Field of Study: 
Web Application Developer
Center for Urban Population Health

My name is Jason. I earned an Associate of Science in information and computing studies from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and a Bachelor of Science in information technology with web-database integration from Rochester Institute of Technology. While I was an undergraduate, I had multiple internships including ones at NASA and IBM. Recently, I was accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Masters in computer science program.

How did you get interested in computing?

I was fascinated with computers from early age, when the Apple II was a common household computer. I used the computer to do homework, play games, and develop basic programs. I enjoyed working with software and hardware and realized it was what I wanted to do in my career. Any difficulties I encountered inspired me to immerse myself further into technology to learn more about how the computer worked. The more I learned, the easier it became to do things on the computer. I had many friends that came to me for computer assistance. I helped them because I knew it would make their lives easier. Through helping them, I also gained problem-solving skills that later became essential for my career.

Does your disability affect your career?

I am deaf. My disability does not affect my use of computers—although sometimes I forget to mute the volume on my speakers! I use captioning on video, a videophone to receive and make calls, and a white easel board to write and draw. In a recent project, I proposed adding captioning to tutorial videos that were being created for medical coders, registered nurses, and attendants. The proposal was passed, not only for disability-related reasons, but also because it resulted in a better design since hospital computers may not have speakers, which means the users could not listen to the videos.

What sort of work are you doing?

I am currently working as an associate Web application developer at the Center for Urban Population Health (CUPH) in Milwaukee, WI. I maintain its numerous websites that include a variety of content, such as blogs, static information, and sensitive information. I research code libraries and make changes to improve performance and efficiency in code-scripting. There are many code libraries integrated with the website, so performance is always an issue. CUPH recently migrated websites from one server to another. My colleagues and I ran into a few severe issues that prevented web applications from functioning correctly and required configuring application and database servers to run the web applications. It took a week of work to solve the issue, but it was worth it to see so many people happy that it was fixed.

CUPH also supports a collaboration with over eighty hospitals in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota with a central data repository for baby births, named PeriData.Net, and I manage that. I often work with directors of nursing, registered nurses, medical coders, and coding assistants to solve issues they encounter with the system. Occasionally, I work with the State of Wisconsin Health Services about issues regarding importing data from their servers to the data system we support.

My job is exciting because I have no idea what kind of issues will come my way and how I’ll solve them. I also love this job because CUPH is a deaf-friendly environment. When I graduated, I was looking for a job that provided excellent pay and benefits, education assistance, and a friendly work environment. It was difficult to find an organization that provides a sign language interpreter as part of its policy, but I was fortunate enough to land a job with full-time on-site interpreters.

What can I do while I’m in high school if I want to pursue a career in computing?

If you are interested in a career in computing, I would recommend doing three things.

  1. Start learning the basics in computer management, software and web development, and database operations. Computing careers usually require that candidates know more than one programming language, so start learning different programming languages now. The earlier you start, the more you will have a chance to learn. How did I learn American Sign Language or English? Through using these languages on daily basis. So, why not use computer programming on a daily basis? The more you program, the easier it will become.
  2. Establish good relationships with those around you, including teachers, students, and staff members. Developing good people skills is important in your career.
  3. Don’t hesitate to seek advice to improve your computer or communication skills.

Do I have what it takes to go into computing?

The most valuable trait to be successful in computing is patience. Patience helps you solve a problem by taking small steps one at a time. If you aren’t patient enough to pay attention to small details, your computer may act funny or weird, or be unresponsive because small details are important. Patience is required to pinpoint the exact location of an error and then do the research necessary to correct it.

Why should I study computing?

The outlook for computing jobs is excellent. The job market is always seeking candidates with a strong computer background and programming skills. The starting pay is great because the demand for employees is high and the supply of talented candidates is low.

It does not matter if you are blind, deaf, or have another disability; you can become a programmer as long as you possess an open, clear, and comprehensive approach to programming. In the modern era, almost everyone uses technology; mobile phones, tablets, computers, GPS, and even children’s toys include chip processors. Learning how to use technology can be complex, and many more technologies will be created in the next few decades.