Seth, 20, from Gallup, New Mexico, graduated from the nine-month Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program at RSI in February 2021.
Thanks for your time, Seth. What did you do before you came to RSI?
Out of high school in 2019 I got a scholarship to play baseball at a Christian school in Kentucky. I did that for a year, but school really wasn’t for me. I just wanted to play sports. I did it for a year, had my fun in college, and then figured it was time to start making money. After Kentucky, I came out to Arizona for family reasons. I really liked it here, so I got a job with Amazon and stayed.
What made you come to RSI?
All I knew how to do was work with my hands. I grew up working in the field with my dad. He was a contractor in plumbing and construction. I spent most of my summers helping him get the water running for people. Where I’m from, on the reservation, there are a lot of older folks who haven’t had running water all their lives. When my dad and I got their water running, to see the smiles on their faces…it’s life-changing. That really had a big impact on us. I felt I wanted to do something like that with my life, work out in the field, get my hands dirty, and help people out, whether it’s fixing their AC or something like that. So that’s why I came to RSI, to continue in the trades. I wanted to get something going for myself, kind of like my dad did.
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That makes sense. Why did you choose HVAC?
The money, and the potential for growth. I know HVAC is going to be around forever because people need AC, especially out here in Arizona. I knew it would pay off. I also had a couple of uncles who did HVAC; they really enjoyed it and said it paid well. Plus, it’s kind of similar to what my dad was doing, helping people out, putting smiles on their faces when you get their AC running. It’s as simple as that.
Did you have any HVAC experience?
No, it was definitely all new to me.
Did you work your way through school?
I went to school from 7am to Noon, then I would work at Amazon from about 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. almost every dat. It was tough, but I had to make the most of it.
What did you enjoy most about RSI?
It was when I finally got to understand it. At first, it was very confusing, but as I studied it got easier. I learned a lot from my classmates. Some nights I’d stay late with my classmates and they would help me, show me things that I didn’t know. As soon as I started understanding it, it became fun. Learning it, getting to know what’s what, you know? It was really cool, but it took me a couple of months to get to that point.
Did you ever have any moments where you thought, “What have I done?”
I definitely had frustrations, but what kept me coming back was knowing there are people out there who need help, and that there are companies out there that need workers. I knew that I’m young and I could make it happen. I knew I had a lot to learn, but nothing to lose and a lot to gain. My family kept me going too. I knew I had a lot of people counting on me back home; I knew I had to make something out of this.
Where are you working?
I’m working for Collins Comfort Masters in Gilbert, AZ. I started last week.
Congratulations! How did you get the job?
I sent out my own résumés to a bunch of companies because I hadn’t bothered to connect with my RSI career advisor. I was waiting for a while honestly trying to do it myself. So, after a while, I decided I needed to really try, so I put the effort into actually connecting with Ashley at RSI, my Career Services advisor, and sure enough, that’s really all it took.
Two days after I connected with her, she called to say she had an interview for me. I was at Amazon, but I dropped everything and told my manager I had to go. I headed right over to Collins and had a good interview; it went really well. I told the owner that I’m from Gallup, New Mexico. He said, “That’s funny. One of my best installers was from Gallup.” He told me his name, and it turned out that he was one of my uncles! So, we got talking about that and other things, and sure enough I got the job.
Are you in training or working?
I’m out working on the Install team. I’ve learned a lot from these great installers; this company likes to do things the right way, not the fast way. It’s cool, I’ve learned so much in just the past week or two, I’m just so grateful for this opportunity, and for Ashley; having this job is a lot of weight off my shoulders. I would say to current students going to RSI, if you haven’t already, talk to your Career Services advisor. Connect with them and build that bond. Make the most of the resources you have at the school.
Is there room to grow at Collins?
There’s definitely room to move up here. I talked with them about that in the interview. But you get what you earn. My paycheck definitely went up a few dollars from my last job at Amazon, but I know the pay could go up they know I’ve got it. That’s what pushes me to go harder and learn it faster. You get paid what you’re worth. I’m hoping to learn a lot here; I feel I could also learn the plumbing side. I learned a lot from dad on that side of things, and that could benefit me in the future.
What’s your career plan from here?
I just want to learn it all, soak up as much as I can and eventually move up to service tech. It’s higher pay, and you’re higher up the ladder. That’s where I want to get to. Eventually I’d like to head to New Mexico and try to help a lot of people out back home with their AC. That’s really where I want to get to. That’s my main goal; to learn all this and spread my knowledge to help the people back home. I’m going to be here for a few years, if not longer. As long as it takes until I get to a point where I know I’ve got it down.
What do you enjoy most about this trade?
Just learning it excites me. Once I can say I understand something, to where I don’t need to be shown how to do it, that’s what I enjoy. Just like when I was in school when I finally go it down, it’s just like that.
Did you make some friends, some lasting connections at RSI?
Yes, but we all went different places afterward. A lot of guys went out of state. I work with a couple of guys who went to RSI. But I met a lot of cool people there. They’ve all gone off to do their own thing. It’s bound to happen. You will meet some cool people and make some connections with guys at the school.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out at RSI?
The biggest thing I would say is this: be sure that this is what you want to do first. Before you even sign up for school, do your research. Look into it. G try it out in the field if you can. Try and get a ride along somewhere. See if you are fit for it. HVAC is not for everyone. Some people just can’t handle the heat in the attics; it can get to at least 130 degrees up there. It is tough work so be sure you can handle it before you sign up for an HVAC program. I’ve seen a few guys quit in their first week, especially this time of year when it’s getting hot. I feel bad for the guys who pay all that money for school and then discover they can’t handle it. But if you can’t handle HVAC, there are other opportunities in this field. You can go into refrigeration where you work on chillers and freezers, and other stuff, or you can go into electrical. There are so many other options for you. But look into it first, so you know what you are getting into.
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.
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