Meet Our SoFi-ety: Head of Procurement, Maria Centeno

SoFi’s mission is at the center of how we serve our members, as we work toward helping them achieve financial independence to realize their ambitions. We’re proud to come to work every day knowing that what we do has a direct impact on people’s lives, with our core values guiding us every step of the way. 

Each month, we celebrate one of the 11 core values that make us who we are. In March 2021 it was “Do the right thing. If you aren’t sure, do the harder thing”. Our Employee Experience team sat down with Maria Centeno, Head of Procurement at SoFi and Galileo, who shares how she leads with this value and how her team’s work supports our efforts to build our business on trust and integrity. 

Maria, welcome to SoFi! Before we get into talking about our value of the month, we want to get to know you! First things first, what is your guilty pleasure?

Maria: Ufff so many things, I love going on hikes or “nature walks” as my sons call them. In the Bay Area, we are surrounded by beautiful State Parks with plenty of redwoods and around the rainy season, we love to hike trails and count how many banana slugs we see in the way. I also love to plan (and execute!) over the top parties for my kids; also in that theme, we love to dress up in superhero costumes; with two young boys there is a lot of justice league going on at the moment.

What attracted you to SoFi? Why did you decide to join? 

Maria: At the time that I joined, SoFi was a privately-held company (Readers - we recently went public, learn about it here). I had never had the experience of working at a company that was marching toward going public. The vast majority of my career has been at tech companies in the Bay Area. The financial services aspect was also very attractive, as a new area to learn and stretch myself professionally. SoFi’s mission to help empower individuals with their finances and their expansion plans in LATAM were also convincing points to make my decision. 

Tell us what your team does and how it supports our mission. 

Maria: I would like to think of SoFi Procurement as the translation of “Get Your Money Right” at the company level -- we want to enable our business partners and internal customers to make savvy investment decisions when partnering with suppliers that will help them to meet their business objectives. Also, beyond negotiations and savings (one of our main metrics) we want to ensure that all our purchases are compliant with all our internal processes and procedures, which will become even more important as we become public and scale to be one of the top 10 financial institutions in the country.

You’re building a team here, that is so exciting. What characteristics do you look for when you hire? 

Maria: I am building the team, but together we are building a function.  That’s why for me, it is very important that we have tenured individuals that are not afraid to do different things, as well as to design a procurement function that serves our internal customers at SoFi. I am looking for flexibility, ability to execute, creativity and a high sense of customer service. Our success will be directly related to providing a great service to all our business partners across all functions.

What do you want Procurement at SoFi to be known for? 

Maria: We want SoFi Procurement to be seen as valued partners that will enable supplier selection and negotiations to support your overall business objectives, while assuring best market value and innovation. Procurement will also serve as your quarterback to help you navigate through our company procedures when it comes to fund approvals, purchases and contract compliance.

When you think of Doing the Right Thing, what’s the one thing employees should consider when thinking about Doing the Right Thing as it pertains to procurement. 

Maria: Get your money right! Ha! That’s the thing that most resonates with me and the Procurement function. We are enabling all our members to Get Their Money Right and the same concept applies to company funds when engaging suppliers. Think about Procurement as your ally to make sure that you are making savvy decisions on the purchases of goods and services that you need to meet your company goals.

Doing the right thing is one of our company values at SoFi. What are some of your personal values that you live by? 

Maria: While I have developed my career in business, I am an Engineer by trade. A “motto” which is actually a mathematical fact, that I find myself repeating constantly to direct reports, peers, customers and leaders is, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line”. I use transparency and openness to avoid over complicating things.  It helps in many aspects in life, especially in negotiations, whether it is an extremely complicated deal or convincing your 6 year old to go to bed at a reasonable time (high stakes negotiation right there…)

You are a female leader in a male-dominated industry. What advice do you have for other women looking to lead? 

Maria: That question makes me smile. Yes, I am a female leader in a profession, and an industry, that tends to be male dominated. There is also intersectionality of many other aspects: I am a minority, I am an immigrant and, for me, the most important aspect of all: I am a parent. The advice is to remain true to yourself, and do not accept any compromises in your career for being any of that. Do not “act” like anything you are not. Your creativity, experience and uniqueness are built - and not lessened - by all those aspects. It requires building self confidence and flexing that muscle, but once you are comfortable in your own skin and with what you bring to the table, it becomes a super power… did I tell you about the superhero costume? :)

Inspiring advice, Maria. We are so grateful you are a part of the SoFi Family.  We look forward to growing with you and the Procurement team.

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The individual featured is a SoFi employee. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.

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Kari Scheidt, Talent Brand @ SoFi