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James O’Leonard

CEO at PEAK 15 Systems

The growing number and success of software companies in Carlsbad is helping to put the city’s name on the national tech community’s map. But what sets Carlsbad’s tech scene apart from other national hubs is the employee and company culture of businesses in this city.

We had the chance to speak with Active Ambassador James O’Leonard, who founded his own software company, PEAK 15 Systems, right here in Carlsbad. PEAK 15 exemplifies the positive employee culture and work-life balance that sets Carlsbad apart from other tech hubs.

“PEAK 15 is like for the travel industry. We are a cloud service that lets travel companies plan itineraries, book on their website, and manage all of the accounting.


O’Leonard founded the company in 2006 when he realized there was something missing from the travel industry.

“I was born in the travel industry,” O’Leonard said. “I had flown around the world before I was the age of one. I combined that passion with my professional experience in software to found the company.”

James worked in Silicon Valley at software companies before moving to Carlsbad.

“I left the Bay Area because it wasn’t the best place to raise our family. It’s very difficult to have a work-life balance in Silicon Valley,” he said. “My wife looked at weather statistics between San Diego and Portland, and so we decided on San Diego. Within San Diego, we went to Carlsbad because that’s where the company I ended up working for initially was.”

Once James settled in Carlsbad, he said it felt like home, and a place where he felt like he could start his own successful business.

As CEO, James gets to oversee all aspects of his growing business.

“My favorite part of my role is the opportunity to help our customers who are creating really amazing travel experiences,” James said. “We get to be an extension of their team which is my number one motivation.”

Another one of James’ favorite parts of being CEO at PEAK 15 is engaging and collaborating with his employees.

“There’s a real diverse set of employees in terms of age and where they are in life,” he said. “We have younger folks who are unmarried, we have folks with young kids. We work hard but we also want to have an environment where we have a work-life balance, which is important to our culture.”

James said the company hosts several fun activities, such as sailing on the San Diego Bay or going to the Del Mar Racetrack for an afternoon to promote a positive employee culture.

To stay in shape, O’Leonard takes advantage of Carlsbad’s nice weather and abundance of parks.

“I ride my bike to the office as many days as possible, which is unique to Carlsbad. It keeps me fit on the weekdays,” he said. “I play pick up soccer on Saturday and on Sunday I play competitively in a league.”

James said the culture in Carlsbad is one of the reasons he likes living and working in the city so much, especially because of the diversity of companies here.

“I find it so invigorating that there’s not just one industry that dominates Carlsbad,” O’Leonard pointed out. “When I was living and working in Silicon Valley, every company was a software company. In Carlsbad, we have that and life sciences and defense contractors and active sports and golf equipment companies. It makes for a diverse business community.”

O’Leonard ended by telling us a story about what made him realize Carlsbad is unlike any other place to live and work:

“I’m also a surfer, and when I was at my previous company several other people in the office would surf in the morning before work. While we were surfing, of my colleagues from Boston turned to me and said, ‘What would be a good exercise in the gym to be in better shape for surfing?’ As a native Californian, you think ‘Why don’t you just surf more?’ We forget that in a lot of other places the window of time for you to be able to do the activity you love is narrow. If you live in northeast you can only surf five months a year, so you’re constantly thinking about how to stay in shape for the activity, but in Carlsbad you can do all the activities you want year-round.”

If you work in Carlsbad and want to become an Active Ambassador or know someone who demonstrates the Carlsbad spirit of Life in Action, learn more here.

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