Hollie HerbelBy: Anne Maxwell
Sometimes you have leave to find your way back home.
Hollie Herbel knows the High Plains of Northwest Kansas well. Born in Colby, raised in Hays, she is most comfortable in the communities where you wave at friends, smile at neighbors, and welcome a stranger.
Even so, after earning her Associate’s Degree from Fort Hays State University and Northwest Kansas Technical College, Herbel was like a lot of other young adults who yearn for a taste of urban life. So, she pursued work in Kansas City and moved a few hundred miles east and a world away from the small town surroundings of her childhood.
She began working for a sports apparel company as a graphic processing specialist. She enjoyed the work, but didn’t feel challenged. It was in a second role as an IT purchaser for a Kansas City area school district that truly whet her appetite and created a strong desire to broaden her options for a technology-driven career. She initially considered a rigorous “boot camp” training with a technical company in KC when she heard about Rural & Remote. The wheels slowly began to turn and point her back toward home.
“The class in Kansas City was really a lot of money and deep down, I wanted to get back home eventually,” she recalls. “My family is here and I like a smaller town, smaller community. I feel like I can always visit cities. Home is where I want to be.”
She started the coursework in the Rural & Remote Coding Academy, discovered that it was a good fit, and dove right in.
“It was kind of a risk to do this,” she reflects. “But I had a really good feeling that I would like remote work and working with web development. It’s both creative and logical. It has a challenging piece to it, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
In addition to the robust curriculum Herbel completed during the summer, the experience helped her sharpen several crucial skills. Communication is key in any role, especially when tasked with bringing ideas and concepts to life in a virtual world. There’s not an opportunity to simply walk down the hall to have a face-to-face conversation.
“When you work remotely, you don’t get a lot of socialization,” she said. “It can be a bit of a shock how little you get. You really do have to learn to reach out virtually if you need any help.”
And while the journey to a remote career is possible, Herbel quickly dispelled any notion that it’s an easy road to travel.
“It’s constant learning,” she notes. “There’s so much you learn with it that you really need to have a lot of self-discipline. You are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because it is going to challenge you and push you.”
Aside from the coursework and building a career, Herbel is also looking for ways to engage in the local community. Since moving back, she has become involved with Hays Young Professionals and looks forward to volunteer opportunities with the group.
“It’s a great way to make connections and be a part of local activities,” she said, noting that working remote doesn’t have to mean isolation. “Getting involved is a great way to invest I a community that helped make you who you are.”
With her initial coursework complete, Herbel was able to further her experience through an apprenticeship with Primitive, a digital solutions company out of Lubbock, Texas. The opportunity offered yet another avenue for growth as she worked with front end and back end web developers to further her initial training.
“It’s a really great time and I am learning a lot,” she said. “The apprenticeship that Rural and Remote helped place me with offers me a real feel for what I would be doing day-to-day in a remote role as a web developer. It was exciting to learn everything I did through my training, and this is just adding to that education. I am learning more of how to work in a remote position while growing as a web developer at the same time.”
With a wealth of experience in hand, and is hopeful for what’s ahead.
“I really am looking for a full time remote job or want to stay here and find something locally,” she said, resolute in her decision to follow her path back home. “It’s so great to be excited about what you are doing and to be happy in the place you’re in.”