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Grad Connection – Meet Jose Gutierrez

Jose Gutierrez moved to Arizona from California almost nine years ago. He graduated from the Electro-Mechanical Technologies program in October. Married to Norma for 13 years, they have two children aged 11 and 9.

Thanks for your time Jose. What made you interested in HVAC?

It was kind of a career change; I’d worked with Goettl before, but I was doing construction and other kinds of work for them. I started to help out on the A/C side and that’s how I got interested in HVAC. I figured it would be good for the future which is why I looked into it and why I went to RSI

You’re 38 now; what work did you do before RSI?

I had different jobs. I started working as a computer programmer at 18, doing drawings and drafting- things like that. My grandpa was in construction. He introduced me to it, taught me things here and there. When I moved here from California in 2007, I went into construction rather than going back to computers for some reason. There was a lot of construction work, so it seemed like a good idea.

Why did you decide to go back to school?

I’ve always wanted to work for myself. Right now I have two contractor licenses and my own business – Attic Solutions LLC. We offer insulation, ventilation and radiant barriers. I thought HVAC would sit well with that. I was looking forward to doing something similar to what I’m already kind of doing, and just adding a new service to the company. I can get my HVAC license and not do it for somebody else.

What made you think RSI was the right school for you?

I researched other schools online, but I didn’t like their programs. It seemed the EMT program at RSI was more complete. It included solar, refrigeration, electrical, commercial- it had a little of everything. I knew I wasn’t going to be fully trained on everything; that’s impossible until you regularly work on these things, but I knew it would give me more opportunities and flexibility in my career.

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

The hands-on work and the instructors. It was really good for me to get the hands-on time and have the teacher right there. The instructors were great. There were two or three who’d take the time to go through things with you if you were struggling with something, even if you’d moved on to the next phase.

How big was your class on the nine month EMT program?

I did the evening class, so it actually took 14 months. I think there were 25-28 people when we started, maybe 20-25 when we finished because some went to other classes or quit.

That’s a big class. Did you get enough instructor attention?

It was still really good. They’d have people doing practicals, others doing something else, others reading or doing other work. The teachers would always be ready to answer questions. I never felt there were too many people. If there were times when I couldn’t get my question answered, they would also make special time for me. I remember times when I’d say, “I didn’t understand how to troubleshoot this” and they’d arrange for me to come in an hour early the next day and have a private lesson.

So your idea of working for yourself is working out. You’re not tied to any one company.

Exactly. It’s been great and it’s been pretty steady. Small companies send me work. If they have too many installs or whatever, they already know me so they’ll give me a call and ask me to go troubleshoot this issue, or help out with this install. They pay me by the job. It’s been good.

And it’s not even peak season yet. You’ve not had a summer since you graduated.

True. But it’s also because I’m getting to know people. I’ve been working hard to build good relationships and a good reputation with people in my business for three or four years. Now that I can show them I’m certified, it’s actually been really easy. I’m building up a good network of contacts.

Are you happy with the money you’re earning now?

Yes, I’m actually really happy about it because it suits the way I like to work. I don’t want to work for someone every day from 8-5, or whatever time. Even if I work two days out of the week, I’m able to make more than I would working all week for a company. It all depends on the week of course, but where I could make $500 working for someone, I might be able to make $2,000.

I work my own schedule so it also gives me the flexibility to do things with the kids. My wife knows there are days I’ll work late, but there are others when I can take the kids to school or to practice. She loves it.

So it’s only about three months since graduation, where do you hope to be in three years?

I’m already working on my third license with the ROC [Registrar of Contractors] which will be my HVAC license. My goal is to keep building my company, to get a little bit bigger, more well-known and to be able to have the money to promote the business to another level than I am at right now.

What’s your dream for Attic Solutions LLC?

Whatever God brings will be great for me. I’m realistic and there’s a lot of competition out there, but I want to get to a point where we have at least five trucks running. I want to have at least two installers, and three/four technicians out there. There are three of us now, and it’s been working great, knowing that there’s enough work to keep us busy, but also relaxed because we all have time to be with our families. I’d like to expand but only when we can all keep busy, make good money and be happy.

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

I know way more than I did before. It does seem hard at first. Honestly, the first month or so I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. But there comes a moment when you start feeling that, “I can do this. I’m going to get this!” To be honest, I learned a lot more than I thought I did. Since I’ve been out here working, a lot of the things that I wasn’t sure about when I graduated all make sense now. I’m not afraid to run wires or connect them because I know what I’m doing now. I feel confident and I like it!

What’s your favorite aspect of working in HVAC?

I like that I can really help people. I like to be honest with my customers. I like to be able to take my time and not cheat them because I have to rush off to the next scheduled job. When you can help people out, solve their problem at a fair price, I feel really good. I get satisfaction from helping people.

What do you do for fun Jose?

It’s mostly kids’ stuff now. Once a month my wife and I try to go out for dinner alone, but most of the time it’s going to the park or the movies with the kids, just usual family stuff.

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

I’d travel the world. Brazil would my first stop…or maybe Jerusalem. I don’t know which one I’d visit first.

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

First, don’t be afraid especially when they tell you there’s going to be a test. I know your heart will start racing or you’ll get the chills, especially for the first one if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken a test, like it was for me. But don’t be scared; the teachers are there to help you – they don’t want you to flunk.

Secondly, don’t quit. You may think about it. It went through my mind that first month because I thought it was too hard, but you’ll get it. Once you start doing your homework, your reading, you’ll be good to go. Don’t stop asking questions, study and don’t quit – just keep on going. Ask for help, they’ll be there.