Tell me about your job, career or calling. How did you get into this line of work?
First of all, I work two jobs. I serve both the hearing and deaf population. I am currently a full-time delivery driver for Markwell in Miami, Florida. I drive a van from the offices in Opa-Locka as far south as Homestead and as far north as West Palm Beach. This covers roughly around a 100 mile range. I deliver cases of staples, nails, stretch film, and other supplies to warehouses in the area that are involved in woodworking, upholstery, bedmaking, furniture, flower farming, and lobster trapping. Markwell is an industrial tool and packaging distribution company that is family-owned. Yes, my family owns the company. My brother is a part-owner as well as my father and I came aboard about three months after my brother bought the company. Think I got the job because my brother is the owner? Think again–I had to earn this opportunity. I come from a hardworking family of businessmen–my brother was a longtime Verizon executive who rose through the ranks from his outstanding sales work. He earned every bit of his promotions, so when I went to work for him I had to earn the job. After some time in a trial basis, I became an employee of the company (not an owner) and I earned it because I worked hard and did what I was asked to do. It took some time to find a role, but it has been solidified by the fact that I have a safe driving record and I love to drive, so deliveries have worked out for me. I also do projects on the side. Another reason that I earned this job is that sales have been in record numbers since I started delivering for the company, mainly because of my willingness to drive anywhere.
My second job is with ZVRS as a Z Associate. My job is very simple, I just install the wonderful Z phones we have and I do some sales work as well. I also enjoy working with customers and meeting with new people. I worked for 6-7 years in human services (working in group homes and private academies) and I decided I wanted to change my career and have always been interested in working in the videophone business. I work with great people and the job is a lot of fun!
What is the best part of your job, career calling?
The best part is I get to work the front lines with both jobs and talk directly to the customers. I get to listen to a lot of feedback and generally the customers are very nice and we exchange questions and answers, for the purpose of growing a good working relationship. Another great part is I get to explore parts of places I have never visited since I am on the road often. For instance, I did not know South Florida had a lot of farmland. Tourists don’t generally associate South Florida with farms, but there are a lot–and areas west of Homestead have flower farms where the supplies I deliver ensure the survival of the plants that are growing there. The best part is that the farms have been thriving since Hurricane Andrew hit back in 1992. Andrew destroyed Homestead with 200 mph wind gusts that took about several hours, but it left a lot of rain in the area which strengthened the soil and allowed the crops to flourish. One of those things in South Florida if you are a longtime resident like I am, to think about how something so powerful can eventually help in the long run. Another part of the job that stands out for me is my co-workers. In Miami, there are many people that are living there for a long time and do not speak English. The warehouse guys I work with do not speak English well but we work well together because we found ways to communicate through gestures and a lot of patience. I learned Spanish while living in Colombia back in the 1990s and I was able to communicate in Spanish with them even though I am not fluent.
What are some of the challenges?
To know me is to REALLY know me. I speak so well that hearing people assume I can hear out of the left ear which is completely deaf. I’ve had hearing people come to me and start whispering in my ear for no reason. I say, “This is my bad ear.” They go around to the other side and start whispering into my hearing aid. “Nope, this is also my bad ear.” They get puzzled then I tell them not to worry, I can lipread and I can read Spanish well. I do get feedback from other customers who compliment me on my ability to speak so well. I also am told they are surprised I can drive a van. I often say, “I don’t need my ears to drive..all I need are my eyes that tell me what my hands should do with the steering wheel.” Another challenge is the language barrier. In Miami, there is a large influx of immigrants that mainly speak Spanish but also speak French Creole (those from Haiti) and my hearing customers often do not speak English. However they understand the routine I do for deliveries but sometimes they do not have much patience trying to communicate with me. The best approach that works for me is to just be patient with them myself and show them what I am trying to say to them so this way communication is smooth. Patience is also a virtue when it comes to doing home visits with customers who have a hard time understanding instructions. I myself am not 100 percent ASL. I use a mix when signing to customers and generally they understand me well. The best way is to show customers what to do–I have found they learn much faster this way. On the other hand, I was the same way growing up, I learned better when people showed me what to do as opposed to receiving verbal instructions.
What was it like growing up Deaf/Hard of Hearing?
I am the oldest of all the Pereira cousins, brothers, sisters. Being deaf was a full time job and it still is. I lost my hearing at 4 years old. Why, I do not know. I do not remember myself hearing. But I wear a hearing aid on my right ear. Have been this way since I was a little boy. As was the case in the 1970s, 1980s growing up there was no captioning on TV but I liked sports, action movies, and cartoons. But when television wasn’t around, I turned to books. As I did not learn to sign until I was 12, I learned to speak first and I found I could not follow family conversations so I turned to books to keep myself occupied. My grandparents had a library row full of Dr. Seuss books and those were the first books I could read. Reading then became a passion that took up a lot of my time growing up. I also lived out of the country for a long period of time at different times. I lived in Mexico during the late 1970s and in 1988 I moved to Colombia. Colombia was where I had to learn on my own, to grow up quickly. I did not have a choice. In Colombia, the high school kids I went to school with were neat dressers and looked up to their parents as role models and were very mature and polite people. Down there it was also a wide gap between the rich and the poor, and Colombians took their studies seriously. Family values were the same generation after generation. The more things changed, the more things stayed the same. I picked up Spanish quickly simply by reading, however verbal communication was difficult. On the other hand, I went to the American school and all the friends I made treated me with a lot of respect and I wasn’t the “deaf guy” in school, I was one of the guys. There was no bullying. I wore uniforms every day. On the other hand, Colombia was going through the worst period of violence in their history and I had to be extremely careful about what to say to people there, this is still a trait I follow today when talking to people, I often think of what to say before I say it. I was an American living in Colombia and it was a dangerous time, but I enjoyed my experience growing up. I fell in love with soccer and I adapted living there. Going to school there was wonderful, but I did not have sign language interpreters. Believe it or not, I did not need interpreters as I chose to adapt to having notetakers and I studied every night.
What advice would you give a Deaf/Hard of Hearing person who is looking for a job, career, or calling like yours?
One of the things you must understand is that when you look for work, employers are looking for somebody who has the intangibles. Experience is one thing. The other thing is showing them you have those intangibles. What do I mean by intangibles? Intangibles are this: having a neat appearance, having a positive attitude, having a clean record (driving, criminal, etc). The other thing is you have some skills that make you talented–things that people just don’t teach. The other and most important thing is discipline. Discipline is taking the same approach to work every day with positive results. Do not be discouraged if you get turned down for a job, there are others that are waiting to be filled. I cringe sometimes when deaf/HH people think they have been turned down due to their deafness and sometimes dwell on this. People, regardless of who and what they are, get turned down at times. The best thing is to move on and keep looking and finding that job for you. Yes, a job is hard to find with the economy being in a slump, but the important thing is never to give up and keep on looking as hard as you can. Even if you find something that pays less than your previous job, take it! You will always find that you can work your way up and be back to the level you were before, even if it takes some time to get there. The job you have may not be the calling you expect it to be, but sometimes the calling comes in unexpected places. Since I work as a driver, I had to have a clean driving record. Driving takes an enormous amount of discipline. It’s not as easy as it looks. I have been doing this since I got my license at 21. Miami is known for having lots of careless and aggressive drivers, so I have to be able to concentrate 100 percent of the time I am on the road. Trust is also very, very important. Be honest. This is a virtue you MUST have. Employers can turn down anyone they feel they are not going to trust. It used to be they could hire anyone and train them on the spot but this is not happening anymore. Times have changed where there are more stringent requirements a job seeker has to go through. The most important thing is to be patient and have a positive attitude, and be honest with yourself.