"I’m grateful and proud to be where I am today. It reminds me that anything is possible.”

Howard Long

Head of Technology Sourcing, Ahold Delhaize USA

Head of Technology Sourcing, Ahold Delhaize USA

Howard Long grew up in a small beach town in Northwest Florida, where his dad worked as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Today, Howard is the U.S. Head of Technology Sourcing at Ahold Delhaize. “I’m grateful and proud to be where I am today. It reminds me that anything is possible.”

After high school, Howard moved to Orlando to study. While many of his friends went to a college closer to home, he wanted to start afresh somewhere else. He didn’t know it at the time but he was about to experience one of the most eventful years of his life. “Only one month into my studies, the 9/11 attacks happened. This meant that my father was deployed for quite some time. That year I also came to understand who I am as a person and started to feel confident in myself. I came out to my friends and family as gay, and they supported me with open hearts. The year 2001 was absolutely life-changing.”  

Something else that changed that year was Howard’s future career plans. After a year in pharmacy school, he switched to studying health services administration. “I always thought I wanted to become a pharmacist. I was motivated by my desire to help people, which has always been a big driving force for me. In high school, I tutored kids that were struggling with academics and helped them with their homework daily. My parents always stressed the importance of giving back to the community, which remains a priority for me.” 


From PT to IT

After graduating, Howard moved to New York to live with his then-boyfriend. He was 23 and now had a degree, but he wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. He took a job as a personal trainer in a gym. “Having always played sports, I found the job quite fun – I particularly enjoyed the people aspect of it. After a while, I discovered that the IT department in the corporate division of the gym’s parent company needed support in the areas of sourcing and IT asset management and were looking to hire. I was definitely interested in technology, but I had no experience in the field. I was offered the job regardless. That marked the start of my career in sourcing.” 
His sourcing career journey has since taken him through several different roles. After his stint in the gym company’s IT team, he moved to retail, before joining the sourcing team of one of the country’s leading investment banking firms. “It reads like your clichéd ‘young-hopeful-moves-to-New-York-and-makes-it-big’ story. I found the banking sector to be an incredibly challenging field to work in. It’s a tough industry, but there was additional stress for me as I felt like I had to pretend that I was someone else all the time. There weren't many people of color in senior roles, and while I had come out to my friends, I certainly wasn't out at work. Working in places where I felt I couldn’t be my authentic self were some of the most challenging experiences."

Bringing my authentic self to work

He couldn’t find himself in a more different place today: as a valued associate at Ahold Delhaize USA. He joined the company in January 2021 and has felt at home since day one. “I genuinely feel like I can bring my authentic self to work here. I find the company incredibly supportive – it really cares about its associates.

As the U.S. Head of Technology Sourcing and as someone in a leadership position, I try to create an environment where others feel like they can be their true selves, too. How do I achieve this? By sharing my own personal story, for one. When you’re authentic, show people who you really are and truly make that connection, they will know that they’re in a safe space.” 
Aside from finding Ahold Delhaize supportive and caring, Howard also considers it to be a “challenger”. “The company provides its associates with a lot of opportunities and trusts them to run with tasks as they see fit – within reason of course, as everything still has to align with the company’s values and vision. There’s a lot of focus on personal development and growth. And they don’t just make promises; they actually take action. In my last annual individual development planning session, I mentioned I was keen to get certified as a third-party risk manager, and I asked the leadership team if I could take a course. They agreed and provided funding. I like working for a company that doesn’t only talk the talk, but also walks the walk.”  

Giving back to the community

This approach applies to Howard, too. His desire to help people is still very much alive, and he doesn’t just speak about it; he takes real steps to do so. One of the ways he’s giving back to the community is through his voluntary work as a board member for the Ryan Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center in New York. “This organization provides high-quality, affordable health care services to medically underserved New Yorkers. They do the most amazing work. I’ve been on the board for over eight years, and it’s my tie back to the community. But it’s much more than that: it’s one of my biggest passions.”  
Having just celebrated a milestone birthday, Howard looks back on his life so far with contentment and gratitude. “Every now and then I think back on when I was a kid and believed that careers like this weren’t for people like me. I never imagined myself being in this role. So it means the world to me to be here now and have people supporting me.”  



Name: Howard Long 

Started working at Ahold Delhaize USA: January 2021 

Studied: BA Health Services Administration (University of Central Florida, 2006) 

Living with: My husband, Marcello, and our dog, Bruno 

Hobbies: Traveling, playing basketball and enjoying food (I don’t necessarily cook as a hobby – that’s Marcello’s area; it’s mostly about eating) 

Wake me up in the middle of the night for: French toast 

Favorite holiday destination: Italy, where Marcello is from. It’s also where I hope to retire one day 

Life-changing event: Coming out – more so at work than in my personal life. There were over 10 years between those two events. When I finally had the courage to tell my boss, he was extremely supportive. It truly felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders  

Biggest source of inspiration: My mother 

Best advice I’ve ever received: “You have to be your own advocate. Only you can make things happen; you can’t wait for others to do it for you” 

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