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A Story of Resilience: Hector Cabrera

A Story of Resilience: Hector Cabrera

Marshall alum Hector Cabrera ’20 shares how his mother influenced his entrepreneurship journey.

Hector giving the fight on sign with his mother at the Colisseum

Hector Cabrera stands proudly with his mother on the field at the Coliseum.

[Photo courtesy of Hector Cabrera]

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Hector Cabrera’s journey in business and entrepreneurship began in his childhood as an immigrant raised by a hard-working single mother. She sustained the family’s finances by selling hand-crafted items that she made at flea markets and swap meets. Through this, he received a first-hand education on the value of entrepreneurship and was inspired by the principles of business through watching her.

Upon graduating from high school, Cabrera began his undergraduate studies in business. However on September 11, 2001, his life, like so many others, changed forever. Moved by the tragedy and inspired by gratitude to his country, Cabrera joined the military.

“I enlisted in the military, and I put my education on hold,” Cabrera said. “I went off to serve, and it was the best thing I ever did.”

Having served in the Air Force since March 2002, Cabrera retired this past year after completing 22 years of service. His mother, who passed while he was deployed in 2019, continues to be a leading influence in his life.

“Everyday I wake up and think what would she want me to do,” Cabrera said. ⁠After graduating with his MBA from USC Marshall in 2020, Cabrera chose to continue his education at USC and began his doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership at the Rossier School of Education.

An entrepreneur himself, Cabrera launched a successful Crossfit business with partners in San Diego, California, in 2016.

That same year, Cabrera was selected as the “Veteran of the Game” during one of USC's football games. Cabrera dedicated that moment to his mother, Angie, who attended the game with him. He thanked her for all the sacrifices she made for him and his siblings. Standing next to his mother on the field he whispered into her ear, “Mom, remember sitting in that section years ago when I promised you that I would attend this school one day?”

Cabrera is now a partner development specialist at Cisco, a global leader in IT and networking. He attributes his courage to make a career change to the education and mentorship received at Marshall.

I think that Marshall does an amazing job at creating a culture of inclusivity to allow everyone to feel included and develop their ‘why’ together.

— Hector Cabrera

MBA ’20

“I think that Marshall does an amazing job at creating a culture of inclusivity to allow everyone to feel included and develop their ‘why’ together,” Cabrera said.

Inspired by the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of his late mother, Cabrera’s dissertation focused on identifying barriers preventing Latinx community members from pursuing a life of entrepreneurship.⁠

“I dedicated my dissertation to USC Marshall and entrepreneurship, which is on the underrepresentation of Latinx entrepreneurs. In the literature, I did find that there are many different barriers,” Cabrera said.

For Cabrera, Marshall provided him a home and a map for the future. The school gave him the confidence to believe in himself.⁠

“I felt lost when I started my master’s,” Cabrera said. “I really didn’t really know the opportunities that were out there. Marshall brought in all the different ‘whys,’ right? They brought in alumni, they brought in guest speakers who shared their ‘why.’ Marshall exposes you to these opportunities and to people that are further along a road that you’re potentially going to be traveling.”

As a Town and Gown of USC scholar who received a merit-based scholarship at USC, Cabrera now pays it forward, devoting his time to mentoring other Marshall students and alumni. He hopes to one day return to education and teach students about his own journey.

“For me, teaching is a passion,” Cabrera said. “I want to be in a classroom. I think one of the reasons I pursued my doctorate was, for one, to move the needle forward for my family. And two, to someday be a professor. That is a goal. I want to give back. That would be amazing.”