The summer before his junior year of college, Walter joined Treehouse with no coding experience, but a determination to learn. What began as a hobby, soon grew into a potential career path for Walter. Enamored by the elegant simplicity of mobile apps, and after an internship opportunity gave him the chance to dabble with coding, Walter decided to focus his efforts on learning iOS development. Since then, Walter landed a job as a software engineer and has been able to fulfill his dream of designing and developing apps.
We caught up with Walter to hear more about his learning experience, launching his career as a software engineer, and what advice he’d share with aspiring designers and developers.
What first drew you to app development?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved trying to figure out how things work – breaking complicated systems down to their smaller, simpler components and imagining what I might create by putting them back together in my own sort of way.
When I got my first iPhone I found myself enamored with the elegant simplicity of mobile applications. The smaller screen necessitated precise user interface design, and the touch screen encouraged new, tactile ways of interacting with information. It all felt more personal than anything I had used before. I loved it, and though I had very little knowledge of how they were made, I knew I wanted to be a part of the community that was making these beautiful, meaningful, pocket-sized experiences.
What work were you doing when you first joined Treehouse & what encouraged you to learn with us?
I first joined Treehouse the summer after finishing my sophomore year of college. I was an English major with a technical bent, but no real coding experience. The CEO of a local startup took an interest in me and offered to help me get started with some basic programming. Early on he recommended Treehouse as a solid resource for getting started with basic concepts and continuing my education in more advanced areas.
I signed up and dedicated hours a week to learning everything I could about design and development. A year later I decided to take a semester off to focus on taking my interest in development and advancing it from a hobby to something that might actually lead to a job someday.
You recently landed a job as a software engineer. Tell us a little bit about how your career has evolved since learning with Treehouse and what you’re doing now.
During my senior year in college, I got a job as a marketing intern at a local company. While it primarily involved writing copy, I was also able to help design and develop the company website. This was my first chance to develop something for work, but I was able to approach the challenge confidently because of the experience I had gained using Treehouse.
After I graduated I dedicated quite a bit of my free time to continuing my education as a programmer, focusing on iOS development in particular. I fell in love with the platform and worked hard to learn everything I could about how to write better code and design better apps.
Around that time, a friend of mine who worked at Capital One suggested that I apply for a job as a software engineer. I wasn’t sure I stood a chance without a formal degree, but I decided to apply anyway.
After less than a year, I have had the chance to work on four separate apps for the company (three of which I helped design and manage).
What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?
Perhaps the most obvious value has been the chance to learn and become proficient in a new skill, without the multi-year commitment or copious debt of an additional degree. I certainly don’t regret choosing to major in English, in fact, I have found many ways to incorporate storytelling and communication into the apps I develop.
One of the hardest parts of getting started as a developer is choosing a language or platform to begin with. Treehouse offered the chance to try out a variety of different languages and technologies as I figured out which I felt most comfortable with. I may not know the ins and outs of every language or technology, but more often than not I can confidently contribute and keep up with most conversations surrounding such topics because of my experience with Treehouse.
In addition to the skills, I have learned by using Treehouse, taking control of my own education has helped me develop a level of professionalism and resourcefulness that’s hard to teach outside of real world experiences. It’s incredibly empowering to realize that all that stands between you and a dream job is the time, effort, and right resources to set yourself up for success.
What are your plans for the future, and what’s up next on your learning path?
Over the past year I have fallen head over heals for Swift; because it’s such a young language, there are always new things to learn and play with. Recently I’ve been particularly dazzled by functional aspects of the language. It’s a new way of approaching problems, and I’m excited to dig deeper in the future.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with new students who are aspiring, developers?
More than anything else, the past few years have taught me that it’s never too late to learn something new. If you want to be a developer, you absolutely can be. It doesn’t matter what you do now, or what you studied in college if you commit to learning how to code, you can do it. If anything, I’ve found that a diverse background can enable you to design and develop products with a sense of empathy and broad appeal. Some of the best advice I was ever given was to look outside myself and work to solve other people’s problems. Not only is that good business sense, it actually makes a difference in the world.
A second, and perhaps more mundane, bit of advice is to learn how to Google efficiently. No one, it doesn’t matter who they are, knows everything all the time. If you find yourself frustrated by a problem, odds are someone else has been in the very same position and asked about it on the Treehouse forums, StackOverflow, or somewhere else online. Learning how to quickly find the information that helps you implement a particular framework or fix an annoying bug is half the battle.
Finally, be curious, be ambitious, and develop an appreciation for good software and the people that make it. Study the applications or websites that you love and learn from the people that made them. The developer community is by-and-large an incredibly welcoming and helpful bunch of people, so don’t be afraid of asking for help.
To read more awesome student success stories, check out the Treehouse Stories Page.