Rio Hondo College Alumna Interview

Natalie Flores

Rio Hondo College Alumni from the Automotive Technologies Program

How It Started

Natalie Flores was in her twenties, a single mom working three jobs and living in a rented room with her son. What she did next changed the course of her life and allowed her to be what she is today: independent and a homeowner with a great career now as the Lead Program Manager for Technical Trades at Rivian Automotive, Inc.

Earlier in her career pathway, Natalie worked as a case manager at a nonprofit helping people with disabilities. While she felt her work was important, she had reached a salary ceiling and she felt that she needed to move on. She also wanted to feel more confident about fixing simple issues like checking her car’s tire pressure so she decided to sign up for an auto repair class at her local community college, Rio Hondo College. While the class was waitlisted, she talked to the teacher and he asked her why she wanted to attend and she told him it was because she was afraid of a car problem occurring and she wouldn’t know what to do. He accepted her into the class and she found that she not only overcame her fear but she loved working with her hands and diagnosing and fixing cars.

Perseverance Pays Off

After that she started taking more automotive classes even though her family thought it wasn’t the right career for her. Each of her teachers encouraged her to continue, especially Rio Hondo’s automotive program head, John Frala. With their continuous support and that of her counselor, Claudia Romo, Natalie was able to apply for scholarships and she gained more skills and was presented with both volunteer and EV training opportunities. She loved learning something new especially the electrical, suspension and alignment classes. As she gained confidence in her abilities Natalie showed initiative by conducting free workshops for women in her community on how to do simple repairs on their cars. Between her jobs, scholarships to pay for books and other expenses, and a family friend helping her with low cost child care, she completed her associates degree in automotive technology, including a specialized training on Tesla EV technology. She was hired right out of school by Tesla and moved from California to the new job in Arizona the week after graduation. She worked as a technician in Arizona for a year then as an instructor for two more years for Tesla. She networked with co-workers who had moved on to other positions and another EV company, Rivian, then interviewed and hired her as the service manager for the State of Arizona and as of January 2024 she has moved up to a national role with Rivian as the Lead Program manager for Technical Trades.

Make Your Own Pathway

When asked what advice she had for women thinking of starting or changing jobs for an EV or energy career, Natalie said, don’t let other people discourage you or tell you what you can do. You can make your own pathway especially if you find a support group of your own including your teachers and counselors at the community college who can help you learn and connect you to jobs and find financial support to finish your degree.

Finally, Natalie said she likes working in a renewable energy career because she wants to make the world a little bit better for her son and others.