General Session Keynote – Johnny Taylor, SHRM President & CEO
Thursday 10:45 – 11:45 AM
When Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM-SCP, was 15, he applied to be on “Teen Wheel of Fortune,” a TV show taped before a live audience in California. Taylor, who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a letter from the producers welcoming him to try out if he was in the area.
Although there was no guarantee he would be selected, he told his father he’d already been chosen, so they flew to California. The pressure was on.
“I got there and thought, ‘Somehow, I’ve got to get on this show,’ ” he recalls.
Not only did he make the cut, he won the final game.
It was easier for his parents to forgive his fib, which he later confessed to, after he took home prizes that included a sailboat, a pop-up camper and miscellaneous items such as a porcelain cat, which his mother still has.
“I was so excited I could hardly breathe,” he says.
The story is an example of the drive and determination that have fueled the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) incoming president and CEO throughout his life.
At 20, he earned a bachelor’s degree, with honors, in journalism from the University of Miami. But after interning at the Miami Herald, he decided he needed a better-paying career—perhaps as an attorney specializing in First Amendment law. So, at age 23, he earned dual degrees, with honors—a law degree and a master’s in mass communications—from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He is licensed to practice law in Florida, Illinois and Washington, D.C.
Taylor went on to hold several legal and executive positions, including high-level roles in human resources.
He was senior vice president of HR for the media company IAC/InterActiveCorp., litigation partner and president of the HR consulting group for the law firm McGuireWoods, general counsel and senior vice president of HR for Viacom’s Paramount Pictures Live Entertainment Group, and associate general counsel and vice president of HR for Blockbuster Entertainment Group.
He serves on the board of directors of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and became president of the organization in 2010. It represents nearly 300,000 students attending publicly supported historically black U.S. colleges and universities.
Upon joining SHRM in December, he’ll remain on the boards of the college fund, Gallup, The Cooper Union and the University of Miami.
Taylor, who is divorced, lives in Washington, D.C., with his 7-year-old daughter. She accompanies him on overseas business trips and attends a Chinese language immersion school, where she has been studying Mandarin since age 4.
“Mandarin is the language of business for the future,” he says.