Meet Jeannette Washington, Speech Pathologist Turned Education Technology Advocate

When students apply to coding bootcamps, we look for persistent, hard workers with a passion for problem-solving. It’s important for students to come with some understanding of programming and be well researched in what it means to work in tech. 

Many student backgrounds are quite surprising; with the skills they learn in a bootcamp, graduates have the ability to create their own path. While many of our students go on to work at various tech companies, some of them elevate their existing professions with this new knowledge. We love watching graduates combine their previous experience, passion and new tech skills to transform their professions. 

Meet Jeannette Washington, Speech Pathologist Turned Education Technology Advocate 

Jeannette Washington

Jeannette Washington, M.Ed is a graduate of our 2017 Java bootcamp. Since graduation, she’s been busy advocating for tech inclusivity, publishing a book, and speaking internationally to demystify digital accessibility and disability inclusion. Jeannette’s dedication to finding a better way led her to combine her background in dyslexia therapy with the tech skills she learned at Grand Circus, and she has some impressive projects to show for it. 

What did you do before the bootcamp, and why did you decide to take the bootcamp? 

Before the Grand Circus bootcamp, I worked as a speech pathologist in Mississippi and spearheaded a private practice specializing in dyslexia therapy. I have always been intrigued with assistive technology for those with dyslexia and other language-based disorders, like voice recognition programs and screen readers. So when the opportunity arose for me to understand the inner workings of these adaptive devices, I was eager to pivot more towards technology. 

How did you prepare for the bootcamp? 

I prepared for the bootcamp by researching roles and responsibilities for a software developer. The title was common but my understanding wasn’t, so I endeavored to learn more about what I’d potentially be referred to. In hindsight, I should’ve spent more time using free online resources like freeCodeCamp or Codecademy to prepare because I found it difficult to catch my footing early on. I was so focused on the outcome (the title, the salary, the lifestyle) that coding would afford that I neglected to consider the work it would take to earn such a title.

What was your hardest moment during the bootcamp? 

The hardest moment in my bootcamp was the midterm assignment when we had to coordinate schedules and assignment priorities. I learned that I will likely be on a team when I ascend to a professional role. I also learned that with clear expectations each team member can flaunt their strengths and improve the perception of their challenges. I overcame the challenges by listening to each member, understanding their point of view and remembering that we are all learning. I also acknowledged that our individual insecurities may have shaped our project perceptions and priorities. 

During the bootcamp, what was your support system outside of class? 

My mother and older brother are the real MVPs. They extended help in every way — financially and emotionally. Being out of the classroom for nearly two years prior, this was more of a transition than I had expected. I can’t sing their praises enough. 

Can you tell us about your final project experience? 

My final project was called Social Que. I created an app that would distinguish your personality type based on your birthday, which, in turn, matched you to events in the local area. I thought of this idea because it was something I wish existed. I’ve always struggled with being an extroverted introvert. I have plenty of friends and I thoroughly enjoy socializing but I have a remarkable longing for alone time. This app would be the perfect way to navigate the two personality types. Think, the best of both social worlds. 

How would you describe your overall experience with Grand Circus? 

Grand Circus is an exuberant place. It’s filled with dreamers, doers, and helpers. There is this apparatus of support that encompasses you, even when you become doubtful and self-conscious. My program manager Charlene Donelson was my biggest advocate. Her honesty and empathy is much to be adored. There were instances that she saw more in me than I saw in myself. This made me work harder to grasp concepts so that I could make myself proud and live up to baseline Charlene set for me. 

What are you working on now? 

Jeannette Washington recording audiobook

Audiobook recording session

Currently, I have several educational technology talks lined up — mostly conferences where I will be trekking to international stages in an attempt to demystify digital accessibility. I will be speaking at Wordcamp D.C., J on the Beach in Spain, and Women Techmakers Montreal,  just to name a few. Additionally, I will be visiting Budapest to work with a tech company aspiring to diversify its workforce and I’m hoping (fingers crossed) to confirm a diversity training with a company in Saudi Arabia.

What’s next for your career in tech? 

After the recent release of my book Technical Difficulties, I’m working closely with the Color of Autism to launch a coding course. 

What was your best Detroit discovery (business, lunch spot, hidden gem) during your bootcamp? 

I didn’t know the alleyway near Madison was called “The Belt.” The Belt has some of the best murals in the city. 

What piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on a bootcamp? 

Be open to learning and doing things that may have been inconceivable. It’s a wild ride, but it’s absolutely worth the trip! 

Thank you Jeannette for sharing your story with us! We’re excited to continue following your journey as you explore the world and share your knowledge!