Jennifer Johnson was 16 years old and a junior at Cass Technical High School, when she walked across the I-75 bridge in June 1971 to work at DTE. She was hired as a co-op student to key punch customer bill cards.
“I was part of a team responsible for punching customer information – name, address and meter reader information – onto a bill card that was then mailed to our customers.” explained Jennifer. “At the end of the day there was always a pile of paper confetti on the floor.”
Jennifer graduated from high school in 1972 and went on to Detroit Institute of Technology with a plan of becoming a CPA. But in 1973 she returned to DTE to work in Customer Service, reviewing abnormalities in customer bills.
“I didn’t know it then, but it was one of the best decisions I made,” said Jennifer. “My career at DTE allowed me to learn more about myself, develop skills and discover my passion. Before going back to get my degree, I learned how much I loved working with people, and I realized I would not have been happy sitting alone crunching numbers every day.”
Embracing change, growing, and learning have been strong themes throughout Jennifer’s 50-year career at DTE. She experienced two economic crises – in 1991 and 2008, the company’s merger with MichCon, numerous changes in leadership, continuous advances in technology, changes to our culture and dress code, and most recently, the pandemic.
“The day I met Jennifer is the day I found my forever friend,” said LaTonya Causey.
Jennifer has held at least 10 different positions at DTE from Customer Service, Accounts Payable, Administration and Facilities Management to Facility Optimization and Corporate Services. She also raised two children, earned her bachelor’s in General Management, and continued to pursue her master’s degree in Human Resources.
Jennifer’s best friend at work LaTonya Causey, a project specialist in the Corporate Secretary’s Office – Board Services, has known Jennifer for 20 years and admires her enthusiasm and positive approach to every role and assignment she has in life.
“Jennifer is passionate about DTE being the greatest place to work,” said LaTonya. “Her graceful dedication to everything she does from her faith, family, work, friendship and her overall positive outlook on life is an inspiration to everyone who knows her.”
With her super-power of positivity on her side, Jennifer leaned in and took on at least 20 different special projects over the years that contributed to her development. She led our United Way and THAW campaigns, contributed to numerous employee engagement activities, supported the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign, was a peer advisor for at-risk employees for more than 20 years, a coach for white, yellow and green belt candidates, and most recently, facilitated numerous training courses on visual literacy, service excellence, continuous improvement, engagement and more.
“We call Jennifer our Chief Engagement Officer or CEO of Engagement,” said Stephanie Kerwin, manager, Corporate Services. “Her biggest strength is engaging others and her caring approach to everything she does makes her a joy to work with. I am honored to be her leader during this part of her journey at DTE.”
If you ask Jennifer what she is most proud of over the last 50 years, she’ll tell you it’s the time she spent supporting and teaching her coworkers.
“I am most proud of getting my green belt and working to help others earn their yellow and green belts,” said Jennifer. “I get so much pleasure sharing what I have learned and helping others on their learning journey. I found myself at DTE. It’s been awesome to have the chance to do what I love.”
Jennifer can easily name several leaders who inspired her, pushed her to learn more and even think differently.
“My leader today, Stephanie Kerwin, is such a great person, with a great big caring heart. She came into my life at such a time for me to be able to say, this has been good, and I am ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
After 50 years of service, Jennifer will retire from DTE in December.
“What a journey I have had, and I’ve loved every moment,” said Jennifer.