From Depression & No Direction to Dream Career in Just 5 Months

Daniel Daines-Hutt
Daniel Daines-Hutt
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A few months back, I saw this comment in our private Discord server on ZTM.

marlon gets job offer

A job offer in just 5 months of learning to code is incredibly good, so I reached out to Marlon and asked if I could interview him for this article.

We chatted back and forth, and the more I learned about this dude, the more he blew my mind. I have zero doubt that this guy will continue on to even greater things.

But rather than me telling you all the details, this is his story and how he got hired, so I’ll pass you over to him.

Meet Marlon

Hi, my name is Marlon, I'm 31 years old and based in Belgium.


I am currently employed at a telecommunications company, but have just been offered a brand new role as a Software Engineer after just 5 months of learning to code!

marlon job offer

Well, technically it's been 7 months since I decided to learn to code, but the first 2 months I was buying random courses off Udemy and then never logging into them, so I’m not sure if that really counts?

tl;dr: It's been 5 months since I sat down and decided to learn every day and make it happen.

marlon work done

What was the hiring process like?

The interview process spanned several weeks and began with an IQ test, followed by a programming assignment where I needed to score at least 70%.

Despite feeling incredibly nervous and believing I had failed, a week later, I received a call informing me that I was the only participant who passed and could start!


However, there's a challenge. My training, which is supposed to last for eight months, requires daily onsite attendance.

It's about an hour's drive each way, a commitment complicated by my responsibilities as a father to a two-year-old son. Remarkably, the company showed great understanding and granted me a few months to find a solution to this predicament, which was an unexpected and wonderful opportunity.

Why did you join ZTM?

I needed to make a change in my life. You see, ever since I was a kid, I always wanted a career in IT because I felt like you could create impactful technologies that would change the world.

Making the world a better place

As motivating as that dream was, as I grew up, my journey took a hard detour due to a series of youthful misguided decisions. This then led me into a period of severe depression and a crippling alcohol addiction.

No joke, this period of my life was not just challenging; it was a descent into a personal hell where each day was a battle against despair and dependency.

Sidenote: I don’t want to get too dark here, as this is actually a positive interview. However, my goal is that by sharing these details with you, it might help give you some hope if you’re stuck in a similar situation.

Anyways, back to why I joined.

As I navigated through this difficult time, I worked in various jobs that were a far cry from my aspirations.

Everything from:

  • Laboring in a paper factory
  • Managing a fitness club, or
  • Toiling in factories that made soup!

Each job was a constant reminder of how far I had strayed from my childhood dreams. Yet, they were crucial in shaping my resilience, and wow did I need it.

The grip of alcohol addiction was strong and relentless. It wasn't merely a habit but had become a refuge from my inner turmoil of not living the life I wanted to have.

I faced numerous setbacks, each one testing my willpower to its limits. Despite this, a flicker of hope and ambition remained alive within me. At 27, amidst this struggle, I managed to earn a bachelor's degree in Finance and Business Management.

pxl university

However, this achievement felt hollow as it still wasn’t aligned with my true passion.

This meant that by the time I was 29, and after multiple hospitalizations and hitting what felt like rock bottom, I reached a crucial turning point. I was exhausted, not just physically but mentally, from the relentless battle against addiction.

Like I said though, this is actually a positive story

I realized that the only way out was to make a drastic change.

Making the decision to become sober and turn my life around required an immense mental shift and a commitment to self-care that I had neglected for so long. It demanded a level of mental fortitude and discipline that I had never tapped into before. Through a combination of personal development and a newfound dedication to meditation and self-reflection, I slowly started to rebuild myself from the ground up.

As I approached my 30th birthday, sober and with a clearer mind, I embraced the realization that it was time to pursue my ultimate dream and become a software developer.

230 days

I’m now at 230 days in a row of logging in and completing a class - even though I have my new job.

I figure, I’ll keep the streak going and keep skilling up!

When did you first realize you needed something like ZTM Academy?

I tried to learn on Udemy at first. However, I soon encountered the problem of buying 3-4 courses each month, and never completing any of them.

I am someone who is truly interested in 101 topics, and so I knew that I needed something that could help apply my curiosity in a controlled manner. This way I could learn things step-by-step, vs. just grabbing and doing any old course.

Also, I realized that a community could greatly assist me in achieving a sense of belonging, and help me follow through and finish my training. This was a key factor in me choosing ZTM over other options.

What was your previous level of coding/programming experience before joining ZTM?

Like I say, it was just those random Udemy courses. I suppose I had about 2 months of “experience”, but it was so scattered, that I wouldn't really count it. I’d grab a random course, log in and check it out for a bit.

Without any structure, I ended up watching a bit of CSS, a bit of HTML, a bit of React, a bit of JavaScript, a bit of Python, and a bit of machine learning.

Basically, all this together meant that I had NO experience and no path forward.

Did you have any hesitations or doubts before deciding to join?

2 things:

  • The price - living in Europe, 40 euros a month for the membership seemed like quite a lot to me
  • And I read some stupid advice online...

I always do research on things that I’m passionate about, so I Googled around and would often see messages saying things like “You can learn everything about coding online for free”, and “A real software engineer doesn't pay for courses”, and all that nonsense.

This was nothing ZTM focused, just general elitism about learning on your own. It was such rubbish, but I fell for it, and so as a result, I hesitated for a long time because I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need help.

After a lot of tire kicking and not really learning anything, I realized that 40 euros a month is nothing compared to having a set path to follow to get hired.

Oh, and it actually turned out to be much cheaper than my Udemy craziness!

Were there any difficulties after you joined?

Not really. It took me a little time at first to get used to such a large community, mainly because I was worried I would get lost in the noise.

ztm discord

However, I was seriously impressed.

People responded and helped, and I looked at the career paths to see what to learn (and in what order) if I wanted to be a Software Engineer.

become a software engineer

What was your learning experience like?

It was extremely positive! I’m not even sure how you guys do this, but the lessons immediately gave me a sense of belonging. I think it's the genuineness maybe?

The videos are less stiff than corporate training, and so it felt like I was learning from real people, and we were all in it together. Furthermore, I've met a lot of people through ZTM, including one person with whom I've been in almost daily contact for 6 months and with whom I build projects. He has truly become a close friend.

And when it comes to the community itself, whenever you have a question or anything else, or just want to chat with someone, you get immediate help. Everyone is very friendly.

I had previously been part of communities through Udemy courses or similar, but for some reason, I never felt drawn to engage in conversations there. In other 'communities,' it was just about 'follow the course - ask your question - complete the course - and that was it.'

But with ZTM, you know that even if you have completed a course, or even ALL courses (which is almost an impossible task) - the people are still there chatting away - long after they’ve been hired somewhere.

What ZTM courses have you taken, and how did each course specifically help you in your process to getting hired?

A better question would be which course I haven't taken!

As you can see, I followed a huge variety of courses in the first 190 days, and all of this together has really helped me a lot and got me hired.

I'm now at 230 days logging in daily, and have been just focusing on these same courses.

Crazy story?

In September, I also started a bachelor's degree in Applied Computer Science, because who wants free time right? 😀.

Anyways, because of my busy schedule I can never go to class, and am supposed to learn online through the University portal. (Basically this University's version of ZTM).

However, instead of watching their courses, I just continued to watch the ZTM training, and passed my exams in Java and Python with flying colors. This clearly says something about the quality of the teaching material the people at ZTM are providing.

How long did each course take you to complete?

Honestly, I haven't completed any course entirely from start to finish, except for the intro to ChatGPT + LLMs course.

This is because I actively seek out the things I need at the moment I'm working on a project or want to learn something specific.

I try to do as much as possible on my own, as that's how I learn best. Often, I might follow a course for a while (because I need that part for work or something), then move to another course, and then back again. This way I can find what I need to know and apply it, and then go back to the previous course.

But that's the beauty of ZTM. You can really search for the points you need and want to know more about, and it's all logically structured.

I actually use ZTM as my personal virtual programming library for reference or even relaxation. Don’t judge me but in the evenings in bed, I sometimes watch courses because they are presented in such an enjoyable way!

What has been the biggest challenge in your journey from learning to code to getting hired?

Definitely my self confidence. I never dared to apply for jobs, always thinking I wasn't ready.

Also, the fact that before ZTM, I had no structure at all and didn't know where to start, or what to learn. Other than that, I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

Editor's note: I think good luck also comes to those who make the opportunities happen, and Marlon clearly does this as much as possible - even through the fear.

What steps did you take to get hired (ex: resume, how many companies did you apply for, where did you find them) and what helped you the most actually to get your job offer?

I was still very uncertain about myself and whether I was ready. I truly thought I would need at least another 5 years, especially when you hear about how difficult it is to pass the tests or even to get an interview.

I think I sent out 1 or 2 resumes, and while I got responses, I wasn’t even invited for an interview, which I know shouldn’t affect me but it demotivated me.

I figured I would ask the community their advice, and see if I could speak to someone with more experience. So, I sent a message in the Discord to one of the teachers, Maaike Van Putten.

She teaches Java at ZTM and even wrote the book on JavaScript that I had bought a while ago, so who better to speak to!

To my great surprise, I got an immediate response and she even agreed to have a video call with me. I had never dared to dream of this!

We scheduled a time and she helped answer my questions. She gave me extremely good advice and even told me where to apply, and that I could mention her name as a reference at the company.

Without hesitation, I immediately took action, applied, took the series of tests, and I was admitted to sit for an interview which as you know, I passed.

Seriously though. My first tech interview and I was immediately accepted. It blows my mind, because I realize what a godsend this was, especially when you read what others say.

So, joining ZTM really helped me enormously, from broadening my knowledge to getting a job.

Editor's note: I reached out to Maaike to see if she could share any advice that they covered in their call.

I think the key message here is: don't be shy and reach out to strangers.

If you've worked hard and you're ready for your first job in a specific field, just reach out to some people who are doing the work that you'd like to do, who live in your area.

Same location definitely helps. I can't jump on calls with everyone, but me and Marlon are in the same time zone and live fairly close to each other, so it wasn't a huge effort at the time. (The less effort it is for the person you're wanting to talk to, the better your chances of them saying yes).

I know for a fact that the software development community is typically very friendly and always happy to help (especially if you show your potential!) 🥰.

Also, it's important to understand that 'showing your potential' is not just asking if they have any work for you. Build a genuine connection with them.

For example

I don't remember exactly how Marlon approached me but I'm not recommending strangers to valuable connections. We had chatted back and forth a few times before the call and built a connection. That's why I felt comfortable recommending him.

Some ways to create a genuine connection could be simply:

  • Asking for a 5-10 minute chat of how they got into the field, or
  • Asking what their average day looks like because you're considering entering the same field as them, or
  • Ask them to look at your resume and what top skill they would recommend for you to learn next, etc

During that mini-conversation the other person will get to know you. If they think you're a potential good fit for somewhere they know, then there's chance that they'll recommend you 😊.

That being said, even if they don't have any places to recommend - their advice is gold for the career you're about to start!

Now that you have your new position, how do you feel?

I feel incredibly proud, with a sense of peace, and much more self-confident.

Don't get me wrong though - it wasn’t easy. I’m a father, I work full-time and I put in 30-40 hours a week improving myself with this training and working on myself.

marlon time spent coding

I'm not saying this is the healthiest solution for everyone to fight this hard, but I do want to show that no matter how deep you are or what you go through, with hard work and focusing on a goal, you can make your dream come true.


Is there a big difference in earnings in this new role from what you made before?

The starting rate is about 25% more than what I'm currently earning. However, I also get many extra benefits like a laptop, phone, company car, fuel card and more, so definitely not bad.

But honestly, the salary isn't that important to me. Even if I had earned less than what I get now, the opportunity to learn and do what I’m passionate about is what counts for me.

What advice would you give other students who may have been in your position and are now considering joining the ZTM Academy?

Firstly, I want to say, it's never too late to start. Look at my journey, as someone who was really down and out until the age of 28, addicted to alcohol and not even working, to someone who fully blossomed at the age of 31.

And in about 7-8 months, with zero prior knowledge, I secured a job in my dream career.

ZTM is not just a place for learning; it's a place to grow, to meet people, and even to get jobs. If you see that the experts/teachers even hold video calls with you (something I have never heard or seen anywhere else) to help you, it really says something.

From the bottom of my heart, I say to you that if you commit to this and are motivated to work hard, you can make it happen. You can do anything.

Do YOU want to start learning to code?

If you’re like Marlon and are looking to start your dream career in tech, then check out the multiple courses we have here at Zero To Mastery.

We have a whole selection ranging from coding, design, cyber security, ethical hacking, machine learning and AI, cloud & devops, and much more, as well as advanced advice on how to get hired, even without a degree!

Or if you’re not sure where to start, check out our custom career path quiz for some advice on where to start.

ztm coding career path quiz

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