Stories/Julie Ann Howlett
Julie Ann Howlett (she/her)

Julie Ann is an Edtech Professional, Entrepreneur, and Digital Marketer.

#edtech# entrepreneur# marketing

Tell us about yourself

I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology (have actually studied marine biology in Hawaii and also done neuroscience research!) and a Masters in Teaching. I was a public school teacher for high school science in New Jersey and North Carolina.

I left the public teaching space and transitioned into entrepreneuring and then edtech, and now I serve within edtech and digital marketing in numerous ways along with DEI projects of my own.

I currently work part time for General Assembly, lead a Women in Tech blog series on LinkedIn, grow a spirituality business, and also am available for digital marketing freelancing.

How did you first get started in your career in tech?

I first got into digital marketing - specifically studying social media marketing - when I was a full time entrepreneur living outside of Chicago building my own tutoring business. I got into designing Wix websites and studying how to create a brand identity and work social channels. I also completely started and developed my own private tutoring business and then also launched a brand identity for another education related idea I had. Through all of this, I got into women entrepreneuring circles and started to become more well versed in taking ownership of these things.

Another big game changer for me was becoming a Microsoft in Education Ambassador (MIE). During that experience, I was able to leverage my teaching background with actually getting in on the ground of a nationwide (and larger scale) marketing initiative. I was employed by a marketing agency and started delivering online and in person Office365 trainings to teachers and district leaders. I have always been passionate about technology within education, even when I was a public school teacher. I was the Webquest Queen back in 2010-2012!

I would say that MIE role was phase 1 of launching me into edtech and then discovering General Assembly was phase 2. Learning about GA introduced me to an edtech space not exclusively for K-12 anymore, and that was what I was craving. I started joining in on their webinars, attending free events...whatever I could get my hands on. I became so passionate about what GA was doing, I asked once of the New York employees if I could volunteer. She said they didn’t have a volunteer team, but that there were plenty of jobs available and I should definitely apply! Some patience and persistence later, that piece came into alignment into my life more formally :-)

What are the most important skills in your current position? How did you develop these skills?

Right now, I work remotely and service a lot of expansion campuses across the country. On any given day, I could be talking to a number of people from all over the country or even abroad.

I think my ability to communicate with such diverse groups of students as a teacher (and having taught in different locales too) really exposed me to having an appreciation for people from all walks of life. It's something I really appreciate about my journey and myself. I genuinely enjoy all different types of people. Perhaps this is also because I am a second generation Eastern European.

My grandmother came to America on a boat when she was 18, and I grew up with my grandparents talking to one another in Slovak all when I was a little girl. I know what it was like to need education, or to need schooling. I used to play “school” with my Grandfather and help him write out his grocery lists because he could not write in English. I know what it's like to be the “odd one out” and because of that I have insane amounts of empathy and compassion for people from other cultures. It sort of forever changed me and put a stamp on my life - growing up with that.

Also, I think empathy and a desire to lead work with a mission are important skills to embody. That is very important to me as well. I am not someone who can work for just anyone or anywhere (sadly, haha as that makes job hunting much easier). I have to really believe in what I am standing behind. I felt that way when I was teaching. I felt that way about the Microsoft job and I feel that way now. When you understand the “why” or feel things from a “mission” perspective it helps keep you sailing even on the choppy seas.

What difficulties did you face in your career? How did you overcome them?

I was reflecting recently on an experience I went through in undergrad where a college professor almost prevented me from graduating with my biology degree. The issue was due to his own ego issues and was certainly a male-female power struggle.

Through that experience, I had to go to my department chair and ask her how to commandeer around this situation. It wasn’t easy, and it did resolve itself (albeit us compromising on his compromise), but it did show me that sometimes it is right to fight for what you want or need.

We live in a complicated world, and sometimes people cannot see or act as clearly as they should. Reaching out to people for help and speaking up for your needs is very, very, very important...especially as a Woman in Science/Tech. Some of my fondest memories are those with my women professors, cheering me on for doing a presentation to a large group of people, or believing in me to take the next step in my career. Each of those pieces of the puzzle matter. Being supported matters. Getting support matters. But most importantly, ASKING for that help/support too.

Looking back on your career, what advice do you wish someone had given you that would have helped accelerate your career?

Well first of all I wish someone told me DO RESEARCH WHILE YOU ARE AN UNDERGRAD! (hahah) I didn’t realize how much that would put me at detriment as a science major who later on looked at graduate schools.

But, foremost, from a job perspective I wish I got more guidance on starting and creating a portfolio. It is soooooo important. I think some of the digital arts and more traditional art or UX related spaces naturally embrace making a portfolio, but the truth is ANY profession can benefit from having a portfolio.

Whether you are freelancing or not, it’s a huge help when job seeking or looking to maneuver basically anything in your career. People always talk about the resume, the cover letter, the LinkedIn… but that portfolio... it’s evidence!

Thank you for sharing your story with us. How can we support you?

I would really welcome people to follow me on LinkedIn and support my Women in Tech blog series. It needs likes, follows, shares, and if you can spare, donations to keep its life force going. I also am always looking to network and grow my portfolio myself, and am interested in new opportunities, particularly for speaking, blogging, and freelancing.