The “American Dream” is alive and well in the healthcare technology management (HTM) field, at least if you’re Simon Mejia. Originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, Mejia moved to the United States in 2010 to find a job and help support his family. Soon after, he unexpectedly found himself exploring an even brighter future — a career in HTM.
But it wasn’t a fast process. When Mejia first came to the U.S., he took jobs at restaurants washing dishes and waiting tables and immersed himself in American life so he could learn English and find his place in his new country. As soon as he was able, he started taking English classes and studying for his GED. But it was his introduction to HTM that helped him really settle in and begin dreaming of his future.
Mejia first discovered HTM in 2015, when his then-wife was working at Southeastern Biomedical Associates Inc. The company, which was quickly growing, was moving to a new office and Mejia offered to help when he realized how much work was involved. That was the fateful day he met Boyd Campbell and Greg Johnson, the founders and owners of the company. The owners immediately noticed Mejia’s “generous nature and tremendous work ethic” and welcomed him with open arms when he sought a job with Southeastern a month later.
With his new job at Southeastern, Mejia was able to work a steady schedule and turn more of his attention to his education. “I saw the opportunity of having more time for school [and having a steady] eight-hour day instead of 12, 13, 16 hours sometimes. And since I was getting off at five o’clock, and there was a college right down the road, I took the opportunity to go to get my GED,” he said.
Mejia’s dedication to his job and his continued education really stood out to his new boss. And while Mejia’s career with Southeastern began with him helping clean the offices, he was soon promoted. “We kept finding things that we needed help with, and Simon became our shipping and receiving person and got a springboard from there,” Johnson explained. “He then started helping with parts.”
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know everything he does around here,” Johnson added with a laugh.
What Johnson does know is that Mejia’s work has been vital to the continued growth and success of his company. So, when Mejia showed an interest in learning more about the work the company did, Johnson was ready to help him however he could.
After he learned to test equipment, he wanted to enroll in the biomedical engineering program at Caldwell Community College, Johnson explained. “It’s a two-year associate degree program and is literally five minutes up the road from our office, and Simon is doing well. He’s working hard and learning and just doing a tremendous job.”
With Johnson’s recommendation, Mejia won a scholarship from the North Carolina Biomedical Association to help pay for his school, and with his steady schedule at Southeastern, he’s going to be able to graduate in Spring 2022.
Mejia is too humble to brag about his accomplishments so far, but he is very clearly enthusiastic about the work he’s doing and the education he’s receiving. From working gruelingly long hours at minimum-wage jobs to support his family to spending hours a day (on top of that crazy work schedule) learning English and studying for his GED, Mejia hasn’t let a single obstacle deter him from achieving his goals.
Johnson shared that Mejia failed his first GED exam because he insisted on taking the test in English even though he could have done the test in his native Spanish. But Mejia didn’t want any advantages — he wanted to have the same experience as his American classmates. And on his second attempt, he passed with flying colors.
Once Mejia found his way to Southeastern and HTM, things got a little easier… and a lot more interesting. Mejia, not one to sit idle for long, kept finding new ways to make himself a more valuable employee — not for his own benefit, but because he continued to see new ways to help his employer. When the previous shipping person left, Mejia suggested he could take on the new workload. Even this new, more intensive workload wasn’t enough to keep Mejia from learning more.
“While working in shipping, we frequently had a few minutes or a half an hour extra [per day]. And I’m not the kind of person to say, ‘Well, there is something else to do, but I’m not getting paid for that,’” he said. “I want to know [what people do] and learn. So, I started learning to clean the medical equipment before it was sent back to the customer.”
From there, Mejia took every opportunity to learn more about the jobs of his coworkers. He watched as his colleagues went about their days and started “messing around” with spare devices when he had a few minutes of downtime so he could figure out what they were doing and how all the machines worked. Soon enough, Mejia found that he’d developed a talent for working with some of the electrical equipment, and after some more job-shadowing and tinkering in his spare time, he knew enough that he could work on some machines himself. Seeing his competency and interest, Johnson moved Mejia out of shipping, and he now works on fixing and cleaning things like stress units, treadmills, and sterilizers.
“I really appreciate the opportunity the company has offered me over time, especially with [education]. I always dreamed about being in school, but I gave that dream up a long time ago because I never saw the opportunity,” Mejia said. “But I do see the opportunity with this company.”
Looking to the Future
As for what opportunity he’ll chase next, Mejia isn’t sure. He knows he wants to graduate with his associate’s degree and keep working with Johnson and Southeastern, but that’s as far as he’s allowed himself to dream. Johnson, however, is willing to peer into the future for him.
“Simon has made his own way. He’s come in and he’s worked and we haven’t given him anything. He’s worked for it,” Johnson explained. “And you know, if you come in and do the job that needs to be done, we respond well to that. We try our best to reward people that that work hard for us.”
Next spring is when Mejia is going to officially finish his degree program. “And he says, ‘if I finish,’ but he’s going to. There’s no question in my mind,” Johnson added.
“We’re going to find a way to work with him and make sure he gets his internship [after graduation]. We feel very, very strongly that he’ll get into the hospital [setting] during his last semester. He’ll be dividing his time between two healthcare facilities in the area, and we’re already working on trying to locate those for him,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be very successful.”