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Rachel Heinen

Rachel Heinen’s first assignment toward earning her Remote Work Certification was a simple one: Set up a home office and make it a place you want to work every day.

So, Heinen purchased a rug, a small desk, and a hanging plant before hanging art on the walls and plugging in a diffuser. The result? 

“It was a place that made me happy … somewhere I wanted to be,” she recalls. 

The best part is that a mere five months after taking the Rural & Remote course, Heinen is, in fact, working in that space she defined for herself. There’s nowhere else she’d rather be. 

“I can’t believe this is real life and that I don’t have to get up and drive to an office every day,” she said. 

Making her dream come true didn’t happen overnight. Heinen first heard about Rural & Remote back in 2019, did some initial checking into the program, but didn’t follow through. She had a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and had tried her hand at running a business before returning home to Downs, unsure of what direction to take next. She was working at a local manufacturing business, which Heinen says was a “good job.” However, she felt like there was more she could be doing and wondered if there was a better fit in a different role.

“My Dad is 73 and is farming by himself,” she said. “I couldn’t help but wonder if I could be here and help, and still have some bigger, better opportunities.” 

During a conversation with Gretchin Staples, Program Coordinator with Rural & Remote, Heinen was encouraged to give the training another look. With nothing to lose, Heinen began taking the course in January and was immediately impressed with the curriculum.

“It was a lot more than I expected ... Rural & Remote does not give itself enough credit on what the training gives people,” she said, adding that having the schedule built out for her through Zoom meetings made it easy to fit the studies into her life. “It was great to learn the lingo remote workers have and the programs they use. It was a whole new experience and I made friends through the cohort … we all supported one another.” 

Upon completion of her certificate, Heinen was diligent about the suggestion to work on her cover letter, polish her LinkedIn profile and strategize an “elevator pitch,” which she described as “your 15 seconds of fame as to why you are best for the job.”

Her hard work paid off. She discovered a Georgia-based company called Gravy that serves as a  payment recovery financial service for businesses. Heinen appreciated that many of its employees had worked in several positions within their time at Gravy, proving that there was opportunity for advancement. The culture of the company was appealing as well. So, she kept checking back at their postings, and when an opening appeared, she applied. 

“I got a reply that day and a week and half later, I had the job,” she said. 

It was a thrilling result, especially considering Gravy only hires 1 percent of its applicants. What made Heinen stand out and receive an offer?

“They told me it was because I took the initiative to take the Rural & Remote course and change the course my life was on,” she said, recalling the answer she gave when asked about why she pursued remote work. “I felt like let’s do it, let’s make my own life. They want initiative and want people to go out and talk to clients. It was that response that got me the job.” 

Although she’s new to her position, Heinen couldn’t be happier with the full-time role, benefits and perks she now has -- including the ability to be there for her dad on the farm that’s been in the family for generations.

Her advice for others? Go make something happen for yourself.

“There’s so many opportunities,” she said. “You just have to go get them.”