Someone who did not have to support me empowered me.

Cindy Johanson

Executive Director, Edutopia

Marin, CA

When the Internet took off in the early 1990s, I was the Manager of Educational Technology at PBS. At that time, PBS was focused on transmission and broadcast television, but a small team and I realized that we could harness the power of the Internet to fulfill our educational and public service mission. I was very passionate about creating an online site, and I would often work after hours in the office when all the other desks had long gone dark. I remember the President’s number two, Senior Executive John Hollar, wandered down one night, saw me at my desk, said “I knew you’d be here!” and did something extraordinary: he sat down and wanted me to show him how Gopher sites and the early World Wide Web worked. He wanted to know how he could help.

What made his interaction with me special is that upper management at many bureaucratic organizations see something with potential and then either transfer it to a more established department or acquire the project for more senior-level executives. John did neither. Instead, he saw what my team and I were doing, and on an almost daily basis, he chatted with me and gave us the latitude and resources to create John, someone who did not have to support me, enabled and empowered me in my work. His bold leadership helped elevate me at age 29 to become the Managing Editor of the PBS Internet Publishing Group, and in addition to, we eventually created, PBSTeacherSource, and PBS Parents. I’ll say this: because of John’s belief in me and his courageous leadership and unwavering support, PBS became one of the early pioneers in developing Internet content and online interactive tools to educate, inform, and engage.

Cindy Johanson is the Executive Director of Edutopia. Her experience with online content started in 1989 when she worked for a service called Learning Link, connecting classrooms across the country and around the globe via dial-up.

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