“I wanted to get the job on my own”
After Austin Lee graduated from high school, he enrolled in the College of Lake County to study graphic design. But one semester later, he realized that his heart wasn’t in it. “I’m a hands-on guy,” he explains. “I like to fix things.” So, he decided to explore following in his father’s footsteps – without telling him.
The day Austin applied for a service technician job at American Weathermakers, our sister company, he happened to run into his dad. “He was completely surprised to see me in the office,” recalls Austin. “He asked why I was there.” As to why he didn’t lean on his dad to help him land an interview, “I wanted the job, but I wanted to get it on my own.”
When There’s a Will…
Though there wasn’t an opening for a service technician, Austin was offered a warehouse position and accepted it. He dropped off materials at job sites and helped manage materials and products. On his own time, he’d follow our teams so he could learn from them. And every Saturday for about two months, under his dad’s guidance, Austin learned how to work with sheet metal – cutting and shaping scraps as if they were for real installation jobs.
Finally, his efforts paid off. After two years, Northern Weathermakers offered Austin an apprenticeship as a service technician. It’s now been four years since he joined our commercial division.
“Our clients are amazing – great managers I enjoy working with face to face. They are very respectful and treat us well when we are on site.” Since last July, much of Austin’s time has been spent servicing a national retailer’s 30 northern Illinois locations. He and one of his coworkers share the workload, which includes inspections, diagnosing problems and making repairs. When safety is a concern, like when it was 50 degrees below zero with the wind chill this past winter, they work together. “We limited our time on the roof to 10-15 minutes, then we’d go inside for 20 minutes to warm up before we went back outside. It was brutal, but we needed to make sure our customers had heat!”
Life on the Lake
After hours, Austin unwinds in a special place – his home on McCullom Lake in McHenry, Illinois. It’s where his much-loved grandparents previously lived, so he spent a lot of time there growing up. When his grandfather passed away, his grandmother decided it was too much for her to handle and decided to sell it. Austin rented it for a year, then in 2016 he was able to get a mortgage and purchase it from her. Now he and his girlfriend, Jess, a dental hygienist, share it with their two dogs.
Ready to Hit the Road
This summer the twosome will embark on their first RV trip. “We’re going to Lake Geneva. We’re starting small.” They already have the next few trips in mind – “Tennessee, because we love country music” — followed by Minnesota and Montana.
Getting married, starting a family and, eventually, buying a bigger house is also on their radar. Chances are, though, that Austin will figure out how to keep the lake house, so his kids can enjoy lake living just as he did.