How I Advanced My Career Across Multiple Continents, Roles and Industries Without Changing Companies

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Photo Courtesy of 3M.

Photo Courtesy of 3M.

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Marlene Lopez Ibarra, Strategy and Marketing Development Senior Manager, was first introduced to 3M when she joined the company as an intern during undergrad. Nineteen years later, Lopez Ibarra’s career has grown at the global manufacturing company across two countries, several industries and multiple roles. 

“Everyone stays at 3M,” she shared in an interview with Fairygodboss — and her long-standing career is proof. 

Lopez Ibarra’s career began in the business district of Mexico City, Santa Fe, during the summer of 2002. In Mexico City, she gained valuable managerial experience across four roles, including Sales and Marketing Supervisor, International Marketing Manager, Business Development Manager and Portfolio Manager - Disposable Respirators. 

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A cross-continental employee of the company, Lopez Ibarra says that “3M is truly amazing no matter what country you’re in. Everyone is always so welcoming — it’s really a global community.” Even with the challenges of being a young woman in other cultures, she says her boss was extremely respectful and would purposefully accompany her on initial trips. “I’ve learned so much about different cultures, and ultimately how to be a better human being on a global scale,” she explains.

In 2006, she relocated to the U.S. to accept a position in Business Development for Latin America in Consumer Health Care, then yet another role as Global Business Manager of Home Care. And in 2014, she moved back to her home country for a temporary assignment as Oral Care Business Manager. 

“After being gone for so long, it was like being a foreigner in my own country,” she recalled. “It was a big challenge for me at the time. But I had the opportunity to elevate the 3M brand in Mexico and was involved in many roundtables as an expert.” Now, she says, she’s proud of the results she’s helped the company achieve and her contributions to the company’s rebrand. 

Lopez Ibarra clearly found a consistency at 3M that’s withstood her career from one continent to another. But she also found stability at the company that helped her smoothly transition into working motherhood. “I knew it didn’t matter if I was going to be taking maternity leave,” she said. “You know you have a job when you come back.” 

In fact, during her maternity leave, she was invited to participate in a new role, demonstrating to her that even though she wasn’t physically present, the leaders at 3M were still thinking of her. “The new role gave me more flexibility as I had less travel,” she said. “Even when I did travel, 3M always took care of me. Everything I needed was provided, whether that was lactation rooms or refrigerators in my hotel room.”

Ultimately, “3M doesn’t have a script and career paths aren’t linear unless you want them to be,” she said. And based on her fruitful career at the company, we can tell!


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