Andres, 29, born and raised in Phoenix and Mesa, graduated from the RSI Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program in December 2018, having first toured RSI back in 2008.
Thanks for your time, Andres. Tell us what you did after high school.
I’ve been on my own since I was 15. After I graduated high school at 17, I spent a semester at Mesa Community College for Computer Information Systems. But I got caught up on the “what am I going to do for the rest of my life?” question. I couldn’t come up with an answer because I had too many interests. So I backed off college and spending the money. I decided to go to work and pay off the debt for that semester until I figured it all out.
Is that when you first visited RSI?
Yes, I toured RSI after MCC because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted to get into solar, and anything to do with heating and cooling. There weren’t many solar classes around back then.
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That was in 2008. Why did it take 10 years for you to decide to enroll?
It just took me a while to get the MCC student loans paid off. I wasn’t focused on paying those loans off the whole time, and then life got in the way. I was a dishwasher, warehouse worker and a door-to-door salesman. I did a lot of different work because a job couldn’t keep my interest longer than 6 to 8 months. I don’t think I’ve ever had a job longer than a year, but I was always respectful, gave my two weeks’ notice, and then moved on to the next thing.
So, what changed last year?
It all just fell into place in 2018. I have a daughter–she’s two now–and the tax credits we got for her helped with paying off the loan. I decided I had to make something better of myself for my family. RSI seemed like the best choice for me, and the timing was right. I was able to start school with $60 down within two weeks of going back into RSI. I couldn’t have been happier that I finally made that choice.
Were you still focused on solar?
I was, and I loved that 100 hours, but I also discovered that AC was cool. I really enjoyed it. I figured if things didn’t pan out with solar, I had AC under my belt, too. I do want to go back for the MME program [Associate Degree in Mechanical Maintenance Engineering] in the future.
What was your favorite part of attending RSI?
I enjoyed the interaction between my class and our instructors. We all took the program so seriously that we made a pretty good imprint on the school. We had five ambassadors come out of our class. We were serious. That’s what made the instructors love us and give us more. The instructors knew that we were there to learn, and they were phenomenal. I loved all the instructors. They were great.
How was your attendance?
I missed just five days in the whole program. I was going for the Presidential Award for attendance, but life happened. But I’m still proud of having just five absences in nine months, and a 4.0 all the way through. I took the program to heart. I took it very seriously.
So where are you working?
I just started working for K.C. Air Conditioning. They’re an established company. They’ve been around 30 years. I’m in my second week. I’m training to be a service technician. This is my second job after graduation, and I really like it here. It’s a great company. I’m hoping to get my own truck soon. I’m impressing them, I think!
You’re not working in the solar field, then?
Solar is great, but right now I can make more money in HVAC. But I’ll always like solar.
Talking of money, are you happy with where you’re at?
Oh yes. Right off the bat, take full advantage of career services at RSI. They will get you what you want. I totally back up the RSI 85+% employment rate. When I wanted a new job last month, I reached out to Erica in career services and asked her to send out my résumé again. The next Monday, within two hours, I had six or seven calls from people trying to schedule me for interviews, trying to pick me up, so that was awesome.
Where do we see your career taking you ultimately?
I have the same dream as I did when I toured RSI in 2008. I want to become a person who helps others fulfill their dreams. I need to become successful to be able to do that. I saw RSI as my opportunity. That’s why I want to get involved in the MME program, so one day I can own my own business and be successful enough to invest in other peoples’ dreams.
If your dream is to work in HVAC, then I will help you and employ you. But if your dream is to own a tattoo shop, I want to have enough money where I can become a partner and invest in you, and help you make your dream come true.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I like helping people, but I also like that every day is different. No matter if you think that you’ve done a two-ton install before, it won’t be the same as the install you did yesterday. That’s what I love it about it. Every day you have to think and use your brain.
Did you make some connections at RSI?
Oh, yeah, there are at least half a dozen guys from my class. We all became good friends. I could call any of them to see if they know of a position open, and they would stick their neck out for me.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out at RSI?
Try to become the best student that you can be. If you’re not a young kid straight out of high school, it’s hard to be a student again. Bill, the instructor in phase one, said part of his job was to teach us how to become students again. Stay focused all the way through, and if you mess up, pay attention to how you fixed it, how you solved the problem. That’s how you learn. Ask questions, and get advice left and right.
Do you have any regrets that you didn’t do this 10 years ago?
I do not. The decisions I made, I made clearly, even though they were wrong. Had I made other decisions I wouldn’t have met the people I’ve met since, and I probably wouldn’t have my daughter, so no regrets.
If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success story and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), and program.