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Inspired BlogEmpowered Feature: Senior Associate Mari Gaby Lugo

Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.

On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we talk to Senior Associate Mari Gaby. We discuss the steps that led her to where she is now and the awesome experience of living and working in Puerto Rico. Check out her conversation with Content Designer Jessa Hanley below.

Mari Gaby is a Senior Associate on our Movers Club business. She joined Red Ventures in October of 2018 through the FWD787 (now known as RVPR) program. Along with other highly talented marketing professionals, Mari Gaby joined the company with the shared goal of opening an office in Puerto Rico and reinvigorating the island’s economy after Hurricane Maria. The interview below talks about her experience in the program and how it shaped her overall career trajectory. 

Director Tatiana Rosado Vidal nominated Mari Gaby for this month’s feature, citing her passion, determination, and her commitment to leaving the woodpile higher than she found it. Here’s what Tatiana had to say in her nomination:

“Driven by purpose, Mari Gaby balances her day-to-day with extracurriculars that create change and impact within and outside RV walls. She’s genuinely caring and champions RV culture. She inspires others to do their best with her passionate, thoughtful contributions to brainstorms and conversations and… fun fact! She creates amazing charcuterie boards. MG, you rock!”

Jessa Hanley: To get us started, tell me a little bit about your work. What does a typical day in the life of a senior associate look like? 

Mari Gaby Lugo: A typical day in my current role looks like a lot of meetings and a ton of cross-functional collaboration. I think of myself as a facilitator, so I’m always looking to jumpstart conversations, specify requirements, achieve alignment, etc. That said, my days are often filled with touchpoints with our creative, engineering, and/or email teams. It’s fascinating to see how multiple functions come together to make one product successful. 

Outside of our internal meetings to help strategize and prioritize items, I work very closely with internal and external partners. We recently launched the Movers Club product, so it’s essential to keep close communication with our partners to ensure the experience is working as expected and understand the performance we’re seeing. 

Some days feel more creative when I work with our core functional teams to execute our vision. Other days feel more operation-heavy as I look at performance, month-to-month pacing, and financials. Overall, my days always have a little bit of everything, and that’s what makes work fun!

JH: Did you always know you wanted to do this kind of work? What people or experiences led you to where you are today?

MGL: Not always, but it was clear to me after my sophomore year of high school when I took statistics and realized I loved making presentations. 

After high school, I pursued a bachelor’s degree in marketing in Puerto Rico. And during college, I was mentored by two business and cultural leaders that connected me to Ric when he announced FWD787 (now Red Ventures Puerto Rico). They were the ones that pushed me to apply to the program, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve loved my 5+ teams and every role I have had within Red Ventures. I wouldn’t be in my current role without the influence of everyone I’ve worked with during my two years at RV.

JH: How has living in Puerto Rico shaped your life and passions?

MGL: Living in PR as a Venezuelan immigrant helped me understand the privilege I’ve had in getting an excellent education and being exposed to opportunities of any and every kind. I’ve learned to take advantage of an opportunity in front of me — and make the most of it. 

On a more personal level, growing up in Puerto Rico shaped my hobbies (I love the beach), my chill temper, and my go-getter attitude. There’s an indescribable feeling of passion and resilience you get from living on this small but mighty island.

JH: We’d love to know more about your experience on RVPR. Can you tell us about how that program changed your career trajectory, and what you learned about yourself along the way?

MGL: Red Ventures Puerto Rico (first called FWD787 back in 2018) was and continues to be the experience of a lifetime. 

In September 2018, a year after Hurricane Maria, I joined RVPR and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, with one goal in mind: coming back and disrupting the economy. It’s tough to find opportunities like this one in Puerto Rico; that’s why most young talent leaves the island.  

Ric’s purpose with RVPR was to train young talent and deploy them back to the island with all the tools, support, and investment needed to impact the economy. Through that program, RVPR allowed us to learn and immerse ourselves in cutting-edge technology, top-performing marketing, and a fast-paced but warm culture. 

It’s an understatement to say I loved my year and a half in Charlotte (I continue to visit every other month). But coming back to Puerto Rico and applying everything we learned in Charlotte has been an incredible experience as well. Throughout this experience, I’ve learned what I appreciate at work and what motivates me and keeps me engaged. I’ve also learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable (as cliché as that sounds). RV and RVPR have helped shape who I am as an employee and a leader.

JH: How do you hold yourself accountable for your personal and professional goals?

I hold myself accountable by checking in with myself every once in a while — whether that’s every other week or every other month, it will depend on where I’m at in life at that particular moment. 

During my check-in sessions, I review my professional and personal goals to ask myself if they remain true or if anything has changed. People often make the mistake of pushing themselves to reach for something that no longer fits where they are in their career journey or doesn’t meet their passions. 

After reviewing my current situation, I try to think through my actions and consider if I’ve done everything within my reach to accomplish my goals. At the end of the day, the only thing we can control is our inputs. So as long as I can say that I did everything I could and gave my best to achieve something, I find it a success. No journey in life will ever go 100% as we plan it, so making sure we’re flexible with how we get to our goals is important, as long as we are always moving forward. 

JH: As teammates and fellow RV-ers, how can we become better allies to Latinx women?

MGL: Educating ourselves on the culture, struggles, and history of Latinx communities is one way of showing support. Ensuring that we’re being represented and heard around the organization is also an important step in becoming a better ally. 

Red Ventures is doing a great job at supporting immigrants through Golden Door Scholars. Becoming a mentor for these exceptional students trying to overcome barriers is a huge opportunity to become better allies. 

JH: Reflecting on the totality of your work experience, what is one thing you’d go back and tell first-day-of-work Mari Gaby?

MGL: It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, and things will go wrong sometimes. Don’t over-worry about a downward trend, a not-so-great presentation, or a pivot in strategy to a point where it impacts your personal life. You’ll get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and the lesson will be around failing and getting up quickly. 

JH: Now, some rapid-fire fun questions:

  • What’s your favorite TV series?
    • “Mindhunter” on Netflix
  • Is there a food you can’t live without? 
    • Seafood or a really good burger
  • What’s your hype song? 
    • “Good as Hell” by Lizzo
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? 
    • Southeast Asia
  • Who’s your role model? 
    • Melanie Perkins, the CEO of Canva 
  • What does being empowered in the workplace mean to you? 
    • It means I can be my most genuine self, and it will be appreciated. It means that I can fail, and there will be support instead of judgment. It means that my voice will be heard and that I shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, regardless of the setting. Ultimately, it means being recognized, appreciated, and encouraged.

Loved this Empowered Feature? Here, have anotherclick to meet Human Resources Business Partner & invaluable RV teammate Michaela Tarpey!

About the Author:
Jessa O'Connor Hanley

Jessa O'Connor Hanley is a Healthline content designer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She’s a Tar Heel born and bred with a degree in media and journalism. She’s a passionate radio storyteller, avid podcast fan, and a fierce defender of the Oxford Comma. In her free time, you’ll find Jessa reading a fantasy novel, taking pictures of her bernedoodle Molly, or trying (and failing) popular recipes she finds on Instagram.

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