Kirksey’s Director of Business Development in Central Texas, Janki DePalma, is a recent graduate of the Leadership Austin Essential program, strengthening her understanding of the issues impacting the city of Austin.

Leadership Austin is a non-profit organization defined by its mission to develop leaders who love the city it’s named after. Through connection and engagement, groups of professionals work together to learn, develop new skills, and forge networks with other leaders in the community. As alumni of any of Leadership Austin’s programs, participants are often better stewards of the communities they are part of and inspired to push for sustainable change that benefits all of Austin. 

Essential is a program that connects those in leadership to other leaders outside their experience and influence. Those who complete the Essential program learn a great deal about their personal style of leadership and connect with a diverse group of leaders to help broaden each participant’s perspective. Janki saw Leadership Austin’s benefits firsthand after her husband was part of the 2015 class and noted how he grew throughout the coursework. “It really draws from a borad cross-section of folks in the area, which means you get a wide variety of perspectives,” Janki noted. “I focus a lot on empathy and why people think the way they do, so I wanted to be part of a program that explored the systemic issues that face Austin and get perspectives from people with those lived experiences.”

"We are so proud of Janki for being one of 38 people accepted into the 2023 Leadership Austin class. Not only has this program allowed her to grow her leadership skills, but it has also allowed her to develop a strong understanding of the issues facing our city and to cultivate relationships with other leaders eager to make a positive impact. This kind of insight is so valuable to Kirksey as we strive to design projects that address the unique needs of the community," said David Dalton, Director – Central Texas. "We also think it's so important to never stop learning, and Janki is a great champion of this ethos."       

After going through the program herself, Janki felt it lived up to her expectations. “Our class had people in finance, healthcare, education, and other areas that brought some really unique perspectives,” Janki remarked, “We talked about so many important issues, including historic policy decisions, the mistrust that many communities experience following these decisions, and how we, as leaders, can make more informed decisions.”

The real benefits of being part of such a diverse and varied group of professionals are the intangibles each participant leaves with upon graduation. For Janki, one of the new perspectives she walked away with was rather straightforward but enlightening. “There’s never a simple answer, and knowing that, acknowledging it, really opens up the conversation,” Janki said, “No one is a one-dimensional caricature, and making connections with the people in the cohort is priceless.”

“I would definitely recommend this program to anyone with a leadership role in their firm or community,” said Janki. Her takeaways from the program helped broaden her perspectives on how to lead and gave her new tools to confront uncomfortable discussions and complicated issues. “During the course, I started to see how all the pieces of our city come together - governance, justice, education, and healthcare - and how big issues like racial inequity affect so many aspects of the world. It’s a powerful program, and I am honored to be part of this year’s cohort.”