Camille Martinez thought she had settled on her life-long career right out of high school, but after more than a decade and realizing she was no longer growing without a degree, she took her life in a different direction.
The 39-year-old is now a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) student at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County and the only female in the program.
“I can’t tell you why or how I became interested in HVAC, except that we live in Texas and we always need air conditioners,” she said with a laugh. “But in all seriousness, I know that HVAC is a stable industry and I will probably never be out of job or opportunities.”
For more than a decade Martinez worked with Texas Instruments in photolithography, processing images on chips that are part of fabrication for technologies used in, among other things, toys such as the Furby doll.
“Life was good, and I got comfortable. I was making really good money without a college degree,” said Martinez. “But at the same time not having that degree was weighing on me and I didn’t have growth opportunities because of it.”
So for a little over a year, she lived off her savings so she could begin the process of returning to school, but in the midst of it all her mother got ill and Martinez became her full-time caregiver.
“My mom was my motivator. What was I was going to do without her?” said Martinez. “The one thing I know she wanted for me was to become a college graduate, so after she passed away in June I set out to do just that.”
The Richmond native holds a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, was recently invited to join Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for her academic achievement and expects to earn her certificate in Summer 2019.
“I’m excited for this new chapter in my life,” she said. “I now have a goal, opportunities and the chance at a long-term career.”
She said her time at TSTC has been life-changing and her hands-on training invaluable. From the instructors to her classmates, who she now considers little brothers, she said her experience at TSTC has been a positive one.
“Everyone has been so supportive, encouraging and motivating,” said Martinez. “I never expected this, especially as the only woman in the class. But they have all proved me wrong. In fact, I’ve come to learn that everyone on campus plays a part in our success.”
Now with everything in place for Martinez, she said she expects to return to TSTC for an associate degree and looks forward to begin her career working in the field to gain experience that she hopes leads to her very own HVAC company.
“My family has been so supportive making this an easy decision for me,” she said. “Because at TSTC I’m no longer wandering. I have a path and a sense of accomplishment. I have a future.”
Students like Martinez, who are enrolled in HVAC Technology, have access to industry-standard labs and an opportunity to learn and practice on commercial and residential heating and air conditioning equipment, refrigeration equipment and chilled water systems.
There are certificate and degree tracks provided so students can enter the field as skilled HVAC mechanics or installers.
HVAC Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Harlingen, North Texas, Waco and Williamson County Campuses.
For more information, visit tstc.edu/programs/HVACTechnology.