Success Stories

Jim Syphokham

Amarillo, Texas

Primary jim

Self-taught developer to web development director: Jim’s story

Although Jim Syphokham had always loved technology, he was intimidated by programming and never had the confidence to consider a career in web development. Instead, Jim chose a very different path after high school, expecting a college degree to secure him a good career. However, a few years later when he graduated, he learned the harsh reality that that’s no longer a guarantee. For 2 years he struggled to find a job related to his degree and eventually found himself working in an entirely different job, but something was still missing.

At that time, Jim was enlightened and inspired by an old friend who ran a successful graphic and web design business. What was most inspiring was that he didn’t have a college degree, he had taught himself to code. Jim decided he had found his new career path, and committed to learning to code. It took him 7 months of dedication and tireless learning, but with the support and encouragement of his friends and family, he was able to build his coding skills.

Shortly after, Jim landed his first job as a junior developer at ROI Online, and it has been an exciting adventure for him ever since. Two-and-half years later, after learning and growing within his role at the company, Jim is now the web development director and manages an incredible team of developers.

We asked Jim to share his inspiring story and valuable experience with other aspiring developers.

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

My love for technology began at a young age, but the programming world has always intimidated me. I never felt as though I was intelligent enough to consider learning how to program, much less have a career as a developer. Because of these limiting beliefs about myself, I chose to take an easier path in college and pursued a degree that wasn’t necessarily going to make me valuable in the workforce. I found out the hard way that the world in which a person could achieve a good career as long as they had a college degree no longer existed. For approximately two years, I struggled to find a fulfilling career, which, in turn, caused turmoil in my personal life. I began to feel like I had failed my family, my girlfriend, and everyone else who had ever put their faith in me.

I found out the hard way that the world in which a person could achieve a good career as long as they had a college degree no longer existed.

It was in the middle of this personal storm, I reconnected with a good friend from school, Steve Bargas. At the time, he owned a graphic design and web design business with his older brother. I noticed he was posting messages on social media related to his company and it intrigued me. I reached out to him to see if he would be willing to grab coffee with me and chat about his company. He graciously accepted and we spent the afternoon at a local coffee shop talking. I asked him every question under the sun and he thankfully answered all of them. The things I learned from him that day are that he didn’t have a college degree, he was able to teach himself how to code through the use of books and the internet, and that he was extremely happy with his career. When I found out he was able to accomplish so much through self-study I decided to find resources to teach myself how to code, which led me to Treehouse.

What were you doing when you first joined Treehouse and what inspired you to learn with us?

I was working at a non-profit where my responsibilities included graphic design work, marketing-related tasks, etc. I am grateful for all of the work opportunities I’ve had throughout my life, but during this time I felt I was missing something and needed to pursue something greater.

When I decided to learn how to code, I came across Treehouse’s YouTube channel with videos of Treehouse students who were able to change their lives in tremendous ways by utilizing Treehouse.

You’re now the web development director at ROI Online in Amarillo, Texas. Tell us a little about how your career has evolved since learning to code.

My journey here at ROI Online has been an exciting adventure. I started approximately two-and-half years ago. My first role was as a junior developer, but because of the amazing culture and camaraderie, I was able to work with several different departments and learn many different skills. I eventually became the web development director, which means I manage an incredible team of developers.

I love my career at ROI Online. Not only do I get to come into work and do something impactful and rewarding, but I also get to do it with the best team in the world. I’ve also recently become involved with a local organization called Amarillo Tech Initiative, which was formed to promote tech education in our community, to help recruit tech companies to invest in Amarillo, and to provide educational resources for individuals who might have an interest in tech but don’t know where to start.

I love my career at ROI Online. Not only do I get to come into work and do something impactful and rewarding, but I also get to do it with the best team in the world.

What have you found to be the greatest challenge while learning to code as a self-taught developer?

The greatest challenge I encountered when I first started learning to code was the time commitment required. Before getting hired as a junior developer, I knew I had to make some sacrifices. For approximately seven months before being employed as a developer, I spent nearly all of my nights and weekends coding and learning. This meant there was less time to spend with my family, friends, and my girlfriend. At one point, I began to feel like I was neglecting my responsibilities as a boyfriend, friend, and son. But my inner circle was extremely supportive of my dream, and each time I began to doubt myself or lose motivation, they assured me that all of the sacrifices would pay off in the end. They let me know that they would be right there with me, no matter what.

Is there anything you wish you’d known when you first started learning to code?

I am a firm believer in the notion that everything happens when and how they are supposed to happen. I don’t like looking back and wishing I did “X” or knew “Y.” With that said, if there were one thing I wish I would have known when I first started learning to code it would be the importance of networking with other developers. In the beginning, I assumed I was on this coding journey alone but as I’ve grown as a developer and attended more tech events, I’ve realized tech communities all over the country and the world are springing up. These communities are full of developers with different perspectives and career advice, which are things that would have been helpful to me when I first started out.

If there were one thing I wish I would have known when I first started learning to code it would be the importance of networking with other developers… There are communities full of developers with different perspectives and career advice.

What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?

Treehouse is by far the best investment I have ever made in my life. Because of Treehouse I have a fulfilling career, dignity and self-respect, a great salary, and the ability to positively impact the lives of my clients and my community. I am now able to provide a great life for the people I love the most thanks in large part to the education I received from Treehouse and the effects directly related to that education.

Because of Treehouse I have a fulfilling career, dignity and self-respect, a great salary, and the ability to positively impact the lives of my clients and my community. I am now able to provide a great life for the people I love the most.

What are your favorite aspects of working in the tech industry compared to your past career?

I love being able to wake up every single day knowing I work in a field that has the potential to change the world. If I do my job well, my clients will succeed. When they succeed, more jobs will become available for my community and more people will benefit in general. I also love the fact that my career allows me to continually learn and grow. Because technology changes so rapidly, I’ve become a lifelong learner. It makes things so exciting!

What advice would you share with aspiring developers?

I encourage all aspiring developers to stay disciplined while learning. Make it a habit to code a little bit every day. There will be days when you will have no motivation or inspiration to code anything. You will start to doubt yourself when your progress stalls, but when that happens just remember why you started this journey in the first place.

Don’t neglect your soft-skills. Having the skills to program and being hired to program are two completely different things. There are many people competing for the same jobs. Be sure to stand out from the crowd by being someone who is dependable, likable, and business minded. If you bring value to a company and are someone that people enjoy working with, opportunities will open up for you.

Also, don’t be afraid to break things. It feels like the entire world is in beta right now. Part of being a developer involves breaking things to make them better.

Coding is a tremendous career that is available for anyone who is willing to put in the work regardless of your race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. There is no better time than right now to learn. Dive in and do it.

Coding is a tremendous career that is available for anyone who is willing to put in the work regardless of your race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. There is no better time than right now to learn. Dive in and do it.

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