Black History Month Interview with Managing Director Glenn Johnson

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Photo of Glenn Johnson

​​​​​​​Glenn Johnson, equity owner and Managing Director, is the Head of Strategic Partnerships for Clarion’s Industrial Platform. He focuses on expanding key tenant relationships and developing new relationships with strategic new industrial prospects. Glenn joined Clarion Partners in 2015 and has 30 years of direct experience in the private equity real estate business. His experience also includes more than 20 years as a public fund trustee.


​How did you get started in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry? What changes have you seen during your time in the industry?

My entry into CRE was serendipitous. After graduate school, I was working as a product manager in the personal care division of a global consumer goods company (think deodorant and shaving products) when a headhunter asked if I might consider speaking with an up-and-coming real estate company about an Associate position. I was ultimately hired by the firm, which grew into a global real estate investment manager. Although I had no prior real estate experience, I was drawn strongly to the work and to the people at the firm.

I've observed some significant positive changes in CRE over the years. When I started, the industry was almost all men with close to no diversity. In hindsight, I think that a good part of that was driven by technology or, more accurately, the lack of it. It wasn't too long ago (pre-internet), that market data and deal opportunities were not as widely accessible, and available first to the “insiders" only. The growth of, and accessibility to the internet has greatly enhanced transparency in the industry and thereby helped to start leveling the playing field. As a result, both diversity and opportunities in the industry have increased.

What comes to mind when you think of Black History Month?

For me, Black History Month evokes a range of thoughts (and emotions), led by my gratitude and amazement for the myriad accomplishments and contributions that Black people have made over the course of history. I am sometimes surprised, but always feel some pride, to learn of a Black discovery or invention of which I wasn't previously aware that has made a positive impact on our lives (e.g., industry, medicine), especially when credit may not have been given to the inventor at the time.

Off the record, I've been asked multiple times by different people if we really need a special month for Black History. Perhaps paradoxically, I decided to think about that question seriously the first few times I was asked. My considered position is as follows: Yes, we should acknowledge and celebrate Black History. For a variety of reasons, it's not part of the standard curriculum in most U.S. schools but it is an integral part of our country's history and success. I definitely believe in the power of sharing knowledge and that there is value in diversity and inclusion. ​

​What factors (family/friends, colleagues, mentors, representation, firm culture and leadership, etc.) have been influential to your professional career and growth? ​

I am convinced that all these factors positively influenced my career by providing stability, resilience, and encouragement during my development process. However, most important in my professional journey have been the mentors who provided me insight and guidance along the way. I should add that I've never had a direct mentor who looked like me (which might have influenced the trajectory of my career journey) because diversity in real estate was not as deep then at the senior level. Nonetheless, my mentors over the years have always been committed to helping me focus on realizing my potential by providing both relevant counsel and, importantly, leading by example.

If you don't currently have a positive mentor relationship, I wholeheartedly recommend that you find a way to create one.

​In what ways do you believe the commercial real estate industry can better promote DEI in the workplace and beyond?​

I personally believe that diversity can help strengthen a firm's strategy development, culture, morale, and efficiency by bringing together a constructively broader range of ideas, experiences, and perspectives. This concept goes further to suggest that an entity's performance will also improve as a result of practicing DEI (though it can be challenging to quantify). Once these benefits are demonstrated in the market, however, I expect that more enterprises will embrace diversity and commit to it.

I think that Clarion's approach to date makes good sense, in that we have outlined a multi-year strategy to achieve DEI across the Firm, and have developed metrics to measure our success along the way.

​What is your advice to young Black professionals considering commercial real estate as a career?​

Commercial real estate is a broad category with many faces and encompassing multiple skill sets. I would suggest starting your search by taking a self-inventory of what you do well and what you enjoy doing. If you're serious about a real estate career, network with some established real estate professionals and ask them directly what real estate jobs they think would align well with your strengths. Then network with people in those specific positions to deepen your understanding of how they spend their days and ask candidly about what they like a lot and what they like less about their jobs, including what they may have encountered in their roles that they didn't expect. Hopefully, each discussion will help you fine-tune where you think you would want to start (and later be) in the industry. Alternatively, these discussions may guide you in a different direction which may also be a constructive outcome from this process.​




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