What is your key responsibility?
I am a Maintenance Mechanic for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. This position covers fixing everything from lights in the parking lot, to putting together furniture in offices, to fixing plumbing issues or maintaining our seawater system, which supplies seawater to our experimental aquaria and Ocean Technology Development Tank. If anything happens in the building, I am called to respond and fix it, so every day it might be something different: electricity, plumbing, pumps or motors, or the grounds.
Where do you conduct your work?
At our laboratory in La Jolla, California. But I started out working at our previous laboratory, located across the street, almost 30 years ago.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Cuidad Constitutión, in Baja California Sur, Mexico.
What is your educational background?
I went to high school in Mexico and studied in La Paz, Baja California. I started out as a marine mechanic in Baja, working on boats. But my dream was to do more and I started working for a contracting company that maintained buildings and grounds, including the NOAA building in La Jolla. Seven years later, after gaining my citizenship, I was hired as a federal employee.
My dream is to work here and I’m doing what I like to do. I get a lot of satisfaction in making things work. There’s some frustration at the beginning when things are broken, but then we make them work, and that’s satisfying.
Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today?
I learned a lot from training books. But, mostly, I really like to learn from others, especially older people. Life is a very good school and I’m learning all the time. I learn from other contractors who get called in for their specialized skills and I learn from the scientists at the lab, and apply it to my life. I’ve learned a lot from my bosses too. I have to thank Merle Marrow, my first supervisor, and Matt Vogel, my current supervisor. I learn a lot from Matt and am learning all the time. I owe a lot to them. My kids tell me, “Dad, you never end.” I guess I’m a perfectionist. I’m always working to be the best I can be. Providing the best customer service is one of the most important things to me.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
To me, it’s a time to recognize the Hispanics in the United States, including those working for the government, and all that they are doing for this country. I think it’s a good appreciation. It means a lot to me.
When I came to this country, I had a mission and I was focused. This country gave me an opportunity to better myself and to have a better life. Also, to serve and do something for this country, by working hard and being a good citizen. I want to share that vision with others coming here, to improve ourselves and serve this country, which is providing the opportunity.
Becoming a U.S. citizen was very special to me. And Merle, my boss at the time, gave a celebration back at the lab afterwards with a cake. It means a lot to me.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a house man. I like to vacation and all that, but most likely I’m at home doing repairs. I enjoy being with my family. I have grown children and also an 8 year old who I bring to school and pick up every day. Besides that, I enjoy going out to eat and I’m always watching baseball. Since I was a child, I’ve followed the Braves. Also, the Padres (the local team). Football? It’s the Dallas Cowboys.
What advice would you have for today’s youth interested in a federal government career?
My advice is for the government to give opportunities to young people. It’s important that young people have exposure to NOAA Fisheries and the work that we do. My son visited our aquarium and was able to experience holding animals in his own hands and talking to scientists. He might want to be a scientist—and he says he is going to be president one day! Bringing science to the schools, or providing opportunities to work or do internships for kids is important. This is a way to get people interested in preserving ocean life and improving science in this country—many people don’t know who we are or what we do. Some people know the government only as the military and do not know there are other ways to serve. We need more publicity!