/ Developing Stories_

A Marketer's Programming Path

Jason Hogge is a Marketing Specialist at Long View Systems, an IT services company based in Calgary. He has an extensive background in marketing, but he came to Codecademy for a very specific reason—he wanted to learn how to build landing pages.

His story stood out to me for a few reasons. Chief among them was that he used the skills he learned in his Intensive to save his company thousands of dollars before the course was even over.

Read on to learn why Jason started coding, how it's impacted his marketing career, and what he wants to learn next.

  1. Can you tell me a bit more about yourself?
  2. Did you have programming experience before Codecademy?
  3. Were there moments during the Intensive when you felt stuck?
  4. When did everything start to click for you?
  5. What was the first thing you built off of the Codecademy platform?
  6. How do you convey these skills on your resume and LinkedIn?
  7. Do you use your programming skills daily?
  8. Have you seen any other career benefits since gaining these skills?
  9. What do you want to learn next?
  10. Is there anything else you want to share with our audience?

Alexus: So, can you tell me a bit more about you and what you do on a day to day basis?

Jason: So, I work on a very small marketing team. There's three of us at an IT company in western Canada that has like 1,000 employees, and we're a B2B IT services company. The marketing team is actually sort of new at the company.

As a small team we quickly realized that if you're going to execute marketing efforts like email campaigns and call-to-action landing pages, you have to do a lot of it yourself. And previously, we were outsourcing a lot of that effort—like just creating simple landing pages—to outside creative marketing agencies and development houses.

So, those outsourcing costs, they're in the thousands. We do a lot of event page marketing and we do a lot of e-mail campaigns, and all this stuff needs landing pages, and the e-mail campaigns are huge. So, instead of paying an outside company to do this, I talked my boss into spending $200 to let me go do Build Websites from Scratch.

And yeah, am I going to go work as a front end developer somewhere? Probably not. After doing this course, it did give me a bunch of hard tangible skills that I was able to use out of the gate, and save the company some money.

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Alexus: So, backtracking just a little bit, the reason you chose to learn to code was really to build these landing pages and save money. You had a specific goal. I'm wondering why Codecademy was your choice at that moment.

Jason: I think I was looking around at online courses, and there's a ton of those camps out there for career switchers, and things like that. You know, be a front-end developer in six weeks, sort of super intense stuff. I've got a Computer Science degree, but I hadn't written code in about ten years. I was kind of looking for an experience that was self guided, but held me accountable in the sense that someone is going to review my work, and offer some feedback. Codecademy kind of met those needs.

Alexus: Interesting. So, can you tell me a little more about the CS degree, and the kind of experience you had before taking the Intensive?

Jason: Oh geez that was some time in like the mid-nineties.

So I get a Computer Science degree and was exposed to things like Java, object-oriented languages and databases, a ton of that stuff. Never did anything web related in that, and basically I left and got a job in marketing. I was always in the types of roles where I had to speak with technical people, but never do anything technical myself, and these things sort of have a shelf life to them.

I wouldn't consider myself someone that started his Codecademy journey with a ton of skills out of the box that I was just looking to add to.

Alexus: That's fascinating to me, that you studied CS in college and then eventually made your way back to some form of programming.

Jason: Yeah, I really liked it. I had a good time doing it.

Alexus: I'm wondering if you remember finishing your first project on the platform, or even writing your first lines of code, in those early days of the course. and sort of what that experience was like for you. What was it like to get back into the swing of things?

Jason: It was fun. I really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of a school, of a college experience I'd had a long time ago. Again, going from that sort of early, “Hello World” kind of coding, to being able to confidently lay out a page in HTML and CSS was fun, and having access to the Slack channel was good as well.

Alexus: Were there moments when you would say your motivation waned, or you felt kind of stuck?

Jason: Yeah I guess certainly I noticed those moments, but it kind of reminded me of my college experience, because you get stuck, you get held up. I especially got stuck in the display and positioning part of the course where you get into Flexbox and how to lay out content and sort of organize it. I found sort of a combination of the Slack channel and my own research. It's sort of a persistence thing.

Alexus: You were learning these skills for work, but you weren't learning them during work. Was it ever hard for you to find time to work on the Intensive? Would you block off a specific period of time every day, or certain days of the week, when you would go back to the course?

Jason: Knowing how the learning curve of these types of things progresses, my strategy was to work ahead early, with things I know are going to be simple, like the first couple weeks of HTML and basic CSS. I was able to plow through a lot of that quickly, so when it got time for the stuff that I knew was going to be difficult, I'd have extra time. It's funny, near the end once I got into sort of final capstone project and the intro to JavaScript, that's sort of when I got caught up, sort of with the actual timeline of the course. So my advice would be to work ahead quickly to allow yourself time, and I mean for me anyway it wasn't like this enormous time commitment. I would say maybe ten hours a week.

Alexus: During the course, was there ever a sort of “ah-ha” moment when you felt like everything started to click?

Jason: Absolutely, I sort of knew what these landing pages needed to be at work, and that was essentially content laid out on a page and linking to some other stuff. I would say that point happened with the display and positioning stuff where I was like "Ah okay, I'm at the point now where I can take these skills and start being productive with this kind of thing at work."

Alexus: What was the first thing you built off of the Codecademy platform?

Jason: So we're in the IT industry and we were holding an event for the industry to sort of get together and talk about IT challenges. I designed the site, so I did the branding and everything like that, and I was able to code up a page for the event that linked to the registration page on a different platform. With the skills I learned it only took me like four hours to do that. So that's great, and all of the event sponsors were on the page and everybody liked it. I think I fooled everyone into thinking I was a front-end developer.

A landing page Jason recently built for his company

Alexus: I guess you kind of are, you did technically develop a front-end. Has design always been a part of your work?

Jason: Yeah, for sure. I would say my job here is evolving quickly. My job title is Marketing Specialist, but I would say what's unique to that, a small team, I would say marketers require technical skills, the ability to do some basic HTML, CSS type stuff. Sort of the other hat I have to wear is a bit of a designer's hat. Not in a sense that I'm doing incredible illustrations in illustrator, but I'm competent with Adobe Creative Cloud in the sense that I can lay out wireframe and lay out content, and then use the skills I've learned at Codecademy, and put that into production.

Alexus: How do you personally convey these programming skills to the world as you accrue them? For example, have you added them to your resume or LinkedIn or a portfolio site?

Jason: I'm still figuring that out. I would say it's not credentials that matter, for me these learnings have been a real practical output in terms of skills I use every day at work, and that helps with things like my resume and portfolio.

Alexus: Another thing I'm curious about is the way your day-to-day responsibilities have changed since you built that first landing page. Is this now something your team looks to you for regularly, is it only for the occasional conference?

Jason: I work with another person, she doesn't write code, so I've been sort of the go to guy for anything HTML, CSS related. Say we need some kind of newsletter, something in HTML. The other thing that's been helpful is we use HubSpot as our e-mail marketing tool, and I'm no longer just restricted to using templates. If I want to modify the HTML or bring in my own design, it is way simpler for me now.

Alexus: I'm wondering if you've gotten a raise or a promotion or a change in your job title since you started using these skills on a day to day basis.

Jason: Yeah for sure. I mean, I've only worked for the company for six months, so no big raises or promotions or anything like that, but I've certainly got a stellar performance review as kind of a resourceful guy that can use technology to accomplish things.

Jason built this landing page for an industry event

Alexus: So having seen how learning these skills has made you a better marketer at the end of the day, I'm wondering if you have plans to keep learning new languages, or to build on the knowledge you have in the languages you feel comfortable with now.

Jason: I think I do have plans. A lot of those plans are more in the design and UX side of things, but in terms of actual coding, anything that's sort of front-end related intrigues me as a marketer who wears many hats. You probably won't find me signing up to sort of back-end full stack type stuff, but anything that's sort of visual. The other thing that may be of interest to me down the road is data science stuff. So far it's just anything that's front-end.

Alexus: My last question is sort of open ended. I'm wondering if there's anything else you want to share with our audience of people who are learning to code, either words of encouragement, of wisdom, anything at all that you think is worth sharing.

Jason: For sure. I would say that at least for my fellow marketers out there, knowing some HTML CSS is super helpful, and it's not just knowing a little, you kind of need to know enough to make practical use of it. I would say that my experience in Codecademy got me to the point of practical use. A couple of months of an investment in time that was much less than I thought it would be.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed to make Alexus sound smarter for clarity.

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