Graduate Connections: Chad Ball

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Meet Chad Ball

Chad, aged 44, was born in Chicago, IL, but moved to Phoenix with his family back in 1984 when he was 13. Chad graduated from the Refrigeration Technologies program in November 2014. Chad is married with three children, aged 15, 14 and 4.


Thanks for your time Chad; what brought you to RSI in your early 40s?

I guess it was my third career change. I started out in retail and retail management as a young man; I did that until my early 30s. Then my next plan was to become a real estate tycoon! A buddy and I were coming up with ways to become real estate millionaires. So while I was getting real poor doing that, I got a part-time job working as a bartender at a pool at a resort to pay some bills. It was a great job. Going to work was nice; the birds were chirping, the breeze was blowing, and the scenery was always good! I ended up staying for 10 years as the real estate market crashed and all that other stuff went on.

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Sounds like a fun job; what changed?

After about ten years I’d had enough. It was a cool job, but it wasn’t ever going to be a career. I was at the bar one day and one of our refrigerators wasn’t working; I called engineering and a couple of guys came out to work on it. While watching them I had kind of an epiphany; I thought to myself “I should be an engineer at the hotel!” I figured that I do all that kind of stuff at home anyway; I fix everything that breaks and re-wire stuff and I liked doing it, so I thought why not get paid for it?


So how did you discover RSI?

I moved over to the engineering department at the hotel and started as an entry level engineer. They do a lot of HVAC stuff, so I soon realized I needed to know more about air conditioning. One of my managers suggested I contact RSI and find out about their programs. So I took a tour and then went back to work and told my manager that I really wanted to go to school, and would they work with me on my schedule and they said “Absolutely” – so off I went!


Are you still working at the hotel?

Actually no. In August this year I started as a building engineer for an international property management company called Hines. I’m based at one of their locations with three other engineers. We’re in charge of all the HVAC equipment; we do a little bit of other stuff, but mostly it’s HVAC. At the hotel we did everything from plumbing, to HVAC, to refrigerators, kitchen equipment, whatever needed to be done.


How did you get that job?

One of the guys I went to RSI with was working there and he called to say they had a position open; he suggested I go down and talk to them. I did, and it worked out. It was better option for me financially, and it was a new opportunity, a new challenge.


What was your favorite part of the RSI program, and why?

I think it was the very first phase, Phase One, the electrical phase. AC current was one thing that I’d never understood. I used to work on cars a lot and so I kind of got DC current, but AC was different. So I was really excited to start school and Dave, the instructor for that phase, was a pretty awesome dude.  He was so excited to teach every day, it was kind of infectious. So just being new in school and doing electrical and all that, that was awesome! That was my favorite part for sure.


So did you finally “get” AC current?

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I’m sure a lot better at it than I was! At least I don’t get shocked!


So you’re about a year into your HVAC career, where do you hope to be in three years?

That’s tough to say. I’ve so much still to learn when it comes to commercial HVAC because the equipment is so big and complex. What I’d really like to see myself getting into is building automation and controls, but I’ve got a lot to learn yet. I guess in three years I’d just like to be a little smarter than I am today!


Did you leave RSI feeling more of a specialist in the field than when you went in?

I definitely have the confidence to work on anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s a two ton split system or a 60 ton water sourced heat pump. I can understand how it works and know what I’m doing. Graduating the Refrigeration Technologies program means I can go out into the field and I’m comfortable with pretty much all the equipment that I run into on a daily basis.

I worked at the hotel while I was going to RSI and every single bit of training we got, I could literally go to work that day and touch a piece of equipment we’d been trained on. Everything from little tiny split systems, to ice machines, to walk-in refrigerators & freezers,  to chillers, I mean we had it all there.

Every single piece of information I learned in school I could put into practical use that same day at work. That was a huge help for me; helping me understand everything better. It’s one thing to read something out of book and practice in a lab, but when you can work on it and touch it out in the real world, it adds a whole new dimension to understanding how and why something works.


What’s your favorite aspect of working in HVAC?

I enjoy problem solving, figuring out the mechanics of machines. When something’s not working, to be able to troubleshoot, figure out what’s wrong, fix it and get it running right gives me a sense of pride.


Did you make some lasting connections at the school?

Yes I’m in touch with a couple of guys; there’s Lorenzo, the guy I work with who called me about this job, then there’s probably three other guys that I catch up with once in a while.


What advice would you give to prospective students considering attending RSI?

Just take it all in, and whenever you have the opportunity to get more hands-on experience, take it. If you read something about a/c in a book, take a ladder and climb up on your roof and take your own air-conditioner apart. Whatever you can do to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I would do it. Work on your refrigerator, or your mom’s refrigerator; take apart whatever you can just to see how it works. Just be sure to know how to put it back together if you work on your mom’s! Or at least put it back together and tell her you don’t know what happened to it if it’s not working!

I had the opportunity to practice at work, but you can work on the school’s equipment for extra practice; the instructors let you come in early or stay late if you want to go back through something. I didn’t have to because of work, but I can remember guys popping in when we were in a lab to go back over stuff. The instructors are very accessible and always do their best to help.


Would you say you have your dream job?

Right now I’m really happy doing what I’m doing. My dream job, I don’t know, I guess I’m doing it now. You know I was a pool bartender at a Scottsdale resort, but you can only handle so many bikinis in a day. That might be a dream job for some, but you’ve got to move on right?


What do you do for fun Chad?

With three kids there’s not much time but when I can really get away and it’s time for me, I ride dirt bikes. I actually race in the AMRA [Arizona Motorcycle Riders Association] Series. I do about eight or nine races a year; so I block those times out for “dad.”


If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?

If I had a million bucks to blow through in a day, I’d go play some high stakes stuff in Vegas! Might as well feel like a high roller for a day!


Let’s finish with some quick fire questions?

  • Football or baseball? I’m not a sports fan.
  • Ford or Chevy?  Chevy.
  • Pizza or wings?  Pizza.
  • Win the lottery or find a perfect job? I think I’d go with the perfect job!

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