RJ learned to code and made the switch from accountant to skilled front end developer
A few years ago, RJ McLain was a recent college graduate working as an accountant but found himself hating every minute of it. Then an opportunity arose at work for RJ to help implement new software to upgrade the company’s systems. Ironically, the software replaced him, but the experience introduced him to a keen interest in software and tech.
At his next job, RJ was given the opportunity to take on his own tech project. The only issue was he had no coding experience.
Treehouse provided RJ with the learning resource he needed to master his coding skills. In contrast to the years before as an accountant struggling to land job interviews, RJs new resume and skills attracted dozens of recruiters and companies.
Fast forward to today and RJ has come a long way. He’s successfully transitioned into an entirely new industry, worked with two of the fastest growing companies in Chicago, and is now working as part of the awesome team at Merge Design + Interactive, where he couldn’t be happier.
We had the opportunity to stop by Merge Design + Interactive in Chicago, IL to meet RJ in person and hear more about his inspiring career change story.
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I actually first wound up doing some web development way back in middle school, when the Internet was filled with flashy nauseating gifs all over the place. I remember thinking it was fun but never putting much more thought into it at the time, I especially didn’t think it could become a career, but I was very wrong.
As I progressed through college I changed majors a handful of times and wound up as an accountant by the time I graduated, and it was soul-crushing, I hated every minute of it. Eventually, I wound up helping to implement a new software that put me out of a job, and I could not have been happier about it.
I’ve come an incredibly long way since the days of being an accountant. I love what I do now, it’s the perfect combination of art and technology, and I get to work in amazing environments with incredible people.
Afterward, I landed a slightly more administrative type job, but they let me know they really needed to improve in a few areas, and if I could find anything to let them know. Turns out they were still using paper timesheets, so I presented them with some web based time keeping software but they wanted it to be customized for them. So I managed to input my own styles into the project. Trouble was, I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t want to lose out on my first tech related opportunity. I decided it was time to sink or learn to swim. I started trying to teach myself but didn’t get quite as far as I would like. Then I found Treehouse.
The way they taught made things click better than it had ever before, and I started to eat it up. Eventually, I finished both the newly customized software and the Front End Development Track on Treehouse. With my project done, I decided to jump into the tech world a bit more and found myself in a brand new environment.
Now that I had learned so much from Treehouse, I didn’t have to hunt for a job. The opportunities came to me, I put out my resume and I was getting as many as a dozen calls a day from recruiters and companies. When I was in accounting I had to struggle to find one interview that would take a chance with me, but in the tech world, I had my pick. Anytime I had the chance to try something I knew I could always learn more at Treehouse just to make sure I really nailed it with any company I met with, and I came in being able to go toe to toe with developers who’d been there for years.
Now I’ve worked with two of the fastest growing companies in Chicago, I just moved from Rightpoint which is a great company, to Merge Design + Interactive, where I could not be happier. I’ve come an incredibly long way since the days of being an accountant. I love what I do now, it’s the perfect combination of art and technology, and I get to work in amazing environments with incredible people.
I’m now hungry to continue learning and to help others along the way. Next on my plate is a toss up between some back end programming for my career or some game development just for fun. And to anyone else out there who might be pretty new, just pick a path and go for it, you never know where it might take you, but no matter what you’ll sure be a better person when you get through it.