My First Job: Olga Placeres

The President and CEO of Preferred Travel of Naples learned sweet lessons from her time typing checks as a student.

Olga Placeres [PHOTO BY: Brian Tietz]

“I was still in high school and worked part-time at a health insurance company in Miami, typing claim checks back in 1976. The gentleman who owned that company was very caring. He traveled a lot, but every time he came to the office, he made it a point to come to me and ask about my day and what my plans for the future were.

He would come in after he had been traveling for a while and just say, ‘OK, time to stop and go for an ice cream break,’ and he’d take the six of us next door to the counter at Howard Johnson’s and treat us to ice cream in the afternoon. He would say, ‘we’re taking 20 minutes just to have fun and chat.’ That stuck with me for so many years.

I learned a lot from him, including what I would like to instill in my staff: work hard but also have fun. It just takes a few minutes to take your work hat off and have a laugh. 

It was a very responsible job and I was the youngest one on staff. I stayed with the company for four years until they moved out of town. I learned a lot there because they were open and cared to give me an opportunity, which was nice. When I left there, I was office manager and leading a team of 12 employees—all of whom were much older than I was—so I had to kick into a very responsible mode as a leader right away. But, I don’t look at it as leading. I look at it as working together to accomplish a common goal, and that’s what [the owner of the company] taught me from the very beginning: We work together, we work hard, and we have fun in a very responsible environment.

By the way, on Fridays, the ice cream outings have translated into an adult version. On Friday afternoons, [the team at Preferred Travel] has a glass of wine.”