1st Edition

Soft Power for the Journey The Life of a STEM Trailblazer

By Sandra Johnson Copyright 2024
    344 Pages
    by CRC Press

    344 Pages
    by CRC Press


    This is a story of an African American woman working at the highest levels in STEM. Dr. Sandra K. Johnson earned a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Rice University in May 1988, the first black woman to do so. She then became a successful global technology leader and an IBM CTO. The story narrates the inextricable human dimension of dealing with various personal and familial challenges that people naturally encounter—with the highs and lows, and exhilarations and disappointments. It portrays her inner strength, persistence, dedication, boldness, quiet resilience, wisdom and strong faith, this soft power she leverages throughout her life. It is a heartwarming, compelling story designed to encourage, be aspirational and awe-inspiring, and uplift the spirits of a broad and diverse readership.


    From tragically losing her father at the age of two, to being raised by a single mother of four children, Sandra showed promise in math and science, and discipline and unrelenting drive at a young age. Raised in the deep South, she exhibited leadership even while in kindergarten and blazed trails in leadership while in junior high and high schools. Her early education was in segregated schools, with integration coming to her hometown as she started the 5th grade. Dr. Johnson’s innate abilities led her to a summer engineering program for high school students, then on to college and graduate school.


    Dr. Johnson has made innovative contributions in high performance computing – supercomputers – and other areas of computer engineering. She has dozens of technical publications, over 45 pending and issued patents, and a plethora of recognition and honors in her field. The book is a fascinating and intriguing story that conveys in captivating and relatable ways the remarkable life arc of a resilient person from an underprivileged background who persistently overcomes whatever odds and challenges are encountered in her life. It is a riveting human tale of a triumphant spirit, moving forward with soft power to celebrate achievement and handle obstacles with steel willpower, influential support, and faith.







    Part 1:  THE EARLY YEARS

    Chapter 1:  The Beginning

    Chapter 2:  Junior High School

    Chapter 3:  High School



    Chapter 4:  Early College

    Chapter 5:  The Upperclassman



    Chapter 6:  Stanford University

    Chapter 7:  Rice University



    Chapter 8:   A New Life in Westchester

    Chapter 9:   Moving on Up

    Chapter 10: Rough Waters Ahead


    Part 5:  THE AWAKENING

    Chapter 11: I Didn’t Know That

    Chapter 12: California and Texas

    Chapter 13: More Enlightenment – Why are you not a DE?


    Part 6:  THE MOVE

    Chapter 14: Technology in Africa?

    Chapter 15: The Middle East and Africa

    Chapter 16:  What’s Next?



    Chapter 17:  Entrepreneurship

    Chapter 18:  Ups and Downs


    Part 8:  KEEP RISING

    Chapter 19:  New Opportunities

    Chapter 20:  A New Life



    Sandra K. Johnson’s 26-year career at IBM included roles as Chief Technology Officer, Research Staff Member, WebSphere Database Development Manager, and Linux Performance Architect and Manager. Dr. Johnson was a member of the IBM Academy of Technology, an IBM Master Inventor with more than 45 pending and issued patents, author of over 80 technical publications and books, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering.