by Grace Gagnon
Vanessa Rivera, who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico 6 years ago and speaks fluent English, is happily married, mother to two young girls, and a successful quality inspector at DACRUZ Manufacturing in Bristol, Conn.
Vanessa had a dream and she made it happen.
Let’s rewind to how she got here.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Vanessa’s been a hairdresser since age 14. She went to a vocational high school where she mastered hairdressing. After graduating high school, she learned how to be a barber.
She moved to Connecticut almost six years ago with her husband, young daughter, Andrea, and a vision to start over.
“I moved for my kids. Of course, for me, I was thinking I would work as a hairdresser,” Vanessa said.
However, Vanessa said there was a change in plans when she got pregnant with her second child, Khloe. She decided to stay home for a while.
In the meantime, Vanessa started taking classes to learn English. She said one teacher told her, “Your English is not that bad, you just need to talk to people.” That teacher, Patty Omar, recommended Vanessa enroll in Bristol Adult Education’s manufacturing program, BristolWORKS!.
Little did she know this would be the start of an exciting professional adventure.
Betty DaCruz, chief financial officer of DACRUZ Manufacturing, visited Vanessa’s class.
“They had asked me to come and speak to the group, because they were graduating, and they thought it would be helpful to have another woman in manufacturing there,” Betty said.
Clearly, Betty made quite an impression. Vanessa said as soon as she met Betty she thought, “Oh, I would love to work with that woman.”
After graduating from the BristolWORKS! program, Vanessa said she had about three or four interviews, but wanted to work with Betty.
Betty’s husband, Victor, who is the president of DACRUZ Manufacturing, was equally eager to take Vanessa on.
Victor said, “In order to work in manufacturing, you need people who are attentive to detail. With Vanessa’s experience in hairdressing in addition to the training she received through the BristolWORKS! program, she fit the job description perfectly.”
Not many companies will hire people who don’t have much experience in a given industry, but Victor and Betty, who were familiar with the BristolWORKS! program, saw this as an opportunity.
“Those who are new to the industry don’t come in with bad habits and you get to train them from scratch. Usually you get someone who is committed because they’ve taken the time and made the effort to go through the program [BristolWORKS!],” Victor said.
In Vanessa’s case, Betty and Victor said she’s excelled in every way possible.
Vanessa — a mother in her 30s, who came to America speaking barely any English without a college degree — has made quite a life for herself in manufacturing. For anyone considering trying something new, Vanessa said, “There is nothing wrong with changing careers, changing jobs, fighting for a dream, working hard for a goal as long as it makes you happy.”
To learn more about the BristolWORKS! program, click here.
Grace Gagnon is a Bristol native and graduate of UConn who is currently working as a content marketer.