The freak circumstance that made Microsoft’s Peggy Johnson’s career

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Peggy Johnson Microsoft
Peggy
Johnson onstage at Business Insider’s IGNITION
conference.

Business Insider/Michael
Seto


  • Microsoft’s dealmaker Peggy Johnson studied
    engineering in college due to a fluke. 
  • She was a business major but when she found herself
    running an errand to the engineering department she had a
    conversation there that changed her life.
  • Thanks to that conversation she discovered engineering
    and has gone on to become a major force in the tech
    industry.

Peggy Johnson is Microsoft’s executive vice president of business
development, the company’s top dealmaker. She was one of Satya
Nadella’s first new hires when he was promoted t0 CEO in 2014.

Johnson and her team work on everything from partnerships to
acquisitions (like LinkedIn). Plus she manages Microsoft’s VC
fund Microsoft Ventures, which in three years has
backed about three dozen startups.

And none of it would have happened if not for a fluke errand
she ran in college, she
revealed on a post on LinkedIn.

She was born to a big family, No. 14 out of 15 kids, and when she
went to college she followed in the footsteps of her older
siblings and majored in business. She got a job on campus and one
day had to deliver a package to someone in the engineering
department. She had never been there and got lost so she went to
the department’s executive assistants offices intending to ask
for directions.

Little did she know that right before she walked in, those
assistants were discussing how to attract more women into the
program. They didn’t know Johnson was just there to deliver some
mail. They thought a woman had strolled in to enroll in the
engineering department.

They invited her to sit and they quizzed her. They asked her what
she was studying, if she liked math and science and solving
problems and what made her consider engineering.

But she had never considered engineering before. So their
questions made her think.

“The truth was that I loved math and I loved science. I took two
years of calculus in high school, and nearly every science class
my school offered. But nobody had ever taken the time to
encourage me in that direction. Nobody had asked me those
questions,” Johnson recounted in the post.

The very next day, she switched her major to engineering. She
graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and landed a
job at one of the major San Diego tech companies, Qualcomm where
she had a 25-year career working her way up to executive vice
president before Nadella poached her.

Johnson shared this story to kick off her involvement
with Code.org’s annual Computer Science Education
Week, 
 which encourages teachers to teach kids to
code via a special program called Hour of Code. The goal is to
make sure the young Peggy Johnsons of the world will find their
callings, too.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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