Eli Benitez

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As a Community Builder, Eli helps our Membership team find the right people to bring into our community. He’s passionate about a clean database and finding new tools to help the team reach potential members.

Eli is a native Austinite. He graduated from Texas State University in 2007 with a B.A. in Communication Studies and also holds a Master’s degree in Education Technology from Texas State University. He enjoys educating kids and volunteers as Math tutor. He recently spent the last two years in the software industry as a sales development researcher and a product support specialist.

Quick facts about Eli:

  • He loves listening to live punk rock music, collecting vinyl records, and jogging.
  • His favorite sports team is the Dallas Mavericks. So naturally, he has a chocolate lab mix named after their star player, Dirk Nowitski.
  • He’s also into flying model helicopters.

As a Moderator, Jeff helps our SocialMedia.org members get the most value out of their membership. He enjoys building relationships and making sure members are comfortable with sharing ideas, asking questions, and making connections with other members.

Jeff graduated from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, with a degree in journalism. He worked as a reporter for both a weekly and daily newspaper, and also wrote for an insurance trade magazine for Crain Communications. In other parts of his career, he handled auto claims for Progressive Insurance and worked in public relations, marketing, social media, and digital content at Zurich Insurance. In fact, he’s a former SocialMedia.org member!

Jeff grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but has moved as far north as Superior, Wisconsin, and as far south as Durham, North Carolina. Now, he lives in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, a literal stone’s throw from Wrigley Field, with his lovely wife, Kristi, and their son, Declan. And yes, he’s a fan of the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Bulls.

Quick facts about Jeff:

  • He met his wife, Kristi, at a Grizzly Bear concert at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park and proposed to her on the very spot they met.
  • Jeff played lacrosse at Western Illinois University.
  • He also won a Virginia Press Association award for feature writing.

Paul Castillo

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As the Technology Manager, Paul does his best to keep everything IT related running smoothly at GasPedal. If it’s technology related and broken, he’s the one to fix it. And if something needs improvement, Paul will get it done. He enjoys helping people and solving problems.

Paul came from a help desk background, working at a small business in Georgetown to support onsite IT issues for business and residential clients. He quickly advanced to a lead role and became the go-to guy for everyone in the shop. Paul’s happy to assist co-workers and clients alike, and enjoys working in a challenging and fast-paced environment.

Quick facts about Paul:

  • At two years old, he stuck a fork in a 220V outlet and survived unscathed.
  • He still hosts LAN parties, where his kids have mastered first-person shooter games.
  • At home, Paul says he’s known as the “Troll” dad — he’s constantly messing with his four children and making them laugh.

As a writer for our Communications Team, Bridgette is the voice of our brands, writing communications, blog content, and marketing content. She also helps with copywriting and content strategy for stuff like what you’re reading right now.

Bridgette graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in English, some experience teaching high school, and a cool husband. After college, she began writing for a dental marketing company near Fort Worth. But after moving to the Hill Country, she joined our crew of talented writers and communicators.

Quick facts about Bridgette:

  • She plays banked track roller derby for TXRD’s Rhinestone Cowgirls.
  • Her favorite authors are William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy.
  • It’s “Cude” like “dude,” but with a “C.”

Taylor Deupree

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As Meeting Planner, Taylor handles planning all of the details and logistics needed to make an event run as smoothly as possible, as well as supporting the Senior Event Planner. She juggles several responsibilities, from ordering swag, researching venues, booking reservations, and everything in between for Events.

Taylor graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s degree in literature, and is a proud Banana Slug. Though Taylor is a native-born Texan, she grew up in sunny Southern California and only recently moved to Austin along with her boyfriend, Nick. Before coming back to Texas, she spent two months traveling the country looking for her forever home. After her trip, she accepted an internship with GasPedal and simply never left.

Quick facts about Taylor:

  • She received her Bachelor’s degree in only two years.
  • Her dog’s named after Norah Jones.
  • Don’t get her talking about makeup or else she’ll never stop.

Preston Firestone

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Preston has led human resources and recruiting operations for GasPedal and its clients since 1999. He has served in similar positions with a variety of new media companies as well as traditional consulting enterprises. Preston spent five years on the road with The Vanilla Fudge and raises pet mudsharks. Preston isn’t real, but most job applicants don’t read this far.

Cale Johnson

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As VP of Communications, Cale leads the content team in their mission to create great content, earn loyal fans, and have reasonably non-broken websites. He’s part copywriter, part editor, and part project manager.

Cale has a degree in journalism from Drake University and got his start covering sports for The Des Moines Register. Cale lives with his wife Caroline, son Emory, cat Bella, and dog Ollie — all in an old victorian they’re fixing up. When he’s not working at GasPedal or hammering on his house, he’s probably planning his next national park adventure.

Quick facts about Cale:

  • He owns a lot of flannel — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • His hometown is smaller than yours.
  • He once ate fried butter and lived to tell about it.

Jenny Leman

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As an Executive Assistant, Jenny is part of the energy behind keeping the Operations team and GasPedal functioning efficiently and effectively. Process improvement is the constant motor running in the back of her brain. Smooth and efficient business systems make her want to do cartwheels.

Jenny can often be found wearing many hats at once, sometimes literally. Born in San Antonio, she spent time in Las Vegas as a kid, but never left Austin once she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. Her career started in nutrition as a registered dietitian, but business operations found her quickly. When not in the office at GasPedal, Jenny can be found spending time with her two awesome kiddos or helping nutrition clients improve their health. She feels called to help businesses and people become their best, most healthy version of themselves.

Quick facts about Jenny:

  • She has been playing drums since she was 5 and can be found playing on an Austin Samba drumline around town. Her dad may or may not have played drums for a famous old hippy band.
  • Jenny is a mom to adopted-twin daughters who are known for their hilarious twin banter and impromptu performances.
  • Her favorite sweet treat is an old-fashioned sour cream glazed doughnut and she stays physically active specifically to keep these in her life.

Sam Myrick

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Sam loves stories — both hearing and telling them. It’s why he enjoys his role as one of our Community Evangelists. Every day he gets to hear stories from social media leaders at the world’s biggest brands. Then he tells them stories from the life of SocialMedia.org that communicate what our family is all about.

Sam’s originally from northern Louisiana. He wound up in Austin eleven years ago after falling in love with a native Austinite. (They do exist!) He worked for nine years as a pastor in east Austin before spending a few years in the construction industry. He spends his free time with his wife, two kids, and a Beagle named Willie.

Quick facts about Sam:

  • Sam loves Texas barbecue. But he’s started avoiding it more recently because he’s worried his heart might explode.
  • Sam’s favorite hobby is watching movies at the Alamo Drafthouse. If you don’t think that’s a real hobby like sports or building things, Sam says, “Shut up.”
  • During college, Sam once won his entire dorm’s version of SURVIVOR. It was the TETRIS immunity challenge on NES where he really showed his skills and pulled away from the competition.

Kevin is a VP for GasPedal, and brings with him more than 15 years experience at similar high-growth companies. His main responsibilities here are running accounting, human resources, and technology functions — but he takes great pride in just making sure the trains run on time. He has owned his own businesses, including a consulting practice that helped entrepreneurs and startups succeed in business. He continues to help entrepreneurs by mentoring in his spare time.

Kevin is a fifth-generation Texan who met his wife while they were students at Texas A&M. Together they’ve raised four kids. Along the way, Kevin participated in many activities revolving around kids such as coaching soccer and basketball, serving on the board of the Lake Travis Youth Association, holding various positions in PTAs/PTOs and booster clubs, and as a commissioner on the City of Lakeway Parks and Recreation commission.

Kevin’s passion is helping children in the foster care system. He has served on the boards of Caring Family Network, an Austin-based child placing agency, and Houston-based DePelchin Children’s Center, an accredited foster care and adoption agency with an expertise in trauma. Kevin currently volunteers as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for CASA of Travis County, Inc.

Quick facts about Kevin:

  • He briefly owned the first home run ball hit by a Texas Ranger at Arlington Stadium (Frank Howard, April 21, 1972).
  • He has nine years of restaurant experience, and believes that two years of compulsory restaurant service for people under the age of 22 would benefit society.
  • He is a Microsoft Excel nerd, and takes online Excel classes for fun.

As Content Producer, Kristen supports the team by writing, editing, and coordinating content for our blogs, newsletters, member communications, and public websites. She also manages our social media properties, helps with event marketing, and is even known to break out her graphic design skills now and then.

Kristen is one of the few Chicago natives on the team and will openly brag about her city to anyone who will listen. She received a bachelor’s degree in advertising and design from DePaul University while interning for GasPedal, and, because we all got along so well, she decided to stick around as a full-time part of our crew.

Quick facts about Kristen:

  • She thrives on live music and attends, on average, at least three concerts a month.
  • She owns over 18 wigs (because you never know when a costume opportunity will arise).
  • She once got fourth place in a Ms. Pac Man arcade tournament.

Ryan Ronayne

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As a member of GasPedal’s Membership Team, Ryan helps keep the community healthy for our members by finding other great brands to join their ranks. He’s a liaison for potential members to our communities.

Ryan has a degree in marketing communications from Columbia College Chicago. He completed eight internships during his collegiate career, including his favorite at GasPedal. After getting over his sports interest (five internships), he started his career here using his communication skills to find other talented social media leaders to join SocialMedia.org. He loves living in Austin and enjoys the local food trucks and sporting events.

Quick facts about Ryan:

  • He went 3-0 in the Taco Bell Saucy Sprint mascot races at Minute Maid Park.
  • Even though he’s now two inches taller than Ryan, he’ll always call his younger brother “smalls.”
  • He volunteers weekly to jog dogs around Town Lake.

Kayal Rajendran

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As a Moderator, Kayal engages social media brand leaders in valuable conversations that impact their daily work life or simply teach them something new. She builds relationships with members and strives to provide them the most valuable, enjoyable experience possible.

Kayal graduated with a Public Relations degree from the University of Texas at Austin (hook’ em!). She moved to Dallas shortly after and worked on content programming at a trade association for semiconductor companies and for an events producer. It was during this time that she grew a passion for helping business leaders showcase their innovative ideas and connecting them with fellow peers.

She is beyond excited to return to her college city as part of the SocialMedia.org team.

Quick facts about Kayal:

  • She was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, and appreciates all things Northeast related.
  • She never goes a day without drinking coffee.
  • Her favorite movie is You’ve Got Mail.

Eric Seaman

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Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Eric earned a B.A in English from Monmouth College and then a M.A in writing from Bradley University, focusing on anti-foundational rhetoric. Since college, Eric has worked in a wide array of professions, from carpenter, to video store clerk, to flight attendant, to high school English teacher, to adjunct professor. After teaching at Bradley University, Eric and his wife then moved to Texas, so she could stay home with their now three children.In Texas, Eric started as a scheduler at a small tech company and worked his way up to Director of Operations — before receiving the greatest opportunity of his career to come to GasPedal. Eric loves the intricacies of systems and processes, believing that even the best process can be made more efficient. More than working with data, Eric loves the rewards of working with a collaborative team and thrives off of the give-and-take of candid discussion.

Quick facts about Eric:

  • His children are named after the greatest guitarist of all time, a house of chicken n’ waffles, and a state flower.
  • You can look for him on HGTV’s House Hunters. No, seriously.
  • Eric is a self-proclaimed grill-master.

Andy Sernovitz

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Andy Sernovitz builds organizations that help people help each other. His company, GasPedal, builds peer-to-peer communities for people leading meaningful change at the world’s biggest companies. He wrote the best-selling book Word of Mouth Marketing, which teaches you how to rally fans for your business, your art, or your cause.

GasPedal runs SocialMedia.org and SocialMedia.org Health, and is creating communities for people leading sustainability, wellness, and other mission-driven initiatives.

Andy taught word of mouth marketing at Northwestern University and internet entrepreneurship at the Wharton School of Business. He’s a serial entrepreneur who founded and advises many startups and nonprofits. And he’s a rabid purist on the topic of marketing ethics.

Quick facts about Andy:

  • He has testified before Congress three times.
  • He was on the Ali G Show.
  • He once sauntered 32 miles around the coast of Manhattan.

Rhea Somaney

LinkedIn
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As a Community Manager, Rhea’s passion lies in relationship building and learning what makes people tick. She loves figuring out what makes someone happier — and then doing it.

Born and raised in North Texas, Rhea studied public relations and business at The University of Texas at Austin and has lived here ever since. A common thread throughout her career thus far has been her involvement in social media. It was during this time that she realized what she loved the most was what social media represents — connecting people with people.

When she’s not working, you can probably find Rhea exploring the Austin food scene, queuing up the latest psych thriller on Netflix, or trying to finish one of the many books on her To-Be-Read list.

Quick facts about Rhea:

  • She recently came back from a year abroad in Mumbai, India. The thing she misses the most from her trip is the food.
  • She’s always looking up. Literally. Stargazing is her favorite pastime.
  • Rhea is obsessed with finding the best chips and salsa in Austin. In the meantime, she just makes her own a few times a week.

As our Market Research Analyst, Evette manages and optimizes all of the tech, tools, and toys we get to work with every day.

Evette got her bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of the Philippines before packing her bags and moving halfway across the world for a master’s degree in marketing communications from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She joined GasPedal as an intern and loved it so much, she never left.

Quick facts about Evette:

  • One of her favorite things about living in Chicago is actually the weather.
  • She enjoys going on road trips to watch hockey in all sorts of awesome cities.
  • She once had a speaking part on a Broadway musical.

Sara Smith

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As a Community Evangelist for GasPedal, Sara makes connections and tells our communities stories. She’s responsible for helping social media leaders at big brands and major hospitals understand what our community is all about and inviting them to be a part of it.

Sara is an attorney-turned-storyteller who grew up in a small, Ohio town in the Appalachian Valley. She moved to Austin from Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from law school at Ohio State. Since then, Sara’s helped a number of nonprofits maximize their fundraising potential through relationship and community building and aggressive earned media campaigns. Sara lives in South Austin with her partner and their 10-year-old, poorly behaved dachshund.

Quick facts about Sara:

  • Sara is the world’s biggest Ohio State football fan. Don’t believe her? You should come check out their Christmas decorations next December.
  • Sara is obsessed with creating the perfect bar cart so she can serve guests a world-class cocktail at the drop of a hat.
  • When Sara gets the opportunity, she likes to spend long weekends exploring small Texas towns. So far Wimberley is her favorite.

As the Designer, Peter supports the team by tackling all of the design challenges and odd jobs related to web and print design. His days consist of designing websites from scratch, development, print design, and generally keeping everything looking nice and tidy.

Peter has a degree in sociology from the University of Michigan. He got his first job in graphic design when he started designing and illustrating for the university’s engineering textbooks. Since switching up the scenery with his move to the Austin office, he has found that designing for GasPedal is a lot more interesting than drawing pictures of circuit diagrams.

Quick facts about Peter:

  • He owns a handful of vintage synthesizers and makes electronic music in his spare time.
  • His favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is Total Recall.
  • He runs a record label with some friends called Ways Inner Pass.

Jordan Ynostrosa

LinkedIn
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As a Community Builder, Jordan finds potential members of our community and works with the Development Team to help them join the family.

Jordan grew up in The Colony, a small town north of Dallas. She moved to Austin in 2008 and attended St. Edward’s University where she also played soccer. She graduated with her BBA in Economics and spent a little over two years working in sales development research in the software industry. She also plays rugby for the Austin Valkyries.

Quick facts about Jordan:

  • She loves getting tattoos.
  • She was born with polydactyly on her left hand and her left foot.
  • She was picked to be on stage at a magic show in Disney World once. She had to wear the green Haunted Mask from the TV show Goosebumps and lay under the guillotine.