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Alfred Johnson III ’06

There is a segment of professional marketers in society who do nothing but study the latest trends. If those same marketers were to turn their attention to Alfred Johnson III for any length of time, they’d discover an unmistakable trend in Johnson’s ability to inspire people, drive change, and spur others into action.

March 01, 2011

2011 Forward under 40 Award Honoree

UW Majors: Marketing and
Management and Human Resources (MHR)
Age: 27 | Bellwood, Illinois
Leadership and Career Success Coach;
Solution Development Manager, W.W. Grainger, Inc.

There is a segment of professional marketers in society who do nothing but study the latest trends. If those same marketers were to turn their attention to Alfred Johnson III for any length of time, they'd discover an unmistakable trend in Johnson's ability to inspire people, drive change, and spur others into action.

It's a gift that can take years to cultivate. But as the youngest Solution Development Manager at W.W. Grainger, Inc., Johnson is known to buck a few trends as well.

Not surprisingly, he started making his mark in the "real world" while attending UW-Madison. As an intern in 2004 and 2005 with Grainger, a Fortune 500 company that sells industrial supplies, Johnson stood out from other interns almost immediately. The leadership skills Johnson displayed during his internships led to a full-time job as the youngest Associate Marketing Manager in a marketing department of more than 100 people.

Promoted into management in 2008, another promotion wasn't far behind as Johnson was again promoted in September 2010 to the role of Field Sales Consultant. Even though the meteoric rise in his career is impressive, Johnson takes more pride in helping others reach their career goals.

"I actively work to help other young professionals take ownership, take charge, and take their careers to the next level," says Johnson.

At Grainger, he's doing that by playing a lead role on the Talent Management team within the company's Generational Business Resource Group, which aims to identify, embrace, and capitalize on generational differences in the workplace. Along with developing a traditional mentoring program, his team is working to create a reverse-mentoring program where Generation Y employees will help mentor senior leaders on the issues important to rising generations.

As if his work helping those at Grainger achieve success weren't enough, Johnson serves as the marketing chair on the Wisconsin Business Alumni board, and launched Inspiratude Coaching Solutions, LLC in 2009. This entrepreneurial effort specializes in providing leadership and career coaching solutions to ambitious young professionals who are looking to achieve accelerated and sustainable success in the corporate world.

And Johnson credits UW-Madison for helping him realize his dreams.

"I knew the university offered more than academics," says Johnson. "It offered an opportunity for me to start my legacy as an inspirational leader who's not only rising to the highest heights, but leveraging my experiences to raise others up with me."

In his own words

What is your proudest UW achievement?

Graduating! May seem simple, but to walk across that stage was a dream come true. Neither of my parents graduated from college, so I wanted to do this for them. My degree was their degree.

The Wisconsin Alumni Association will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2011. If you could put one item into its time capsule, what would it be?

I would print out my Facebook account profile and put that in the capsule. Facebook changed the way UW students communicated with each other. It made a large campus seem incredibly small and easy to navigate at times.

Who or what inspires you?

I'm inspired by my 10-year-old daughter. As my beautiful daughter continues gets older, she inspires me with her spirit, energy, and drive for success.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

"Act like you own the place." From an early age my father always taught me to be a leader and accountable on the job. Whether working for him, or any of my other jobs, he always taught me that when you act like you own the place, you make better decisions for yourself, your boss, and company at large.

Are you a cat-person or a dog-person?

C'mon! I'm a little disappointed you didn't provide a goldfish option! No cats, no dogs, goldfish only!

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