University of Houston-Victoria alumni’s journey to success
John Johnson faced a decision that would change the outcome of his life. With a family, a job and the responsibilities that came with it, going back to school would add an extra layer to the pile. But he took a leap of faith – a leap that took him on a transformative journey from one decision to a thriving career that showcases the power of higher education.
Johnson graduated from the University of Houston-Victoria in 2015 with a Global Master of Business Administration and went on to work at MidFirst Bank in Houston as a senior vice president.
“John Johnson’s story is one of the countless success stories that stem from UHV,” said Rhiannon Smith, assistant dean of administration and student services in the business college. “This determination and grit proved to be an asset, and his degree from UHV paved the way for diverse career opportunities and gives him a competitive edge in the ever-evolving business world.”
Born in Bien Hoa, a city just north of Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam, his early years were marked by cultural and geographic shifts. Johnson moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of four and quickly noticed there wasn’t a large Vietnamese community in the U.S. Over time, he lost the ability to speak Vietnamese, he said.
“One of my earliest memories was that my father had blonde, reddish hair, and he was riding a motorcycle through the streets of Saigon,” Johnson said. “And from our balcony, I could look down and everybody had black hair, but I remember I could spot my dad because he was the only one that had blonde hair.”
Johnson’s father is from southern Ohio, and he and his family found themselves living in a small, rural community when Johnson came over to the U.S. The familiarity of his early childhood was replaced with a new culture, food and American grandparents, he said.
When he was seven years old, he and his family moved to Singapore where he lived for two years. Then, because of his father’s work in the oil business Johnson’s family relocated to Perth, Australia, where he stayed until the age of 15. After finishing his sophomore year of high school in Australia, the family moved back to the U.S. and settled in Tulsa, Okla.
After finishing high school, Johnson enrolled at Ohio State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He also double-majored in finance and international business. His post-college plans took him all throughout Europe, and he went into the telecommunications industry and made Helsinki, Finland, his home. The cold weather, however, was too much for Johnson, and he said he moved back to the United States and worked for a regional bank called Bank of Oklahoma.
He went and worked for the U.S. government in 2001 through a federal agency called the Export-Import Bank of the United States for a decade, but later went back to the private sector and found himself at Wells Fargo’s Global Banking team. There came an opportunity for him to go through a select graduate training program at a Wells Fargo, but doing so required an MBA.
“But something was gnawing at me; a feeling of not being fulfilled, not complete until I get my master’s degree,” Johnson said. “I wanted to prove to my kids, who at the time were really young, that advanced degrees are important and would be a significant benefit.”
In 2015, Johnson graduated from UHV with a Global MBA with a concentration in finance. Right after graduation, Johnson said he went through the Wells Fargo management training program designed for individuals who hold an MBA degree.
“My career path took off; it opened doors I didn’t even think about,” Johnson said. “I’m so glad I went back and earned my MBA because it paid off professionally and opened up my life for so much more.”
Looking back on his journey, having spent 11 years working across different counties, taking care of his family and earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do along the way, Johnson said he doesn’t have much spare time. Yet, when time allows, he spends it learning Mandarin and Vietnamese, reconnecting with his heritage and embracing the rich tapestry of his life.
He reflected back on his time as a student: juggling a full-time job, taking care of his two kids, working on homework and projects in the dead of night and being a husband. To parents out there who are debating going back to school, Johnson has one piece of advice, “Do it,” he said.
“You don’t know what doors could be opened. It was a challenge being a MBA student, parent and a full-time employee, but it was well worth it in the end.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 50 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.