Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
alert featured

Top 10 Under 40: Educators, accountants among those who made prestigious Hickory Young Professionals list

  • Updated
  • 0
getJPEG (4).jpg

In this photo from 2018, members of the Hickory Young Professionals group gathered on Union Square in downtown Hickory. The group announced the 2022 Top 10 Under 40 winners this week.

The 2022 winners of the Hickory Young Professionals (HYP) Top 10 Under 40 competition have been announced.

The 2022 award recipients are Alexis Abernathy, Amanda Haney, Cameron Mauney, James Frye, JuanEs Ramirez, Katie Keisler, Keli Osborne, Paxton Tallent, Sabrina Cook and Samuel Johnson.

No meetings, working out, birdwatching and horror movies? Carly Martinetti of Notably and Darshan Somashekar of Unwind Media share what their perfect Friday looks like.

“There were over 60 nominees this year. The nominated totals increase each year, and being nominated speaks volumes,” said HYP Chair Cameron Bixby. “There are so many young professionals making an impact on our local communities, and each one deserves to be recognized.”

The Top 10 Under 40 honorees will be formally recognized at an awards dinner on Nov. 17.

Alexis Abernathy

Alexis Abernathy.jpg


Alexis Abernathy, 32, currently serves as the Banking Center Manager II, AVP for First Horizon Bank in Lenoir. In her role, she focuses on increasing branch revenue, consumer and business loans, treasury, management, and much more. As the Relationship Banker at First Horizon, she trains and mentors new hires, and has obtained her North Carolina Life Insurance License and her NMLS.

Abernathy is most proud of being able to provide financial guidance in her community at local churches including Morning Star First Baptist during COVID-19, being a recipient of the 2021 Million Dollar Club Award with First Horizon, and being a part of the 2022 Graduating Class of Leadership Catawba through The Chamber of Catawba County. In the community, you can find Alexis serving in leadership roles, from coaching cheerleading at Grandview Middle School, coaching little league teams with Hickory Parks and Recreation, and singing in the choir at Morning Star Baptist Church. At her church, she also has served as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, the youth usher board, and is now the youth adviser for the Youth Mission Program. With this position, she helps to teach, inspire, and promote children from K-12 to engage them in opportunities to feed the homeless, prepare meals on the Square during the holidays, create clothing and shoe drives, and prepare Thanksgiving meal bags for the sick, shut-ins, and those less fortunate. She also serves The Chamber of Catawba County as an Advisory Board member for Leadership Catawba and helps to plan the agenda for the incoming cohorts. As a member of the ARG Group within her organization, she is able to give back to the community by volunteering her time with Safe Harbor, the Red Sand Project, local walks, school supply drives, and more. Alexis was named by First Horizon as a Champion for its 1 Million Black Businesses Movement, and is participating in the bank partnership with Operation Hope to offer financial guidance opportunities. She has most recently joined the Caldwell County Women’s Forum, as well.

Abernathy feels that she leads with a sense of vision and purpose, and she aims to provide motivation and inspiration to her team to keep going. She maintains connections and relationships with the children that she has coached, tutored, and mentored through the years, and as they tell her their stories, it drives her to continue to lead through change. She utilizes communication when volunteering at Safe Harbor, when helping lead individuals to financial freedom, and when motivating others. She takes tremendous pride in where she lives and being a graduate of both Hickory High and Lenoir-Rhyne University, she feels she was embraced by this area. She said, “I have been leading the majority of my life, but being involved with Leadership Catawba has helped me to sharpen my leadership skills. I have long-term plans to continue to be a leader and further my banking career, and continue to grow my organization, and finally to become a banking executive of the organization.”

Amanda Haney

Amanda Haney .jpeg


Amanda Haney, 35, currently serves as part of the corporate accounting team for the U.S. headquarters of Saft America Inc. In this role, she oversees the treasury department, including forecasting daily and monthly cash needs for all U.S. sites. She serves as the resident CPA for the U.S. headquarters and serves on the board of directors for Saft America, Inc.

In addition, she serves as the CFO and vice president of community relations of Haney, CPA, PLLC. Her role consists of making taxes and accounting a little less dry for clients and connecting the firm to the community in fun and engaging ways. Previously, she worked as a senior auditor at Davidson, Holland, Whitesell & Co, PLLC. While at DHW she served as the strategic auditor for federal funding disbursed during COVID-19 through the CARES Act. She worked with health care providers and nonprofits across North Carolina to assist them in retaining and utilizing CARES Act funding to continue their organization’s mission while meeting their consumer/client needs, as they navigated a world changing pandemic. She also worked for First Baptist Church in Hickory as a ministry assistant, helping with weekly church operations, in addition to special events and community outreach.

Haney is most proud of passing the CPA exam, helping local nonprofits and health care providers to secure $30 million in federal funds during the pandemic in order to continue operating, and serving as first vice chair with Hickory Young Professionals Leadership Council, where she has been pushed to continue to grow and develop as a leader in the community. While serving as chair for the events and professional development committees for the past two years, she has led a team that helped to create quality events and opportunities to help connect young professionals in the Unifour area to one another and other community partners.

Amanda can be found volunteering her time as a board member of the Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County, where she also serves on the committee for Denim and Diamonds annual fundraising committee. She serves on the Leadership Catawba Advisory Board, following graduation from Leadership Catawba in 2020. In addition, she has been coordinating the Community Thanksgiving Dinner for over 20 years, feeding over 2,000 annually. She served as board liaison for Centro Latino and the vice chair for the board of elders, church administrator, Children’s Ministry volunteer, and Multimedia Ministry volunteer at First Church of God. She has also been a volunteer with FBCityKids at First Baptist Church, NCACPA Financial Literacy, Hickory Soup Kitchen, Backpack Program, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Special Olympics, and Boys and Girls Club of America. Her memberships also include AICPA Member, IMA (Institute of Management Accountants Member), NCACPA Member, and more.

Haney said, “This community, my community, our community … it’s a gem, like no other. I, like many peers, could not wait to spread my wings and fly. I did, but several years later, I found myself longing for home, for this community, for these people. When I came back to Catawba County in 2010, I made the conscious decision to make this place the best I could. At the end of the day, what I want to be said of me is that I relentlessly pursued development and created opportunities for those behind me to grow. There is a unique spirit of unity in this community. I have spent the last several years championing that story, amongst my generation and those after me, and I will continue to carry that torch.”

Cameron Mauney

Cameron Mauney.jpg


Cameron Mauney, 38, is the CFO for David E. Looper & Company, Inc. In this role, she provides accounting, tax, and audit oversight to the company, and manages all treasury functions to ensure that cash is properly monitored and controlled. She also oversees all financial aspects of the development company, Delco Partners, LLC, and other various real estate entities.

She began her career in Hickory working for Davidson, Holland, Whitesell, CPAs, and also worked with Martin Starnes & Associates CPAs. She moved to Knoxville for six years, before returning to Hickory and beginning work with David E. Looper & Company.

She has obtained both her MBA and CPA license while working full-time and was instrumental in transitioning David E. Looper to being completely remote during the pandemic, where she implemented new AP and project management software and built out a management structure while hiring and managing exponential revenue growth. In her spare time, she could be found restoring her historic 1905 home in downtown Hickory.

As a volunteer, Mauney serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Hickory Museum of Art, the chair of the Lenoir-Rhyne Business Council, the Catawba County Chamber board of directors, and is a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears Club and the LRU President’s Society.

Mauney said, “The difference in leading a corporate group and a nonprofit is that the employees of a nonprofit are incentivized by their passion for work. I knew coming into the role with the Hickory Museum of Art that I would need to understand that passion and the goal, while trying to maximize the budget and keep the spending in line. I think that noble leadership in any organization is really about listening, understanding, and respecting the team you are leading. My goal in everything I do is to do it to the best of my ability. I think that to do that you have to understand what goal your team or organization is trying to accomplish.”

James Frye

James Frye.jpeg


James Frye, 30, serves as the principal at Claremont Elementary School where his responsibility is to set the shared mission, shared visions, and collective commitments of the school to the community to ensure the greatest amount of growth and success possible. His purpose is to motivate his staff, the students, and the community to strive for excellence and equity for all, so that the students may achieve at a level that is transformational for the future of the community that we serve.

Frye is in his fourth year as principal, and previously served as a middle school assistant principal and STEM coordinator, the Instructional Technology and Public Information Officer, and high school English teacher, all for Newton-Conover City Schools. He was named an Association for Supervision and Curriculum (ASCD) International Emerging Leader in 2015 and has served as a board member for the North Carolina association for seven years. Frye also served as an advisory board member for the EdTech Genome Project with University of Virginia in the height of the pandemic, which focused on improving school districts’ use of technology for teaching and learning across the nation, in addition to serving on the COVID-19 Instructional Response Team for the North Carolina Department of Instruction.

Frye is a graduate of the North Carolina School Superintendent Association’s Aspiring Superintendent Program and is a Ph.D. candidate with The University of Kentucky’s Educational Leadership department. Additionally, he has earned an advanced Graduate Certificate in Executive Leadership from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, a graduate certificate in educational technology from Michigan State University, a post-master’s certificate in educational leadership and cultural foundations from UNCG, a bachelor’s degree in English education from LRU, and an associate of arts degree from McDowell Technical Community College.

Frye’s motivation is to leave this community better than he found it. In addition to his family, his mother was his inspiration as she, a beginning teacher in her late 40s, worked to complete her bachelor’s degree late in life with a mission of love for all and a zest for life and for the children and families she served. Her life and her dream were cut short far too soon when she passed in 2021 due to complications from her treatments for breast cancer. His hope is that his life’s mission of service to students and betterment of the community make a difference in the trajectory of our community in Catawba County in the way that his mother’s life and work did in her own community, with a focus on equity and excellence for all, through a service-oriented career and leadership focused on service above self.

Frye was honored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as one of two principals in the state who were featured as Promising Practices for School Leadership for the work that was done at Claremont Elementary School. Frye is a board member of the North Carolina Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, a member of the COVID-19 Instructional Response State Task Force, NC Department of Public Instruction, serves on the State Advisory Committee, North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, the Pyramid Model Leadership Team, the Catawba County Schools Strategic Planning Committee, and is chairman and board member, North Carolina #NCed Chat. He also serves on the Home Base Advisory Committee for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and is an International Emerging Leader with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

He said, “In leadership, we talk often about our ‘why’ and the importance of knowing our why, but not often do we actually talk about why ‘knowing our why’ is so important when working with people. Great leaders communicate from the inside out, from communicating their why, to their how, then finally to the what. One of the biggest reasons, though, that any meaningful change usually always requires an understanding of that why is because that is how we build trust and loyalty. When we are able to connect beliefs to our process, we willingly pursue results because we feel connected and loyal to our organization’s why. In the 2021-22 school year, despite the adversities that the COVID-19 pandemic brought our teachers, students, staff, and community, Claremont Elementary was the third highest growing elementary school in Catawba County last year, with the third highest free and reduced lunch rate in the district — this happened because staff believed in the vision and continued with it despite the adversities COVID presented. The why behind the work remained important enough to fight for the work. I firmly believe that with any change, leaders have to empower their people, guide them, trust them, and love them through the change — but don’t give up on your shared mission for students. That is my goal for the work we have done at Claremont Elementary.”

JuanEs Ramirez

JuanEs Ramirez.jpg


JuanEs Ramirez, 36, serves as a statewide Spanish Services Representative for the College Foundation of North Carolina, specifically under the CFNC En Español team. His team consists of two individuals and most recently a special project intern to promote access and outreach for Spanish-speaking students, families, and those that support them in the planning, applying, paying, and saving for college.

His past professional experiences began when his parents moved to Hickory overnight, seeking a safer space for him and his brothers. He started as a volunteer at the Centro Latino of Hickory to learn English, served as a mediator for the Conflict Resolution Center, entered retail banking, and later transitioned to education, serving as a transfer and adult learner counselor at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He then became Educational Outreach Program Manager at Appalachian State University (Hickory and Caldwell campuses) and has since moved into his current role as Statewide Representative for Spanish Services.

Ramirez says that he is so proud to see his community members receiving the access and outreach they deserve and need, and it is a great honor to be part of the solution. One of his greatest accomplishments has been making accessible in Spanish. While daunting, they were able to get most information formatted in a way that makes sense for the community. He is proud to be one of two individuals that serve over a million Hispanic/Latinos in North Carolina, while it is incredibly challenging. He worked with UNC Chapel Hill to appoint a yearlong intern to support their efforts and to work on a much-needed parent curriculum.

He said, “Latinos are not the outliers, but rather the norm. This has been incredibly fulfilling for our community to be represented not through others’ experiences, but our own. In the words of a student I mentor, ‘seeing things not through windows, but rather through mirrors.’”

Ramirez is currently a board member at LatinxEd, a statewide nonprofit that has a mission to invest in Latinx leadership and expand educational equity and opportunity in North Carolina. He is a current member of the executive board for the Hickory Public Schools Education Foundation, and he can be found mentoring students in his spare time. He previously served on the executive board for the Conflict Resolution Center, was a member of the founding group of the Multicultural Office at Lenoir-Rhyne University and was a founding adviser of the Transfer Student Association at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Ramirez said, “When I think of community, I think about my friends, my family, my brothers, sisters, nephews, and the future of our community. If we don’t take the time to invest in their success … what will our community look like in the future? Hickory has been an incredible place for me to grow and learn and even with every opportunity given to me to move elsewhere, I intentionally decided that this is my home. A place where even though I have not always felt welcomed, or celebrated, I can be a catalyst for change to present the incredible contributions that our community brings to the different spaces. From our language, culture, food, lived experiences, I am part of the solution to bridge our cultures to collaborate, connect, and celebrate.”

Katie Keisler

Katie Keisler.jpg


Katie Keisler, 34, began her work at Realty Executives of Hickory at 17 as an assistant to the owner and handling the website marketing. She obtained her real estate license at 18 while also working with sales. She was entrusted with responsibilities regarding their bookkeeping and trust accounts. After serving in that role, she had a broad understanding of the front and back end of managing the firm. She now operates as the Managing Broker at the firm. Keisler is responsible for all aspects of office management, Broker education/management, and overseeing the day-to-day transactions of the team. They close 800-1,000 sales a year, with nearly $200 million in sales volume while exceeding expectations with each client.

Keisler leads with the goal of leading by serving others. “To make a commitment of support to our agents and to follow through in a way that demonstrates my faith in their success. I want the happiest, most supported, and productive agents in town. Our retention rate is as impressive as our growth. My philosophy is to train my team well enough that they could go out on their own and treat them well enough that they’d never want to leave. We’ve accomplished that, and I genuinely am proud of what we have built here together,” said Keisler.

She volunteers in her community in children’s and welcome ministry at Mountain View Baptist Church, she contributes to charity events and acts of service through Safe Harbor and Pregnancy Care Center, organizes Christmas and baby shower gifts for foster children of Catawba County, and serves on the technology committee for the Catawba Valley Association of Realtors.

“I believe there is an opportunity for ‘thriving in place’ in Catawba County. Many of my peers graduated high school/college and immediately left for Charlotte for job opportunities. I have always been of the belief that it pays to plant roots, work hard, and stay loyal. Loyalty shouldn’t be limited by opportunity. The professional and personal growth I have experienced within the very community I was raised in, speaks volumes. It’s rewarding to see my work stimulate the economy and development of the place I call home. Leadership within my community has been demonstrated by the investment of my time and talents back into the community to pay forward what others did to make this a great community to grow up in. I am a lifelong resident and will remain such. Love seeing how Hickory is thriving and proud to be a part of the continuation of that.”

Keli Osborne

Keli Osborne.jpg


Keli Osborne, 39, currently serves as the Educational Services Supervisor for Catawba County Department of Social Services, where she supervises the ACE School Social Workers for Hickory Public Schools. She is also the site director and works closely with the NC Office of Economic Opportunity for the Catawba Community Action Agency which houses the Community Services Block Grant. This grant provides services in Catawba County to end and further prevent the cycle of poverty for families in Catawba County. She is also the supervisor for the Educational Advocate for children in foster care, where they track educational progress, attend meetings, and work to maintain school stability, and form relationships with all schools where children experiencing foster care through Catawba DSS are enrolled.

Osborne’s career began with a bachelor of social work and then a master of arts in professional school counseling. She spent 10 years as a school counselor serving in high schools, including Alexander Central High and St. Stephens High School. Osborne is a National Board Certified Teacher/Counselor. While at Saint Stephens she was the MTSS coordinator, 504 coordinator, scholarship coordinator, and department chair, where she was able to see the outstanding needs for our students experiencing foster care to have more support in school. She was elated to have the opportunity to serve as an Educational Advocate for children in foster care for five years after that, prior to moving into her current role.

Osborne is most proud of writing the Community Services Block Grant, which has been a wonderful learning experience. Last year, she successfully researched for, wrote the narrative, and submitted the grant application including all pieces therein to acquire $340,380 for Catawba County to provide prevention programming. When time permits, Obsorne also writes and speaks in advocacy for children with special needs. She has spoken at the March of Dimes Ambassador Banquet and has been published by the Fetal Health Foundation. Osborne shares her story and helps other parents navigate the hardships of medically fragile children. A task that she never thought she wanted, but now cherishes.

Osborne also serves on the Parents As Teachers Advisory Council, is a Catawba Valley Pride volunteer, and has served many hours with the City of Hickory Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Department. She said, “Within my organization I lead by doing. I am a supervisor, but I lead with transparency and service to others. My leadership style is to support all team members in the work they do by joining them. We joke that my theme song is ‘We’re All in This Together” from ‘High School Musical.’ I want team members to feel heard, seen, and helped. They should never start a task and feel alone. I mentor, advise, and most of all, help!”

In the community, she demonstrates leadership by being there and being an example. Osborne says that her heart is with the disenfranchised and this shows up through her workplace, her choices of where to volunteer, when and where she has marched, and through her care for members of her own family, as well. She found that the theme throughout her narrative is service and heart for the vulnerable.

“Within the community I choose volunteer opportunities where others may shy away, like the Pride festival and helping in my son’s EC adaptive classroom. All of these people matter and deserve a voice. I work hard for my family, my community, and my workplace. I do so day in and day out because I love it and I want to do it. I have spent the past 16 years in service, giving back to my community in quiet and sometimes not so quiet ways. I love our county and our city and I love being of service to the children and teens within.”

Paxton Tallent

Paxton Tallent.jpg


Paxton Tallent, 39, is the executive director with the YMCA of Catawba Valley, where he currently oversees the operations of the Hickory Foundation YMCA, 10 school-age childcare sites, and two pre-school early learning centers. He is responsible for a multi-million-dollar operating budget and a staff team of over 200 employees along with board development, philanthropic efforts, and program and service delivery. His entire professional career has been with the YMCA, holding roles of sports and camp director, senior program director, branch director, and executive director.

Tallent led efforts to expand the YMCA footprint to better serve the Catawba Valley. He serves on the Leadership Catawba Advisory Board, following his graduation from Leadership Catawba, is a member of the YMCA Professionals Network – Chapter 23, is a graduate of the Stronglead High Performance Leadership Academy, and was previously a board member for the Hickory Metro Sports Commission and of Rotary.

Tallent said, “In addition to our mission statement, the YMCA has five core values that help guide decision-making. Those core values are caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, and faith, and I believe the incorporation of those values allows any leader to lead with nobility. Through the cultivation of a local couple in our community and a desire to promote unity, I was able to dedicate and install a Peace Pole at the Hickory YMCA. A Peace Pole is an internationally recognized symbol of the hopes and dreams of the entire human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth. Each Peace Pole bears the message May Peace Prevail on Earth in different languages on each of its four sides. The languages on our Peace Pole were selected by YMCA members and represent the heritage and diversity of our members.”

During the pandemic, he continued to work with volunteers to increase the philanthropic efforts of the YMCA through its Annual Campaign, Capital Campaign, and endowment giving. In the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, under Tallent’s leadership, the YMCA served as a host for the March for Our Lives Rally that was organized by local teens.

“This was a very difficult opportunity within my first 90 days on the job because, as a parent, it was hurtful to watch the news and the grief these youth were enduring while also positioning the Y as a non-partisan organization. Thankfully, through careful consideration and conversations with the community, we were able to find a balance to give teens a voice while avoiding the political scene by offering an exclusively youth-led rally.”

Sabrina Cook

Sabrina Cook.jpg


Sabrina Cook, 39, is the president and founder of Sabrina P. Cook, CPA PLLC. She started her CPA firm in 2018 and now leads a team of three employees. Her firm offers tax, bookkeeping, and fractional CFO services to small businesses, primarily in Catawba County, but also throughout North Carolina. Her role is to manage the client experience and ensure excellent service, as well as manage the professional development of the team.

Cook started her career at Deloitte after completing her bachelor’s degree in accounting at Wingate University and her master’s degree in accounting at Appalachian State University. At Deloitte, her focus was working with corporations that file tax returns in all states, or many states, to reduce their overall tax burden through research, planning, and tax credits. In 2009, she moved to a smaller firm where she learned to help much smaller businesses with their needs. Cook loved the hands-on approach and the ability to make an immediate difference by taking the burden of accounting and paperwork away from small business owners who are used to being everything from the HR director to payroll manager to bookkeeper while still trying to bring in new customers and do the work. In 2018, she started her own firm so that she could focus on time with her daughter and still offer the excellent service that her clients deserve.

Cook was named one of Practice Ignition’s Top 50 Women in Accounting in 2020. This honor is a global recognition and the criteria considered include promoting inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, investing in the future leaders of accounting, and advocacy of the accounting industry and support of the community. To be nominated by her peers and then recognized on this platform was such an honor. She also started her CPA firm as a young single mother, to give herself the flexibility to enjoy every milestone with her daughter, as well as deliver excellent client service. While building the practice, Cook worked a second job on nights and weekends while her daughter was away, to pay the bills. “Sometimes it was scary not knowing how many projects I would have lined up in any given month, but I quickly gained a solid client base and quit my second job to focus on the practice full time,” said Cook.

Cook serves on the Hickory Downtown Development Association as a board member and treasurer, is chair of the NCACPA Hickory-Area Women’s Initiative, serves on the NCACPA Professional Women’s Conference Planning Committee, and is a volunteer for Girl Scouts Troop 12957 and a volunteer for the CVCC Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Funding Committee. She is also a Leadership Catawba graduate with The Chamber of Catawba County.

Cook has been able to bring a team of financial professionals into local elementary schools to lead a financial literacy game called Making Cents. The game takes about an hour and a half and gives the teacher a break and allows the students to apply critical thinking skills and begin thinking about how to budget money they might make at their first summer or after-school job. Cook returned to the classrooms in April at Oakwood Elementary and hopes to return in 2023.

She also spearheaded a local event through the NCACPA called Student Night where high school and college students and their educators are treated to dinner and the opportunity to learn about what is possible with an accounting degree. “This is a cause close to my heart because growing up in poverty, I knew nothing about accounting, but thanks to my degree, I was virtually guaranteed a high-paying job after just five years of school. If students have heard of accounting, they may think it is boring, so we have a panel of speakers with some of the more exciting careers that are possible, and then we give away prizes and scholarships.” This event is in the works for January 2023 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Through her involvement with the Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund, she is able to coach CVCC students and recent graduates who are starting their own business, as well as play a role in helping them obtain seed money for their start-up.

“Entrepreneurship is so important to the economy, and to see young people turn their creativity and passion into a business is one of the best parts of my job, so it is a natural way for me to volunteer my time,” she added.

Cook said, “I am a native of this community, and after school, I returned to this community, and I have a vested interest in seeing it thrive. I live in downtown Hickory and work in downtown Hickory, and it makes me so happy to see other young people enjoy everything our town has to offer every day. Through my volunteering, I have the ability to share my message with kids who were just like me, and I hope that I can show them that this is a great place to come back to and start a career. Through my work with the Downtown Development Association, I get to continue making Hickory a great place to live and work and come back to.”

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson.JPG


Samuel Johnson, 25, is currently the Finance Supervisor for CommScope’s global Network Cable business with primary operations in Catawba County, Wales, and the Czech Republic, where he supervises all operations improvements and go-to-market plans from a finance perspective. In conjunction with product line management, operations, sales, and supply chain, he forecasts sales, margins, costs, and EBITDA, as well as implementing conversations and changes, as needed. Johnson also manages and supports the Key Account Manager team that sells to the 10 largest customers in North America and is the site leader for the RISE program. RISE stands for Relationships, Inspiration, Success, and Empowerment, and is a networking and mentoring organization within CommScope for young and early career employees. Through RISE, he coordinates mentoring programs, group activities, and leadership talks with executives for employees in the Hickory area. He also meets one on one with three early career employees and mentors them, as well as helps coach them through projects and activities they need assistance with at the organization.

Johnson got his first job when he was 17. He mixed ink at a local plastic packaging company for two and a half years until he went to LR and got his first internship. That experience taught him what it was like to be on the plant floor of a manufacturing facility. When he was 19, he started as an intern at Shurtape Technologies. After his first summer, he was asked to stay on part-time until graduation. Through that experience, he was able to learn new things, teach himself new skills, and build relationships he would not have gotten at school. During this time, he went to a local private school and ran their athletic department’s hospitality team of volunteers. In less than a year, they were able to raise more than $30K for the athletic department. At 22, he was given the opportunity to come to CommScope to be the sales finance lead for the Hyperscale, Cloud, and Multi-Tenant Data Center team, a $250M-plus business, a $10M-plus expense budget, and a team of 30 sellers. This was a lot to handle for a 22-year-old fresh out of college. However, 18 months later, he was asked to take on an additional team of 15 more sellers. Through continuous process improvement, improved reporting and transparency, and careful budget management, he was asked to move to the service provider business (a $2B business) and apply the same methods and improvements to it. Because of his reputation for getting things done and solving problems, he was able to move into his current role a year later to do the same thing for global Network Cable business.

Johnson has also been working to help coach other young professionals to help them get jobs, walk through promotions, and one of them recently bought his first house. Johnson also served on the Christ Church leadership team when he was 19. He has been on the leadership team for almost seven years in different capacities. He said, “Being asked to serve at this capacity at such a young age is intimidating due to the lack of experience or real-world knowledge at this point. I know, though, that I was asked because of my commitment to the organization through other volunteering, but, ultimately, it was because of my faith, which is the single most important thing in my life. Since then, I have had the privilege of seeing the church continue to grow in numbers, but also in its influence in the community. It’s rewarding to have been a small part of that.”

Johnson also worked with the curriculum and retooling the Lenoir-Rhyne internship program, where he helped with the current class/program that students at LR could take part in, and through a lot of reworking and rewriting, they were able to develop an updated curriculum that is still being used today. In his free time, Johnson also serves on the Christ Church finance team as vice chair, the Christ Church student ministry, Christ Church children’s ministry, Christ Church personal financial coaching team, Christ Church lay pastor, and on the board of directors for The Foundry House — a house in Statesville for men in recovery to live together and provide mutual support in a Christ-centered environment. He has also helped with children’s and student ministries at Pearl Baptist Church in Lincolnton, The Corner Table, Sipes Orchard Home and The Salvation Army.

He believes that great leadership is putting others before yourself and that the best thing you can do in leadership is train up other leaders. That is why Johnson is so proud his successful recruitment and training of new young professionals coming into the organization. His long-term goal is to build a pipeline of young professionals that are in the organization and will be the future of it.

“All of my personal success would be for naught if I had not done it with others and the community in mind. If my success does not somehow benefit the people around me, what has it been for? That is why I am so proud to be so involved and use my gifts in a church that is community minded. Through Christ Church, I have been a part of the strategy behind countless events and programs that have given back to thousands of people in this community — like Halloween festivals, Christmas festivals, July 4th events, random acts of grace (like giving away gift cards and money to random people in the grocery store), back to school bashes (in 2022 we have given away over 1,000 backpacks full of school supplies), global mission work (like planting nearly 40 churches in Africa in just over 10 years), and offering programs like the Global Leadership Summit each year. Being able to help guide the organization while on its leadership team allows me to see the impact it’s having. And without the leadership making responsible financial, staffing, and organizational decisions, none of these programs and events would ever happen,” said Johnson.

“I was born in this community and have lived here my whole life. I have had several opportunities to leave for college or work, but something always kept me here. I now believe that it was the people, culture, and community doing that. I believe that the best is yet to come for this area, and I desperately want to be a small part of that upcoming greatness. Whether it’s at work or through my work at church and the community, I am committing to making Catawba and the surrounding counties the best they can be.”

This year, the presenting sponsors for the Top 10 Under 40 are Martin Starnes & Associates, City of Hickory, and The Chamber of Catawba County.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert