Our Stories

Seeking Lifelong Connections

Johnson builds success by building a network

Ba'Carri Johnson
Senior Technical Product Manager, Amazon Web Services

Vanderbilt MBA 2023

Like many rising professionals with technology backgrounds, Ba’Carri Johnson—who studied computer science in college and later worked as a digital product manager—wanted to better understand business to prepare herself to lead teams and organizations. But that wasn’t the only factor that drew her to business school.

“I noticed early in my career that not many business executives looked like me,” says Ba’Carri. “Business school was an opportunity to learn as much as possible and serve as a role model for future black and brown young women who aspire to do great things in business.”

She was drawn to Vanderbilt because of the program’s size. “With only two years here, I wanted to form deep connections with classmates, faculty, and staff,” she says. “Owen’s small but mighty cohort size allowed me to form great relationships and an amazing network in a short period. I’ve made lifelong friends from all over the world.”

Those lasting relationships, Ba’Carri says, include those with faculty and staff. As examples, she cites Professor Mumin Kurtulus and Kathleen Fuchs Hritz of the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. Because she studied abroad in Turkey, Ba’Carri was elated to get to know Professor Kurtulus, whose native country is Turkey and who, along with his wife Zeynep, opened his home to students. Ba’Carri particularly remembers the spread of Turkish foods, tea, and coffee the Kurtulus family prepared for second-year TAs.

“As for Kathleen,” Ba’Carri says, “we bonded the first day we met over our love for community engagement. Ever since, she was integral in helping me become quickly involved in the Nashville community.”

In many ways, Ba’Carri believes that the human dimension has been the most important part of her preparation for the rest of her business career. “I’ve always believed that building relationships is an important part of how we navigate the world,” she says. “My experience in the MBA program has proven this to be true time and again. As I embark on a new stage in my career, I choose to place great focus on nurturing relationships and understanding who people are outside of their roles. Taking time to listen to my classmates’ stories, motivations, and goals led to some of the strongest bonds and team performances I’ve been lucky to experience.”

Her advice to incoming students: “Say yes to the dinners, sporting events, party buses, study sessions, coffee chats, lunches with professors, international cultural events that pique your interest, impromptu midday catchups, class trips, running errands with a classmate, and more. Say yes to it all. What makes Vanderbilt Business special is the culture. If you’re looking for a program where you truly get to know your classmates and professors, you’re in the right place.”

Fun Fact: An avid traveler, Ba’Carri visited 13 countries and five continents just during her time in the Vanderbilt MBA program.

“Owen’s small but mighty cohort size allowed me to form great relationships and an amazing network in a short period.”