|Mari Solberg, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico, went to college and met
her husband in Boise, Idaho.
Latina Professionals Association’s
Yo Soy Campaign
Adding Business Value
By Jonathan Gramling
Mari Solberg, division vice-president-Internal Audits for Spectrum
Brands, comes from one of the founding families of Monterrey, located in
northeast Mexico. And from relatively humble beginnings, Solberg has
risen in her educational and professional life by always being
determined to add value in whatever she does. She never leaves things
As the head of internal audits, Solberg’s reach is international. And
somewhere, at every hour, someone is going to have something for
Solberg’s team to take a look at.
“I do work 24/7,” Solberg said with a laugh. “And I love it. I am a glutton.
It’s funny because I’m answering an email and all of a sudden, I set it
down for a few minutes and all of a sudden, I get ‘beep beep, beep
beep.’ Australia woke up. There’s a 14-hour difference between Australia
And she stands ready to add value to the company in a meaningful way.
Solberg enjoys working at Spectrum Brands because diversity isn’t window dressing. It is part of their international business strategy.
“I think I’ve been very lucky that the companies that I have worked for have been very supportive of diversity,” Solberg said. “Of all of those
— and I’m not just saying that because I work here — Spectrum Brands is the one that looks at diversity as a business strategy. I have never
worked for nicer people, by the way. These people are very good. The executives are fantastic individuals. Their ethics are incredible and
impeccable. They are approachable. They are smart and hardworking. They are people whom I respect. In other places, they might just be just
figureheads or people who go out and give speeches. These people work hard. They believe that diversity is a business strategy because they
are seeing the business value in having the communities they serve represented in the workforce. As you can only imagine, I service the
entire world with internal audit services. So I could pay $300 per hour for a consultant who speaks Spanish to go and audit the Latin American
countries. Or I can hire a diverse workforce. So right now on staff, my staff speaks French, Spanish, German, Mandarin and Bengali. And that’s
no accident. We work hard in getting that diversity into my department and the company and that translates into quantifiable bottom-line results.”
Solberg’s background is value added to what she can do for the company, which is help it be successful.
“My diversity only adds to the richness of the conversation,” Solberg said. “But my diversity is not what makes me value them. It adds to the
richness of the conversation, but it isn’t what has gotten me here. When I managed the budget department for GHC, I thought, ‘My goodness, I
really love this job. I’m making a difference and I’m learning and I’m moving forward.’ So as long as I am making a difference and I’m learning
and making an impact and moving forward, I will love it. It’s a challenge to me. But I can tell you this. If I am called to do something else by the
company and they say, ‘You will add more value here,’ I would be ready to do it.”
While Solberg is proud of her heritage and who she is as a Latina, it isn’t the only that defines who she is. She knows herself in a very holistic
way that allows her to be the best that she can possibly be and always add value to whatever she is engaged in.
“Your heritage is part of who you are,” Solberg reflected. “It’s not necessarily all of who you are. It’s not a limitation. I think that if you set your
goals very high and you work very hard, you can be very unstoppable. You need to surround yourself with people whom you admire and can
bring you to the next level. Understand what you read, what motivates you. How do you address certain challenges? There is no sense
reinventing the wheel. I think there are people who are doing a great job at things already. Go talk to someone and find out. Steal from the best
and make it your own and add value to it. I do say that to people whom I meet, younger professionals and interns. Never leave a room without
making it better than it was, adding some value.”
Solberg talked about a new employee whom she is mentoring, a woman who reminds her of herself when she was first starting out. And she
advised the woman to know herself from goals to values. And then she will succeed.
“The one thing that you can do that I think would be very helpful in achieving your goals is be clear on what you want to achieve and find
people who have done it and spend time with them because even by osmosis, you will become like the people whom you surround yourself
with,” Solberg said. “I remember when I was in college and there were groups of people whom I could have gone with, whom I could have
followed, whom I could have mimicked. But there were decisions that were being made by those groups of people that were choices that my
core values would say, ‘I don’t know about that.’ And I didn’t always have a lot of company because of the area that I was and what was there
for me to have as a social circle. But I never compromised. I never compromised my goals and where I wanted to be for the short term.”
And because she knew who she was, Solberg looked at all of her qualities as an asset.
“I never thought of my ethnicity as being a limit or my being a woman a limit,” Solberg said. “I always truly believed that it is an asset. I always
truly believed it is an asset. I can see things from a different angle. And I have a voice here, just like you have a voice here. And my voice
might be softer and my voice may sound different than yours because I have an accent. But I have a voice.’”
Solberg has taken her children back to her hometown of Monterrey. And it has caused her to reflect on the good fortune that she has
“It felt comfortable and familiar,” Solberg said. “It felt small. It felt kind of sad really. It felt a little sad because I could see a lot of poverty and a
lot of cultural issues. And I would think about why was I different. “I went to school with you. I went to elementary school with you. We grew up
together. Why do I see you struggling so much?’ I could see it not only in my generation, but also in the next generation. I’m very fortunate.”
Solberg may be fortunate, but so are the others with whom she engages for Solber can’t help but add value to everything she does in life. It’s
just her nature.