Age: 26 | Hometown: Lee’s Summit, MO | Apprenticeship: Hytrol
MY BACK STORY
I grew up in Lee’s Summit, which is part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. I was homeschooled my whole life. My dad was a programmer. He worked for an insurance company, but he also had his own business on the side doing consulting work. So he would work from home sometimes, and I would go down in the basement where he had his office and I would be able to see what he was working on. He was very patient. He would always stop and talk to me and answer all of my questions.
I would have been like 9 or 10 when I started doing that. He died when I was 13, so it wasn’t for many years that this happened.
MY EDUCATION (Part 1)
I originally wanted to go into textiles. I love fabrics and I like to sew, but my mom and people who are wiser were like, “You will not make enough money doing that.” It was just a wild idea.
My father died from cancer, and I was in hospitals a lot and the environment was interesting for me. So then I thought, Nursing seems really good. There are a lot of nurses in my family, so I figured I’d be a nurse. I went to Avila University in Kansas City. I went there specifically because they had a good nursing program, and my grandma went through their nursing program and I wanted to do like she did.
Then people began saying, “No, be a doctor.” My great uncle specifically wanted me to go to medical school. “Don’t waste your brain,” he said. You know how your family is—they want you to do more. So I switched my major from nursing to pre-med, even before I started in the nursing program. The plan now was to get a biology degree, which I did. Then I got into a pre‑acceptance program, so I skipped my senior year of college and went straight to medical school.
MY EDUCATION (Part 2)
I was young compared to most people in med school. After one semester, I decided to take a year‑long break because it really wasn’t going too well for me. I didn’t enjoy it. After that year off, I came back and stayed a week, and then I just quit medical school.
Looking back, I would say it was a stupid decision. It was stupid because I had a full ride scholarship, so I would have no debt and would be a doctor. That’s the problem. It would’ve been great if I could’ve just gone through it. You can do a lot with a medical degree. People will listen to you even if you’re not a practicing physician.
Today I’m very thankful that I made that decision, because I would hate to be in the healthcare field.
MY EDUCATION (Part 3)
But then I decided, Okay, I’m really interested in mental health. Originally, I had wanted to be working with addicts and trauma victims, and I had shadowed doctors in that. So when I quit medical school, I figured I would just become a psychologist. I got into a program, a Masters in Psychology, and I quit before the courses even started. I just withdrew. I was like, “You know, I’m going back to nursing.”
During my time in college, I had been a hospital advocate for a sexual abuse center, so I would go to the ER whenever someone would come in to get a sexual assault kit done on them. I was very interested in forensic nursing or being a sexual assault nurse, so that’s why I quit the psychology program. I decided I would just go get my nursing degree. It’s faster. It’s easier. And I wanted to be a sexual assault nurse.
MY EDUCATION (Part 4)
So I started that. Then I ended up meeting my current boyfriend and he lived in the Jonesboro area. He’s not from Jonesboro, he’s from Wisconsin. But I figured if we were going to make it in a long-term relationship, I really didn’t want us to live apart for so long. So I went ahead and applied to the nursing school at Arkansas State and I got in. That was in 2018.
When I first came down to Arkansas it was hard, but I actually think I like it a little better than where I came from. I think the people around here have a different mindset that I like better. I’m talking about outlooks of life, like political, moral, religious; I like it better.
So I started studying nursing at ASU—that was the pre‑clinical classwork. Second semester, when I got to clinical, I hated it so much—it was worse than medical school. It was all about giving out pills; you didn’t ever solve any problems at all. I found it boring. But then I kept thinking, Maybe the actual job that I want will be different and I’ll like it.
I ended up talking to some of the nurses there, even as I was working as a mental health technician in a psychiatric ward. One of the nurses was even a teacher at a local nursing college, and I told her all the things that were concerning me and why I didn’t think I liked nursing. “Hannah,” she said, “I hardly ever advise this; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever advised this. But I think you should quit nursing. It’s not for you.”
MY TURNAROUND MOMENT
My boyfriend is an engineer at Hytrol, and I said to him, “You know, my dad was a programmer. I liked that when I was little. I think I’m going to look into that.” The way I figured out I wanted to get into medical school was by shadowing doctors, so now I figured I would shadow IT people. “Please,” I said to my boyfriend, “do you know anyone in the IT department that maybe I could go shadow?” So he talked to the CIO, who let me come shadow him for a day.
After the day of shadowing, I was told that Hytrol was going to have internships that summer. They were already full but they might have an opening. So I just kept calling the CIO to ask. He liked me enough, I guess—he made it happen for me.
During that summer of 2019 I helped them implement an HRIS system that was digital, because everything was paper at Hytrol. And even though I had no programming knowledge at the time, and no computer science degree, the CIO ended up offering me a job in the IT department, under the condition that I would start working on a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, which I did. I’ll receive that degree in about another year. And now I’m thinking—thinking—about getting a Masters in Data Analytics.
I would say getting the internship at Hytrol was a definite turnaround moment, because while I was interning, I also started learning Python on the side, just trying to make sure this was something I wanted to do. The experiences in the internship solidified it for me because I got to work in the environment of a real job, so I knew I liked it.
I’m doing a data science apprenticeship facilitated by ACDS, and from what I understand, it’s new. I think I’m in the second group to do it. All the course work was virtual. You got on Zoom and a live instructor walked you through all the lessons, and of course you could ask questions. Our instructor was Travis Ahault, and he was very good. I liked him.
The course work is finished, and right now I’m like the person of contact between Hytrol and the Emory Group, which is helping the company with some data science projects. This is through ACDS. They’re showing the company how to optimize some current functions using data science, and I’m kind of organizing all the meetings and everything.
We’re starting with smaller projects, just to begin seeing how data science can help. I don’t think the current project is going to be revolutionary, but some of the other things that upper management has mentioned seems like they would be really impactful. I’m interested to see how it’s implemented because I would like to learn more about machine learning and AI and robotics, and I think some of that might be involved. We’ll see.