8 Key Lessons From More Than 20 Engineering Topnotchers

Part of my job as an editor at GineersNow was to write stories that would go viral, especially those which are relevant to engineering, math, and science. On a daily basis, I look for topics that would make our target audience, the engineers, visit our website. That’s how the business of a digital publishing (and marketing) company works. 

Although the company is based in Dubai, more than half of the team, including the managers, were Filipinos. This allows the Philippines-based editors, who are registered engineers by the way, to choose content that has bias towards Filipino engineers given our understanding of the market. Still, much of what we post cater to the interests of engineers worldwide.

One time, my boss there opened up about interviewing engineering achievers in the Philippines. So we thought of reaching to engineering topnotchers online with the hopes that their stories would be inspirational or interesting enough to drive traffic on our website.

I started to look for the recently topped board examinees at the time. It does not matter which engineering courses they took, as long as they have bested hundreds to thousands of board exam takers, they all have a success story to tell.

All the topnotchers need to do is fill out a questionnaire and the editors will compose an article from there. Each editor has a responsibility to reach and communicate with the topnotchers.

In my case, I have interviewed more than 20 in over a year.

With the positive feedback the company gets from highlighting the engineering topnotchers, I became driven. Also at times, I get messages from strangers appreciating what I do which gives my work a meaning.

So what sense am I making of this? Why is this big deal?

To be able to engage with great minds even if it is just through chat or e-mail is a privilege. Not all the time that I get to talk to champion quizzers and math wizards, more so interpret their success stories in the best way I know how. I am their tool in sharing to the world how they got to where they are now.

Moreover, I realized that far more important than driving web traffic and getting high Facebook reach through our topnotchers’ success stories is the impact. Our readers could learn a valuable lesson or two from the articles and apply in their battles towards becoming registered professionals.   

Personally, I have learned key lessons. This post aims to amplify those and share them without reading each of the topnotcher articles I wrote.

Lesson #1: Hardwork, paired with consistency, is the ultimate determining factor to success.

Putting enough blood, sweat, and tears in your work often produces the best results. Successful people always keep their eyes on the goal no matter what obstacles they face.

Most, if not all, of the engineering topnotchers I have interviewed have this element in their stories.

For one, topping a licensure exam could be replicated by the same person given the consistency and will to succeed. Quite a feat to top a licensure exam once, what more if you do so twice or more?

Like Engr. Michael James Ramos who placed third in the May 2014 civil engineering licensure examination and later clinched the top spot in the July 2015 master plumber licensure examination.

Engr. Kathreen Louise Del Rosario shares a similar story, landing eighth in the November 2016 board exam for civil engineers, fourth in the February 2017 board exam for master plumbers, and fifth in the September 2017 materials engineer accreditation examination. Yup, she took three exams, all of which she aced.  

There is also Engr. Billy Ray Sales, who took the electrical engineering licensure exam and the master electrician licensure exam in September 2017 and aced the two by placing ninth in both. Lucky number 9 for him. 

Include Engr. Dino Dominic Ligutan in this roster of achievers as he topped the October 2017 electronics engineering and electronics technician licensure examinations, placing first and second, respectively.

While the four have acquired success in board exams more than once, there are people who have to go through the worst just to get one engineering license. Their stories are just as awe-inspiring.

Lesson #2: Failures and roadblocks are great motivators to achieve success.

To pass the board exam is one thing, to be able to top is another.

For Engr. Edwin Icydor Paragas II, it is already a blessing for him to pass especially that he took the electronics engineering licensure examination four times only to fail each time. It was easy for him to give up after his fourth take but he interpreted the situation differently: sometimes a ‘no’ does not really mean a ‘no’ but a ‘not yet.’

He got the license he wanted after trying one more time in the October 2011 examination. Edwin passed.

Hardwork and consistency are already enough factors to top the board exam, but when you include determination despite the failures and road blocks, you can be unstoppable.

Such is the case of Engr. Archimedes Martinez. He stopped schooling for a while as a consequence of his addiction to gambling. And when he was given another chance, he stepped up and redeemed himself, eventually becoming the eighth placer in the May 2017 civil engineering licensure examination. For his exceptional success, his university gave him P 1 million. Yup.

One more engineer who used his flops as a springboard is Engr. Aaron Polancos.

In his school, the graduates are required to pass an exit exam before taking the board exam. Aaron failed six times before passing, later placing first in the April 2017 electronics engineering licensure examination.

Such achievements. But do you really need to come from certain backgrounds just to achieve success?

Lesson #3: Success is deserved by those who exert enough effort to make things happen, regardless of background.

Lucky are those who were born in well-off families living in gated subdivisions because they do not have a problem in making ends meet. But for those who belong to the lower and middle class, they have to go through a lot more in order to turn their dreams into a reality.

Like Engr. Rizalino Caratao, who evolved from being an ordinary island boy to an engineering topnotcher. Coming from a family where the father is a fisherman and the mother a housewife, he had been into several episodes of his life where he and his family struggled financially.

But they were able to manage. With his perseverance to study as well as willingness to make sacrifices along the way, Rizalino achieved so much including topping the September 2015 mechanical engineering licensure examination.

Another engineer who fought several difficult battles before becoming a topnotcher is Engr. Remington Salaya. We went to the same engineering school, with me taking civil engineering and him chemical engineering.

His story is the one most personal to me because he was a classmate in our batch review class, seeing how brilliant this guy really is. And we also got to talk before our respective board exams which are only days apart.

However, behind the genius that I witnessed inside the classroom is a resilient, responsible man – he became an orphan while in college, leaving him to be the breadwinner of the family. Not only that, he became a father of one. These things I knew only during my interview with him.

It is unlikely for him to focus on his studies with lots to worry about his own family and siblings, but he moved mountains. Remington emerged as the first placer in the May 2015 chemical engineering licensure examination, making him a big pride of our batch.

Then there is Engr. Ezel Joy Manzano, being celebrated as her tribe’s first woman civil engineer. A part of the Amianan tribe which was moved to a settlement area near Olongapo City after the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, she found an opportunity to study civil engineering. Although she did not top, passing the licensure examination for civil engineers is her ticket towards helping her Aeta community.

As proven by these three, it takes grit to be great. But not all the time it is just about that.

Lesson #4: Sacrifices have to be made to get there.

They say that if you want something you never had, you have to do something you have never done.

For Engr. Alfred Isaac Ajo, it could mean staying away from social media platforms so he could concentrate. This is a bit difficult for most Filipinos, with a report saying that the Philippines has a social media obsession: on average, Filipinos spend an average of 4 hours and 17 minutes per day on social media sites, one of the highest in the world. 

Nonetheless, Alfred was able to do it. Four months prior to his September 2016 electrical engineering licensure examination, he made the decision to quit Facebook. It was relatively easier for him because he confessed that he is not that fond of Facebook anyway. For that he had time to focus on his studies which bore fruit: he got the top spot in his board exam.

Another form of sacrifice is to do whatever it takes just to accomplish a goal.

Engr. Sirven Garibay best exemplifies this, as he says that math is not his favorite subject but he became the first placer in the November 2016 civil engineering licensure examination. He knew he had to like math, at least, to master it, considering that the core of his chosen course is that subject. Sirven was able to beat the odds.

There are things that we could not control. But if we only learn how to turn them into our favor, we will be able to manage.

Lesson #5: Sometimes, destiny plays a role in success.

By destiny, I do not mean that these engineers did not work their asses off to where they are now. But some things happen for a reason even if they are not originally planned.

Take Engr. Pompeii Nikolai Subingsubing for example. He first took accountancy in college only to fail his qualifying exam before turning third year. For this he had to shift courses and went for a mining engineering course. 

In this pursuit, it is safe to say that he did not make the wrong choice: he took the number one spot in the August 2017 mining engineering licensure examination. He considers the success to be unexpected.

While we are talking about destiny, Engr. Brylle Gilbuena’s board exam story is perhaps another best example. He topped the March 2017 mechanical engineering licensure examination but claims that he did not even finish the test.

How is that even possible? Aside from that he is indeed destined to become the first placer, perhaps, this next lesson became instrumental to him.

Lesson #6: To achieve success, one must not only work hard but also work smart.

For many engineering topnotchers, there is a difference between working hard and working smart. The former means doing all the best that you can, while the latter says about finding the best ways to meet your goals.

It pays to know your learning pattern, says Engr. Jared Philip Condez. Manage your time wisely, shares Engr. John Cyril Claur.

Both engineers got the same rating to claim the top spot in the November 2017 chemical engineering licensure examination. Each had focused on their own techniques which allowed them to have such an achievement.

Use the triangle of learning as your guide, says Engr. Christian Jake Villamar, the first placer in the August 2017 agricultural engineering licensure examination. As recommended by his dean, he wants future board exam takers to use participatory, active learning methods while studying. 

Meanwhile, perhaps one of the best tips (in my opinion) in the bunch which can be considered a ‘work smart’ strategy is by Engr. Francisco Onde Jr. He said that we should prioritize learning far more than getting good grades, making a great point on studying for knowledge which can later have a bigger impact even outside of the classroom.

France, who is also in Steemit and the one who brought me to this platform, went from being a champion quizzer to become the second placer in the May 2015 civil engineering licensure examination. He did not finish college with honors like most topnotchers, by the way.

Another tip from a topnotcher that I appreciate the most which illustrates the principle of working smart is to master the basics of the lessons. This is the gist of Engr. Hisham Sacar’s interview, sharing that the core principles in math and physics are the key to understanding the advanced engineering lessons.

Hisham, a Muslim-Filipino belonging to the Maranao tribe, topped the May 2017 civil engineering licensure examination for such learning principle.

What things am I still missing that are important factors to success?

Lesson #7: Never forget your standards and values if you want to succeed.

Sad to say but there are no shortcuts to success.

If you are willing to compromise your standards and values just to get to where you think you should be, the odds are that you will not sustain that position for long. It is still important to stand your ground on your principles regardless of your status in the success-meter.

Like Engr. Edilbert Tandaan whose secret in becoming the first placer in the September 2017 electrical engineering licensure examination is pretty simple: do not cheat. He reveals that he has zero tolerance when it comes to cheating in exams.

According to him, cheating is not a good or effective way to acquire knowledge. If you fail, then you should face the consequences and learn from the experience. 

Meanwhile, if you ask Engr. Jonel Vernante about what made him become the first placer in the October 2017 geodetic engineering board examination, he would say not settling with okay grades. For him, mediocrity is not the best way to reach success.

He suggested that engineering students should always do their best in class and to “always go the extra mile.” For when they persevere to do good academically, they are bound to learn more rather than those who do not try at all, Jonel believes.

To have faith in God is also a key, other topnotchers shared.

Lesson #8: God is with you in your plans.

Taking the board examination is a battle you cannot go through alone. There is God who is behind you all the way in such an undertaking, and if you do not allow Divine Intervention to do His work during the examination day, you will be disturbed and most likely not get the desired results.

That is what Raylin Platon did. She was the topnotcher in the December 2016 industrial engineering certification examination. Such success was possible because she trusted God’s plans for her.

The same is true for Engr. Giuseppe Andrew Buffe who studied hard but prayed harder to clinch the top spot in the November 2016 aeronautical engineering licensure examination.

By now you should have an idea that topping the engineering licensure examination is no easy task, meaning it can only be accomplished by a certain few. It is a challenge for those who seek excellence and success and an unachievable dream for those who only do the bare minimum.

While such a feat does not necessarily predict the trajectory of the engineer’s future, it serves as proof that there is nothing we cannot do if we emulate the qualities of already successful people, and that we can also succeed in everything that we do if we take the responsibility.

An earlier version of this was posted on my Facebook and Steemit account.

3 thoughts on “8 Key Lessons From More Than 20 Engineering Topnotchers”

  1. Engr. Marvin Kobe C. Fernandez, ME, PCO

    How did I past the Board Exam?

    1. MINDSET:
    Focus and always think that the board exam is just a 50-50 battle. 50% Passer, 50% Topnatcher! In my experience, this will help you develop your determination and will benefit your preparation and review behavior.

    2. SOLVE PROBLEM AS MANY AS YOU CAN (SOLVE PROBLEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN)
    During my preparation on my board examination, one of our Instructors on Prime Review Center said: “Repetition is the key to Mastery!” and I believe him. I solve problems repeatedly even all the sample problems that were solved during our review class. I solve at least 60 problems a day and sometimes, I finish all the 100 problems a day assignment given by the review center.

    3. COMMITMENT and CONSISTENCY
    Always develop a review routine. Set a time table and be committed and consistent with yourself. This will help you to focus on your preparation and helps you avoid fatigue and “cramming” that may cause you a high level of anxiety during your actual exam.

    4. STUDY SMART (NOT HARD)
    Most topics and subjects on board examination are too broad. Imagine that all of you will exam all the Engineering subjects during your 5-year course in just 2 days!? That is a lot of hell to think of. So, in my experience, just master all the basics! Believe me, understanding the basic principle and how formulas are formulated is better than memorizing it. Also, using mnemonic (or sometimes called as coding/codes) is the best way to memorize the formulas!

    5. BE HEALTHY and HAVE A BREAK
    Believe me, studying in a full stomach and has enough sleep is effective! Eating chocolates and nuts are my thing during my review. I also do “mukbang” and forget my diet during those times. Also, don’t forget to take a break. Playing games like Mobile Legends and Pokemon Go (while walking and riding a jeep on my way home) is a must during my breaks! I also subscribed to Netflix so that I can watch movies and series before going to bed! Just think of it that eating and having breaks is a way of treating yourself.

    6. ENJOY AND TRUST THE PROCESS
    Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Remember, preparing your board examination is the same as preparing for your future as well. This is the opportunity to mold your own future. Improve and be the best version of yourself! In fact, the best part of your journey in your life is not where you end up nor what you get in the end; but It’s who you become in the process. Just trust the process, you are making a progress, you are closer to your goals!

    7. PRAY, and KEEP IN FAITH
    Like any other tips, this is the most important one! Prayer is the most powerful weapon against all obstacles in life. Prayer will help you keep motivated and avoid negative things inside your head. Prayer will also boost your confidence so keep holding on your faith to Him!

    Engr. Marvin Kobe Crisologo Fernandez
    Mechanical Engineer
    August 2019

    *Also, I’m an aspiring Electrical Engineer and currently taking up BS Electrical Engineering at New Era University.

  2. Honey Pearl M. Bernardo

    This is a new motivation for me.
    Currently a first year Civil Engineering student.
    If this site is still alive after 5-6 years, kindly mention me.

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