Enrique, 25, from Chandler, Arizona, graduated the nine-month Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program at RSI in October 2021.
Thanks for sharing your story, Enrique; how did refrigeration appear on your radar?
When I was 18, I was working at fast-food restaurants. I’d worked at restaurants since I was 15½. One day, one of our walk-in freezers broke down. I saw a friend of mine, who honestly didn’t have a great background, working on it. I was like, “What are you doing?” He told me that he now fixes low temp equipment and A/Cs; that caught my attention. He’d had a bad reputation back in the day and then he’d changed his life. I’d wondered how he’d done that. That’s what caught my interest.
But that was a few years ago.
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Yeah, I became a manager of a fast-food restaurant and got stuck I guess, then I got bored and went into construction, and then after construction, I got fed up. I thought I’ve got to stop working harder and start working smarter.
What was the moment, the catalyst, for you to make that decision?
I was 23 and looking at my life. I saw all my friends, how they had flourished out of high school and here I am still stuck at the same spot. I had to make a change. I saw the RSI commercials, saw them on Facebook, I saw them everywhere. I took that as a sign, a calling, and I told myself I’ve got to do it. I did my research and because I really wanted to work on low temp, that was my main goal, I went into RSI for a tour knowing that I wanted to do the EMT program.
For people who don’t know – low temp is what?
Low temp is like commercial refrigeration: chillers, fridges, cabinets, walk-in freezers – those kinds of things you see in grocery stores, restaurants, or businesses. That side of it, refrigeration, interests me more than air conditioning. It’s the same concept, but a little different because you have to drop the degrees way lower than the 69 or 75 you have in your house.
What did you enjoy most about your time at RSI?
What I enjoyed the most about RSI is that it opened a lot of doors. I made a lot of new connections, a lot of new friends. You meet people from different walks of life that you may not even think could be your friend. Somehow, some way because you’re related by this one topic, it just happens. It’s something beautiful. It’s just RSI. Everything you need to accomplish for our trade, it’s possible there at RSI. There’s a lot of hands-on time – it’s not all books.
Talk me through a typical day at school?
A typical day, you come in and first you’ve got quick questions. You may have had homework, so you review your homework. Then after that, you learn a new topic for the day. Then from that new topic, you get your hands-on the equipment for that new topic. It’s pretty intensive, you can’t afford to miss much time.
A graduate once told me that missing a day at RSI is like missing a week at other schools. How were the instructors?
Yes, sir. The teachers were amazing. Amazing. Any question you have, they’ll answer. If you ask them, they will tell you how it is in the real world, not just in the books. My last phase of the program, my teacher was a really good teacher. But I wanted him to teach me more stuff that we didn’t cover in school. So, he let me bring in a broken-down cooler and he helped me put it back together, to make it work again.
You graduated last year. Where are you working?
I work for Vic’s Refrigeration Concepts based out of Peoria, Arizona. In my last phase at RSI, I left the warehouse job that I was working while going to school because I wanted to get into the field immediately after graduation. It was probably like a week or two after graduation last October that I got hired on at Vic’s. I found them through a friend who was at RSI with me; he helped me out.
And you were back on the RSI campus yesterday looking for new recruits?
Yes, Vic’s is hiring. So, I was talking to the teachers and the Career Services team. I’m going back tomorrow to go talk to students/graduates to see who may be interested to come work with us.
That’s great. Back in October when you started, were you excited by your first paycheck?
Yeah. My first check, it was like my biggest check ever since I started working! I was happy. When I first started, I was just riding along with other guys. Then I worked really hard for the next three months and after I’d proved myself in that time, I got myself a work truck and a pay rise.
What are you doing for them? Are you doing the low temp work you wanted?
Yes sir. I started in commercial, in the beginning, working on installs. After I got the hang of installs, they started throwing me in with service calls, then more service calls, and that’s where I’ve been since, but it’s all on the commercial side. I’m doing a/c work and low temp work.
Is it a big company? How many RSI grads are you looking to hire?
It’s a mom-and-pop shop, so we only have 24 employees at the moment. Honestly, we are looking to hire as many as we can. On the install side we have at least 15, 16 guys, but then on the service side we only have four service techs at the moment. We need more techs. Whether you start in install or in service will depend on your interview and experience.
What’s your own career plan from here?
At the moment at least, my five-year plan is to stay at Vic’s and learn as much as I can. Hopefully I see the company grow while I’m growing with them. If everything works out perfectly, I’m staying with Vic’s.
Any desire to own your own company one day?
No, not really. I see the paperwork involved, and I see the numbers. I couldn’t do it. I don’t think I’d ever be able to sleep.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
One of the things I really love about it is when you get to a place and the A/C has gone out, it’s super-hot and everyone’s sweating, everyone’s miserable. When you show up and somehow work your magic and get it working again, that look of relief on their faces when the cool air hits them, that’s the best feeling in the world to me. I’m a people pleaser I guess, I enjoy helping people out.
Did you make some lasting connections, people you’ll stay in touch with?
Yes, sir. I talk to all my guys that I met in RSI. I still talk to them a lot, usually I speak with at least one every day. It’s very important to stay in touch with the people you meet along the way because you just never know what could happen in the future and who could maybe open a bigger door for you one day, or what door you could open for them. Don’t burn your bridges!
What advice do you have for new students for them to be successful at RSI?
Just go every day. Every day there’s going to be something new, and some days will be challenging, but you just have to push through it and get through every day. That’s the key to it. Show up and push through.
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.