Tanner Johnson, CPA, CGMA

Tanner Johnson, CPA, CGMA, is vice president of global finance operations at Nike, working out of its Beaverton, Ore., office.


‘When you set goals, aim for the stars’

A passion for accounting: I was drawn to math and business in high school. After my first accounting course, I was hooked and there was no turning back. Today, my passion for accounting continues to grow.

I started my career in public accounting. Today, I lead finance operations at Nike, and I have learned that leadership characteristics in both public and corporate accounting are similar. You should be curious, innovative, strategic, proactive, inspiring, tenacious, and patient. Having integrity and a risk mindset are the bedrocks of leadership.

Here at Nike, one of my responsibilities is to stand up the organization and set us up for future success. What motivates me and gets my heart beating and my blood flowing is when I am asked to lead a team to face challenges such as accomplishing things that have been tried in the past and have never come to fruition.

We have a saying at Nike that there is no finish line. We’ll always have room for improvement. For me, standing up means making sure this organization continues to be one of the world’s leading corporations.

A dream come true: When I was in high school and college, I sold footwear at JC Penney in Minnesota. It is almost like I harbored a long calling to come to Nike. And it has been a dream come true. My job hits all the aspects of the kind of workplace I was looking for — an innovative, international, growing company.

I, along with some of my teammates, recently had dinner with Nike founder Phil Knight, and just being in his presence and learning about his experiences, and how he built a brand like Nike that is recognized around the world was amazing. Nike is all about limitless potential, achieving your dreams, how sports can unite, and the crazy power of team. Those are all ideals that apply in a professional career as well. It fits my leadership aspirations and my value system perfectly.

Key advice: As a young CPA, I was told, “you own your career.” I’ve always anchored onto that statement because I believe everyone must figure out what their passion is and how to develop their own career as opposed to following someone else’s template. Today, I tell younger professionals to set shortterm goals and use them as steppingstones to longer-term goals. And when you set those goals, aim for the stars because you need to constantly stretch yourself and grow.

I would also say the most important thing you can do as a leader is inspire your team to high performance. Just give them a common goal or a problem and empower them to solve it. By recognizing their potential, it’s amazing what you can do and what your team can accomplish.

Favorite food: Pizza — I have a passion for making it at home.

Favorite leisure activity: My two teenage daughters play soccer and run track and field, so my favorite activity is spending time at their sports events.

Favorite travel destination: Any mountains. I love the feeling of sitting on top of a mountain and being reminded how beautiful the earth truly is.

— As told to Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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