2017 35 Under 35 Alumna Liz Johnson, Director of Operations, Saving Smiles Dentistry

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself.

My husband JJ and I have two kids, James (9) and Mara (8). I am the family CEO, chauffer, house manager, and calendar keeper. Helping grow and guide business operations for Saving Smiles Dentistry is my professional gig. I love to travel (I’m visiting my 45th and 46th states this month in the hope of making it to all 50), catch up with friends, and spend weekends with family at the lake.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

Little did I know when I applied for the program that soon after, I would end up coming to a fork in the road, where my decision would drastically change my path both professionally and personally. Shortly after completing United Way’s 35 Under 35 Program, I made the jump from being a forensic accountant in the corporate world to working with my husband to help grow his dental office. Working full-time and being on the road, doing the “books” for the office on nights and weekends, and raising a three and four-year-old was too much. The 35 Under 35 Program helped give me the confidence and connections to make the move so I could focus on both my professional career/the family business while being able to spend quality time with my family and be involved in the community.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

Hearing from the many community leaders and gaining a better understanding of the NEED right in our community were two of the most important things I learned through the program.

It was so impactful to hear about the journey of other leaders in our community (some who were even 35 Under alums) and how they are now involved and give back to the community. It provided our class with avenues where we could get involved and educated us on many other opportunities. I will never forget many of the speakers and the authentic messages they shared—it was truly inspiring.

One of our sessions even included a day spent at the YWCA Emergency Shelter. Not only were we able to learn about the nonprofit and what they do for our community, but we were able to spend time jumping in and helping around the shelter!

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

Get involved in your community— whether it’s making your first donation to a local nonprofit, helping with your company’s yearly United Way campaign, volunteering at a fun event like the United Way School Supply Drive, or attending a local networking happy hour. And then keep showing up. Month after month and year after year.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.