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Grinnell English grad wins coding lessons, lands job as developer

For Paloma Velazquez, writing HTML is a pretty big shift from her previous writing experience. Last May she graduated from Grinnell College with degrees in English and political science. At the time, she was working as a communications coordinator for BitMethod with their app, Change.

But after winning a two-year scholarship for Treehouse—a web development education tool—and teaching herself to code, Velazquez recently landed a position as a front-end developer at Des Moines’ Webspec Design.

Velazquez first caught the coding bug at a Startup Weekend Des Moines event.

“I went there excited about all these ideas, but I had just gotten out of college for writing, so they didn’t have really any need for me—at least not until the very end of the project,” she said. “But I really wanted to get in there and build something with people. So I started thinking, ‘How can I learn to build things too?’ “

Last November, Amanda Morrow, one of Velazquez’s co-workers at Change, suggested she enter Treehouse’s scholarship drawing. Velazquez put her name in the running, and had two free years of access two weeks later.

Treehouse offers courses in areas like basic CSS and PHP applications, using a combination of video guidance and do-it-yourself projects to attract users. For example, one course involves building a website for a fictional cupcake shop.

Velazquez followed the program religiously, and cruised through courses covering fundamental HTML, responsive web design and interactive websites. Treehouse’s offerings, especially the personable video walkthroughs, fit her learning style perfectly.

Once she felt ready, Velazquez reached out to Webspec. They were impressed with her progress and offered her a position.

Now she handles front-facing features, jQuery and Javascript for Webspec’s clients, including Iowa companies Drake University and Hy-Vee.

In her free time, Velazquez plugs away at Treehouse lessons and reinforces her skills with the help of Codeacademy. Mostly she’s just glad there’s room to grow.

“It may seem like a big jump since I was an English major and for my whole life I’ve been really focused on writing,” she said. “But I’m really glad I’m at a point in my life where I get to explore new things.”


Credits: Photo courtesy of Paloma Velazquez.

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