By Jessica Mize
Work stress doesn’t get to Leo Moreno.
That’s not because the position he holds as computer systems manager supporting student financials, financial aid and state reporting for the University of Houston System is an easy one – quite the contrary, actually. In fact, while being interviewed for this story, Moreno was simultaneously troubleshooting and investigating a server issue that was impacting the entire main campus.
While others might have been frazzled in that situation, especially first thing on a Monday morning, Moreno stayed calm and collected, never skipping a beat.
“Just another Monday,” he said with a smile.
While some might attribute his cool response to the fact that he’s been with the University since 1994 and has likely seen a little bit of it all over the course of his career, Moreno brings more to the table than just two decades worth of technical and professional knowledge. He also possesses a healthy sense of perspective thanks to his time serving as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I was deployed and stationed in Kuwait right at the start of the war in February 2003,” he said. “I heard an air raid siren within my first 24 hours in the country and the moment just hit me, this is now for real, you are in the line of fire.”
While those attacks only lasted the first few months, his more than year-long deployment did pose other challenges and threats. It’s no wonder, then, that day-to-day dilemmas and stressors around the office can feel like a walk in the park to the native Texan.
Moreno’s grounded approach to work has proven invaluable as he and his team are tasked time and again with tackling extensive projects like the data conversion from the UHD-Banner to PeopleSoft system and set up at the UH main, UH-Victoria and UH-Clear Lake campuses, and the behind-the-scenes implementation and development work for initiatives like the UHin4 fixed rate tuition plan.
Dealing with the financial side of the house, Moreno and his team play a critical role to the University of Houston, as the amount of funding the institution receives from the state ultimately depends on the numbers generated through the data systems they build. One mistake could result in a loss of millions of dollars, but he and his colleagues work tirelessly to successfully divide, conquer and deliver the work together. He and his team work closely with the institutional research group day-to-day, as they are the business owners of the state reports.
“You work for the team as much as they work for you,” said Moreno. “As a manager, you have to make sure they’re taken care of, but you also have to know when to challenge and push them.”
There’s no question Moreno takes his responsibility as a team lead seriously. Originally assigned as an interim role, his supervisors, clearly impressed by his abilities, eventually extended a formal offer to him to permanently fill the position. Moreno graciously accepted and has since made it his priority to guide his team the best he can.
Although now retired from his days in the military, Moreno has implemented some of the routines and practices he learned during that time of his life. For instance, he has a rotating “duty roster” in place for his team that outlines who's in charge, should he be unavailable to make a call at a critical time. This way, work can still get done, and there’s no confusion surrounding responsibilities or proper points of contact. Moreno has made a point to let his team know he’ll support them and the decisions they make, as long as they can justify them.
“If anyone has a problem with something my group’s done, they need to talk to me about it,” he said. “Yell at me, not my team.”
Originally born in Del Rio, Moreno grew up throughout the Rio Grande Valley and spent the bulk of his childhood in Los Fresnos. After high school, he made the choice to enlist in the reserves to help pay for the bachelor’s degree he was working to earn in computer science from Texas A and I University, now known as Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
“I knew when I graduated from high school that I wanted to pursue a field in computers,” said Moreno. “My initial interest stemmed from my love of robotics and Star Wars.”
As hard as he works for the University of Houston, Moreno knows how to have fun, too. When he’s not in the office, he can be found catching a football game or a concert in the area. He was even lucky enough to attend the Super Bowl earlier this year.
“Work is for work; home is for home,” said Moreno. “Everyone needs time and space to decompress and relax.”