Jo Ellen Hayden's formal education spans American history, systems management, and acupuncture. She spent much of her career in the defense industry managing hardware and software development for government and the private sector. For a ten-year span between the ages of forty and fifty, she studied Oriental medicine and practiced acupuncture. She was a co-founder of the Complementary Medicine Center of Northern Virginia and held Virginia acupuncture license 00001. An accomplished horsewoman, she is a United States Dressage Foundation Bronze medalist. After moving to Maryland in 1998 she closed her acupuncture practice, returning to defense work and eventually government civil service with the Navy for the final years of her full-time career.