When Staff and Mission Harmonize: An Interview with Jeff Olmeda

When Staff and Mission Harmonize: An Interview with Jeff Olmeda

Leadership Austin recently bid farewell to longtime employee Jeff Olmeda, but we couldn’t let him leave without gleaning a last bit of wisdom from the staffer whose coworkers say he brought exceptional judgment and commonsense to the organization. We also wanted to know more about the sincere guy behind the warm, easy smile.

Jeff grew up in Houston and came to the University of Texas in 1998. He earned a degree in Marketing. At the time, Information Technology was just a hobby for him, not a career path.

When he first saw the job posting for the Leadership Austin position, he was working for the Carver Museum, which is dedicated to preserving African-American history and culture. The museum is part of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and sparked his interest in working with a nonprofit or other community service organization.

When Jeff applied for the Leadership Austin job, he knew nothing about the organization. That changed quickly. “Once I grew to know more about the organization–about the people and the mission–the more fond I grew of Leadership Austin,” he said. “I was so impressed with the people on staff and those coming through the programs. As the programs expanded, it became clear to me the value of the way Leadership Austin equips its people to serve the community.

It’s an ambitious mission, really. To educate and equip people to go out and do great things.”

As Jeff chalked up experience and years at Leadership Austin, his role naturally evolved. He picked up responsibilities in accounting, facilities and human resources. As the organization became more tech-savvy he started handling all things technical with the organization.

During his 8-year tenure at Leadership Austin, Jeff worked for three different CEOs: Lee Thomson, Heather McKissick and Christopher Kennedy. He credits them with being supportive and open-minded bosses.

“Leadership Austin is such a collaborative working environment. They wanted me to succeed,” he said. “The CEOs definitely practiced what they taught in their programs.”

Jeff said the transitions from one CEO to another were seamless.   “All the Leadership Austin CEOs have been alumni, so they are all fully invested in the organization,” he said. “But we got especially lucky when Christopher came on because he had been on the Board and was very in tune with what was going on. The transition was smooth and there was no loss of momentum. Christopher has such enthusiasm…he is a great manager who allows others to do their jobs.”

As for the future of Leadership Austin, Jeff believes it is wide open. He is excited and inspired by the academic and media relationships that Leadership Austin is cultivating. He notes says the inclination to grow and evolve as an organization seems natural, but that Leadership Austin’s core programs will always be its foundation. “When we went through the intentional work of rebranding and increasing our visibility, it was great,” he said. “But we were reminded that it was the product–the programs–that earned Leadership Austin its reputation.”

Jeff is now working at University Federal Credit Union, overseeing information and application systems for Human Resources, a position that has allowed him to take his IT experience and put it in a business context.

Still, he carries with him lessons from his years at Leadership Austin. “I’ve seen the value that good community service has on the overall community,” he said. “And I’m more mindful of the interdependence and interconnectedness of community issues. People would come to the program involved and passionate about one issue, one bias. And one way or another, after they learned more about their community, they got involved in other issues. I learned that no matter the subject, we can all be motivated by the same passion, and then use that passion as a starting point to working together for the community.”