By Eric Butterman
Sue Johnson already had an incredible career, working for companies such as Accenture and Apple, when she realized something was missing.
“I was working in Latin America so much of the time, having a ball, but I needed to connect in a different way with my work,” she said.
Eventually, she entered the world of education. After an operations manager position with Ravenswood Education Foundation, she now finds herself as the managing director of Silicon Valley operations at Able Works, changing lives—including her own—through the experience.
“A huge part of equity, in closing the disparity in income and opportunity, is knowledge,” Johnson, who joined the East Palo Alto, California-based company in 2013, said. “We focus on giving high school students and young mothers financial education and an understanding about the educational system and more that helps you to navigate life better and to have a more likely chance at top opportunities.”
Sue Johnson, MBA ’82
Managing Director, Able Works-Silicon Valley
East Palo Alto, California
From learning about budgeting to avoiding predatory lending, Able Works shows them the pitfalls, along with the boosts that can happen when you have these types of knowledge.
“You see how lives change not just for parents but for their children,” she said. “It means so much to have a part in it.”
Another area Able Works focuses on is helping college students stay on track.”The numbers are staggering when it comes to how many start at community college but do not finish,” Johnson said. “You can attribute a good portion of the people where this happens to not having a support system who went to school before them. It can be overwhelming to figure out how to navigate these classes, all the requirements and more. We are here to answer questions and for them to know we are behind them. The first generation from a family graduating can change the path for so many who come after them.”
Johnson received much of her business knowledge through her MBA studies at Baylor, where she also received her BBA in 1981.
“I learned so much about how business worked,” Johnson said. “But I also found a deeper connection when it came to focusing on your spirit. You could say you see a combination of that in the work I do today.”
When Johnson looks back, she said, it was not her original intention to go the nonprofit route but sometimes you find your calling along the way.
“It is a thrill to be a part of a true partnership with the people I work with,” she said. “I may be the managing director but they regularly have insight I lack and I learn so much from them. I am grateful to be a part of the change and giving younger people the skills they need and deserve to have.”