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Cheryl Troell: Embarking on a Brand New Career Path


In a truly inspiring fashion, Cheryl Troell, a 52 year old web designer from Washington, D.C., shares her story of how edX helped her begin a brand new career.

Life is such an unpredictable thing.

After working for almost 20 years at the same company I was laid off in March 2016. So now what? I dusted myself off and began what turned out to be a grueling, three-and-a-half-month search for a new job. It was awful. So much has changed since I last looked for a job and it was a brutal, eye-opening experience. However, I was almost relieved, in a way, because I thought that this could be my chance to start a brand new career in Web design/development – something I had been working toward over the past several years.

One thing I decided early on during my job hunting was that I wanted to take some online classes to keep up with my coding skills and to learn new things. I had taken a series of Adult and Community Education classes and received a Web Designer/Developer certificate in June 2015, but I didn’t really feel like I learned as much as I had hoped. HTML5 was released during the time I was taking those classes and although we touched on it, there was a lot to be learned in that area.

I was looking around on the W3C website one day and noticed that there was a course being offered through edX for HTML5. Perfect!

I had never taken a MOOC before but this was exactly what I had been looking for. The best part was that you can sign up to receive a verified certificate, which you can then showcase on your LinkedIn profile. For me, that was very important because I wanted to be able to include this on my resume and my profile to illustrate that I am working towards this goal I have and that I have achieved something while I have been unemployed.

The HTML5 course that I signed up for was part of the XSeries program. HTML5 Introduction had just started so I signed up! I had no idea what to expect and I was amazed at how many people – from all over the world – had signed up for this course. I thought that I knew pretty much about HTML and CSS so I figured this would be fairly easy for me and I would just breeze right through. After all, how difficult can an online course be?

I was in for a rude awakening. This course covered more material and went so much more in depth than all those classroom courses I took. There was a lot of reading to do, but there was a wealth of information and I really did do my best to read through every piece of material provided. It was challenging but that’s what made this course valuable.

One thing that I liked about this course was the hands-on exercises that were included at the end of each section of information. I learn best by doing so that was a key factor for me. Another thing that I found rather impressive was the responses provided by the staff.

One professor, Chris Perkin, and one student, David Neil, responded to EVERY post, which I thought was amazing (after all, they do have regular day jobs too!). They answered every question posted by students and also provided helpful feedback and supportive comments along the way. The nice thing too was that I also learned how to use Intel’s XDK application (very handy) and other tools like JSBin, CodePen, etc.

So I had a pretty good routine going – I would spend about 10 hours per day looking for a job, then I would exercise and in the evenings I would work on the edX course. That worked for about a month and a half and carried me through the end of the HTML5 Intro course. I was so excited to get that verified certificate and I posted it on my LinkedIn profile immediately! However, shortly after starting the HTML5 Part 1: Coding Essentials and Best Practices course, I hit a huge slump. I was overwhelmed, discouraged, and struggling to keep up with everything, including just everyday life.

Then came another unexpected life event. Someone contacted me regarding a Web designer position that I had applied for and wanted to speak to me about the job. I was excited but reserved because I had been let down so many times. I interviewed for the position and was called in for a second interview with the lead designer. He noticed that I had HTML5 experience and he mentioned that the company Web site was not currently using this standard and that [if I were hired] we could work on this project together once I got settled in. I was jumping out of my skin. However, I knew there were two other people vying for this position. To my amazement I was contacted by the hiring manager the very next day and was offered the position!

He told me that the lead designer actually liked all three of the candidates but that I stood out because I had HTML5 experience.

Life is unpredictable indeed. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be embarking on a brand new career – one that I want to be doing.

Taking the edX course gave me the edge I needed to shine a little brighter and landed me the opportunity of a lifetime. I couldn’t be happier. My plans are to re-enroll in the HTML5 Part 1 and Part 2 courses as soon as they are offered again so that I can complete the entire series. I am confident that this will boost my abilities as we prepare to convert the Web pages at my new job to HTML5!

Last updated: January 2016