Full Name: Vickie Johnson
Job Title: Program Supplier Quality Engineer
Employer: Raytheon Missile Systems
Graduation Year: 1987
Degree: BS Electrical Engineering
Current City: Tucson, AZ
Hometown: Carthage, MS

What initially attracted you to UMKC?
After getting married during my junior year in college, we moved from Mississippi to Kansas City to find work. I found work at Bendix as a lab technologist and immediately started the process of getting back into school. UMKC’s engineering school was very accessible and the engineering program was exactly what I needed. UMKC personnel made it very easy for me to get back into school. Everyone was so helpful, including my employer.

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?
As a student who worked full time, I would often wish that I could join study groups. A semi-formal program for establishing study groups would be very helpful to all students but especially for non-traditional students. Today’s technology and social media makes it easier but safety for students is a concern, so it would be great if UMKC could lead and develop this type of program.

What drew you to Engineering?
Coming from a small town in Mississippi, I had no idea what an engineer was, but I loved math. A math professor at Jackson State University told me about the Pre-engineering program which I joined. This program was to study for two years at Jackson State and transfer to an engineering school to complete the remaining three years. Once I began taking electrical engineering courses, I was hooked.

How has the field of engineering changed since you started working?
It’s changed tremendously. With the advent of powerful processors and the exponential computer technology, it has changed immeasurably. I started with programming on cards using FORTRAN and a huge computer that filled a room. Imagine that! Speaking of imagination – not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the world of engineering as it is today! Knowledge is all around us. The challenge will be to harness and use this knowledge appropriately and at the right time. Ethics and morality have become much more important than when I started working as an engineer. As well as a lot more things, i.e. environmental protection, information classifications, how you write and say things, just to name a few. Most of the things impacting the field of engineering have nothing to do with the actual ‘art’ of engineering. Therefore, today’s students must do a balancing act to take it all in. Programs to help today’s engineering students cope with stress are much needed in today’s engineering environments.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
I would advise them to stay in school about two to three years longer after achieving their Bachelor’s degree. Study for and achieve an engineering Master’s degree as well as a minor is an area that impacts engineering (psychology, ethics, human resources, environmental health, math, etc.) or even a juris doctorate degree. Because once you hit the working world, the career trajectory may not bend easily around additional schooling plans. Do this while you are young and have the time and the energy. And remember these things: 1) treat everyone fairly – no matter who they are, 2) always be honest, 3) be firm – but kind, 4) ‘change’ is a constant, so get used to it & learn to love it and, 5) never mistreat or take advantage of anyone because karma is real. And always remember to enjoy the journey!

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