John, 31, originally from El Paso, Texas, graduated the six-month Refrigeration Technologies program at RSI in July 2022. John moved to Arizona with his family about 15 years ago.
Thanks for sharing your story, John. What did you do after high school before you came to RSI?
For the past five years I was a Behavioral Health Technician. I worked with at-risk youth for about four years, and this past year I worked at an adult recovery home. I really wanted to help people, and I thought being a BHT would allow me to do that. I had my good days, but I had a lot of bad days. I was around a lot of negativity, so I took home a lot of that bad energy.
Where did the idea of HVAC come from?
I wanted something new, and I wanted to work with my hands. My father is an electrician, and growing up I remember he took me on his first side job when I was eight years old. That’s when I just fell in love with how things work. I figured that I know how to do a little electrical, so why not do something else that I don’t know how to do? That’s where HVAC came in. I know a lot of guys who work HVAC. My brother is connected to HVAC too, just by sales and stuff.
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How did you choose the Refrigeration Technologies program at RSI?
I didn’t know what program to do. But Grace, my Admissions Rep, explained it all. She gave me a good tour of the campus, let me know all about the different programs. But at the time, I’m not going to lie, I was panicking. I had real bad anxiety. If you knew my schooling background, it wasn’t good. I hated it. Middle school is when that started, I just didn’t like school whatsoever. Once I graduated high school, I didn’t go back to school until I started RSI in February this year. So I’m not going to lie, I was really timid when I went in, but Grace helped tremendously. That’s when I chose the six-month HVAC program.
Was the RSI school experience different for you?
Yeah, because in middle school and high school, it’s just bookwork. But I learn with my hands. If you tell me I need to read this, do some bookwork, because tomorrow I’m going to do some boards or whatever the case may be—some hands-on work—so I can actually see how it works. I’m a sponge to that. I’m one of those learners. If you teach me a little bit, show me how it works, and then I go and do it, I’m all in.
So, did all that help you get over the anxiety you felt?
Yeah, I’d say so. I mean, it still took a few more months to actually decide to go to RSI because, yet again, my anxiety kicked it. But when February came along, I knew there were two different ways to go: either jump in and go full force into it, or just be scared and not do it. I feel like I chose the right way.
That’s awesome! What did you enjoy most about your time at RSI?
I liked going into an environment where the other people around you also have no idea what you’re about to learn. Everybody’s on the same track. And honestly just working with my hands. Like I said, that’s how I learn. When we started working with our hands, it was quick from there on how much you can pick up.
Did you have frustrations, days when you doubted yourself?
For sure. I had days where I was like, “Oh, no, I’m not doing this. No, I can’t do this.” But if you really apply yourself and honestly believe in yourself and believe that you can do it, then it’s all downhill from there. The instructors really guide you; they show you what you need to do and how you need to do it multiple times. By the time you need to take the tests, you’re so prepared that when you pass, you’re going to just laugh because you won’t believe that you really know that stuff!
That’s a good way to put it! It kind of crept up on you!
That was my experience throughout the whole process! Like I said, I hated school. I never wanted to go back. I didn’t want to do it until one day I woke up and just figured I needed a career change, something that’s going to better me, and going to better my family. You apply yourself to it, and six months later, all of a sudden you know how an air conditioner unit works.
That’s so cool. Where are you working and how did you get the job?
I’m working with Goettl Air Conditioning. Getting the job was a team effort. I found Goettl because RSI is really good about holding career fairs. They seem to have them every two or three months. Goettl was at a fair at the beginning of July. They were one of many; it was amazing how many companies came in. The cool thing is, they all want you to work for them! You’re almost interviewing them, as much as they’re looking at you. I think that’s the cool part. That’s where I learned the confidence of knowing what I was worth, just by seeing my options. There are so many companies out there.
When did you start with Goettl?
I interviewed with them at the job fair. I got the job on July 25th, I graduated on July 27th, and had my orientation July 28th. I started August 8th.
How is that anxiety you were dealing with?
I am probably the most confident I’ve ever been in my life. If I’m going to be honest with you, the confidence that I’ve learned in myself by going to RSI and just overcoming one of my biggest fears—going back to school—is amazing. So, to say that I graduated RSI is pretty cool for me.
What will you be doing for Goettl?
They have started me off as a service technician, which is awesome!
What’s your career plan?
I’m just going to get my feet wet at Goettl and see where it takes me. I do want to learn as much as possible because I think the end game for everybody is to be their own boss. So, maybe one day if it all turns out the way I hope, I will probably have my own HVAC company.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
Honestly, just fixing things. I was always a kid who took stuff apart and put it back together, usually before my dad could figure out what I was doing. I didn’t always put things back together right! I was always thinking, “How does this work? Why does it work like this?” So, to go to RSI and learn how and why an air conditioning unit works was just perfect for me.
Tell us about you experience with the RSI instructors.
There’s an Advanced Troubleshooting phase. It’s probably one of the last classes you’ll take. Mike, the instructor, was really good about teaching how to troubleshoot faster. My biggest takeaway was for one of our final tests. We had to troubleshoot under two minutes and 30 seconds. But he teaches you a way to get it done in five seconds. It shocked me! Like I said, you learn this process, but the way the instructors teach you, before you know it, you know it like the back of your hand.
The instructors at RSI have so many years of experience that a lot of them are master technicians. That’s who you want to learn from. The guys who have been in it so long that they know how to do things with their eyes closed. It was a good experience to know that my instructors had lived what they’re teaching.
Did you make some lasting connections, people you’ll stay in touch with to keep a network?
Everyone was friendly. I met some guys that I will probably talk to here and there. It’s always good to keep that door open because you never know. There were guys younger than me, some guys older. But everyone came from different backgrounds. That’s what I liked. Different people coming together to learn something.
What advice do you have for new students thinking about coming to RSI?
Just go in with an open mind and apply yourself. Learn what the instructors are telling you and take as many notes as you can, because that’s what helped me.
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.