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Another Successful Immigrant’s Story

Armando Rivera was on Cafe Con Leche on March 9, 2018. Below is his story. 

Armando Rivera Gil Autobiography

            It was Tuesday June 14, 1989 at night; there I stood, next to both my mother and father on top of a hill, and all I could see were city lights in the horizon. My father pointed out and said, “Mando, si miras eso?” and I replied, “Si! Pero yo por alli no voy.” I was refusing to go, and I said it with great fear referring to the tremor of embracing a new culture and environment in the United States. He offered me a dollar and I took it, refusing to look back. That night changed my life. Today, I am still here changing my life each day that passes by. I began with nothing but a single dollar that night; however, every decision that I’ve made since then has gradually improved my life although it has not been easy.

            Born Armando Rivera Gil on June 14, 1983, the first of five boys in a small town of Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. I hold a lot of responsibilities being the primary example on almost every action I take. My father, Tomas Rivera Delgado, and my mother, Elvira Rivera Gil both reached only a third grade education. Due to economic instability, a major struggle in most of Mexico, my parents were taken out of school to help support their families. Consequently, my childhood is filled with memories of poverty and struggle. Even though it was challenging at times I continued to succeed in school.

            After graduating from high school in June 2001 I made a life altering decision; I joined the Navy because I did not have enough money for college. While in the Navy, I accomplished the rank of E-5 in three and a half years. This would have been an advantage had I chose to make the Navy a permanent career. However, fortunately, I stood by my original plan to complete only the four-year enlistment.  Once that was complete, I was honorably discharged and with the knowledge and experience gained in the Navy, I was able to obtain an electrical construction job working for Kent Electric Co.

Kent Electric was a small construction- electrician company that I worked for, while attending Westwood College. This fast paced private college is where my previous ambition in pursuing a career in Criminal Justice was swayed to Computer Aided Drafting. Still, even after taking CAD classes, I did not believe I was truly passionate about what I was doing, and decided to pursue Electrical Engineering at East Los Angeles College. Although I made the transition from a criminal justice to Electrical Engineering very carefully, I wanted to make the correct decision, as I knew it would be something that I would commit to for years to come. I continued my Electrical Experience when I was offered an Electrical Technician position working for a Canadian Company known as Bombardier, which is contracted by Metrolink of Southern California. It was there that I gained experience with various electrical systems.

While working in the railroad industry, I was also taking a few classes at ELAC and time was of an essence. In 2009, I faced the decision of choosing between an education or working to expand my experience in the electrical field. I chose education and resigned in December of 2009. This was a very difficult decision at the time considering the plummeting economy. I began full-time at ELAC the following Spring Semester 2010 and although everything seemed to be going according to plan, I faced another obstacle that spring semester; I received a call from the Navy Operational Support Center in Los Angeles and was notified that I was involuntarily chosen for a deployment in the Middle East. I left for training the beginning of May 2010, and continuing school during that time was out of the question. I served my time in Al Asad Air Force Base, Iraq. The deployment came to an end in June 2011. As I came back to the states, I tried to pick up where I left off knowing that it was not going to be easy. I enrolled in the Summer Semester 2011 and have been full-time at ELAC since.

While at ELAC in the Spring 2012 Semester I was chosen to apply for an internship at JPL/NASA/Caltech. Upon receiving the news that I was selected to participate in the Internship I knew that the hard work and dedication that I have put forth is paying off. The internship consisted of a ten-week program working in Quality Assurance Receiving Inspection Department side by side with JPL professional engineers who guided me on what it takes to be part of a great organization. Receiving Inspection uses established processes to conduct inspection of the JPL Critical Item (JCI) hardware and associated documentation. The primary objective of the project was to standardize the Receiving Inspection process by revisiting and revising inspection plans, generating training material for each inspection plan, and establishing an inspector certification course. I learned how to be an effective communicator, team player, and JPL professional by holding meetings, following up with e-mails, keeping everyone up to date on the projects at the time. The internship provided me with experience and confidence that strengthen my decision in choosing the Electrical Engineering major.

Following the JPL internship, I transferred from ELAC to the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) in the summer of 2013. Two and a half years later, I obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from UC Irvine and secured an engineering position at Northrop Grumman Corporation after completion of my final class at UC Irvine in March of 2016. Since beginning work at Northrop Grumman I have been involved with Adelante, an employee resource group comprised of Hispanic individuals with a goal in helping others while at work and in the community. Helping others achieve their goals is a goal I will continue to strive for in order to thank everyone who has helped me achieve mine. I am very grateful for everyone who have helped me out get to where I am including; Jose C. Ramirez and Marina Rueda from ELAC, Kika Friend and Robin Jeffers from UC Irvine, Elvis Merida from JPL, and Lupe Delgado from Northrop Grumman Corporation.

In the years since my family and I made the journey to the United States, I have changed the dollar that my dad gave me into much more – not financial gain, rather, the intellectual capacity to appreciate the sacrifices he has made for the benefit of his family. He was handing me the opportunity to succeed with hard work and dedication. The goals I plan to accomplish are to become a great professional Electrical Engineer, to assure financial stability in order to work on obtaining a family, setting an example for my brothers, friends, and the community by showing them that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. We all have one chance in life and we need to make it count.

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