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Now at Amazon, Alumna is Grateful for Kogod’s Focus on Real-World Applications

Kensey Johnson (KSB ’22) credits hard skills and personal connections developed in the Kogod School of Business’s MBA program as the “launching point” in her career.

Kensey Johnson hero

Kogod School of Business MBA alumna Kensey Johnson.


At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kensey Johnson, Kogod MBA ’22, had quite the daily balancing act as she navigated work and school—all from home.

“I had two computers,” she explained. “Work would end, and I would turn my desk chair to the next computer, and then school would begin.”

Admittedly, that daily transition got more complicated when she and her classmates in the Kogod School of Business’ full-time MBA program returned in person. But with the help of her professors and the program's flexibility, she managed it all.

“People would laugh because I would be sitting in class, and I’m also on a Microsoft Teams call for work,” Johnson recalled, laughing. “Whenever I would have to speak, I would just walk into the hallway, speak, and come back to class.”

Her commitment paid off.

Two days after graduating as valedictorian of her cohort, Johnson accepted a job as senior paid marketing lead focused on audience development at Amazon.

In her position, she handles audience strategy for the web giant’s Prime Video and Amazon Music platforms as one of the first employees hired on a new team that sits underneath the corporation’s marketing division.

Now about a year into her role, she’s only just recovering from the intensity of her dual work and school commitment. “I feel like I’m still recovering from the burnout,” she quipped.

But she also marvels at how clearly her new degree has helped her set a bolder course in her career.

With her husband based in the DC area and her experience working on Capitol Hill as a congressional communications aide, Johnson felt attending business school close to the nation’s top policymakers made Kogod a natural fit.

“Having professors that used to do, say, central intelligence for the CIA—and that’s their data background—I love that aspect,” she said.

I think the experience of the professors from the analytics space was just really attractive to me.”

Kensey Johnson headshot

Kensey Johnson

Senior Paid Marketing Lead, Amazon

Complementing that top-shelf expertise of Kogod faculty members is the program’s class sizes and a tight student-to-faculty ratio that ensures personal and professional relationship-building; it’s helped Johnson forge lasting friendships and mentorships, to be sure.

But it’s her tangible takeaways from the coursework that perhaps influenced her career the most.

Having earned her graduate analytics certificate as part of her education, Johnson specifically cited professor J. Alberto Espinosa’s predictive analytics course as one that swiftly erased any doubt as to whether her education would prove directly applicable to her line of work—particularly after Espinosa queried students about their professional backgrounds and aspirations during the first week of class.

“I feel like he took that input and tailored the models we were building to fit the fields we wanted to enter,” Johnson said. “I think that made it more translational to my real-world experience.”

Indeed, Espinosa says, the course is designed to provide students “a solid foundation to hit the ground running on their first job after the program,” teaching students to develop predictive models, process data, and effectively interpret and communicate results.

While acknowledging she still seeks Espinosa’s feedback on her work—a nod to the seeds of mentorship the program sows—Johnson makes clear the lessons she learned were anything but abstract.

“I’m able to forecast the size of an audience by building my own predictive models that I learned in the Predictive Analysis course,” she said of the contributions she now makes at Amazon. “That is not a skill that I had before.”

A year after graduating, Johnson feels her MBA degree has helped provide a missing ingredient. It bolstered a resume that already included digital marketing at a polling agency and a role at Marriott, along with her earlier work on Capitol Hill.

The classroom experience—combined with the analytics and managerial exposure she gained at Kogod—has been her “secret sauce,” she says.

Not many marketing folks can build their own data model, so I can be that liaison between marketing and data science.”

Kensey Johnson headshot

Kensey Johnson

Senior Paid Marketing Lead, Amazon

As much as she credits the hands-on experience she got at Kogod, Johnson’s story is, in many ways, a demonstration of what’s possible for others considering the next step in their education.

Johnson navigated her coursework alongside a full-time job with the help of “16-hour days and no weekends,” plus the support of an understanding faculty that made accommodations when she needed to travel for work.

And her MBA pursuit is one of several potential roads offered to students.

For instance, Kogod’s 100 percent online MBA program allows students the flexibility to complete the required 48 credits on a 12, 15, or 18-month track. The online program also features in-person global business immersions to inspire the same close-knit experience that proved so valuable for Johnson—an experience that, a year later, she views as a catalyst of sorts.

“I think I’ll see it as my launching off point,” she said while offering a distinct humility. “I didn’t do anything special… I just worked really damn hard.”