Assembly line worker creates lifesaving medical equipment

Maria Riley is a motivated African/Italian female working in the medical supply industry. She works long hours at a factory job in order to provide for her family. She has overcome being a female racial minority in a male-dominated field, and finds her work assembling lifesaving medical equipment both important and rewarding.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
Hi! I’m Maria Riley, my job title is hand-piece operator for for a company that manufactures medical devices for cancer patients. I would have to say that I am goal oriented, co-operative, and self motivated.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?
I am African/Italian combo, I call that “combo” because… I consider my self not just a part, but a package as as a whole; personality wise, good attitude, strong individual etc., and of course I am a female, very comfortable in my own skin and who I am. I have to be honest by saying that initially when I was younger, the biggest challenge was my ethnicity — I looked a little different than other typical Americans do, and it used to make me feel left out.

The hardships that I have endured in the past, made me the much more confident and stronger woman that I am today. I am thankful for what I am and who I have become, and I would not trade it for anything in this world!

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
What I do, although it’s behind the scenes, is extremely important, from the motor itself to welding the covers together around into a hand piece, placing an inner cannula, aligning it before gluing it together, than placing the outer cannula, repeating the gluing process, while checking the alignment again. Locking the hub line into the hand piece and gluing the line unto it. The hand piece is then placed in a tray and attached into a quad and moved down the line to ultimately testing the final product. In the end it is wrapped and packed.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
9; Recognition and a fair salary that will sustain my family today’s economy, and to be more mentally and physically challenged would raise my satisfaction to a 10.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
It moves my heart because I know that I am making a difference in someone else’s life, even though is behind the scenes.
Yes, the work that I do makes me the person that I am, and if it’s not at my place of employment, it is through community service or others service opportunities where I can physically and perhaps emotionally give a hand to make a difference in someone else’s life…that is such a good feeling!

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I always look for the best in others and try to treat others the same as I would want to be treated.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
Looking for a purpose in life, went back to school but was not able to finish due to income and raising children. If I could go back, I would set goals for my self rather than just ”skipping along” life’s long narrow way. I believe education would be my first priority, than a fulfilling job, lots of fun and games, then have a family.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
I learned that no matter how nice and genuine you can be, there’s always someone that doesn’t know how to appreciate it. I had a co-worker that was an elderly individual, that had a sense of insecurity and was not trustworthy. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and respect considering that he was just set in his ways.

I’ve allowed that individual to underestimate my tolerance one too many times, I finally decided to confront him and discuss the tension that he was causing between us and that I would no longer tolerate his attitude. That was the last time that I had a problem with that individual.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
It’s a “dog eat dog” world out there. You need to be prepared for any outcome, and ALWAYS be your self. Never let a circumstance change who you are.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
We recently had a fire in the lab, and found out that there was only one fire extinguisher at the facility.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud
I am THANKFUL that I have a job, it pays the bills, puts food on the table, and gas in the tank. What makes me feel good…giving someone a hug when they needed the most. Giving an elder a ride to the grocery store. Having a clean house. My kids.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
I have gone through hell and high water, and I have made it this far…there is NOTHING that will make me want to quit.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
The job is not stressful at all, however the physical and mental effortlessness of the job can be monotonous and psychologically unhealthy. I manage to balance that by doing additional work when permitted. Outside of work I make a point of exercising as often as possible, and eating healthy, but still manage to reward myself with a treat once in a while. I think that’s healthy too.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means? The pay is roughly $12.00hr. Personally I feel that I am worth much more than that, compared to today’s cost of living. No, I don’t feel that I am living within my means.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I generally may take a day or two per month, unless I am saving for an extended period of time for an upcoming trip or other events.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
My experiences has mostly been in manufacturing; building, welding, packing, testing products such as medical devices, quality check, scanning and so on… I am also a firm believer that if someone offers me training or education, I will not hesitate to take the offer.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
Well if it’s on the present job it would be that the importance of the medical devices I make is my motivation, and team work is the key. It is easy, clean work. Being in the medical industry it is a job that will be here for a long time. The company offers exceptional benefits and opportunities for advancement.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
In five years what I would like to be perusing further education, possibly in the medical field, buying my dream home, being debt free, planning trips around the world with my husband, appreciating what I have and do at work or at home, and to LIVE AND LOVE LIFE…



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  • As an hispanic female, I can relate to Maria’s story. As a child of a mother who took any office job she could with no degree I can also relate. When Maria expressed her concerns of being treated differently at work and having faced attitudes due to being African/ Italian, it home for me. Growing up and going through elementary school I was the only hispanic female in my class along with an African American male and the rest of the students were caucasian. The kids always gave me funny looks and asked me questions simply due to being a different skin tone and ethnicity. I began to feel like an outsider until I grew up. The older I got the more I realized how blessed I was to be apart of such amazing cultures being Mexican and Puerto Rican. Like Maria, I am proud to be who I am and I also take pride in being mixed.

    I mentioned that Maria and I also share similarities due to my mom not having a college degree and taking any office job that she could. Like my mother, Maria also has no college degree and rather took the route to get a job that could help raise her family. My mother had to raise me on her own but was grateful for the job she had to be able to do it just like Maria.

    My grandparents also worked in an assembly like Maria. All there of them including Maria were grateful for having the opportunity to work. My grandma was forced to leave her homeland, Puerto Rico, in hopes of finding a job in the states here. She did and although I cannot relate to being in the assembly industry, I can relate to the characteristics thought by it and passed down which are always be humble and kind.

    By reading Maria’s story, it reminded me a bit of me and my family and allowed me to express the similarities we share.

  • Your experience of growing up feeling out of place resonates with me, as I have gone through high school in advanced classes I always felt that I wasn’t enough compared to other students and that my teachers did not really believe in me as a Hispanic American. Even at my previous job, I wasn’t told about scholarship opportunities that I overheard were being told to a white male, and I wondered why my manager never approached me and explained the scholarship that they offered. Once a fellow co-worker was surprised when I told them that I took Advanced Placement classes did I realize how I was perceived.

    However, to deal with this I always just shrugged it off and convinced myself that I was not being discriminated because if I felt that if I thought this I would always use it as an excuse for failure. Rather, I just decided to work harder and use these instances as fuel. But today, I feel that it is necessary to address any serious issues that affect my well being or future and speak up.

    I also strongly agree that at times anything in life that becomes a regularity can get tiresome. I have found that community service does truly help, because you get a sense of relevancy and significance in making a difference for not just yourself. By helping others around me I feel fulfilled by making a difference.

  • Anny

    Thank you for sharing this great story and put in words exactly what most people would like to express.

    This is such a strong message, it just melted my heart because I do relate to it a lot! It so great to see the strength of a woman who doesn’t want to be defeated by society’s perspective. Being undermined or disrespected is never about you, but says a lot about the other person. Just put in good work out there, be positive and aim to make a good chance and let the universe handle the rest.

  • I agree with so many of her sentiments. Being comfortable with yourself and having a job that not only satisfies economically but also meets personal requirements. I hope to one day have a job like that, something that keeps my alive and happy simultaneously. I’ve never really been able to find my passion but I always find myself placing so much energy into projects that I don’t really want to undertake. I’ve always been worried that its impossible to find a job that; pays well, satisfies intellectually and that I love doing. Even now I doubt that my path will place me on a job that I’ll love but reading her responses gave me some incentive to keep searching.

  • Wow what a strong woman! No only did she defy the stereotypes of her racial background that were put upon her as a child, but she also has pushed through as a female! She has shoved any discriminational ideas aside. Maria Riley has a great mindset which I think is why she has made it as far as she has. She’s positive, she loves the challenge, she is unique and most significant of all, she is very grateful of what she possesses. even though she mentions that she is worth more, she still is happy with her life. She is not materialistic and its inspiring to be happy in the shoes we were given, because its the only pair we will ever get. She also values education, which I think was a huge benefactor of how she came so far, she was hungry for more knowledge.
    Overall, Maria has a great head on her shoulders. She has gone through hardships and dark times and come out with a light she has created for herself on her own. She is a inspiration.

  • I think this is really great. It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to be a doctor to be able to help people. I can relate to this story because, like Maria, I am focused on helping people. Even if medical school isn’t where I end up, I pray that I end up somewhere in the medical field so I can continue to help people in any way. I can also relate to Maria because I feel as though she loves what she is doing. And thats honestly what its all about. No matter what you do in life, it should be because YOU enjoy doing it. Very inspiring and interesting read.

  • Maria Riley’s story was relatable to me because she feels her profession moves her heart. She knows that her contribution can change the direction of someone’s life, even though it is behind the scenes. I aspire to deliver babies and promote women’s health as an Obstetrician Gynecologist. Women’s health can often be seen as a taboo subject and not is widely talked about among peers. I want to be someone women trust as a confidant in the typically hidden world of women’s health.

    She also comments that she has the power to physically and emotionally change a person’s life for the better. I aim to do this as well, in the case of families. Directly, I influence the life of a mother and the child, or children, she is carrying. In the big picture, I will positively effect an entire family of people, as I have the life of someones daughter/son, niece/nephew, and grandchild in my hands. In my profession, I hope to bring the positivity that Maria Riley brings to her workplace.

  • This is an incredible story. I am so proud that there are women out there who choose to make a difference and do something better for themselves.

  • I can relate with Maria Riley’s story because when I was young, i was very insecure and had no confidence in myself. My mother would always tell me to toughen up and stop crying because she showed me that when you show weakness in the world, the world will eat you up. The reason why my mother had to teach me this lesson was because my father was never around in my life at all. I had to navigate the course of manhood without him and it was a struggle. Over the years, i had grew more confident in myself and began pursuing my dream in becoming a Medical Laboratory Scientist. My first job in the science world is doing work study as a laboratory technician and i love it every single day. It’s practice for my career later in life. The quote that I follow everyday since high school is “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

  • I can relate to her because I too am an African American woman who is currently working in a factory setting. I am in the greeting card business and during the course of the past year my life has changed dramatically. A little girl was on Good Morning America and she was dying from a some type of brain tumor. When they asked her what she wanted most, she simply replied that she wanted a lifetime worth of greeting cards. Well the plant I worked has 1,500 associates and the majority of them signed Christmas and Birthday cards to send to her, along with posters and banners. At that moment I felt that this was one of the best experinces that I have had while working there.

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