Michelle Oliva, MBA, PCC

Industry Experience & Specializations

  • Public sector: Federal and state agencies
  • Non-profits (US and international NGOs)
  • Higher education (including University of Virginia)
  • Private sector: Small businesses to multi-nationals
  • Management consulting & international development
  • Previous professional experience included US- and overseas-based roles, e.g. as team lead and organizational development advisor for a $65 million, 5-year USAID project in East Africa, and as director of finance and operations for a $13 million project in Malawi. Clients/partner organizations in financial services, agribusiness, media, and nonprofits
  • International experience in more than 15 countries across North America, UK and Europe, East and Southern Africa, Central America, and South Asia


  • MBA, ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain
  • Scholar-in-Residence, Institute for Engagement & Negotiation, University of Virginia
  • BA, Music Performance, Manhattan School of Music, New York
  • Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching, Institute for Transformational Leadership, Georgetown University

Coaching Certifications

  • International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach – PCC
  • Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (Jack Kornfield/Tara Brach), Greater Good Science Center, University of California at Berkeley
  • Certified Practitioner: Leadership Circle Profile 360, TetraMap and Coaching Mindset Index (CMI)
  • Specialty Areas:
  • Finding/Embodying Your Purpose
  • Mindful Leadership, State of Mind
  • Working with Uncertainty and Ambiguity
  • Removing Self-Doubt
  • Cultivating Self-Awareness, Emotional Intelligence
  • Mission/Values-Driven Leadership
  • Organizational, Leadership & Team Development
  • Onsite, Virtual & Blended Learning Design & Delivery
  • Cross/Multi-Cultural Collaboration


Executive/Leadership Coach, Facilitator & Trainer| LinkedIn

Michelle Montserrat Oliva, MBA, PCC has coached, trained, and advised leaders and teams for over 15 years, partnering with corporate, nonprofit, and public sector organizations across the US and internationally. She holds an Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University and an MBA from ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Since serving as a US Peace Corps volunteer, Michelle has worked in more than 15 countries across North America, UK and Europe, East and Southern Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and has lived in Argentina, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, and Spain.

As an International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach (PCC), she brings her experience listening, learning, and adapting to a range of cultures and operating contexts, and when relevant, applying the insights that the creative arts, neuroscience, and the contemplative sciences can offer us as leaders and members of a compassionate, interconnected society. Applying her experiences facing complex, systemic, global challenges, she supports leaders to see possibilities and uncover creative solutions through an abundance mindset, to stay resilient and centered in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

A conservatory-trained musician (Manhattan School of Music), after a 20-year hiatus, she returned to music in 2017, expanding from her classical roots to free improvisation and composition. Michelle is a lifelong student of insight meditation and mindfulness with a commitment to learning and supporting racial, social & economic equity and justice through work and community, including pro bono service. She logged more than 20,000 kilometers in self-drive 4x4 road trips across Southern Africa, and is a rescue scuba diver. Michelle volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the SPCA, and through fun, creative outlets such as Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW), and as a guest teaching artist with local music education programs. Walking is her best medicine (Hippocrates). She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Proudest Professional Achievement and Why? 

I am most appreciative of everything I have gained -- the diversity of insights, perspectives, and values – through relationships built while living and working across East and Southern Africa, and elsewhere internationally. In roles supporting the leadership and organizational development of NGOs and businesses, I have learned:

  • To uncover creative solutions, stay resilient and compassionate, and celebrate the small successes while working through complex bureaucratic, political, cultural, and systemic obstacles.
  • The power of the mindset shift from driver to advisor, from knowing to curiosity, seeing the results when an individual is empowered, supported and resourced to succeed.

Proudest Personal Achievement and Why? 

Becoming comfortable walking my own path, slowing down enough to listen to my heart, and balancing the intuitive with the rational mind. One example is returning to music performance after a 20-year hiatus, learning to overcome performance anxiety, to play for the love and joy of the experience, and to express my own musical voice through improvisation.

Three words someone else would use to describe me:

purpose-driven, creative, reflective

I have made meaningful connections and contributions to loved ones, community, and society….and spent a moment or many outside walking

Favorite Quote:

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves.
-Carl Jung

Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.  
-Pema Chödrön

Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
-Miles Davis