Success Stories

Britton Zirkle

Phoenix, Arizona

Primary stories britton zirkle

Britton finally gained the experience he lacked from his traditional technology degree & took on his first client project

Disheartened after leaving university with a $100k degree, but without the job opportunities to match it, Britton chose to leave the tech industry to pursue a teaching career. Years later, Britton decided it was time to revisit his passion to code. Finding himself unable to gain experience without a job — or a job without experience — he turned to Treehouse to sharpen his skills and build his confidence. After dedicating time over the next 6 months to learning, Britton is now putting his coding skills into practice with his first client project, and is enjoying every minute of it.

What drew you to the web industry?

My journey started 14 years ago during the dot.com bubble. I decided to go to school and get a degree in computer engineering technology. By the time I graduated, the dot.com bubble had burst and there were no more jobs. I remember only a few people landed jobs as coders or programmers; most of us ended up on help desks. It didn't make sense to have a $100k degree for a $12/hr job, and eventually I became discouraged and left the industry.

For the next few years I worked odd jobs and eventually became a technology teacher, but I kept circling back to wanting to work with code. I took all kinds of classes and did the school thing and when I would interview and show all of my education, I always heard the same thing, "what real world experience do you have?" I finally realized that education was good, but experience was even better, and a requirement to beginning a career. I hit the catch 22 that, I think, a lot of people just starting out experience - I couldn't get experience until I had a job and I couldn't get a job without experience. By this time, I had a family and needed steady income so I put my dream to the side and focused on my family.

About a year later, I discovered Treehouse and spent a couple months doing some research into the company and its claims. I felt like it would be a good opportunity and I was able to see how Treehouse would cover the gap between education and experience because the focus was on real life application and projects as opposed to theory and academic study. Once I decided that Treehouse was a good option, I spent a lot of time researching the industry and what it meant to work on the web.

The web community is about taking something amazing and making it even better. It is a community of people working together and sharing ideas and information because they love what they do and they believe in the power of the web to bring people together, share ideas, enhance creativity, and drive the innovations that challenge our ideas of what is possible. When I was in junior high we had altavista, netscape, AOL, and Duke Nuke'em. When I look at where it started and where we are now and the community of people who have made it happen, I want to be a part of that community and make whatever contributions I can make; that is what finally drew me in to the industry.

Treehouse has been a catalyst for me to pursue my dreams and create a path towards a better future for my family.

What were you doing when you first joined Treehouse?

When I discovered Treehouse, I was working two full time jobs. I was teaching junior high technology and career development and working nights and weekends in behavioral health at a group home for adjudicated youth and youth caught in the system. I barely had time to focus on Treehouse, but I decided that if I was going to make a better life for my family, Treehouse would be the key to gaining the skills and experience necessary to make it happen. At the end of that school year, I left teaching so I could focus more on Treehouse and the web.

You recently landed your first contract! Tell us a little about it and the experience of working on your first client project.

Next to getting married or having kids, it might have been one of the best feelings in my life. It was proof to me that what I am learning and the experience I am gaining at Treehouse will work. I got the contract because a friend of mine knew that I was working on web design and approached me about a couple of sites that they needed for their business. When I took on the work I saw it as a challenge to put to use everything I had learned in Treehouse. I don't know if I was really ready to take on the projects, but I knew that if I came across a design element or a requirement that I didn't know how to implement, I had a wealth of resources in Treehouse and the web community to help me out. At one point in working on the project I became a little doubtful of myself and my abilities because I am so new, but then I went to lunch with some friends and got a fortune cookie. The fortune said, "for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." It was some of the best advice I could have gotten and, as odd as it sounds, my fortune cookie gave me the confidence to keep moving forward.

How has Treehouse helped to get you to where you are today?

Treehouse helped me to take my education and make it practical. Treehouse has provided the framework for me to gain real experience that is critical to gaining traction in an industry that wants to know what you can do instead of what degree you have. The way Treehouse has broken down the information and learning into tracks so that you can build comprehensive skills that connect all the different technologies needed for a particular project is ingenious. The Tracks are designed to build skill, confidence, and provided real experience that can be used immediately. Treehouse has been a catalyst for me to pursue my dreams and create a path towards a better future for my family. Treehouse is helping me build the skills to have the confidence I need to continue growing and I am grateful for everything Treehouse has given to me.

What are your plans for the future?

I definitely plan on continuing with Treehouse. They have so much to offer and I have so much to learn. I have received some additional work that I am going to start on soon. My goal is to continue taking on projects that will help me grow and master my skills. Once I have enough steady work and experience, I plan to be able to quit working at the group homes and transition into web development full time. At that point, I want to find some good startups to work with and possibly even create my own start-up. Eventually, I would like to take what I have learned and come full circle by being able to teach web design and development to others.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with other students who are looking to make a career change into the web industry?

The best advice I can give is to stop making excuses, stop procrastinating, and don't get caught in the catch 22 of experience vs. education. There are a thousand excuses for why now is not the right time, but just like marriage or having kids if you wait for the perfect moment, you'll be waiting your whole life. The web industry has something for everyone who want to contribute and be involved. Treehouse is a great place to start because it enables you to jump in and get started and the community is always there for support when you need it. Making a career change can be difficult and scary, I get it. What is more scary though, a change or spending the rest of your life doing something that isn't satisfying. For me, it was scarier to think of being stuck in something that wasn't rewarding or challenging. Just remember the fortune cookie, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

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