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Employee Spotlight: Ruben Rodriguez Shares His Thoughts On Hispanic Heritage Month

Ruben Rodriguez has been dedicated to saving lives with San Diego Blood Bank since 2009. Throughout his journey here, Ruben has made his mark as an exceptional leader and project manager for Hospital Services, Research and now Business Development.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the heritage, histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans, immigrants, and visitors whose ancestors came from parts of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a very special month for my family and I. During this time, family is celebrated. Growing up, I was blessed to have my family nearby. We gather regularly for traditional activities like weekend cookouts (what we call Carne Asada) while playing mariachi, banda, and cumbia music for everyone, and simply bonding with each other by sharing stories, playing games, or enjoying the food. We are grateful that Hispanic Heritage is honored during this month, but my family and I celebrate it year-round!  

What are some of your favorite cultural traditions? 
The Hispanic culture is rich in tradition; that is what makes us unique. Latino and Hispanic culture and customs have a major presence everywhere in our city, from street names to architecture, to visual arts, dance, and music. Some of my favorite cultural traditions include Día de los Muertos, Quinceañeras, and eating tamales throughout the year especially during the holiday season.  

Día de los Muertos is a multi-day holiday which involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died and help support their spiritual journey. Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. 

A Quinceañera is the Hispanic tradition of acknowledging a young girl’s coming of age on her 15th birthday. It is a celebration of the young lady (la Quinceañera) and recognizes her journey from childhood to maturity. The customs highlight God, family, friends, music, food, and dance. 

Tamales are also all about tradition. Hard work is put into making them, but it is all worth it when it brings the family together. Tamales are a traditional holiday dish, made of corn-cased masa and steamed corn husk or banana leaves filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and chile.  

In what ways has your heritage influenced your personal and professional life? 
As a father of three young daughters, I have started to set time aside for family bonding with the goal to share my heritage and cultural background with them. A good first step has been working towards the goal of becoming bilingual; as my mother frequently reminds me: “Mijo, hablales en español, ahorita es la edad perfecta!” Our goal is to have all our daughters be fluent in both English and Spanish. We also share and explain different holidays and traditions with them throughout the year. 

As far as my professional life, my heritage has been a constant reminder that hard work, sacrifice, being grateful, and having a positive outlook in life has led me to this point and created the person who I am today.  

In what ways has working at San Diego Blood Bank impacted your life?
Working at San Diego Blood Bank (12+ years now!) has had a significant impact on my life and has taught me some great values. It has taught me to create a work-life balance, respect others, and truly value what we all do for the community as an organization.

How did you come to work with San Diego Blood Bank?
Back in 2009, my mother in law’s best friend shared with me that there was an opening for a position in the Hospital Services department. I was intrigued by the mission and vision of SDBB and thought it would be great opportunity. 12 years later, here I am, and the story continues!

What do you do exactly at San Diego Blood Bank and how to you plan to impact SDBB's mission to save lives?
Since October 2020, I have led the Research Products and Services (RPS) department team, supported department initiatives, and paved the way for new growth. In June 2021, I accepted the role of Assistant Manager, Business Development, responsible for the efficient management of business development projects and customers – including both Research Products & Services and Cell Therapies. I oversee the review of incoming new business opportunities and help build new partnerships to help push SDBB's mission further. My projects support multiple departments such as Nursing & Community Wellness (NCW), Research, Quality Assurance (QA), Operations, and Finance.

One of my goals is to bridge the gap between business and operations. I am working hard to ensure that all SDBB team members understand our research products and services so they can, in turn, empower our customers and partners with clinical trials and their many research applications. My ultimate goal is to keep working hard, build up my business development skills, and continue to fuel SDBB's mission to save lives. With all this said, I hope I can leave a work legacy at SDBB.

Tell us about your biggest achievement that you’re most proud of.
I was the first family member to attend and graduate from a four-year university. Working full-time during evening and graveyard hours at SDBB and attending SDSU also as a full-time student during morning hours, was definitely a challenge for me. Studying and sleeping limited hours in my truck was a big sacrifice that I will never forget. 

Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
My Family. I’m lucky to have an amazing team and support system. My parents for always listening to me and for all the things they taught me and continue to teach. My wife because she has always allowed me to chase my dreams; not simple but she makes it so easy to focus on my goals with her unconditional love and support. My daughters are the greatest gifts my wife has ever given me in my life. Being with them always is the perfect way to love and unwind. 

If you could meet anyone living or dead and have lunch, who would it be? 
I would love to host a carne asada cookout at home where we would have both living and passed ancestors and friends get together and enjoy everyone’s presence for that one time. Music has always had a special place in my life so I would hire a mariachi band and have them play for hours and see everyone dance and enjoy a fun time. 

Any special message for the San Diego Blood Bank community regarding Hispanic Heritage Month?
With perseverance and determination, you can unlock whatever you need for success. Always have an open heart to others around you – you just don’t know their backstory. Take a moment and think how your culture and traditions contribute to your surroundings, the community, and the rest of the world. Viva Mexico!