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Bilingual Machine Supervisor Found Inspiration as a Child Working in Cotton Fields

In this career interview, DCMoreno, a machine supervisor in the newspaper industry, shares the lessons he has learned on the job and explains what it is like working in a field that may soon be obsolete.

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?
I am a machine supervisor in the newspaper industry, and I have twenty-one years of experience in this field. I would describe myself as humble, dedicated, and honest.

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? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
As a Hispanic male, I would not show my emotion sometimes because of the notion that men should be “macho.” Having grown up working in the fields of the Central Valley, I was well aware of racial discrimination at an early age. Because I found that the best way to deal with this issue was to consider the source, which usually involved a lack of education, I learned to keep my head up and not waste my time responding to ignorance. Being fluent in English and Spanish has been a mixed blessing because sometimes, I have been prematurely judged about what I am expected to know or not know. I am proud, however, that I have the mental capacity to process information from one language to another.

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?

I work in a very stressful, fast-paced environment focused on high quality and deadlines. My work entails packaging, equipment operation, and employee supervision. Because of I hold a “machine supervisor” title, people tend to forget that I can also make mistakes or may not always know the answer to a question. A sincere thanks for a job well done or a pat on the back would be appreciated once in a while.

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?
I rate it as seven. Better communication from management before big changes are made would ease some of the tension and pressure.

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?
Knowing that the work I do impacts thousands of people a day is very satisfying; to know I had a part in doing the newspaper when someone opens it is gratifying. My sweet spot would be working in a job that helps people of all races fight against poverty, oppression, and discrimination.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I started as a part-time on-call packager and worked my way to the top. I would have taken a tour of the paper and learned more about the industry if I had to do it over again.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
That many times a machine supervisor is nothing more than a glorified babysitter for adults. Sometimes adults act very child-like and need to be treated as such.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
That hard work really does pay off and is necessary if you want to move up in terms of promotion and monetary gain.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
Once, as I was leaving for the day, I ran into the vice president who told me he was on his way to divorce court and wasn’t happy about it. I had never spoken to this person and for him to share this with me was unexpected.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I feel I’ve come along way from where I started. My first memory of work is picking cotton by hand when I was five years old, and I continued to work in the fields until my late teens. Although I didn’t think so at the time, it was the best real-world class I ever attended because it taught me what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life—thanks, mom and dad.

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?
Just like so many other businesses, the recent economy has had a negative impact on the newspaper industry and there is a possibility for this American tradition to end; I want to work in it until it does. Over my twenty-one year career, I’ve had the pleasure of helping many of my co-workers get promoted to full-time positions, so they are able to provide for themselves and their families.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
Having a workforce that consists of 90 percent part-time employees makes it very difficult to cover our shifts. Being reminded “you’re lucky you still have a job” on an almost daily basis makes me want to walk out the door.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
Working under tight deadlines and with limited resources is very stressful. I’m not really able to maintain a healthy work-life balance because working in an industry that is 24-7 means that whoever gets called-in anytime is expected to show up.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
The salary for a machine supervisor is between 50k to 60k. The pay is decent but working for free after eight hours isn’t.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I get four weeks a year but of course, I would always like more.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
Good people skills and being able to adapt to and respond to unexpected situations quickly is a must.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
If you want to spend weekends and holidays with your family, this is not for you.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would travel all over Latin America to learn about our cultural differences and, especially, to enjoy the food.

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