Last week, you met one of our Project Specialists, Josh. We learned about his dedication to customers, how his background in finance helps him at Rush Order Tees, and his awesome son Avery, and how his family impacts his job.
This week’s edition of Meet the Team highlights Juan, one of Rush Order Tees’ Master Screen Printers. Juan came to the U.S. when he was just 8 years old, and kind of found his place here at Rush Order Tees as a complete accident. Read on to see what we mean:
What’s your name, and what do you do here at Rush Order Tees?
Hey! My name is Juan Pablo Santos, and I’m a Master Screen Printer here at Rush Order Tees. I’ve been here for four years.
Four years is a long time!
Yeah, but I love it. There’s a reason I’ve been here for as long as I have, you know?
Definitely! So tell us about yourself. Where does your story begin?
Well, I was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic. My mother, Juana, wanted more for my family, so when I was young, she went to the U.S., and my two younger sisters, Sonia and Ady, and I stayed in Santiago with my grandparents.
It took a little time, but when I was 8, she had gotten her footing there, and we were reunited. I lived and went to school in New Brunswick, New Jersey for a while, where I worked odd jobs in my uncle’s grocery store and other places… I even remember working at a pencil manufacturer for a little bit! Haha!
Wow. So what brought you into the world of screen printing?
When I was 15 or so, I left school completely. One of our neighbors was in the printing and publishing business, and my mother got me a job working with him. At first it was just sweeping, cleaning up, and clerical stuff.
But I showed initiative. I would spend my lunch breaks watching printers, just watching and learning about their art form. To me, it was beautiful, you know?
And after some time, my boss saw my drive and ambition, and he gave me a shot. It was kind of crazy, because he started training me to do jobs that people go to college for—meanwhile, I had dropped out of high school. Things were never easy for my family, so I was always working and trying to help at home. He took me under his wing.
It was a blessing.
But then you left that job and went to….?
Europe! I actually lived and worked in Amsterdam for a few years, and it was great. I loved the culture and the history there, but the truth is that I missed my family back home. So, after a few years, I came back and just kind of picked up where I left off.
It was great to be back, but I needed to find work, pay bills, and keep life moving. It was tough, at first.
So what brought you to Rush Order Tees?
When I got back home, I decided to move down to Philly and try to find work, and that was when I found this job.
It’s actually kind of funny. I can read and write, but English is my second language, you know? So sometimes when I see things or read them, I mistake them for something else.
One day, I’m looking for jobs on craigslist, and I see an advertisement looking for print operators. So I replied, and [Operations Manager] Matt Price called me up and invited me in for an interview.
The whole time, I think I’m coming in to interview for a book publishing company, but then I got here and discovered it’s a screen printing company. I had zero experience screen printing, but then I met everyone, and we all decided that we were all willing to make it work.
And now? I love it. And they’ve been great to me.
What do you love the most about the work you do?
How do you people say it? Something like, “If you work doing something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life?” Every day I come to work thinking I’m going to some kind of playground.
Plus, it’s very rewarding to know that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the country wearing the stuff we make with our hands. I was in New York City the other day, attending a Yankees game in the Bronx, and in the stadium, I randomly saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that I actually made. Like, I printed that. There was another place—a bar right near the stadium—it turns out they were also a customer of ours. We walked in, and I saw t-shirts for sale that I remember us printing. Moments like those really make me feel good about what I do.
I don’t want to get too corny here, but what do you think makes the work you do special?
I really care. I care about the customer, about the company, about my team… When you care, everything comes together.
If what I’m creating makes my customers feel good about themselves, then I’m doing a good job, and that’s all that matters.
It’s unreasonable to think that every day at work should be a blissful walk in the park, so what would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Well, I’m one of the Master Screen Printers here, and I work for one of the biggest and best screen printing companies in the world. We’re expanding quickly, and we’re always hiring new people.
Somebody has to train them, and lately, that somebody has been me. I put a lot of priority on showing them the way things work—not just on the presses or around the shop, but with the company, the culture, the values… It’s all important.
I try to serve as a mentor to our crew, and not just the new people. I stress to everyone that I’m easy to approach and talk to, and I think everybody trusts me. That’s important to me.
When you’re not in the office, what takes precedence? What do you do when you’re not printing?
It’s all about my kids, man. I have four of them. Two 11-year-olds from back in my younger days (laughing). Now I’m married, and I have a beautiful wife, along with a 1.5-year-old and a 5-year-old. Right now I just try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. Especially the 1.5-year-old. He’s so much fun to be around right now, because you can see all of these little personality traits developing, and he kind of looks like me, and it’s just kind of crazy. I love watching my kids grow up into the people they’re meant to be.
And that’s why I work so hard. I do it for them. I don’t want my kids to ever have to go through the things I went to. I want them to be able to get an education and live comfortably. I want to show them that working hard really does pay off.