My 2020 Grad Story: Commitment

TMCC HVAC student Brandon Talbert.
Rebecca A. Eckland

This semester, TMCC is celebrating our graduating class of 2020 in a big way. Even though we have postponed our commencement ceremony until the Fall, we are so proud of our graduates who will still earn their degrees when the spring semester ends on May 16.  

These news stories demonstrate how our graduates have faced challenges and persevered to complete their degree program even in the face of COVID-19. Each student was asked to provide one word for their journey. TMCC HVAC student Brandon Talbert calls his “commitment.”

An Early Start

It’s 5 a.m. and the lights are on in the Talbert household. TMCC student Brandon Talbert is drinking coffee and making breakfast and lunches for his four children. He’ll wake them up at 6 a.m., make sure they are showered, their teeth are brushed and they are ready for school. He’s out the door by 6:30 a.m. so he can make it to the gym and then to the TMCC Pennington Applied Technology Building by 7:30 a.m. on the dot, 30 minutes before his first HVAC class. 

“I’ve got to get my head into it,” he said. So, the time is spent reviewing material from the day before or going over problems to which he hadn’t yet found solutions.  Talbert attends classes until mid-afternoon. As soon as his classes are over, he goes to work. Talbert currently works for Eagle Valley Property Maintenance, a property management company. He performs maintenance on properties all over the Reno, Sparks, Carson, Minden, Gardnerville and Tahoe areas, so having a plan and sticking to it is key to his success. 

“I remember a quote somebody told me when I was younger: ‘if you fail to plan, plan to fail.’  I don’t want to fail. I call it: I grind it out. I have a purpose—I have somewhere to go, something to do. I have people depending on me, and not just my family. That’s what makes all of this easy for me,” he said.

Goals for the Future

Talbert is in the TMCC HVAC program because he “got a late start in life” but has definite plans for his future, which include running his own HVAC company in partnership with his current employer. “It seemed like an interesting field that could give a meaningful life to myself and my family,” he said.  

Yet, Talbert shines when he’s given a problem to solve with no easy solution. “My favorite class was when we built our refrigeration unit. It’s all hands-on, it’s pretty detailed. I was happy with the way mine turned out compared to others, I’m competitive like that. I was almost one of the last ones to finish. But, I was the only one who didn’t have a leak in my system. I got all the numbers right. I want to be good at what I do, not mediocre,” he said. 

That attitude almost derailed Talbert on his first day in the program, which didn’t begin exactly as planned. “When I first started the HVAC program, I went to the wrong campus on the first day. I went to Dandini, not the Applied Technology Center. I was like ‘oh man, there’s more than one location?’ So I had to introduce myself to other people in my class late. I was already feeling embarrassed, and I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb.”

After the first week, Talbert didn’t feel comfortable asking questions or showing that he could be wrong. When he returned home over the weekend, though, he decided to change his approach to being a student in the HVAC program. “I realized that I’m here to learn, and that I’m going to make mistakes and this is where I was going to fix it. I had one of my buddies, Salvador, in the class, and I told him exactly what I was thinking: where we are now, this is where we fix what we are learning and comprehending. You have an idea, then you ask. You don’t wait for the right answer, you’re constantly trying to figure it out. I need to understand these concepts, and to make HVAC  my profession.” To students in every major, he offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid, ask questions. Don’t be afraid of being judged. Immerse yourself in what you’re doing. You’ll get it.”

Thanks to his dedication to the program—and his ability to ask his instructors plenty of questions—Talbert is completing the HVAC program this semester with flying colors. He credits some of his success to HVAC Instructor Wes Evans. “He really does go above and beyond if you want his help. Inside class, outside of class...if you have a question, he has an answer for you. Every day, I’d show up early, and he was already there.”  

Although the transition to remote instruction hasn’t been easy for a hands-on program like HVAC, Talbert admits that the brunt of the extra workload falls on his instructors who continually strive to offer students videos, simulations, and quizzes to keep the students on track in their acquisition of practical skill sets in this profession. 

Perhaps because of this, Talbert plans on continuing his education. After receiving his HVAC certification, he will spend six months getting field experience. Eventually, he plans to buy half of the property management company he currently works for and to expand the company to include HVAC services. “Once I get that up and going, then I’m going back to get my associate’s degree... I’ve never been a real school person, so my associate degree will go hand-in-hand with what I’ve already accomplished.” 

Words of Advice

When asked what word sums up his educational journey, Talbert says without a doubt: “commitment.” 

“If you want to do this, you can’t be half-committed to anything. Once it starts to get hard, you’ll just lose interest in it along the way. You got to have commitment. That’s pretty much all I have. I didn’t want to pursue a degree sitting at a desk. I’m a hands-on person, I like meeting new people, talking to people, and fixing things. I like being good at what I do. That’s my goal,” he said.

It’s a go-to attitude he’s teaching his children who are watching their dad accomplish his professional dreams one day at a time. “I have a motto: I believe you have to wake up in the morning and have a purpose. I always tell my kids: you got to hustle hard, because in life, you’re given nothing for free.”

Join us in celebrating TMCC’s Class of 2020! Visit TMCC’s Facebook page for live interviews with our graduates, and updates about their incredible journeys.