Joy Johnson • PhD Electrical Engineering & Computer Science MIT • Head of Mobile AudioCommon

Joy Johnson

Ph.D. Electrical Engineering & Computer Science MIT • Head of Mobile AudioCommon

Joy’s first experience with engineering was in undergrad at North Carolina State University, where she tested out all types of engineering during her freshman year. She found herself drawn to Electrical and Computer Engineering, since the projects just kept getting more interesting. Joy felt validated as an engineer when she did a NSF Research Undergrad Experience at Cornell University and built an optical lens made out of water, which had the potential to be used in small-scale devices with high resolution requirements, like phones and micro-scale lab metrology equipment. “After I was done, I took a step back and thought, Wow! I made this all myself, from research, to modeling to actually building and fabricating it. I am a real engineer and I know what I’m doing! It wasn’t just a piece of someone else’s larger project, it was my own contribution and this made me want to go to grad school.”

When pursing her PhD at MIT, Joy built one of the first particle-scale models and experimentation techniques for nanoparticles used for chemical mechanical planarization, a seminal process used to build computer chips. This process of model integrated design of experiment allows computer chips to be manufactured at a smaller scale with less mistakes, and is currently being used at Intel. “This work validated me as an engineer. People respected me and wanted to use my research. I’m now an expert and I have authority. My opinion matters and I have credibility amongst my peers. It proves that I knew what I was doing all along.”

Near the end of her PhD, Joy got the entrepreneurship bug and started taking business classes, where she met the founders of AudioCommon, a platform that helps artists, producers, and music companies create music and engage fans with interactive music experiences. “They needed someone to build a native iOS app and I had a ton of experience using C from my work in chip manufacturing. The first app I built not only makes it easier for sound engineers and artists to communicate over multi-track stems, but it also lets the fans get involved with the artist directly and mix their own tracks based off artist’s work.” Joy single handedly built the first iOS app for AudioCommon and co-lead development of the second, she is now the VP of mobile at AudioCommon, Inc.

When it comes to challenges coding, Joy says “I need to figure out what I want to do before I start typing. I can’t go to sleep if I get stuck, and I’ll pull an all nighter because I literally cannot sleep thinking of different solutions. I keep working until it’s not a challenge anymore. If you have a question of if something is hard, give yourself a set amount of time before you ask for help. If you don’t you’ll either waste a day or ask too soon before you have a chance to learn on your own. Put up boundaries that let you spin your wheels yourself. Find something that you really want to work on that will give you extra motivation when it’s difficult. No one is going to be there late at night when things get challenging. You have to have the passion within yourself to, as my Dad would say, finish well.”