Julieta came to the U.S. with $100 in her pocket, spoke very little English, didn’t know anyone and had no immigration papers or social security number. She was born in San Diego, so she was an American citizen, but her family moved back to Mexico without ever finalizing her paperwork.
Julieta was in her 3rd year of Architecture school at the University of Sonora and realized that she was really bad at architecture. Her professor told her to switch her major to design because she was great at presenting ideas, color theory and drawing. She rejected that advice because the financial burden, of switching majors 3 years into her program, was too high.
Then one day, she fainted and hit her head on her fall, creating a hairline skull fracture that caused her brain to swell. Intuitively, she knew the fainting was a result of the stress at school, but a doctor was never able to diagnose the cause.
She recovered by staying in bed for one month, which meant that she fell too far behind in school and decided not to return once she was fully recovered.
After hearing about some of her friends working summers in the U.S., she became interested in that idea so she could save money and help support her family. Her sister was 9 at the time, starting elementary school and needed supplies. It was important for Julieta to be able to help her family financially.
Julieta and a friend planned to move to Arizona for the summer. She searched Craigslist and found a bedroom to rent in Gilbert, Arizona. At the last minute, her friend backed out so Julieta made the journey solo.
When she arrived in Gilbert, her first priority was to get a job. However, nobody would hire her because she didn’t have proper identification. After experiencing several rejections, she finally found a small family-owned restaurant who gave her a job as a waitress.
Once she had enough money saved, she bought a bike, so she could travel to the social security office and get her social security number. After living in her new place for a month, the landlord gave her notice that she had to move because he was selling the house and rent her room.
Luckily, the family who owned the restaurant and gave her that first job, offered her a room in their house, so she could stay and work in the U.S. for the entire summer.
She fondly remembers returning to Mexico after that summer, bringing a big haul of American things back to her family. She decided to go back to architecture school, but all she could think about is how much she could help her family if she lived in the U.S. for an entire year.
It took some negotiating with her mother. She had to promise that she would finish college, so back to Arizona she went.
When she returned, she got a different waitress job, a car and was able to get more settled. The first thing she bought, just for herself, was a purple AM/PM radio so she could listen to music.
Her college credits from Mexico didn’t transfer, so she had to start her academic career over. She enrolled in Community College to complete her generals and to learn more of the English language. She also discovered that Arizona had one of the best design schools in the country and recalled how her architecture professor advised her to pursue a design career.
“I just wanted a degree. I promised my mom!”
It’s inspiring how things ultimately worked out for Julieta. Her body literally told her that she should not pursue architecture, but her brain wouldn’t accept it. She had to lose all of the investment she made in her education and start over, but she landed exactly where she should.
After graduation, she got an internship at an ad agency where she worked on big accounts like Disney & Subway, which were great for her portfolio early in her career. After the agency gig, she accepted a Product Design position at American Airlines, where 70% of the web pages were her responsibility.
From American, she went to PayPal and during this point in her career, she started rethinking her purpose. She wanted to use her talents to give back to society so she started applying to non-profit organizations. She landed at Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Design Manager. This job was really fullfiling and she was really happy there.
Fast forward to now and Julieta is one of my newest colleagues. She’s new to Target and I’m new to the department we both work in. I like her style a lot. She brings an energy to the room that makes me sit up a little straighter and think a little deeper.
Everything she wears has a floral pattern. She chooses fit over trend, and shops mainly second hand and vintage so she contributes less to the landfills. She also curates a beautiful Instagram account dedicated to Vegan eating.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
My Grandma. I just miss her. We lived with her when we were going through rough times. She was a very charitable woman and had a huge influence on me.
Would you like to be famous?
Not really. I don’t really care about fame. If it’s a result of doing good, then yes, but not for the sake of fame.
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
No, and I should because I’m really bad on the phone. If I’m talking on the phone while my boyfriend is in the room, he’ll look at me like I forgot English. I was never really around phones. Chat and email is what I’m good at.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I would be at Kino Bay, waking up with my family, boyfriend and 2 dogs. We’d have an all vegan buffet, swim with the dolphins & turtles, snorkel and lay on the beach. Then we’d watch movies, cook together and go to bed early.
When did you last sing to yourself?
Last night. I sing to my dogs every night before I go to bed. “You are my sunshine…”
When did you last cry in front of another person?
2 days ago, watching Harry Potter with my boyfriend. Harry goes to the Weasley’s house and Ron’s parents accept Harry as a child and are happy to see him. They count him as one of their own.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Being present when I’m with friends. Not always having to be the initiator. People making an effort.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Maybe the greatest hasn’t happened yet. I hope it hasn’t because I still want to make a larger impact. Learning English and being able to speak fluently in my profession is a great accomplishment.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’m deathly afraid of a house fire. I unplug everything from an outlet everyday before I leave the house. I’m always thinking: “How is this fire going to happen today?”
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My health and my family’s health. That’s all I need.