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Executive Q&A: Brittany Hamlett on Bridging Technology and Compassion at LearnUp Solutions

Brittany Hamlett is an innovator in the field of educational technology, seamlessly merging her extensive background as a language specialist and educator with the cutting-edge demands of EdTech.


As the CEO of LearnUp Solutions, Brittany has transformed her firsthand classroom experiences into a passion for designing empathetic and inclusive learning solutions. Her transition from a dedicated educator to a tech entrepreneur has equipped her with unique insights into the educational challenges faced by diverse learning communities. With a keen focus on user-centered design, Brittany's leadership at LearnUp Solutions has been pivotal in creating products that are not only effective but also deeply resonant with both educators and students, particularly those from marginalized communities.


In this exclusive interview, Brittany shares her insights on leadership, the intersection of education and technology, and her vision for a more accessible future in education.


Q: How did your experiences as a language specialist and educator influence your approach to leadership and product design at LearnUP Solutions?

 

The years I spent in the classroom gave me an upfront and personal experience of what it means to be a compassionate and authentic educator. I worked with students who came from war zones alongside students who struggled to communicate their emotional needs. Those years taught me that leading with empathy is the best way to be a facilitator of learning with both adults and children.


Leading with empathy creates an atmosphere where learning vulnerably can be fun and rewarding for everyone. I was also able to see the problems educators, students, and families face in a magnified way that’s often downplayed by those who haven’t stepped foot in the classroom. I’ve always loved design and looked into UX design as a career change. I quickly realized that instead of leaving education all together, I would transfer my skills into designing products that serve teachers by being created by teachers as well as creating products for parents by parents. Specifically, focusing on communities and groups that are marginalized.

 

Q: Transitioning from education to technology, especially in the realm of designing learning solutions, must have been quite a journey. Can you share the challenges and triumphs you encountered along the way?

 

There have definitely been bumps in the road! Transitioning requires a high level of curiosity, willingness to learn, and ability to quickly pivot. I’ve always seen myself as someone who is multifaceted with a plethora of talents and skills so being tenacious has definitely helped me along this journey. I’ve faced imposter syndrome like there’s tomorrow, but I’m also very aware that I’m in a very special community of former educators transitioning into tech who are so compassionate, emphatic, and supportive. Their support helps combat the imposter syndrome. The ability to get up and keep doing this work is a triumph for me. Every time someone tells me, “Please bring this here! We need what you’re doing here!” is a triumph for me because it validates that this is needed and led by someone who gets it. I’m fortunate to be the one standing in the gap to bring my unique background to serve others.

 

Q: LearnUP Solutions aims to make education accessible and inclusive. How do you ensure your products align with this mission, especially when catering to students with special needs and language learners?

 

Our products are designed with the end users actively participating along the way. It is imperative that products aren’t made with the end-user in mind but with the end-user giving constant feedback for improvement. They’re being used by language learners and students with special needs in order to give them what they need and want.

 

Q: With the ambitious vision of creating a world where education is personalized and inclusive, what are the key strategies LearnUP employs to turn this vision into reality?

 

One of the key strategies to turn any vision into a reality is to ground teams in the “why” behind their work. Working in this ever evolving field, it’s crucial to stay grounded in why we do what we do to combat burnout and meaningless moves. When we do, our work is more impactful, meaningful, and fulfilling across the board. Burnout is real and when you focus on how big the mountain is that you have to climb, you lose the opportunities to see all of the amazing views on the way up. So, focusing on the “why” helps you appreciate the small and big victories as you climb the mountain. We also have a very “feedback-focused” culture, which means we give and receive it frequently to improve our products and ourselves as teammates. We believe in celebrating growth as well as knowing that there’s always more room for growth. This is also where leading with empathy comes into play. Our feedback culture is rooted in empathy - for our own growth and that of others - so that we’re meeting each other's needs while growing quickly.

 

Q: You mention the importance of frameworks in grounding project teams in the "why" behind their work. Can you give an example of a framework you’ve used and how it improved a project or team dynamic?

 

In a technical sense, we use a hybrid of scrum and waterfall frameworks to develop products. It’s helped us to develop products quickly while also helping to motivate the team in seeing how incremental progress is more impactful than coming out with “big bangs.” We used this framework when creating the features for SimplifyIEP.ai, which is the mvp that families really need and want.


Q: Collaboration and supporting team needs seem central to your leadership style. How do you foster a culture of open communication and continuous improvement at LearnUP Solutions?

 

Just reiterating the importance of feedback culture to actually drive growth is ingrained in our culture. It’s important for everyone involved to openly communicate their needs and know they will be met. Collaboration won’t happen if you don’t respect and provide what a team needs to be and feel supported.

 

Q: The introduction of SimplifyIEP.ai represents a significant step forward in supporting families navigating the IEP process. What inspired this innovation, and what impact has it had so far?

 

My son was five years old when the doctor told us he is autistic. I was already in the classroom scrambling to find what I could do or provide for my son because he was just not in the right setting. I Googled, talked to the other educators, and scoured every resource I could think of until it felt like my head was going to explode. Exhaustion and frustration don’t even come close to how I felt about getting him an IEP. Even as an educator, I felt helpless in getting my son services because it felt like the whole process dragged on and the program he’s currently attending now (NYCDOE ASD Nest program) was so new that none of my colleagues could point me in the right direction.


I had questions and concerns that popped into my head at all times of the day. It also felt tiresome to have to ask my questions to other colleagues - so imagine an immigrant mom of three who has less knowledge of the system and less access to educators! I also worked very closely with multilingual families as many of my students were English Language Learners with IEPs. I was so comfortable having family conversations about getting ELLs special education services, that colleagues would ask me to help translate and relate with parents of students who I didn’t even teach to explain the evaluation process.


While I am trilingual, it was impossible for me to translate for all of the languages spoken in this particular community. SimplifyIEP.ai was born out of my experience as a mother going through the emotional rollercoaster of supporting my child, the educator wanting to help every family who entrusted us (educators) with their children, and the natural-born innovator who wants to make things that contribute to this world being a better place.

 

Q: LearnUP Solutions is evidently committed to using technology to empower educators and students. Looking ahead, what emerging technologies do you believe will further transform education?

 

AI is booming right now as far as being a tool for providing more 1:1 support for K-12 learners and streamlining instruction for educators. I see more opportunities to really deep dive into the prioritizing impact measurement of the edtech products and services on the market. I truly believe this will further transform education because there’s incredible number of products utilized but not enough measuring impactful gains and the trajectory of learning to further improve products for end users. It will definitely be a game changer in the SpEdTech (Special Education Technology) and for language learners.

 

Q: Dealing with ambiguity and challenges is a part of any leadership role, especially in a fast-evolving field like educational technology. Can you share a recent challenge you faced and how you tackled it?

 

Being in this field definitely feels like there are still challenges I’m in the middle of tackling, so they are definitely some flags on the plays. There’s an element of peace I’ve adopted and that is being comfortable in chaos in order to pivot quickly. Our most recent challenge was to really analyze all of the solutions we have cooking and decide that we’re going to tackle supporting learners from the bottom up to top down concurrently rather than sequentially, meaning serving families and supporting educational institutions simultaneously. So planning strategically with the understanding that we’re at point A and point B is going to keep shifting so we have to be agile enough to shift with it.

 

Q: As a lifelong learner yourself, how do you keep up with the latest trends and technologies in education to ensure LearnUP Solutions remains at the forefront of innovation?

 

I enjoy listening to edtech podcasts and reading newsletters and articles. But I find that talking to other people in this space and often as I can is how I’ve really learned what’s happening in edtech. So I connect with others via networking events, conferences, and so on. I also love speaking with people in other industries in tech to see how the trends in those industries impact edtech, especially when the topics involve higher education, social impact, and upskilling in the workforce. Those topics trickle down and affect the K-12 market, so it’s important to hear other perspectives.

 

Q: With Wizolutions set to launch in Fall 2024, can you share some insights into what it will offer and how it aligns with LearnUP’s mission and vision?

 

Wizolutions is definitely for educators still in the classroom looking for easy tools to provide differentiation without comprising rigor and grade-level content. It’s the tool that can save them time creating lesson materials so they can focus on creating welcoming, comforting, and supportive learning environments. This can bring back their joy of teaching and students may gain exponentially more confidence in their growth. It’s definitely something I’ve dreamed of creating since my first year as a teacher, I just didn’t have the capacity to make it a reality. Now that the timing is right, Wizolutions can be the bridge that will help close the learning gaps that educators have faced with special needs’ learners. This is how we see impactful and equitable education.

 

Q: Reflecting on your journey and the evolution of LearnUP Solutions so far, what are you most proud of, and what do you hope to achieve in the next five years?

 

I’m most proud of every face that lights up when I speak about what we’re doing because that encouragement is what keeps us going. It lets us know that what we’re doing is needed and matters. I’m proud that I took the leap to stand in this gap. We’re working on scaling to other cities and welcome inquiries and partnerships about such. In the next five years, we want to be global and work on supporting neurodivergent adults to create the lifestyle that suits their needs. So more nonprofit work that focuses on accessibility and inclusive lifestyles.



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