Success Stories

Duarte Monteiro

The U.K.

Duarte transitioned from graphic design into web development by studying at Treehouse.

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Duarte transitioned from graphic design into web development by studying at Treehouse

Duarte is now a software engineer at xDesign, a web and mobile product development company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Duarte graduated from Treehouse at the beginning of his career, and then continued to improve himself to get to where he is now!

Let’s dive into Duarte’s story to see how he transitioned from graphic design into software development.

Getting started in graphic design

Duarte started his career doing graphic design, but eventually, he realized he wasn’t enjoying it fully. The market is very competitive for graphic design and it was difficult to differentiate himself. As technology grows, a lot of design jobs require you to know a little bit of code.

One day Duarte took on a project for designing a website. As a designer with a bit of experience designing websites, he felt it would be a piece of cake.

One to two days into the project, Duarte realized there was a lot he didn’t know.

Duarte started googling the basic things he wanted to do with the website. He was working with a theme and he wanted to add some animations and change some colors.

He didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of Duarte’s education with HTML and CSS.

Compared to now, Duarte was so clueless about what he was doing at that time.

The beginning of learning to code

As Duarte’s project continued, Duarte wanted to do more and more things. Duarte wanted to use logic to get the web pages to do more complex things. At some point, he realized he was way over his head.

Duarte went onto YouTube and tried to learn through the videos, but the problem with learning from YouTube is they always assume you have some background in coding. There’s a lot of jargon. They might say “use this variable for this”, and “use that function there”, but at that point in Duarte’s career, he didn’t know what variables and functions were.

Duarte needed to know, “what’s even a variable, what’s a function?”

There are a lot of tutorials on YouTube if you want to learn React or other things, but that first step to learning is the hardest one. These videos always assume that you know some basics of programming, so the barrier to learning code is big.

Getting the fundamentals with Treehouse

At this point, Duarte came across Team Treehouse and they have a free trial. So he thought he’d give it a try.

Once you start the Treehouse videos you realize they go right down to the fundamentals. Treehouse starts by explaining what is a variable, what is a function, and even what is computation. Treehouse dives into what is a float and what is a string so you can get a real foundation in what you need to know to become a developer.

When you’re watching YouTube videos they don’t explain this kind of thing, but they go through it and explain it at Treehouse. Treehouse really goes down to the basics, and this gives you a really good foundation to start learning the other things on top of it.

Duarte was doing his web design project and learning with Treehouse at the same time. He was trying to catch up with what he needed to deliver on the project. There was a big gap between what he needed to deliver and what he didn’t know.

It took him about 2 months to do the project, as there was so much he needed to learn to get the project done.

It started with just learning HTML and CSS. Duarte thought that would be enough.

But then he also needed to learn JavaScript. After that, he needed to set up a payment system. After a while, he needed to set up the servers, and that required node.js.

Once he did those things he realized he needed a database, so he started learning MongoDB.

By the end of the web development project Duarte had learned so many things, he thought to himself “Maybe I should get a job doing this”.

Taking the time to study

Duarte didn’t do a Treehouse Techdegree when he was first approaching learning to code, but he followed several tracks from start to finish. He did the Web Design, Front End Web Development, and Full-Stack JavaScript tracks. He also did the React, Node.js, and MongoDB courses.

By doing these tracks and courses he was able to pick and chose what he learned rather than follow the curriculum of a set tech degree.

Duarte spent about 1.5 years learning on Treehouse while doing freelance web design work. During this time the majority of Duarte’s learning material was with Treehouse.

At first, it’s best to learn from only learning materials and schools like Treehouse. Over time you’ll start to learn more just by looking at repos, or through StackOverflow. Eventually, Duarte picked up more self-learning tools as he got better at coding.

When it comes to studying new topics, if there is anything specific that Duarte wants to learn he will go on YouTube and find a specific tutorial for that.

However, if he wants to learn a whole new technology from start to finish, Duarte will go to Treehouse first. For example, if he’s looking for a specific function for MongoDB - that’s a googling type question. But if he doesn't know anything about MongoDB, and wants to get the full overview from start to finish - that’s a Treehouse question.

Duarte’s first job was as a front end developer

Duarte decided he would start applying for jobs as a developer. To get started, Duarte made a collection of his ideas for a UI and put them on his Code Pen. He started building his portfolio there, and then he cleaned up his CV.

Duarte’s first job was a great step in the right direction, but it wasn’t all perfect.

He found the job through a recruiter, as most jobs in the U.K. are found through recruiters. The recruiter wasn’t completely clear on the job requirements or the clients that were being served by the company.

The recruiter was really selling him on the job, and made a big deal about all of the great clients the company has. For example, Nike and Addidas and beyond.

The employment process went really fast, and Duarte was able to get into the office quickly.

Unfortunately, once he got into the office it wasn’t anything like what the recruiter had said. The office was in a dark basement, no one was talking to each other, and the team had a really bizarre vibe.

The Nike and Adidas contracts were actually just briefs that were never picked up. The real customers were government projects, which move really slowly. The projects took months to complete and there was a lot of red tape around it.

And the second day Duarte was already looking for another job.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to see how apps like really make a difference in the recruitment process!

Bringing VR experience to browser

Fortunately, having even one job experience on your resume dramatically improves job prospects.

Duarte started talking to another recruiter, and he started telling them about the technologies he had been learning through Treehouse. That put him in a really good position because React, Node, and MongoDB were really new and in-demand technology.

The recruiter didn’t put much pressure on Duarte, but Duarte got interested because the recruiter had a great description of the new company.

The office was new, on the riverside at a premium location. The office looked amazing. They were a VR company. The company is called ZeroLight. Zero light is building cloud-based 3D visualizations for web browsers.

In Duarte’s case, he was building 3D experiences for buying luxury cars. With this product, you can see the car you’re looking to buy in a virtual environment.

ZeroLight wanted to bring this VR experience to the browser, and barely anyone knew how to use the technology involved in this experience at this point. Everything that Duarte had learned through Treehouse was directly applicable to the job that needed to be done for ZeroLight. Node, React and MongoDB were all the technologies required to build the web experience that ZeroLight was looking for.

How the technology worked by running the 3D modeling, just like it would be run for a VR headset, but then they were streaming it to a browser.

What was difficult was navigating around the browser space. They had to manipulate the coordinates of the view of the person using the app. When Duarte started working with Zero Light, the users had to type in the coordinates directly. By the time Duarte finished, users could manipulate the view using a joystick-style control.

This job was the perfect fit and Duarte stayed there for a year and a half.

Changing your career is really hard

From when you first start studying, to the struggle of learning new things, to the last 10% of finishing your courses and finding a job, you’re constantly running doubts in your head.

Learning new skills takes time and energy. Applying for jobs and getting rejections is exhausting. Getting every little point of your tech degree completed so you can have the certificate is also hard.

The one thing that gave Duarte confidence was his background in design. In design, he knows that they don’t care about as much about education as they do about portfolios. He decided to focus on his coding portfolio as his number one priority for his tech education.

The doubt is always there, “is this the right path to go through”, and “is this going to work out?”. New developers should do their best to not listen to their worries, focus on studying hard, and build a real portfolio based on relevant skills.

Accept the fear, be brave, put the work in, and continue studying. Make sure you build a cool portfolio, make sure you put some work into making your CV look cool. There’s so much demand in this area that I know you will be successful if you follow all those steps.

Just keep doing interviews and learn about what kind of questions they have. After the interview, look up the answers and then remember the answers for next time.

There’s always going to be another interview. It’s difficult to have visibility into the job application process, but once you have a bit of experience as a developer, you’ll start to see that there are hundreds of opportunities out there. There are tons of new companies starting all the time, and everyone needs people with development skills.

Going to university didn’t make sense for Duarte

Even though Duarte was committed to learning to code, it didn’t make sense for him to study at a university.

Putting aside the price, which is about 15K a year for four years in the UK, the curriculum at a university isn’t as up to speed as an online school like Treehouse.

Duarte considered who would be teaching him at a university. He figured that the university professors’ knowledge might be out of date as they haven’t worked directly in industry in a while. Sometimes a professor has been working at the university for more than 10 years.

It’s possible that they have never worked in industry, or that they haven’t worked in industry for a while. Their knowledge of the technology being used in industry could be outdated.

The most important technology to learn has often been released within 1 - 2 years. If a degree takes 4 years, by the time you graduate you’re already behind the times when it comes to the most important technology out there.

Things move fast, especially in the world of JavaScript. React came in a year and a half after everyone was using it. If you go to university you’ll learn something that might be four years old, when companies ask for something that was released last year.

There’s no way that makes sense and there’s no way he’s going to be successful in getting a job after that.

Even though Duarte felt confident in his decision to not go to university, he still felt insecure and doubtful at times.

There’s a lot of momentum in every direction when it comes to studying code, it’s difficult to know what’s going to be right for you.

The most important thing is to learn real skills and be able to demonstrate those skills directly.

Study with Treehouse

Sign up for a Techdegree with Treehouse and start studying the skills that will matter for your future.

Build a portfolio using the Treehouse Techdegree as the basis for your projects. Leverage that portfolio into your job applications.

You can even use the Treehouse job board as a place to find new job opportunities once you’ve graduated from Treehouse.

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Are you ready to start learning?

Learning with Treehouse for only 30 minutes a day can teach you the skills needed to land the job that you've been dreaming about.

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