Coffee with: Michael Johns (MJ)


July 31, 2014

Michael Johns Headshot Hightail EmployeeName: Michael Edward Johns aka “MJ”
Hometown: Dalenco, NJ
College: San Jose State University
Degree: AS in Electrical Engineering, BS in Computer Science, MS in Software Engineering
Title: Web Analytics Solutions Architect

In groovy ‘77 Michael Edward Johns (known as ‘MJ’), made the trek with his family all the way from the Industrial State of New Jersey to sunny San Jose, California, where his afro grew bigger and so did his love for all things tech.

We caught up with MJ to talk more about his determination to be successful in Silicon Valley, his passion for traveling and his love for web design.

Emmy Rey: Why tech?

MJ: I always had to work; I have been ever since I was 13. I even put myself through school. My first real job was a Systems Engineer at Xerox and everything I was working on there was always Internet based. That was when I was really indoctrinated in to the Internet. After starting there in my early 20’s, just as a way to put myself through college, I ended up staying there for 12 years. Problem was, I realized that if I was going to move up in the company I would have to go back to school at the Xerox headquarters, which was in New York I had, had my fill of the east coast. This was when I decided to start my own e-commerce business.

ER: Wow, you had your own business. What drove you to do that?

MJ: I’m ambidextrous. I am left handed and right handed, just as I am technical, but also creative. I was a web-master back in the day. I did everything from graphic design to 3D modeling to development. I grew within that role, which widened the possibilities for career opportunities Like I said, I was a hard worker starting at a very young age, so diving into my own business seemed like a way for me to do what I loved and to make my own money. I quickly learned that I didn’t know anything about the business side of it, so I guess you could say it was the school of hard knocks. It was fun, I learned a lot, but I realized I liked the security of a 9-5 and not having to worry about where your next customer is going to come from.

ER: Why Hightail?

MJ: The people I met. I looked into Hightail a year before I actually started, but was a little unsure. I then came in shortly after Brad started and all of the people I had interviewed with were great! I really liked the team I’d be working with and to me it felt like home, it felt like a family.

ER: What do you love most about your job?

MJ: Really, it’s the work that I do. I’m an engineer at heart. Although I work 9-5 I still work when I get home because I love it so much. Right now I’m building frameworks, so for me it feels creative because I get to build and develop. My girlfriend looks at me at home and always says, “What are you doing?!” I tell her I just love what I do, I’d be doing this whether I was employed or not. I’ve asked myself, why do I love it so much? Growing up I always liked puzzles and to me programming is like a puzzle; you solve the puzzle with your code. I find it challenging, but also very rewarding. It’s something tangible. I mean, you get to see the results of your work right there.

ER: Who is your hero/biggest inspiration?

MJ: I hate to sound corny, but my mother. She was a single mother, and I recognized what she did, but I never truly knew until I had my own child. Then you know, I really started to appreciate what I had. She’s always been my number one fan and supporter.

ER: What gets you going in the AM?

MJ: My alarm clock? I’m a workaholic. I’m up late every night working, until like 3am. I thrive between 10pm and 3am. I don’t really drink coffee either. I just don’t really need a lot of sleep. I even have to force myself to eat in the morning. I’m not a big eater. In fact, I’ve never even had a sip of alcohol in my entire life. I don’t really have many vices, but I would say the one vice I do have is chocolate. Yup, definitely chocolate.

ER: Hobby?

MJ: Well my work is my biggest hobby right now. A couple years ago I used to train in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, which is kind of a mix between dancing and martial arts. I actually met Arian, Hightail’s operation manager, that way, before I even started working here. We both trained in Capoeira. A current hobby though, I guess would be traveling. I love to travel, even if it’s just a small trip.

ER: Well, since you love to travel so much where would be your favorite place to go?

MJ: If I won the lottery tonight? I would definitely travel to Singapore. I love Singapore! I have been there a few times on business with previous jobs and the first time I went there I had an epiphany, it felt like home. There are no natural disasters and it’s so safe there; there’s no crime. It’s so clean and the people are all so nice. I guess that’s because they have so many strict rules. But yeah, I would definitely go there again.