Andrew, 33, originally from Washington D.C., graduated from the 9-month Electro-Mechanical Technologies program at RSI in April 2018
Thanks for your time, Andrew. What were you doing before you came to RSI?
Before RSI, I went to MMI (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute), and before that, I was a tractor trailer driver for about two years. I was in the army before that.
Thank you for your service, Andrew. How long were you in the army?
Eight years. I went in at the age of 19. I dropped out of high school in the 9th grade at age 16. I got my GED at 19 just so I could join the army.
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Were you involved in any mechanical or electrical work in the Army?
No, for the most part it was grunt work like artillery and truck driving.
So what took you from motorcycle mechanic school to RSI?
About the time that I was going through the electrical portion of MMI, learning that I really enjoyed troubleshooting electrical, I met a woman who was at RSI. She told me about the school, about refrigeration and about the electrical parts of the program. That was what really turned me onto the idea of doing air conditioning or HVAC.
Did you complete the MMI program?
I did. It took 15 months and then I went straight to RSI. I still plan to pursue a degree in engineering. I’m going to enroll again this winter to try and finish my associate’s in General Education. That will get me to the point of being able to start my degree. I’ll get it 20 years from now, probably!
You seem to really value education.
I do value learning things, and I have definitely learned the value of a trade and being able to do things. Learning a trade is like acquiring X-ray vision. I used to have no idea what was behind walls, inside of a/c units or inside a four-stroke engine. I can now look at these mechanical instruments and see inside them. It’s very rewarding. The worst feeling is not knowing how to fix something. It started with motorcycles. Having no clue how to fix my motorcycle made me feel useless I guess you could say.
What was your favorite part of the RSI program and why?
The teachers were probably the best part. I still call one of my teachers, Jay Brooke, the refrigeration guy. He’s a character. He sticks out! That’s probably the best part. I can still call him. In fact, I could call any teacher and they would probably help me out. That’s actually pretty cool. The teachers control how you process the information, which was pretty incredible. Some of them have a great way of articulating themselves and making education very digestible, so the learning curve is shorter.
Where are you working now?
I work for Andrew’s in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but it’s actually an incredible company. I’ve met people who are actually happy to be at work! Everybody seems to take care of everybody, as long as you’re willing to work the hours and not trying to do 9-5 type stuff. It just seems really genuine. I think that comes from the person in charge who is just a really humble guy, and it filters down from there. I was at a different company before and this place is totally different.
How did you find Andrew’s?
I put ‘HVAC jobs’ into Google, saw a company with my name and said that’s where I’m working next! I did call one of my teachers to get his personal opinion on the company. It was encouraging to hear him say good things about them, and that I might want to get the job.
How did you get the job?
Luck! No, I pretty much kept bugging them. I called twice, then I ran up there and told the owner that I’d be coming up every week until he hired me. I asked him what kind of coffee he wanted the next week. He laughed and said he’d give me a chance. I really wanted the job. My name is on the truck!
What do you do for them?
I’m still in the learning phase, so I’m just doing maintenance right now. But they do commercial refrigeration and residential, everything from servicing air conditioning units, to electrical, to plumbing, to servicing hot fryers and ice machines. It’s been very humbling. I’ve learned that although I have the fundamentals, I still have a lot to learn.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I really enjoy the diversity. You won’t get this at every company, but I enjoy the diversity of working on the refrigeration side, the residential side and the commercial side. There’s just a plethora of things to fix! You have to know a little about everything, so it definitely appeals to me. You have to know about thermo-dynamics, electrical and some plumbing. It seems to be an endless career. Mastering this field is something that’s never going to happen. I’m always going to be learning something new.
Have you always been a guy who likes to fix stuff?
No, I was completely oblivious! I went from zero to a lot. I embraced the pain of learning, and that comes with a lot of reward.
You kind of stumbled into the HVAC field. Are you going to stick with it?
I had no clue this is where I’d be two years ago. But I’m going to stay in this for a while. The thing with truck driving was that you make good money, but you’re never home. With this job, I still make good money, and although I work long hours, I am home.
What advice would you give to new students just starting out at RSI?
A blanket statement about any trade school is that you’re only going to get out of it what you put in. If it’s your thing, if you’re genuinely interested in learning it, you’re going to learn a tremendous amount. A trade school is giving you the basics, the fundamentals and the tools to go home and do more research on your own. If you’re really interested in it, you’ll go home and get on YouTube to learn more. What you don’t understand on YouTube, you go back and ask your teachers.
But it’s on you to use your personal time to really learn this stuff. Your expectations should be that you’re going to have a strong core of fundamentals. When you get out there in the field, you’ve still got an awful lot to learn, but you’re going to get paid more for having those fundamentals. Just don’t leave RSI thinking you know it all. We forget that learning is hard, so embrace the pain of feeling stupid!
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.