Graduate Connections: Jake Wilson

Meet Jake Wilson

Jake Wilson, aged 32, graduated from the Refrigeration Technologies program in February 2015. Prior to enrolling at The Refrigeration School Jake worked in law enforcement but he did have some HVAC experience from a job he got fresh out of high school in 2001.


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Thanks for your time Jake; how did you find yourself in HVAC back in the day?

I was 18 and working as a laborer on a construction site; you know how it is – young guy, no experience. A foreman on the job site with Chas Roberts Air Conditioning saw how hard I worked and offered me a job. I started as an assistant helper and I worked my way up to installation foreman in two years. I like learning new things; I kept wanting to go up the ladder because everything was very interesting to me.

Everything was going well until the bottom fell out of the housing market after the housing boom; my plan was to become a service technician and continue going through the career steps that HVAC had to offer. I started some technician training, studying for my EPA Certification, but that plan had to change.


Is that when you moved to law enforcement?

Yes I needed something a little more steady. I worked in law enforcement for nine years, but then decided I had to get back to something I loved doing, to a career where I could progress. It was either work hard and move up, or work hard and stay in the same position I was in.


Why did you decide to go to RSI first rather than just go back in the field?

I knew a lot had changed in the industry while I’d been away. But I also knew RSI’s reputation. A lot of the guys I’d worked with went to RSI; I decided to go and check it out. I signed up that day.


You took the night class. How long do the program take you?

About nine months. I believe you can do the RT program in about six months if you take a day class, but based on my work schedule, I wasn’t able to consider that. I enjoyed the night class; I felt they could take a little more time to help you understand everything, and to be able to work through any issues.

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How did you get the job at the hotel?

About halfway through the program I decided I wanted to get into more of a technician role, so I left law enforcement and started at a boiler company. The only problem was they weren’t willing to work around my school hours; I was in the night class from 6pm to 10pm.

One of the accounts we had was the Sheraton Crescent Hotel; one day, while I was here working on a boiler, the Chief Engineer and I were talking and he offered me a job. They were happy to work with my RSI schedule, so I took the position of Lead Engineer. I’ve been here about a year now. Approximately two months ago I moved up and became Engineering Manager.


Congratulations on the promotion; tell me what you do at the hotel?

I have a team of six and we work two different shifts. We have a ten hour night shift and an eight hour day shift. My schedule kind of fluctuates as I’m a salaried position. Sometimes I cross over between shifts, sometimes I do the night shift, it just depends on what’s needed.

We basically maintain the entire hotel. All the boiler systems, chiller systems, pumps and water systems, all the HVAC systems, anything electrical as far as outlets, lighting, even kitchen repairs and ice machines. I mean anything and everything, we do it.


Do you think you’d be where you are today without your RSI education?

Absolutely not. I’d most likely still be in law enforcement. Like I said, I had a background in HVAC but RSI helped with my mechanical skills, my electrical skills. They refreshed a lot of the things I knew, and taught me a lot of things I didn’t. They tied everything together and made it a lot clearer for me. I probably wouldn’t be able to do this job without that training.


What did you do with your first paycheck as Engineering Manager?

We celebrated a little. I took my girlfriend and kids out to dinner, went and saw a movie, kind of had a nice little night celebrating the promotion. I have two step-children and four of my own.


Where do you hope to be in three years?

I’ll probably still be here, trying to gain as much experience as I can. I want to make sure that my team is successful in everything that they do, that they have the proper tools and training, and are happy and want to stay here. That’s my main goal, and to get a preventative maintenance program going. This is definitely a long-term position for me.

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Have any of your guys been through RSI?

Two of my guys are HVAC certified technicians, one of them went through RSI. And I’ve just this morning hired a guy who is currently enrolled at RSI, he’ll be graduating in October.


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

I wouldn’t say more of a specialist, but I was definitely more prepared with a little more knowledge.


Did you make some good connections at RSI?

Definitely. There are a few members of my class that I keep in touch with, we’re on Facebook, we text. If we run into problems we’ll ask each other questions. I still talk to a lot of my teachers too, especially the instructors from my last two phases. They were adamant about us reaching out if we ran into any issues, or if we know of open positions where we can help somebody going through school, stuff like that. I’m pretty connected to them – I’d say at least monthly.


What advice would you give to new students just starting out?

Take in as much of the classes as you possibly can, and listen to the teachers. They’ve been in everyone’s shoes. They started off in school, they’ve all had careers in the HVAC industry, they have a lot of good advice, and they’re all willing to help you no matter what. You come to them with a question or an issue, they’ll do their best to make sure you have the answer.

Also the very first phase you take, the Fundamentals of Electricity, is one of the most important classes. It touched pretty much every other class. If you can do well in that, you’re going to do well throughout.


What’s your dream job?

That’s really hard to say. Honestly I’m really looking forward to retirement; I’ve been working since a very young age!


What do you do for fun?

I’m an outdoorsman. I like hiking, camping, hunting, fishing. I also have a gunsmith certification, so I like to build guns. Of course I love spending time with my kids, teaching them the hobbies that I enjoy as well. If we’re not doing that then we’re probably at my son’s baseball game, or one of my daughter’s dance recitals, or going to soccer practice, stuff like that.


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

I’d definitely pay off my mom’s house and all of her bills; that would be the number one thing. Then I’d do the same for my girlfriend’s parents, and if we had any money left I’d dump it into our house.

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Let’s finish with some quick fire questions?

  • Football or baseball? Football for sure.
  • Ford or Chevy? Chevy – I’ve got a Z71.
  • Pizza or wings? Wings for sure.
  • Win the lottery or find a perfect job?  Lottery, because it’s all pretty perfect right now.