CommunityRJ Learned to Code and Made the Switch From Accountant to Skilled Front End Developer


Faye Bridge
writes on November 18, 2015

A few years ago, RJ McLain was a recent college graduate working as an accountant but found himself hating every minute of it. Then an opportunity arose at work for RJ to help implement new software to upgrade the company’s systems. Ironically, the software replaced him, but the experience introduced him to a keen interest in software and tech.

At his next job, RJ saw another opportunity to improve the efficiency of a company by replacing outdated processes with customized web-based software. This was RJ’s first opportunity to take on his own tech project. The only issue was he had no coding experience.

Treehouse provided RJ with the learning resource he needed to master his coding skills. Before long, he decided to dive further into the tech industry. In contrast to the years before as an accountant struggling to land job interviews, RJs new resume and skills attracted dozens of recruiters and companies.  

Fast forward to today and RJ has come a long way since the days of being an accountant. He’s successfully transitioned into an entirely new industry, worked with two of the fastest growing companies in Chicago, and is now working as part of the awesome team at Merge Design + Interactive, where he couldn’t be happier.

We caught up with RJ to hear more about how his career has evolved since learning to code with Treehouse.




I’ve come an incredibly long way since the days of being an accountant. I love what I do now, it’s the perfect combination of art and technology, and I get to work in amazing environments with incredible people.

I actually first wound up doing some web development way back in middle school, when the Internet was filled with flashy nauseating gifs all over the place. I remember thinking it was fun, but never putting much more thought into it at the time, I especially didn’t think it could become a career, but I was very wrong.

As I progressed through college I changed majors a handful of times and wound up as an accountant by the time I graduated, and it was soul-crushing, I hated every minute of it. Eventually, I wound up helping to implement a new software that put me out of a job, and I could not have been happier about it.

Afterward I landed a slightly more administrative type job, but they let me know they really needed to improve in a few areas, and if I could find anything to let them know. Turns out they were still using paper timesheets, so I presented them with some web based time keeping software, but they wanted it to be customized for them. So I managed to input my own styles into the project. Trouble was, I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t want to lose out on my first tech related opportunity. I decided it was time to sink or learn to swim. I started trying to teach myself but didn’t get quite as far as I would like. Then I found Treehouse.

The way they taught made things click better than it had ever before, and I started to eat it up. Eventually, I finished both the newly customized software and the Front End Development Track on Treehouse. With my project done, I decided to jump into the tech world a bit more and found myself in a brand new environment.

Now that I had learned so much from Treehouse, I didn’t have to hunt for a job. The opportunities came to me, I put out my resume and I was getting as many as a dozen calls a day from recruiters and companies. When I was in accounting I had to struggle to find one interview that would take a chance with me, but in the tech world I had my pick. Any time I had the chance at something I knew I could always learn more at Treehouse just to make sure I really nailed it with any company I met with, and I came in being able to go toe to toe with developers who’d been there for years.

Now I’ve worked with two of the fastest growing companies in Chicago, I just moved from Rightpoint which is a great company, to Merge Design + Interactive, where I could not be happier. I’ve come an incredibly long way since the days of being an accountant. I love what I do now, it’s the perfect combination of art and technology, and I get to work in amazing environments with incredible people.

I’m now hungry to continue learning and to help others along the way. Next on my plate is a toss up between some back end programming for my career or some game development just for fun. And to anyone else out there who might be pretty new, just pick a path and go for it, you never know where it might take you, but no matter what you’ll sure be a better person when you get through it.


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

8 Responses to “RJ Learned to Code and Made the Switch From Accountant to Skilled Front End Developer”

  1. Rj is my inspiration now. I hope to be like him someday. I will work and study hard. Thank for sharing this article.

  2. Congrats RJ, I started as an accountant myself and quickly changed career paths after finishing my graduate degree. Decided to go the OO java path add my primary instead of front-end JavaScript (secondary). Best of luck in your future endeavours!

  3. Great post and inspiration! I have accumulated 13,000 points on Teamtreehouse and countless hours of experience. Now, I just have to focus on the practical like RJ and get a job!

  4. Great RJ go all the way. all the best

    did they consider your past exp or only portfolio of TH helped

    what is the mean salary for web devs in your area or in US

    what track you learned in TH. How much are you able to apply and retain them at work.

    • My first gig didn’t give me a ton to show any future employers, but I definitely used everything from the Treehouse course when interviewing, and used it for a portfolio. So when I didn’t have a ton to show, and I interviewed with Rightpoint, they asked to see some work so I made them a site over the weekend, and added in a few web parts I had from working on Treehouse, and apparently it was enough, because I got the job.

    • As for the mean salary for devs where I am, which is Chicago there’s a pretty massive range, I’ve seen everything from 60k-120k depending on experience, it also depends on what coding languages you happen to know, which can make all the difference in the world.

      When it comes to the track that I went on through Treehouse, I started with the Front-End course, which was perfect for me, but I’ve become a bit more desirable in the job market by branching out and going through some of the other courses. I managed to retain most of what I learned, but I think one of the biggest things was practicing and applying what I learned on a regular basis. Finding new challenges and new ways to push myself always helped and it also helped to make the less challenging parts become more like second nature when I was on the job.

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