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From Unemployed to Accomplished Developer: an Interview with Scott Cook

In 2015, Scott was unemployed and desperately in need of a significant change. Having recently been laid off, Scott set himself a goal of starting a new career in web development. He’d previously tried attending college for a Computer Science degree, but having found the course outdated, he knew an alternative learning resource was the only way to launch his new career as a developer.

With Treehouse, Scott learned the basics of web development and was soon confident and skilled enough to land his first role as a junior web developer. From there, Scott continued to learn from the new position, his peers and by using Treehouse to keep his skills sharp. Scott is now an accomplished developer who relishes his job and is confidently expanding his knowledge whilst advancing his career.

We asked Scott to share his experience and advice with us and aspiring web developers.

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What first encouraged you to learn to code and pursue a career in the tech industry?

In Fall of 2011, I had gone back to a local community college to major in Computer Science. I always had an interest in computers and felt like that was a good place to start. A few years later I had grown very disappointed with the courses offered and decided to pursue my programming education elsewhere so I started with Udacity and Codecademy.

What work were you doing when you started learning with Treehouse?

In May of 2015, I had been recently laid off from an IT job. I was unemployed, desperate, and needed a change. I could have gone back to my job as a store manager at a local store, something I really loved to do, but I knew it would be better for my future to commit to learning web development. One of my good friends, who had recently completed General Assembly’s Full Stack course, encouraged me to enroll in Treehouse.

How has Treehouse helped you with your career?

Treehouse helped me understand the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript enough to get a job as a Junior Web Developer. Treehouse is still helping advance my career both on and off the job. When I first started my current job, I knew nothing about building HTML emails. Sure enough, I looked in the Treehouse library and found a course on building responsive HTML emails! In my spare time I’ve been running through Treehouse’s Full Stack Track (say that 5x fast) and learning the latest frameworks to keep my skills sharp.

Treehouse helped me understand the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript enough to get a job as a Junior Developer.

What benefits have you experienced working as a developer?
Where do I start? Aside from the standard perks of competitive pay, medical benefits, PTO, and working with the latest tech tools, I have two benefits that personally stand out to me. The first and most important is the satisfaction of cracking code, working through a problem, or building something. Getting satisfaction from your job is so important. It’s the single biggest factor between liking your job and having the desire to punch yourself on your commute to work.

The second benefit is having the flexibility to move to some really cool places. I’m an Indiana native (go Hoosiers!) living in SoCal but if I ever wanted to I could check out Seattle, Portland, New York, or practically any major US city. I could even move back to my home in the midwest and find a job, but for now, my heart is on the west coast where it’s summer year round.

What has been the greatest challenge while learning to code?

At the moment, understanding AngularJS is my biggest challenge but I feel like with enough discipline and practice it will make sense. I think developing discipline is the biggest challenge for people learning on their own, especially if you’ve been away from a traditional class structure for a long time. You really have to push yourself. There’s no classroom you have to go to at a certain time. There are no classmates to collaborate with, and as great as the Treehouse Community, it isn’t the same as sitting eye to eye with someone trying to help you. It’s all you.

Which do you think is the most valuable programming language to learn right now and why?

For web developers the answers obvious: JavaScript. You can’t get away from JavaScript. Libraries, frameworks, and more are all based on this one language. You need a solid foundation in JavaScript to move forward with any of those technologies. If you’re just starting out, dive into a language that will help you build something that interests you. Whether it’s a game, app, or website, do what excites you. If you’re not sure what language to start with, I’d suggest the Front End Web Development Track. It’s easier than some other Tracks and cool to visually see a project come together.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to break something. Don’t be afraid to Google something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What advice would you share with aspiring developers?

At the risk of sounding cliché my advice would be:

  • Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to break something. Don’t be afraid to Google something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The Treehouse Community is great for beginners.
  • Motivation is fleeting, discipline is more reliable. Some days you’re not really in the mood to get things done and that’s ok, but try to program at least an hour or two if you can.
  • Stackoverflow can be harsh and extremely unhelpful at times, but there are some great answers there. If you’re in a city where programmers are plentiful surround yourself with developers that are better than you, not just ones that match your skill level.
  • Take frequent breaks, especially if you have long stretches of time to program. You’ll burn yourself out if you don’t.

Become a developer and start your success story with the Treehouse Techdegree Program.
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