Some kids know exactly what they want to be when they grow up but that was not the case for an SRP engineer.
Kevin Felix was not one of those kids.
Today, when Kevin Felix speaks to STEM students about their future careers, he can empathize with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the huge choices ahead.
In fact, growing up in a small town on the Navajo Nation, Felix didn’t see any career in his future.
“I was mostly focused on playing the drums, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I definitely wasn’t thinking about STEM or college,” the SRP engineer admitted.
A change in perspective
That changed a few years after graduating high school when he was working full time as a lifeguard and then as a pool operator. There he was steadily gaining new responsibilities as his managers realized his capacity for more challenging tasks, like maintaining the pool’s chemical balance.
“I was working really hard, but I started to realize that there wasn’t any upward trajectory with the job,” Felix said.
With that, Felix began looking at potential career paths with STEM as a focus and realized the first step would be attending college. He decided on electrical engineering and a few months later enrolled at Northern Arizona University.
College wasn’t a walk in the park
“I actually started college behind in math,” he said. “I took some preliminary classes at the Navajo Technical University campus and taught myself algebra on YouTube. But I still wasn’t ready for Calculus 1 when I got to NAU, and that did set me back some.”
Despite this challenge, Felix quickly realized that there was a way through the challenging days.
“College is just a matter of showing up and being consistent,” he explained.SRP Engineer Kevin Felix on his experience overcoming challenges in college.
Felix’s incredible work ethic also served him well in college, where he realized that internships were a great way to learn in a hands-on way. He secured internships with a utility and a coal supply company on the reservation, learning key skills in distribution engineering, resource planning and strategic thinking, unknowingly paving the way for his future as an SRP engineer.
Recruiters took notice of his proactive approach to securing the career he wanted. At a career fair, Felix sought out the SRP booth, having met SRP employees during one of his internships. The recruiters were interested, and when graduation came around in May 2017, SRP had his offer waiting.
Two years later, Felix is officially an SRP engineer, having completed his engineering rotation and is working in Distribution Engineering Support.
Guiding the next generation
Today, Felix devotes some of his downtime to helping the next generation understand what STEM careers are available to them.
Felix recently spoke about his path to a room of seventh- and eighth-graders at the SciTech Institute Chief Science Officers Leadership Conference at ASU, an event SRP supports. Expanding upon the student government model, Chief Science Officers (CSOs) are students in grades 6-12 elected by their peers to serve as the voice for STEM initiatives in their schools.
He also speaks to at-risk students in Maryvale, sharing his story and the lessons he has learned in living it.
“I put myself in their shoes and remember what it was like to not be sure,” he said. “I tell them it’s never too late to figure it out, to go back to school. Just start, and you’ll find something you’re passionate about.”
SRP is a community partner of the CSO Program, which inspires students to become engaged in STEM and be a liaison for STEM in their schools and in their communities. Currently, there are 360 CSOs in 150 middle and high schools throughout Arizona. The diversity of Arizona’s CSO cohorts speaks to the program’s potential for large-scale impact for underrepresented, underserved and minority populations.