You may remember that Maria Centeno, Head of Procurement at SoFi, was featured in a SoFi-ety Blog a few years ago, sharing her advice for female leaders. We had the opportunity to check in with Maria again and do a deeper dive on her thoughts around representation of women in the finance industry. In this Q&A, we discuss her team, how SoFi supports female leaders, and her aggressive goals for growth on our procurement team. 🎉
Describe your team for us.
At SoFi Procurement, we try to create an atmosphere where we’re all able to communicate and support each other. We all have different backgrounds and we are distributed geographically. We dedicate time in our staff meetings and 1:1s to get to know each other, share likes, dislikes, and keep up with current events. We are an opinionated bunch and we welcome that. At the same time, we want to create a safe environment where every opinion is valued and respected.
Talk about your aggressive goals for growth in procurement.
Well, as any “first” person to create a function, the ambition starts with trying to bring it to life, be relevant, and ultimately drive value and impact. I have developed my career in Procurement in hyper-growth organizations and in this environment it is imperative to have a plan. For example, remembering to take a manageable number of steps at a time (I was going to say “one step at a time”, but that does not reflect reality). Additionally, building a team that can take inspiration from the company’s ambitious goals and be great people leaders. Procurement is a function where compliance takes an important role. I want to also emphasize that SoFi Procurement is on a mission to serve all of our business functions to maximize value in their relationships with suppliers. We strive to keep our business partners compliant and within budget.
How do you hope to see SoFi supporting female leaders?
The sky's the limit. Finance organizations in general can be e male-dominated. Research clearly indicates that women are underrepresented in finance leadership roles and there are a myriad of reasons. It starts with fewer women pursuing finance majors and careers. SoFi has taken an intentional approach like publishing blogs just like this one, to fix this problem and I believe our leadership is genuinely committed to continually investing and promoting women’s career paths in our organization. Personally and professionally I approach these matters as a negotiation, let’s put our best interests first, regardless of gender, race or anything else; if we genuinely support one another and work towards a common goal, we can better learn and appreciate our differences.
What are the benefits at SoFi that you appreciate?
Real dedication to coaching, developing and mentoring employees at all levels. The programming offered such as SoFi GROW is evidence of this. Additionally, SoFi’s commitment to fostering social interaction even in a remote work environment—from our online celebrations to the virtual finance coffee pairings—all with the goal of helping us build relationships with colleagues that we may not see in the office on a daily basis.
Who is an inspiration to you and why?
I admire resilience and believe this is something that we as humans should learn and cultivate. Life can throw many things at us and we need to be prepared, to cope, to grieve, and to keep on living. There are many people who have inspired me, but one that has stayed with me for life is Bishop Desmod Tutu’s beautiful sermon called “Hope Prevails Over Despair.” It has served as a life motto to this day.
Thank you, Maria, for leading the charge as one of our internal “faces of finance”!! We are so lucky to have you at SoFi.