Listening To Your Inner Voice | Graduate Spotlight

Sep 10, 2020
Mandy Arola


Laura Collins of Part-time Web Development Cohort Evening 10

Laura Collins wrote her first program when she was 8. By high school she was building websites on Geocities and learning Visual Basic and C++. But when it came time to go to college, she was encouraged to pursue her artistic interests. Even though her dad was a programmer, a career in tech didn’t seem like the path she could pursue. It didn’t take long for Laura to realize that a career in the arts was not for her and she changed her major to Japanese studies. As she bounced around from job to job trying to find something she enjoyed, her inner voice kept reminding her about how much she loved programming. 

Laura finally started to acknowledge her inner voice when she heard about Nashville Software School (NSS) from her boyfriend who worked with several graduates. After attending an info session, she knew that it was time to return to programming and NSS was the place for her to do it. She started saving money and brushing up on her skills by writing a simple JavaScript application for her job as a bakery training specialist with Panera Bread to help her employees calculate recipes for scones.


When writing code, it probably needs to be simpler than you think. Try not to overthink problems or make them more complicated than they need to be.

As a part of Part-time Web Development Cohort 10, Laura loved solving the programming challenges she faced everyday and building strong relationships with her classmates. Laura shared some great tips for approaching a project, especially when you get stuck.

Code In Steps

“Don't just write a function from top to bottom and expect it to do the thing. For each little piece, make sure it works before adding the next step to your function. This will save you time in debugging because you will know exactly at what point your code broke.”

Take Breaks

“If you have been smacking your head against a problem for a while, get up, get a drink, get a snack, and walk around. You will likely realize the solution to your problem when you're no longer staring at it. If you don't, ask for help. A second set of eyes can sometimes spot the spelling error you've been missing for the past 20 minutes.”


Laura is passionate about snakes and feels like they are often misunderstood. For her front-end capstone, she wanted to create a mobile-friendly app that helps people identify the snake they found and report the sighting. Snakelings educates the users on whether or not the snake they found is venomous and allows other users in the area to be aware of the sighting. When users spot a snake, they can filter the snakes by state and input their features, such as head shape, body shape, and color, to narrow the results. The app will give the user the closest match with information about the snake and they can report the sighting. Laura built the app with React, AWS S3 bucket for file uploads and storage, and Firebase for her database and hosting. 

TakuGaku, Japanese for homeschool, is Laura’s full stack capstone project that helps families manage homeschooling. As a former homeschooler who also attended public school, Laura realized that one of the biggest challenges for kids adapting to homeschooling after being in public school is the lack of a schedule. TakuGaku helps parents build a class schedule and give and grade class assignments. It also includes a report card feature. The app was built with React, C#/.NET API, Dapper ORM to map to a SQL database, React-Calendar, and React-To-Print. Laura plans to add additional homeschooling resources and a test builder that will grade the test when the student is done.


As she looks for her first job as a developer, Laura is adding features to Snakelings, including geolocation to make reports more accurate, a SQL database and API instead of Firebase, and migrating hosting from Firebase to AWS. She is also starting to explore Python and machine learning and would enjoy a full stack developer position.

Get to know Laura on her website or listen to her podcast.

Check out all the recent grads on Web Development Cohort Evening 10’s class website and hear the graduates share their experience at NSS and capstone projects in their podcasts below.

Topics: Student Stories, Hiring?, Web Development