HVAC & Me
This is my story about my career as an HVAC/R Technician….
In our youth most of us are all faced with the same childish line; what are we going to be when we grow up? Some of us have a definite vision of where they want to go and who they want to be, others bounce back-and-forth between ideas before finding what they really want, and some never know. There are also those like me who dreamed of being a river guide with millions of dollars in the bank and just working for fun, but I could never seem to make that happen. Lol So I instead did some soul-searching on what skilled trades that I’ve already had a foundation in and what I could realistically see myself doing to build a strong career path in the future.
At that time my birth father was a union pipeline worker, my step father was a very good industrial air compressor technician, and I had completed a two year hands on ROP residential building construction program in high school. These are all skilled trades that a man or a woman can support a family with and live a strong middle class life. With this in mind I completed two years of junior college with industrial technology as my major and I worked at blue Diamond Almond in the on-season as a machine operator for the shelling warehouse and in the off-season as a mechanic. I had hoped to become a full-time mechanic, but as time went buy it looked like I was going to have to wait till someone retired or died to fill that position. My stepfather had always said that I should pursue a career in HVAC because it is present in so many places.
So this is where my HVAC/R story started. I attended a nine month IT HVAC school. The program cost was $10,500 at that time. Seven months into the program and I was hired on by Hussmann. It was a union shop so there were some hoops that I had to jump through just to become a tradesman but I had landed my first job in HVAC/R and it was one with a large refrigeration manufacture. I completed the last two months of my IT school while working in the field and then worked 12 years as a union supermarket refrigeration technician. While in the union I completed a five-year apprenticeship program where at the end of completion I then turned out as a journeyman. I have nothing but good things to say about the Union that I was a member of with the apprenticeship training program, the camaraderie between the many union shops, the pension, and many other nice aspects of a good employer.
The union had many different shops that employed the members and offered all the different specialty trades in HVAC/R. Some of the different specialties were residential and commercial air conditioning & heating, refrigeration, supermarket refrigeration, high-rise building air conditioning, chillers, HVAC/R EMS Controls, and HVAC/R new construction. My time in the union was spent servicing supermarkets and retailers that had refrigeration units such as Costco, Smart & Final, WinCo, Rite Aid, Save Mart, Food Max, Whole Foods, Safeway, & Food 4 Less (which is where I met my wife who was working as a front end manager). At most of these locations we would not only service there refrigeration but we would also take care of the heating & cooling central air conditioning units and there food courts.
Being a Supermarket Refrigeration Technician is a specialty trade. On the refrigeration side it intel’s working on large complicated rack system as well as small self contained equipment. And on the heating & air side it intel’s large box car AC’s, built up systems, and standard gas/packs and split systems. Overtime and Oncall are not rare nor are they an option in this specialty trade. Most supermarkets have EMS systems monitoring the case temperatures and system alarms 24/7 whether the store is open or not so there are many after our calls that the technician will have to respond to you. The urgency of this trade leads to many 18 & 24 hour days and a few 34 hour days once in a blue moon. Keep in mind that all these long hours also made for nice paychecks.
After 12 years and many late nights working as a supermarket refrigeration technician I had decided that I was at a crossroads where I either finish out the rest of my career with the union or voyage out on my own and started my own HVAC/R company. So as I write this short “HVAC & Me” biography it will be my 8th month in business on my own as Temp Pro a Residential and Commercial HVAC/R company. As a one man show I am now the technician, the salesman, the marketing manager, the customer service representative (CSR), the dispatcher, the financier, and everything else. It has been a great journey with no regrets so far.
The “HVAC & Me” story is still writing itself and will hopefully in the future be passed down through my family generation to generation. I feel very fortunate that I chose HVAC/R to be my career path, it has provided a great lifestyle for my family and myself. It truly has been a trade that is heavily in demand like my step father had told me. I would recommend this trade to anyone who has mechanical aptitude and is in search of a career path with limitless opportunities.
Eric William Rohowits
Owner of Temp Pro