Our employee spotlight shines a light on one employee at a time. We value diversity and inclusion and welcome diverse thinking. It takes a village — through collaboration, living safely and driving innovation we realize our goals and help our clients achieve mission success. Our mantra is people first, mission always. Today’s Q&A is with Vance Higa, Program Manager, Okinawa Hazardous Material Minimization Center.
How did you come to join Amentum?
I relocated to Okinawa, Japan, with my wife and daughter as my wife advanced in her career. I joined AECOM Management Services from 2019 until it was spun out as Amentum.
What is your professional and personal background?
I am the Hazardous Waste Manager at the Hazardous Material Minimization Center (HMMC) in Okinawa, Japan.
Prior to working with Amentum, I was a civil servant at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa where I managed a department budget, served as an Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) committee member, and upheld my Title VII and Title IX EEO and gender discrimination responsibilities as a hiring manager.
I obtained my Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa where I studied the ecological effects of pesticidal and non-pesticidal techniques of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on the environment.
Describe the work you do and how you think it makes a positive impact.
I oversee hazardous waste collection, storage, and disposition which provides me a unique opportunity to educate Amentum’s government customer in safeguarding themselves, the public, and the environment. My position allows me to be a mentor to the team I manage where I encourage communication, training, and growth—which has garnered trust and improved safety.
What are some of your accomplishments and/or what has been your proudest career moment?
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, our program successfully dispositioned 1.3 million pounds of hazardous waste and recycled 460,000 pounds of recyclable material while mitigating COVID-19 risks and safeguarding employee health.
However, my proudest moment was having the opportunity to mentor my team members to bring out their truest potential and create a fun, positive, and rewarding team culture.
What do you enjoy about working for Amentum?
I enjoy being able to work with fellow employees and local nationals and being able to learn various aspects of my job from them.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about learning, understanding, and collaborating with others through respectful dialogue.
What’s your career advice?
Engaging in sincere and earnest dialogue is the direct path to garner mutual respect and results.
What does safety mean to you, or do you have a favorite safety tip?
Being present in the moment is paramount; one’s action or inaction has a powerful impact on oneself and the persons and environment around them.
What’s the best invention in the world and why?
Electricity is the best invention. Without electricity, the quality of life and technology would not improve to what it is today.
Anything else you would like to share from a personal or professional perspective?
Never give up or be discouraged; encountering an obstacle is proof of the progress you have made.