Life 2.0


The best-laid plans, and all that

Savannah Herrera graduated from Hendrix College in 2017, having majored in art and French with no designs whatsoever on a career in tech. But the realities of the job market in her chosen field quickly derailed the Little Rock native’s plans. “After college, I had planned to go into arts administration,” Herrera says, “and as I was looking for a job, the closest thing I could find was at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, a community organization that works with artists. My title was administrative assistant.”

But Herrera immediately recognized the value of the position. “I got to work with a team of really cool people with a whole lot of overlap between art and tech,” she says. Herrera wasn’t tech-averse; quite the opposite, in fact. Her father, Patrick, is a software developer in the fintech industry, and she herself had long been curious about technological gadgets, a fascination she traces to the iPod she bought in middle school. But it would take major life events to elevate IT on her list of career options.

“Through high school and college, I had a lot of conversations with my dad about his job, most of which I didn’t understand. I just enjoyed talking to him about it, and it made me somewhat familiar with that industry. I didn’t do much tech stuff in college, though; the plan was to go to grad school in 2019 for arts administration, which didn’t ultimately work out for financial and health reasons.”

The onset of COVID-19 further complicated things, as the Innovation Hub had to furlough several staffers, Herrera included. This forced her to take an unvarnished assessment of her career path. “I really like the arts and I really like community work, but unfortunately there aren’t that many positions available, and it’s often difficult to make a living wage anyway,” she says. “So I started looking for things that felt creatively and intellectually stimulating, but that also had a lot of room for growth and a lot of choices for positions.”
The longer she thought about it, the more boxes tech began to check on her want list.  “In my mental model of the world, IT felt very achievable,” she says. So with the help of her former boss at the Innovation Hub, Herrera landed a job with Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), which paid the bills as she looked into training programs. Initially discouraged by the cost of IT boot camps fetching up to $20,000, she at last found an affordable option through the University of Arkansas.

“I’d been trying to figure out how to get into tech, but I didn’t really know how,” she says. “Finally, I found the University of Arkansas IT certificate program where they did a couple of different six-month programs for front-end development, back-end development, UX and a couple of other things. Previously, they’d only offered it in person, but because of the pandemic, they announced they were switching to an all-virtual format.”

Herrera began online evening and weekend classes in November 2020, learning front-end development, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and some other frameworks for designing websites. “I had used W3Schools and some of the other coding tutorial websites to dabble in HTML and CSS and a little bit of JavaScript,” she says. “Most of them start with tutorials on how the Internet works and what HTTP is and that sort of thing. So, when I started the class, some of the material was actually really familiar because I’d already been working on it. That gave me an advantage on the front end because, while I definitely didn’t have solid knowledge in those areas, it wasn’t the first time I was hearing those terms and those concepts.”

Nearing the end of the course, Herrera was introduced to entrepreneur Ashley Steele, who was about to open a digital marketing firm, Obtain Creative. The two hit it off, and today Herrera is a full-time web design vendor and UX/UI specialist for the agency. In that role, she brings together her artistic and technical sides in ways that satisfy both halves of her brain. “Part of the appeal of tech to me is that necessity to think creatively, even when I’m working on a technical problem. You get faced with a problem and you spend a long time sitting at your computer trying to figure out every possible combination. And once you figure it out, it’s an amazing feeling!”


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