Jeff Thoma joins a third generation at family business
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Jeff Thoma has returned to the Central Coast to join the business his grandfather created more than a half-century ago. Thoma left his position as a senior engineer for Apple Inc. in the Silicon Valley and joined the company that’s now lead by his father and uncle in April 2016 as a principal engineer.
Returning to the family business brings Thoma’s career full-circle: His affinity for engineering came from his father, Bill, the president and CEO of Thoma Electric.
“I loved it when my dad brought home drawings,” he said. “I would just stare at them even though I didn’t know what the symbols meant.”
By the time he was 12, Thoma was working in the shop, sweeping floors and sorting screws. While there, he also learned about computers and computer-aided design.
“I tried to be as inquisitive as I could,” said Jeff, who was assisting the company with design by the time he was 18 and has since attained his PE (professional engineering) license.
While his early education came from his father and uncle, Ed, the company’s vice-president, the San Luis Obispo High School graduate went on to study electrical and computer engineering at UC San Diego. He was a hardware engineer at Kyocera Wireless in San Diego before he joined the prestigious Apple, Inc. in 2009.
While he cannot discuss specific projects he worked on at Apple, his experience in the pioneering tech world broadened his technical knowledge and honed his management skills, assets he will use in his new role at Thoma. He believes there is opportunity to expand the already successful business and he is excited to be part of the firm as it continues to grow into new markets.
“At Thoma Electric, there is easily over 200 years of electrical design and construction experience,” he said. “I’m looking forward to adding my own unique experience to help it grow even more.”
Thoma returned to San Luis Obispo for the quality of life with his wife, Alexis, and daughter, and to be near family.
The Thoma family has been connected to the electrical business ever since Jeff’s great-grandfather helped electrify Chicago more than a century ago. Bill Thoma said he’s proud that his son will continue that tradition – though it comes as no surprise.
“He has a passion for engineering and told us repeatedly that when he grew up, he wanted to be an inventor,” Bill Thoma said. “And his name is on a number of patents.”
Thoma Electric, which now has 62 employees, began when Clarence “Bud” Thoma, now 96, launched Thoma Electric Company as a contracting business in 1962. The company expanded to include consulting, engineering and design.
“The next generation of the Thoma family is here, with experience and education second to none,” Bill Thoma said. “Ed and I are not going anywhere and are as excited about the business as we ever have been.”