Faculty Connections – Meet William Lee

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William, 33, originally from Illinois, joined RSI in March 2021. He has a unique role with the school as an install instructor in a post-graduation class.

Thanks for your time, William. Tell us what it is you do at RSI.

I’m an instructor for the new B2B (business to business) install program. I take people with either no knowledge or entry level knowledge, and I get them up to speed on doing installs for companies. I don’t do any classroom teaching. Everything is hands-on. I have a bunch of equipment that I have the guys and girls working on or wiring up or whatever the case may be. I take direction directly from the employers we work with. They tell me what they want their new recruits to know when they exit the class.

So, this is after they’ve graduated RSI before they start in the field, they come to you.?

Yes. They’ve either just graduated RSI, or they could be someone a company hires outside of the school. Once they’ve hired them, they send them back to me. I take them through a three-week training course on installations, based on what the particular company wants them to learn. Each three-week course comprises one company because they all have different criteria; one class could include six Parker & Sons employees, then for the next class Chas Roberts sends in ten, and then Goettl might send eight. The best part is, by the time the students get to me, they are already employed, so they are getting paid!

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What’s the schedule of the B2B program?

We do four ten-hour days. That way they get used to working longer hours, then they get a three-day weekend to be refreshed and ready for Monday again.

That’s interesting. Tell us about your background. How long have you been in the field?

I have about 12 years in the field. After I graduated high school, I took an HVAC program at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis. After I graduated there with an associate degree in 2008, I spent the next six years doing residential installs. After that, it was a split between residential and commercial installs for the past six years or so.

Why did you decide to go into teaching earlier this year?

One of the main jobs I had in the field was teaching anyone that was entry level or below my skill level, to get them up to speed. I enjoyed that. It was always nice to see that lightbulb go off when it starts to make sense and they realize they can do it now, they didn’t need me to direct them any further. I found that very rewarding. It was more rewarding than installing and fixing things every day had become after 12 years! I figured why not give it a try?

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Honestly, like most other kids, I didn’t really know! I knew I liked working with my hands. I knew liked being outside and I knew I didn’t want to be stuck in an office. HVAC you can take anywhere, you can work anywhere and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to move around, travel, be young for a little bit. So, HVAC was the way to go.

What brought you to Arizona almost four years ago?

We took our honeymoon down here and my wife fell and I fell in love with the weather. I never wanted to see snow again!

What do you enjoy best about the teaching you’re doing?

It’s still that lightbulb moment. Having gone through the RSI program, these guys have a level of knowledge, but the issue is they don’t really touch on installs too much. That’s why these companies send them back to me. When they come out of RSI, they know what to do, but they don’t really understand it. So, I bring them back and I run them through everything step-by-step individually. You can really see that light bulb go off and watch them understand it. That’s what I’m shooting for.

Why did you choose to come to RSI?

It was definitely the school’s reputation. They are best in the Valley that’s for sure. I’ve heard some horror stories of kids going through the other technical schools here. It kind of seems like technical programs at the other colleges are like side projects, not the main focus of the school. At RSI it’s the main focus. I mean, it’s in the name!

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

I play hockey in an adult league, and I am vegan!

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

That’s a tough question. I’d say my grandpa, Bob Lee. He passed away when I was fairly young, and we didn’t really get a lot of time together. It’d be nice to get another chance.

Tell us about your family William.

My wife, Justine, and I have been married going on four years now; we’ve got two cats and no kids.

If you didn’t have to work for a living and could do anything, what would you do with your time?

I think Justine and I would just travel. We love traveling, going on vacations, even if it’s a little weekend trip outside of work. We love going anywhere and trying new places, so I think we would travel.

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

Just put in the effort. You’d be amazed how many kids won’t stay for the whole class, or they won’t do after-hours lab work, or they won’t stick around for the lab portion to get their hands on things. You’ve got to stick with it. You’re trying to learn something, but you’ve got to be here to learn!

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

I play a lot of video games on my computer. I’d probably do that, or I sit out by the pool. We have a pool in our backyard, so either the pool or the computer, one of the two!

What was your favorite tool in the field?

Can I say two? A cordless hand drill and your multimeter. Two of the most valuable things you’ll have in the field as an installer, or even on the service side for that matter. Certainly, the meter on service, it could keep you alive!

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

I really enjoyed doing the installs the most, just because of the craftsmanship involved. You can make an install look however you want, but if you put some effort into it, put time into it, you can make it look great. When you have people who know what they’re doing come up and say, “That’s a great looking install, I wouldn’t change a thing about it!” That was always a good feeling.

And also, like I said earlier, I really enjoyed the opportunity to travel, to move around. I lived in Oklahoma, in Texas, I actually lived here in Phoenix about 10 years ago before I moved back to Illinois, and then I moved back here with my wife. It’s just having the ability, the skills, to be able to apply for a job wherever I go, and know I’ll have a job within a week.

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

My wife, Justine. She’s always been my number one fan. She’s always been there to encourage me and motivate me. If I ever looked at a job and thought I’m not qualified for it, she’d just tell me to go for it. She’s always my motivator so, I’d like to thank her for being there for me.