Kellogg Magazine  |  Spring/Summer 2015



Ahead of the curve

Ahead of the curve
At Microsoft, Kristin Johnsen ’93 is always thinking beyond what’s possible

Seven years ago, when Kristin Johnsen ’93 joined Microsoft’s consulting services as a general manager, the technology landscape hardly resembled what it is today. Cloud computing didn’t exist. Tablets weren’t widely used by consumers. And a deflated dot-com bubble had led to “a lull in technology transformation,” Johnsen recalls.

As a result, Microsoft’s consulting group was primarily focused on helping its enterprise customers update their technology and learn how to use it. The consultants were agile and effective at the task, but Johnsen knew that they needed to do more. “You’ve got to have some vision for where technology and customers are going,” she says.

Today, as vice president of Microsoft Consulting Services, Johnsen is focused on systematically planning for change. That means that she’s constantly thinking about technological advancements and their implications for customers, particularly Microsoft’s top 5,000 enterprise customers. Her goal: Ensure that enterprises are using the latest and greatest technology in the smartest way possible.

Ahead of the curve

You’ve got to have some vision for where technology and customers are going.

Kristin Johnsen ’93
Vice President,
Microsoft Consulting Services

For example, the consulting group recently helped ThyssenKrupp, a German elevator manufacturer, use big data technology and cloud-based computing to build sensors that monitor the wear and tear of elevators’ mechanical parts. As a result, service agents can now fix or replace parts before they break, dramatically improving the elevators’ efficiency and performance.

“It’s not just that we took their technology from old to new,” Johnsen points out. “This actually changes their business. We changed their business model.” 

Globally, Johnsen manages 6,500 consultants across 82 countries. The nuances of conducting business abroad means that she has to ensure her teams are equipped with the right people — both local experts with regional knowledge and technical experts who can address the complex needs of enterprises. Also, she has to make sure teams are constantly retooling to accommodate breakthrough products and market evolutions.

“In any given quarter, something new comes up,” she says. “A competitor makes a move. There’s disruptive technology innovation. It’s fascinating to try and figure how you keep up with all that — both in terms of what your strategic front is and how you operate in that environment.”

NEXT: Students trek to Seattle to visit top tech companies »