Undergraduate University: Brigham Young University
Class Year: 2004
Current Employer: Johnson & Johnson
In January 2019, Jeff Staker packed up his family and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, with less than six weeks' notice. The reason? He was selected for a new assignment as part of Johnson & Johnson's Human Resources Leadership Development Program.
A 2018 graduate of William & Mary's full-time MBA program, Jeff was hired into Johnson & Johnson's program to serve on a rotational project-based basis in different departments throughout the company. While this involved being open to relocation from the Dolystown, Pennsylvania community he called home, Jeff and his family have taken the changes in stride.
"My whole goal in going to William & Mary was to get an awesome job. I knew that name recognition would help open doors that would not have opened otherwise," he says. "I knew that with a company like Johnson & Johnson, I could come in with ten years of consulting experience, and then I could hit the ground running. I wouldn't be reset back."
Jeff has certainly proved himself in the company's HR Leadership Development Program. Johnson & Johnson selects people from different backgrounds to serve in strategic roles throughout the organization to better their practices related to human capital.
"It's not HR in a sense of 'what are your benefits?'" he explains. "For the last several months, I was the project manager for infusing the agile methodology within global talent acquisition for Johnson & Johnson. I've been whiteboarding with VPs. It's actually been a lot more strategy and consulting-based work than some of the consulting projects I've had."
In his new role, Jeff will be charged with working through complex problems related to Johnson & Johnson Vision's Global Franchise Development team and their global campaign to tackle myopia, a debilitating vision condition.
"In a company like Johnson & Johnson, you're calling the shots, you're doing the things that need to get done, and you're respected as an equal," he says. "It's a different feeling altogether. It's a wonderful change for the stage of life I'm in. I could have stayed as a consultant for years, but I felt that nagging—this is not fulfilling what I need to fulfill. Now at J&J, it's completely what I wanted. It definitely challenges me, and some days I go in, and I'm scared to death about how we are going to accomplish what we need to, but we do, and it works."
A native to Denver, Colorado, Jeff Staker began his career as an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, where he studied marketing. While at BYU, he opted to take two years off from school to pursue a volunteer opportunity in Manila, Philippines. During his time overseas, he led a team of volunteers tasked with providing aid to less fortunate members of the local community and teaching English to the local population.
Upon his return to the United States, Jeff earned his degree and began building a lucrative consulting career in the Washington, DC, area. He worked as a federal consultant in the intelligence community for over a decade, first with BearingPoint, a subsidiary of Deloitte, and then at Booz Allen Hamilton. During this time, he married his wife, and they grew their family of four children.
"I knew my career could have been stable, and I could have done it for years and years and made great money," he says. "But I just wasn't challenged. I felt like there was a tipping point where if I waited too long, I would be stuck. I took the risk."
The risk he refers to is applying to full-time MBA programs across the country. Initially, he explored programs that were on paper, more financially feasible. But after speaking with Amanda Barth, William & Mary's full-time MBA Director of Admissions, and being awarded the coveted McGlothlin Scholarship, Jeff knew Williamsburg was the right move for him and his family.
"Yes, I had my kids, and I was distracted. But that old adage of find the busiest person and give them the job, I felt like that was what was driving me. I knew I had so much going on at home that I had to be very focused and treat school like a job," he says.
And that's what Jeff set out to do very early on in the program with the help of a friend in the class above him. With a newly polished resume and an updated cover letter, Jeff applied to what he tallies as thousands of jobs in preparation for the National Black MBA conference, which was mere weeks after he began his MBA courses. "Because I was hustling so aggressively and networking and talking to people, by the time the conference rolled around, I had the most interviews of the people going to the conference. That was my focus. To get that job," he says.
Johnson & Johnson was one of the companies Jeff interviewed with at National Black, and it was the way their questions made him feel that ultimately pushed him to apply for a summer internship with them.
"With other companies, I realized the questions they were asking and the answers I was able to provide. I felt too comfortable answering them. But when J&J asked me questions, it scared me. There's this famous quote that I always go back to from T.S. Elliot that says, 'if you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?' That was the sense I got from the J&J opportunity."
The day after his summer internship ended with Jansen Pharmaceuticals, an office within Johnson & Johnson, Jeff received a full-time employment offer to return after graduation and participate in their Human Resources Leadership Development program. Jeff credits the experience fully to the connections he made at William & Mary and the access they provided him to land this opportunity.
"It's about having doors open for you that you would not have had otherwise," he says. "When you set goals, you only know what you know. J&J wasn't even on my radar. But because of William & Mary, because of the doors that it opened, I was able to go to that conference, and I somehow stumbled upon this incredible career with this incredible company."