Davida Johnson is the Managing Director of Partnerships & Practices in the Office of Information Technology at UCLA.
Located in Westwood, Los Angeles UCLA was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. UCLA features among the top universities in the world for academics, research and community impact in the most prominent academic rankings.
Davida Johnson oversees technology-centered partnerships and programs across UCLA and the Southern California region to enhance the university’s mission of research, education, and service, and develop communities of practice among technologists.
Prior to joining UCLA, Davida worked in technology at Warner Bros Entertainment as a senior manager, where she managed business units and software developers in the U.S. and overseas. Davida joined Warner Bros. from Accenture, where she managed IT projects as a consultant. A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Davida earned a joint Bachelor of Science degree in Humanities (Creative Writing) and Computer Science Engineering.
Computer science was always an interest of mine. When I got to MIT, I was actually thinking about electrical engineering. To do that you have to take a lot of computer science courses. I realized that I liked those a lot more than the electrical engineering, so I decided to lean towards computer science.
MIT requires every student to take humanities electives, so I decided to take a writing course. I really enjoyed it and I was really good at it too. My professors encouraged me to do it because they felt that I had a gift for writing. That is why I graduated with a joint degree in Creative Writing and Computer Science.
MY FIRST JOB
My first job after college was as a research assistant at Clark Atlanta University. I’m originally from Atlanta and I started out in programming at the Center for Theoretical Studies of Physical Systems. I was writing software programs for physicists to test theories on image recognition.
MY FIRST BIG CAREER BREAK
Landing the job at Accenture as a consultant was definitely my first big career break. That moved me into a career in technology. I started off as a web developer and moved into a program manager position where I managed IT related projects. I feel like my career really took off from there, as I was getting real world experience working with clients and with talented people.
MY TYPICAL WORKING DAY
I like to be organized, so every day I take a look at my responsibilities and I plan the day. For the most part, I’m working with people. On a typical day I’m in meetings, working with groups of people across campus, or outside of the campus on a specific program. It’s either planning a meeting, planning an event, or working on a strategic plan for the year. I do a lot of community development.
I’m currently working on a project called Go Digital. It’s a portal for faculty researchers to learn about technology resources on UCLA’s campus. The goal is for Go Digital to help faculty with their research, such as where to find resources for data management, or help in writing research grants. There isn’t anything like this on campus currently, researchers have to figure it out on their own. This portal will help them.
The first person is my mother. She has always been a motivator for me to go after the things that I enjoy and use my talents and gifts. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr have shown me how to be a good person in this world and how to be impactful. They have inspired me and their lives inspire me.
BEST CAREER ADVICE
I grew up a very shy person. Someone once told me that I smiled too much. I was like, “aren’t we supposed to smile?” What they were saying was, I comply too much, and that I’m not really going after the things that I really want. That got me thinking about my career and going after those things. It wasn’t really about the smile, it was really about being able to control my own destiny. That has actually really impacted my career.
MY BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT
Producing UCLA’s Women in Tech conference this summer has been my biggest achievement so far. It brought everything that I had ever desired, together all in one place. The technology, helping others, helping women, to see that vision start from nothing to what it became and what it can become was a great achievement.
I’d like to find other ways to get more women involved in technology, and also to explore what other fields there are in technology. I really would like to understand more about data science, and how we can use data to help solve some of the larger problems of the world, like poverty and injustice. That is definitely part of my future, being able to use technology to solve issues in this world that are bigger than us.
MY ADVICE FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO WORK IN TECH
Technology is such a great field. Find out what area of technology you are interested in and passionate about, and then really go after it. Don’t give up. Continue to be a learner and continue to grow.
I LOVE WHAT I DO BECAUSE…
I feel I’m using my gift, I’m using the things that I’m strong in. That gives me a sense of purpose and value. It inspires me to wake up every day and do this. I look forward to improving things. It’s really about me being able to use what I know are my gifts, and apply those gifts to something that I think is valuable. I could not do what I do if it were not for the grace of God. My faith is deeply rooted in Christ and I am thankful for all the open doors I have been given, which in turn allows me to use my time, talents and resources to help others.
Interview by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema