Student Spotlight: Juan Viña
Like many employees today, Juan Viña was accustomed to taking on extra responsibilities at work. But when his supervisor asked him to assume the role of safety manager for his job site, he felt he needed help getting up to speed on his new position. So he enrolled in UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education's Workplace Health and Safety Manage Certificate Program.
Why did you decide to pursue an education in health and safety?
I had a little bit of experience with workplace safety through my previous job, but when I joined the winery I work for now, I was hired as an operations training manager. Then my site director asked me to take on more responsibility, managing health, safety and environment (HSE) tasks at our site. But having no background in health and safety, I felt a little lost. I was doing a lot of research on my own, particularly on regulations, and I took a five-day course, but didn’t find it very useful because it wasn’t comprehensive enough. So, our company’s HSE director suggested I take some classes through UC Davis Extension, and things just went from there.
Since you were new to the health and safety field, what was one of the biggest challenges you faced as you went through the program?
The biggest challenge was just making the decision to develop myself. I had to stand back and say, “I need to be better. How can I do that?” But once I started going to the classes, I found that UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education really created an environment that allowed students to bond and work together. It was interesting, because a lot of my classmates were coming at this from similar experiences—being new to health and safety and sort of thrust into this unfamiliar role. So, as we went through the program together, we would meet in person or Skype to ping ideas and issues off each other and see how others were dealing with similar situations, which was really helpful.
What was one of the most valuable things you got out of the program?
I’d have to say confidence. As a person who was given this responsibility without previous experience in the HSE field, I had opinions about how our site should run safely, but I didn’t have the background to know if these ideas were valid or not. The UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education instructors and the bond I formed with my classmates, created an environment where I felt comfortable sharing my ideas and receiving feedback. And because of that open exchange of ideas, I know that some of the solutions and processes I implemented were not only validated, but, in some cases, adopted by others in my class at their companies, which was very rewarding for me personally
Would you recommend the program to others?
Yes, in a heartbeat. I found that the courses were really well paced, which allowed me to not only digest the information, but take what I learned in class and implement it at my job. Most of the instructors have also been open to being a resource to students to ask questions, even after we’ve completed the program, which has been nice. I also found UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education's staff was really helpful in keeping me on track with my certificate. I always felt comfortable asking them for help when I needed it, and I found that they were receptive to any feedback I had on how to make the program better.
I’ve already suggested this program to someone else at my company who will eventually replace me as I progress in my career. UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education is definitely one of the first places I recommend staff go to for training.