Expanding the Horizons of the Friendly Skies

Barbara Quiroga | Photo: Judy Ondrey

Moving from Mexico to the States, Barbara Quiroga is no stranger to expanding her horizons. Now she’s helping Delta Airlines do the same, making Latin American culture a priority at the company.

Before joining the airline industry, Barbara Quiroga worked in Mexico, in the treasury area of one of the largest cement companies in the world. Determined to broaden her horizons, she completed her MBA at Chicago’s Loyola University and was quickly recruited by Northwest Airlines to be a part of their financial planning and analysis team. Her strong background soon came into play. “After a year there, I transitioned into the corporate finance and capital markets team within treasury as a senior analyst,” Quiroga says. Fortunate circumstances gave her the chance to continue climbing the corporate ladder. “Sometimes the opportunities don’t come and it’s hard for people to move straight up in their own organization, but I was lucky that I was able to,” she recalls.

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Strive to deliver above expectations.

Always asking why and thinking outside the box.

Taking the right path, not the
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Always part of my culture, my language, and my background.

The airline industry is no stranger to mergers and acquisitions, and Northwest merged into Delta. As the two groups brought their treasury teams together, Quiroga says she was offered her current position of director of cash operations at the new company. Though different from her work in capital markets, Quiroga was able to remain in treasury. “I took the challenge,” she says. “I moved the whole family to Atlanta and I’ve been in this role since the merge.” While more operational than capital markets, Quiroga says she loves the group and her new focus. “I still love treasury, and I’ve been able to develop good projects and a good team within Delta.”

After getting settled into her new role at Delta, Quiroga turned her attention to the local nonprofit scene in Atlanta. She was eager to participate in the community and felt that her children were now old enough to be more independent, giving her time to make valuable contributions at the board level. The right organization just happened to be located in Atlanta. “I was lucky to find an opportunity to be a part of the board of the Instituto de Mexico,” Quiroga says. She’s the current board chair, and her enthusiasm for the group’s mission is apparent. “Through events and our involvement with museums, consulates, and different organizations, we promote the culture of Mexico,” she explains. Being from Mexico originally, it’s a cause that’s very dear to her.

Another group she has become involved with is the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI). After being encouraged by a friend to apply for the organization’s program, she was accepted and Delta supported her participation. “It’s one of the best leadership programs I’ve ever done, and I was lucky to have a really nice group of women that did the program with me,” she says. About two dozen leading Latinas—typically in the mid-to upper-management tiers—are chosen each year, and Quiroga says her group represented a great cross section. “It was a nice pool of different backgrounds, and it changed my life,” she says of her participation in the program.

Part of the NHLI program’s aim is for participants to contribute back to their community. When prompted for her plan at the end of the program, Quiroga knew exactly what she wanted to do. “My plan was to enhance the Latin American employee network within Delta,” she says. The company’s business resource groups needed a boost, and Quiroga was just the person to do it. “I’m an advisor now for the Latin America Hispanic Employee Network (LAHEN) within Delta, and I try to create opportunities for people to network and grow,” she says. Speakers are invited in at least four times a year, and the presenter program has encouraged a robust Hispanic network inside the company.

One of the challenges Quiroga encountered when ramping up the Hispanic Network program was that Delta had never focused much of their attention to the Hispanic market. The revamp of the Latin America business unit as well as the hiring of a new vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean helped to expand that scope. “It brought a whole new focus on Latin America that Delta didn’t have before,” Quiroga says. She saw it as a perfect opportunity to transition toward a cohesive internal network that measurably contributes back to the business. “We have monthly meetings with the Latin America business unit, and they share their goals and objectives with us,” Quiroga says. LAHEN also participated in the creation of an ambassador program, with the goal of teaching employees about the Latin culture to better serve their Latino customers