Graduate Connections – Meet Louis Orlando

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Louis, age 34 from Kansas City, MO, lives in Prescott Valley, AZ. He graduated from the six month Refrigeration Technologies program in November 2017. A married father of two boys, Louis endured a daily 3 hour 10 minute round trip commute to attend RSI.

Tell us about your life before HVAC.

My parents owned nightclubs in Kansas City. After high school I got into the nightlife a little too deep. One day I was hung over and heading to a family BBQ when I heard a commercial for the Marines. I thought – “You know what, they’ll straighten me out pretty quick” so I signed up in January 2005.

I spent the majority of my 20s in the Marine Corps. I did eight years but after a few deployments overseas some injuries came along which led me to leave the Marine Corps and pursue my next career. I was Honorably Discharged in March 2013 and we moved back to my home town, Kansas City. I went to work for AT&T installing telephone, cable and internet. I did that for a year.

Thank you for your service. How did you get involved in HVAC?

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A friend of mine flips houses; he called one day and said he couldn’t get any air flow and as I liked solving problems, could I come take a look? I fixed it – a problem with the duct work – and he suggested I call a guy he knew. That’s how I started working in HVAC. I didn’t have any schooling – I was working on commercial units, anywhere from five ton to eighty ton units the size of a school bus.

What made you decide you wanted to go to HVAC school?

We moved to Arizona in June 2016 – my wife is from Prescott Valley – and I started a Mechanical Engineering degree at a community college. I was going through calculus, getting the basics, but I knew I had at least another 3.5 years of school to go. I had a wife and two boys – aged 5 and 3 at the time. I realized that timeframe wasn’t going to work for me and that jobs would be hard to come by up north.

I was working for an HVAC company while going to school. Michael Poeske was a Service Manager for the company at the time. He became an instructor at RSI in December 2016 and suggested I come down to RSI and fine tune my HVAC knowledge instead. He set me up with an interview with Sharon; getting enrolled in RSI was the easiest process I’ve ever gone through.

What did you like most about The Refrigeration School?

I enjoyed all the hands-on time, and that the instructors really made it simple to understand. Coming from an HVAC background helped me tremendously, but even if you have zero experience they can get you to understand it. They simplify every aspect. I looked at other schools, but most of them hand you a text book then give you an hour on a unit – they’re more worried about the pencil and paper, while RSI is worried about the hands-on aspects of understanding the equipment.

Where are you working now?

I’m at Jungle Cat Heating & Cooling out of Prescott Valley doing residential work. I enjoy it because there are a lot of retirees up here and I enjoy helping people. I’ve started on mid-$20s per hour, plus anything over 40 hours is time and a half, and Holidays is double time.

How did you get the job?

I just put an open resume on I had a few companies contact me, but Jungle Cat is a family based company. Their approach suited me because I have two boys that I need to get to school in the morning. They said family comes first – if I need to get my kids to school and can’t be at work till 8am, that’s fine. That’s why I chose them. They’re not commission based and they don’t try to upsell customers, and that makes us a good match!

What do you enjoy most about your trade?

HVAC is a business that will never die. Homes and businesses will always need heating and cooling, fresh produce will always need refrigeration systems and freezers. I love the field and I love helping people, plus I like to troubleshoot problems. I find that if you enjoy something it comes naturally, and for me heating and cooling just comes naturally. It does challenge me every day and I like that. Whether you’re installing or repairing units, you’re doing things that are just a little different each day.

What are your career plans from here – what is your ultimate career goal?

I will have my own business within one to two years, doing residential and commercial work. I’ve told my boss that I want to be licensed and bonded. Eventually I’d like to have eight to ten vehicles working.

Did you make some lasting connections at the school?

Because I had prior field experience I would help tutor guys at the school so I’m in touch with a handful. I had guys that I graduated with ask if they could they call me if they had a question out on a job? I said “Absolutely, and if I don’t know the answer I guarantee I will find out and get back to you.”  A lot of instructors also offer their phone numbers for guys to call with questions after graduation. They’re not just there to teach, they’re there to help you during and after school.

What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?

Attendance is crucial. If you miss one day you could miss that one thing that ties everything together.  You’ve got to put in the effort and take responsibility, you can’t show up a couple of times a week and expect to understand it.

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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