Xavier, known as X, is a Phoenix native. A Solar Instructor at RSI, X currently teaches the night class. He is 36 years old and has been with RSI for about nine months.
Thanks for your time, X. So, how long have you been in the field?
I’ve been in the HVAC field for eight years. I was actually an RSI graduate in 2016. The reason why I enrolled in school was because a good buddy of mine owned his own HVAC business. In 2015 he was like, “Hey, X, I know you’ve got the work ethic of a bull. How about you come work with me and see how you can change your life?” So, I helped him out for about a year before I decided to go to RSI.
What RSI program did you study in 2016?
I earned my Electro-Mechanical Technologies certification, which is considered HVAC. I graduated and went back out into the field. When I worked in the trade I represented Maricopa County, the City of Phoenix, and two reputable residential companies here in the valley. By late 2020, I decided I could do this by myself. I got my CR-39 dual residential and commercial contractor’s license and started my own business.
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Do you have a crew, or do you work by yourself?
I am a one-man band. But typically, when I do have heavy work on the schedule, I hire my best friend. He shows up every time I call; he’s a student athlete, a football player, and he’s my strength when I need it! I’m 150lbs, soaking wet with boots and a Velcro jacket on! I bring in the muscle and we get the job done.
I also hire RSI graduates to give them experience. That was one of the reasons why I was grateful for the opportunity at RSI. I come from a learning environment where I have to see something to believe it. 90% of my students are here for HVAC; they take the Solar course because it’s an addition to the program. I hire graduates to come and get some real-life job training, and I offer really great pay!
Real-world experience is so important. 10 days after I started at RSI as a student, they hosted a job fair. I went along, not really knowing what to expect. I just wanted to get out there, see who’s who, see what’s what. I actually got hired at that job fair. So, I was working in the field while going to school. I preach this to my students – do what you can to get out there working while still in school.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An interior designer! I was always annoying my mother! I’d rearrange the furniture in my mother’s house every seven days. I could never leave my bedroom in the same setting. Maybe that’s why I have a little OCD now. I carried that over to HVAC. When I was working for the residential companies, I had the cleanest work trucks in the valley. I was always presentable, very neat, very well organized when I was out.
Why did you decide to get into teaching last year?
RSI actually gave me a call, and asked if I would be interested in teaching a class? They thought I would be a good fit. Honestly, I assumed it would be teaching an HVAC class because that’s what I do for a living. But they wanted to put me in Solar; they said I have the character and the ideas to engage students in solar at night. So, I grabbed the bull by the horns and taught myself solar, which I now teach the students.
So, nine months in. Are you enjoying it? And what do you enjoy most about teaching?
I am, in fact I’m looking to get a solar contractor’s license now. I enjoy giving the students the opportunity to learn, and a way to feed their families. It gets no better than that.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
Most people know everything about me. I’m very transparent. Maybe they don’t know how much I love my friends. I was born in 1987, so I grew up in an era with no cell phones. If you wanted to see a friend, you had to ride your bike to their house to spend quality time with them. I love people.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
If I had the chance to have dinner with anybody, it would be Earl Nightingale. He was an author and a motivational speaker. One of the originals. He talks about the manifestation of things in your life. He talks about how to wake up and create a perfect morning, which will in turn create a perfect day, which will in turn create perfect opportunities.
Tell us about your family life.
I have two daughters and one son. My eldest daughter’s name is Janelle, she’s 12. My nine-year-old daughter is Jade, and my youngest boy is three, and of course he’s Junior. When I started my business, I called it Xavier’s AC and Heating Services. I wanted to leave a legacy for my kids. I gave my boy my name to carry the legacy on. He’ll probably be taking care of the family the same way I am when he’s of age.
I do have a partner; Teresita is from Chihuahua, Mexico, and we’ve been together for about seven years. She’s the love of my life. The day that I went to enroll into RSI, I didn’t have a dollar to my name. She came with me, and the school needed $25 for an administration fee. I didn’t have a penny; she pulled out her debit card which had $35 on it, and swiped the card which allowed me to get my paperwork in. She’s been there from the very beginning; she was there when I started my business, and she’s still here with me now.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students considering RSI?
Understand your value. Every time I have a new class, I talk about individual value because we’re in a $2billion market. Most students believe that $25/hour is a good living, but that’s just cheap labor. When you put yourself through a school like RSI, the biggest refrigeration school in the nation, you have to understand the value of that. Don’t allow a company to keep you at $25/hour because you’re assuming that’s a lot. There’s so much to be had out there that I always preach an individual’s value.
But you have to have realistic expectations out of the gate, right?
Yes, that includes knowing your value as a fresh graduate with no real experience. You have to pay your dues and earn your way up. I always use myself as an example because I went through it. I started in the trade at $13/hour carrying ladders. I always tell my students, just get in. We had a job fair this past Saturday, and one student had two interviews. I told him that he had to get in this summer because they’re going to teach you everything about maintenance, and you’ll probably start out at $18/hour. But if you stick with it, prove you’re coachable, do a great job, then next summer, 2024, you’ll go from $18 to $25, which means summer 2025, you go from $25 to $30. The reason I know it’s true is because that’s exactly how I played it. So, I always tell students, you’re going to start out at the bottom of the totem pole, but if you start now, in three years you’ll be making $30/35 an hour. When I started residential, I maxed out at $27, but then I went to Maricopa County, and they paid me $32. I left Maricopa County because the City of Phoenix wanted to pay me $35. I left both of those companies because I started my own company and now I make a lot more. So, I just walk them through the facts using myself as an example. I tell them that’s the reason why I’m here, because if I can do it, then anybody can do it.
If you got an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d spend that time with my children because, and again, I express this to my students, if you’re a parent in this trade and you’re following a dream to either run your own business or change the trajectory of your life, or your children’s lives, this trade will take a lot of time away from you. I got into this trade and my 12-year-old was four. The next thing, I looked up and she was 12.
Do you have a favorite tool?
Because I’m a first-generation tradesman, everything is my favorite. The reason why is because when I got into this trade, I knew nothing, but I began to understand that you’re only as good as the tools you use. I came to understand that if I walked into a homeowner’s house with a tool that another service tech didn’t have, they’re going to say, “This guy right here means business.”
What was your favorite part of your time in the field?
Oh, 1000%, I love being a service technician. I just love waking up in the morning, putting my cape on, knowing that I’m going to save the day. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and I love being on the roof and looking out at the landscape. I love the heat. I love that every time I step into a homeowner’s house, 90% of the people that I have done services for are not from here, and they’re like, “How do you do it?”
If you were to tell someone “Thank you” for making you the person you are today, who would it be?
It would be David Heiman here at RSI. David is the person that I do say thank you to. When I enrolled at RSI back in 2016, he used to teach the Fundamentals of Electricity. Now he’s the Director of Training.
I remember when I was two years into this trade, RSI was hiring. He told me I wasn’t ready. He told me to go out and gain all the experience I could – to go see it all and do it all because that’s the only way you can truly say, “I’ve seen it all and done it all.”
I kid you not, after that conversation in year two of my career, I left the residential market and went to work for Maricopa County doing building controls. I was responsible for 12 million square feet of Maricopa County’s most critical equipment. I left that and then went to do light industrial with the City of Phoenix. So, if it wasn’t for me having that conversation with Dave and him telling me to get all the experience that the trade has to offer, I would’ve probably been stuck doing just residential to this day. I would never have understood controls or boilers or cooling towers, or any of that good stuff.
So, when this position became available last year, Dave said, “Remember that conversation we had five years ago? Well, you earned this.” I’m 36 years old. Not in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine this plan for me, I can’t believe I’m an instructor!