Ed Mejia sees the world differently. As far as he can remember, he’s always been curious about how things looked and why they look that way.
“I always had a visual interest, I always knew how things looked and I always questioned whether they were authentic or good,” Ed said.
Ed may not have a photographic memory, but he does remember watching shows like M*A*S*H at a young age and pointing out faults based on the show’s landscapes.
“Every time the helicopters would come over the hills I thought, ‘Supposedly this show is set in Asia somewhere, but I know those hills, those are the San Bernardino Mountains in Los Angeles,’ and I knew that was a lie they were telling.” Ed said.
This month will mark Ed’s fifth year working at Nelnet. As an art director in the marketing department, his everyday duties vary from tasks like graphic design, to creative concepting and shooting photos for projects like Humans of Nelnet. Ed’s penchant for seeing the truth behind visuals has helped him become successful, but Ed also draws from other experiences that brought another skill to the table.
“Learning English was a big part of why I went into what I do. I like words, semantics, and language, and I think the idea of advertising and design kind of melded with visuals,” Ed said. “I like the idea of playing with words, and everyone knows I do dad jokes and puns, because I think that’s just how you learn a language a lot of times. You associate words with visuals and use mnemonic devices to remember them.” (Like using “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” to remember cardinal directions.)
In addition to learning English as his second language, Ed’s family also moved around a lot when he was little. While switching schools can be intimidating, Ed used this as an opportunity to develop his social skills and turn them into a valuable asset for his future.
“I was a shy kid. Being the new kid at a lot of schools forced me to step outside and be comfortable around other people,” Ed said. “So you meld all that people-sided stuff, empathy, visual acumen, and a mastery of language, and you get where I am now or what I’ve made a career out of.”
Though he has a degree in illustration from Union College in Lincoln, Ed credits a lot of his learning to observing the people he’s worked with, how they do things, and how they think. One of the ways he has found success is by observing the proper way to do something, and then putting in the work necessary to proficiently do it on his own.
“Almost everything I do know I’ve learned from observing others,” Ed said. “One thing that has helped my ability to see things and remember them, is that I learned almost everything I do by watching someone else do it.”
Working at Nelnet has provided Ed with a balance of flexibility and stability. He loves how his coworkers are great communicators who can play to one’s strengths instead of zeroing in on their weaknesses.
“The core values of the company trickle down throughout. The people treat you with respect, and a lot of times they want you to be happy so you can kind of customize your role to your strengths,” Ed said. “You want that type of flexibility and stability in a workplace. We have both and it’s nice.”
When asked for words of wisdom, Ed stressed that it’s important to pursue your passions. Furthermore, you have to be honest with yourself and figure out if you can turn what you’re passionate about into a career, or if you need to find something else that you can enjoy working at every day.
“It helps when you know yourself really well, and sometimes that means getting feedback from others, cause we all see ourselves as amazing people or terrible people, so get some level-setting feedback from people or mentors you trust,” Ed said. “Even seasoned pros like me need a mentor – I have several. There are lots of people out there, so go find them.”
If you see Ed around, ask him about the Oakland Raiders and his collection of Nelnet-branded clothing. He’s sure to greet you with a “dad joke”, brag about his fantasy football success, or discuss Enneagram personality types with you.