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“Always there for me”: A tale of father-son engineers

“The guiding light of my father has proven to be the brightest star in the sky.” — Author unknown

Father’s Day may be June 19 this year, but every day is Father’s Day in Hanson’s Orlando, Florida, office.

Bill Bradford, who serves as a senior vice president and energy, sustainability and resiliency principal, joined Hanson in 1986. In March 2022, another Bradford came onboard — Bill’s son, Burns. Since his arrival, father and son, both mechanical engineers, have collaborated on several projects.

“Working with Burns is fantastic,” said Bill, who lives in Orlando with his wife, Donna. “Being able to dial into video calls and watch Burns mature and grow as a man, a great son, a fantastic husband and a loving dad drives home the fact that I am an unbelievably fortunate and blessed man.”

a photo of bill bradford and his son burns at a 5k event
Burns Bradford, left, joined his father, Bill Bradford, in March 2022 as a project manager in Hanson’s Orlando, Florida, office.

Prior to joining Hanson as a project manager (PM), Burns worked as a project manager in the aerospace and defense market for BRPH in Orlando and Melbourne, Florida, and as a mechanical engineer for BRPH and one other firm. He says a “perfect storm” brought him to Hanson.

“Changes at my previous firm caused me to look around and survey the landscape. By coincidence, the PM role at Hanson opened a couple of days prior. My dad's tenure with Hanson influenced me to work here; I knew it was a longstanding company with great values and somewhere I could grow.”

Working side by side

Burns said he knew from an early age the career path he would pursue. “Engineering is something I've always been interested in throughout my life,” he said. “I enjoy understanding how things work and solving problems, so it has been a natural fit. I don't think there was ever a ‘light bulb moment.’ The fascination was always there.

“With my dad as an engineer,” he added, “I was aware of engineering as a career path. He never pushed me into it, though. I've always liked engineering due to its problem-solving nature.”

Working together has been nothing but inspiring for both Bill and Burns.

“Although I'm still a relatively new hire, it's been great working with him because we already know each other and know how to communicate,” Burns said. “Since we're not in a direct reporting structure, we've been able to work on some projects together, and I don't feel any extra scrutiny or pressure —we're two people trying to do the best for our clients. He'll be the first to congratulate me if I do something well and the first to offer constructive criticism on where I can improve.

“On my first day of work at Hanson, he came in the office and said, ‘Good morning,’ and it was obvious that he was genuinely excited that we're able to work together.”

Burns says there is only one challenge related to working with his dad: “He’s a very proud grandfather. Before I started here, everyone in the office knew all about my kids (Parker, 4, and Campbell, 2), but everyone still politely let me gush about them.”

Bill loves having daily interactions with Burns about both personal and professional matters. “I love seeing how he converses with our customers,” Bill said. “I also love getting daily snippets of information on our grandchildren — the things they have done in school and the witty responses they provide him, which are much like the ones he always provided us.

“We make a conscious effort to stay out of each other's way,” Bill added. “If there is something either of us needs, the other one is quick to respond. However, I have tremendous confidence in him and know he will always do the right thing. Everyone who has met Burns since he has been with Hanson has told me, ‘Wow, Donna did a great job raising him!’ And I cannot argue with that in the least!”

Building a family and a legacy

Throughout Burns’ childhood, his father was a constant presence and support, attending nearly year-round high-school soccer games and other important events. “As a teenager, I always thought, ‘Oh, there's my dad again,’ but in hindsight, it established a fundamental example of importance for me to be there for my kids as they grow up. He now makes it a point to come to all my kids' events, too.

the bradford family at a formal event
From right, Burns stands with his family: wife, Katie; mother, Donna; father, Bill; and brother, Alex.

“My dad's always been there for me, and it's made a profound impact on my life. Professionally, I see how hard he works and the relationships he's made, and it inspires me to work as hard as he does.”

Bill’s office is filled with photos depicting the many years of memories made by the Bradford family. “When we recently relocated our Orlando office, I told my wife, Donna, that I was amazed at how many wonderful pictures I have of our family in my office,” he said. “Each of those pictures, and many others, hold special significance.”

Engineering: A common thread

Engineering careers are a common thread in the Bradford clan. Bill’s father started with aspirations to become a dentist but ultimately pursued a career as an engineer in the power industry. His other son is a mechanical engineer with another firm in Orlando.

a photo of bill playing with his grandkids on the beach
Bill Bradford, right, loves spending quality time with his granddaughter, Parker, 4, and grandson, Campbell, 2, the children of his son, Burns.

“To quote my mom,” Burns said, ‘Why couldn't one of you have been something useful, like a doctor or lawyer?’ Of course, she says this tongue-in-cheek,” he added. “My grandpa was an engineer, and my brother is an engineer — I think it's a sickness in the family. I'm trying to work a love of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics into my kids. We watch the rocket launches out of our back window whenever we can, we play with Legos — things like that — but they'll be whatever they're meant to be; I just enjoy sharing things I like with them.”

Bill and Burns have more in common than engineering: “Sadly, we share a similar sense of humor,” Burns said. “Not sad for us, but for everyone else! We also both like college football and spending time with our families.

“I'd say we differ when it comes to technology; it's something I read about and play with all the time, and then I share my results with him.”

The bottom line, according to Burns: “At work, my father is a mentor — albeit one that changed my diapers and knows more than one ever should.”

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