Success Story: Felix Ma, AllianceBernstein

Walking through the glass doors at AllianceBernstein in Midtown Manhattan often feels surreal for 32-year-old Felix Ma. Stepping into the office every day serves as a daily reminder of how far he has come since feeling stuck while living in an impoverished neighborhood in South Jersey. The journey towards working for a leading global investment management firm was no easy feat. Perseverance, determination and the willingness to bet on himself are what led him to where he is at today.

Ma, whose family was in the hospitality industry, always had an interest in tech. However, his dreams of pursuing a career in that industry were sidelined by an intense work schedule at his family’s restaurant and his father’s reservations about the field. “I was always interested in technology,” said Ma. “The hardest obstacle was growing up and being denied the opportunity to pursue that career field because of my dad’s reservations.”

Despite the lack of opportunity and support, in 2006 Ma enrolled in Atlantic Cape Community College to study computer science. After attending school for a year and a half, he decided that he needed an escape from his environment and enlisted in the military. “I needed change. I needed something different,” said Ma. He became an Information Technology Specialist in the National Guard where his responsibilities ranged from overseeing radio communication to vehicle maintenance. Although serving in the military wasn’t an easy experience, he says that it was transformative in many ways. While in the National Guard, he honed his leadership skills. “I learned how to become a better leader because when you’re in the military you have to take care of other soldiers no matter how low or high you are in the ranking system,” he said.

Upon leaving the military, Ma found himself in a predic­­ament similar to the one that he was in before enlisting. There were limited resources and limited opportunities. He also struggled with finding a way to transition the skills he attained while serving in military into the corporate realm. While trying to figure out what his next chapter would be, Ma learned about Workforce Opportunity Services through a friend who had benefited from the services that the organization provides for veterans. “He works at Prudential and he said it was the best program that he’s ever joined,” said Ma. “He got paid to train for a year and then he landed a full-time position and now he’s almost in a management role. He advanced very quickly. I heard his success story and I trusted it.” Ma made the decision to seize the opportunity and bet on himself. The dreams that he once had about pursuing a career in tech would finally come to fruition.

After months of participating in a WOS training program at AllianceBernstein, Ma’s hard work and dedication landed him a full-time role at the company as a Mobility Systems Administrator. Ma says that he would not have been able to reach this level of success without the support of WOS Client Service Manager Patrick Spurgeon. “WOS has had a huge impact on my life. If I was out on my own it would have been a million times harder. I think it’s really special that the program is geared towards veterans. When you’re with WOS you become a priority,” he said. “They really take the time to learn about you and then figure out which direction would be suitable.”

Patrick Spurgeon, WOS Program and Client Service Manager, says that Ma’s commitment to bettering himself and the company led him to the position that he is in today. “From day one, Felix was determined to succeed in the program. He quickly learned the technical aspects of his position, the demands on the team and the goals of the organization,” said Spurgeon. “Watching a young adult, or military veteran, taking the first steps on a path to making a difference in their lives is the goal of every Client Service Manager at Workforce Opportunity Services. If ever there was an example of how to succeed, Felix is it.  It was an absolute privilege to be a part of his journey.”

Ma’s new role at AllianceBernstein has been nothing short of gratifying. He says although tech is challenging, its ever-changing landscape is what drew him to it. “There’s always something new to learn and that’s what is fun about it. Getting offered a full-time position at Alliance Bernstein has been the most rewarding part of my career journey so far.”

As far as what lies ahead for Ma, he plans on continuing to grow within the tech field and he hopes to go back to school to finish his degree in computer science.