Rodriguez Named Waubonsee “Fab 40”
Sugar Grove — Looking at his successful career today, it would be hard to guess that Ruben Rodriguez never saw himself going to college. However, Rodriguez took what life gave him — making the most of every opportunity to find success. Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor him as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Waubonsee Community College has named Ruben Rodriguez, associate director of Market Data Services for UBS AG, seen here high atop the UBS Tower in downtown Chicago, as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.
As a student at East Aurora High School, Rodriguez thought that he would follow the same career path as his father and older brother. However, that would not be his fate. Even though Rodriguez was an athlete in high school — running track, wrestling and playing football — a curvature of the spine caused him to fail the physical required to accept a job offer from Caterpillar. The same scenario repeated itself at another factory opening.
Rodriguez is now philosophical about the job crisis he faced as a new high school graduate.
“I was devastated and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “In life, there are failures, but there’s always hope for recovery.”
Rodriguez found his way at Waubonsee.
“Waubonsee was my savior,” he said. “I never had any intention of going to college. My dad and brother both worked at Caterpillar, and my dream was to work at Caterpillar.”
Taking the first step toward a higher education was the hardest step, he said.
“Some of my friends were going to Waubonsee and I decided to see if it was for me,” he said. “I went in and was having a hard time understanding how to register. I was about to walk out the door when a counselor, Mrs. [Judy] Vargas, asked if she could help me. I was really down, and she took me in and talked to me. She asked what I was interested in. The next thing you know, I was registered for drafting and math.”
College was a foreign concept for Rodriguez at the time.
“My parents didn’t have more than a ninth grade education,” he said. “My dad came from Mexico. I had a very caring family, but I wasn’t taught at home to get an education. At home, we didn’t have a lot. It is amazing what parents will sacrifice for their kids. They didn’t let anything take our hope away.”
He quickly discovered that Waubonsee offered an environment where he could thrive and uncover new dreams.
“At Waubonsee, I started being surrounded by people with dreams I had never heard of. The teachers were very encouraging,” he said. “I met all kinds of people and started to develop a vision for what I wanted to do with my life.”
Rodriguez embraced the academic life and continued his passion for athletics, wrestling for Waubonsee with teammates who had been former rivals. Like so many Waubonsee students, Rodriguez worked to put himself through school at Copley Hospital, working in the laboratory.
“I learned a lot about stressful situations,” he said. “It made a big impact.”
As he neared graduation from Waubonsee, Rodriguez met again with his counselor.
“She asked me my favorite subject. I told her math, and she talked about Southern Illinois’ electrical engineering program. I applied and was accepted,” he said.
At Southern Illinois-Carbondale, Rodriguez worked hard and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. His first job out of college, for military contractor Northrop Gruman in Rolling Meadows, gave him top-secret clearance to work on the stealth bomber.
“It was very exciting to be working on design and testing of the radar-jamming devices,” he said.
Rodriguez has now been at UBS AG for 10 years. He is associate director of Market Data Services, working in UBS’ downtown Chicago skyscraper. The job, managing the infrastructure that provides real-time information to UBS’traders, has enabled him to travel the world.
“Working at UBS has been very rewarding,” he said. “I’ve been able to use my expertise and meet wonderful people all around the world. We’re always on the edge of technology.”
Waubonsee fostered in Rodriguez a lifelong appreciation for learning.
“In life you have forks in the road,” he said. “You pick a path. Waubonsee was one of those forks in the road that forced me to take a direction and made such a great impact on my life. With education, so many doors open. The opportunities are unlimited.”
Paying back the mentorship he received at Waubonsee, Rodriguez often speaks to students at local schools about his path to success.
“I tell them that I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth,” he said. “You can never lose your hope. If you go looking for the good, you will find it. And you always have to have the courage to ask for help.”
Rodriguez took the opportunities presented to him at Waubonsee and found his calling.
“The best thing that Waubonsee gave me was the vision and direction to find my path. I’m just so thankful for that,” he said. “I see my life as climbing the stairs. Without Waubonsee, I could not have made it to the next floor. Waubonsee was my next step. It gave me the bigger vision.”
A resident of Yorkville, Rodriguez and his wife, Melissa, have four children — Allie, Brycen, Christian and Keaton. He is a member of New Life Church in Yorkville and has coached youth soccer for six years.