Diversity Career Stories Maintenance

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…