The Path of an Entrepreneur (and Obama Photographer) to Johnson & Johnson
Dana Underwood is a very, very busy guy. He's a mechanical engineer who has built robots that manufacture artificial DNA at scale. On top of that, he's a seasoned entrepreneur who created a platform that lets people collaborate on one-of-a-kind creations that he calls “social gifts." And he's also a successful professional photographer: Barack Obama, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, Quincy Jones, Dwayne Wade and many other people around the world have posed for his camera.
Here's the story of Dana's unique journey to Johnson & Johnson—and how his diverse background, like yours, enables us to innovate, shape the future of health and positively impact the lives of billions around the world.
Always Intrepid and Up For a Challenge
Like many at Johnson & Johnson, Dana's story starts with a strong STEM foundation. He studied mechanical engineering, first as an undergraduate student at Northwestern and then as a graduate student at Stanford, where he specialized in robotics. After getting a few years of real-world work experience under his belt, Dana returned to Stanford to pursue an MBA.
What came next, however, was anything but conventional.
An avid photographer, Dana set aside his work obligations to found his own photography business, Dana's Eye, in 2008. With diligent practice—and a focus on the power of images to tell stories—Dana gradually molded his amateur interest into a polished craft. That practice paid off, and in the next few years, Dana's camera would capture President Barack Obama along with a veritable Who's Who of cultural luminaries.
By 2011, there was another idea kicking around in Dana's head: What if there was a digital platform where people could collaboratively create physical products, like cards bearing personalized photos and messaging? He thought the idea had legs, and launched AwesomeBox to bring it to life.
Investors thought so, too, as AwesomeBox quickly secured funding. When it came time to build the company, Dana and co-founder Tony Deifell both believed that company culture had to be their #1 priority. "I recall spending a lot of time talking about the kind of company culture we wanted to instill, the values that mattered to us and what we wanted to see embodied in our team," Dana said.
Bringing an Entrepreneurial Mindset to Johnson & Johnson
Fastforward to 2017. After several years building AwesomeBox as a business, Dana was looking to take on new challenges. Most of all, he wanted an opportunity where he could make a positive, measurable, real-world impact on the lives of people all over the world.
And that's exactly what brought him to Johnson & Johnson. Having spent so much time focused on the culture of his own company, Dana explained, Our Credo resonated with him in a special way: "A strong culture means that people know the right course of action—they know the right thing to do in every situation. And that is simply invaluable."
So, what's he working on at the moment? Tech solutions that can rapidly scale is one area of focus, according to Dana. And that means imparting to his colleagues the mindset that served him so well as an entrepreneur.
For example, he's leading the creation of a digitally enabled platform for new moms. It helps expecting moms as they prepare for delivery, then provides them with continual support as their babies develop.
"What we discovered in our research is that, even when moms do a ton of reading and prep work prior to giving birth, they still typically wind up feeling unprepared at least some of the time," Dana said. "But we're trying to change that."
Creating the Future of Health Through Collaborative Teamwork
We believe in the power of the collective at Johnson & Johnson, because no one is smarter than everyone. And Dana is seeing firsthand how cross-functional teamwork and collaboration drive innovation every day.
For example, the team he's on includes programmers, developers, designers, marketers, scientists, quality assurance experts—and more. "When we all put our heads together," Dana said, "we're able to have the kind of open-ended, meandering conversations that lead to breakthrough insights and innovations."
As challenges go, this one came with a unique learning curve for Dana. "I've really enjoyed thinking through all of the different challenges—tactical, technological, emotional—that we have to address with the solution we're developing," he noted.
Join Dana—and the Rest of Us—at Johnson & Johnson Today
As Dana's story shows, there's no single path to a career at Johnson & Johnson. And when you join us, you'll have a chance to create your own professional path and pursue the things you're passionate about. Ready to innovate, collaborate and help us change the trajectory of human health? Check out all of the opportunities available at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies today.