Mario Cabrera found himself at a crossroads in which he didn’t want to be. He was a rising marketing director at an inflection point in his career, but when he looked around, he didn’t see many people like him being promoted. And he was getting some terrible advice on why that was happening.
While at an all-hands meeting that was becoming increasingly jam-packed, Cabrera stood up to let a VP who had arrived late sit down. It was the appropriate thing to do. It was the humble thing to do. And Cabrera was told repeatedly that it was the wrong thing to do.
“I’m from Guatemala, and the values I was raised with immediately told me to respect my elders and my superiors,” Cabrera explains. After getting invited to a leadership training sponsored by the National Hispanic Corporate Council (NHCC), Cabrera shared his feelings and proclaimed that if it was going to take him being pointlessly cruel to get ahead, he didn’t want to.
A decade later, as Cabrera sits as head of marketing for US Pet Business at Boehringer Ingelheim, he’s grateful for the mentorship he received from likeminded Latinos, people who understood the strange and competitive environment that may seem foreign to Latin Americans for so many good reasons.
It’s why he now sits on the board of directors for the NHCC, the place where he learned that he didn’t have to change to rise in his field. He didn’t have to become someone he didn’t want to be. He simply needed to find the right home for his career.
A year later, a job opened at Merck Animal Health that Cabrera thought he would be perfect for. As luck would have it, one of the mentors from an NHCC training, David Gonzalez, had moved there as well, and was able to help Cabrera score an interview just days later.
“The type of networks that we as Hispanics can easily build are so important,” Cabrera explains. “This is someone I met and who served as a great example. At some point, I’m going to be able to repay that favor to someone else.” The job set up Cabrera perfectly for the role at Boehringer Ingelheim, where he has been the head of US Pet Marketing since 2019. There, he has been promoted while being himself.
The animal health business is not one that Latinos have instinctively flocked to. But at Boehringer Ingelheim, Cabrera says, the work the company has done to create new pipelines for talent is paying incredible dividends.
“It’s so easy for me to just open up to my network when looking to bring in diverse marketers,” Cabrera says. “We’re not just looking to the same Ivy League schools and the same firms to source talent. This has nothing to do with activism. It’s about reflecting the customers that we serve.”
It may not be activism, but there is intention at play. For example, for a recent television ad, Cabrera sought out people of color, because he knows it’s an industry that needs more representation.
There’s a human element that Cabrera is also looking to impact. “We are extremely proud of our work with Mario and his team at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health,” says Magali Sartain, SVP and managing partner at Wunderman Thompson. “Mario is passionate about supporting veterinarians and pet owners in the Hispanic community so the pets receive the quality care they need.”
Through his involvement in Boehringer Ingelheim’s Latinx BRG, Cabrera has been able to become more educated about the brutal cost of counterfeit pharmaceuticals as it pertains to people from poor and underserved communities.
Desperation can breed a willingness to take a gamble on medications that may not be prescribed or sold at reputable outlets, and Cabrera offered up one awful example of the results.
“I learned about a young girl that died because she was treated with counterfeit drugs that her family didn’t know weren’t real,” Cabrera says. “And so my goal is to help my community understand that there are safe ways to access medication. This is a very prevalent issue, and I just want to help Latinos and other underserved communities avoid this kind of heartbreak.”
Again, this is where Cabrera’s network can be key. Through his connection to the NHCC board, he can collaborate with executives from prevalent companies to help source solutions to a very complex problem.
Sitting on the board of the NHCC is a full-circle moment for Cabrera. As the Latino population of the United States continues to rise, Cabrera’s role as an ally, advocate, and source of wisdom for rising talent is only going to increase. It’s an incredible leap forward for the son of an Air Force pilot from humble beginnings and a homemaker who gave up graduating from high school to take care of her family.
“I thank God that my parents brought me to the US to be educated, and for the mentors who have helped me along the way,” the head of marketing says. “I just want to continue to give back to others however I can, and help others embrace who they are. The values that they were raised with are what make them who they are, and they should be celebrated.”