As a custodial team leader, Sammy Rodriguez takes his job seriously and does it with a smile. He and his staff are responsible for keeping 24 buildings at Yale’s West Campus clean. A positive force, Sammy guides his team and supports their clients with ease and humor.
The youngest of three, Sammy was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After high school, he moved to Puerto Rico, hoping to find employment and live closer to his mother’s family. A few years later, he decided to move back home with his parents, who had, in the interim, settled in New Haven.
While working several part-time jobs, he got a tip from a friend who worked at Yale about an open position. Sammy applied and was hired as a custodian covering the dormitories on Old Campus. For the next eight years, he worked in this area and saw first-hand what Yale undergraduate students experienced, from their first days of school through graduation. Sammy felt fortunate that he had a supportive supervisors and the backing and guidance of Local 35 leadership. His excellent work ethic did not go unnoticed, and he was recruited to take the custodial team leader training.
After successfully completing his training and prior to landing at West Campus, Sammy worked in different areas on campus to gain experience, including the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Kline Biology Tower (now Kline Tower). Sixteen years into his career, he now manages a staff of 16 custodians, has the respect of his peers and supervisors, and feels West Campus is where he will stay until retirement.
During a recent chat, Sammy shared stories about his career at Yale.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of working at Yale?
Each area that you cover has different needs, customers, and personalities. There are the college dormitories, where you are focused on the students’ needs, or laboratories, where you are managing the needs of faculty or research staff. So, you need to pay attention to those differences and try to meet the needs of these distinct groups.
I’m lucky to have had some great and very supportive coworkers and supervisors. I’ve been rewarded for my hard work in that I was recruited for both the team leader training and the open position at West Campus.
What is your favorite Yale memory?
Hands down, my best memory is when I was hired. I was pretty excited. During my early years, I worked on Old Campus. It was fun to be around the students and watch them start their first days, go through the seasons, and eventually graduate. I’ve even covered reunions and would see them come back at different ages. I was fortunate that I had many people who worked with me, or that I worked for, that were very supportive and recognized me for my strong work ethic. Yale is a great place to work!
Tell us about some of your hobbies.
I like to do house projects and yard work. I also love to play pool and have a pool table in my house. But lately, I don’t have time to play, so we use it to fold clothes (chuckles). I also love to go dancing with my wife and friends.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of how my mother raised me to be a good father, husband, and brother. I’m also proud of how I approach my job with good humor and levity. During my Yale career, I’ve had about a dozen different supervisors. I’ve been able to adapt to their different styles or personalities without issue. It’s not easy, but I’m proud of my flexibility and adaptability. I also have a great team of people here at West Campus.
What would you tell someone wanting a career or wanting to develop their career at Yale?
Working at Yale has been a great experience, and there are many opportunities to move up and develop your career here. But you need to want it. Don’t sit back and expect changes; you have to work at it. In the end, it’s up to the person to decide what they want to do with their career once they get here. I tell people, Yale didn’t knock on your door; you got the job by knocking on Yale’s door, so keep knocking!
Tell us a few fun facts about yourself.
I am a very outgoing person. I like to laugh, make the best of things, and not let things bother me. Life is too short to be sad.