What Amy Johnson ’99 does for a living is hard—and she can’t fail. As vice president of the Defense Electronics business area at General Dynamics Mission Systems, she leads a critical business focused on delivering complex engineering solutions to customers. But as a first-year student at Stonehill, she didn’t know what to declare as her major.

“I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do,” Johnson says. “Stonehill allowed me to explore and learn what I was good at.” It turns out, she was good at computer science. “After taking a course, a professor encouraged me to make it my major,” she says. “As soon as he saw my work, he said, ‘You have to do this.’” That teacher was Professor Ralph Bravaco, longtime chair of the Computer Science Department, who retired last year.

“From day one, Ralph talked me into the degree and the career path,” Johnson says. “He convinced me I had talent, and I could be successful. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am. Ralph had confidence in me I didn’t see.” That confidence became Johnson’s secret weapon.

When she graduated from Stonehill, Johnson was the only female computer science major in her class, but that didn’t faze her because her professors had believed in her. Bravaco even helped Johnson land her first job at General Dynamics as a software engineer, in 1999. Seven promotions and 22 years later, Johnson was named vice president. The first person she contacted that day was Ralph Bravaco.

Stonehill allowed me to explore and learn what I was good at.

Today, Johnson is following Bravaco’s example, instilling confidence in junior employees at General Dynamics, including numerous Skyhawks. “I can’t count the number of Stonehill interns and graduates we’ve brought in here,” she says. “They quickly rise to the top. My boss is always saying if he could hire all Stonehill graduates, he would.”

Throughout her STEM career, Johnson has often been the only female on her team. Even these days, when presenting to senior military officers, she’s usually the only woman in the room, but this never bothers her. The knowledge, skills and self-confidence she gained at Stonehill stick with her. “What I’m doing here makes a difference. It’s important, and it matters. I never thought I’d run a large business, but the core problem-solving skills and liberal arts education I got at Stonehill really help me.”

As for her Stonehill connections, Johnson, as a member of the IAB, looks forward to working closely with Stonehill graduates as they become software, hardware and electrical engineers, and she’s still in touch with her former professors. In fact, she and Bravaco meet for lunch a few times a year to catch up. But these days, Bravaco isn’t just a former professor to Johnson—he’s a friend.