The de la Vega file Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

Born: Cuba

Education: B.S. in mechanical engineering, Florida Atlantic University; MBA from Northern Illinois University; has completed the Executive Program at the University of Virginia

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

The first job I ever got paid doing when I was a kid was actually delivering newspapers — I was 10; that’s when I first got to this country. I had a newspaper route and delivered newspapers. [I learned that] you better deliver it right or you’re not going to get a tip at Christmas. We didn’t make a lot of money — the biggest day of the year for us was Christmas, and boy, did we get a good tip from those people.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received was from my grandmother. When I went to my high school counselor after getting to the states, I told them that my dream was to be an engineer, and that counselor looked at my grades and looked at my family’s finances and said, ‘I really don’t think you can be an engineer — you should study to be a mechanic,’ so I stopped going to regular high school classes and started going to vocational classes until my grandmother intervened and said, ‘Why did you let that counselor set limitations on what you can do? If you want to be an engineer, then you can be an engineer.’

That advice of not letting anyone put limits on what you can accomplish is probably the best advice I ever got in my life, and it changed my life because I stopped going to aviation mechanic school and enrolled and eventually got my engineering degree.

Check out de la Vega’s recently published book on his leadership experiences, ‘Obstacles Welcome,’ available through Thomas Nelson at www.thomasnelson.com.