National HVAC Tech Day 2023: Q&A With Atlantic Westchester’s Techs

In honor of HVAC Tech Day, we interviewed some of our employees about their roles, what they enjoy most about working with us, and their journey into the commercial HVAC industry. These interviews give you a chance to get to know the real people behind the scenes at Atlantic Westchester and hear their candid thoughts on why they love what they do.

What initially attracted you to the field of commercial HVAC, and what aspects of your job do you find most fulfilling or enjoyable?

 Vinny Campagniolo: “I joined the military first in the Air National Guard, and when choosing my career field, I wanted to learn something that would benefit me in the civilian world. I get fulfillment from troubleshooting and getting HVAC units that are down working and making a lot of buildings able to function again.”

 Jamil Gutierrez: “What attracted me to the Commercial HVAC industry was my love for learning and my passion for figuring things out. My love for learning stemmed from grade school, grew throughout high school, and blossomed in college, paving the way for my technical skills and engineering background. Continuing my education, even to this day, keeps me focused and in tune with today’s modern problems and technology.

My need to figure out how things work came from my own curiosity. Taking things apart as a child and not necessarily being able to put them back together, and then having to explain to my parents why I broke a perfectly good item all because I needed to know. Now, on a day-to-day basis, my job is to help fix broken things, whether that’s a boiler or chiller, an electrical issue, or having to crunch numbers all over again on a balancing issue. Solving the problem, no matter how bad it is, is what I find most fulfilling on a daily basis.”

 David LeRow: “My father worked for Atlantic Westchester, and they needed an apprentice, so I decided to join the company. One of the aspects I find most fulfilling about my role is collaborating with my helper. He not only assists me in completing tasks efficiently but also brings a sense of joy to our work dynamic.”

Omar Rodriguez: “What initially attracted me to the field of commercial HVAC was my cousin. He emphatically told me that this was a good field and that I would find it interesting and enjoyable. As years have gone by, I genuinely enjoy this trade, and it has helped me in all aspects of things mechanical and even construction. I enjoy figuring out a customer’s concerns and seeing their smile and appreciation for the work you have done to ensure their issues are fixed. I also find it fulfilling to put in a hard day’s work, knowing the effort you have put into the job and what you have accomplished by the end of the day.”

Why do you feel Atlantic Westchester stands out as a great workplace?

Vinny Campagniolo: “Atlantic Westchester stands out to me by allowing everyone to offer input on issues/policies and day-to-day tasks. Additionally, the company is not hesitant to enroll us in extra training or schooling to help us learn and improve.”

Jamil Gutierrez: “In my time with Atlantic Westchester, they have stood by me and helped me grow into the Commercial HVAC tech I am today. They have paved the path for my education, investing time, money and teaching me valuable skills along the way. They show that family-style relationship to all their employees and make you feel like one of the family. As I watch Atlantic Westchester expand, I only see it growing for the better.”

David LeRow: “One of the reasons Atlantic Westchester is a great place to work is that you are given the freedom to work independently. That independence allows us to think outside the box and develop creative solutions for complex problems.”

Omar Rodriguez: “Atlantic Westchester stands out as a great place to work because of the lengths they go to ensure that their technicians are properly trained and educated in this HVAC field. If a technician is interested, the company is always willing to offer additional training in the field. I was really surprised by this approach as, from my experience, most companies won’t go to such lengths to assist their employees. There is also a wonderful family environment established here and a real genuine care that Atlantic Westchester has for me personally. It’s not fake, there is true concern for my well-being as an employee.”

What are some of the unique advantages or benefits of working in the commercial HVAC industry compared to other fields within the trades or construction sector?

Vinny Campagniolo: “Compared to other trades, HVAC is unique because you need a combination of skill sets from multiple trades in order to do the work properly. Learning skills in all these different trades makes you more well-rounded, which is beneficial overall. You need to know pipefitting for all the numerous styles and sizes of pipe you have to run. Plumbing for all the water lines and heating issues. Electrical for all the wiring and electrical troubleshooting. Carpentry for all the hanging and mounting various equipment. Sheet metal work for the ductwork and ventilation you deal with. Controls for all the communication and controls on different equipment.”

Jamil Gutierrez: “One of the advantages of working in the commercial HVAC industry, compared to other trades within the construction sector, is that we are the jack of all trades. We work on plumbing, brazing/welding, electrical, low voltage, controls, gas, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, air compressors, electric motors, chillers, X-ray machines, and so much more. I like to say we’re versatile, and unlike most trades, we work on something different every single day. My day-to-day work is never the same. One day I’m working on a cooling tower on top of a high-rise building in Manhattan, the next, I’m working in a small server room in a hospital. And the following day, I may be working in an airplane hangar fixing a power flame.”

What are some common challenges or issues that you encounter while servicing commercial HVAC systems, and how do you approach solving them?

Vinny Campagniolo: “A common challenge I come across is customers needing to fully understand how their HVAC system works, how it is supposed to run properly, and what they are actually looking at. To address this, I take the time to explain their system in detail, demonstrating how it works and showing them what to look for if there are issues.”

How has the HVAC industry evolved in recent years, and what notable advancements or trends have significantly impacted your work as a technician?

 Jamil Gutierrez: “The industry changes every day as technology becomes more advanced, so does our equipment. The current technology for commercial HVAC is very intricate, especially in the VRF systems. If you have ever worked on one, just looking at the piping alone can be intimidating. Some systems look like quantum computers with wires and piping going in every direction. But when they break down or stop working, it’s our job to figure out, what happened, why it happened, and repair it. When it comes to the HVAC industry, one thing is for sure, you need to stay up to date with all the latest changes.”

Can you share a memorable or unique project you worked on where you had to think outside the box to overcome a complicated HVAC problem?

 David LeRow: “I had to think outside the box while working on installing a new chiller at Pace University. We had run into a complication, the piping for the chiller needed to go up four floors through a shaft. My helper and I worked together to construct platforms inside the shaft, providing us with a sturdy and safe workspace and allowing us to complete the installation successfully.”