Natalie Johnson is a true scholar-athlete and leader, a woman of faith who credits Mayfield’s “Actions Not Words” philosophy as a driving force in her life. In college, she was the strong and and passionate captain of the Notre Dame University Varsity Volleyball Team. As a career trailblazer she is working as a project coordinator in a tech-start up firm founded by a Mayfield sister, Marissa Osterkamp Bell ’03. We checked in with Natalie so she could fill us in on her admirable journey since her Mayfield days.
Where has your path led you since Mayfield?
After graduation, I packed my bags and flew out to South Bend, Indiana, where I would attend and play volleyball at the University of Notre Dame. When I set foot on the campus, I was blown away. I saw many similarities between Mayfield and Notre Dame which I think instantly drew me to the university. Similar to Mayfield, Notre Dame had a special and unparalleled culture of excellence that surrounded every aspect of the school. I felt that the combination of academics, athletics, tradition, and community could not be matched anywhere else.
Tell us about your Notre Dame experience.
I was lucky enough to lead Notre Dame’s Varsity Volleyball team as team captain for three years. When I joined the team my freshman year, the program was struggling. We weren’t winning matches, we didn’t have a good team culture, and we didn’t know what it meant to truly work hard or commit at the highest level. So, when a new and well-respected head coach took over the program after my freshman year, I was given the unique opportunity to help transform the program from the ground up. I learned about the tremendous effort, energy, focus, and dedication it takes to achieve greatness. I developed a steadfast work ethic, unwavering servant leadership, strong teamwork skills, and an ability to overcome obstacles. I learned how to face challenges head on and how to work with others to conquer problems and achieve a shared, common goal. And most importantly, I learned that it only takes a couple people to drive a big change. If you work hard and set a standard of excellence for yourself and those around you, others will follow.
What activities at Notre Dame were most meaningful?
I was a part of a unique program called The Rosenthal Leadership Academy. The program aims to develop and enhance strong leadership on Notre Dame athletic teams. I was nominated by my coaches and the athletic department to participate in the program my freshman, sophomore, and junior years before being elected to serve as the peer facilitator and mentor for the program my senior year. As a mentor, I was able to help younger student-athletes unlock their fullest potential by sharing my own personal experiences and supporting and guiding them as they took on their own challenges and faced their own difficulties. It was through these retreats and workshops that I met some of my greatest friends and formed some of my fondest memories.
My senior year, I volunteered with a program called “PASS IT ON,” connecting Notre Dame student-athletes to local third and fourth graders in order to “pass on” the leadership skills the athletes have learned during their time at Notre Dame. It was amazing to watch the kids grow and develop as teammates and people over the course of the semester, and the experience helped me realize that even the smallest acts of kindness, belief, encouragement, and support make a huge difference in the lives of these young kids.
What career path did you take after graduation?
After four cold winters in the Midwest, I decided I wanted to head back home and find a job in Southern California. I graduated from Notre Dame’s Business School with a major in Information Technology Management, so the tech start-up world was intriguing to me. I knew I wanted to work for a company that had the power to use technology to change the way its industry and the society operates, and right now, I believe I’m doing just that.
In July, I started working at a tech start-up called The Seventh Spark Company that was founded by Mayfield Senior alumna, Marissa Osterkamp Bell ’03. Our company is innovating in the faith-based space, building the first global, mobile, and digital church with a vision to redefine church community and its impact on the world, by putting it on a mobile app in the palm of your hand.
Reflecting back on high school, how do you believe Mayfield impacted your personal growth?
I definitely believe that my Mayfield education prepared me for college and beyond. Mayfield was a catalyst for growth in all facets of my life, and my education and experiences at Mayfield transformed me into a confident young woman who was ready to take on the world.
What does our motto mean to you?
Mayfield’s “Actions Not Words” motto has had a tremendous impact on how I live out each day of my life, and it has driven me to become the person I am today. Mayfield taught me that it’s not about what I say, it’s about what I do, and how I do it that truly matters. I was never the smartest student in the classroom or the most talented player on the court, but I knew I could always strive to be the hardest-working person out there. This attitude towards life helped me realize that it’s about more than just success or failure and wins or losses. It’s about pushing my limits, surpassing them, and achieving more than I thought possible. It’s about enjoying the challenges I encounter, rising to those challenges, and overcoming them.
What advice do you have for your fellow Mayfield alumnae as they start their careers?
One thing that I realized during college was that if I was going to commit to doing something day in and day out, I needed to love it. I wanted to find something that I was passionate about, and that I could spend every day doing with my full effort, and energy, and focus. I think it’s important to look for and search for a career that lines up with your core values and beliefs. I knew that I needed to be in an environment where the people around me pushed me to be a better version of myself and to work harder each day. I wanted to be surrounded by people who were willing to do anything and everything it took to help the people around them succeed. And I think I’ve been lucky enough to find that through my experiences at Mayfield Senior School, Notre Dame, and now at my new job.