Designing a New Future: How Rebecca Gemeinhardt Went From Art School to Shell Oil Company

Rebecca Gemeinhardt went in for an interview with Shell not knowing what to expect. “I didn’t think it would be real. I thought it was a joke.”

Eight hours later, she got the call. Rebecca, art school graduate, got a full-stack developer job at Shell—before interviews were even over.

Many people think of artists and technologists as polar opposites. But Rebecca is living proof that the same person can embody both professions.

An artist, born and raised

For as long as she can remember, Rebecca has loved visual creativity. Inherited from her mother, her passion sent her to art school.

As a freshman at Kansas City Art Institute, Rebecca explored painting to sculpture. The following year, she narrowed down her artistic specialty. Rebecca focused on the fiber department—textiles, looms, dying, knitting, sewing—a craft, based on patterns and hard skills.

“A lot of art can be overly conceptual. That had its place in fibers, but these skills were a lot more technical,” Rebecca said. “That’s when I really started to become passionate about simply learning skills and mastering them.”

Bridging the art and technical gap

Faced with the age-old question of what to do post-graduation, Rebecca craved something more structured than art. She found a job as a graphic designer working on HTML email campaigns in Houston.

“It was a good mix between art and science. I got to learn about and experiment with coding, something I’d never really done before,” she said.

Soon, Rebecca started getting bored. And surprisingly, she wanted more tech, less art. “I wanted to learn more. I realized I wanted to go back to school, but again I was overwhelmed by the options. I couldn’t commit to getting a masters so I wasn’t sure what path to follow,” she said.

That’s when she found the University of Texas at Austin Coding Boot Camp and enrolled at its Houston campus.

Sculpting a new future

The part-time boot camp was the perfect choice. Rebecca could continue to work at her job, learn new skills on nights and weekends, and feel more fulfilled.

But she didn’t tell anyone she applied. “I was scared I would fail. I decided to keep the boot camp a secret until I felt confident enough in my abilities, that I could actually be good at coding,” she said.

Still, Rebecca was excited. Coming from a job where she used HTML and CSS, she felt that she would have a good foundation of knowledge for at least the first few weeks.

That’s when Rebecca ran into a roadblock. She had been doing email applications at work—a far cry from the web coding taught at boot camp.

“I basically was starting from ground zero,” she said.

Rebecca wasn’t deterred. Her first project gave her the opportunity to really jump into coding. While learning code required following a framework, creating a project meant actually seeing an idea to fruition. Working with a team, she ideated and created a digital informational guide to tourist attractions around the world—marking a breakthrough moment in her journey and really letting her experience as an artist really shined through.

“It was exhilarating to be able to solve problems and feel like a developer. I finally started to feel confident.”

Onwards and upwards

With her newfound sense of self-assurance, Rebecca started exploring job opportunities. “I felt like I could actually sell myself as a coder to future employees,” she said. Then, she received a note from a recruiter for Shell: he’d seen her LinkedIn and her portfolio, and he wanted an interview.

“I thought, this can’t be the actual Shell company. It had to be a misprint,” she laughs now, remembering her surprise.

Either way, Rebecca decided to take a leap of faith and scheduled an interview. She felt fully prepared thanks to the boot camp’s career services, but she was missing one thing: an all-star interview outfit.

The boot camp connected her to Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps women dress and prepare for interviews. Rebecca was given a new suit, purse, and pearls. “I can’t thank Dress for Success and the boot camp career services enough for their help,” she said.

Going the distance

Flash forward a few weeks: Rebecca returned to the new Shell Agile Hub in Houston for her first day as a full stack developer.

Joined by three other boot camp graduates from UT Houston, Rebecca feels right at home. The department dynamic—collaborative, transparent, and team-driven—reminds her of her first group project, and requires her to channel the creative mindset she learned in art school.

“The biggest thing I learned was to just jump in. Don’t be afraid, and don’t hold back,” she said.

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