Making it work
Johnson, the machinist-turned-engineer, remembers what it took to earn his degrees. Four days a week, he worked third shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., then went straight to Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, for his first class at 8 a.m. and stayed on campus until 2 p.m. Three years later, he graduated with his associate degree.
His professors and colleagues urged him to do more, so he did. He applied for three jobs in engineering before he was hired in a drafting role on the ground vehicle engineering team at Collins. He worked with engineers to design brackets, optical detectors and some of the suppression systems that go on military vehicles.
He also spent four more years in the Employee Scholar Program, taking classes at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 2019.
“It helped me achieve those goals I was looking for,” Johnson said of the program, and of the encouragement he received from supervisor Dawn Fulton, who he called “the greatest boss ever.“
“She supported my decision and guided me and helped me. I could not have done it without the help of the Employee Scholar Program,” Johnson said.
Completing the program “was tiring, but it was worth it,” Johnson said. “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”