Justin Johnston ('03)

Principal/Owner of Twilight Solutions

Justin Johnston started a business while studying Communication and Women's Studies at SMC.  Now his business is flourishing and he is charting new territory as a successful entrepreneur.

Name: Justin Johnston
Major: Communication
Minor: Women's Studies
Year of Graduation: 2003
Hometown: Brentwood, CA (Northern California)

What is one of your fondest memories of SMC?  Of the Communication Department?
I would have to say my fondest memory of SMC was definitely my Jan Term trip to Costa Rica.  Without the 4-1-4 structure of St. Mary's I would've never been able to have such a wonderful experience.  I remember talking to other friends from other universities and they couldn't believe that was part of the curriculum.  Jan Term is such an awesome way to keep students engaged and excited to learn and grow even outside their core area of study.

My most fond memory within the Communication Department is when I cut myself giving a performative speech during my Oral Comm class with Victoria Trostle.  I have a thing for electronics so naturally I decided to install a car stereo during my speech. Having never had to give a speech while doing so, I accidentally cut my thumb with the wire cutters within the first minute and starting bleeding heavily.  I looked up at the class and realized I had to act quickly or I would probably get a bad review so I grabbed the electrical tape and taped up my thumb worked it into the speech and finished with a Dave Matthews song playing on the newly installed stereo.  Pretty sure that hasn't happened before.

What do you miss about SMC/college? 
What I miss most about SMC is the constant challenging environment, but even more so the style in which we were challenged.  It was done in such a way that you could express any idea, thought or process without feeling like you were being judged.  It felt like there were no wrong answers just more avenues to explore.  I definitely would get a few strange looks from the other students from time to time and occasionally the professor but I still felt the participation was much appreciated.  Without a doubt I credit SMC for my confidence in many scenarios post graduation that I feel I would have been unprepared for without those wonderful years expressing opinions and listening to others express theirs.  

What was the biggest transformation you experienced at SMC? 
I would say my biggest transformation was learning how to live stress free in a very stressful environment.  I did not have the typical college experience.  I lived at home to save money, which was a four hour commute each day.  I also worked almost 40 hours a week my freshman year.  To add to the load I decided to start my own company the summer of my freshman year.  I even named the business Twilight Sounds to represent the time in which I would work; during the twilight.  I literally would start work at 9PM crawling in attics and under homes until the wee hours of the night.  That is definitely something I do not miss.  SMC taught me how to handle very intense pressure and workloads.  Once I graduated I felt like I could accomplish anything.  I hit the ground running and haven't looked back since.  Especially with all the new found "free time."
All-time favorite class?  Why?
I had so many wonderful classes and professors that this was definitely a tough one.  I would have to say Comm Theory with Shawny Anderson.  I think she was experimenting with a new way to approach Comm Theory during my lucky semester.  I got that impression because everyone else I knew taking it with someone else didn't speak so highly of the class.  We were able to get heavily involved with the reading and Shawny seemed so passionate about teaching that it was almost overwhelming.  I mean here you have a professor who does this every day yet manages to show up each day with so much energy and excitement.  It was very inspiring to see and a great role model in which to approach everyday and something I still think about often.

What was your first job out of college? 
My first job out of college actually started in college.  That company that I started my freshman summer was growing and I wanted to see where it would take me.  It definitely had its ups and downs which I often lean back on my experiences at SMC to see me through even to this day 8 years later.  I felt that my years at SMC interacting with so many different people in so many different situations definitely made it easier to approach the many challenges each day in running my own company.

What's your title now?  What's the best part of your current job?  What's the worst part?
My current title is Principal/Owner of Twilight Solutions.  We are a systems integration company based in Walnut Creek.  We are fortunate to work with very accomplished people throughout the entire Bay Area.  We develop automation and control systems as well as audio/video systems for residential and commercial spaces.  The best part of my job is working with great people.  From my internal team to my clients I feel blessed to be able to be a part of something so fun, creative and challenging all while building wonderful long term relationships.  

Other than work, what is your life about? 
I love having fun with great friends.  I feel building relationships is one of the most important things in life.  I try my best to be there for the people I love and support them in any way I can.  I love to travel to new places and love being on the water.  I believe SMC represents the loving caring culture that I try to live, but I think most of that came from my family.  

What's your advice for current SMC students?
Create your own reality.  It sounds a bit ridiculous but I truly believe that we have the ability to create our own ideas of success and failure.  I am a strong believer in the sayings "whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right" and "if you don't like the way something looks then change your perspective." 

Anything else?
Only worry about what you can control and what you can change.  Everything else is out of your hands.