074 _ Ryan Carson _ Learn to Code

074 | Ryan Carson | Learn To Code

Ryan Carson’s tech-education company, Treehouse, teaches computer coding as a trade skill, giving students an opportunity to enter the work force, or change careers in nine months, at a fraction of the cost of a four-year degree.

  • Ryan considers coding a trade skill, rather than profession that requires a four-year degree.
  • Ryan founded Treehouse to help people avoid student debt, get a job sooner and start saving for their 401k sooner.
  • There will be 1.4 million new jobs in tech, and only 400,000 will be filled by college graduates.
  • A trade job is composed of acquired skills, or “stackable skills”, like a mechanic or electrician.
  • Will the future be primarily trade jobs?
  • How is Treehouse different from other coding schools?
  • How does apprenticeship work in the tech industry?
  • What is TalentPath, and how does it help develop young coders?
  • For a skilled job, such as coding, landing a job is more dependent on a portfolio than a degree.
  • How does apprenticeship impact a person’s retirement savings, compared to earning a college degree?
  • Are there any degrees that are more valuable to a new professional than a year of on-the-job experience?
  • An apprentice has four more years of experience than a college graduate.
  • How can companies create talent, rather than hire talent, in order to compete with big tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, etc.?
  • How do employers measure a coder’s skill?
  • What development language is most in demand?
  • Trying out a school – traditional four-year university, or trade school, or treehouse – is important. How does TreeHouse allow students to do that?
  • Ryan started a company that facilitated large-file sending, but ultimately decided to pursue business that he felt contributed more on a human level.
  • TreeHouse originated from a desire to make coding education available and financially accessible to more people.
  • Students can trial for free. Basic treehouse course is $25 a month. Full coding school is $200 a month.
  • Success in life is mostly related to the ability to keep going when something is hard.
  • Most people are going to quit something because their internal “why” isn’t strong enough.
  • Coding is hard; it’s like going to the gym. Pursuing coding will require a certain amount of grit – but once you find your “why”, the grit comes.

*Update | on May 15th after the release of this episode we became an affiliate for the Treehouse Code School

Listen to Brad and Jonathan's thoughts about this episode here.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


Ryan Carson | Learn to Code

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6 thoughts on “074 | Ryan Carson | Learn To Code”

  1. This is awesome for anyone that wan’t to get a new skill but doesn’t have the time or resources to go back to a traditional school. A friend of mine went to a community college and took programming classes for less than 2 years and got a job that paid decent, but then learned more on the job and got another job that paid more. Now, with a fraction of the time I spent in school he is earning far more than I am and gets enormous raises every year to boot. Definitely a great choice for saving on education. The only positive side for me was my education was paid for by my employer, I got in when it was still a small growing company before they required degrees for new hires. But still, even with that, doing it this way would save on time as well. The opportunity cost is huge.

  2. Hi Brad and Jonathan,

    I wanted to leave some feedback on today’s episode. First off, let me state that I agree higher education in the US has a serious problem with students being burdened with debt in order to get an education. Federally subsidized student loans, coupled with ever declining government funding for state schools have created an artificial bubble in tuition and costs which has lead to the crippling pattern of young people starting their lives as indentured servants to banks. This is one of the major challenges our society needs to tackle.

    That said, I would like to play devil’s advocate and make the case for a college education. In the US, the concept of education has been warped into being viewed simply as a means for getting a job. This trend I think has been to detriment of society, ignoring the many benefits a quality education provides for individuals and the dividends they pay to society writ large. Critical thinking is a crucial skill in an age permeated with disinformation. Our beleaguered K-12 education system often fails to endow students with such skills, which has lead to a society which lacks the defenses necessary to combat modern propaganda. Exposure to cultures and backgrounds different from one’s own is another immensely beneficial experience many students have, often for the very first time while attending college. In our modern globalized society, being able to effectively interact and cooperate with people from other cultures is a required skill in order to be successful in business. Finally, college provides an opportunity to dip one’s toes into different subject areas before becoming committed to a particular area of specialization. This not only gives a student a broader understanding of the world, but helps to ensure that when they do decide on a specialty, it is one they are well-suited for. Society only benefits from having a population inoculated from propaganda, capable of communicating and cooperating, all while being gainfully employed in career paths they enjoy.

    • Craig, I think your post is on point, and highlights a major blind spot of this episode. After listening to this ep, I had a very similar reaction to yours. Higher ed is more than just a private good; it’s a public one with all the societal benefits you mention. Full disclosure, I teach writing at the University of Arizona, and while I get excited by most things tech, I can also imagine a day 10-15 years down the line, where there’s a glut of coders, and most of these stackable Treehouse skills become automated through AI. Imo, soft skills are also necessary and more resilient to automation than many realize. The social sciences, arts, and humanities have much to teach us about who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going, and they can’t always be taught via a cheap, monthly subscription service.

  3. I agree with a lot of what is being said here, but I believe there are some other points that are missing. I’d like to give my opinions here to make sure people who are thinking about this have the full picture.
    I’m a tech lead for a software company and am largely involved in the hiring process here. I’ve spent a good amount of time analyzing and investigating how to hire as best as possible, and have had a hand in creating and shaping our guidelines and procedures in the hiring process. I also primarily work with those right out of college up to a year or two experience in the field. I’ve noticed we hire people with college educations more of the time, but it’s not because we see that on their resume and decide based on that. Once they’re in the interview, we only care about their skills (although GPA can be an indicator of soft skills like being dependable and completing things on time). And there’s a correlation between skills and college degrees for a few reasons, although it’s certainly complicated. Here are some of my thoughts on why:

    * College provides the opportunity for people to realize software development isn’t for them. Also, many colleges deliberately make the first courses hard as a way of weeding out those without enough ability (or grit!). Code school doesn’t. It allows people who may have the wrong motivations to get into the field and then potentially burnout much easier if it’s not their thing.
    * College teaches how to be resourceful, how to network and communicate with others, and many other soft skills. Soft skills aren’t just about getting along with teammates. It’s about being able to recognize your own weaknesses and put things into place to help them. Time management, prioritization, organization, problem solving ability, perspective, dealing with pressure, communicating well, etc. are all soft skills that are important, and may not be learned if only coding at home.
    * Many places don’t like hiring people right out of college. It’s unfortunate, and I think the apprentice program sounds fantastic (and I’m doing something similar), but typically companies don’t like investing large amounts of time to bring someone up to speed, especially if they’re not sure how the person will turn out. This is especially key here, as it’s harder to know with people who have just done code school
    * Some people just aren’t cut out for software development. It’s like math – you know those people who just “got it”, and those who never could. And actually math ability is highly correlated with programming ability.
    * Hiring stats from code schools/academies can be misleading, or at least unclear. Many have already had experience. Others get a job in a somewhat related field. Others get a job a year later. Should all these count towards their stats?
    * Only knowing the cutting edge technology isn’t always good. Most companies are dealing with legacy software, and you’ll just be disappointed if you expect the latest frameworks to be used at your next job.

    It’s definitely possible for those who go to code school to have all the right skills. It just seems to happen less often. And to be clear, I think we should put a lot of effort into making code schools and academies better. There are many things wrong with college, as mentioned in the podcast.

    Hope this perspective helps!

  4. I was intrigued and interested in this episode because my son is about to graduate from a private school with a computer programming degree. While he is fortunate to be graduating with no student loan debt, I would not have recommended Ryan Carson’s education path even I had known about it 4 years age for one simple reason. And that is maturity. College is not just about getting a skill set (I would never had said that prior to having a child in college). He matured while spending 4 years over 2000 miles away from home. He will make better choices, and be able to handle the adult world much better than he would have even 2 years ago. There is something to be said for growing up in a higher education setting IF it can be done without financially crippling debt. I think I will take programming courses to help pay for my next 2 sons to go to college debt free!

  5. Hi Jonathan and Brad,
    I’m very curious about the cash flow breakdown that Ryan came up with for the $2million opportunity cost, would it be possible to get the spreadsheet posted here or in the vault?

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