EU Alumni Perspective: Twylla Johnson
Graduation Year: 1978
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
After I graduated from Evangel, I took 15 hours of computer programming classes at MSU and I was recruited by Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. After five years, I was invited to work at Sprint, where I was an EDP auditor and a software engineer. When Birch Telecom, a start-up telecommunications company, opened in Kansas City, I was fortunate to get on board as a systems analyst and later as a product manager. Then I moved to Honeywell FM&T, a contractor for the Department of Energy/NNSA, where I supported the manufacturing systems for the plant and then I was a technical lead for the Data Warehouse.
One of my career goals was to have a diverse range of experiences rather than long stretches of the same experience. I had the privilege to work in many different capacities. It made my career in Information Technology fun and interesting. I retired in 2010 after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. I have participated in many clinical trials at the Parkinson’s Center of Excellence in Kansas City over the past 10 years. I wrote a book that is available on Amazon, “Strategies for Coping with Parkinson’s Disease and Encouragement from the Word of God.” https://www.amazon.com/Strategies-Coping-Parkinsons-Disease-Encouragement-ebook/dp/B07CWFNG4V/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=twylla+johnson&qid=1598981764&sr=8-7
I live in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, with my husband of 37 years, Mark, and my black and white tuxedo kitty, Hobo. I write book reviews for authors who publish new books. I am a member of Connection Point Baptist Church, formerly First Baptist Church of Raytown, my husband’s home church, and I am active in women’s ministries.
What is your favorite memory from EU?
I worked several different part-time jobs while attending Evangel. It was important to me that I graduate debt-free; therefore, I didn’t have a rich social life on campus like many other students. I chose the “pay-as-you-go” path. My fondest memories are the classes I took with some beloved professors like Dr. Joe Bohannon, Twila Edwards, and Beth McLellan. Mr. George Crawford, former vice president of the Business Department, also taught accounting. He would invite us to call him at his home in the evenings if we needed help on a project or assignment. That level of engagement was typical of the faculty at the college.
How did EU help you identify or develop your calling?
I always knew that whatever career I choose, I wanted to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ as the center of my life. The best leaders in business serve their people, rather than assert their authority over them. Jesus Christ Himself set the example of a serving leader. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matt 20: 28) The faculty and staff at Evangel set an example of leadership by serving the students, and that is the example I tried to follow throughout my career.
How did your experience at EU prepare you for life after graduation?
Every student at Evangel is required to take a minimum number of religious studies classes. I remember the Biblical Studies instructors telling us as incoming freshmen that now is the time for you to question everything about your faith. Tear it down, examine it, and build it back up so it is stronger than it has ever been. When you leave Evangel, at some point, life will knock you off your feet. But if your foundation is strong, your faith will carry you through.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. At first, I folded like a cheap suit. Then I decided to treat the disease just like any other problem I would deal with at work. One of my objectives over the past 11 years has been to keep my body strong with exercise and good nutrition so if there is a cure in my lifetime, I will be able to receive it. Today I am able to live independently at home. Every day that I can stand up, walk, talk, and smile is a good day.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
It is never too soon to start working toward your career goal. Look for opportunities to explore your career choice while you are still in high school. If you want to be an attorney, try to find a summer internship in a law firm, even if it is unpaid. If you want to be a doctor, check out the medical explorer’s program in the local hospitals. If you want to be a software developer, try to shadow a developer over the summer.
Be kind to people. Give people a soft place to land when they have a problem and they need to talk to someone.
Good oral and written communication and good presentation skills will give you a definite edge over everyone else. You will be so much more successful if you can clearly communicate with the senior management above you, with your peers around you, and your subordinates who look to you for guidance.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from EU?
I would look for not only expertise in the area of focus, but also a broad educational background with good written and oral communication skills, as well as diverse interests outside of work. Well-rounded people make the best employees. Integrity and trust are also critical to any position of responsibility.