In 2012, Sarah heard about Treehouse. At the time, she was studying graphic design at college, but considering a change of major. Serendipitously, Sarah then came across the opportunity to apply for a scholarship with Treehouse. She applied and as soon as she was granted one began diving into coding.
Inspired by the learning experience, Sarah decided to switch majors to incorporate web design and development into her classes. At this stage, Sarah decided her focus was to become a developer that could design. She continued her efforts on expanding and sharpening her web skills on Treehouse and soon gained the confidence she needed to begin propelling her career forward.
Sophomore year, Sarah put her skills into practice as an intern at a design agency. The following year, she landed a web development internship at Adobe. Starting in January 2016 as a graduate, Sarah will begin her first full-time web developer position as part of the team at LinkedIn.
We caught up with Sarah to hear more about how her skills and career have evolved and what advice she’d share with other Treehouse students who are just starting out.
What first drew you to the web industry?
When I was around 12, I was a huge fan of the online community Neopets (yes, I know). One of the things you could do on there was modify your profile with HTML and CSS, similar to a MySpace profile. Because I wanted to customize my page, I dabbled a bit with Photoshop and HTML/CSS, but I never really understood what I was doing. I decided early on that because of how much I liked this process, I would go to college for graphic design.
What work were you doing when you first joined Treehouse & what encouraged you to learn with us?
I was a graphic design major at a community college when I first heard of Treehouse. I hadn’t needed a lot of code in my work there, and I was a little bit disappointed by that because I had loved it when I was younger. I was preparing to transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology when I received a link to Treehouse’s 2012 scholarship application in my inbox. I applied, and here we are!
I transferred into New Media Design at RIT, which is the combination of UI, UX, 3D, motion design, and web development. We take very basic development courses, but never really learned more than what you need to work with developers, not enough to be one. However, based on those courses, I decided I loved to code and I wanted to be a developer that can design, rather than a designer that can develop. This is where I started spending more time on Treehouse and side projects.
You’ve recently landed a web developer position at LinkedIn. Tell us a little about how your career has evolved since learning with Treehouse and the work you’ll be doing in your new position.
After joining Treehouse, I completed an internship at a great little agency in DC called LookThink in my sophomore year. I was able to combine the skills I learned in design school with the development skills I learned with Treehouse. After that, I was able to land an internship at Adobe during my junior year. This time, my title was Web Development Intern and I wasn’t considered a design intern, though I still used those skills.
My move to LinkedIn is going to be my first full-time job, and I’m really excited about it! This is definitely the most technical position I’ve had yet, and I’ll be utilizing a lot of front end skills I’ve learned. I’ll also get to learn more about team workflow and spend more time working with a group of developers and an existing codebase.
Interviewing with LinkedIn was a great experience because they valued the specific skillset I gained through Treehouse, versus having only generic programming skills or a CS degree. I felt that taking the time to learn the front end deeply paid off, and I’m definitely excited to be joining their team.
What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?
Treehouse was really an accelerator for me. Prior to Treehouse, I had to dig around the internet and cobble my education together. This was not only time consuming, it led to messy code and not learning the best practices. Treehouse’s teachers do an excellent job of explaining why we do things, in addition to how they work, which is really valuable.
The other thing that Treehouse helped me with was confidence. Even though I may have been writing more code than designing, I used to introduce myself with something like “Oh I’m a design major, but I write some code sometimes.” I still have some Imposter Syndrome, but it’s really great to be part of a community of people who are facing the same challenge as you are and knowing that you’re not the only one.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with new students who are just starting out?
- The best thing you can do outside of Treehouse is write code. Write apps, do side projects, just write some code. Every day, if you can.
- Don’t feel like you have to learn everything. Prioritize a certain skill set, don’t just try and learn the newest thing or everything. It’s tempting to try and learn something new and sparkly like WebGL, when you might benefit more from learning about common architecture and design patterns. Don’t overspecialize, but don’t be a jack of all trades and master of none.
- Plug yourself into the community. Attending conferences is a great way to create a network! Follow industry leaders on Twitter and read blogs too. You’ll meet amazing friends and learn so much, plus it’s a great way to keep up on the latest and greatest industry developments.
- In general, try to stay away from situations where you’re the smartest person in the room. Surround yourself with people that are more experienced than you that you can learn from, it’s really valuable.
- Last but not least, don’t give up! We all hit walls. It feels even better to get over them.
To read more student success stories, check out the Treehouse Stories Page.