Regional Director of Operation, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois
MAN OF MANY TALENTS
Andrew Johnson Jr. Sets an Example in Chicago
Andrew Johnson, Jr. has worked for Indigo Sports since 2008 and is currently the regional director of operations for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in and around Chicago, Illinois. That includes 11 golf facilities, five campgrounds, and five pavilions.
Is there someone you credit for bringing you into the game of golf?
I used to stop by one of the Indigo properties on weekdays after leaving my corporate job in downtown Chicago to work on my golf game. One day I met the manager of the course, Tyrone Banks, who was looking for help. He asked if I would be interested in working a couple of days a week and promised it would not interfere with my corporate job. I agreed and joined the team. I began working part-time and continued working in various capacities there for the next six years. Through conversations with Mr. Banks, we discovered we had similar backgrounds. We both had careers in corporate America, a passion for golf, and looked to work in a field that fed our passion.
It soon became a full-time job? In 2013, I was offered a buyout from my corporate job and saw an opportunity for a career change. Mr. Banks began introducing me to his superiors, and when a management opportunity eventually came along in 2015, I changed careers and started working full-time with Indigo. I took over the operation of a new contract Indigo had taken on managing the Forest Preserve District of Cook County campgrounds, the same client from which Indigo leases 10 golf courses. The success of the contract led to continued growth and renewed contracts. However, my passion was still for golf, and in 2019 my superiors added golf to my duties.
Why is Black History Month important to you?
Black History Month celebrates my heritage and the achievements of the people that opened doors and laid the groundwork that has allowed me to advance in life, not only professionally, but also personally. It celebrates the struggles that my ancestors had to overcome and has led to my current employment opportunity.
How is the golf industry taking strides in making the game more accessible, both at the playing level, as well as for a career in the golf industry?
I’m excited about the future of golf. While still having a long way to go involving inclusion, I do see promise on the horizon. There seems to be more opportunities than ever before for men and women of all ethnic backgrounds to have inroads into golf based on work ethic. The changing landscape of the work industry, particularly from the younger generation, is breaking down barriers amid the need for skilled and motivated workers, instead of only looking for help from a narrow bowl of people.
What are you doing with your teams and at your facility to create an environment that is welcoming to everyone and helping to promote a DE&I environment?
I’m happy to say that we have practiced diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Chicago market of Indigo more than other regions that I have been exposed to. The need for hard working and driven staff has provided opportunities based on performance, and we continue to push that throughout the Forest Preserve portfolio. Having people of diverse backgrounds sitting at the table opens the door for continued growth of our market as there are untapped areas of the community that can only be accessed by diversity.
What impact do you feel you have made personally?
One of my inspirations is being a presence for younger minorities who can see a person in a leadership position. People can’t aspire to be something unless they see a person or group that makes it seem attainable. Over the course of my career, I have always been the only person of color in that position, and it can be a daunting task without anyone else to relate to.
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you (that you don’t mind sharing)?
One of the things that many people at the company don’t know about me is my previous work experiences. I worked in the commodities markets on the trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade before moving on to being an agricultural commodity analyst. I then became an agricultural reporter writing articles for the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s Magazine, doing radio spots for the ABC radio network, and doing short monthly television spots about agriculture commodities for CNBC.