Q&A with Jim Swanson, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Johnson & Johnson

With companies across industries using generative AI to overcome enterprise-level business challenges, what training is necessary to ensure employee readiness? In the latest installment of the MIT Career Development Office Q&A, we discussed this topic and more with Johnson & Johnson’s Jim Swanson.

Jim is Johnson & Johnson’s Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer. In his current role, he leads the Johnson & Johnson Technology organization, a team of more than 4,000 professionals across 50 countries passionate about combining deep scientific expertise with the latest digital solutions to confront some of humanity’s most complex healthcare challenges. In addition, Jim and his team are responsible for powering the 130,000 colleagues across the company and the digital ecosystem that connects the organization to patients and customers.

With J&J recognized again in the top 20 of Fortune’s ranking of America’s Most Innovative Companies, emerging technologies like generative AI provide an opportunity to uncover new solutions that support the company’s C-Suite aspirations. What role does technology play in J&J’s work?

At J&J, our mission is to redefine healthcare for everyone. To achieve that, we must embed technology in everything we do with amazing science, innovation, and talent. Those are the pillars you need to transform any industry.

Technology touches every corner of our organization. For example, in supply chain management, J&J utilizes digital twinning, a way to simulate and model manufacturing processes in a digital environment. This helps us envision and optimize manufacturing methods, such as delivering cell therapy to our patients.

In R&D, J&J applies analytics and data science to improve drug discovery and clinical operations. By leveraging traditional AI and generative AI, our teams can unlock valuable insights and accelerate their research efforts.

In our MedTech sector, we’ve used augmented reality to train surgeons on new procedures. Studies have shown that virtual reality training can improve surgical performance by 230% by allowing surgeons to practice in a virtual environment while significantly reducing training time.

The purpose of the J&J Technology organization is to shape the future of healthcare by unlocking the power of people, technology, and insights. I’m proud to lead a team that is doing exactly that. Most importantly, we always have an outcome in mind, so we are not chasing a technology because that’s the new shiny thing. We use technology with a purpose. 

The pace of technological change is relentless. How do you ensure that J&J employees stay current on the latest technologies and understand how to incorporate them into their day-to-day work?

Ensuring our employees have a continual learning mindset is fundamental. It really starts with our CEO and executive committee. From the very top, we recognize the importance of getting ahead of the curve and providing upskilling opportunities to our entire workforce.

It was interesting to see last year’s Gallup Workplace report, which pointed out that 53% of surveyed employees don’t feel prepared to work with AI, robotics, or other advanced technologies. Twenty six percent say they are “not at all prepared.”[1] So, we’ve invested in programs to ensure all J&J employees have the resources to build a sustainable career at J&J or other future employers and become “bilingual.”

A bilingual employee is someone who can combine their area of expertise with relevant tech insights to elevate their overall performance and contribute to achieving our company’s mission.

With J&J’s 130,000+ global workforce, our team crafted a holistic upskilling strategy that integrates technology with domain expertise, supported by a robust learning platform and a culture of continuous learning. The focus is on achieving tangible business outcomes that will positively impact our patients and customers.

Just as your alma mater has reimagined its curriculum to provide students with pragmatic learnings to leverage emerging technologies (https://drexel.edu/provost/priorities/innovation-engine), what practical strategies has your team deployed to upskill the entire J&J workforce?

To effectively prepare for the future, companies must align their learning and development strategies with their mission and the skills needed for future success. For instance, in the rapidly evolving field of IT, the half-life of a skill is now less than five years, making continuous learning essential. I often use my experience as an example: I earned my master’s in computer science in 1998 when AOL and Mosaic were cutting-edge technologies. If I hadn’t engaged in continuous learning, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

At J&J, we have three pillars for upskilling our workforce:

First, Education: We create an environment conducive to learning by providing relevant content tailored to employees’ careers. This includes various formats such as online courses, video snippets, and more. For example, we have a digital bootcamp, which has more than 30,000 course completions, exposing employees to topics like intelligent automation, augmented reality, data science, and digital twinning. 

Second, Experience: We offer opportunities for hands-on learning through initiatives like marketplace gigs, where employees can work on projects outside their usual roles. This allows them to gain new skills and knowledge while contributing to important company projects.

Third, Exposure: We facilitate mentorship and networking opportunities through platforms like J&J Learn, where employees can connect with mentors with expertise in areas they want to learn about. This not only helps mentees but also allows mentors to deepen their own knowledge.

Finally, to help ensure the effectiveness of our continuous learning strategy, we monitor and measure progress. We track training participation, the types of training being taken, and the time spent on learning. For example, around 20,000 workers have taken a generative AI training course, which is required for those who want to use this technology.

This data helps guide our organization and fosters a competitive spirit, encouraging departments to excel in their learning efforts. Our CEO’s strong support for building a learning organization has been crucial. This commitment to continuous learning is integral to our strategy, enabling us to transform healthcare through innovation, talent, and technology.


Partha Anbil is a Contributing Writer for MIT Sloan Career Development Office and an alum of MIT Sloan. Besides being VP of Programs of the MIT Club of Delaware Valley, Partha is a long-time sciences consulting industry veteran, currently with an NYSE-listed WNS, a digital-led business transformation company, as Senior Vice President and Practice Leader for Life Sciences practice.

Michael Wong is a Contributing Writer for the MIT Sloan Career Development Office and an Emeritus Co-President and board member of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association. Michael is a Part-time Lecturer for the Wharton Communication Program at the University of Pennsylvania and his ideas have been shared in the MIT Sloan Management Review and Harvard Business Review.

[1] Barrett, Heather, Pendell, Ryan. 72% of Top CHROs See AI Replacing Jobs — And Workers Aren’t Ready, Gallup Workplace, August 21, 2023

By MIT Sloan CDO