When Josephine Zahn commits to something, she goes full force and really sticks with it.

“I'm not happy unless I'm going mach 2 with my hair on fire,” she laughs.

It’s no wonder then that the Phoenix-based IT professional has a stacked portfolio of long-lasting professional roles under her belt, along with a collection of degrees from higher education institutions, including her MBA, which she earned from the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) in 2022.

Achieving these accomplishments wasn’t a linear journey, however. Josephine took the time to ensure her vocations, motherhood, education, and her physical and mental health were in check. But with each step along her path, she kept going, no matter what obstacles stood in her way.

Today, Josephine serves as the Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Phoenix, a role she stepped into recently with confidence and excitement. How she landed this position is a story best told from the beginning.

Setting the Pace with an Early Start

As a child, Josephine was inundated with a strong work ethic, something she associates with being an older sibling with a type A personality. Wanting to prove herself and save for college, she wasted no time entering the professional world. In Josephine’s fashion, she did it in a big way: at age 16, she began working part time for American Express, a Fortune 500 company.

“I was a lot more risk adverse when I was younger, and I always did the responsible thing,” she reflects. “I got a job, bought my own car, paid my own insurance. So, while my friends from high school were going to desert parties, I was going to work 20 hours a week.”

One summer, when the temperature reached 122 degrees and her car’s air conditioning failed, she transitioned to a full-time role at Amex so she could take advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement program. The plan was to earn a bachelor’s degree and position herself for a better future. After all, having no air conditioning in the hot Arizona summers was not something she wanted to experience again.

Ultimately, Josephine remained at American Express for seven-and-a-half years, a long stint for someone who had entered her first job at such a young age. Of course, she also stuck to her plan to earn her bachelor’s degree, even though it took her eight-and-a-half years to complete.

It was tough, but she doesn’t regret her decision.

“It was a great experience,” she says. “I worked my way through my undergrad, but I didn't stop. I took one class at a time.”

The following years were filled with another career stretch of four years at Bank of America, followed by a sabbatical to raise her two children. She transitioned to stay-at-home mom, but once her second child was in pre-school full time, she decided it was time to return to the office.

“I had 12 years of experience in my field, and there are only so many lunches and mommy play dates and house cleaning that you can do before you actually get bored,” she shares.

Josephine jumped right back into the corporate world and kicked off a 17-year stretch in IT at CVS. During that time, she also earned her first master’s degree from another institution.

UAGC alum Josephine Zahn

Left: Josephine crosses a bucket item off her list and takes a ride in a fire truck. Right:Josephine is an active volunteer for Arizona Search Dogs.

A Woman in an IT World

Reentering the industry offered a more level playing field for Josephine — something she didn’t get to experience her first time around.

When she first launched her career in IT, there were very few women in the field, and Josephine says she felt like a minority.

Josephine has never written a line of code. Instead, her career has been focused on facilitation, organizing, planning, and strategy, and her first master’s degree is in organizational management. So, it was never about understanding the subject matter from a technical perspective, she explains.

“I worked twice as hard to be taken half as seriously,” she reflects. “Being a woman and being successful in IT is really about curiosity. It’s about asking questions, trying to understand, and demonstrating your knowledge confidently.”

Today, she recognizes that the environment has changed.

“It's a much more inclusive and welcoming experience than it was when I first joined,” she explains.

Nevertheless, she still encourages women in the field to show up and stay determined.

“You can't get defeated if you're not invited to the table or if you're not invited to the party,” she encourages. “You have to have faith that you are as smart as your male counterparts. You have to have faith that you are as capable as the rest of your IT counterparts.”

Using Self-Care and Education as Redemption

While moving through both her academic and professional careers, Josephine withstood, and then escaped, an abusive relationship. She believes her fear of being alone prevented her from ending the relationship sooner. As a result, she says she lost sight of who she was as an individual.

Josephine says she has done a lot of work to overcome the challenges of not only going through a divorce after being married for 17-and-a-half years but then also entering and exiting a bad circumstance after having ended a significant relationship with her children’s father.

It’s a story she is willing to share, though, adding that she sympathizes with anyone who finds themself in a similar circumstance. She hopes she can serve as a role model for others struggling.

“My heart breaks for people who are in those situations, who don't feel like they have an out or don't feel like they have an opportunity to move on from that type of scenario,” she says.

Josephine wants people to know they can do whatever it is they need to do to help themselves.

Being committed to finding yourself is the first step, she explains.

“But you really have to decide that you want to help yourself, regardless of what it is, whether it's going to school, losing weight, finding an inner calm,” she says. “Just taking that first step, finding information, finding out how much it will cost. And then the rest just kind of follows.”

Once she committed, Josephine says she had to rediscover who she was as a person.

Eventually, she “found herself” by diving into hobbies and ventures that aided her recovery. She attributes self-care to “breaking the glass ceiling,” along with finding balance in her personal life.

She discovered and fell in love with yoga, something she used as a way to cope with the difficult periods.

“Coming out of that relationship, I buried myself in work and I buried myself in school, so it was a great outlet for me because it helped me to feel like I was personally worth something,” she says. “Two things you'll never regret in life are exercise and education.”

An Eye-Opening Family Affair

One venture Josephine was not alone in was her studies. She knew it was necessary to return to school for a second master’s degree at UAGC to regain momentum in her field, and going to college became a family affair. Both her adult children pursued degrees in tandem with her though at different institutions.

This sparked some friendly competition that took some of the pressure out of the experience.

“It was a little bit of rivalry,” she says, “My kids would say, ‘I have to go, I have to write a paper, I have this presentation due.’ I was sharing the experience with them, and it was really a neat opportunity to connect with my kids and understand how education has changed since the first time I did it, and then the second time I did it.”

That’s not all Josephine learned. Having had more than 20 years of experience under her belt when she enrolled at UAGC, Josephine felt she had a solid understanding of business and was prepared to ace her MBA. Once she took her first course, however, she realized she was a bit too presumptuous.  

“I think I was a little arrogant going into the program,” she admits. “I started going through it realizing that I did have a lot of muscle memory knowledge, so to speak. I could use an Excel spreadsheet. I could write a PowerPoint presentation. But the program really taught me to question more things than I had questioned before.”

First, she acknowledges there were a lot of things she didn’t know. But she also discovered there were a lot of resources she hadn’t realized were available, such as certain publications and data websites.

“I really expanded my toolbox,” she says. “There were things I didn't know that I had to figure out the answers to and I couldn't draw from 25-plus years of knowledge because I hadn’t been exposed to something like that before.”

Josephine attributes her success in the program, in part, to the supportive and engaging UAGC faculty, including Dr. Charlie Minnick, who made a big impact during her studies.

“I thought he gave great feedback on each of the papers that we submitted,” she notes. “I didn't feel like his feedback or his comments on the group posts were rinse and repeat or that he was copying and pasting from one student to another. He was really the one who most impacted me and he's probably the one who got me thinking about what's next.”

What’s next, she says, could be a doctorate.

In the meantime, Josephine is celebrating her most recent wins, saying her experience at UAGC coupled with her unique circumstances made the accomplishment all the more special.

“I am so proud of having completed my second master's degree and doing it alongside my kids,” she says.

Launching Into New Opportunities

Due to widespread layoffs at CVS, Josephine’s 17-year career at the company came to an end in October 2023. However, the timing was perfect, as her MBA and the industry’s expansion made it much easier for her to jump into a brand-new position.

“I was ready to take my MBA out for a spin and see what I could do with it,” she says.

She proved she could do a lot. In January 2024, just three months after completing her MBA, Josephine began her new role as Deputy CIO for the City of Phoenix. This position allows her to use her recently acquired skills in a meaningful fashion.

In this role, she is responsible for leading the IT project management office for the entire city. She oversees roughly 35 project managers and millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded projects that are intended to support their constituents, including businesses, visitors, and residents.

“Never in a million years did I imagine that I would become a humble public servant after being in corporate America for so many years,” she says. “It's really a very exciting opportunity for me and I’m just absolutely loving it.”

Josephine hopes that others who identify with her experiences find the inspiration to follow in her footsteps.

“I just hope that people who feel like there is no hope or that a degree is unattainable, that they find ways to make it happen and that the resources appear to them,” she says. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to decide how long that tunnel is. But no matter what you're going through, you own your path, you own your course, you own your outcomes.”


Student success stories should not be interpreted as a promise or guarantee of career advancement or future earnings. The stories shared here represent the outcomes of individual students for illustrative purposes only.  

Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

Search UAGC

Let us help.

Fill out this form to talk with an advisor.

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.

Are you a member of the military?

We are currently not accepting new enrollments in the state of North Carolina.