Expecting his second daughter at any moment, Omar Harris (@omartheplumber) knew he wanted to do something so he could provide for his family. The goal was to find a career that was an absolute necessity so job security would always be there. “I remember discussing what I wanted to do with my fiancé, Xylina. She told me ‘whatever it is that you want to do I support you 100%, as long as you’re happy. Even if that means selling flowers on street.’ It would change the dynamic in our household greatly,” says Harris. Xylina repeatedly told him this before he eventually made the final leap.
“My fiancé plays a major role. Without her, the whole family dynamic would fall apart. I am fortunate. She’s a great mom, a great friend, and she really keeps everything in the family running. She’s extremely patient and understanding when I’m dead tired. I will forever be grateful for the sacrifices she has made and for the unconditional support she has shown me,” says Harris.
But Harris would be remiss if he didn’t mention his parents. They worked hard for what they have and “they instilled in me the drive needed to be the best at what I do. Growing up, they always told me learn a trade because you can demand your own salary,” says Harris.
Harris initially started out as an apprentice with a local union doing construction plumbing. He eventually left to go a private company that mainly did service and drain cleaning. “I learned a lot with that company and made some really good partnerships/friendships. It allowed me to grow, not only as a man, but as a plumber, too,” says Harris.
For the past two years, Harris has worked as a plumber for Broward County Facilities (Florida) as a plumber specializing in drain cleaning. Some may not know, but Harris is a certified HVAC technician and Certified Fire Inspector for the state of Florida. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job for Harris is seeing the customer’s smile after the work is done, correctly. (Some of Harris’s go-to tools are RIDGID RP241 press tool, RIDGID E110 wrench, Fluke T5 600 Voltage, Continuity and Current Tester and the Milwaukee Tool M12 PEX Expansion Tool Kit.)
As far as learning the trades, Harris is always learning. “I love to learn from others so that I can be the best plumber I can be,” says Harris. One of Harris’s mentors and a person he looks up to is Hiram Martinez, master plumber, A to Z Statewide Plumbing, West Park, Fla., who taught Harris a lot, and was very patient with him. Another influence includes Conrad Ensenat, a residential plumber. “He’s a great friend, but he also taught me a lot.”
John Driscoll Jr., owner, A to Z Statewide Plumbing, took Harris under his wing and really showed him the ropes in drain cleaning. “He always drilled into my head to never skip steps and to take my time following the steps. He really helped me with laying the foundation of my plumbing skills,” says Harris.
Harris also recognizes John Thompson, a great person with whom to speak. From his family values to how he runs his business, Thompson has garnered a tremendous amount of respect from Harris. George DeJesus has also been instrumental in showing Harris a lot of “tricks of the trade.”
And Eric Aune. “I learned a lot from watching him on YouTube; he’s a great teacher.”
But does Harris consider himself a mentor to others? “Honestly, yes I do consider myself a role model. I feel like if I can make it, anyone can. I’ve had a lot of hardships in my life and I’ve been able to overcome them. Many didn’t believe in me but I was fortunate enough to have a few who did. I’m willing to help anyone who would like to learn,” says Harris.
How can the industry promote the trades? Acceptance and training, says Harris. “We need to have plumbers from all walks of life from all over the world. In addition, we don’t need to be so hard on someone trying to learn. At times, I’ve seen this industry a little too hard on some individuals. It can be a little intimidating for someone just starting out. Instead, we need take the opportunity to coach, teach and possibly train the individual so that in the future they can be a better plumber.”
Social media has opened many great opportunities for Harris. “It has allowed me to participate in my friends’ lives who live in other states. On Instagram, we have group chats just to check in or ask questions. Social media is a great platform to build connections with people from all over the world. It is a useful tool to learn from and utilize to keep up with the ever-growing industry,” says Harris.
Speaking of social media, Harris recently was chosen to attend a past RIDGID Experience. “The RIDGID Experience was a phenomenal time!” says Harris. “I met some great people who now I consider great friends. I gained a lot of knowledge and have a pool of great minds to pull from when I need help with something. I am very grateful and honored I was chosen for the RIDGID Experience. RIDGID is a great company and it’s awesome that they host that event. How many other companies are doing this?”
The last time Harris said “today is a great day,” he was removing a mainline stoppage and there was a clean out right in front of the house, holding sewage. “I removed the stoppage in three feet, and I actually yelled out on the top of my lungs, ‘TODAY WAS A GREAT DAY!’”
In the end, Harris spends whatever free time he has working out and spending time with his family. And, most of all, trying his best to spend time with his kids, to be there for all of their accomplishments, and incorporate his family into what he does. “I try to be the best version of me for my kids. My family has been my backbone in this journey and I hope to instill that same drive I have in me, in my kids.”