In the professional world, our spiritual beliefs are not always encouraged. It is our task as professional Christians to find a way to infuse our actions and day-to-day activities with a Godly example and light. Pam Johnson has worked at Nike for 21 years and enjoys being a Christian leader in a secular work environment. Find out how she embodies Christ in her career and see what you can learn from her example.
4word: Tell us a little about your career path. What brought you to Nike?
Pam: In 1983, after graduating with a degree in Finance & Computer Science from Oregon State, I packed up my car and headed to Silicon Valley with many other college grads to enter the world of high-technology. After several years in California, I relocated to Portland to be closer to friends and family. In 1991, I met my husband who was working at Nike at the time. Our first date was lunch on a beautiful summer’s day on the lake in the middle of the Nike campus. Everyone was out and about in shorts, summer dresses, and their great Nike gear. The energy was addictive. This was more like a college campus than a place to work. Both my husband and I are sports fanatics so when he decided to leave Nike later that year to pursue consulting, I said goodbye to high-tech and hello to the wonderful world of Nike. Twenty-one years later, I can still honestly say I love my job and my company and am very grateful to God for them each and every day.
4word: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Pam: The opportunity and flexibility to learn, to bring to the table a new way of thinking, to offer something different. At Nike, our #1 strategic priority is Innovation. We believe it is a game changer. I have been blessed to have a manager for many years who appreciates and encourages innovative thinking. It keeps my mind and my job exciting. And along the way, I have been blessed to work with some amazing people. The Sales team at Nike is a very closely bound team. Many of my co-workers I will call friends for life.
4word: As a professional Christian woman, what has been one of your biggest challenges working at Nike?
Pam: To be a light! To lead, influence, and act with honesty and integrity in everything you do. To stay above the clutter. And for any of us in the workforce, on certain days, in certain meetings, and on certain projects, there can be a lot of clutter. But God calls us to rise above. To be uplifting and encouraging, to focus on the positive and cut out the demeaning and negative. For our minds to be strong, disciplined, balanced, and faith-filled. While this challenge is not specific to Nike, or any company, it is a part of living out our daily life as we are called to do.
What I find encouraging here is that proficiency in this area drives overall success, both personally and professionally. It does not require an advanced degree, special training, a technological mind, or a creative gene. But it does require focus, diligence, and hard work. And I think we would all agree this is not easy!
I have seen many instances throughout my career where leadership, a positive outlook, honesty, and integrity win! These are critical attributes that set you apart in the workplace.
This year has been particularly compelling for me in this regard. We have recently just moved from Oregon to California. In Oregon, we left behind a fabulous church but have been blessed to find a new church home in California that we love. In our short time at our new church, we have gone from a series of sermons based on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, which points to a way of life where God can eradicate parts of our life that distract us from these areas, to a new series called “Do What You Are (You Are Not What You Do).” While I was drafting the outline for this interview I had many conflicting thoughts on direction, but I think our pastor has coined the key theme perfectly: “Do What You Are (You Are Not What You Do).” I am anxious for the series to begin!
4word: What steps have you taken to overcome that challenge?
Pam: I think that many of the challenges that we face (personally and professionally) can be overcome by emulating those who possess the qualities and traits we admire. As Christians, we are blessed to have the supreme role model in Jesus Christ, and His business book that will guide you through the “Habits of Highly Effective People”.
On this earth however, and particularly at work, I try to seek out those effective leaders who I want to learn from. I was very blessed in my first job at Nike to have a manager who to this day will be admired as one of the most talented executives in our company. He was not only known for his intelligence and business success, but also for being an incredible leader. He was a visionary, a teacher, a coach, and with kindness and compassion left a legacy of future leaders. He has taught me many things about leadership. I believe it is now my time to pass those lessons on to others.
4word: To other women who face similar challenges and circumstances, what is your advice for them?
Pam: To do just that. To seek out those in your organization who you would like to emulate. Those women (or men) who have personal and professional qualities that make them stand out as leaders. And then to transition! In business (as in life), you reach a point when you transition from follower to leader. As professional Christian women, we are starving for leaders in our workplace to coach, guide, counsel, and mentor.
4word: Who in your life stands out as someone who has mentored you or had an impact in your life? How do you seek out opportunities to have an impact in the lives around you?:
Pam: Dr. Ron Mehl, the founding pastor of our church in Oregon, was definitely someone who I would consider a mentor in my life, especially during my child-rearing years. He was an amazing pastor and leader, and every Sunday I would listen to him and learn from not only his preaching but also how he lived his life and cared for his family. He was an amazing pastor, husband, father, and friend, and such an inspiration to me as a parent.
One of Ron’s key themes revolved around the notion that the “The world needs more leaders.” Ron did not mean that we should all strive to be a US President but to be a leader in our church, our homes, with our children, and in the workplace (wherever that calls you). I believe I read one time that Ron’s daily prayer outline was to pray for 1) Leaders 2) Friends 3) Family 4) Self. I completely believe in this philosophy. My kids are probably very tired of me telling them to “be a leader” every day, in every situation. I feel that it is so vital to be perpetually seeking out opportunities to be a leader! It’s truly a mindset. We all have leadership qualities and God calls us to use these qualities (gifts) to our potential.
In my career, I would always seek out leaders around me that I could learn from, whether coworkers, bosses, speakers, or industry experts. In turn, when I show up to work every day, I want to “give back” to others what has been given to me, to be available to coach and mentor however God calls me to.
For those of us who work in a corporate or secular environment, it might seem nearly impossible to stay consistent in your beliefs. Our coworkers and bosses might not share your beliefs, which means that you will face situations and conversations that will leave you at a cross-roads. Learn from Pam’s example and train yourself to always act as a light in your office. By emulating Christ’s love and actions, you will not only feel strong in your faith but you might also see a difference in those around you.
How are you a light in your workplace? Has being a professional Christian in a corporate environment provided you with opportunities to discuss God with your coworkers?
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A 20+ year veteran and currently a Global Sales Business Director for Nike, Inc., Pam directs Financial and Strategic Planning efforts for Nike’s Sales partnership with Foot Locker, Inc. Foot Locker, Inc. is the largest supplier of athletic footwear and apparel in the world. Over Pam’s 20 year history at Nike she has held various positions in Finance, Sales Operations and Strategic Planning. Prior to Nike Pam held various Financial Management positions with Mentor Graphics, US Bank, and United Technologies. Away from work Pam is actively involved with the Oregon State University Scholl of Business Advisory Council, a member of PEO (a philanthropic educational organization), is on the Advisory Board for 4Word, and enjoys spending time with her family. Pam lives in Newport Beach, CA with her husband and highschool aged son and also has a daughter attending Oregon State.