Change is never easy, so when Ada Ortega was hired to transform the Vendor Management Office for Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, she knew she had her work cut out.
“There was a vendor management team servicing the information technology organization in a limited capacity. The bank understood the need to mature the team and to broaden the scope across the bank,” Ortega says. “They tapped me for the role, and I came in to introduce new technology, new processes, and new talent to transform the group. It wasn’t always easy, and we continue to adapt but I’m proud of the work that we have accomplished at the bank, and we’re seeing success day after day.”
Ortega herself is no stranger to change. In her more than twenty-five years of working in the business and high tech industries, a lot has changed faster than ever before. Personal computers were very limited, so most people still relied on typewriters. Although the Internet had been invented, it was not yet widely available, so research was still largely a very manual and research-intensive process.
Finally, opportunities for women and diverse groups were really limited, and it’s this last issue that Ortega herself has worked especially hard to change. Her efforts have involved mentoring and coaching young women, developing and leading corporate supplier diversity programs, and serving on the bank’s diversity and inclusion council.
In her current role, Ortega is responsible for managing the supplier diversity policy and program, for performing supplier outreach, and being the liaison between the bank and its suppliers. “We also build relationships with diverse business associations, helping diverse businesses understand how to do business with the bank,” she says.
Ortega found this responsibility a very natural fit for her role as vice president of strategic sourcing and vendor management, and she partners with human resources, who is responsible for the overall Minority and Women Inclusion program at the bank.
The bank’s diversity and inclusion council, by contrast, is a way for Ortega to help promote diversity within the bank itself, on a more internal level. Ortega believes these kinds of inclusion programs are important no matter what industry.
“Diversity helps drive competition in the purchase of goods and services. It also helps demonstrate a company’s interest in the economic growth of diverse businesses as well as the workforce it employs,” Ortega says. “It also can help to improve a company’s business since many customers purchase from businesses that are socially conscious and who make an effort to contract with diverse businesses.”
Rather than a single moment in her life that inspired her to fight for increased diversity in the workplace, Ortega was more affected by the people she worked with. “I think it had more to do with my engagement working with diverse businesses in my past positions,” Ortega says. “They’ve always demonstrated their commitment and enthusiasm in providing quality goods and services and that really provides motivation to support these businesses.”
In addition to being inspired by the diverse workforce she was fortunate enough to have access to, Ortega has had one other very influential motivator to be more active when it came to reaching out to women and minorities in business: her daughters.
“As a Latina woman in business, I’ve raised three daughters, and that’s pretty much all the inspiration I needed,” Ortega says. “The business world is always changing through technology, so it’s really imperative that we educate our children in this regard. You couple that with the barriers that are really out there for women and all diverse persons, and it makes this a critical topic. I think we need to embrace it, and we need to work to tear down the barriers that exist.”
Education is among the foremost of Ortega’s concerns when it comes to breaking through those barriers, along with internship programs and mentoring. “I believe if we focused on these areas, it would help provide the tools necessary for them to succeed in this ever-changing business world that we have,” Ortega says.
The idea that giving people the proper tools to succeed on their own applies to more than increasing diversity in the workplace—it is also Ortega’s preferred management style when leading her team.
“I want to empower and encourage my team to be the best they can be, and I want them to have the right tools to succeed,” Ortega says. “Something I always instill in them is that, if there is a problem, I encourage them to try to find solutions to those problems and present those. We always look to engage top-notch talent at the bank, so I’m very confident that the team can deliver on those and at the highest level.”