“As first-generation immigrants we have to figure things out on our own a lot of times. My parents were going through the same transition [to America] that I was going through [in high school]. We didn’t have a lot of direction. In order for me to get to the path that I’m on today, I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. Because I had to do it to survive, I think that that built into me some sense of independence and not being afraid of asking for help. I feel like those are some of my best skills, and they’ve been really useful for me in my career [as a NASA systems engineer].
“All throughout college, I worked as an English and math tutor for kids who were in a similar position as me: they’re in middle school or high school, they don’t know a lot of English, and they don’t know how to navigate the system. Normally, most tutors are trying to help with homework, but when you’ve experienced what I experienced and you see similar things happening to them, your role as a tutor becomes a little bit more.
“A lot of people in similar positions as myself, we struggle a lot with confidence and imposter syndrome. But having enough confidence to say, ‘I can do this. I’m ready, and even if I am not ready, I can be ready’ [is important]. I try to help people see that there’s an opportunity, and that if you work hard and are willing to evoke whatever it takes to get there, you can get it.
“It’s been a lot of delayed gratification because seven years ago I started as an intern, we launch [Europa Clipper] in 2024, and then it will be five years until we arrive at the Jupiter system. But I like that stuff. It’s a lot of work, but whatever we get out of [this mission] has the potential to change our understanding of who we are, and that’s really motivating for me.”
“It makes me feel like I am working towards a greater goal, and there’s no substitute to that. I could easily go work with another company, but I don’t think I would be able to find this extremely important, humanity scale-type of investigation anywhere else.”
– Andres Rivera, Systems Engineer II, Europa Clipper Mission, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Image Credit: NASA / Ryan Lannom
Interviewer: NASA / Tahira Allen
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