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Alumni Spotlight Update: Manny Elsar, Jr

Manny Elsar, Jr., who works for The Coca-Cola Company, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Economics & International Affairs with a minor in Spanish. He graduated from Etowah High School in 2013.

Manny took the lessons from his time in 21CL into many new opportunities where he could grow in personal and community leadership. As a college student, Manny was actively involved in leadership and service. In 2016 Manny was selected to be an Orientation Leader at UGA for matriculating freshmen, and in 2017 he reconnected with 21CL to serve as a volunteer leader to current 21CL students at our leadership summits and summer institutes. 

After graduating in December 2017, Manny began working at the Coca-Cola Company as a digital business analyst in their marketing department. Manny was also the alumni spotlight for March of 2017, but after updating 21st Century Leaders of his new position at The Coca-Cola company we were eager to learn how 21CL prepared him for this point in his career journey. Read Manny’s first alumni spotlight post here.

Thank you, Manny, for sharing your leadership with 21CL!

Is there a piece of knowledge or a lesson that you learned from 21CL that you have put to use at your job at Coca-Cola? 

I would say the one thing that I learned from 21CL is how important diversity of thought is in both my personal and professional life. I encountered so many different types of people years ago at Leadership Unplugged (now Turner Voices Youth Media Institute) that challenged my ideas and mindset in high school. I used that time to not only think critically about my place in the world as a young, black millennial but how my experiences can both mold and help my future career and social goals.

The fact that I still keep up with people I met through 21CL 6 years ago is a testament to the leadership skills the organization cultivates in all its students. We all had concrete goals to be great in our academic lives, and we’ve done that plus more. I can confidently say that 21CL was the first and most important step in developing my love for surrounding myself with people from different backgrounds so then I’m consistently adjusting to how the world changes.

What is something new that you recently learned about leadership?

I wouldn’t say this is something new I’ve learned about leadership, but rather I had to remind myself while I started my career that it is absolutely okay to make mistakes. A lot of people have the assumption that leaders lead effortlessly and without any fault, but that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Some of the best leaders throughout history made mistakes and openly admitted to not having all the answers.

Working with such a big company scared me initially because I was worried that mistaking mistakes would quickly put me on the chopping block. My fears were quickly assuaged by managers who worked hard to develop my technical skills for my current position. They understood where I was coming from, but they also reminded me that leaders make mistakes and by no means is it a demonstration of my intelligence level. I was afraid to make mistakes as a fresh college graduate because I didn’t want coworkers to make judgments about my background, but so far I’ve had no reason to worry about that. I’m very glad to work for a company that works hard to cultivate leadership skills in all its employees, no matter how junior or senior you may be in the hierarchy.

Which of our seven leadership competencies have you used in your workplace recently? 

Action-Oriented. Such a cliche phrase, but I honestly believe “Actions speak louder than words” is the truest statement I’ve seen next to verses in the bible. It’s so easy to speak about what you’ll do for someone, but it’s another thing to put weight behind what you promise. In the workplace, you need those action-oriented people that’ll stick their necks out to get stuff done. Whether it’s going the extra mile to finish a presentation, or making an extra call to someone to make sure you’ve obtained all the information, your actions prove your worth in the workplace.

I do preface that by saying it’s necessary to work smarter, not necessarily harder. Staying hours after you were supposed to leave, in my opinion, doesn’t prove your work ethic but rather a lack of time management. It’s absolutely vital to put your mental and physical health first in the workplace as you won’t be able to produce quality work unless you’re at your absolute best. I’ve learned that the hard way since starting full time in January.

Are you an alumni of 21st Century Leaders and want to be featured in the next Alumni Spotlight? Update us on where you are now.