Powerful Women Let's Talk - 034: Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz

Feb 22, 2021

Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz

She founded La Fuente Consulting with a focused mission of bridging cultures, simplifying workplace communication, and more. Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz is a thought leader, with hands-on practical experience in the field of organizational development, in particular diversity, inclusion and cultural intelligence. She is involved in her community and has won awards for her work. She’s also recently started bird watching.  Meet Powerful Woman Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz.

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Full Transcript:

Produced by women about women. Powerful women let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world by transforming who we are and how we live. Powerful women, let's talk is made possible in part by Family Fare, keeping it real.

Shelly Irwin: She founded La Fuente consulting with a focused mission bridging cultures simplifying workplace communication and more. Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz is a thought leader with hands on practical experience in the field of organizational development, in particular diversity, inclusion, and cultural intelligence. She is involved in her community and award winning for her work. And a did you know fact we must share, welcome Ana to our powerful women, let's talk conversation. Ana hello to you

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Hello

Shelly irwin: Congratulations on your success thus far. I’m going to get right into you as a young Ana. Were their signs that you were headed to a career in facilitation from the start?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Well, you know, I'm not sure but I do remember that I was always getting picked to talk so and I like being in the front of the line. So I don't know those are some early cues.

Shelly irwin: Wonderful so how'd you find your niche today with La Fuente consulting?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: So the journey has been long but I did find purpose when I was early on in my banking career. And I have always been the only in my professional life and as I started in my career in corporate banking there were only a few Latinas. I mean that was two of us in the state of Michigan. And so as I worked through my career I saw and experienced for this firsthand what the issues of diversity were. And back then you know there was no thing called diversity we were learning as doing as we're going along. So by pure observation and experience to my own career, I found my purpose and decided to launch a company in 2000.

Shelly irwin: Bring me back to that little girl, where did you grow up?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: I was born in Mexico on the golf in a city called Tampico and my family left Mexico. My mom was 23, but 3 little kids in tow as she wanted a better future for us. And so I was 2 when we left Mexico and we came to Texas and then north to the state of Michigan in 1968.

Shelly irwin: And here we are way beyond 1968, but an honor to hear of your powerful experiences. What's Le Fuente mean and why the choice for you?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: So La Fuente means the fountain and I usually save this explanation for the end of my trainings and facilitation that I do because naturally people ask. But I'm very careful, La Fuente means the fountain , I called my company La Fuente because of my religious beliefs and how I live my life and so that's why I named it La Fuente consulting.

Shelly irwin: Who are your audiences? What are they asking of you?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: My audiences are wide and varied so my clients come from a variety of fields, variety of business sectors and sizes. But I think there's three things that I can point to that no matter the size of the company, no matter the size of the employee base or the sector, I get three things constantly asked. One is how do I bring an understanding of what diversity, equity, and inclusion is to my organization. Because everybody's got their own thoughts and perspectives of what it is, but how do we build a common language. Two how do I speak about it authentically when that's not my background, or those are not my experiences. And three how do I create, what processes do I need, what things do I need to bring an inclusive culture in my organization.  

Shelly irwin: Tell me about some of your challenges along the way because it's obvious that you have found your voice but there must have been challenges surprises or thrills along the way.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: There were a lot of challenges early on I think the most salient and the most difficult one to really get over throughout my early career was feeling like an oddity, was feeling like a token, was feeling like since I was the only, people really didn't know what to do with me you know. They knew I was talented; they knew I had the capability; they knew I had the credentials; the MBA from Michigan but they kind of didn't know like what to do with me, how to talk to me you know. And that was very awkward at the very beginning I was the one that had to show them who I was, that I was okay and that I could integrate and do everything else that everybody else did besides my job

Shelly irwin: And where did you get that, was that a family opportunity? Where you're parents so supportive of yourself motivation, of praising you, of saying you go girl and you did.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: So my role model was my mom I come from a single parent home and for a woman to leave Mexico at the age of 23 not knowing what the future is. You have to have vision, you have strength, and above all you have to be resilient. So my mom was always very supportive, very positive and she told me I could do anything I want if I just put my mind to it. But if I was going to do it, to do it right

Shelly irwin: So what motivates you to do your best?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: For me every day I wake up thinking that I have an opportunity to make things better and it's my choice to do that and so I do it. And I have a very caring side to me I believe in people and I believe in the goodness in spite of all the stuff that we're going through, in spite of all the things that we've seen in all the challenges. But I do believe in people and I do believe in the goodness  and when I see it play out it's just my AHA moment every time.

Shelly irwin: How important is your position for companies today?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Critical, it's absolutely critical. I think the whole black lives matter movement really ripped the band-aid off of a lot of perceptions in the workplace and in society, very frankly. And so companies right now are really looking at themselves. Many of them are at different stages of their journey, but they are questioning and looking at where are we, and where do we need to go. This position whether it's a consultant whether it’s a chief diversity officer whether its director of diversity, etcetera is critical. Culture in the workplace matters and so having the leadership team and someone within that team championing and sponsoring the cultural transformation to a more inclusive and welcoming organization is absolutely vital.

Shelly irwin: And I imagine if one was a fly on the wall those conversations could be uncomfortable.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: They are, they are and so one of the things that I do is I meet people where they are, no judgments. I listen, that's my first rule I listen and so people just need to be heard and need to be heard intently. And to listen to what they're actually saying so that you can have a very authentic honest dialogue about what this really means to an organization this meaning diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’re tough conversations because this work is not for the light hearted.

Shelly irwin: You do serve your community, where does one start to be a where you are in your life on boards, award winning. Say a young woman wants to get involved in a community where does she even start?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: I think they first have to just say, what am I interested in. There are so many things to be part of but do I have an interest. And then the second question is do I care, because you got to care you have to care to be involved and I think the rest comes the rest comes by you learning, by you engaging, by you taking the first step to be involved.

Shelly irwin: Leadership, what traits are important for today's leaders, especially in the world of diversity and inclusion.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: So I was having this conversation with a client from down South and we were talking about what is it going to take for him to move his organization forward. And an experienced gentleman, he is absolutely brilliant, heart is in the right place, wants to do the right things but he said to me; I have difficulty because no matter what I do no matter the effort that we put in it may not be seen as enough. My employees may not see it as enough to be reflective of the effort. And I thought that was very powerful, I thought that he was very genuine but to advance in this work, I believe three things have to be there. The leader has to be absolutely committed to this no matter what because it is challenging and so commitment is the first thing. Two the recognition that this is not going to be easy. And the third thing is being honest, truthful, and transparent.

Shelly irwin: What is your silly side?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Oh my Lord do we have all day? My silly side is having a deep gut punching laugh with my grandsons there just amazing they bring the silliness out of me and there’s no holding back. I roll around on the floor we play baseball, Frisbee, whatever it takes to have fun together.

Shelly irwin: When did you become a trekie?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Omg we would have to go back to junior high school. I've seen every episode of the early star trek shows and I just love science fiction.

Shelly irwin: Is there a sign with your fingers you can make?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Yes, live long and prosper

Shelly irwin: There we go. Tell me about the importance of family.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Critical that is my center, that is my joy, that is my purpose and it's something that it's just so central to who I am. But it’s not just my immediate family, but it's also my extended family, my cousins, my aunts and my friends, my friends are my family and so it's an extension of family. And it's very important, it's very important to a relationship it’s very important to your mindfulness, it’s very important to your spirituality.

Shelly irwin: Why is it important that I ask you what’s your favorite bird.

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Oh my Lord, I knew you were going to ask me that. So my favorite bird is the hummingbird but my dream is to go see the majestic bird of paradise. So I've just got into bird watching for the last couple of years and so I am getting into it. It’s amazing and it makes me look up to find them, and it also makes him look up at the sky when it's blue and beautiful,

Shelly irwin: besides catching a glimpse of the majestic birds of paradise, what’s still on your bucket list?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Oh my Lord, what isn't you know? I’m a person that likes to try new things. So I have that's my first, my second is I would like to go to see Hagia Sofia I would like to go to Constantinople to go to Turkey and I would like to spend 10 days in Santorini doing absolutely nothing and eating lots of chocolate and chocolate ice cream

Shelly irwin: Wonderful, Do you have a motto to share?

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: So lately with the things that we have been going through I tell myself every day to keep positive, to be empathetic, and to show grace because we never know what someone is going through. And we never know that the words that we may speak may either motivate someone bring positivity or it was exactly what they needed to hear.

Shelly irwin: Thank you for your inspiration and motivation. CEO founder of La Fuente consulting, Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz

Ana L. Ramirez- Saenz: Thank you

Shelly irwin: And thank you for listening to this edition powerful women, let's talk I’m Shelly Erwin

Produced by women about women these powerful podcast focus on powerful women andhow their strength transforms who we are and how we live want to hear more powerful women, let's talk get additional interviews at WGVU.org or wherever you get your podcasts, please rate and subscribe. Powerful women, let's talk is made possible in part by Family Fare, keeping it real. It is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.