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Sibling connections strong at Hanson

“Help your brother’s boat across, and your own will reach the shore.” — Hindu proverb

Over the years, Hanson’s staff has included many family relationships — among them, parents and children, husbands and wives and siblings. With National Siblings Day falling on April 10, the time is right to spotlight several of our sibling pairs. How do they feel about working together? Where did they find their inspiration to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers? These strong family connections nurtured in childhood have flourished into productive professional relationships.

Meet our stellar sibs!

Judy Dittmer and Gary Clack

a photo of gary clack and judy dittmer
Siblings Gary Clack and Judy Dittmer find their lunchtime walks to be one of their favorite bonding experiences.

Judy is a civil engineer who has worked in Hanson’s Springfield, Illinois, office since 1984. Her brother, Gary, a project manager and assistant vice president, started with Hanson in 1990.  

Q: What is it like working with your sibling?

Judy: We’ve always enjoyed chatting about our projects, and sometimes those chats produce a fresh perspective as we pull together the vantage points of differing technical expertise.

Gary: It’s great! While we typically don’t work on the same projects, we do have that opportunity occasionally. I have the utmost respect for my sister, and I am pleased to let people know that we work for the same firm.

Q: What has been the best part of working together? Have there been any challenges?

Gary: The best part is having someone that I’ve admired and trusted all my life (Judy’s a few years older than me) two floors away. We were great friends as we were growing up together; especially after the loss of my son in 2018, having Judy close at hand has been a true blessing. I have not had any challenges working with Judy. For those times when we do work together professionally, I know that she is a very talented engineer and that I can rely wholeheartedly on her decisions.

Judy: This year is our first opportunity to work together on a project, so give us a few months and then ask about challenges!

Q: What similarities do you share in your personal and professional lives? How do you differ?

Judy: I think our faith in Christ is our greatest similarity. That makes us who we are in and out of the workplace. Gary is far more organized, more capable of sizing up issues, charting a course and following though than I will ever be, personally or professionally. 

Gary: Our Christian faith is the single-greatest similarity. As for a notable difference, Judy is gifted with patience!

Q: What’s the best memory you’ve made together so far at Hanson?

Gary: I would have to say that our lunchtime walks have been reinvigorating the friendship that we shared growing up and have proven to be a regular source of enjoyment.

Judy: We’ve worked in the same office for years, but last year we began walking together at lunchtime. I really treasure that time with Gary.

Q: Has anyone else in your family worked in engineering? If so, how have they inspired you? Have you encouraged anyone else in your family to pursue a STEM career?

Judy: Our dad was a civil engineer, and our mom worked in Illinois Department of Transportation aerial surveys before she joined the Clack team. Sketches on napkins to augment conversations at family dinners were not uncommon! Dad carved up cardboard boxes and scrap Styrofoam to help me grasp plan, elevation and section views when I wrestled my way through engineering graphics. He almost always responded to my questions with questions that led me to find the answer myself.

Gary: I think it’s fair to say that our dad’s ability to do just about anything came from his engineering background, which was honed by his wartime and other life experiences. In no way did he force my decision to be an engineer, but I think I might have been prewired for a career in engineering.

Ryan and Sean Nation

Brothers Ryan, left, and Sean Nation are more than 20 years apart in age, but they have maintained a close relationship and share a love of electrical engineering.

Ryan, who serves as Hanson’s electrical discipline manager, has worked for the company since 1997. His younger brother, Sean, transitioned to full-time employment in 2019, after serving as a summer intern. 

Q: How much of an influence was Ryan on your choice of engineering as a career?

Sean: Becoming an engineer was a goal of mine from my first engineering class as a freshman in high school. Ryan had a big influence on guiding me down the consulting engineering path. He showed me the internship opportunity with Hanson and taught me something new every day.

Q: What is it like working with your brother?

Sean: We have different day-to-day operations, so it’s like working with anyone else most days. Ryan is honest and has strong leadership skills. He keeps things organized and moves projects forward within the electrical group.

Ryan: I have found Sean to be highly motivated and a quick learner. He has been an asset to our group. I am enjoying working with him, not because he is my brother, but because he brings a strong skill set to Hanson.

Q: What’s the best memory you have of each other from your childhoods?

Ryan: Sean and I are separated in age by over 20 years, so I did not grow up with him. He was born a few days after I got married and began working for Hanson. However, I have plenty of fond memories of family vacations, holidays and watching him play baseball. 

Q: What’s the best memory you’ve made together so far at Hanson?

Sean: Some of my favorite memories are the stories we get to share on Monday mornings that pertain to our weekends. Usually, it’s a funny story about one of Ryan’s horses escaping the pasture or a story about the hardships of me trying to participate in planning my wedding. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to share these stories if we didn’t work together.

Ryan: Sean bought a new car after he became employed here, and I remember walking out of my office one day and looking out the window to see a dark sky with a storm system rolling in. I walked past Sean’s office area and noticed he wasn’t there. I then looked outside again and noticed that his car was not in the parking lot. I began to wonder where he might have gone, and it occurred to me that maybe he was concerned that his car would be damaged by the storm. I thought to myself, “Surely not,” but I decided to text him to find out. His response was priceless, as he noted he went home to put his car in the garage so it wouldn’t be damaged if hail were to occur. I guess my instincts were right.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become an engineer?

Sean: I knew I wanted to become an engineer after my first Project Lead the Way course in high school. I got to take a deep dive into all types of engineering disciplines and settled on electrical engineering because I enjoyed building and programing my first robot from scratch.

Ryan: I was tinkering with a box of electrical components when I was about 12. In the box were electrical wiring, a light switch and a wall plug. I attempted to wire the devices together. I had no clue what I was doing, and when I tried to connect the devices I had wired together to a powered wall plug in the house, I created a short circuit and ended up blowing the main fuse, shutting off all power to the house. It also made a loud noise, and my grandfather rushed into the room, wondering what had happened. That was the only time my grandfather ever scolded me strongly. In hindsight, I realize he did that because I could have hurt myself or caused a fire. From that point on, I was interested in understanding electricity and how to use it correctly.

Q: Has anyone else in your family worked in engineering? If so, how have they inspired you? Have you encouraged anyone else in your family to pursue a STEM career?

Ryan: My father started taking engineering courses in college but ended up switching his career path due to his engineering drafting course. He told me as I was growing up that he couldn’t wrap his head around the concept of drawing in three dimensions. I think that may have influenced me in the sense that I wanted to do something he couldn’t. Many of my siblings also pursued a career in computer science or other STEM-related professions.

Q: How has your brother inspired you in life? In your professional life?

Ryan: I have grown to admire Sean’s charisma and outgoing personality. I have always been introverted, and people skills are not my best characteristic. This is something I need to focus on and work at all the time. Sean excels in this area, and I think it will serve him very well as his career grows.

Sean: Ryan’s career is way ahead of mine, with his 25-plus years of experience. To become a “better” engineer than Ryan would be a tall task, but it’s something that inspires me to absorb as much knowledge as possible throughout my professional career so that maybe, one day, I can be the engineer he has become.

Jim and Steven Crew

a photo of jim and steven crew as children
Steven Crew, right, says his older brother, Jim, has always been a role model for him.

Jim is a transportation designer who started at Hanson’s Jacksonville, Florida, office, in February 2021. Steven joined his brother in Jacksonville as a civil designer in August 2021.

Q: What brought you to Hanson? How much of an influence was Jim on your choice to pursue working here?

Steven: I worked with some current Hanson employees at an earlier engineering job in the Jacksonville area. The relationship I had with my prior bosses and co-workers are what initially led me to give Jim their Hanson contact information when he was in the job market. He was a large influence in my choice to pursue employment at Hanson when he echoed my experience of an enjoyable and pleasant work atmosphere and the professional relationships that I had previously experienced.

Q: What is it like working with your sibling?

Jim: It has been great. There is an understanding that at work we are colleagues, and outside of those hours we are brothers and friends. It has gone extremely smoothly, and it is great to have a very familiar face just a few doors down.

Steven: Working together has been fantastic. We have a great dynamic and knowledge of each other. We have a good balance of knowing when to be co-workers on a project and when we can relax a little and be brothers. We have always been close personally, so thankfully, there haven’t been any challenges on the professional side.

Q: What has been the best part of working together? Have there been any challenges?

Jim: The best part of working together has been growing our careers together in the same field. We share the same passion for transportation engineering and design, and it’s been great to experience career growth and experience as closely as we have. The only challenge has been calling him by his real name, Steven. Being brothers, especially me as the older brother, I didn’t often refer to him as Steven growing up, so it has taken some time to adjust to that.

Q: How has your brother inspired you in life? In your professional life?

Jim: My brother has always been an inspiration to me. I have almost five years on him, so growing up, and even now, I feel a responsibility to be a good role model and good man to hopefully serve as an example. We are different in many ways; many of my weaknesses are his strengths, so I rely on him to inspire me to be better in those ways.

Steven: Jim has always been a role model for me, professionally and personally. Growing up, my taste in music, style of clothes and interest in sports were always in line with his. Seeing his success in both aspects just strengthens that outlook.

steve and jim playing hockey
Jim, left, and Steve Crew love playing hockey together, even though they cheer for different teams.

Q: What’s the best memory you have of each other from your childhoods?

Steven: We have a very close and tight-knit family, so there was always some kind of vacation being cooked up. Being able to travel and experience different places, people and cultures together and spending quality time with each other helped build the strong relationship we have now.

Jim: We both were very involved in sports growing up, so my childhood answer would have to be going out to the baseball field together with our dad almost every weekend. As we have gotten older, we both got involved in rec league ice hockey here in Jacksonville, so playing on the same team together has created some great memories, too.

Q: What similarities do you share in your personal and professional lives? How do you differ?

Jim: We share a lot of similarities in both. We are both heavily into sports, both play hockey, both grew up with baseball as our favorite sport. We hang out quite a bit, so our hobbies are similar. We both ended up with a passion and interest for transportation and roadway/highway design. I enjoy geometric design, while he favors ADA design and traffic control. However, we have slight differences in personality. For instance, he loves the Colorado Avalanche (which is silly), and I love the Detroit Red Wings (which is smart).

Q: Has anyone else in your family worked in engineering? If so, how have they inspired you?

Steven: Our father is a civil engineer and P.E. in the hydroelectricity industry. He was the biggest influence in guiding me toward a STEM career. Our dad would bring us to the office, and we would take trips out into the field with him, when appropriate. Being able to see large-scale engineering, such as hydroelectric dams and facilities, and discussing the engineering of the Golden Gate bridge on a family vacation planted the engineering seed early, and I wanted to learn as much about it as I could. We also have a cousin in the civil field. I would encourage anyone in the family to pursue STEM.

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