Lorena Ritchey: Seeking out solutions at Nationwide

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The ability to adapt in the face of new challenges is not only a necessary component of success in business, it is what drives Lorena Ritchey, VP of project delivery services within the IT department at Nationwide. “Believe it or not, I gravitate towards problems,” Ritchey says with gusto. “I love to solve a problem!”

It is what led her to where she is today, she believes. Ritchey has been with Nationwide for more than 20 years, but her road to IT a winding one. Originally part of the company’s operations and business sectors, she found her way into tech through her desire to keep learning.

“It’s not by accident, I think, that I found myself in IT specifically. Especially at Nationwide, where we look to use and leverage our technology to drive our business,” she says. “I found myself fascinated in solving the problems, and just wanted to get closer and closer to building the solution. So, I found my way into IT, not accidentally, but through my own curiosity, because I was always planted in situations where they needed business expertise to solve the problems we had in the business through technology.”

As Nationwide invests more than $550 million annually on IT-enabled programs and projects in support of its business strategy, it is an important area of focus for the company, affecting its ability to succeed in an ever-changing landscape.

In her current role, Ritchey is responsible for managing a shared PMO services organization spanning all locations, business units, and corporate functions, and leads executives, program and project managers, and an organizational change management team, totaling some 400 associates and contractors. Efficiency has improved under her leadership, utilizing best practices, such as DevOps and end-to-end Agile, to move the organization forward.

The company has also focused on diversity, and Ritchey took part in an interview process resulting in Nationwide winning a 2018 Catalyst Award in honor of its efforts to advance women and diverse groups in the workplace. She says she firmly believes in the power of “diversity in all facets.” The company’s goals are “trying to attract younger talent, trying to retain talent based on expertise, and also trying to attract diverse talent, and that’s across the United States.”

Ritchey is a strong supporter of these diversity efforts, and is an active member in groups both within and outside of the company that work toward those aims, including the Women in IT Forum, Women in Technology International, and the Women’s Associate Resource Group. Additionally, she chairs Nationwide’s IT Workforce Effectiveness committee and serves as the Executive Sponsor of its Asian Network Group. Outside the company, she is a Board Member on the Catholic Foundation and a founding Martha’s Women Circle Member, and also a Board Member on the Bishop Watterson Catholic High School Mother’s Club.

She also hopes to see more young women encouraged in the STEM fields. Part of that effort has seen her judging a “Girls Can Code Hackathon,” where young women work with mentors to create an app in a short period of time, and, more broadly speaking, to consider a future for themselves in the science and technology fields.

“I want to make sure we use this [Women in Leadership honor] as a platform to encourage our young women, and our women who aren’t necessarily young but are trying to reinvent themselves and wanting to get back into the workforce, that you can do it,” Ritchey proclaims. “And especially in IT, given the fact that anybody can educate themselves. Anybody can upskill. You don’t have to come from a traditional development background.”

“And I’m an example,” she adds. “I came from the business. I came from operations. I used to process transactions in the service center. But I had a curiosity to learn, and I had a desire to solve problems, and I’m here. That’s the kind of story that I want to tell.”

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