2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Broderick Johnson, New York University (Stern)

Broderick Johnson

New York University, Stern School of Business (Washington, DC)

Age: 36

An experienced and artistic leader who is known for honesty, integrity, and sense of humor.”

Hometown: Fresno, California

Family Members: Stephanie Leonetti Johnson (wife)

Fun fact about yourself: Prior to being accepted to NYU Stern’s Executive MBA: Washington, D.C. program, I was a disc jockey for nine years in D.C. My proudest accomplishments as a disc jockey were having the opportunities to play music in Brazil and Puerto Rico. I strongly believe that music is a universal aspect of human existence and is a vehicle for expressing and sharing emotions. In addition, music allows people to bond over an experience and is a tool for sharing your own culture and experiencing other cultures around the world.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I attended California State University, Fresno (Craig School of Business- Bachelor of Science, Business Marketing- Class of 2008).

Where are you currently working? Currently, I manage the March on Washington Film Festival (MOWFF), a 501c3 nonprofit organization designed in commemoration of the Civil Rights movement. MOWFF develops content to celebrate the unsung heroes and often untold stories of the Civil Rights movement and beyond. My work involves curating content and generating new ideas to showcase activists, athletes, and entertainers who have impacted social justice movements, through various mediums of storytelling, including film, music, art, and other digital and live content. I regularly exercise strategic and analytical thinking as I am tasked with developing original content for each year’s festival, which is centered around a unique social justice theme. My role as producer involves creatively engaging our audience through storytelling, harnessing social media platforms, and utilizing other strategies to reach audiences around the world that vary across generations.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: During my graduation from California State University, Fresno in 2008, I earned the Community of Service award for my dedication and commitment to the campus and Fresno, California communities. In 2017, I served on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington. In 2018, I served as a review panelist for the National Endowment of the Arts Media grant review, where I played a central role as a panelist. My team represented a broad range of artistic and cultural viewpoints, as well as wide geographic and ethnic diversity, to provide advice about the artistic excellence and artistic merit of grant proposals in a variety of funding categories.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  Pre-COVID, our Executive MBA cohort had the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for our Global Study Tour. This tour is a one-week international residency that is designed specifically for each Executive MBA class. During our residency, the program enhanced our understanding of global business and the global economy. Since I work in media and entertainment, I learned about free media zones in the UAE, innovative talent centers, and a wide variety of joint projects with U.S. partners. The UAE is increasingly growing as a regional incubator for entertainment and media. Our cohort had the opportunity of touring twofour54, one of Abu Dhabi’s leading media and entertainment firms. I had the unique opportunity of meeting the CEO of twofour54 and was able to discuss the parallels of our work and how we provide a platform for emerging filmmakers.

Overall, I believe this international experience helped enhance my perspective on the Middle East and the UAE and to understand the unique opportunities for entrepreneurs not only in film but also in global business.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was making the transition from public policy work to the creative arts industry. Most of my work in public policy evolved around media and communications and helping our clients reach their audience by amplifying their message to create change. The arts are so important because they help us create a lens to help people see the world from different perspectives. They give us empathy and help us understand people from different generations, periods of history, and social issues with which we may otherwise be unfamiliar. The arts act as a catalyst for change and ignite something in our brains that is unexplainable, but most importantly, its essential for life. Our messaging at my organization has grown tremendously over the years. Because of the arts and storytelling we are able to use film screenings, discussions, and musical performances to celebrate one of the most important eras of our time, the Civil Rights Movement.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? During my time as an MBA student, my favorite Professor was Nathan Pettit. He is a fantastic professor who truly cares about the intellectual growth of his students, through leadership teachings and trainings. The workload was manageable, but Professor Pettit challenges his students to think in novel ways about not just leadership management but your educational experience overall. I was able to learn about the social aspects of business and the value of building and maintaining effective management skills in my professional and personal day-to-day lives.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Stern’s Executive MBA program has a reputation of opening doors for students who are focused on either transitioning their careers or scaling up within their organization’s hierarchical chart.

Stern’s Executive MBA: Washington, DC program offered at NYU’s DC location provided me with the opportunity to learn from top professors from the institution and earn the same MBA degree without having to travel to New York City. The way the program is structured (meets one weekend a month), I was able to maintain a work life balance and allot time throughout the month to work on class projects and assignments.

One thing that attracted me to Stern was its strong sense of community and social life that embodies the small sized cohort. There is an invaluable network of students and alumni and this program has helped me cultivate relationships beyond the classroom.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? During my time in Stern’s Executive MBA program, I have learned to work with similar-minded people who are invested in the same mission and goals. This program has been very challenging over the past two years and I have realized that leadership and management are very different. Management is about making your team more efficient in achieving a task, whereas leadership is about how to align and motivate your team towards a common goal. Throughout the program, I have been able to spend a lot of time reading about, hearing from, and talking with influential leaders in many industries to understand how they were able to accomplish this incredibly difficult task.

My Executive MBA experience increased my knowledge in areas that I was not strong in, such as leadership and management, and it added to my skill set in ways I was not aware existed.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? With mortgage rates reaching all-time lows during the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for real estate increased exponentially. My wife has been interested in purchasing a home for many years, and last spring we decided to work with a real-estate agent to find a home in Washington, DC. During that time, I had a few projects at work and school with strict deadlines. Since the pandemic caused lockdowns and restrictions, it forced people around the world to adapt to their spaces and exist within the confines of their homes. This allowed my wife and I enough time to work with a real-estate agent, tour homes throughout Washington, D.C., and ultimately place an offer on a home we both loved while working full-time and keeping up with coursework. We closed on our property one day before my 35th birthday. Even though it caused us both a lot of stress and anxiety, we realized that there was some good that came out of being confined to the four walls in our small apartment. Closing on a home was the best decision we have ever made.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? This may sound cliché, but the importance of an executive MBA is just as much as you can derive from it. You cannot rush into an MBA program just for the sake of it. You must determine why you would like to pursue an executive MBA. For example, perhaps you want to further your career in your current job function, fully transition industries, or expand your network.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? One of the biggest myths or misconceptions about going back to school is that everyone is so much smarter and more accomplished than you believe. The reality is that people return to school because they are compelled to do so. During the first few months of the Stern Executive MBA program, I was really intimidated, but then I remembered that everyone is in the exact same position as me. They want to get there, learn more, and most notably, reach their career ambitions.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Business school provides a network of peers with whom you can communicate and share time outside of the classroom. However, the pandemic has restricted our face-to-face experiences. While I am grateful for the time spent in a classroom environment prior to the pandemic, I believe that my cohort has missed out on in-person networking opportunities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Michael Baki Serwadda is someone who I admire and respect. Michael and I met on a few professional occasions prior to being accepted into the Stern Executive MBA program. Michael and I had no idea we were both admitted to Stern. When we arrived at the welcome reception, we both laughed, embraced, and had an in-depth conversation about why we chose Stern. We are now closer than ever, and we have academically pushed each other throughout this experience. Most notably, we have shared many similarities in our professional and personal lives, and we have had many conversations about mental health in the African American community.

Michael has been a blessing in my life, and I can’t wait until we graduate, look back, and share the same laugh we did before starting the program.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The key reason was having the ability to stay in Washington, D.C. while working full-time and attending graduate school, specifically at Stern. I learned about this program while planning for a film festival event at the satellite campus in downtown Washington, D.C. I made an effort to attend the hour networking session, had a few conversations with faculty, and left the event with an admissions packet to help me prepare to apply. The program has assisted in creating a new network of friends on which I can rely on for guidance, professional opportunities, and mutual successes for the reminder of my life.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional ambition is to stay in the performing arts industry and pursue a career in entertainment, sports, and media. I will also seek opportunities in the technology industry now that I have learned so much about automation and artificial intelligence. As my professional career progresses, I feel it is important for me to give back to local communities. I assume that if each of us makes an attempt to change the life of one person around us every day, we are making a meaningful contribution to society. Mentoring is also so important because you can help people make decisions by enhancing their self-esteem and self-confidence. I strongly believe I am where I am today because of the mentors in my life.

What made Broderick such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“As a producer for the March on Washington Film Festival, Broderick Johnson brings a unique perspective to the NYU Stern Executive MBA cohort in Washington, DC. In his role, he manages the overall creative direction of the annual film festival and oversees production, marketing, development, talent management, and film acquisition. Although he has a demanding career, Broderick has put in the effort to transform his skill set and build strong relationships with his cohort through the Executive MBA program. He is well-respected by his peers and takes the time to share his diverse ideas and experiences with his classmates. He has also been able to share his deep passion for diversity and inclusion with his cohort. As he moves forward in his career, we look forward to seeing Broderick become a senior leader who supports emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds in their film projects. Broderick is a great addition to the NYU Stern community, and we look forward to having him represent our program in the future.”

Neha Singhal
Assistant Dean
Executive Degree Programs Admissions & Marketing


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