjoy the journey. The more I learn about HTML/CSS, the more excited I get and the more I fall in love with it.
    In between learning, I like to create projects for myself that put into practice what I have learned. It shows me what I haven’t yet learned and challenges me to work out and find solutions for problems, plus it’s also for showcasing a portfolio (eventually) and gives a visual on how far I’ve come which encourages me to keep moving forward.
    If Joe had the ability to dedicate 4 hours a day learning, that’s great and i’m very happy that he was able too but we are all in different places. I also like to use my breaks at work to read articles, blogs, tutorials and play to around on codepen like what i’m doing now (on my lunch break as I type!)

    So yeah, thanks for a good article 🙂

  2. Isaac John on December 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm said:

    In response to the comments I think when you’re now starting out and building a portfolio you would have to do some freebies. For instance in my case I’m currently designing a website for my brother’s studio after which I would design one for my fitness group and then probably another buddy of mine all for free and also work on my website which hosts my portfolio. What you should be focusing on is building quality content and learning from it and then maybe asking clients to link back to your website in their footer. You have to do anything to get your name out there.

    Secondly, it is kinda hard to have about 4 hours a day to learn code but it is possible. The guy did have 2 jobs and a family. I myself work an 8 hour job and spend about 4 to 6 hours commuting (in which I read books or sleep).I still find time to fit in at least 2 hours of coding when I’m lazy. On weekends or days off I learn on Treehouse for the entire day…It all depends on how enthusiastic you are and a lot of employers will be looking for that enthusiasm in a junior developer. It’s a journey…embrace it, love it…if you’re not passionate then it’s not for you…it’s already so intimidating sometimes 🙂 http://teamtreehouse.com/isaacjohn

  3. What kind of adult has 4-8 hours of free time a day to work on this stuff?! I wish you would post a success story about someone with a full-time job (or two), kids, marriage, and dogs. This stuff is just not realistic and gives a sense of false hope to those like myself who don’t have 4-8 hours a day to devote to this. It does look good from a marketing perspective though. I think Treehouse is amazing, and there is certainly more than one way to get started in the industry, but these posts are all a little far fetched for career changers with lots of responsibility. Congrats on the new job Joe!

    • Hey Josh,

      Thanks for the kind words! You are right, 4-8 hours is not that realistic, but fortunately I was blessed to have that luxury. To be more accurate, It was more like 4 hours a few weekdays, and the possibility of 8 hours maybe on the weekend.

      Working security has it’s benefits though. I sat in front of a computer watching CCTV’s and had en employer that didn’t mind if I did ‘homework’ aka treehouse. As long as I stayed active and kept checking in on the monitors it was fine.

  4. But before you landed your work as a web developer, did you work for yourself(like a freelancer) or just you created project you wanted to created and then upload for showcase(or something like that)?

    I’m saying this because many web agencies ask you for a portfolio, but how can you have a portfolio if no one can give you a chance to work?

    • Hey Damian,

      I did not do any freelance work before I landed my first job. Just some fun projects I thought were interesting. Luckily the owners of that firm liked what they saw and gave me a chance. You don’t necessarily need real clients before hand. Just work on something fun that interests you!

      Sorry I know this is almost a year old I just found this article. 🙂

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