From Hairstylist to Mobile & Python Engineer

Photo by Pixabay / CC0

Brian Polonia had been a professional hairstylist for over 10 years when he joined Treehouse. He had first started learning to code in his teens, but put programming on hold to focus on his career as a hairstylist. A decade later, Brian’s career had plateaued and he was ready for a change.

However, he was faced with the challenge of needing to continue to work full-time while preparing to transition industries. By choosing to learn online, Brian was able to learn multiple programming languages in his free time, from front end web development to iOS, Java and Python. Since then, Brian has accomplished a great deal with his new skills: he’s worked on freelance projects, built and launched several apps, is now a Python QA engineer at Twist Home, and even co-organizes a popular tech meetup, React Native NYC.

We asked Brian to share his inspiring story and experience, as well as his advice for aspiring developers looking to make a significant career change.

What work were you doing when you first joined Treehouse?

Before joining Treehouse I was working as a professional hairstylist. I actually went to college for finance but while I was studying someone gave me an opportunity to learn how to do hair and I fell in love with the profession. I decided to make that my career and spent more than 10 years as a professional hairstylist.

About 3 years ago I started thinking about making a career change my income was limited by the number of customers I could see at any given time, and because of that my I had limited time for my personal life. I had to be available at all hours of the day, night and on weekends to service all of my customers. My brother, who was working for an ad tech start-up at the time, suggested I look into Treehouse and I’m so glad I did.

What first encouraged you to learn to code and pursue a career in the tech industry?

I’ve been programming since the age of 13. I was first inspired by a classmate of mine who was really good with Flash and ActionScript. He pointed me in the right direction for where to learn and from that age through my 20s I did freelance work as a web developer.

You’re now a software engineer. Tell us a little about your experience transitioning careers.

The Tracks I’ve done on Treehouse have exposed me to front end web development, full stack JavaScript development, iOS development, Java, Python, and UX/UI Design. While I was completing the Tracks I applied my coding skills to building freelance projects for friends, family, and local business owners. Last March I also released my own iOS app to the app store named SquatRight that helps people know how low they should go when they squat. I built the app using the popular framework, React Native. Over the summer I also built an iOS and Android app prototype for a tech/ed startup, Grovo using the React Native framework. Shortly after that, I built a Node JS application that integrates APIs from Google Sheets and Twilio for a freelance client.

Now I work as a QA engineer building automated tests in Python for a company name Twist Home that created a smart LED light bulb with a built-in speaker. Check us out. I have also become the co-organizer to a popular tech meet-up here in New York City, React Native NYC.

What I learned from Treehouse has allowed me to become a professional in a high demand and very rewarding industry.

What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?

Treehouse allowed me to gain the skills I needed to make a career transition without leaving the job I had at the time, which was key for me. I wasn’t in the type of situation where I could just go to a coding boot camp full-time and not work. I feel that in many ways it actually worked out better then if I would have gone to a boot camp because I was able to pace my learning and make sure I understood it. What I learned from Treehouse has allowed me to become a professional in a high demand and very rewarding industry.

What have you found the greatest challenge while learning to code?

Trying to learn a concept that just doesn’t click can be a challenge as it sometimes holds you back from moving forward to the next part of what you’re learning. However, if you persist and try to attack the learning from every angle possible, it will eventually make sense. I got into the habit of looking outside of Treehouse for additional resources and documentation to aid my learning. I make a habit of getting a 360-degree view of whatever it is I am learning.

Trying to learn a concept that just doesn’t click can be a challenge. However, if you persist and try to attack the learning from every angle possible, it will eventually make sense.

What are your favorite aspects of the tech industry compared to your past career?

My favorite aspect of the tech industry is that there is always something new to learn so it is hard to get bored. I can build amazing products that solve people’s problems and make people’s live’s easier.

What advice would you share with aspiring developers?

Don’t stop. What you are attempting to learn may feel overwhelming at times but try to learn in chunks at a time. Make sure you understand and apply whatever concepts you are working on before moving on. Get involved in your local tech community through meetups and make sure to ask for help from the Treehouse Community.

To read more inspiring student stories, check out the Treehouse Stories Page.