Unirac’s Tom Talmage has been concerned about the planet since he was a teenager growing up in Tennessee.
“In high school I was always fired up about the environment because of where I grew up and what we grew up doing,” Tom says. “We were always outside camping, fishing, hunting, so we learned to respect the environment at an early age.”
Today, Tom is Unirac’s Installer Sales Specialist for the Southeast. Based in Tampa Bay, he has been working hands-on with Unirac customers since December.
As much as Tom has found a home in the solar industry, it wasn’t a direct path for him. His first thoughts were to make an impact by working in the field of policy. While studying for his degree in political science at Stetson University, he joined a professor’s effort to reverse deforestation in Guatemala and Nicaragua. For several months, he hiked between mountainous rural villages planting thousands of trees and building ventilated brick stoves to help people of the country avoid emphysema, a common ailment due to open fires. “It gave me a lot of perspective,” he says of the experience.
He followed up this experience with an internship in Washington, D.C. that ultimately steered him away from policy. “I enjoyed being there, but I didn’t like what I knew the working environment would be like,” he says. “I wanted a more direct approach.” As a result, he packed everything he had into a V8 Jeep and with moved to New York with $400 in his pocket to work for an Americorps program building houses after Hurricane Sandy.
Tom had been working at a graphic design company to help pay his bills once the Americorps program ended, where he suffered a major injury on a loading dock. While recovering, he found himself looking for a new path and a friend let him know about a local solar company that was hiring.
“I don’t know that I ever intended to get into solar,” he says. “But it was the most perfect mistake I could have made. It was one of those moments where you start doing something and down the road you start having experiences that confirm that you are on the right path.”
He said he quickly came to appreciate that he was working with people for whom solar was more than just a job and selling a product that was about more than just getting tax credits.
“I liked being part of a culture that had more in their message than just saving people money,” he explains. “You’re contributing to solving a problem that isn’t just specific to A, B, C, or D—everyone is dealing with the climate. Seeing that you can impact that was probably what sold me on solar.”
Since joining Unirac in December, Tom says, he has been learning a whole new set of considerations for the industry. At the solar company he began his career with, he was a foreman and now, he says, rather than having to think about everything at once, he can concentrate on the best ways to install racking.
“It’s a lot different from being an installer,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about whether the system’s interconnected and where the electricians are. You’re focused on one thing—how to get the panels mounted to the roof. And that translates to how effectively you’re doing the job as a trainer and whether you can execute that in trainings down the road. It’s cool to be able to specialize and take those moments and share them with other installers.” Tom says he enjoys the chance to teach and that he also appreciates being able to tap into the knowledge base of Unirac’s other installer sales specialists— something he says is indicative of the company as a whole.
“Unirac communicates on a level I’ve never seen before,” he says. “There’s more drive and transparency here than I’ve ever experienced. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been given by a company. It reaffirms the value in employees.”
Today, living in Florida with his girlfriend, Angela, and their cat, Dale, Tom still loves the outdoors, though the activities are different than when he was growing up. You’ll often find him these days playing Frisbee golf or kickball with friends or freshwater fishing for smallmouth bass and trout. Non-Frisbee golf is also a favorite and, every year, he and a group of friends plan a big camping trip.
Music is another passion. “I love all kinds of music,” he says, but guitar is his primary instrument. He mentions Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as his biggest influences, though his interests are wide. “My dad told me I couldn’t play the guitar unless I learned how to play the piano first,” he says with a laugh. “So, I learned to play the piano and then I saved up enough to buy a guitar.”
Asked if there’s anything else he hopes his community would know about him, he says, “Just that the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team ever.” His father’s side of the family has strong ties to the area, he explains.
“My dad would not let me be a fan for anybody else. If you come in my house, one of the first things you’ll see is a big framed picture of Nick Foles holding up the Super Bowl trophy.”
Patrick VanTassell, Regional Sales Director for the East Coast, praised Tom and his contributions to Unirac: “Tom is a great addition to our East Coast team,” Patrick says. “Every time I speak with him, I leave the conversation motivated and inspired. Tom’s willingness to step outside of his comfort zone, combined with his can-do attitude, is awesome. It is truly a pleasure to work alongside such a high performer. Tom is one of the many reasons why I confidently say to countless customers ‘Better Solar Starts Here’!”
Unirac welcomes Tom and his spirit to the company. If you’re in the Southeast and have installation questions, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.