Success Stories

Levi Kane

Chicago, United States

Put yourself out there and get as much experience as you can: Levi Kane’s story of success

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Sometimes life throws you a wild card, and in the case of Levi Kane, Coronavirus completely overturned his life.

Levi was the owner of a personal training company before Corona put a stop to his entire business.

Levi had spent 5 years building up his personal training business to the point where he was pulling nearly $100K per year in personal training courses. To lose that income as a business owner as well as a father was devastating to say the least.

Less than 1.5 years and 1000 job applications later, Levi is getting offers at over 70K USD per year (or more!) to work as a software engineer, and it's only looking up from here.

Let's dive into the incredible journey that Levi took to get to where he is now.

Getting started in a whole new career

Levi had spent his previous career building a successful personal training company. He had great clients and a constant stream of work. Everything was going really well.

But once Coronavirus hit it was impossible to continue with the personal training company. He had to take care of his kids in the morning because daycares were closed, and his clients weren't interested in doing their personal training sessions over zoom.

It was game over.

Levi lost everything over the course of a couple of weeks. He started to consider a new route that would be compatible with this crazy world we now live in.

At first, Levi considered getting into real estate, but he felt there wasn't enough differentiation between real estate agents to allow him to really shine. He wanted to start a career in a field where he could really have a unique skill.

When he got to thinking about it, some of his favorite clients at the personal training company were software developers. This inspired Levi to see himself as a software developer at some point in the future.

Levi started to think about coding more seriously. About 1 month after the first lockdown started in 2020 Levi was fully committed to learning to code.

If you're gonna do it, you've got to really do it

While learning to code is do-able, it takes time. There's a big learning curve. If you're going to become a software developer, you've got to really commit to it and do it.

If you’re going to become a software developer, you’ve got to really commit to it and do it.

The lockdown started in March 2020, and by April 2020 Levi was committed to becoming a software engineer.

The first thing Levi did was enroll at Treehouse to start studying code. Levi started by doing the Python Techdegree, and later moved on to studying JavaScript.

He felt that the Python Techdegree was a great place to start. However, the issue with the Python Techdegree was that it was difficult to demonstrate his skills. Levi felt he needed to know more front-end programming in order to actually demonstrate his skills as a developer.

This pulled Levi into the front end web development Techdegree in hopes he'll learn more of the flashy skills needed to demonstrate that he understands how to code.

Get help from your community

Getting help from your community is an immensely important part of studying programming.

Levi frequently went to his friend's house to get help coding when he was first starting out. Making connections with people who know how to code can give you a really big lift.

Levi got pointed in the right direction countless times by his friends who told him to study React and JavaScript, and they even taught him debugging skills like using console.log.

Another great community is the Treehouse slack channel. You can get into the Treehouse slack channel and ask questions about the problems you're working on, and even get insight into tech interviews and careers.

When you're studying it's critical to use your communities to learn to code effectively, and to learn how to code in teams!

The first internship at 1000 USD a month

Right after graduating from the Python Treehouse Techdegree, Levi applied to be an engineer at an ad agency. Unfortunately, it was clear that they weren't going to hire an entry-level programmer.

He figured he needed to learn more before becoming job-ready.

Once realizing that the Python Techdegree wasn't going to be enough, Levi started looking for work experience and more courses to take.

Levi kept working at the JavaScript Techdegree, but before finishing he landed an internship. This internship was Levi's first chance to work as a developer.

Everyone was telling Levi that you just have to get your foot in the door. If you can get some work experience, job offers will come streaming in.

You just have to get your foot in the door. If you can get some work experience, job offers will come streaming in.

Levi found this internship by chatting with an old friend from elementary school on LinkedIn. Levi was ready to do anything for work experience so he suggested setting up an internship at his friend's company, even if the friend couldn't pay.

The friend didn't have anything available at the time, but they worked out a really low-paying internship and got Levi started within a couple of weeks.

At this internship Levi took on these kinds of tasks:

  • Refactoring one of their sample websites
  • Building the company website
  • Building a back-end site for admins to login and check dashboards and the status of API calls

The learning was immense - Levi learned tons about what to do when requested to build dashboards or webpages. The agreement with the internship leader was that the internship would last a couple of months, and then when those projects were over the internship would end.

So, Levi was back on the job hunt after a couple of months!

More education is always better

After completing the internship, one of Levi's friends asked "Why don't you take a bootcamp?"

If you take a bootcamp, recruiters will know the exact skill set that you have, and you'll build a network. Employers know about the famous bootcamps, and they'll be able to identify your skill set based on that.

Also, attending a bootcamp will enable you to build a network of people in the industry. This is critical when applying for jobs because you can get people to endorse your skills on LinkedIn, and you can use your network to identify job opportunities.

Levi took this advice and went for a full boot camp through Northwestern University which cost 11,000 USD, and took 3 months. This bootcamp was a big contributor to Levi's knowledge and skill set as a developer.

30 job applications a day

Since getting the Python certificate in august 2020, Levi applied to over 1000 jobs.

During the bootcamp, getting a job as a developer was Levi's main goal. But, learning how to apply for a job wasn't easy.

"I'd been running my own business for years, I didn't even know how to apply for jobs". - Levi Kane.

Levi got help updating his resume and started applying through LinkedIn and other tech related job boards. Levi struggled to identify where the jobs were and what the application process was.

The amazing thing is that the starting salary for a python developer is anywhere from 70K - 110K USD per year in the states.

Levi was doing about 30 job applications per day. Inspired by his previous career in sales, Levi knew it was going to take a lot of lead generation and development to get to a point where he's actually talking to people directly about job opportunities.

Then, Levi started getting interviews. This was another learning curve that Levi had to get on top of. What did the interviews entail? What were the types of questions commonly asked in the interviews?

Levi discovered that eventually he just started to get better at the tech interviews.

"Eventually you see a pattern with the tech interview questions. And ultimately, you just get better at that pattern. It's a test to see if you know how to code, but not really. It's more about if you are you good with the patterns or not" - Levi Kane

It's important to apply a lot and apply frequently. The companies won't get back to you for a couple of months, so start applying now.

You need to build your pipeline of job applications. You're not anyone's priority, you're just a number, flood the Internet with your resume, it's gotta stick somewhere.

Flood the Internet with your resume, it’s gotta stick somewhere.

First job at 36,000 USD per year

Leading up to getting his first job, Levi got interviews with three companies out of the thousands he applied to.

The first interview was for a job that was offering 80,000 USD per year.

He did the interview, which was to build a super basic weather app. The special challenge was that you can't use Axios or install any dependencies. He had two hours to complete the challenge.

When they went to review the code in the interview the only thing they dinged him on was that he didn't destructure an object. He didn't get that job because of the small mistakes made during that 2-hour interview, but that doesn't mean it's ok to give up.

The next interview was for a job at an advertising company, and it came down to a decision between him and a computer science major from Perdue. He didn't get the job because they went with the Perdue grad.

For the third job opportunity Levi interviewed with the CTO and the CEO, and it seemed like everything went well in the interview, but they hadn't got back to him for over a week.

So, before they could get back to Levi with a no, he reached out and said "Look, before you guys give me a no, how about you pay me minimum wage for 3 months and let me prove myself. At the end of that, if you like me, give me a reasonable salary."

They liked that, and they even offered more than minimum wage. They offered to give him 36,000 USD a year for a 3-month stretch with a conditional improvement of salary at the end of the 3-months.

This job was refactoring a lot of old legacy code, and also coding some dynamic components for React. Levi flew through the work. He was fresh out of bootcamp and ready to prove himself. He built everything as fast as he could.

Finally, they gave him a 5000 line piece of code to refactor. As many developers out there know, there should never be any piece of code that's 5000 lines. The job was to refractor it from a class component and a functional component, and then take two separate tables and combine them into one.

Levi finished it in 4 days, and his boss was pretty impressed. They went to grab lunch and talked about his job status at the company. They wanted to extend an actual offer after just 1 month.

However, Levi didn't give them a chance to extend the offer. That same day Levi got another offer from a big health tech company for 94% more than what he was currently working for.

A big salary markup after just 1 month

After applying for hundreds of jobs, Levi got a job as a software developer with a big health tech company.

It was tough to leave his previous company, but the big health tech company was a great opportunity to level up. It made sense to move to the bigger team where he can get more exposure to how engineering works at scale.

Once Levi got into the health tech company and started his day-to-day work, he realized that the tech stack would be really difficult to work with long-term. The work was really counterintuitive and he felt like he was learning to code all over again.

Levi started casually applying for some jobs with a different tech stack, but wasn't seriously looking for anything else. Then, some more job offers started rolling in.

Getting Recruited on LinkedIn for another salary markup

After a couple of months working at the health tech company, he got recruited on LinkedIn.

This time the job offer was for another salary markup of 35%.

The saying "once you get your first job the doors will start flying open" couldn't be more true.

Levi was right to take the first job at minimum wage for 3 months. Getting the experience mattered, and it was easy to leverage that on further job applications. In the end - he only spent 1 month at the original job for 36,000 USD per year, and that was still money in the bank he wouldn't have had otherwise.

"Out of bootcamp, it took me 5 months to make what took me 5 years to make as a personal trainer." - Levi Kane

The new role is at the coolest office in the city of Chicago. It's a brand-new office and the company has the top floors, levels 10 through 18. And to top it all off, Levi plays a game of pool everyday at lunch.

Levi's daily schedule is now all about going to the office in the morning, working out at their gym, then starting from 9:00. After working hard all day, Levi can get off at a reasonable hour to have happy hour at the bar across the street.

The food is subsidized, so he can get a salmon filet at the lunchroom for $7. The working culture is balanced and respectful, and he gets compensated appropriately for what he does.

Treehouse contributed in a HUGE way

Before going into a bootcamp, it's recommended that you do at least 1 year of programming by yourself or else you'll be totally lost.

In Levi's case, this key step was completely covered by Treehouse.

Coding has a huge learning curve. Before you can get into a bootcamp, you need to start with how programming works. Then, once you learn one language the skills are somewhat transferable. Coding languages all have the same underlying patterns.

Just being able to take that first Treehouse track with Python meant getting huge amounts of help from the Treehouse instructors. This was really meaningful to get all of the building blocks of learning.

The treehouse instructors said a couple of really key things:

  1. Slow down. Typing too fast causes mistakes. You're getting syntax errors just because of your typing speed.
  2. You need to just try things. You need to program more like a child. A child just tries things without fear. They don't know if it's going to break or not, so they just do it. They don't worry about it. You need to program like that - your computer isn't going to blow up, so just try it!

Your computer isn’t going to blow up, so just try it!

Treehouse is the year of coding you need to do before going to a bootcamp, and it was critical to Levi's success at the boot camp.

Also, Treehouse is immensely valuable for all of the supplementary videos, like learning SQL. You need to constantly be absorbing tools and skills for understanding different parts of programming. Those videos on Treehouse are immensely helpful regardless of whether or not someone's been to a BootCamp.

Confidence and putting yourself out there is everything

"Everything people tell you about not being good enough, or not having the right skills - it's all BS. Just go for it!" - Levi Kane

Levi had several people from his bootcamp discourage him from applying too often, or applying for things he didn't have the right skills for. But that doesn't make any sense. Get out there and make friends and connections - it's all stepping stones on the way to finding a job that's right for you.

You gotta pitch yourself. One of the most important things about looking for work is that you need to know how to pitch yourself.

Employers aren't necessarily looking for skills first. They're looking for people who are nice and genuinely good people to work with. One of Levi's employers said directly, "I can teach anyone to code, but if you're a shitty person this isn't going to work". This employer's tech interview primarily evaluated whether or not he could talk with Levi about the code without ego getting in the way.

Also, the actual work of being a software developer is easier than the complex and crazy algorithms they give you in the tech interviews. You'll never spend 5 days pulling out your hair and reading Stack Overflow in the workforce. There's always someone to talk to, and people to collaborate with on solving the problem.

The most important thing is to put yourself out there. If you do that, everything else will follow.

Get started with Treehouse

Are you ready to start your career in coding? Get into the Treehouse Techdegree program and start moving towards your goals.

You can do it. Hundreds of Treehouse students have landed a new job through the Treehouse programs, so there's no reason why you can't as well.

Software development is one of the fastest-growing industries and they're dying for more people. The salaries are booming right now, and you can get there fast.

Reach out to us at or get onto our free trial today!

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