Master of the Copytech Tango

The whirling bands of copy machines, swooshing of papers hot off the printer, and the clicking of a camera are sounds familiar to the workers in CopyTech. The noise of machinery and the brisk melodic rhythms of salsa music drift into the background, and a woman in a jade T-shirt and jungle patterned skirt steps out.  

Lead Support Services Assistant Marina Ibarra twirls and flows like ocean waves until she reaches the center. There is a shift in her face as she braces for her duties of the day. Ibarra manages the student workers and classified employees in CopyTech and deals with the gritty tasks of unjamming printers, stapling and much more.

“Friday’s are not busy, but most days are busy because we help professors with copies and students with IDs,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra joined Pierce College in 1992 and has worked in CopyTech for 22 years. She interacts with students, faculty and staff, helping them make copies of a multitude of things, from professors’ syllabi to aiding a student print a five page English assignment.

CopyTech is chaotic, with 10 to 15 jobs coming in at the start of the day. Ibarra handles it with the help of her coworkers. Francisco Arambula, an assistant to reprographics, has worked on campus for a year, but he started in CopyTech last June.

Arambula describes his duties as helping professors and students with stapling, copying, folding and 50 percent unjamming the machines.

“Marina is very understanding and a flexible boss,” Arambula said. “The most flexible boss I’ve had, and I’ve been working since I was 16. She brings decisiveness and knowledge on customer service. We are working with professors so you have to act professional.”

In her 22 years of working in CopyTech, Ibarra has faced some unusual occurrences. There’ve been fights that she’s had to break apart.

“I told them, ‘Really, look it’s not worth it to be fighting because you are going to lose everything,’” Ibarra said.  “It’s not worth it. They’ve come back to say, ‘Thank you for helping us not get into trouble.’ They can get suspended, and I don’t think it’s worth it to lose everything over one moment of anger.”

Ibarra, born and raised in Durango, Mexico, migrated to the United States in 1970. She worked and studied to make a better life for herself and eventually for her two daughters.

“It was not easy for me, and it hasn’t been easy now,” Ibarra said. “I faced a lot of discrimination because of my accent [in previous jobs].  It was hard for me, but I’m happy of where I am. I made myself. I have this position. I earned this position. Nobody gave it to me.”

She earned the position because of her excellent work habits. She likes to be on time and never misses work, Ibarra said.

Maria Filip, a math and accounting tutor on campus, interacts with Ibarra when she needs copies for students she tutors.

“She is very helpful, and has a very nice attitude,” Filip said. “She brings positivity to the workplace.”

When Ibarra is not working she likes strolling through her neighbourhood, going to the gym daily, and above all, her passion for dancing keeps her blood pumping.

“I’m from Durango, and in Durango we dance to rancheras, but I found it easy to follow any rhythm, any dance,” Ibarra said.  “I’m a good dancer; I dance salsa, cumbia, tango. I dance to everything. It’s in my blood. No one taught me how to dance.”

Ibarra explained that when you dance, your body lets loose. She says her granddaughter also dances and pays for her hip-hop, lyrical and ballet classes.

“She did a solo because she performs,” Ibarra said. “I cried when I saw her. When she dances, I see little Marina doing the movements, not so perfect, like my granddaughter because she takes classes.  Every time I see her perform, tears come out of my eyes.”

Ibarra is proud of what’s she done to achieve her goals and what she is doing for her and her granddaughter. Ibarra, who is a single mother of two daughters, attended school, worked three jobs and was able to sit with her daughters at dinner to talk with them about their problems.

However, Ibarra says that the most important lesson she has learned was “how to love myself completely.”

“If you don’t love yourself then you’re always going to have a problem,” Ibarra said. “Problems come and problems go, but it’s up to us to decide, ‘Hasta aquí.’”