Graduate Connections – Meet McDarian “Mac” Givens

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Mac, 33, from Pontiac, Michigan, graduated the nine-month Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program at RSI in January 2022.

Thanks for sharing your story, Mac. How long have you been in Arizona?

Nine months. I moved here in March to go to RSI. I started the program in April.

What did you do before you enrolled at RSI?

To be honest, I have to take you back to the beginning because I did 12 years in prison. When I was younger, I graduated high school early at 16, back in 2005. After graduating I went to school to be a machinist in Detroit, Michigan. I finished the program and was looking for a job. Then my uncle came into town. He ended up breaking into a house; I got involved in it. I was around the corner, but he had undercover cops on him. I ended up serving time for first degree home invasion. I was 18.

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What brought you to Phoenix?

My mom has lived in Arizona for the last seven years. She told me about RSI and the program. She thought it would be good for me because I’m a hands-on person. That’s how it was when I was a machinist. I was always repairing things. I like to take things apart, put them back together. It’s just a passion of mine, I like to fix things. She told me about it, and I thought, “I can do that.”

So, I jumped on a plane to come here. I did the walkthrough, they showed me what they had to offer, and I liked it. So, when the first available class came around, I jumped right into it. I had a month to try to find myself a job before I started at RSI in early April.

Did you find work?

I didn’t have a car, no support out here other than my mom, but she was going through her own things. I figured out everything myself. I got a job at a warehouse doing 12-hour days. I went to school from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then went to work from 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., before getting up and doing it all over again.

Wow. Not much sleep. Why did you decide on the EMT program?

Because of the different skills you get. You get HVAC, refrigeration, electrical, and solar. It gave me more tools on my belt. They told me it was the best program they had, so that’s what I went with.

What did you enjoy most about your time at RSI?

The hands-on training; being able to get into the machines and work on them. My favorite part of the program was troubleshooting; how to fix the machines. I really liked that because it shows you the steps that you take to actually find a problem. You use your senses like your touch, your hearing. You’ll learn to know what’s going on with the system just by those two things. It was really interactive basically!

How did you find the program? Hard? Or did it come easy to you?

Everything comes easy to me. I graduated at 16, I’m a quick learner. For me it was easy. But from seeing other guys, it can be hard to juggle two things at once. I went to school and worked full time, so I really didn’t have any time to study. But I retain stuff very, very quickly, so I could just read something over and remember it. If you can’t do that, it can be tough if you have to work full-time too.


How were the instructors?

They were all very helpful. They answered your questions and broke it all the way down. Some will give you their email, their phone number. Everybody is there to help. There are also other students who will help you learn. You work with your classmates; they’ll teach you too. We had group chats and everything.

You graduated less than two weeks ago, are you working?

Yeah, I was hired just before I finished school. I’m working at AEM, Advanced Energy Machines, in Mesa, Arizona. We build trailers with refrigeration units in them. They have solar panels on top that give the refrigeration unit power. It’s three of the areas I learned: refrigeration, electrical-mechanical, and solar.

When did you start?

I finished school on January 6th and started at AEM on the 10th. They actually wanted me to start on the Monday just before I finished school on the Thursday – January 3rd. But they told me to start the following week, during the new pay period.

How did you find the job?

Actually, it was through Ashanti in the school’s Career Services team. She did her magic. She fights for her students to get jobs. She’s a very hard worker. She was very passionate about me getting this job.


What is your job title? What are you?

I’m all over the place! They’ve got me doing everything right now. But my job title is Electrical Mechanic. Right now, they are teaching me how to braze. The school teaches you, but it’s a quick teach, a one-time thing. At my job they’re getting more into it, like the different metals they braze. On top of that, they’ve got me wiring. We build the trailers from scratch here, and for repairs they send us out to California.

Talk to me about money. Are you happy with what you’re making starting out?

Oh yes, it’s way more than I’ve been making!! On top of that, my boss is talking about giving me a raise in three months. They give raises out quick if you show your worth. They pay you what your worth. Right now, I’m showing them what I’m worth. They’re very impressed right now, so I’ve just got to keep it up. 

What do you enjoy most about this trade?

Just the hands-on experience, and the people that you meet. I just love working with my hands. I love putting things together, taking things apart, figuring things out. My real passion is actually figuring out what’s wrong with something, and how to fix it.

What’s your career plan from here? Stick with AEM or do your own thing?

I want to stay with this company, but I also want to own my own real estate business to tell you the truth! I’m a very loyal person. Once I start, I like to stick it out and actually grow with them. But if I see there isn’t any growth to be had, that’s when I’ll depart. But at the moment I feel I could be here long-term. It’s an up-and-coming company, growing quick. I’ve only been here two weeks, but I’m like, ‘Wow!’

Did you make some lasting connections, people you’ll stay in touch with?

Most definitely. I met some incredible people there, especially this guy, last name Paige. He’s a vet, an ex-cop, and he showed me a lot. If I’m around a good person, it’s a connection. I’ve met so many people; it’s beautiful down here in Arizona!

What advice do you have for new students just starting at RSI?

Just make sure it it’s a passion. As long as it’s a passion, you are going do what you’ve got to do. Passion makes you hungry, you want to learn. If you’re just going into RSI just thinking that you want a trade, it’s not going to work for you because you’re not passionate. You’re not going be into it like the guys who are.

When did it become a passion for you?

When I took the tour and I saw what they had to give me. I was all the way in; I was very passionate.

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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