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Career Center

Steven Johnson

Steven JohnsonK-State graduation year: 1975
Degree: B.S. Industrial Engineering
Other degree received: MBA, Pittsburg State University 
Current employer: ONEOK, Inc.
Position:Vice President of Government Relations




Describe the process of choosing your major.

I was encouraged by teachers and counselors in High School to pursue an engineering degree due to my higher aptitude for math and physics and the job market was very good at the time.

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?
  • Industrial Engineering Student Organization - member and secretary 
  • Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity - member
Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

I did not have this opportunity.  I really didn’t have time due to the fact I was the Kitchen manager for the fraternity for 4 years and had a part time job at gas station/car wash off campus.

Describe the process of finding your first job.

I utilized the career placement center, participated in interviews on campus, sent resume’s to companies in which I had an interest and travelled for interviews.  Finally, I actually got two job offers with companies who employed a friend’s father and one where a neighbor was in senior management.  It turned to be “who you know” rather than “what you know”! 

Briefly describe a typical day at your job.

I have responsibility for all government relations with state and federal officials in 15 states.  I spend a considerable amount of time connecting with my staff in 4 of those states and our consultant in Washington, D.C.  I also work with various industry associations and coordinate all legislative communications throughout the company.  I also travel to various state capitols to participate in the legislative process in each and work with many offices in D.C. to make sure legislation and/or rules and regulations are not too onerous.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Daily interaction with employees and stakeholders throughout our service territory and the challenge of finding success in the legislative process.


What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Dealing with the many personalities and navigating a myriad of regulations and rules that make it a challenge to complete our work or become prohibitively expensive.

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

Have a great deal of patience and look for opportunities for everyone to be successful which requires compromises.

What were the stepping stones that led to your current career?

Basic understanding of the business, exposure to all aspects of the business, opportunity to manage employees, work within the community to understand politics and human nature.

Has your career path taken any unconventional turns that you never would have expected? 

As a graduate engineer with an MBA, I NEVER thought I would be responsible for the government relations and legislative success of a Fortune 500 company!

How have any changes in your life situation affected your career path?

I have been happily married for 41 years providing stability, with unwavering support for my career.  I helped raise two successful children and even though I was willing to relocate in the Midwest I did not need to.

What were the major lifestyle changes your first year out of college that made the transition hard from college to the world of work and how did you adapt?

Conform to an 8-5 job schedule, be willing to work hard long hours to be successful, be responsible for someone other than yourself (spouse) and be tolerant of a new living arrangement.

What was the one thing you did in college that has had the most impact on your life or career?

Always curious about a person’s vocation and how they became successful including how one can make a comfortable living.

What tips do you have for current undergrads about opportunities they should definitely take advantage of while they are in school?

To be involved in on campus organizations such as, student government, student union governance, alumni association and charitable causes across the community.

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

None really but I did like the simulation class and the project where we cast and machined a vice.

Was there a specific person in college who had a significant impact on your life or career?

Frank Tillman was always very supportive and believed in my abilities.

What didn't college teach you that you wish you would have known before you started your career?

The legislative/ regulatory process and how it can drastically affect the bottom line of your businesses

Do you keep in touch with your college classmates? How have those relationships influenced your career?

I have not kept in touch with other IE graduates but, I have a half-dozen fraternity brothers I have spent my life with along with their spouses.  We do everything together; vacations, dinners, KSU football games, KSU bowl games, family celebrations, fundraisers, raising children, church attendance, investment clubs, Chiefs and Royals games and many other activities. 


For more information, Steven can be reached at sjohnson@oneok.com