Leo Tungaraza — There’s Always More to Learn
By Leo Tungaraza, Senior Business Systems Analyst
In honor of Black History Month, Leo Tungaraza, who joined the San Francisco Fed in May 2021 as a Senior Business Systems Analyst with the Statistics and Reserves (STAR) Central Business Administration Function (CBAF) after 8 years with the St. Louis Fed, describes his childhood, life path, and what Black History Month means to him.
When I was 15, my family and I migrated from Tanzania, East Africa to Columbus, Ohio. Although I missed the environment I grew up in, especially my extended family and friends, I had a very fun and happy childhood. Some of my most memorable times were during the transition as I was adopting, settling, and trying to define myself within American traditions and its culture.
When I was 12 or 13, I was given copies of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The stories were so fascinating that when I joined the St. Louis Fed and moved to St Louis, I spent weekends sitting on the levies of the Mississippi River and thinking of my childhood days reading those stories. I have since visited Mark Twain’s study at Elmira College and Mark Twain’s grave in Elmira, NY.
Both of my parents are educators in higher education so there were a lot of chances to learn and be exposed to other cultures, especially from their colleagues and research associates from around the globe, who would visit our home. I used to quietly sit and listen to their conversation. Afterwards, I would have a long list of questions for my dad about what was discussed that I didn’t understand. My parents instilled in my siblings and me a love and an appreciation for learning, while encouraging us to explore. They didn’t push us into specific disciplines but allowed us to venture into the journey of self-discovery of our interests.
Seeking out and Creating Opportunities
A love for learning has been at the root of my career ever since. What I usually look for in a position are opportunities to learn, collaborate, and improve processes. My current role as Senior Systems Analyst is supporting Statistics Function at the Reserve Banks and the Board in collecting and editing statistical reports received from financial institutions. Additionally, I support the Reserves Administration in calculating and monitoring reserves requirements and balances. This all feeds into the work of monetary policy. The work is interesting, engaging, and fast-paced requiring a lot of collaboration, coordination, and innovation.
When people ask, “What do you do?” I usually provide a random response to gauge their interest. If they’re interested, it might lead to a dialogue. If not, then we’ll talk about something else.
For example, I may say something like, “I work for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.”
“What do you do there?”
“I create Unreserved Opportunities by supporting sustainable economy and support our nation’s financial and payment systems.”
My group, STAR CBAF, works with all 12 Federal Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to support the conduction of monetary policy. When I read the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement or listen to the Chair’s press conference, I can directly tie them to the work I do. When I review the Beige Book or listen to President Mary C. Daly’s interviews on television, I see a reflection of the collaborated work my group and I do in serving the public interest while supporting the Bank’s mission.
When I reflect on my career, I believe everyone I have encountered along the way has played a role — whether intentional or not — in my journey. Every day I am challenged, mentored, taught, counseled, and befriended. All of which has an impact on my career, making it interesting and rewarding.
As someone who joined the SF Fed during the pandemic last May, Mosaic — the Black Professionals Network employee resource group — has been extremely impactful during this point of my career. Mosaic introduced me to the Bank’s culture, connected me with other colleagues outside my department, and provided an opportunity to make a difference outside of my daily responsibilities.
Looking Back to Strive for a Better Tomorrow
There’s a message that resonates with me, especially during Black History Month, by Booker T. Washington, who was an educator, author, and prominent leader in the African American community.
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” Booker T. Washington
His words serve as a reminder that the fruit of the obstacles we overcome both personal and profession, as individuals or as Bank and Mosaic members will become not only the success of today, but also the history of tomorrow.
For me, Black History Month has always been a chance to learn and celebrate our history, traditions, and cultures. As people, we have a history of struggles, and yet we have accomplished a lot through resilience and determination. Some of these lessons I learn during the month are so impactful they have a lingering effect on the rest of my year.
I enjoy attending and taking a part in the various events throughout the month. I am fascinated by the diversity of Black Culture — there’s an unspoken rule: be unique and at your best (swag) — and the value of celebration despite the struggles. We are always celebrating, and often with music that has played a part in influencing other genres and cultures. But that’s another story!