In high school, Roger Cuadra, now 40, played soccer and baseball and dabbled in wrestling and track and field, but he was not a star student.
“High school was an adventure,” he says. “I didn’t take it seriously, to be completely honest. Even though I tried to stay on track. My family sacrificed a lot to bring us here to the United States.
Born in Nicaragua, Cuadra’s family moved to Santa Fe Springs, California, and later to Whittier, California, when he was a child.
Moving from Pioneer High School to La Serna High School after his first year, Cuadra was faced with some serious decisions.
“I hung out with a bad crowd for a while, but I got back on track and started focusing more on school,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to finish my studies there. I had to go to school constantly and end up that way. In California, continuity schools are dedicated to helping students who might not otherwise be able to graduate from high school.
The college felt “inaccessible,” he says. “My family clearly couldn’t afford to send me to college out of pocket. So I joined the job market right after high school.
His first job was as a bag boy at Food for Less. He remembers making $ 7.25 an hour.
Today, he lives in Corona, California, and earns between $ 80,000 and $ 120,000 per year working as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. Cuadra says he wishes he could go back in time and give his high school student some advice.
“My advice to Roger, 17, is, ‘Stay in school and do your best,’ he says, ‘and join HVAC immediately. “
to get a job
“I joined the workforce after high school and started doing some little construction work,” Cuadra says.
“Just really dead end jobs.”
Cuadra says his career path was largely driven by his father who took him to work.
“My dad would take me to work sometimes and he would encourage me to get into mechanics. He’s been a mechanic my whole life. To this day he is a mechanic, ”he says. “I think about him a lot when I work – [about] The moments we shared.
In 2009, Cuadra learned that a local HVAC distribution center was looking for a driver. He felt it was an opportunity for him to get closer to work like his father.
He went to the office and filled out an application. He made frequent comebacks over the next five days to make sure he was considered for the role.
His persistence paid off. Cuadra got a job as a driver, began to learn about the different parts he would deliver, and encountered HVAC technology which began to teach him the basics of the business.
One of the mechanics he met was Ishmael Valdez. In 2016, Valdez started his own HVAC company called NexGen and asked Cuadra to join it.
“At the time, I held back a bit. I had a secure paycheck. I didn’t roll the dice and immediately seized the opportunity, ”says Cuadra. “Then I took the plunge and decided to seize the opportunity to move forward and advance my career. I started cleaning the floors. I was organizing our tiny warehouse at the time. To deliver some parts, I was responsible for the installers we had, about three to four crew members at the time. ”
Over time, his new colleagues offered to teach Cuadra more.
“During my last childbirth, I had the opportunity to stop for a while, to clean up their mess, to learn a little more the ropes of the trade and, what does that imply, to put in place this tool, which I had for many years. I was finally everything. I started doing things like, ‘Okay, this stuff goes here, it’s okay,’ ”Cuadra says. “I finally had the opportunity to join a team and be the third assistant.
In 2017, he earned $ 55,000 as a third assistant on one of NexGen’s HVAC teams. After a year, he moved from third assistant to second assistant and later, to lead installer and technician. Now his base salary is $ 80,000, but his total salary depends on the volume of business he does. Cuadra says he can expect to earn $ 120,000 this year from the commission bonus.
“I dedicated myself. I would come home and watch YouTube videos, ”Cuadra says. “I signed up for some of the courses offered by the Town of Downey, NATE certificate, related to air distribution, heat pumps, different types of systems that we use in industry.”
NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence and Cuadra says these courses, along with his passion for getting positive reviews on Yelp, have helped him rise through the ranks.
“I am proud to have a great reputation online. We have the Yelp reviews that we have received and that I have received since becoming an installer. At first, I didn’t really think about it. I’m just the same that I was doing the right thing and answering any questions these customers might have. Eventually I started seeing these great reviews from Yelp. It made me feel good, ”he says. “It made me take more care of my job because customer service is a big part of the process and this job.”
A day of work
Cuadra usually trains six days a week and gets up around 5:30 am to run.
“I like to keep in shape,” he says. “I think it helps me walk all day and deal with those 110 degree attics that we sometimes live in for hours on end.”
He usually arrives at NexGen’s headquarters in Anaheim between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., often before his colleagues arrive. He takes advantage of this time to check what equipment he has in his van and recover what is missing.
Cuadra’s first call is often around 9 a.m. He typically sees three to four clients each day and comes home around 9:30 a.m. He estimates that he earns around $ 336 per day.
Summer is the busiest season in the HVAC industry, so Cuadra is often absent from work in December.
“My daughters know it’s summer, not vacation,” he says. “Daylight saving time is all about work for me… It’s my time to earn money, when I earn the majority of my annual income.”
“I like being able to provide”
Cuadra has four daughters and says giving them opportunities hasn’t motivated her to increase her income as much as possible.
“I want to give my daughters a different life from mine. It’s not only an inspiration, but it’s very rewarding knowing that I am able to do the same for my daughters, ”he says. It is said. “What this money means to me and my family is that we have more freedom, more options, a greater sense of security for the future of my family.”
“I like being able to deliver.
But beyond the money, Cuadra says he finds solace in the security offered by the HVAC industry. Because of climate change, “everyone wants and always needs air conditioning,” he says.
And he prides himself on his ability to make people feel more comfortable.
“The most rewarding thing about this job is not just the money, but the satisfaction I get when I help these people,” he says.
“My advice to anyone watching this industry is to stop thinking about it and doing it,” he says. “Take this chance”.
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