Attending George Mason University School of Business in the early-90s, Marie Robles, BS Accounting ’94, was mesmerized by the diversity she saw across campus. Students of all ethnic, religious, and other cultural backgrounds intermingled in the classrooms. Mason’s diversity made her feel at home. However, she’s aware that boardrooms and offices are often devoid of that inclusive and welcoming experience. Presently, Robles is a top executive in the Northern Virginia business community, who prides herself with assisting Latinx professionals in advancing their own careers and excelling in environments that may be outside of their comfort zones.
Robles grew up in Puerto Rico and attended high school on the naval base, but was already familiar with Virginia, having been born in the commonwealth and returning frequently for family visits. Her love for the region grew even more while studying at Mason. Working part-time at the Student Union and joining the Latino Student Association allowed her to get involved with the community and to meet people from different backgrounds. The Latino Student Association not only helped her build connections with other Hispanics, but they also worked with other students’ groups, further expanding her circle.
Now as vice president of accounting and finance at Northwest Federal Credit Union, Robles has risen to the top of the workplace. She had been looking for a way to use her experience and expertise to help others climb the corporate ladder when she learned about the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). “I went to my first convention in 2008 and I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says. Her commitment has strengthened over time, from serving as Washington, D.C., chapter president to being a leader with the Women of ALPFA Initiative to sitting on the National Board of Directors. “It’s been inspiring to be able to connect so many students and professionals with job opportunities they may have thought were far out of reach,” she says.
Hard work, pursuit of knowledge, and financial independence were traits vividly on display every day growing up in Puerto Rico. Robles remembers playing with the paperwork and old checkbooks in her father’s briefcase, pretending to be a businesswoman helping people with their finances or other important business deals. Her father, an engineer and retired army master sergeant, whose mantra was “If you are on time, you are late,” worked hard to provide a better future for his family but was also an example of service to their community. Robles recalls friends and neighbors stopping by to get help with anything from repairing a radio to advice on submitting forms for veteran’s benefits. “Everyone was welcome and greeted with a hearty, ‘Come in!’ and immediately offered something to drink,” she says. Following the advice and example of her parents made the pursuit of a degree in accounting an obvious choice. It also deeply embedded in her the passion to help others.
“My advice for Latinx students, and especially women, is get an education acquiring the knowledge and preparation necessary to compete at the same level as anyone else,” she says. “We must level the playing field.” Marie Robles is proud to not only be a leader in the business community, but also a leader in the Latinx community. For her, being a role model is more than her own individual success. It’s blazing a trail for others to be able to reach their aspirations, and imparting her wisdom whenever she can.