Hard Work, Education Get You Where You Want to Go

By Contributing Writer - March 25, 2019

As an H.R. professional, Moffitt’s Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mariana Bugallo-Muros, MSM, has a wealth of experiences to draw upon in her own backstory alone.

  • The only child of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in a home shared with extended family.
  • Her first job - at age 12 - was in the bodega her mom bought with savings from working long hours in a factory.
  • Married upon high school graduation at age 17, she put herself through college and graduate school prior to starting her family of three boys.
  • Achieving a bachelors’ degree in the midst of 1982’s terrible economy, her ability to speak fluent Spanish clinched her first HR position with newly-elected Governor Michael Dukakis in the Massachusetts state house.
  • At age 29, she took over Massachusetts’ Education & Training Choices program for the last two years of Dukakis’s term. It helped get women and men off of welfare through job training, followed by job placement in living-wage jobs as well as housing and daycare support as they transitioned to employment.

Looking back, Bugallo-Muros says her youth was not about looking for mentors and role models. It was about her parents instilling that hard work and education gets you where you want to go. “My parents’ top priorities each payday were paying for housing, food and my Catholic schooling,” she recalls. “Education was an opportunity my parents didn’t have, so they saw its importance for me.”

Once in the workforce, Bugallo-Muros says she did benefit greatly from one particular female mentor: Catlin Donnelly, the human resources professional who hired her into the Dukakis administration. She allowed Bugallo-Muros to shadow her through candidate interviews, then watched as Bugallo-Muros handled the duties. “She saw that I was a hard worker and that I was hungry to advance,” recalls Bugallo-Muros. “She thought I was worth investing in. Even after I left the state house, we continued to meet monthly for breakfast to talk about what was happening in my work as well as personal life. And her contacts led me to meet many powerful people in state government.”

Bugallo-Muros says women’s path to leadership has changed in the span of her career. “Forty years ago, there were fewer women in leadership. My generation paved the way. It was rare for us to see a female role model in those roles in those days.”

In her current role at Moffitt, she focuses on opportunities to foster future female leaders through efforts like its Women in Oncology Interest Group, leadership academies and informal mentoring programs throughout the institution. While mentorship is important, she says providing opportunities for women to step up in project-based work can also offer chances for recognition and leadership development.

All of which feeds into one of her particular interests: succession planning for the next generation of female leadership at Moffitt. “I want to be sure the next generation is prepared in house, so we don’t have to search outside for tomorrow’s leaders.” It’s important to have women at the leadership table, she says, “not just for the sake of diversity, but for what the female leader brings to an organization as far as diversity of thought.”


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