JLL project manager builds inclusive culture and successful career

R. Matthew Johnson dedicates life to achieving personal, community and organizational advancement

R. Matthew Johnson, Project Manager, has been with JLL for nearly eight years, working with clients across many industries. But his passion for the built environment began in his childhood where he had a natural talent for understanding geometry, design instructions and assembly. As a teenager, he would build and repair furniture, electronics, appliances and household fixtures for fun. In high school, he deepened his knowledge by taking advanced drafting and construction technologies classes as his electives and entered county-wide model building competitions where he won awards and monetary prizes for his concepts two years consecutively. The concepts were later used in the redesign and construction of a historic building in downtown Durham, NC.

He continued his studies as an undergrad at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in Greensboro, the largest Historically Black University in the U.S., where he received a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering & Management—a degree foretelling of his future in commercial real estate.

He found his career calling after undergrad at JLL, where he quickly rose through the ranks. A year into working, he decided to double down and simultaneously pursued his MBA at North Carolina Central University, consistently ranked as a top Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and Best Regional University in the South. A few years later, he was wearing a cap and gown again when he received his MBA diploma, this time in Project Management and Finance.

“JLL is full of great minds, and to roll with the best you must increase your value by learning and by using what you learned to contribute to the success of our mission,” said R. Matthew.

As a child, R. Matthew grew up in the foster care system and says his experiences have inspired his passion to not only volunteer with a local foster care organization but to become an adoptive parent himself. He also authored a book filled with powerful lessons that empower youth who are growing up in challenging situations.

“I believe that despite a person’s background or circumstances, everyone has the potential to be something great!”

He now serves on the board for Foster Village, a non-profit designed to support and serve local foster families, and is also a leader and member of JLL’s Empower Black Professionals Network in the Charlotte office.

We sat down with R. Matthew to learn more about his education, career path, insights on diversity, equity and inclusion, and passion for youth foster care.

What do you do at JLL? 

As a Project Manager for JLL, I work to bring to life my clients' hopes by optimizing their environments. 

Where did you go to college/university?

I’m a proud Aggie – I went to North Carolina A&T State University for my undergrad and received my MBA from North Carolina Central University.

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How did you make your way to JLL?

I began working for JLL after a year into the U.S.’s economic recovery where bailout packages were made to bring back the economy. I was 23 years old, right out of college and eager for an opportunity, but finding work was hard during those times. I had to stand apart from other applicants that were applying to JLL, so I found the contacts of company leadership and emailed them directly regarding my interest. They connected me with a hiring manager, I interviewed and here I am eight years later. Message of the story: if you desire something, be bold, be intentional, take action and give yourself the gift of “competitive advantage” by being different from others. It worked for me.

Describe what a typical day in the life looks like for you?

As a newlywed, an adoptive father of an 11-year-old who’s doing in-home-learning, a project manager on a large account, and a member of multiple organizations during a pandemic… I don’t know if there is a such thing as a typical day. The overall goal for every day is to simply make progress and serve my constituents.

One thing JLL colleagues may not know about me is…

That I am an adoptive father of a youth who was in foster care. When I was young, I was in foster care myself and I understand the plight. Outside of work, I sit on the board of directors for Foster Village Charlotte. We take on various initiatives that support and advocate for foster parents and children in our county. My passion has led me to write and publish a faith-based book entitled “Let No Man Despise Thy Youth: Profitable Teachings for Growing Believers.” I am confident that my work will benefit many, young and old, of all backgrounds. 

What does an inclusive culture look like?

I believe inclusion is when everything that is different is represented, recognized, and valued together as the same.

How are you helping make JLL more inclusive?

It’s my job to aid my teammates, to welcome and support them. No matter our differences, we are a team, we rise together, we are “One JLL.” We are not just consultants or employees—we are top resources. I see us all valuable to each other’s cause. As a team, if we are not winning together, then we are a disservice to everyone but mainly ourselves. There is power in unity. As an ancient text stated, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

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