Success Stories

Sean Dees


Sean is now a senior developer making 6 figures - and he started at Treehouse only 5 years ago

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Sean has grown as a developer significantly since starting out with Treehouse just 5 years ago.

The last 5 years have been an intense time of learning and challenging himself, and it has really paid off.

Sean’s story proves that these success stories we hear all over the Internet aren’t a lie - if you put in the work the success will be there.

Check out this YouTube video that Sean made about how to become a self-taught developer. Hear all the best tips right from Sean in that video!

Now, let’s dive into Sean’s story to see how he became a successful developer!

Aiming for IT in manufacturing didn’t pan out

When Sean was a kid he wanted to be a developer - he wanted to make video games. But somewhere along the way Sean got discouraged and never went for it. Eventually, Sean went into the hardware side of IT and became a computer repair technician.

Sean worked in call centers helping people with IT issues, but his interest waned in that kind of work. He felt he was a more hands-on type of person. He wanted to directly solve the problem himself, not help other people to solve the problem over the phone.

Then, Sean then got into factory work. After a few years he felt that wasn’t very fulfilling either - it didn’t really meet the creative aspects of his personality.

At this point he was fortunate enough to move into an office role after having worked on the manufacturing line at his company. During that office role, Sean got to know a lot of the people in the IT department and he recognized it would be pretty easy to move into IT.

Sean knew they had openings at the time, as they only had one programmer, so Sean thought that maybe if he learned some programming or some web development he could move to the IT department of his current company.

Although that would have been a really good plan, it wasn’t going to work out as easily as Sean had hoped.

Getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened

Unfortunately, Sean didn’t get that transfer and the company ended up laying off about 60% of their workforce.

They did it in groups of 40 people at a time. They called everyone into the office and announced “Unfortunately we’re going to have to let you guys go, we’ve been slow for a period of months, and we just don’t have the work right now to continue your employment.”

A lot of people were really discouraged, some people were crying and visibly upset, but Sean felt relief.

Sean felt like this was his opportunity to go head first into development. It became all or nothing - Sean had no other excuse.

Getting a coding foundation with Treehouse

Immediately after getting laid off, Sean started searching online for coding courses, and Treehouse was the best course that he could find. Sean started the web development courses first. He started with basic HTML, then moved into responsive design, and PHP. These courses laid the foundation for gaining tech skills.

Today Sean really feels like Treehouse provided the foundation and the guidance to getting started in tech. There are so many different paths to take and so many different technologies to learn - where do you start? Treehouse was able to give that direction.

Treehouse takes students from 0 and focuses on the most important foundational skills, then branches out from there. That was hugely important for Sean.

Sean didn’t rely on just Treehouse - he looked at a lot of online resources to fill in the gaps. There’s so many resources, you’ll have to cover a lot of different material to get up to speed.

Sean studied for about 5-6 months before applying for jobs. During this time Sean managed to land a couple of freelance roles. Then, Sean landed his first developer job.

Sean’s first customer was a cousin of his, who was looking to build a website for a non-profit company. That was Sean’s very first job as a developer. Shortly after that, Sean was hired by a championship ring manufacturer out of Windsor Ontario, Canada to be their web developer.

The interview process was straightforward - they wanted to test his skills. They put a website on a drive, and they said “just recreate this website, then email us the code.”

They also wanted a few examples of Sean’s work. He was able to send the website he built for his cousin, and also the projects he conducted for the Treehouse Techdegree.

Sean worked there for 4 years and gained a lot of experience. It was difficult because as a junior developer he had to level-up quickly because he was the only developer. He didn’t have the luxury to reach out to other developers if he was stuck on something - there was no one to reach out to within the team.

Ultimately, Sean realized he was isolated. Sean realized that if he was going to grow, he’d have to work on a proper team where they follow a software development lifecycle. Sean started applying for new jobs after about 4 years with his first job - it was time to branch out and get onto a proper team.

Growing by working on bigger teams

After a bunch of applications, Sean was contacted by a french company - Media Win, and he was hired by them. Sean was hired as a contractor for Media Win and worked there for about a year.

Then, Sean was hired as a contractor for VMLY&R, which is a large marketing agency. It’s run by a global marketing agency by the name of WPP. Sean’s currently working for them now on a bunch of different projects, and also on a huge team.

At this job, everything is learning. There are so many different tech stacks thrown at you because you’re constantly jumping on different projects. Sean feels like he’s gaining tons of experience by doing such fast paced work on so many different kinds of technology.

All of this is possible because of Treehouse setting that foundation.

You have to continue to climb

One of the biggest learnings Sean has had throughout his career is that you have to keep growing.

In Sean’s first role, he was so happy to be a developer, but you have to continue to climb. You have to keep trying to get to the next level, if you don’t you’ll be left behind. There’s a lot of ways to grow, and if you don’t push for it you’ll miss out on potential ways you could be growing or projects you could be doing.

You never want to be complacent, you always want to try to get to the next level.

One of the most important things about web development is that it’s a never-ending path of learning. To anyone who wants to be a developer, you have to have an inquisitive mind.

Not only is it important to know how to make things, but it’s important to think about “why are we making them this way”. As a developer, you need to be that person who can take things apart and put them back.

This is the kind of thinking you need in order to be successful. If you have that kind of thinking, then you’re going to make it! It’s going to seem daunting - but keep going

When it comes to the job application process, there’s a lot of different routes you can take.

When you’re first starting out, it’s going to seem daunting. You’re going to get rejections from job applications. But you can’t take it personally. You have to be resilient, and you have to continue applying.

Getting hired at smaller companies is going to be easier. You’ll get hired easier, but you may end up isolated like Sean was at his previous company. You may be the lone-developer, and you won’t be leveling up the way you could if you were in a team.

Once you get your first job, keep growing and applying so you can learn more and improve your career.

In the application process, be mentally prepared - you’re going to get some rejection, but it’s all about resilience. Continue the process and don’t stop applying.

Every company has a different hiring process

The interesting thing about the hiring process is that a lot of companies handle the hiring process differently.

You’ll have one company that’ll give you a take-home project, and they’ll tell you to spend about 3 hours creating a weather app.

Then you’ll have another company that’ll bring you in for a white-board interview. Or you’ll have another company who’s interview process is just talking about technology. There’s different ways that companies hire, and you’ll come across them all.

The interview process is also different in terms of the amount of interviews you have to do with a specific company. Sean applied for one company that had four rounds of interviews. The current job that he has now has only one round of interviews.

You have to be ready for anything. It depends on the company and depends on the role.

Resiliency is always key. If you look at a job posting and they’re listing a bunch of technologies that you don’t have experience with - that’s OK. You’ll learn things. As long as you know the basics, you can pick up frameworks no problem. Don’t be discouraged by the wording and look at it as a chance to learn that technology.

Apply to these jobs anyway! Even if you don’t have experience with every framework, you can still get the job!

Stay in touch with the dev community

There’s a large community of new developers on Twitter. Definitely check out #CodeNewbies, #100devs, and #100daysofcode.

These hashtags have a lot of people who are learning about web development, and they provide a community and accountability partners. People are constantly talking about tech and constantly learning about tech - if you keep up with it you won’t feel alone.

There’s tons of people you can reach out to by creating a post or a Tweet. All you need to do is put a hashtag, and people will respond. What’s great about that is you also see a lot of success stories!

Seeing success stories is incredibly motivating!

Everyday Sean still scrolls Twitter and reads the success stories. On these Twitter channels you can see people switching from this job to that job or and the progression of their careers.

Seeing the success stories really provides the inspiration and motivation to see it through. Some good advice for new coding students: get into these Twitter channels where you can see other people like you.

There’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel eventually. There’s going to be rejection, you have to be ready for the rejection, you can get 1000 no’s but all you need is one yes.

Once you get your first developer job, after that everything is so much easier.

Once you have even just one job as a developer you’ll look at job postings and you’ll have experience in all of the stacks that they’re listing.

When you move to your second job as a dev you’ll get the huge bump in pay that you’re looking for.

Starting out at 40K, but reaching six figures quickly

Although some juniors start out at 90 - 100K USD, when Sean started his first dev job he made 40K USD. Sean didn’t hit 6 figures until he became a senior developer a few years later. There is a lot of money you can command because it is a growing field with a lot of changes.

Everyone needs developers. Everyone needs people who know how to program, because you’re literally creating the future. With that skill you’re just an in-demand resource.

It took about 5 years, from 2016 - 2021, for Sean to go from his first dev job to crossing 6 figures.

Sean really thinks he could have leveled up his salary sooner if he had made the jump from his first job after the second year. Sean got comfortable in that job, but if he had stayed hungry at that moment, then he believes he could have leveled up faster.

Having a comfortable job was definitely a benefit as well, where regardless of the pay, Sean feels like an in-demand resource where he can afford to take a couple of years to be chill and still have the opportunity to grow in time.

You don’t need a degree

You don’t need a degree. There’s so many companies that dropped that requirement years ago, and as a developer they’re just looking for skill. They’re just looking for people that are hungry and people who are ready to be in those positions.

Having a degree or not doesn’t cancel you out of that discussion. Sean knows people who work at Apple, Paypal or Netflix - they have absolutely no degree and they make over 200,000 USD a year. Some of them just went to boot camps where they did 6 or 8 weeks of learning code, and that’s where they are now.

Once you get out of college, you could have 100,000 USD in debt - you could be self-taught and have no student debt. Alternatively, you could go for a program like Treehouse, which is $25 a month and you’re still getting the same knowledge that you would get from the boot camp.

From Sean’s point of view, when you talk about being a developer, a degree is definitely not a requirement at all.

Self-taught is an admirable trait in the interviews

Not only is a degree not a requirement, a lot of companies look at you in a great light because you were self taught.

You had to deal with having another job and family and still finding the time to learn the material.

That shows that you are a hard worker and that you can deliver. You still had to balance your other job and your family, but you still found the time to learn to code.

Interviewers will think “this person is a hard worker because this person has shown that they can handle adversity and they’ve progressed to the level that they’re at”.

That was actually directly told to Sean in an interview: “We really admire your determination and what you’ve gone through to get to this point.”

Many people think having a diverse background is negative, but it’s actually a pro. Sean works with a lot of people who don’t have degrees, and some who do have degrees, but almost none of them have degrees in information technology. Some people have a degree in Science, or a degree in Art, but nothing useful in terms of being a developer. Many people have paid a lot of money to get a degree but they don’t even end up going into the field they paid for.

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