Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Leo Venega

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, observed every year from September 15 – October 15, Atlas will highlight our Hispanic colleagues who share how their culture has shaped them. Today, we introduce you to Desktop Technician/Mobility Specialist Leo Venega.

How long have you been with the company and what are your primary responsibilities?

I was first hired as a contractor in 2015 and joined the Company full-time in 2016. So, I’m coming up on six years with Atlas.

As a Mobility Administrator for end user services. I am the main point of contact for our team, for users needing anything related to mobility, such as Company cell phones, iPads, and Crew PCDs.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Atlas team and your role specifically?

I have always been a “fixer.” I like solving problems and I like helping people and, in my role, I get to do that all the time. It’s very rewarding for example, when I receive a call from a pilot halfway around the world with a problem and my team and I are able to resolve the issue and get them going again. I like to think that it’s comforting for the crew to know that they can finish the leg that they’re on no matter where they are or what time they need help.

How did you find Atlas?

I used to own a computer store. My business partner and I developed a ruggedized tablet that we planned to market to utility companies and such. At the same time, the FAA (Federal Airlines Administration) had approved the use of tablets for cockpit use, so a friend of mine who was an Atlas Air pilot offered to introduce me to Marco Kleiner, Director, IT, to see if our tablets might work for Atlas. My tablet was an Android-based solution and unfortunately it was not a good fit for what Atlas was looking for, so we weren’t able to work together. About a year later though, Marco reached out to see if I would be interested in configuring iPads for the crew. I thought it was a great opportunity and to get involved with a really interesting organization and one year after that, I was a full-time, Atlas employee. The whole experience was a good reminder that first impressions really do matter. I didn’t get to work for Atlas the first go-round, but here I am today, coming up on my six-year anniversary.

What prompted you to consider aviation as a career? 

I’ve always thought airplanes were cool. I was that kid who had a bedroom ceiling full of airplanes. Growing up, I wanted to be an Air Force Fighter Pilot. Life took a turn, and I wasn’t able to pursue that dream, but I never lost that fascination for the technology and engineering behind airplanes. The dream really did come full circle though, today, I’m on the third floor of the Miami Training Center, working right in the thick of a busy airport and training center and I see airplanes all day. Of course, my favorite moments are when I catch an Atlas airplane taxiing in front of me!

What is the best part about working in aviation?

I think what is so exciting about working in this industry is being a part of what aviation makes possible. We are in the midst of changing humanity by moving people and goods all around the world in an incredibly fast and honestly, cost effective mode. I tell everyone if you want the perfect blend of technology, innovation and world reach, then you should get involved with air cargo.

Please tell us about your Hispanic heritage and how your culture inspires you.

I was born in Cuba, and I was seven years old when we left and moved to Spain. We had every intention of staying there, but shortly after arriving in Spain, there was a socialist upheaval and my father felt that one revolution in a lifetime was enough for him. So, we moved to Miami.

I feel very blessed to have moved to the United States, and particularly to Miami, which affords me the opportunity and freedom to celebrate my Hispanic heritage. I am very proud of my heritage, and I enjoy sharing its incredible history and contributions as well as educating others on what it’s like to be Cuban-American. I am particularly inspired by the Cuban poet, José Martí. He wrote beautiful poetry about Cuba and what it means to be Cuban. His poetry inspired the song Guantanamera, which is the quintessential Cuban song.

Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and the values instilled in you.

My father was my hero. He left his family in Cuba, started a new life in Spain, all the while he toiled for a year by himself while arranging our immigration papers finally bringing all of us over. He was a land surveyor in Spain and did well and as a family, we were very comfortable. When we came to the United State, he was in his 40s and didn’t speak the language. None of his licenses, or diplomas were recognized here, and he had to start all over. Which he did, he started a company and once again, he did well. His dedication to providing for his family and his work ethic were exemplary. That can-do, never give up attitude is now ingrained in me.

My father made a point of telling me and my siblings that he didn’t care what career we pursued, as long as we were committed to being the best at what we chose to do. That has become a cornerstone of who I am – I always want to be the best at what I’m doing.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

I think, as a Hispanic, it’s a good reminder to study up on our culture. It’s an opportunity to learn something you might not have previously known. We have a rich, rich history and Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to celebrate all who came before us and their contributions.

What would your colleagues be most surprised to learn about you?

I am a huge motorcycle aficionado. It all started when I was 15. My older brothers, who were mechanics, brought cars and motorcycles home to work on them and I started helping them. The more I learned about motorcycles, the more I became enamored with them. Eventually, I opened my own shop and as a way to promote it, I decided to build a bike for my friend who was racing and put the name of the shop on the side of it.

The problem was, he wasn’t very fast. And he crashed a lot. One day it occurred to me that I could probably do better. And so, I went to racing school, I got my license and started racing professionally. I competed in a few series in Florida and Georgia. I ended up winning two state championships. I moved into the national series and did that for a few years, consistently placing in the top ten.

I’ve stopped racing, but I still love motorcycles. I’ve been all over the United States on my Harley Davidson touring motorcycle. I find it really centers me and gives me such an appreciation of the natural beauty of this country.


Photo featuring Leo Venega