Shayla Rivera is an Aerospace Engineer and former Rocket Scientist with NASA turned salesperson, corporate trainer, and now Int’l Keynote Speaker, TV & Radio host, Emcee/Host, Comedian, Actor, Writer, Producer, Seminar Facilitator, Panel Moderator and as of 2017, Director of the ENGR[x] program and Professor of Practice with the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University.
However, none of these labels tells you much about her. She best describes herself as a spiritually irreverent Mystic and Awareness Expert. What many would call a Renaissance Woman. Keynotes include subjects that span Inspiration, Motivation, Leadership, Diversity, Education, STEM Education, Awareness, Stress Management, Communication, and Self Growth, always using the power of humor and her life story.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera grew up with an avid interest in human behavior, science, machinery and fixing things. Her parents always made it clear that going to college was the way to go in order to have a successful personal and professional life. Rivera attended Texas A&M University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with a great number of additional credits in her other passion, Psychology. After graduation she joined McDonnell Douglas Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she worked on the NASA Space Shuttle and Space Station programs for five years.
Rivera left NASA to pursue her abiding interest in psychology, trying to figure out what makes people tick. This pursuit took her through several years in Technical Sales of environmental systems and water treatment chemicals, financial products and finally guiding her onto becoming a corporate trainer. Rivera began facilitating life-changing seminars on stress management for executives at companies around the country.
Shortly thereafter, she began giving motivational speeches. While conducting seminars and giving speeches, Rivera discovered her comedic skills. Encouraged by many of her clients she signed up for a weekend seminar on stand-up comedy, at the end of which she performed a five-minute routine. It was a personal turning point. “I knew I’d found what I was looking for,” Rivera recalled.
Almost immediately, Rivera became a regular at Comedy Clubs nationwide. She used her experiences to create the hit one woman show “Rocket Science and Salsa,” directed by Debbie Allen for which Rivera earned a “Best Lead Actress” nomination by the NAACP Theater Awards, as well as a nomination for “Best Choreography” for Allen.
Rivera hosted the 13 episode TV series “You’re Not The Man I Married” for Lifetime Real Women Network and has appeared on television shows such as “Comics Unleashed,” “Xtreme Fakeovers,” “National Lampoon’s Funny Money,” “Funny is Funny” and many others. She has been a guest on the “The Dennis Miller Show,” “The Roseanne Show,” ”The Martin Short Show,” was featured in the “Paul Rodriguez Latin All Stars” and was part of the Comedy Central special, “Comedy Rehab” with Paul Rodriguez. She has performed and headlined on entertainment programs for Univision, Galavision, HBO Latino and on “The Latino Comedy Jam” for Telemundo. She was named “Funniest Latina Comedian” by the organization “Latin 2015.”
Shayla Rivera has been speaking and performing in both English and Spanish for 27 years and has a broad appeal to men and women of all backgrounds and ages. Her clients around the world include Fortune 500 companies, national and regional organizations, as well as students, parents and faculty from elementary schools to colleges. Rivera often applies her expertise to host/emcee many fundraising events for non- profit organizations, charitable and educational programs as well as Award Galas and Conferences.
In 2004, Rivera received the “Mario Moreno Cantinflas Award” presented by the city of Los Angeles in recognition of entertainers who “represent the Latino Community with the same humor as the great Comedian Cantinflas did” and for her involvement in the community. In 2007, Rivera received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service Participation. In 2010, she received the Award for Excellence in Public Speaking by the Latino Speakers Bureau.
Rivera performs live stand-up comedy worldwide and is extremely proud of her comedy and speaking tours for our servicemen and women stationed around the world in Greenland, Diego Garcia, Asia, Europe, Central America and the Middle East.
Rivera says, “My number one goal is to inspire, through laughter.” She has seen, first-hand, the impact the Latino population and culture has had in all levels of American corporations, organizations and education, and is focused on helping make this merging occur as smooth as possible. She jokes, “We are all the same, only different…once we understand this, we will be able to seize the opportunities that lie in our seeming differences.”
Shayla was thrilled to accept faculty and staff positions at her alma mater, Texas A&M University. Shayla, who is a true Aggie, is very excited to bring her expertise in self-development and awareness to the engineering students at Texas A&M as a Professor of Practice and as Director of ENGR[x], a new program with the objective of providing undergraduate engineering students with professional skills and experiences beyond their engineering degree requirements, making them more attractive to employers. Helping students become better prepared for life, not just as an engineer but as an individual, which is her greatest purpose.
Shayla Rivera is not easily placed in just one category or class, she defines her own. She finally remarks, “Now I even can add Breast Cancer Survivor to my resume. I am grateful.”
Diversity is a hot button in America right now. I focus on giving the correct perspective on the ‘issue’ of diversity. We often approach this subject with fear because we don’t realize that our differences are the very thing that make us the same . Once we understand this we can begin to welcome what makes us different from one another and this will change…everything.
Like everything else, Leadership begins with the individual. A leader is not defined by a title or a position of leadership but by their ability to inspire others to work towards a common goal. Traits of leadership such as having a vision, setting goals, charisma, communication skills, character, intelligence, and many more, can be found within every person. I focus on helping individuals recognize and strengthen these traits, first within themselves then give tools that will help them do the same for others.
Shayla Rivera believes, indeed ‘knows’, that anyone can accomplish anything they would like to. Her belief springs out of her own life experiences. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, her family moved to Texas where at the age of seventeen and fresh out of high school, Shayla attended Texas A&M University where she earned her degree in Aerospace Engineering. She not only had to learn ‘engineering stuff’ she also had to learn the English Language at the same time, and as she puts it, “learning to speak Texan is not easy”. Shayla then went on to work for NASA in the Space Shuttle and Space station Programs, from there it was Technical Sales of environmental products for the Oil and Gas and Chemical industries, then onto Stress Management Corporate trainings and motivational speaking, finally onto Stand-up Comedy, all while teaching aerobics, and being a single parent bringing up two magnificent children. Her life is a reflection of what can be achieved if you are willing to open up to the possibilities and to listen to your own spirit. “Everything I have done, and have been, has brought me to the person I am today and I like that person. Nothing has been wasted and nothing is regretted”.
There is only one wonderful requirement for living unlimited possibilities and that is, know what you believe. “As strange as this sounds the one thing I have learned is that our conditioning, spanning from cultural background, environment we grew up in, our peers and families will determine and influence our lives and our achievements. All we have to do is realize that we are on auto pilot about what we continually choose to do and believe. Once we become aware that we are in control we can then begin to change our direction and make choices that aim at the desired results for our lives”. Shayla uses her training as an engineer, a motivational speaker, a comedian, a mother and as an aerobics instructor to help her audiences laugh their way to inspiration.
“Speak to Shayla about your population and the focus of your event and she can tailor her discussion with things applicable to your group. Her ABC (Awareness Begins Change) was amazing for our “at promise” female community college students and they are still talking about her support, encouragement and motivation. Shayla is friendly and amenable!”