Grad Q&A with Maintenance Technician graduate Isai Tzul
Seventeen years old might seem a little young to make a long-term career choice, but Isai Tzul had no doubts about the direction he was taking. He knew he wanted to work with his hands, understand how things operate and fix them when they didn’t function properly. Isai had a lot of experience working on cars, but he didn’t want to be a mechanic. He wanted an opportunity to facilitate machinery and systems to run smoothly that also held possibilities for leadership, independence, and financial security.
He didn’t have far to look to see that image in motion. Isai’s older brother, Bryan, gave him the perfect road map for his career vision.
What made you sit up and take notice of your brother’s chosen career path?
I saw all the things my brother learned in the Maintenance Technician program. He’d been in that industry for about three years and had his own house. It kind of showed me I could do the same thing, be my own person and buy my own things.
Why did you choose SJVC’s Maintenance Technician program on the Modesto campus?
Bryan went to SJVC, and he has always been a role model in my life, so I followed in his footsteps. The program was quick, (in as few as) 7-months to get a certificate. And the campus was close.
What jumped out at you about the program?
Everything, from the get-go, was new to me. It was really different to work on valves, electricity, fluids and power. That was really interesting to me. But I knew it was going to be a hard thing to adapt to. I was not a natural and had to work a little harder, but you always learn from your mistakes.
I thought I was never going to be a good technician. I was happy that I proved myself wrong.
What was the hard part?
I was also working at a fertilizer company for a couple of months, 10-12 hours a day, and got 5-hours sleep a night. It was a little too much. I left the job to focus on school.
Did you think about giving up?
Quit? I always had a slogan: ‘Never Give Up!’ I thought about that every day and night. I was doing my work on time and had a 3.9 GPA. Discipline! Yeah, I wanted it bad.
What inspired you to keep pushing?
My parents, Aldo and Maria, came here from El Salvador 30-years ago. I thought about how they left their country to come here and have opportunities. I just wanted to do this for them, pay them back for everything they’d done.
My Dad is another big role model. I’ve worked with him. I’ve seen him come back from work, do work outside our home before he gets some sleep. That’s what I want to show my kids when that time comes in my life.
What were the Maintenance Technician classes like?
I enjoyed the mentors, people there who encouraged me to push forward. We learned the fundamentals and components of everything. There were people to talk to and new friends. I went from asking questions to helping answering questions because there were always new people coming in.
We could ask teachers for help if we needed it; but we were all teachers. We were a leader for ourselves and for each other.
What advice do you have for students who might struggle in this program?
Everything is a day-to-day process, sometimes an hour-to hour. Know that this opportunity won’t go away. Just take your time with it. And show others that they can do it too, that anything is possible.
Learn from others. Not everything is going to be hard. Everything is possible; you just have to find a way to pursue it.
What kind of support did you find at school?
I’m not saying that everything is easy, but people are there. Victoria Krayna (Career Services Advisor) taught me how to do job interviews, how to catch an employer’s eye. What to do to stand out. I got really skilled at the interview process.
How hard was it to find a job in your new career field?
I had just one job interview. They offered me the job. (Isai went to work for Amazon as a Maintenance Technician II soon after completing the program.)
What are your current job responsibilities?
I do preventative maintenance, walk around the facility with my toolbox and make sure everything is working. I listen, smell, look – use all my senses – to intercept before something goes wrong. I communicate with everybody to help them understand what can go wrong. If something isn’t working, I fix it. I use a laptop for work orders, fill out adjustments and a daily check list.
What do you enjoy most?
I like working as part of a team and seeing familiar faces every day. I want to adapt to this facility and know how to fix everything in the next couple of months. Then, move up to Technician III with new responsibilities, where I can show leadership and teach new people how to recognize problems and how to fix them. It usually takes 3-4 months to get to Tech III, but I’ll try to go a little bit quicker.
Was it worth the sacrifices you made to get to this point?
SJVC gave me the opportunity and I just want to pay back my parents…emotionally, physically, financially. I learned from my brother, from my parents by seeing what they do in a situation. Use a jack stand for a flat tire, or cutting the yard, feeding the dog, trimming feathers off a chicken. The day-to-day things you learn. I was always watching; now I’m always on task.
What is your long-term vision?
I want to have a better understanding of everything. I still want to be a technician but want to have a side job; flipping houses, maybe, or own my own diner or food truck. My parents are both good cooks and have recipes from my Salvadorian culture. I want my parents to have a good time and the feeling of being a kid again.
I like new things. If I have the talent, I would be willing to teach. I just want to continue to develop myself, to take a step further.
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