Mind the Gap: Bridging Skill Sets

When Triple Jacket, Jennifer Johnson, recognized a deficiency in her data analysis skills, she decided it was time for a change.

December 15, 2023 | By GTPE Communications
Jennifer Johnson's headshot in front of an abstract coding background with "Mind the Gap: Bridging Skill Sets".

Jennifer Stanford Johnson welcomes challenges. Being a leader and technologist demands agility, the courage to embrace change, and a willingness to pivot when needed – Johnson employed all three in order to realize her fulfilling career in data and artificial intelligence.

The secret to Johnson’s success stems from her ability to recognize when and how she needs to expand her already impressive skillset. History repeated itself when this Triple Jacket once again found her educational needs led to Georgia Tech.

As a college director of student success, Johnson’s mission was to increase retention and graduation rates for undergraduates. “Tracking matriculation was straightforward, but to truly identify and measure predictors of success and intervene with impactful practices required a deeper dive. I was broadly aware of the great things I could do with the data - but I knew I needed to enhance my skill set.” And when Johnson senses change is needed, she takes action.

She’d done it before. After earning both a Bachelor and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech, Johnson was progressing full speed ahead in her aeronautics career at Lockheed Martin when she knew she needed to make a shift. With two young children at home, “Work-life balance is important to me, and I was not getting enough quality time with my growing family.”

So, she pivoted her career to match her work-life balance and successfully consulted for six years before accepting a full-time role at Spelman.

Her desire to do more in her position at Spelman led her to search for a data analytics program. “I didn’t have to look very far. Georgia Tech is where I’ve found success in the past. And I’m already a part of the community - that was important to me.”

Johnson enrolled in the Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics) program, which enabled her to explore the college’s data to thoughtfully meet its student success goals. Johnson’s technical skillset soon met an opportunity of a lifetime, and she became an applied intelligence data science executive at Accenture.

Now, this Triple Jacket shares the pivots in both her personal and professional lives.

Q: You were already focusing on data in your work when you decided to pursue an OMSA degree - what made you feel you needed to take that step?

A: I was working in a space that was heavily data-oriented - creating databases and tracking student success - and I wanted to do so much more with that data. I felt strongly that there were insights to be gained, but I knew that I needed to upskill to maximize the use of the data. I knew there was so much more I was capable of.

Q: It sounds like your desire to dive more deeply into data extended beyond the immediate task at hand in your position at the time, is that so?

A: I found myself in a higher education role that was very much focused on STEM outreach. The more I engaged in that work, which was very gratifying, I started feeling inauthentic because I was espousing all the reasons why a student should pursue a career in STEM. This realization prompted me to think about how I could change things and get myself back on the STEM path. How could I become more aligned with the type of work that was my true passion?

Q: With all the higher ed choices you had, why did you decide to return to Georgia Tech for your third degree?

A: I researched what opportunities there were and that led me to Tech’s OMS Analytics program. When I saw the course curriculum, the faculty engaged in the work, the time to degree, and the alumni feedback, I was certain this was the program for me. My historical knowledge about what it takes to be successful at Georgia Tech was instrumental. Whether online or on campus, Tech is rigorous. I knew I was capable of success given my history at this institution. It has always been the place that's launched me into the next phase of my career, whether that's as an undergraduate going into the workforce for the first time or a graduate student working while raising a family or as a consultant. The Georgia Tech credential has once again changed the course of my career. Georgia Tech has a very special place in my heart.

Q: Did the OMS Analytics program help you achieve the changes you were looking for? 

A: Absolutely. As I began the courses, I was able to apply that learning to my job. There was an immediate value-add. And then the ultimate pivot allowed me to work at Accenture. This may sound corny, but the impact has been life-changing. The decision to enter and complete the program was confidence-building and put me on a path where I can lead teams focused on data analysis, data integrations, AI (inclusive of Gen AI), and predictive modeling initiatives in the health and public services industry. It led me to a dream executive role, all while being engaged in doing meaningful work to help others live healthier, more productive lives. For this, I am grateful every day.

Written by: Laurel-Ann Dooley