Student Spotlight: Rachel VanHorn


November 16, 2023

7Minute Read

Career transitions are not uncommon in the tech industry, in fact, they’re the norm—but this particular student’s transition is quite unique. Today we’re excited to share the story of Rachel Vanhorn, a mother and former zookeeper who completed both the front-end and back-end bootcamps here at Promineo Tech. Then, for her final project, she combined her new skills to create a full-stack zookeeping app!


A Great Job for Stay-at-Home Moms: Software Developer

Rachel spent two decades as a zookeeper, but the emotional intensity of the job led her to explore alternative career paths. After a brief stint in embryology, and then managing a home for an ultra-high-net-worth family in Las Vegas, she found herself searching for opportunities that aligned better with her family’s needs.

“I actually Googled ‘good jobs for stay-at-home moms,’ and software development was something that popped up. I have a bachelor of science degree in Zoology, so to finish another bachelor’s in computer science was just not within the realm of what my family can do financially. So something shorter and more intensive made more sense for me. I like school, and learning new things, that’s always been a strength for me. So the idea of it being an intensive program was not scary for me,” said Rachel.

Intrigued by the possibilities, she took a math proficiency assessment from the College of Southern Nevada, leading her to a conversation with a Promineo Tech recruiter, Mike.

“I took the assessment, and Mike called me and was like, ‘Do you want to take the second test? Because you scored perfect on that first one, and that doesn’t happen very often.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll take the second one.’ So he sent me the second test, and I think I scored perfect on that one too,” Rachel said.

Rachel ultimately chose to pursue her coding education with Promineo Tech because of the emphasis on career services, regular mentor meetings, and the clearly supportive community.

“I had such a good experience talking to the recruiter from Promineo Tech that I just decided to go with it. He seemed really confident in the program. He talked a lot about the career services part, having somebody there that helps you focus on that kind of stuff. That was a big draw for me because I was going to come in as a career changer. Also, being able to have meetings with a mentor on a regular basis was something that was really appealing to me,” said Rachel.


From Zero Experience to Full-Stack Developer

Rachel joined the Promineo Tech front-end bootcamp in March with no prior experience. Because she had the time to commit and wanted to graduate from the bootcamp as qualified as possible, she opted to complete both front-end and back-end programs.

Rachel told the universe she was committed to this career transition, so the stars aligned, and the universe responded with a helping hand. She received a small, private student loan to pay for the front-end bootcamp. Then she applied for and received a grant through the State of Nevada that covered the cost of the back-end bootcamp. After that, it was all gas, and no breaks…

“My family was like, ‘Are you coding again? Yep, she’s coding again. Oh, are you still up there? Yep. You’re still up there.’ My kids would just come peek around my computer, like, ‘What are you doing?’ Oh I’m still here coding,” said Rachel.

Overcoming Skepticism & Embracing the Flipped Classroom Model

Initially skeptical about the flipped classroom model, she soon discovered its benefits. The active learning approach, combining video lessons, labs, class sessions, and mentor interactions, proved effective. This structure not only deepened her understanding but also honed her problem-solving skills, preparing her for real-world scenarios.

“I was really skeptical about the flipped classroom model because I did really well in regular school. But I found it to be good for my brain to have to look for the answers first before I go ask somebody to just give ’em to me. There were a lot of times when I was like, ‘I don’t understand any of this.’ So I would watch the videos, and still didn’t understand something. Then I would watch the lab and I was like, ‘Okay, this is starting to make sense now.’ Then I would go to class and I would go, ‘Okay, this makes more sense now, I’m getting it.’ Then I would have my mentor session and the knowledge would be solidified,” Rachel said.

“I was surprised, honestly, that I enjoyed the flipped classroom model and that it worked as well as it did. I feel like I learned a lot in that time, and it wasn’t just somebody explaining something to me. I was actively learning the information in order to do the assignments in order to build the projects. It was very valuable.”

Confronting Neurodiversity & Familial Challenges

Despite facing challenges as a neurodiverse learner, Rachel excelled in both bootcamps and stood out as a shining student example.

“I’m ADHD, and often I find my brain is very like “It’s this way or it’s that way,” and coding is not at all that way. It’s very gray. There’s a million ways to solve a problem. So learning to weed through all of my options was probably the most frustrating part for me, but it also taught me a lot. Now, being able to pull from different ways to solve a problem is very beneficial,” said Rachel.

The sense of community within her cohort and the support from instructors helped Rachel navigate the challenging aspects of learning to code. Plus, the study group her cohort formed became an invaluable resource. 

“I feel like I lucked out a lot in my front-end bootcamp with the cohort that I was part of because I ended up with a really great study group of other students. I think that was one of the biggest benefits, aside from the knowledge learned. I walked away with a group of four or five people that I can call on with questions or to throw ideas off each other, and we still do it. Our bootcamp has been finished for almost two months now, and we still message all the time. I feel like that kind of community relationship was really important and I didn’t anticipate that as being as big of a part of it as it ended up being,” Rachel said.

She also found the flexibility of the program, specifically around class times, to be very helpful in regards to her familial obligations as a mother. 

“My initial class time was 7-8:30, and as a mom with three kids, that was impossible. So I ended up jumping around a little bit instructor-wise and finding somebody that taught in a way that made sense for my brain—and at a better time too. I found them by watching previous recordings, and then I would just message them on Slack and say, ‘Hey, would you mind if I came to your class? The way that you explain things makes sense.’ Luckily, they said ‘Absolutely, come on!’ The instructors Promineo Tech has are really fantastic. And giving people the option to choose what class time to attend is everything,” said Rachel.

The Final Project: A Zookeeping App

Motivated by her years as a zookeeper, for her final project of the bootcamps, Rachel decided to create a mobile app named “Keeper Notes.” 

This app aims to simplify record-keeping for zookeepers, allowing them to register animals, write notes, and assign tasks efficiently. The project reflected her commitment to showcasing her skills and bridging her decades of zookeeping experience with her newfound coding expertise.

“Because I was a zookeeper for so long, it’s always going to be near and dear to my heart. This app is something I would’ve actually wanted to use when I was working in the zoo field. It would’ve been so convenient to have had our recordkeeping on our phones instead of just on the computer,” said Rachel.

Career Services & The Job Search

As a recent graduate of the program, Rachel is now job searching, and she’s finding career services to be quite helpful in this phase. 

“I drop in all the time to career services office hours to just hang out. They offer so many amazing nuggets of wisdom. I’m always like, ‘Oh, I gotta write that down,’” Rachel said.

Rachel’s also participating in Chingu Voyages to keep coding during the job search, as well as staying connected with mentors. Rachel adds: “I think that Promineo Tech mentors are a big part of people’s success in the program.”

“I’m just trying to stay coding every day while also job searching, while also being a mom, while also keeping a house, while also doing all those things.This is my life, and it’s busy! Luckily I’m based in Las Vegas, which is a big tech city, so I’ve got options.”

Feeling inspired by Rachel’s story? Explore how you can pave your own path to a rewarding tech career with available programs at Promineo Tech.

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