Being the Bridge

Beatriz (Bea) Olavarria O’Malley finds ways to facilitate and build the communication paths across the generations

By Billy Yost

“When I hear those who are in senior leadership talk about the privilege of millennials, I usually think back to my own career and realize that we all wanted the same things they want, but we weren’t even allowed to ask,” Beatriz (Bea) Olavarria O’Malley says. The global head of HR Markets at Jefferies has a passion for bridging the gap between experienced leadership and burgeoning talent. “Change is good as long as you’re prepared to work for it; it means if you raise a problem, have viable solutions.”

In becoming a conduit for leaders new and old, Olavarria O’Malley has helped young talent develop a voice through the Jefferies Next Gen Advisory Council and cultivate future financial leaders through a student sponsorship program.

Olavarria O’Malley says that while younger leaders may be asking for more feedback and opportunities earlier in their career, she is glad at how open to change senior leadership is once the problem is identified and solutions are presented. “I think I can be a sounding board for ideas and can then take that to our leaders here,” she says. “Oftentimes it’s just a case of being able to channel ideas correctly.” It’s one of the many ways that Olavarria O’Malley is helping prepare Jefferies’s next generation of leaders.

The head of HR Markets, in conjunction with head of Equities Peter Forlenza, did the lion’s share of establishing Jefferies’s participation with Student Sponsor Partners (SSP), a nonprofit organization focused on educating at-risk New York City students and supporting them through a comprehensive mentorship program. Jefferies is sponsoring eighteen students, which entails paying a portion of their tuition and committing to mentoring them through their four years in high school.

“It’s really turned into a great sponsorship program and it teaches high school students about what a career in finance can really look like,” Olavarria O’Malley says. “I had great mentors who helped me throughout my career, and I’m glad that Jefferies is able to provide the same kind of support for these students.”

“As much of yourself as you can bring to your organization, you should be in a place where that diversity can be appreciated. That’s my passion, and it’s what I really care about.”

When first- and second-year analysts at Jefferies expressed a need to better connect to each other and build out a community of burgeoning leaders, Olavarria O’Malley helped form the Jefferies Next Gen Advisory Council. One of the many initiatives is the creation of a buddy program for new analysts that pairs them with analysts who have just gone through the process instead of more senior managers. “They can ask the dumbest questions they want,” she laughs. “They don’t need to feel embarrassed at all.”

Olavarria O’Malley is on the steering committee of the firm’s newly formed employee network J-NOBLE, the Network of Black and Latino Employees. Earlier this spring, sixty-one prospective freshman and sophomore applicants were selected from across the country and invited to spend a day at Jefferies. Of the sixty-one applicants, twenty were freshman and five of them will be selected to the fellowship program and receive a $2,500 annual stipend. The fellows will participate in developmental programs and be paired with a senior mentor for guidance through their remaining college career.

“Diversity is important to us, and this is an amazing step in the right direction,” Olavarria O’Malley says.

She is driven to continue to create a workplace where all can feel comfortable being themselves. “As much of yourself as you can bring to your organization, you should be in a place where that diversity can be appreciated,” Olavarria O’Malley says. “That’s my passion, and it’s what I really care about.”

Photo: Sheila Barabad

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Our annual class honors esteemed Alumni Society members from a myriad of industries and disciplines. This is not a list but a collective of incredible individuals with a commonality: to lead a mission larger than the roles and responsibilities outlined in any job description. They have a passion for serving the greater good, and they have found a way to align their purpose with their work—an achievement of which most only dream.

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