Derrick Johnson on Continuous Professional Development

Author: Jasmine Zhu       

Early Start Derrick Johnson planned events before he graduated high school.


I have a passion for the arts and creativity. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in music education where I studied flute and percussion. I received my DES certification in 2017 and my CMP in 2011. I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree in business leadership & management online with Western Governors University, and also gaining a certificate in AI & business strategy online from MIT.

My First Industry Job

I interned with the National Medical Association in their meetings department from age 15 to 22 years old. My mom worked for the association and my brother and I would always go to the kid camps at the annual meeting. One year I decided the kid camps were no longer of interest, so I began helping their director of meetings onsite. Checking BEOs and room sets onsite developed into helping prepare for the meeting over my summer vacations, and eventually led to planning some of the smaller association meetings before I graduated high school.

My Previous Three Jobs

Regional event director, Northeastern US – Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO); meeting planner for Kratos Learning; and director of meetings & professional development at the National Association for Gifted Children.

What I Do Now

I develop educational experiences for the top global commercial insurance and employee benefits intermediaries. I also define meeting portfolio holistic strategy, combining objectives and technology opportunities.

My Favorite Thing About My Job

I have a passion for association work because of the members. There’s nothing more meaningful than seeing how something you create has a lasting impact on individuals and positively impacts external entities. The level of creativity I’m able to bring into my work, especially as it relates to new innovations and technologies, is also exciting!

Most Influenced In My Career By

Nancy Green, the executive director of the NAGC gave me a chance and selected me over senior-level applicants [when I was] directly out of college because she saw my industry engagement and potential in my abilities. She invested in my growth and opened my eyes to what professional development and continual education was truly about, by getting me involved with PCMA.

What I Learned From My Biggest Professional Mistake

As a lifelong learner, it is vital that I am part of an organization that embraces continuous professional development as part of its culture. My biggest mistake was shifting to an organization that did not support it. I have since learned that it is never okay to settle, especially when it comes to things you cherish and make you and those around you stronger. Professionals invest too much into their work (time, stress, etc.) for an employer to not invest in them.

My Next Big Career Goal

Being a CEO of a nonprofit association in a field I’m very passionate about: education, the fine/performing arts, social issues, and/or technology.

My Advice for Young Meeting Professionals

  1. Gain diverse yet focused experiences to make you a well-rounded professional.
  2. Be imaginative and look beyond what is, or has been. The world is full of possibilities….
  3. Don’t get trapped in the day-to-day. There’s value in seeing the big picture.
  4. Technology is changing our jobs, industry, and world. Take time to read, think, and reflect on these changes.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.