Faculty Connections – Meet Cody McGraw

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Cody, 27, is an instructor at The Refrigeration School. He teaches Phase 5 (Fundamentals of Refrigeration) of the Refrigeration Technologies program. Cody has been with RSI for about 10 months. Born in California, Cody grew up here in Arizona.

Thanks for your time, Cody. Tell us how you got started in this career.

I went to HVAC school in 2013, so I’ve been in the field for six or seven years. The majority of my field experience was as a service tech for a residential and new construction air conditioning company. I did a little light commercial as well. I was a service technician for about 3 ½ years, then I became the warranty supervisor over there for a couple of years before I came to RSI. The company have a contract for about 85 to 90% of all the new construction in Arizona. They do the A/C installations in the new construction, and when the homeowner moves in, their initial warranty starts. That’s when service would get involved.

Why did you decide to become an instructor last year?

I had a life event that put my career in the field on hold. I was looking at alternatives that would keep me in this industry, because I grew to really like it. It is fun being able to solve problems, and I get real satisfaction out of that. When I was a technician, my company was constantly hiring new guys out of school. I’d train them, helping them take what they’d learned in school and apply it in the field. I figured, at that point, why don’t I see what I can do on the other end? Let’s see how I can help these guys retain information from the classroom, so when they get into the field it’s a little easier to make that transition.

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What do you enjoy most about teaching?

To be completely honest, prior to teaching, I wasn’t a real people person. I would keep myself to myself. But this job has pulled me out of that bubble. I had no choice but to interact and communicate with my students. I need to communicate with them to understand where they are struggling, or to ensure they feel comfortable communicating with me. It’s been good for me and has made being an instructor a lot more fun because I get to interact and see their progress. That’s really satisfying. I’d never been in an instructing position before. I’ve had leadership positions where I’ve instructed people under me, but a blank slate situation like this is different. I enjoy this more than I thought I would. It’s pretty fun.

You mentioned having to put your career on hold. Will you continue to teach, or go back into the field?

I’m going to have to say yes to both. This position has given me more time out of work, which has been extremely helpful, going from nonstop 80 to 100+ hours a week to a set schedule. That’s been helpful because I’m a single parent. I’ve been able to balance things better. My plan is to get my contractor’s license and start my own business—nothing big, just work for myself and run some service calls. I want to continue to instruct, and then make extra money running calls when I’m not at school.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?

It’s not something I keep to myself but I’m a really big gamer. Most of my spare time, when I’m not being driven crazy by Xavier, my six-year old son, is spent playing video games!

What did you want to be when you were young?

I always wanted to be an architect. I’ve always loved building things out of nothing, it came naturally to me. I’ve been doing it for I don’t know how long. Tearing things down and putting them back together.

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

I’d have to say my grandmother Shirley who passed almost a year ago, shortly before I started working at RSI. My grandmother raised me for the majority of my life, so it was a hard passing. I had a hard time dealing with her illness, so I didn’t visit as much as I should have knowing her health condition. I’d love to have one more conversation with her.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you do?

If I won the lottery, I would have a giant warehouse as a garage, full of cars that I could just do whatever I want to, whenever I wanted to! A bit of restoration, customization—like Jay Leno’s garage.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students considering RSI?

Make sure that you get the understanding that you need. Take the initiative and ask questions if you don’t understand. That’s the one thing I see guys and girls struggle with the most—asking questions. A lot of people don’t want to feel singled out, to put their hand up. Get what you need out of this program. It’s all new to everybody, it’s not going to make sense to everybody immediately, so I try to encourage students to ask all the questions they need. If you don’t ask a question, it’s hard for me to know you don’t understand. And if I don’t know, I won’t be able to help you.

What was your favorite tool in the field?

It’s a tool that I made. It’s not the safest tool, but it gets the job done. It’s just two wires I use to jump power directly from the system equipment if I need power to drive my recovery or vacuum machines for the system. It’s just a way for me to get the power I need without having to locate a plug or run an extension cord. Finding power can be pretty difficult in some situations, especially when the air conditioner is on the roof. It made my life a lot easier.

What was your favorite part of your time in the field?

My favorite part was the diagnostics, and the satisfaction of being correct in your diagnosis. There are gray areas in air conditioning. You can pinpoint what the problem might be to an extent, but then you have to go off experience in a lot of situations. Once you have the satisfaction of being correct, you can then see the relief in the homeowner or business owner. It’s a complete change of their persona when you tell them you can fix the problem. You can see a weight lift of their shoulders, and that feels good.

You get an unexpected day to yourself, what would you do with that time?

I’d be able to pick my son up from school, which would be nice. I can’t usually because of my shift. Then we’d grab a bite to eat, maybe go to the park, then go home and play video games. Just a leisurely day.

If you were to tell someone “thank you” for making you the man you are today, who would it be?

That would be my uncle Chris for actually sticking to discipline and teaching me right from wrong. Along with my grandma, my aunt and uncle are the people I spent the most time with growing up.