Everyone has a story—a story that has been influenced by experiences, community, and people. Our stories shape who we are and who we are becoming. We want to celebrate all of the unique stories and different experiences that have shaped our people and build the fabric of our firm. With that in mind, we’re excited to introduce you to leaders across all levels at Credera and their unique stories and perspectives through a blog series called My Credera Story. This week you get to meet Nickoria Johnson, a Principal at Credera.
Before I start sharing about my time here at Credera, let me share a little bit about myself. I am a child of the 70s, raised by a single teenage mom for the early parts of my life. I had amazing grandparents and a healthy community to support my development and people who helped shape my values.
My Introduction to Technology
My mom took me to college with her and worked as a teacher after she graduated. So education was always an expectation for her and a priority for me. I considered myself an academic, nerdy type, so I poured myself into school. Getting great grades earned the respect of my family, my classmates, and my teachers. Because math and science came naturally and were interesting to me, I joined a club called Tomorrow’s Scientists, Technicians, and Managers (TSTM) sponsored by the local chapter of the Urban League, focused on exposing minority youth to STEM careers. That club changed my life’s trajectory. It made me aware of career options, mentorship experiences, and the internship opportunities provided through their corporate sponsors. Through TSTM, I interned for AT&T Bell Laboratories throughout high school and learned the art of software testing and coding in UNIX.
Finding My True Self in College
After high school, where I happened to be one of six Black students in my graduating class of more than 600 students, I attended Howard University (a historically Black university) on a full scholarship, majoring in electrical engineering. I went through many changes at Howard, what some would call “finding my true self.” I changed my major several times because I was trying to find a balance of my love for all things technology and the fact that I really am a “people person.” I moved to the management information systems program in the School of Business and have pretty much stayed in that space since.
Starting Out in the Real World
My internship between my junior and senior years turned into a full-time job, where I grew into a system administrator and custom code developer. From there, I became a team lead and landed my first gig in consulting. I fell in love with consulting because I was actually helping clients solve their big, hairy strategic problems, and given the finite duration of most projects, I was able to see the fruit of the team’s labor come alive.
My career in technology (and life in general) took some twists and turns, and I held several leadership roles within Navigator Systems (a boutique consulting firm) and three Fortune 500 companies before returning to consulting at Credera in August of 2019.
Experiencing Credera as a Client
My unique Credera story is that I was a client of Credera’s at all three of my Fortune 500 companies. Through those experiences, I had the chance to partner with amazing people and forge lasting relationships over a 15-year timeframe.
Because I was a long-standing client, I was able to see from the outside looking in how each individual at Credera lived out the company’s core values. I’d like to share two of the values that the Credera teams exuded consistently.
There were many times when we thought as clients we knew exactly what we wanted and just needed a firm to help us pull it off. Credera would come in, partner with us to figure out the problems we were trying to solve, and then (respectfully) tell us we needed to do it differently. These were very honest conversations centered in humility (will speak to that in a moment) that challenged what we thought we knew. On top of that, the teams always delivered what they said they would and showed up when they said they would show up. I could count on them without a doubt. For that reason alone, I would fight to bring Credera in for the really hard problems—even though they weren’t always the cheapest. I was completely confident they would get in the ring with us and get the job done.
In a world where many other firms would come in and prescribe to you exactly what the “perfect” solution was with a tone of condescension and arrogance, Credera really stood out because of the humility in their approach and the way they engaged with me as a client. It was so different than the experiences I’d had with other consulting firms. There was confidence, but not an attitude of superiority, and their actions (from the junior ranks all the way up to the partner team) always showed that I mattered. Humility can’t be taught and the consistent humble nature of the Credera teams truly helped to build lasting trust, smoothed out jagged-edged projects with difficult vendor partners, and delivered with excellence.
A story I like to share about Credera that validates this is a chief information officer (CIO) roundtable event in Dallas I attended with about 15 CIO/IT vice president equivalents, and one of the people attending said he was looking to find a smaller, boutique tech consulting firm that he could trust because he was having bad experiences with the “big six” firms. Before I could open my mouth to speak, a complete stranger across the room said exactly what I had been planning to say: “Credera—they are the sharpest, smartest, most humble firm I have ever partnered with and I highly recommend them.” I left that event thinking, “Wow, it’s not just me that has had these amazing sets of experiences with Credera. They are truly creating a legacy!
My Journey at Credera
I like to think that my journey at Credera is just getting started! Although I have only been at Credera for a year and a half at this point, I truly feel I’m a part of the family. I have grown so much personally, in my craft, and in confidence. When I first started, my primary goal was simply to show up and do good (great) work. After working in the industry for so long, even though I had been in consulting earlier in my career, I was nervous about fitting in, managing the pace, and leaning into new things.
After three days I was staffed and leading my first project: creating a customer-centricity model and maturity framework to help a financial services firm make the best decisions across the entire company, focused on their customers’ views and values. From there, I led a program for one of our nonprofit clients, focused on women’s leadership development and refining their digital content strategy and reinventing their customer and partner online portal experiences. That was one of my favorite projects so far because we were truly there to listen, understand, and help pivot the core of their business to be technology-enabled. This organization’s mission—“Equipping female leaders with the tools they need to grow”—is also very near and dear to my heart. I have also led several large programs at various clients over the last year, each with their own highs, interesting outcomes, and amazing teams.
Thankfully, after I realized I could keep up with the pace of work, my goals expanded to include much more than just doing great work.
My Credera Legacy
One of the exercises our senior leaders engaged in last year was to think about the legacy we wanted to leave at Credera. When we have moved on and retired, what kind of Credera have we helped to build? I’d like to share my legacy goals—the five things that I want to be true of myself and the firm by the time I leave Credera. Many of these are already in motion, but I’m excited to see them continue to grow.
1. I want Credera to have a truly diverse population, representative of the communities we live in, where people who are “minorities” look into the leadership ranks and see people like them, at all levels.
2. I want to see coaching and mentoring as an ingrained part of how our leaders “breathe,” not just a task we have to do.
3. I want Credera to have invested more toward our internal capabilities and growth, value them as critical, and ensure our Credera team members have the best resources and people to grow and thrive.
4. I want to see people living out a culture where it’s OK (even encouraged) to be different, lead differently, and create differently.
5. I want my mentees and coaches to become the new leaders of the firm, have a voice, and create the impact they were uniquely designed to create.
On Diversity and Inclusion
Being Black and a woman presents its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Having grown up at a predominantly white high school and being a minority girl with a passion for STEM, I was used to being “the only one” at the table, especially as I climbed the leadership ladder. I would come to work with my “work girl” persona on and then go home and take off my mask. I just knew that I had to be three times better and work four times harder to get the recognition or promotion or seat at the table based on my experiences and what I saw growing up in my community.
After my first few months at Credera, having already been involved with the Credera Women’s Network I recognized our firm’s deep commitment to pursuing gender equity. The Credera I had worked with 15 years ago was 98% white males from the big six consulting firms who attended large Texas, Arkansas, or Oklahoma schools. The Credera I work for today now has women at all levels of the company and it’s not uncommon to have a project or internal team call with all women. I have been able to connect, grow relationships, mentor, and hopefully inspire our female Credera staff. I want to do everything I can to pursue gender equity and inclusion and see women continue to grow here.
Being Black in America has always been hard, but over the years, as I mentioned above, my “work girl” persona didn’t bring her personal views to work with her. Good or bad, as I have aged, it has become harder to not show up as my full self, with real emotions, sensitivities, and person of color fatigue. Perhaps it’s because I am OK with people not liking me at this point in my life? Whatever the reason, when America saw George Floyd die at the hands of the police and there was a renewed focus and global attention on Black Lives actually Mattering, something in me woke up, too. I realized my Credera family needed me to show up and help inspire change at all levels.
I am proud of the way our CEO and our leadership openly addressed the things happening in America, how the firm boldly stepped into very hard conversations on race and privilege, and how my team members have leaned into seeking to learn more about other cultures and to create genuine empathy for each other. I spent the last half of 2020 getting involved in all things diversity, equity, and inclusion (literally) at Credera, whether I was asked to or not, and I am really proud of what we have been able to achieve this year. We started recruiting from two distinguished historically Black colleges and universities (Prairie View and Howard), have established our first people-of-color employee resource group (CredColor), and are being intentional and aggressive about investing more of our money, time, and resources as a company toward creating a Credera that is more reflective of the communities around us.
When I leave Credera, I hope that a part of what I leave behind is a company where Black women like me and other underrepresented groups can look across the company, and especially look at our leadership team, and see people who look like them. I also hope that Credera will always be a company that truly understands the value that diversity brings to our culture, our work, and our future. Maya Angelou said it best: “In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength,” and I want both of those things for Credera.
Honestly, I have no idea what’s next! What I do know is I work for a firm I am proud to call home and that really sees and values who I am. I wake up every day excited to get up and “go to” work (pandemic, work-from-home style!), living out experiences with my team members, my clients, my leaders, and my mentees. Every day is not a smooth ride, but when you are navigating the bumpy terrain with people you care about, you don’t even notice the rough patches in the long run.
This month is Black History Month and clearly, I am a huge fan of Maya Angelou, so I leave you with another quote of hers: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s what it’s like to be a part of this Credera family. I feel connected, valued, and known, and that means the world to me!
WORKING AT CREDERA
At Credera, we have a culture that values the many unique perspectives, backgrounds, and histories that our employees represent. If you’re interested in a career at Credera and beginning your journey, please visit our careers page.