Veteran Spotlight - Janet Carmichael

Navy veteran uses teaching experience to become workforce facilitator

Janet Carmichael, U.S. Navy

Janet Carmichael, Navy veteran, former high school English teacher, and Maximus workshop facilitator, is no stranger to forging her own path.

Being one of five children growing up in Branson, Missouri, Carmichael's parents didn't have the money to send all of their children to college.

Seeing the military as an opportunity, Carmichael decided to join the military to pay for college despite no one in her immediate family having served. She considered each branch but ultimately chose to enlist in the Navy.

"I went into the Navy versus the Air Force because I didn't like the Air Force's uniforms for women," she laughed.

Carmichael recognized that all the branches offered many of the same opportunities, but the Navy gave her a school guarantee before training. In 1973, she went to boot camp in Orlando and then completed training to become a radioman in Bainbridge, Maryland.

During her service, she was one of the first women stationed at Adak Naval Operating Base in Alaska and was one of three female sailors in the tech control facility.

"I was one of the first forty waves that went up to Adak. Up to that point, they had all just been men up there," she said.

At that time, radiomen were responsible for transmitting and processing confidential radio signals between ships at sea and land-based facilities. Carmichael was also responsible for maintaining the machines that sent and received messages between ships and bases, ensuring communications were successful and – most importantly – secure.

"What we did on Adak was we handled communications with ships. A naval ship must always have contact with the land-based station. Ships going out of California and across the Pacific had to maintain contact with a land base," she said.

After finishing her two-year enlistment, Carmichael earned her English education degree from Notre Dame College of Ohio. She also married her husband Jack, a fellow sailor in telecommunications whom she met during her service.

Education has been a steady throughline in Carmichael's civilian career. She worked as a high school English teacher and earned her master's in English at Cleveland State University in the early 2000s. She served in multiple roles in corporate education and training, evaluated Title I and special education programs in New York City as a quality manager, and was a curriculum specialist for an online charter school based in Ohio, where she lives now.

Before coming to Maximus in 2020, she worked in corporate training and education consulting. But the stars — and her robust experience — aligned when she applied for the workshop facilitator role at Maximus in 2020.

"I've always done some kind of training or education. So when this came up, it sounded like it was right down my alley," she said.

She's one of two facilitators in the Propel Cuyahoga program, which manages the jobs program for Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services in Cleveland.

"I am responsible for scheduling and conducting the program orientations," she said. "I am, all day long, looking at our county system, calling the new participants, and getting all their information organized."

She gets to be hands-on with trainees, giving presentations on the information they need to succeed. But she's determined to make these sessions engaging, so trainees start off on the right foot.

"I've always been a firm believer that education doesn't have to be boring, so I try to make sure that it's lively," she said. "I'm pretty much the first person that they're going to encounter in our program. I want to make sure that the program is understandable to them. I want to ensure they feel welcome when joining the program and make it a positive experience."

While skills in teaching and organization come naturally to Carmichael, she recognizes how the Navy taught her to be even more organized. Her organizational skills help her manage many trainees at different stages of the pipeline.

"The Navy is very regimented and teaches you to be disciplined," she said. "I've always been an organized type of person. I'm a list keeper. I tend to keep several different types of lists so that I keep my participants organized, so I don't miss anyone."

The military continues to be a big part of her life. Though he was formally retired and honorably discharged from the Navy, her husband served in the reserves after 9/11 and now works as a civilian contractor.

"He's been at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for about four years now, and he'll be coming home pretty soon," Carmichael said.

When she's not running training sessions or spending time with her husband while he's home, she takes care of her pets — a dog and a cat — and she's refining her cooking, baking, art, and weightlifting skills.

"I'm never bored… I don't get bored because there's just too much to do," she said.

Carmichael still gives a lot of credit to the Navy for shaping her career path in education. 

"Serving in the military sets you up for taking a more active part in your community… looking for a position or a career that is very service-oriented."

Carmichael also knows that being in the military prepared her for life's — and work's — challenges.

"The military does a good job of giving you a sense of self-worth," she said. "There's the old saying, 'they tear you down to build you up.' They show you what you're capable of doing, and you get a sense of your value."