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CWU Alumnus Builds a Career at Microsoft

When Lee Johnson was a student at Central Washington University, he set his sights on earning a degree so he could launch himself into a career. Paying his own way through school while he worked, he took classes that fit around his schedule at CWU Edmonds, which was close to both his house and his work.  

As his time at CWU Edmonds progressed, he became very interested in human resource work and leveraged the help of an advisor to get an internship. For six months, Johnson interned with the Space Needle Corporation where he learned about many different functions within HR, and was even named CWU Edmonds Intern of the Year, nominated by his manager. 

After his internship, he continued to take courses at Central, focusing in on business courses and graduating with his degree in business administration in 1995. 

“I so appreciated the flexible course schedule that was offered at CWU Edmonds,” said Johnson. “That, as much as anything, made it possible for me to get my degree.” 

After graduating, Johnson landed a job at Microsoft where he has now worked for 25 years in various roles in finance, IT, and HR, with his current role being senior director of talent management within HR. 

In this position, he leads a team responsible for Microsoft's flexible work program, contractor engagement, and determining the right ecosystem of talent to engage to deliver success. He has had the chance to travel the world to implement different programs, having now been to 20+ countries. 

“My Central education, particularly the business courses, helped prepare me for the corporate world,” said Johnson. “They gave me the breadth of knowledge that would be a foundation for further learning, and the real-life experience of the professors made the courses much more engaging.” 

Johnson also met his wife Laura at Microsoft, who happens to be a Central alum as well. She graduated from CWU Ellensburg in 1991 with her degree in sociology, and met Johnson when they worked in the same building at Microsoft. They have been married for 21 years and have two sons, Cole (16) who is in high school and Ethan (19) who is a freshman in college.  

Johnson and his family have been trying to make the most of staying at home during the COVID-19 epidemic saying, "we feel blessed that we're simply inconvenienced. Our hearts go out to those who are more significantly impacted."  

He feels fortunate to be able to work from home and has been busy helping Microsoft's workforce through these challenging times. As for the future, Johnson expects to stay with Microsoft until he's ready to retire.  

"One of the advantages of being part of a broad, successful company is that there are a lot of opportunities for learning and growth,” said Johnson. “It's these opportunities to grow while doing meaningful work with a company that so perfectly matches my values that keeps me engaged and excited."  

That's the combination Johnson encourages those he mentors and would encourage all CWU students to find for themselves.

May 2020

Story by: Robin Burck

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