Sharilyn Johnson

Everything not on my resume (abridged).

 

“You’re like a goddamn onion.
Just when I think I know you,
there’s another layer to peel back.”
– Former boss, a month into my job

How I got here…

After 5 years as a copywriter and strategist for national clients at a top ad agency in Toronto, I was ready to pivot.

My side projects made me a natural UX writer:  I was a journalist, performed improv, and published a book — all of which informed my tone versatility, my sense of ownership, and ability to embrace ambiguity. 

In 2021, a Facebook recruiter took notice and asked if I’d consider moving from Toronto to California.

Being an improviser, I instantly said “yes.”

I’m now working on the Rates & Availability team with Expedia Group, making it easier for hotel partners to hit their goals.  

…and everything that informed it.

I never planned to be a writer despite being a voracious reader. I quickly outgrew every novel in my school libraries. Kudos to my Grade 9 English teacher for biting her tongue when I chose Joyce Maynard’s steamy To Die For as book report fodder.

I figured I’d be a programmer. I read Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs and thought it sounded glamorous. I was in my high school’s first-ever HTML class and obsessed over customizing Geocities sites. When I tried to teach myself C, I realized maybe coding wasn’t for me. But I learned enough about general logic to serve me well all these years later. 

I became a comedy nerd way before it was cool, which turned into a useful niche when I went to journalism school. For over 20 years this was my side hustle, both as a freelancer (VICE, Vanity Fair) and running my own outlet — all while balancing my 9-to-5s in other areas of media and marketing. 

“So when are YOU going to get up there?” Despite paralyzing stage fright, my comedian friends convinced me to get on stage for five minutes. I didn’t suck. I ended up going New York City to study improv and comedy writing with Emmy-winners who destroyed my fear and blew my creative brain wide open.

I learned everything about strategy, collaboration, and going head-first into the unknown through improv. 

I didn’t go to ad school or major in design. I did eventually go to clown school. Unfortunately the only thing I can juggle is multiple deadlines (hey-o). But seriously: comedy teaches you how to communicate through empathy, embrace ridiculous ideas, trust your instincts, and listen to what the audience needs (aka “the users”).

Plus: constructing a joke is just as delicate as writing the perfect error message. 

Those “fun fact” icebreakers are my time to shine.

I’ve had some adventures. When we talk, ask me about:

      • The time I got paid to yell at Nicolas Cage
      • How I saw the final performance of the original Hamilton cast on Broadway — for free
      • Why I knew the lyrics to every Rod Stewart song by the time I was 7
      • Why I own Stephen Colbert’s bathrobe