Graduate Connections – Meet Danny Williams

Danny, 52, was born in Oceanside, CA, but he came to Arizona at the age of 13. Danny has been married for 28 years and has six kids, three of whom are adopted. Danny graduated from the Electro-Mechanical Technologies program and rolled straight into the Mechanical Maintenance Engineering associate degree program. Danny graduated with his associate’s degree in November 2017.

Had you any HVAC experience before enrolling at RSI?

My history is in construction. I used to have my own business building homes. My construction experience has helped me out quite a bit in this field. When I joined RSI, I was doing general maintenance at an apartment complex. I’d been there for seven years. That included working on/changing out a/c units. I already had my EPA card that allowed me to buy Freon and such, so I was already in the field, but I hadn’t had any formal training.

So what made you decide you wanted to go to HVAC school?

I wanted to get deeper into the machines and learn what makes them tick. I kind of knew how to fix the things, but I wanted to learn why they went wrong. I also did it because I wanted to be more certified. I wanted the back-up of an associate’s degree. I do a lot of side jobs too, working on air conditioners, so having the degree gives me better credentials for those jobs.

What did you like most about The Refrigeration School?

Overall, I enjoyed it. I think it’s a good program. There’s a lot of hands-on work, but I’d like to see even more especially on the solar part of the program. Of course, there were some courses I had to take that I was already familiar with, but the teachers are great, very competent, and I learned a lot from them. I wish they’d had new the welding specialist program when I enrolled there. That would have been cool!

Talk to us about your work.

While going through school, Sears came to RSI. They had a position working in HVAC and appliances. I went through their training, got my own truck, but about three months after I started, they had a round of national layoffs, and I was part of that. I liked working for them. I liked having my own truck – my own hours. They did try to call me back but having already been laid off once, I didn’t want to take the chance again. This was all while I was at school too. I then went back to construction work for a while, then went to work for MCorp up at Superstition Mall working on their chillers and stuff.

I now work for Ensign Services and laundry appliances. It’s a management position to; I’m head of the laundry and house cleaning. I started there in August three months before I finished my degree at RSI.

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

Ensign is a pretty cool company to work for; I’m hoping to stay here, keep learning and move up. I’m on  salary here. I’ve never been on salary before; they expect you to do more hours than you technically get paid for! I’m used to hourly jobs with overtime so that’s a big change for me. I’m hoping for a raise in an evaluation that’s coming up!

What do you enjoy most about your trade?

I enjoy anything I can take apart and put back together. I’ve been doing that since I was 5 or 6 years old. I used to take radios and fans apart when they were broken and put them back together again. I’ve been working on cars all my life too. I’ve rebuilt engines and stuff like that. That’s why I got into HVAC – it’s all mechanical things that I can take apart. I like solving problems, figuring things out, fixing problems, and getting things back up and running!

Did you make some lasting connections at the school?

I still stay in touch with a couple of guys. There were four of us, a little group within our group, who went through the whole MME program together, pretty much helping each other out all the way through. It’s good to keep in touch with people because you never know when opportunities will come up. I still get calls from four or five classmates who reach out to me when they get stumped working on an A/C unit. The teachers were always really good about that too. They said if you got stuck working on something that we could always call them.

What advice would you give to new students considering RSI?

Do a lot of studying and just keep on it. Don’t get discouraged. There will be times when you’ll get discouraged but stay focused. It does get better as you go through, and you’ll start seeing the light for sure!