Jay, aged 33, is from Phoenix, Arizona. He graduated from the Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program in May 2016.
Thanks for speaking with me Jay. What made you decide on an HVAC career?
To be honest, it started with my grandmother! She couldn’t afford to put a new air conditioning unit in her house, so I ended up doing it for her. It was a package unit that went on top of the house. I had a crane come out and put it up there. It was a two day job that should have only taken 10 hours, but it took me like 20. From there HVAC was something I got very interested in.
So you installed a unit with no experience?
Exactly! That’s what got me into it. I had no experience at all. I just got on YouTube and figured out what I needed to do in about an hour. A couple of days later when I was done, I thought “I could do this, no problem!” But once I got to RSI I quickly realized there is so much more to it, I just got real lucky!
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Your grandma obviously loves and trusts you!
She does, but she also wanted to save herself $5,000!
Now you’re educated, I hope you’ve been back to double check your installation?
Oh yeah! It’s been running good for about three years now, so I did an okay job with it!
So what did you do before your grandma sparked your HVAC career?
Through my 20s I was a hairdresser. I worked for a big company. I ran three salons with 200 employees beneath me. I got to travel the world; it was an amazing time.
So what made you decide to change careers?
I worked for my dad. When you work for family, things can get complicated. I didn’t think I was going to make it to where I wanted to go. So after 12 years I decided to head in my own direction.
That was a big decision with a pregnant wife and three young kids (at the time)?
It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my entire life. I’d say it took a year. My wife and I talked about it, for what seemed like hours every day, for a straight year. I’d be leaving a good job in an air conditioned family business to go work out in the sun. That was probably the biggest question.
It’s a valid question. How do you handle the heat and the sun?
I’ll be honest with you, those first two weeks in the field, I contemplated quitting. It was extremely hard. I’d come home and take a cold shower for an hour because I was exhausted. But I told myself that everyone in the industry has gone through this at some point, and if they can do it, why can’t I? I pushed through it, and now just six weeks in, the sun doesn’t hurt me anymore. As we enter July here, we have to deal with the humidity. Now I just sweat and it won’t stop!
What was your favorite part of the program and why?
What made me enjoy the school, and reaffirm that I’d chosen the right career, were the RSI instructors. 90% of them were just amazing people. They definitely cared about getting you through school, they try to give you as much education as they can in the short time that you’re there. If it wasn’t for those guys, I don’t think a lot of things would have gone as well as they did for me.
Did you leave RSI feeling that you were on your way to becoming a specialist?
Yes, going into school I found out that I knew absolutely zero. Having done my grandma’s unit I figured I knew maybe 5%, but in reality I knew -1%. I didn’t know anything! But I was definitely able to hone in on the skills they were trying to push across the table. They gave me a really good base to start out with.
How long after graduation did it take to find a job?
There was a career fair at RSI about a month before I graduated; from that I got in contact with a Vice President at Parker & Sons. I graduated on Friday and started work on the Monday – about six weeks ago.
Did you go through special training with them?
You ride along with training techs for about two weeks. Then, they give you your own van and you just do maintenance calls for the first two months. They want you to fully understand how units should be working before they put you to work on broken ones. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m a residential maintenance technician. I’ll start working on broken units next month as a service technician.
So are you happy with the starting salary?
You’re on an hourly rate for the first two to three months that you’re with the company. Once you’re done as a maintenance technician, the training phase really, they put you on to commission. The hourly isn’t bad because I work 12-13 hours a day, and they pay daily overtime so that works out well. But the commission is where you want to be, that’s when things start to pay off.
Students reading “commission” may be put off. Does that mean you’re sales driven?
That’s a great question. Parker & Sons has worked to build their reputation focusing on excellent customer service. We give customers what they need, rather than what we’d want them to have so we can make a dollar. 90% of the time we don’t have recommendations because we’re not trying to sell things customers don’t need. If the unit is running good, we don’t try to make customers upgrade things that are already in there to make an extra $200. I think that’s a real strong point of this company.
What is your favorite aspect of working this job?
Honestly, the best part is the feeling you get when you fix someone’s air conditioner, and when they thank you because they’ve had no cooling for hours. That’s a big payoff, a feeling of accomplishment. I’m a person who likes to help people, so it feels good to know I’ve done something that’s important.
Where do you hope your career will be in three years?
My goal is to start my own HVAC company within five to six years. So in three years, I see myself still at Parker & Sons, making sure I have all the skills I need, and that I’m very efficient in everything I do.
What’s your dream job in the HVAC field?
Owning my own relatively good-sized company. I have four kids (aged 12, 10, 7, and 16 months) and a wife, and we definitely like family time. If I’m able to build my own productive company, then hopefully it will allow me to set the time aside for family.
Were there any business/management classes at RSI?
No, there’s no business training unfortunately. It’s such a compact course; there’s no time. But I talked to the instructors one on one about those kind of things. Most of my instructors had owned their own business at some point, so I picked their brains. They had a lot of insight to give me. I think I annoyed them a little bit, but I tried to get all that I could out of them!
What advice would you give to prospective students considering attending RSI?
Make sure you’re hungry for it. If you have passion and drive, you’ll be fine. If not, it’s going to be hard. I was actually more intimidated a month in than I was when I started. But then I got more comfortable. I understood how the program worked. I understood how invested the teachers were in seeing us succeed, and from there it got easier. Just know that if you have issues, the instructors are always there to help.
What do you do for fun?
I race mountain bikes; it’s something I’ve got my two older sons (10 and 7) into. We all race BMX bikes.
If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?
I’d take my entire family on the nicest vacation they could possibly dream of. When I say my family, I mean my mom & dad, my grandparents, of course my wife and kids. We’d all go somewhere like Hawaii where we could all have a good time together.