Ada Ortega, Head of Procurement at Upstart, joined the company in July 2021 to build out the procurement department and transform it into a best-in-class department. Her team consists of three verticals: procurement operations, strategic sourcing, and vendor risk management. Ortega prioritizes hiring talent to form an exciting and passionate team, building processes that support a fast-paced and agile company, focusing on what brings value to the organization, and conducting negotiations that achieve the best buy and minimize risk to the company.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a lot of what her typical workday looked like changed.
“During the pandemic, I have had to be creative to ensure that I’m touching base with my team and customers,” she tells Fairygodboss. “Since we lost the ability to have hallway talks and see each other every day, we have to be more deliberate about reaching out and being available for our teams.”
Overall, “I work to keep my team motivated through recognition, fostering a fun environment, and offering challenging projects and work for them,” she shares.
We caught up with Ortega about how she leads through uncertain times and overcomes the challenges of leading a remote team. Here’s what she had to say.
What strategies have you used that have been most effective in promoting connectivity across your team?
Four key strategies that I’ve used include:
I conduct weekly team meetings where I not only share pertinent company news, but I also hold a round-table discussion during which each member shares their accomplishments and what they’re working on with the team. This time is also used to recognize and celebrate all of our wins.
I hold weekly one-on-ones.
I encourage my team to reach out (via Slack, phone, or Zoom) whenever they have questions or concerns that they would like to discuss or brainstorm with me.
I hold team all-hands meetings, where I bring everyone into the HQ office.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a leader during this time?
The biggest challenge is the absence of being in a central location with my team. I enjoy checking in with the team to ensure that they have what they need to be successful and simply getting to spend time with them to get a pulse on how they are doing both personally and professionally.
How has Upstart helped you address the challenges of remote work?
Our company has adopted a digital-first approach to work. In this approach, each group determines how they would like to work (e.g., fully remote, partial remote, or on-site). Additionally, Upstart offered support to Managers through virtual courses in managing our teams in this current climate.
What other resources or support has Upstart offered employees during the pandemic?
Employees have received support in obtaining the appropriate equipment and tools to ensure that they have a safe, sound and conducive work environment outside of the office.
How is this kind of support reflective of the overall culture at Upstart?
We make our employees a priority and understand that we are only successful when our teams excel. This is the standard at Upstart and, as one of our values, we embrace this as part of our culture.
What is your No. 1 piece of advice for leading through periods of crisis and uncertainty?
My advice is to trust in yourself — this too shall pass!
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