Veronica Johnson (right) with one of her scholarship recipients, Hafsa M. Mahad.

From repairing typewriters to cracking the glass ceiling

Veronica Johnson’s success in a male-dominated field

Veronica Johnson (BS ’68) has always been a woman to watch. This retired IBM employee and home economics alumna says people never knew what to make of her success in a male-dominated field. 

In her three decades with IBM, Veronica earned six promotions—each requiring her to relocate to a new state—and was often the first or only woman in her territory to hold that job title. As the sole provider for her daughter, Veronica’s tenure at IBM started in 1974 in Minneapolis, when she left her dream job as teen program director for the YWCA to pursue a job with a more consistent 8 to 5 schedule. She started as a customer engineer, repairing typewriters and other office equipment, and retired in 2003 from a management position in Austin, Texas.

Friends and colleagues were not the only ones perplexed by her career path. “What is it that you think I do at work all day?” Veronica recalls asking her daughter, Stacy. Stacy did not want to go to daycare that day and proposed they switch places. “And what would you do at work, Stacy?”

“Break typewriters,” Stacy replied. This was the only apparent explanation for all the spare typewriter parts in the trunk of her mother’s car.

While Veronica found success in the corporate world, her heart has always been with social services and community investment. While working, she served on nonprofit boards, including the YWCA Board in Fargo, where she was president, and has been a member of the American Association of University Women in five states. Now, in retirement, she can “put in more hours” volunteering. She serves on the CEHD Dean’s Advisory Board, volunteers at SACA food shelf, with Kiwanis at the Columbia Heights recycling center, and through a women’s group at her church. To honor her parents’ memory, Veronica also established the Ruth and Omer Netteberg Scholarship in 2004 to support incoming family social science students in CEHD. 

Veronica’s mother Ruth was very civic-minded. She herself earned a two-year teaching degree from UM Crookston in 1945 and went back to school to earn her master’s in the ’70s.

“I look like a slacker compared to my mother,” says Veronica.

Story by Holly Hartung | Photos by Veronica Johnson | Spring/Summer 2020