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Teaching Creatives to Code – Treehouse on the Accessibility of Modern Development

Written By Nick Mendez | Dec 30, 2014

Everyone should learn how to code. You’ve heard it from industry luminaries, and from Chris Bosh. Economically, it’s sound advice. Careers in development are abound and colleges are struggling to churn out enough candidates to meet demand.

One of the organizations at the forefront of the coding-for-everyone movement is Treehouse, an interactive education platform offering tutorials in Ruby, JavaScript, Python, mobile development and everything in between.

“One of the things we focus on for the established camp is getting content out there on new technologies,” said Nancy King, Job Placement Specialist at Treehouse. “It’s easier for someone who is a pro, who has a job, to learn those skills.”

Coding resembles a foreign language–without learning direct applications, the what and where to go with the how, it can be hard to retain that knowledge. So Treehouse bases their tutorials around the completion of specific projects.

“Our goal is for employers to hear that someone came through Treehouse and go on to hire them.”

“Our goal is for employers to hear that someone came through Treehouse and go on to hire them,” Nancy said. “We’re very careful about making sure that companies want to make a meaningful hire, and get them working on things.”

Thanks to the efforts of 16 employees in Portland, and an off-site studio in Orlando, they manage to produce a dozen new videos every month. Recent additions include Foundation of Java, and a course on Swift, Apple’s new programming language.

“We’re reasonably priced, and you can start and stop,” said Jenn Ellis, who oversees customer success.

Nurturing close relationships with employers also keeps the company aware of, and responsive to, the latest evolutions in development.

“We’re bringing in guest teachers and adding content to our site all the time,” Jenn said. “Everyone is very involved in the curriculum side of things.”

Treehouse recently partnered with Worksystems Inc on Code Oregon, a program dedicated to providing 10,000 Oregonians with free coding education, and assisting them in finding positions in the industry. Hiring educators who are active and concurrent development professionals is a major emphasis.

“It’s not people who have been in academia for awhile,” Nancy said.

Still, despite a wealth of tools and educational resources, learning to code can be a frightening prospect–for the math averse, the social studies kids, or those without ample free time. But both Nancy and Jenn were adamant that the development process is far from unique.

“Creatives and developers share the mindset of solving problems,” Jenn said. “Treehouse provides a way for someone like that to make the jump to the other side.”

Moreover, the world of development is more collaborative than ever, galvanized around the open-source movement and communities like GitHub.

“Developers are creating a journey for someone.”

“Some of our most successful developers are the people who are creative thinkers,” Jenn said. “Developers are creating a journey for someone.”

You can sense a pervasive enthusiasm in the development community. With a powerful computer in so many pockets, and the ubiquitous platform of the web, the next generation of storytellers may very well be coders and designers.

“The first thing is letting people know that there’s a parallel somewhere,” Nancy said. “We’re addressing what’s next as fast as we can.”

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