Meet Joe Sewell
Joe Sewell has been an instructor at The Refrigeration School for a little over a year. Originally from Phoenix, Joe is a father of two boys, an avid motorcycle rider, and he once told MC Hammer “U can’t touch this!”
How long have you worked in the HVAC field Joe?
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I went to HVAC school in 1998, so 17 years on and off. All in all I probably have about seven years total in the HVAC business. My passion has always been cars and engines. Right after HVAC school I went to automotive school. I did both trades for a while. In fact my dad and I owned our own auto mechanic shop for about seven years.
How did you get into teaching?
I kind of got thrown into it by accident four years ago. I started teaching automotive and discovered I really loved it. My dad got a job as Director of Training at a school in Las Vegas that didn’t have an automotive program. He asked me to help him develop an automotive curriculum. So I did that, then one thing led to another and the next thing I know I was in a classroom teaching it!
As a boy, what did you want to do when you grew up?
So many things…but auto mechanic, HVAC technician and teacher weren’t up there! When I was real little I wanted to be a race car driver because that’s what my dad did at the time. As I got older I wanted to be a professional basketball player, but I wasn’t quite tall enough for that. In the end I kind of followed in my dad’s footsteps, but it was kind of all by chance. It wasn’t something that I set out to do.
Tell me something that most people don’t know about you?
Let me think about that – I’m pretty much an open book. How about this? I used to play basketball with MC Hammer when I was going to school in Tracy, California. I bet a lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t know who he was until a little later on when I started talking with him.
Excellent! Did he dribble past you and shout ‘you can’t touch this’ as he went by?
Hahaha! No, but I actually did that to him a couple times!
Tell me your favorite music, book and movie.
My favorite artist right now is Fall Out Boy. My favorite style of music is Alternative. But when I’m riding my bike I listen to Dubstep or electronic house music. I like suspense type books. Anything by Stephen King or Dean Coontz. I’m also into the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, and I like Tom Clancy.
When it comes to movies I like comedies, or anything with fast cars and bikes. I guess my favorite movie is the original Fast & Furious. If you go further back, I’ve seen Grease about a thousand times! I like the styles from back then.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Wow that’s difficult… let me think about that…. I’d say President Reagan. I’d like to talk to him to see exactly how we could go about fixing all this.
Tell us about your family.
I have two boys – Joseph Junior is 13 and James is 11 years old. They both love riding motorcycles. They have little Pocket Rockets right now – little 50cc bikes that they ride around my apartment complex. They love it! I don’t have any pets at the moment; I’m a dog person, but it’s difficult in an apartment.
If you weren’t a teacher and money was no object, what would you do?
I hate sitting around not doing anything, so there’s actually several things I’d probably do. I’d open up a business to restore old cars that I’d buy at classic car auctions like Barrett-Jackson. I love all that. I’d probably also open a performance shop for cars and bikes, that would be fun. And I’d open some kind of eatery. Maybe a White Castle franchise out here in Phoenix – I love White Castle!
I’d probably spend my time at the shops, as I love working with my hands, but probably just on my own projects. I’d have people working on the rest of the business while I focus on my own pet restoration projects!
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students who are just starting out?
Just be prepared to learn. Even if you have some experience in the field or some mechanical inclination, don’t question or criticize everything the instructors say. We’re just trying to teach you the right way to do things, the safe way to do things. If you’ve learned things before on the job, or if you’d do something differently, the person who taught you that in the field may not have known it wasn’t the right way. Our goal is just to help students. Everything we do is for their benefit, to keep them safe. As long as they soak it all in, they’re going to be a lot better off in the field.
What’s your favorite part of the industry?
My best experience came from install. My favorite thing to do was being a technician, but the best money is in refrigeration because that’s year round, not as seasonal. But they were all really good parts of my career, and they are things I wouldn’t change.
The install gave me the insight into how systems run in general, as well as how they’re installed. That experience helped me become a better technician a few years later. And being a technician actually helped me get into refrigeration. The same things apply as a technician as they do in refrigeration, as they’re basically the same systems.
What’s your favorite tool?
A multi-meter. That’s the tool that every technician should learn how to use, and once you understand all of its uses, it will make your job so much easier. That’s my favorite tool – unless you want to get real deep? In which case I’d say our brains!
If you had to guide someone through a career path, that sounds like a logical way to go?
Absolutely. Working installations gives you great overall experience, which can help make you a better technician. Then being a great technician and gaining experience can help you get into refrigeration. That’s the ladder you want to climb right there.
If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do?
My dad. He always pushed me. He was a military man, and it sounds funny to say, but nothing was ever good enough…until it was perfect. So I have to thank him and my mom for where I am today.
You get an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d get on my motorcycle and ride out on the freeways with no particular place in mind. I’ve got a beast of a sport bike, a Kawasaki ZX14. I’m thinking about trading it in for a 1000cc bike, something a little lighter. But I have to say I’m a safety guy; I never ride without a helmet, nor do my boys.
What super power would you like to have?
I don’t even know… Probably flying! Just because that’s what it feels like on my motorcycle sometimes!
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