Heather Rivas

Communications Center Manager
REACH Administration – Santa Rosa, CA

What is your title and how long have you been with REACH?

I’m the Communications Center Manager. My 90-day anniversary was on June 25th.

Can you describe your current job?

I manage a team of high-caliber, driven, passionate individuals who really care. The team members are called Communications Specialists, and they handle…well, they handle everything. The Communications Center is the one place that interacts with both internal and external customers. In the Communications Department, we dispatch to scene calls, we arrange inter-facility transports and we arrange ground and air transports in California, Oregon and Texas. Everyone on my team is amazing at what they do. It makes my job easy.

My responsibilities also include building a team, continuous education and development through training, and updating and adjusting processes and procedures. It’s an ever-changing, ever-growing environment, and we are constantly making adjustments to better accommodate our customers and our team members.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a jockey. I’m 5’9, though, so that wasn’t realistic. I love horses and the outdoors. When I was young, we used to ride bareback in our apple orchard and play tag on our horses.

I went to school for Administration of Justice while working in retail management. After I graduated, I continued on in retail management while I was applying for law enforcement jobs. I was also taking pilot lessons. I wanted to be a CHP helicopter pilot. My thought process was that I wanted to be in the sky, to have that overview. Law enforcement really drove me, and so did the safety aspect of being in the sky.

And then…I fell in love, got married, had a baby and took six years off. When I went back out into the workforce I applied for a corrections position with the sheriff’s department. During the interview process I worked my way up to the #1 position and then the county had a hiring freeze. It was very frustrating.

I worked for Starbucks for seven years as a store manager. Their mission statement and their guiding principles drew me. I was a Training Store Manager/Seed Store Manager, and I was also involved in rolling out a training process for new hires, and internal training and development. I trained six store managers in seven years and created a vast array of processes. My focus was increasing efficiency and speed while maintaining high-quality service. We were very efficient, clean and friendly, and we had fun. It was very empowering.

When I was recruited by REACH, a lot of the same things were there in terms of the mission statement and principles. “Always do what is right for the patient” stays in my head. And what’s really exciting to me is, “It’s not enough to do your best; you must always prepare to be the best.” I was ready for a change, and I didn’t want to be transferred somewhere else to be a Starbucks District Manager. I’m a 12th-generation Sonoma County girl.

What are you finding to be the differences between previous industries you have worked in and the air ambulance industry?

It’s funny, any time you’re dealing with customers and teams of people working for you; certain things are exactly the same. For example, happy employees make for happy customers. And you’re always trying to figure out how to do your job both effectively and efficiently.

Air ambulance is a more serious industry. It’s okay to have fun while you’re at work, as long as you remain professional and courteous. You do get some calls that are very, very difficult, but you find ways to turn things towards the positive and lighten the situation. I recruited somebody who used to work with me at Starbucks, and now he works here. Before he made his decision I said, “Really think about this. Ask yourself if this is what you want to do. You’re not dealing with lattes here, you’re dealing with lives.”

What’s your favorite thing about your job so far?

The people. I love the fact that if I want to talk to my leaders, my president, my vice presidents, I can walk across the hall and say, “Hey, do you have a minute?” And they say, “Sure, come in and have a seat.” I don’t have to call an 800 number. To have the luxury of the human connection is so valuable.

Do you have a surprising personal factoid to share?

Maybe that my biggest dream is to have a house with a retractable roof because I like to be outside so much that it’s hard for me to be inside. And besides the whole silly jockey thing, I also wish I could sing. I am a horrible singer.

Wait, I have it. Tell people that sometimes I feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Seriously. What I mean is that I’ve always liked guy things. I was a tomboy; I was never a girlie girl. Maybe I was influenced by the fact that I wore by brother’s hand-me-downs, so lots of people thought I was a boy. I think the point is that my outside appearance is not who I am, and that’s probably true for a lot of people.

Heather’s family:

  • Boyfriend: Doug
  • Son: Andrew (14)
  • Doug’s son: Tucker (10)

Why do you like most about REACH as a company?

I’ve never thought that it’s okay to accept average of yourself or others; I think we’re all fully capable of more. At REACH, being average is not an option. We strive to be the best, and we are successful at it. It’s very easy for me to tell people that I work for REACH.