Meet Latinas of SoFi: Bringing Passion and Purpose to the Workplace

Part of what makes SoFi such a compelling place to work is our commitment to living our core values, one of which is “Embrace Diversity.” A diverse workforce enables us to collaborate, create, and ultimately, accomplish our mission of helping more people achieve financial independence. Our partnership with Latinas in Tech is one of the ways we are further living this value by engaging with talented Latinas across industries. 

Today, we’re introducing you to three Latinas at SoFi who are bringing passion for their culture into the workplace. 

Meet Diana Villanueva, Vice President, Operations Member Experience, Judy Leon, Associate Manager, Originations, and Yesenia Rivera, Employee Experience Program Manager. They are sharing what they believe SoFi is doing well with when it comes to improving Latinx representation at the company, what we can do better, what being a part of SoFi Unidos - our Employee Resource Group -  means to them, and their experiences being Latinas in fintech. 

Let’s start with a round of introductions. Please share why you joined SoFi and more about what you do here!

Diana: I lead a team in Operations that supports our whole team - from Learning and Delivery, Project Management, and Voice of Member to those who manage our Operations locations. I joined SoFi because I was excited to join a company that was taking a new approach to helping people get their money right. Plus, I enjoy being able to see the impact of my work while fostering a culture that is driven by our core values

Judy: I joined SoFi seven years ago. At the time, it was a new start-up company offering only Student Loan Refinancing, Personal Loans, and Mortgages. I knew I wanted to be a part of the growing online lending experience.  I now oversee the Funding and Identity Review department that performs the final review before funding our Student Loans, Personal Loans, Private Student Loans, and SoFi at Work products. 

Yesenia: I am coming up on my third year at SoFi this September! I am an Employee Experience Program Manager and help partner with senior leaders to advocate and prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusionary strategic work. My passion is to ensure that not only does everyone have a seat at the table, but a voice so that all employees are able to bring their authentic and whole selves to work. I joined SoFi because I wanted to be a part of something different - an organization unique in its industry, where an emphasis on people rather than the bottom line is the driving force. 

Yesenia, in your perspective, what are we doing well when it comes to improving Latinx representation at the company? 

Yesenia:  As an organization, we are investing strategically in propelling DE&I forward by sharing its importance and necessity via different platforms (for example, check out our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website). This is, in my opinion, a fundamental aspect of SoFi`s mission. The work done in this remit only strengthens the dedication that we have to our external members and our internal workforce.

For our Latinx employee community, we see this investment strengthened in our commitments to our Employee Resource Group, called SoFi Unidos, their programming, and resources. From a business perspective, the expansion of our footprint into Latin America has doubled the importance placed on cultural awareness and understanding that the Latinx community is not monolithic; it is multi-faceted, complex, and diverse in its own right. I am proud to work at an organization that sees this and works hard to empower through action.

What can we do better?

Yesenia:  When looking specifically at Latinx representation, we are transparent in our understanding that we have work to do. Our Latinx employee population is a minority within the organization, which is reflective of representation in the industry itself. (Readers, you can see the breakdown of Latinx employees on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion site here). We must continue moving forward to challenge implicit biases, strengthen our inclusive hiring practices, and continue on the path of being an organization that leans into true accessibility, development, and mobility for all. We are invigorated by the challenges ahead because we believe in the importance of living our values each and every day - and as a Latina, how can I not love a good challenge?  

"We must continue moving forward to challenge implicit biases, strengthen our inclusive hiring practices, and continue on the path of being an organization that leans into true accessibility, development, and mobility for all."

Diana, what’s your favorite thing about being a part of the SoFi Unidos/Latinx community at SoFi? What’s the most challenging? 

Diana: I have loved the opportunity to meet colleagues from different departments and locations and to learn their personal stories. Although many are from different countries and backgrounds, the spirit that comes through in the meetings, conversations, and Slack rooms have a common theme of warmth, passion, kindness, empathy, and a love of great food(!), which creates a feeling of being home, with family… “con mi gente!”

The most challenging is finding time to join the meetings and events, which I know is difficult for many in other Circles as well. I will say, a high percentage of Circle members and allies are in Operations roles, which can at times limit their flexibility. 

Judy, why is having a Circle like SoFi Unidos important for an organization like SoFi? 

Judy: SoFi Unidos is crucial in bringing the Latinx community together. I’m a Site Lead for SoFi Unidos, which means I help plan and engage our Circle members in my local office. I’m proud to work for an organization that embraces diversity and provides a safe space to continue developing professionally and building connections with like-minded individuals. In addition, I've had the opportunity to learn and work alongside powerful/inspiring Latinas in the tech industry. I don't believe those opportunities would have arisen without the Circle.

"I've had the opportunity to learn and work alongside powerful/inspiring Latinas in the tech industry. I don't believe those opportunities would have arisen without the Circle."

How would you describe what it’s like to be a Latina in fintech? 

Yesenia:  Being a Latina in fintech, within my personal experiences, can sometimes feel like being alone in a crowded room. Latinx professionals are an underrepresented group within the fintech industry - even with recent trends showing that over 95% of hispanics in the United States are utilizing fintech products/services versus traditional banking.

Our community is robust, diverse, and GRITTY! The power that our voices have are ASTRONOMICAL! History is proof of the numerous and various contributions that the Latinx community has made inside and outside of this country, as well as different industries. Keeping this fortitude of will is always top of mind for me because of the lack of representation that currently exists in this space - especially if you also identify as female.

"Our community is robust, diverse, and gritty! The power that our voices have are ASTRONOMICAL!"

Judy:  My personal experience has been challenging and a little different. Unlike other Latinas in tech, I didn't go directly to college and obtain a degree from a university. Instead, my work started during the summer of my 13th birthday, working with my father in the pear orchards. My parents wanted to ensure I knew where the money came from and how it was earned to embed good, hardworking morals. They are the reason I'm a "luchona" or a "go-getter." I held a job throughout high school, and I went straight into the workforce once I graduated.  

I've had to overcome many obstacles, but the biggest one was self-doubt and confidence; I'm my most prominent critic. Throughout my time in this industry, I have held a handful of roles - from starting in Audit to being a part of building a new quality assurance (QA) department to now being the Funding/Identity Review Associate Manager. Over the course of my career, I was not selected for new job opportunities or promotions. 

"Instead of being discouraged, I changed how I approached these obstacles, which is entirely in my control." 

I took a new approach to my professional development and started networking by joining Circles. The Grow Mentorship program (learn more here), speaking up more during meetings and showing my manager that I had great solutions to the problems we were running after. However, I believe what has empowered me most is joining the SoFi Unidos leadership team and being able to learn from others in this community. 

This new approach paid off in February 2022 when I was promoted to Associate Manager of Originations overlooking the Funding & Identity team. Now, in my management role, I encourage my direct reports to get out there, join Circles, and network; I share my story and show them that nothing is impossible, and they can also grow and move up the ladder.

Diana: I have worked in the Financial Service industry since graduating from college MANY years ago and have seen the transformation, like other industries, to move to more consumer-focused, technology-based solutions. 

"I love looking back and being a part of many eras of change and using my skills, ideas, and drive to make an impactful difference.  It was not always easy."

I encountered more struggles in my career due to being a woman, but also a woman with a passionate Latina approach. These were barriers that I recognized and had to adjust, and sometimes, conform to, and also challenge with my pure abilities and dedication. I definitely felt like I had to work harder than my white male colleagues. But, it’s hard to ignore results, so I always kept my eye on the direct impact I could make and chose to never have a victim mentality or think that I was less than others who had a different upbringing or better education. For someone who was born into government housing, raised by a mother who didn’t speak English, and worked two jobs to attend my local University, I think I did ok.

You have done more than okay, Diana! 

Thank you all for sharing your experiences with us. Your stories are inspiring and your passion for what you do - for yourselves, for the Latinx community at SoFi, and for our members - is infectious. 

Interested in learning more? Tune into this candid conversation Being Your Authentic Self: Latinidad in the Workplace, hosted by our partner, Latinas in Tech where we talk about how being your authentic self is your great career asset. 

The individuals featured are SoFi employees. 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