Meet Nick Pettit: Teacher at Treehouse

Have you ever considered pursuing a career in Web design or mobile development, but didn’t know where to begin? Do you feel as if your current career isn’t fulfilling your lifelong dreams? Nick Petitt, a teacher at Treehouse, has some insights on a tech career and training.

Treehouse is an online educational platform that features classes on topics such as: HTML, CSS, WordPress, Ruby on Rails, PHP, Business, Mobile Development, and more. It was founded by and . Read on to learn how Nick got his start, as a teacher with Treehouse, and his advice for Sweet Lemon readers.

Sweet Lemon Magazine: Tell us a bit more about yourself?


Nick Pettit: The Internet is the industrial revolution of our time and programming is the most valuable skill a person can possess in the 21st century. My mission in life is to teach the world about technology and help empower as many people as possible. I refuse to be a passive observer of life.
My dreams are big, but in my free time I’m actually a pretty simple guy. I live with my girlfriend in Orlando, Florida. Her and I love to watch movies together, stay fit, and try new things. I also have a serious passion for playing video games.

SLM: What inspired you to pursue a career in tech and design?

Nick Pettit: By its very nature, technology is a moving target, so there are very few people that have decades of experience in any particular area. For example, to even have 5 years of experience in making iPhone apps in 2013 means that you’ve been coding since the launch of the app store in 2008. As a result, the industry is highly interdisciplinary and the motivations are varied.

My many interests include fine art, gaming, filmmaking, problem solving, music, and several other interests tangent to digital media. Web design is the perfect medium for me to mix all of those passions; you can make games, videos, art, and anything else you can imagine. The web also has huge advantages over other mediums, in that it’s interactive, communicative, and anything you create can be instantly distributed to a global audience.

SLM: How do you think your education prepared you for your current role?

Nick Pettit: The academic subjects in grade school and college helped me passively appreciate subjects outside of my bubble of technology driven liberal arts, such as physics or chemistry. However, much of the coursework specific to my degree (Digital Media B.A.) was, unfortunately, a waste of time.

The current 4-year university model is completely broken, especially for students interested in programming websites or games. The current levels of student debt would have been considered hyperbole even just a few years ago, but what makes it worse is that universities haven’t proportionally improved their end of the value proposition. Curricula moves too slow to prepare students for the realities of the tech industry and most lessons at the start of a degree program are obsolete by graduation. The real kicker is that universities rarely do anything to help you find a job after you have a degree. Why would you pay money to waste 4 years of your life?

I don’t like pointing out problems without offering solutions. My internship during college was the most valuable thing I could have possibly done for myself. Not only did I have money in my pocket, I was also able to learn how a real company operates. I think the current status quo needs to be replaced with an apprenticeship model. High school students interested in tech jobs would go through training (like Treehouse) and then get placed into well paid positions at major companies. At Treehouse, we’ve already been able to place many high school students directly into jobs and we’re continuing to develop our job placement partnerships.

This is also a great way for people to make a career switch. They can train up with Treehouse on their own time and then get off to a running start in an exciting new field.

SLM: How did you get involved with Treehouse?

Nick Pettit: My involvement began in mid-2010. I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my employer at the time, and I saw a tweet from Treehouse founder and CEO, Ryan Carson. He said they were looking for a designer and a developer that could make screencasts and teach people.
At the time, Ryan was running a successful web conference business, but he wanted to provide on-going training that people could use everyday (rather than just one-off events). In parallel, my friend Jim and I were running a weekly video podcast that taught a web design topic and a web development topic every episode.
Jim and I emailed Ryan right after he posted the tweet. The match was pretty obvious and we started working together within a month.


SLM: What types of things did you help implement at Treehouse?

Nick Pettit: When Treehouse first started in 2010, it was just Ryan, Jim, and me. Ryan was in the UK at the time (he’s since moved to Portland, OR) and Jim and I had a tiny suite in Orlando. Together, Jim and I planted the seeds for our teaching style, video production, and many other foundational business functions. Now we’re a company of roughly 60 employees distributed throughout the world with millions in revenue. Those of us in Orlando moved out of our first office long ago and we’re now in a space that’s more than 25x the square footage with a world class video studio. To think that my personal journey began with a weekly video podcast and a tweet from Ryan is kind of mind boggling.

SLM: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Nick Pettit: I love that I get to teach people everyday. Technology is very empowering and I want everyone to be able to have affordable access to that knowledge.

I also love the flexibility of Treehouse as a company. I’m able to work from home or work from our Orlando office, and everyone is the driver of their own career. I have the freedom to pick my own projects depending on what I think is best for Treehouse as a business. We work 4-days a week (not a typo) and we have a very generous amount of time off. Everyday I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

SLM: What is your greatest accomplishment?

Nick Pettit: I don’t really dwell on accomplishments much. I just try to do good things everyday and hope that my greatest accomplishments are still ahead of me.

SLM: What does the future hold for you?

Nick Pettit: In the early days of cinema, filmmakers would use a single camera angle and shoot theatre performances from the perspective of an audience member. It wasn’t until around 1903 with The Great Train Robbery that filmmakers began to explore the idea of editing scenes together shot at different times, rather than a single static shot. The concept of editing dramatically heightened the emotional impact and basically created the foundation for cinema as we know it today. In hindsight, film editing seems like an obvious idea, but it wasn’t always that way.

The web is still a very young and volatile medium. My guess is that we still have quite a few equivalents of “film editing” that are yet to be discovered; groundbreaking techniques and ideas that define the form for many decades to come. It’s a very exciting time and I hope to be a part of forging that story.

SLM: Do you have any advice for novice Sweet Lemon Readers in regards to getting into a design or development field?

Nick Pettit: Be nice to people, never stop learning, and share your knowledge. Just being generous with your time and staying positive will get you pretty far, but if you’re always improving yourself and sharing your learnings with others, you’ll help yourself and the community. This can be applied to almost any field.

Specifically in web design and development, don’t be afraid of frustration. You’re going to get stuck on problems, sometimes for days or weeks at a time, and it’s going to build up your anxiety. You’ll feel like you’re not good enough and that you should just quit. Don’t let it get to you. No matter how good you are, there’s more to learn than you’ll ever be able to learn, so just keep working at it with a diligent attitude and you’ll break through that plateau. It’s a wonderful feeling when something finally works.

It was an honor to interview Nick. You can also follow him on !


nick petittteam treehouse
  • Share on:


  • Reply August 29, 2013

    Missy James

    This was so inspiring!

  • Reply August 30, 2013

    Bev Amicone

    My nephew, what a guy! Always knew he would do well.

  • Reply September 1, 2013

    Ricardo Diaz

    This is the man that made me better at what I do. THanks Nick for what you do at Treehouse and all over the web!

  • Reply September 13, 2013


    That last paragraph made me smile. I’m going to remember that. Thanks Nick!

  • Reply September 20, 2013

    Kevin Brandon

    Outstanding!! Really nice to read articles like this, and to know that there are people like you helping to make the world a better place!!

  • Reply October 28, 2013

    John Locke

    Treehouse and other web design/development education sites are an awesome resource. The ability to learn and empower yourself can’t be understated.