Saturday Success Story Eleven: ABNER FELIX

These days one of the easiest way to know the credibility and integrity of a person is by typing his name on any one of the search engines, (Google if you may) and it will generate the results that you so want to see and read. Gone are the days of waiting for the results of a CORI or the long lines of going to the NBI to get your cleared records. In these days of instant communication and information technology at the end of your fingertips, finding people whom you’ve known and met years ago and how they have fared through life since the last time you’ve seen them, has been as easy as hitting a “that was easy!” button from Staples!

Take our Saturday Success Story for instance. If you type in his name on Yahoo.com (we’ll use that instead of Google) the first thing that will pop up from the results is a facebook page. If you are friends with him, you will surely land on his wall and his information. On that page, you will be able to take a peek of what and who he is, and why he is a success story.

As an Engineering graduate from the University of the Philippines, our success story of the week has been trained to lead and succeed. The academic rigor at the UP-Diliman campus has prepared him very well to handle the pressure and the expectations of a would-be executive. Even at an early age, he was already being prep to succeed. Being the only son to a public school teacher, Mrs. Juliana Felix and a former school teacher, Mr. Armando Felix (noted for his Dad’s looks and many of the townspeople know him by is name “Manding”!), he grew up to exceed and meet their high standards.  In fact, he graduated as the valedictorian from grade school! In high school he was involved in many leadership activities which later on served him very well. He finished high school as the class salutatorian from Tarlac College of Agriculture-Laboratory High School in Camiling, Tarlac.

Talked about overachiever at an early age! Hence, being an overachiever gets a person to where he puts his heart into. Once an achiever, always an achiever. That was the idea that our success story has in mind long before he was able to feel comfortable in his life.

Because he was true to his passion and what he has learned from college, he pursued his interests, his first love and he stuck to it even if it meant leaving the Philippines. That first love was – providing what is the best for his family and for the future of his only daughter.

When he arrived in New York, as most Filipino immigrants would have experienced – life was not really filled  with honey and milk immediately, nor all the time. But because he was incredibly talented and smart, he was blessed to land a job that fulfills his passion.

What is  also notable about him is that he is proud and happy to lead one of New York universities’ Environmental Health and Safety Council. As the Director in one of the largest urban public universities in the United States, he has a big job to attend to. He has his hands full! In fact, if you are one of the Directors of a campus that has over 480,000 students, you have an obligation to adhere to the standard culture of achievement of that campus! You have to – you do not have a choice. But, what is even more extraordinary about this is that, if you are the only Filipino in the whole university who is part of the administration team, then – that becomes a joy to remember! That becomes historical! YOU become a part of the history and then you hope somebody recognizes your effort for being the only Filipino in the administration team who is behind the push and the many initiatives of the university!

Such is the career path of MR. ABNER FELIX, a family man, one of the College Directors of the Environmental and Health Safety, Dad of Allyanna, tee-time goer, sports junkie and most importantly, he recognizes where he came from and is thankful for it!

Addendum: Now, before you read the rest of this post what really makes our Saturday Success Story a hot entry on Google search , google your name first and see what comes up.

Here is his humbling story:

AMS: Tell us about yourself. Your education, training and where you are currently involved in.
AF: I consider myself a go-getter, have high standards and always motivated to master something I put my mind into, whether its work, sport, hobby or particular interest I have. Being with people – working with them, being involved in a cause, engaging in similar interest or entertaining – comes naturally to me .

While I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, I strive for excellence in everything I do. I always do my best, accept mistakes and learn from them without feeling unworthy or diminishing self-esteem.

I believe I have an eye for aesthetics and technology – it can be fashion, home design, electronics, technology. My style or preference in design is modern contemporary.

I consider myself a sports junkie, musically inclined, tech guy and someone who has never forgotten where he came from.

I finished my Bachelors Degree in Metallugical Engineering at University of Philippines, certified in several Materials and Process Engineering areas and Environmental Compliance and Occupational Health and Safety. In the Philippines, I worked at San Miguel Corporation, MOOG, Inc. (Baguio Branch).

In the U.S., I started with Cleanharbors, an environmental management company that supports top pharmaceutical clients, semiconductor and aerospace companies and universities.

Most recently, I was an Assistant Director/Environmental Health Specialist (EHS) at Hunter College in New York. Currently, I am EHS Director of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Bronx Community College.

AMS: At this point in your life, what are some of your greatest achievements?
AF: Getting my engineering degree at UP Diliman remains one of my greatest achievements, something that at one point didn’t seem to be possible given financial difficulties in my family. Even if I was the only child, it was hard relying on my mom’s public school teacher paycheck only.

Migrating to the United States and making it here professionally is another achievement. I never dreamt of it, but it’s definitely a blessing that it happened to me.

Being considered one of the EHS leaders in the largest urban university (CUNY) is also an important milestone in my career.

Lastly, being a family man – husband and father to a wonderful 12-year old daughter – is something I am most proud of. My wife is the yin to my yang while my daughter keeps me driven to continue to work hard for her future.

AMS: In going for these achievements, who helped you? Did you have any mentor or somebody who helped you while pursuing your career?

AF: I didn’t really have a mentor, maybe because of my independent nature. However, there’s somebody whom I believed always helped me, pushed me, motivated me – it’s my wife. Shirley taught me to reach for things I never even thought were possible. She’s been always there when I need somebody to cheer for me, to rally my spirits, listen and tell me that everything is possible and I can do it!

My mom (Mrs. Juliana Felix) is my inspiration. She has a soft-spoken and submissive nature, but what I will not forget is that she never said ‘NO” to me. She always makes things happen for me when I was in high school and college, even though we were living from paycheck to paycheck, or if it meant going door-to-door to borrow money so I can get my weekly allowance, pay for bus fare so I can continue my schooling.

AMS: If, you were to tell us what are the most important skills that you need in order to be successful – what are they?

AF: I think that it’s important to be willing to take risks and possess problem solving and creative skills.

It is also critical to always have a plan and contingency plans if things don’t go your way the first time. One should not give up right away and having a plan keeps you on course to achieving your goals, whether short or long-term. One always has to know how to work with people, get them motivated and be able to influence them.

AMS: You work in NYC as an Engineer, right? What do you think is the biggest challenge when you were starting out your career in the United States? How did you overcome some of these challenges?

AF: I am not really practicing my profession as an engineer now, per se, but because of my previous engineering work and skills during the first few years of my career in the Philippines, I was able to apply this in my present occupation. The biggest challenge for me was communication and adapting to the American workplace culture and employee-employer set-up.

Another issue is discrimination which is still prevalent in the US, where you are judged based on where you came from, your accent, your education. Establishing credibility doesn’t happen overnight, you have to earn it, then respect will come and people will stop judging you and see what you can bring to the table. Sometimes, people are surprised how accomplished or experienced you are because you are not from the US, and came from another country.

AMS:  While growing up Manong, what were your dreams? Have you reached all of them? If not yet, what are you doing to achieve them?

AF: As a child, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. But my ultimate dream is simple — to be able to give a better life to my parents and having a better life than the one my parents had. Being an Environmental Health and Safety person, I guess, somewhat gives me the satisfaction – my present job requires basic medical knowledge in identifying and solving potential adverse health effects of chemicals and hazardous substances on campus, and the part of environmental and occupational safety compliance to regulatory mandates takes the other half of my ultimate dream. Come to think of it, my job right now actually has aspects of being a medical doctor/lawyer job combined work wise, that makes it fulfilling and challenging.

AMS: What are your next goals? for your family and for your professional growth?

AF: My primary goal is to provide the best education that I can afford for my daughter Alyanna to help her reach her fullest potential, be able to give her the opportunities that I never had.

Professionally, I dream of setting up my own environmental management company catering to demands of private and public sectors in the fields of environmental consultancy, remediation, testing, etc.

I also plan to get a graduate degree, but I haven’t decided yet which academic avenue I should focus on.

Lastly, I also would like to retire well with my wife, be able to enjoy what we have accomplished in our life together and I look forward to spending my twilight years, most likely traveling and retiring in our dream house by the water or an incredible view, maybe with my dream car parked in our garage.

Daily with you,

Alpha :-)

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