When asked about her greatest accomplishments, Geri Johnson’s answer is a little surprising.
She’s the chief operating officer of Next PR, a national firm with offices in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago (as well as Colorado Springs). She’s both a board member and the treasurer of Inside Out Youth Services, the only youth center in the Pikes Peak region supporting LGBTQ+ youth. In the past, she’s worked as an “enterprise architect” for a Fortune 500 financial services company. And she’s also been a keynote speaker for Microsoft.
But Johnson takes the long view: “My most significant accomplishment has been that I am always progressing. … Being promoted to COO, it provides me a different privilege and access to work on mentorship and my coaching. That others see me, a Black, female, lesbian who has made it to a C-suite position … it’s a big deal, and representation matters.”
“The challenge for me was I had to get over myself. Yes, there is limited diversity in tech and the PR world. It’s not about ‘being OK’ with that and accepting it, but I could either let myself get mired in that, or see it as an opportunity,” she said.
Instead of letting it get to her, Johnson said that instead she has “I’ve looked for opportunities to mentor people, be involved with the community, be part of groups, bring the diversity so to speak, as opposed to being bothered by lack of diversity in those situations.
Professional accolades aside, on a personal level Johnson is immensely proud of moving to Colorado Springs — something she, her wife Kathy and their two dogs did nine years ago.
“It’s tough to move, it’s stressful! Everyone has their landscape that they love ...” she said. “For me, I always wanted to live in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean you could necessarily make it happen. My heart wanted to be out here in the mountains, in the 300 days of sun.
“I love the amenities, being close to mountains, hiking trails … it’s gorgeous here every day, it’s such an active community.”
The couple lives on a golf course, and Johnson plays often. She counts Imbee Park and Tiger Woods among her favorite players. “I don’t know if I would have been interested in golf if it wasn’t for Tiger,” she said. “I was interested soon after college because I’m in tech, so I needed to learn how to play, since vendors always have these golf outings.”
Johnson is passionate about her work with Inside Out.
“We support LGBTQ+ youth through providing access, equity, power, and offering programs, both in-person and virtual,” she said. When it became clear the pandemic would limit in-person events, the organization started using DISCORD to provide virtual programming. Through that, Johnson said, even with so many stuck at home, “we have been able to reach youth we previously hadn’t been able to.”
Johnson never dreamed she’d end up working in tech. “I thought I was going to be a veterinarian,” she said, “but in high school bio class, I realized I could not handle seeing the blood.”
For many years afterwards, she planned to get her doctorate in psychology, and would have told anyone who asked that was still her goal, even as her tech career was blossoming.
Eventually, Johnson said, “I started changing my story. Twenty-plus years later, I have no plans for a doctorate in psychology. … I love [working at] Next PR— every day is different, with new challenges. There is never a dull moment. … I’m still having fun.”