Director of Ethnic Sales and Marketing
Blue Cross of California
Each day, Alonso Silva is reminded of what might have become of his life.
As a youth growing up in Boyle Heights, the threat of gangs and drugs wasn’t an abstraction it was something he confronted every day.
“It was a rough neighborhood,” says the 37-year-old Silva. “When you hear the words gang-infested well, that’s truly what I had while growing up. If it wasn’t for the dedication of my parents, and the local Boys & Girls Club, then I’d probably either be dead or in jail.”
Instead, Silva is director of ethnic sales and marketing at Blue Cross of California where he oversees efforts to expand the company’s reach in neighborhoods like the one in which he grew up.
“I see myself as an expert in marketing to ethnic groups,” he says. “So I bring to this organization the knowledge of the general markets, and the expertise in the ethnic markets. The future of health care in this region will demand both.”
Silva began carving out his career niche shortly after graduating from Loyola Marymount University.
Working in an entry-level marketing position at FHP International Corp., Silva realized that there was minimal customer service for the increasing number of Spanish-speaking clients.
“My intent was to serve (non-English speakers) well the first time they called and help us conduct business in an appropriate manner,” says Silva, 37. “It had nothing to do with skin color, language, or community. This was a real honest business approach.”
As he rose up the company’s sales and marketing ranks, Silva began speaking out about focusing on non-English speaking customers.
As a junior executive at the company, he would bring up the idea during staff meetings. And, as he was promoted higher at FHP, he began drafting memos to superiors.
In 1992, Silva was promoted to a director’s position, overseeing the company’s strategic plan for non-English speaking customers.
“I just kept at it and kept at it, telling anyone who would listen,” he said. “I didn’t want to overstep my bounds when I first started at the company, but I finally reached a point where they began to take interest.”
Silva was recently hired by Blue Shield to do the same thing he was doing at FHP build up its base of ethnic customers. For Silva, those years spent in Boyle Heights are still paying dividends.
Joe Bel Bruno