Season 2, Episode 38

Being Resilient


Jeyra Rivera


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Today’s Guest



In today’s episode I am speaking with Jeyra Rivera.


Jeyra L Rivera Arocho, born and raised in Puerto Rico.

After a hurricane, displacement and seven years later,  she will be graduating this May from my Mechanical Engineering bachelors.

She will be joining the workforce this summer as a Plumbing/Fire Protection Engineer.

She also started her own business called jibaritascorner.

If you love the show please leave a rating or a review here.

If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast.




Jeyra Rivera

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Malini Sarma 0:01

Hi, Jeyra, thank you so much for coming on to the Gladiatrix Podcast. I am so excited to have you here.

Jeyra 0:08

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I am so excited. I probably even more excited for you to have me here.

Malini Sarma 0:16

I know this is your first interview on a podcast, but I'm sure it's not going to be the last. Thank you You are welcome. So you are from Puerto Rico, but you're not currently you don't live there. So tell me a little bit more about your experience growing up, you know, do you have any siblings? Would you want to be when you grew up? What was that? Like?

Jeyra 0:39

Yeah, of course. Well, I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I was there until I was 21. I had a great childhood. There's like a word when I can. When I think about my childhood, I think about resilience. And that word, it kind of comes like all the way through my journey. Um, so I was raised by a single mom, with help with my grandparents. I went to school, I was pretty much go to college with my mom because you know, there was no Nanny that could take care of me. So I went to school with my mom. I kind of she went for engineering as well. So those years were hard, but it kind of shaped me to become the person that I am today. Um, I do have siblings. I have three siblings from my dad's side. And I have a younger sister from my mom's side as well. Okay.

Malini Sarma 1:42

Are you the oldest?

Jeyra 1:44

No, I'm in the middle. Oh, okay. Yeah, I'min the middle.

Malini Sarma 1:47

that explains the resilience.

Jeyra 1:50

Yes, middle child problems. So yeah, I was pretty much raised by my mom and my grandparents growing up. I don't know, like, we didn't grew up with like, a lot. But my grandpa, something that I appreciate from my, you know, Grandpa is that he never taught me like any gender bias. And that is something that I'm very grateful for, because he could I could like help my grandma in the kitchen. But I could also like help, my grandpa to fix stuff around the house. So that kind of like started the Curiosity in me how things work, like how I can fix stuff. So that was pretty much like my upbringing in Puerto Rico. That's what up Yeah, go ahead.

Malini Sarma 2:43

No, no. So is that how you is or why your interest in engineering? Is that how that started? Because you watched your mom?

Jeyra 2:50

No, funny enough? Oh, well, I would say so. Maybe? I was fascinated by math and science since like, of course in school, and like seeing those very difficult equations. And I remember on her senior design project, I was able, she was able to like teach me a little bit of AutoCAD because, like, exhaustion was real. I was like, oh, how can I help you?

Malini Sarma 3:20

So started young.

Jeyra 3:21

Yes, I started very young. I, I remember, maybe like when I was five years old, I wanted to be a civil engineer, just like my mom. Then like, I don't want it I decided to go to the medicine route. I did like a lot of summer camps. So classes, interests, like for me to go to med school eventually. And then on my was a junior was a senior year of high school. I was like, Oh, I kind of had a wake up go. I'm like, I don't know if I want to do like undergrad in like chemistry or like physics. This kind of doesn't make sense to me. Because what if I don't get to med school right away? What I'm gonna do with this kind of degree, right? So that's when I started contemplating, again, engineering. And in Puerto Rico, there is no biomedical engineering major. Okay. So the closest thing that I could get for me to get into the medicine route, it was mechanical engineering, that was the closest thing offered in Puerto Rico. Okay, so I started my school in Puerto Rico. Then I did my first internship experience in a pharma there. And I fell in love with air handling units and like air, pretty much ventilation systems. I fell in love so hard. I was like, yeah, screw these biomedical screw these med school. This is what I'm doing from now on.

Malini Sarma 4:59

Awesome. Did you Did your mom, like, have expectations? Like, okay, you should, you know, you need to be an engineer or she just kind of left you to figure out what you wanted, but she was insistent that you have an education.

Jeyra 5:10

Um, my mom always kind of one wanted me to find my happiness and to pursue my happiness, whatever that meant. For me that's like something that I'm very grateful for that she didn't have like expectations, but in a way, like, I saw her, like, our upbringing, and I almost can't just give up like giving up. It's just not on my equation, or in my psych.

Malini Sarma 5:41

Mm hmm.

Jeyra 5:42

That's what I saw. Yeah, cuz that's what I saw growing up. So you gotta make sense.

Malini Sarma 5:46

Yeah, no, that is awesome. So now you are actually going to be starting a new job soon. Right. But you're getting there has not been an easy journey. Yeah. Tell Tell me a little bit more about that.

Jeyra 5:58

Yeah, of course. So I was going to school in Puerto Rico. Then in 2017. Hurricane Maria pretty much destroyed Puerto Rico. I was in Chicago visiting my ex partner, actually. And I made it like two days before the hurricane hit the island. And I pretty much got stuck in there. I literally made it with like, clothes for a backpack with like, five days worth of clothes. Hmm. That's how I met I Chicago, I got stuck there. for like a month, until I could know if my family was like, even alive. It was like very scary. I decided to find a job. Because I was like, yeah, there's no way that I'm going to be like, helpful, if I go back to Puerto Rico when my parents are trying to get out, right. So I started reaching out to people, and my resume got pushed around. Because I already had engineering experience. I was like, you know, I'll work and whatever. And I was applying to engineering and non engineering jobs. I was lucky enough that my resume got push for an engineering firm in Chicago. I got interviewed there. And that's how I got my first job in Chicago.

Malini Sarma 7:22

But your engineering degree took a long time,

Jeyra 7:26

right? Yes, it did. That's Yeah, I first found this job. And then my boss at a time I started in October. And then like, in December, no November, she was like, you know, you're doing like a great job here. And why don't you transfer school to Chicago? I was like, but what how am I gonna even like, do this. And I was very, very lucky that she, she had her daughter applying for colleges. So she already kind of knew. And she was she guided me through the whole college process and application process. You know, um, yeah, that's pretty much how I ended up like, she helped me to figure out how to apply how, yeah, how to submit that transfer application and the whole process. And then I got officially transferred to start on my spring 2018 semester. And yeah, pretty much it has taken me almost seven years to finish my undergrad.

Malini Sarma 8:29

Wow. That is called perseverance. Right? And resilience. You're not you're not going to give up?

Jeyra 8:35

Yes, like giving, giving up is definitely not. And like an option for me.

Malini Sarma 8:41

That's awesome, though. But, um, but congratulations on, you know, the new job. And hopefully, things are gonna be looking, it's only looking gonna get better from this point on, right? Yeah, absolutely. So you're, uh, you're already you started your own business last March of last year. Right. So what how did that happen? What prompted that? And you know, what was your reaction of people when they found out? Or do they even know?

Yes, actually, I started the business. Because I could not find a very thick curly hair. And the Chicago winter is real. It's very rough. So I could not find anything that work on for my hair. And I don't know, I've always been interested in like chemistry and like how, I don't know, I always like to know how things work. That's like my engineering brain, if you want to call it like that. So I started formulating, like playing around how to make creams and stuff for the hair. And I develop like really good recipes. And I'm like, oh, maybe I can, you know, start a sidehustle out of this. Why not? And at that time, I also got laid off, because, you know, was the pick of the pandemic and I'll say, Oh, perfect timing. I guess I'm starting Good business now. Yeah,

yeah. So, how I started this podcast, this is all pandemic babies, right?

Jeyra 10:07

Yes, pandemic babies agreed?

And regarding the support question, I am so blessed that I own my friends, family and light have been super supportive. They like promote my stuff, they like buy my stuff, they recommend my stuff. So I really cannot. I am very grateful to have a communityhave been holding my back.

Malini Sarma 10:36

That's, that's really awesome. And I think, I think there's a whole generation of people that have been, you know, forced to kind of look for other opportunities and come up with very creative things. Because, you know, we were all sitting at home trying to figure out how we can survive, right? Yeah, I think I think this is this is awesome. So now, do you have like an online store and a website? And? Or how if somebody needs to get a hold of what you have? How would they? Yes? How can they get ahold of it?

Yes, we are our e commerce. So we are exclusively online, we have a website. And we also have Instagram and Facebook, we also, you know, can you can use Instagram shop, but majority of our sales are made through our website.

Okay, so now is everything. Did you make everything? Like is it? You know, in the US? Do you have like, your suppliers and you know, people who are making it? Or do you kind of make it yourself? How does that how did all that work?

I am in charge of the whole technical side, I formulate I test, and I manufacture the product.

Okay. So you're right now you're based out of so when they have to do shipping and stuff you ship within the US and outside? Okay,

Jeyra 12:00

I'm shipping only on the US and territories,

Malini Sarma 12:04

okay. to Puerto Rico, of course, right? Yes,

Jeyra 12:06

yes. Yes, of course.

Malini Sarma 12:10

That is awesome. That is really cool. So you have gone from, you know, trying to figure out what you wanted to do. You became an engineer, you watched your mom be successful at that. You figured out what you wanted to do in spite of having, you know, the hurricane destroying the island, you were still able to complete your education. Now you have, you know, you're working and you have your side business that you're doing. But coming to this point. What were some of the things that you learned along the way that you would want to tell other women who would want to be like following their dreams? You know, like, what kind of advice we want to give them?

Jeyra 12:56

That is a great question. I feel that never stopped dreaming. And but you should combine those dreams with action. They're like you can get have all the ideas that you might create. But if there's not like an action, right after that thought, not too much is going to happen. And also getting on your comfort zone will not, like bring you the great things that you as a woman are capable of doing. So I would say, like dream, make a plan. Get out of your comfort zone. Like if you're afraid to start your business. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Like do it and then tweak it. Because we as women we want like we usually wait until everything is perfect just to go and do it. Yes. Yeah. And sometimes you just need to go for it and then tweak it.

Malini Sarma 14:01

Yeah, I agree. I absolutely agree. So I'm looking back, you know, your childhood in your journey so far. Is there anything that you would have changed? Or is there anything that you would have told your younger self to do that would have made it bigger, better, easier? so far?

Jeyra 14:25

I think I I've had this introspection before if I regret anything, through my journey, and I don't because I will not be the person that I am today without all the experiences that I've been through. But definitely something that I will say to my younger self is Be kind to yourself. You are smart, you are resilient. And the only competition that you have is yourself and the only limits That, you know, you are the only one creating those limits in your head. Mm hmm. That's something that I would say not only to my younger self, but to anyone that is like holding back or like getting too hard on themselves.

Malini Sarma 15:18

Cool. I think that's, I think that is very relevant, especially in today's day and age, right, as we women try to get ahead and kind of forge our way and chase our dreams. So that that is really awesome. So thank you, Jeyra. I really appreciate your taking the time and getting a chance to speak to other women who I'm sure very inspired by your journey.

Jeyra 15:44

Thank you so much for inviting me has been such an honor like chatting with you and just hanging out with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Malini Sarma 15:53

Oh, you're very welcome.

Transcribed by

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Malini Sarma

Malini Sarma

Your Host

Hello. I am Malini. I am a dancer, world traveler and storyteller. I am a hard core fan of chai and anything hot. I am always looking for new adventures and would rather be outside than inside.

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