Success Stories

Nicole Archambault

Portland, Oregon

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From customer service to back-end web development, Nicole found success with Treehouse

Nicole worked in customer service, but in her free time enjoyed personal nerddom, playing around with consumer technology and building things. Inspired by these interests, Nicole decided to register for an on-campus Computer Science course but quickly found the course structure wasn't suited to her. Shortly after, there were several failed attempts to learn web development on a variety of educational sites. Then finally, Nicole discovered Treehouse.

With its unique learning style and curriculum, Nicole had found the perfect learning environment. The only restriction was not having enough time to dedicate to her studies. So when she lost her job, the timing was serendipitous as she was able to take a few months off to commit to Treehouse and transition into a career in technology.

Nicole is now harnessing her coding skills and looking forward to building on her new career in web development. Inspired by her learning experience, Nicole also started a blog, La Vie en Code, to reach women and minorities and encourage them to take the first steps in self-education. What was originally a hobby for Nicole in free time is now well on its way to being a fulfilling career, and she can confidently say she is the happiest she’s ever been.

The things I used to tinker with in my spare time are now exactly what I’m supposed to be doing to find a fulfilling career, make more money, and continue growing… and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

My name is Nicole Archambault and I was 29 at the point that I officially changed my career from Customer Service to Back-End Web Development. One of the most frequent questions I receive is “how did you get started?”. The answer to this question is oddly complex, because I feel like my decision to “take the plunge” into web development came after years of being deeply entrenched in personal nerddom and playing around with consumer technology. Since I was a young girl growing up in Massachusetts, I had always been unnaturally fascinated by computers and technology. I wanted to build things, and take things apart, and figure out how they worked. My best childhood friend and I would tinker with things for long hours, in between playing computer games.

I had started studying Computer Science at Wellesley College in 2003, but their department wasn’t quite structured in a manner that spoke to me, so I quickly lost interest. However, later in the 2000s and particularly the 2010s, we saw a boom of educational sites for people interested in web technology. I started to take some online courses through W3Schools and a handful of others, but their curricula were widely spread and somewhat confusing. Everybody learns differently, and it just didn’t do it for me.

After several failed attempts to learn even simple concepts like CSS selectors, I came upon Treehouse in 2013. Their approach was very different, with videos and frequent quizzes and code challenges. Soon, I didn’t even have to use an external text editor, thanks to Workspaces. I realized quickly that what I was lacking was structure up until this point, and suddenly, my learning took off. I was super-impassioned to begin learning, but my day job kept me from being able to spend as much time learning as I would have liked. But that was going to change. On May 18, 2015, I lost my job in customer service at a software company, and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I was planning a move anyway and hadn’t been happy for a while, but there’s something unique about suddenly being completely unsure of your next steps. I had to decide something and fast. I talked with my family, who gave their word to support me in any way they could. I had been dreaming of just taking a few months off to dedicate to Treehouse, and make an official change into a new industry. The timing was right, and I did not want to get stuck in another Customer Service position. To complement my Treehouse education, I received a scholarship for Mt. Hood Community College’s Code Academy, which also used Treehouse courses as a framework. By early June, I was committed to getting started on my path to a rewarding new career. Treehouse gave me the tools, and I needed to do the work. And work, I did.

I have covered classes in the past month in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and completed the entire PHP Track. Next up is the Full-Stack JavaScript Track, and I am hungering for more. I can’t wait for this to be my new career. The things I used to tinker with in my spare time are now exactly what I’m supposed to be doing to find a fulfilling career, make more money, and continue growing… and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Overall, the $25/month I paid for Treehouse is a fraction of what I pay in student loans from college, and I find myself wishing sincerely that they had been around before! Now, I’m close to even getting my membership for free with referrals.

For a current Treehouse student, my best advice is to not let any one track or subject make you lose your momentum. When I first started on the Web Design Track, I didn’t yet realize that I was going to really enjoy server-side programming more than front-end. CSS frustrated me greatly for some odd reason, and I let it stop my coursework for nearly 4 months. When I came back, I tried the PHP Track and fell in love. As it turns out, PHP was also actually an excellent introduction to Object-Oriented Programming, which I have run into with many other languages since.

In July 2015, I started a blog, La Vie en Code, with a goal of reaching women and minorities to encourage them to take the first steps in self-education. I also currently write for Ladies Storm Hackathons as well. Scope my Treehouse Profile, and feel free to say “hi!” via Twitter or on my blog! I love to speak with other Treehouse students and learn from my peers.

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