November marks Native American Heritage Month, which recognizes indigenous peoples, their ancestry and their traditions. To celebrate, SRP is sharing a story, originally published in 2019, about one of its engineers, Kevin Felix.
Some kids know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Kevin Felix was not one of those kids. In fact, growing up in Chinle on the Navajo Nation, Felix didn’t see any career in his future.
“I 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 explained.
A change in perspective: Setting his sights beyond the Navajo Nation
That changed for Felix a few years after graduating high school when he was working full time as a lifeguard. As his managers realized his capacity for more challenging tasks, he steadily gained new responsibilities, such as maintaining the pool’s chemical balance. Eventually, he became a pool operator.
“I worked really hard, but I realized that there wasn’t any upward trajectory with the job,” Felix said.
So, Felix began looking at potential career paths with STEM as a focus. He quickly realized the first step would be to attend college and study electrical engineering. A few months later, Felix enrolled at Northern Arizona University.
Before becoming an SRP engineer: 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 internships pave the way
It’s safe to say, Felix’s incredible work ethic served him well in college. 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 took interest, 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
Now, Felix devotes some of his downtime to helping the next generation understand what STEM careers are available to them.
Felix has spoken at the SciTech Institute Chief Science Officers Leadership Conference at ASU, an event SRP supports. He also speaks to at-risk students in Maryvale, sharing his story and the lessons he has learned along the way.
“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.”