Home Shaka Johnson

Shaka Johnson

Shaka Johnson
Vice President & Associate General Counsel
Sony Electronics, Inc.
15+ Years in the Industry

Black Leaders In Consumer Tech Award Winner 2021

Tell us about your career so far.

I began my career as a litigation attorney at a law firm (Higgs, Fletcher & Mack LLP, 2003 – 2006), and have spent the past 15+ years working in the consumer technology industry as an in-house attorney. I currently lead the legal department at Sony Electronics Inc. as VP & Associate General Counsel, where I also serve as Secretary. At Sony Electronics, my teams are responsible for corporate security as well as traditional legal affairs throughout North America. I was actually with Sony Electronics earlier in my career (2011 – 2015), where I served as a director-level attorney, performing lead legal support for a variety of business groups along with litigation support. Immediately prior to my current role, I spent three years leading the global Sales and Marketing legal team for Facebook’s AR/VR group as Associate General Counsel (2015 – 2018), where our team launched Oculus VR headsets and Facebook’s Portal devices. I have also been part of the teams at Gateway, Inc (2006 – 2009) and SANYO North America Corporation (2009-2011).

Describe your current role.

I currently lead the legal department at Sony Electronics Inc. as VP & Associate General Counsel, and also as Secretary. I lead the teams responsible for corporate security, and traditional legal affairs throughout North America. In addition, I’m a member of the Sony Electronics Executive Management Committee, Leadership Committee, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Committee.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, how is the CE industry doing both historically, and also in the past year?

Like many industries, I believe CE has historically said the right things, and believe many in the industry genuinely support diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has been a true priority historically. Yes, there are organizations that place a significant focus on D&I, but I think the large majority found themselves only valuing diversity to the extent it has been convenient and doesn’t require significant attention or meaningful change. In short, it feels almost like the industry is seeking diversity, yet in a way that also maintains the general status quo. I’ve been happy and proud to see an evolution in the industry in the past year. Many have had honest and difficult conversations and made D&I a real priority. Even those that already saw D&I as a valuable and important aspect of their organization have re-focused their efforts and energies on the topic. At Sony, we’ve always believed in, valued, and pursued diversity and inclusion, and I’m proud of the way we still ask ourselves: “Yes, but can (and how) do we do better?” I think many in the industry have asked themselves that question in one form or another over the past year, and I sincerely hope the industry continues to ask –and seeks to answer– that question regularly, moving forward.

What could the CE industry do to improve on diversity and inclusion?

Keep D&I front of mind, keep the discussions going, and continue to build on the passion and momentum we’ve seen. The issues that led to the lack of diversity or inequality didn’t take shape in a few years, and the solutions that will create a more equitable and fair market for all will not be fixed in a year or two. It will take long-term prioritization, focus, and commitment. To that, we need to 1) be genuine and honest with ourselves (in our companies, associations, and communities) about where we come up short; 2) commit to doing more, and doing things differently; and ultimately 3) simply not give up.

What would you tell non-black professionals in the CE industry who want to support the inclusion of black people in the industry?

Don’t be afraid to talk about supporting diversity and inclusion with your black friends, colleagues, and neighbors out of fear of saying the wrong thing. And don’t remain silent when you hear something that’s inappropriate or wrong, especially the so-called “harmless” jokes or comments when there are no black people around. In short, find ways to be an ally, both privately and publicly.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Having a positive impact on the lives of others is my life’s mission, and I’m most proud of the programs, opportunities, and initiatives that I’ve participated in or led that have allowed me to further that mission. I currently serve as a member of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Leadership Committee at Sony Electronics, the Association of Corporate Counsel – San Diego Chapter board, and the USD Law School Board of Visitors. I have consistently mentored law students and young lawyers throughout my career, was part of the group that spearheaded the San Diego County Bar and ACC Diversity Fellowship Program in 2009, and chaired the Sony Electronics pro bono committee for 2+ years in my previous stint at the company. In addition, I served on the USD Law Alumni Board’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee in the past, and the Jackie Robinson YMCA Board for 10 years. The efforts I’ve made to engage with my professional network and community have resulted in a variety of humbling honors. In 2014, I was named one of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Top 10 “30-Somethings.” I participated as a Legal Diversity Fellow on the Leadership Council in 2018, and in 2019, had the humbling honor of delivering the commencement address at my alma mater, USD School of Law. The San Diego Business Journal recognized me as a “Leader in Law” in 2020, and earlier this year the National Diversity Counsel recognized me as one of the most influential African Americans in Business. It’s truly humbling.

What technology are you most interested in at the moment?

There are two that I’m really interested in: autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars present a nervous proposition to many because we have to relinquish some control to benefit from it, but I think the benefits it presents – from safety to convenience – are incredible. I’m excited to see how it continues to develop, along with the variety of technologies being incorporated to make the space an everyday reality. And the applications for A.I. are vast – from enhancing our TV watching experience, to the way we use our cameras, to how we find and consume information. It’s already an incredibly powerful engine for much of the tech we use in our everyday lives, but the way it will be used in the future will make it an integral part of our lives. A.I. has come far, but it is still in its infancy. Because of the influence A.I. is expected to play in tech and our lives in the future, the growth and maturity of “good” A.I. is critical, and I’m intrigued by the way it is, can, and will be used.

Any additional thoughts you’d like to share?

As Jackie Robinson said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” I firmly believe that success is defined to the extent to which we can have a positive impact on the lives of others. We have an incredible opportunity in the consumer tech space to have a real and positive impact – at work, home, and in our communities. So be positive in all you do, be kind when doing it, and do it all while being your own unique “you.” As a final note, I’m genuinely appreciative for this recognition, for the platform it creates, and for the opportunity it presents to have a positive impact on others.