Graduate Connections – Meet Bridgett Castro

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Bridgette, 27, was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She completed the Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program at RSI in July 2023. Bridgette took night classes Monday to Thursday, so the program took 14 months. If you take morning or afternoon classes (Monday to Friday), you can complete the EMT program in just nine months. 

Thanks for your time, Bridgette; what did you do before coming to RSI? 

Before coming to RSI, I was in auto financing. I started in customer service for GM Financial and then I went over to funding and collections. I basically went through all the auto financing departments! 

Sounds like a good career; what made you decide to go to a trade school?

During the pandemic, I started working from home, which was amazing for me as I have three children. But as the pandemic progressed, they were laying people off who had been there 10, 15 years. People who had done nothing wrong and always showed up on time, tried their best. They didn’t lay me off, but it didn’t make me feel safe or confident to keep working hard, trying to grow in a company that just lets people go. That encouraged the thoughts that I’d already had in my mind since I was a kid, maybe having a trade.

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Where did those thoughts come from?

I first thought about having a trade when I was 15. My uncle was a construction worker; he’d take my brother to jobs, but he’d never take me. He’d always say, “You’re a girl, I can’t bring you.” For ten years that put me off, I thought, “That’s just how it is.” But seeing that tradespeople still had jobs during the pandemic encouraged me. They were still in high demand; they were essential workers. That’s what I wanted to be.

So, you were no longer concerned about what your uncle had said?

Over the years I’d seen more girls go into trades. My mom said, “It’s not the same anymore. Girls do everything! You can do whatever you want.” So, I found RSI on Facebook and took a tour. I looked at everything. It made me feel comfortable to see that RSI has the machines, the boards to practice on. The training was going to be hands-on with bookwork, so I’d get the best of both. That’s why I chose to go to RSI. 

Have you thought about going back to school before?

When the pandemic hit, I was actually trying to go to school for radiology, but it was a four-year waiting list. 

What did your uncle think about you graduating RSI?

The best part was that he didn’t even know that I’d gone to RSI. His son, my cousin, was in my orientation room at my first job with Goettl. I just heard someone say “Bridgette?” I turned around and it was my cousin. He said, “I didn’t know you’re in the trades!” He told his dad, and he was like, “What? So, she’s an office lady?” My cousin replied, “No, she’s out in the field.” My uncle said, “What do you mean out in the field? Does she do an inspection then go back into the office or something?” My cousin told him, “No, she’s actually working in the field, she’s on the roof, she’s doing HVAC.”  My uncle was like, “What? That’s crazy. Bridgette?” He just couldn’t believe that I’m doing this. By the way…proving people wrong is a big motivation for me!

That’s awesome – good for you. What did you enjoy most about your time at RSI?

This is going to be a list, but I’ll try to be brief. I enjoyed that it’s not just bookwork, it’s also very hands on. I liked the instructors; how they really care about your education and making sure that you understand things. They don’t make you feel bad at all. If you have a question, ask. If you feel like you want to ask it when no one else is around, stick around after class or even text them. They want to make sure that you do understand and that you don’t fall behind. I would also say that getting to know the students, the faculty, and staff there was amazing to me. I thought it was great. I made a great decision going to RSI. 

Why did you choose the EMT program, rather than another program or trade? 

Because I wanted to know and get the education for multiple trades at once, instead of just focusing on one. In the future if I want to move away from HVAC and I don’t know, become an electrician, I can do that because I went to school for it. I was actually really good at the electrical side. 

Did you know anything about HVAC or electrical work before you started?

Not really. It was all very brand new to me. My stepdad worked for Trans West, so he did wiring and electrical things. So, I knew the tools; I just didn’t know anything else.

Did you have difficult days? And, if so, how did you get past those frustrations?

Yeah, there were times when I thought, “I don’t get this. What am I doing wrong?” I thought maybe I didn’t have the brain space to remember, to hold all this information. How I got over it was, even though I’d got a signature (a pass) on a board that had frustrated me, I’d do it again. I asked more questions. I wanted to understand the “why”. Sometimes I’d even ask other students to explain it. Having someone else explain something differently can make more sense. Also watching YouTube videos helped. I was stubborn too; I thought, “I’m doing this, I’m finishing this, and I want to make sure that I understand this.” That helped me.

So, did you get a job before graduation?

The school held a career fair in March, and that’s how I got on with Goettl in April. I got contacted, we did our interview, and they started me as a Parts Runner, so I’d get familiar with the parts. The problem was they didn’t have room to move me up after a few months, so in July I went to George Brazil. Now I’m an HVAC Service Tech. I’m going out on my own, in my own truck, for the first time tomorrow actually!

How does that feel?

I’m nervous, but excited! I always remember students having concerns about being thrown into the field. About needing to be an ‘expert’ immediately. I just want to let people know that here at George Brazil anyway, I’m being set up for success. I’m not being thrown to the wolves; I’m not expected to go out on my own and know everything. I have about ten people dedicated to helping me be successful, people there to assist me in the field if or when I need it.

That’s great. Are you excited by the financial opportunities in the HVAC field?

Yes, I am. I also love the stability and the flexibility. Obviously, money is good for everybody, but the flexibility is also really good because I have three kids aged 8, 6, and 5. If I need to drop off my kids at 8:30am, I still have time to do that and go to my first job. It’s nice to have a window.

What do you enjoy most about your new trade?

There are a few things I enjoy. I really love being seen as a superhero! When someone says, “Thank God you’re here! You’re going to fix this!” It’s so nice to know I’m helping people. And second, I love being able to say, “I’m a service tech!” Because I am not in the office. This is me, a lady who is out on the roof, who is in the attic doing the army crawl through insulation, sweating in 150f – just so I can get this unit fixed. 

What’s your ultimate career goal, Bridgette? 

I have thought about going to get my degree so that I could have my own company one day. But I’ve got to thinking that if I am with a company that treats me very well like they do here at George Brazil, I wouldn’t mind being here for 15/20 years; to grow with the company. I’d love to be a trainer here one day. I don’t know if you know this, but they have a roof and a mock house in their warehouse for training. 

Maybe even teach at RSI one day! What advice do you have for new students to be successful at RSI? 

My advice for students to be successful is to remember their goals and why they first signed up for school. If you’re already a student, never forget why you signed up, what your goals are, what your motivation was.  Keep that motivation, those goals, in mind and do not give up on what you’re doing. Study, definitely study. Use all the many resources available to you. If you have free time and you’re bored, just scrolling Facebook, watch a video instead. We use Canvas and there are video clips of instructors explaining things. Watch those videos. Just definitely use your resources and remember what you’re doing this for.

If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success 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.