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Supplier Diversity

Wells Fargo considers Rose International one of its top performers

In 2009 Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia. Now the legacy organizations have successfully merged their best supplier diversity practices


There's history in the name "Wells Fargo." It conjures up images of stagecoaches racing across the vast desert and climbing into the mountains. The company's long history stretches back to the 1850s when it offered banking and express services to California Gold Rush pioneers.

Today Wells Fargo (San Francisco, CA) is a diversified financial services company providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgages and consumer and commercial finance. Over its century and a half it has evolved to meet the demands of a growing nation and a changing world, acquiring and merging with other banks along the way.

In 2009 Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia. Each company had its own established supplier diversity program, and merging the two departments has been the work of Sonya Dukes, director of corporate supplier diversity.

Establishing best practices
"The merger has gone pretty smoothly," says Dukes. "The biggest challenge has been combining the supplier bases of both companies and reestablishing a focus.

"Both organizations were committed to supplier diversity, but we needed to understand the different practices and goals of each in order to establish best practices. That involved selecting the most effective processes, systems and tools of each legacy company, and once that was done there was opportunity to grow.

"We started building relationships internally and communicating with suppliers to be sure they understood what was going on so they could navigate through the changes."

Working on second tier
One current focus is the second-tier program. The supplier diversity team at Wells Fargo has spent the last eighteen months getting suppliers up to speed. Now they are educating their suppliers on the new subcontractor focus.

Leaders of change
In its new Leaders of Change program, Wells Fargo focuses on three major initiatives: supplier development, coaching and mentoring, and emerging entrepreneurs.

The supplier development initiative is designed to build capacity among minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises (MWDBEs). It provides educational resources and tools to enhance the growth and development of these enterprises.

The coaching and mentoring initiative arranges strategic partnerships with established MWDBEs to provide one-on-one consultation and mentoring relationships on organizational design and operational functions of the business that move MWDBEs "to the next level," says Dukes.

The emerging entrepreneur initiative has two components. It aims to encourage entrepreneurship among pre-college students, providing them with networking opportunities with MWDBEs, and it supports entrepreneurship curricula at colleges and universities.

"We also sponsor MWDBEs for scholarships at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College," adds Tonia Woodbury, business manager for corporate supplier diversity.

By the end of 2010, 5.9 percent of the company's total procurement dollars were spent with MWDBEs. The goal is to increase that to 10 percent, and the projected goal for the year 2013 is to spend $1 billion with these businesses. "That total includes not only minority- and women-owned business, but also businesses owned by members of the LGBT community, the disabled, veterans and disabled veterans," Dukes points out. The company accepts certification from the Small Business Administration (SBA), veteran groups, the NMSDC, WBENC and national, state and local government agencies.

Dukes says spending with MWDBEs goes beyond just being "the right thing to do. It also gives us the opportunity to have more service and delivery options and more opportunities for innovation and cost savings. Diversity brings in fresh ideas and originality, and it helps support local economies."

Rose International provides workforce solutions
The main focus of Rose International (St. Louis, MO) is on providing IT staffing to Fortune 500 companies and state and federal agencies, but it also offers medical, administrative, clerical, managerial, engineering, telecom and financial staffing. Sue Bhatia, Rose International CEO, grew up in New Delhi, India. She came to the U.S. in 1986 after getting her BA in architecture from the New Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, and began work as an IT project manager while attending the University of Missouri. In 1989 she completed an MS in management IS and began working fulltime in IT.

"I was doing IT project management and I saw the utility of contractors but thought there was room for improvement. I wanted to bring my ideas to the table, so in 1995 I quit my job and started working with a few large Fortune 500 companies in St. Louis," Bhatia says.

She started the business with her husband. The first few years were challenging, but by 1998 Rose International had reached the 100-employee mark. Today the business employs 6,000 and has twenty branches in the U.S., with projects in all fifty states and an office in New Delhi as well.

Growing in stature
Bhatia recalls that the first contact with Wells Fargo occurred at a trade show. "After that we had frequent phone contact, but it took years before we got the first RFP about six years ago. That was just as well, because we needed to grow as an organization to be able to support a client like Wells Fargo," she says.

Wells Fargo is now a key client, and Bhatia appreciates the company's vendor-management program. "It's very structured, and the entire supply chain is involved. We have a great relationship and our group has grown both directly and indirectly as a result," she says.

Wells Fargo does regular performance reviews, providing good feedback to supplier businesses. Bhatia notes that during the financial meltdown and throughout the merger with Wachovia, Wells Fargo gave Rose International excellent opportunities. "We've evolved as a company. As they grew through mergers and acquisitions, our delivery model had to be adjusted each time to fulfill their needs.

"We are honored by the opportunities we've had so far, and we're excited about bringing even more value to Wells Fargo," Bhatia concludes.

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