Engineering Corporate Citizenship


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Bernie Jansen is our third recognized club member and resident agribusiness guru. Serving as a Partner at VAA for 18 years, Bernie is currently a Principal and still values hitting the road for face-to-face visits with long-time friends - our clients. We thank you for being you and congrats on this milestone.

How did you first hear about VAA?
A help wanted ad in the Star Tribune newspaper.

What is the best piece of advice you received throughout your career?
A good piece of advice was shared by Dick Van Sickle, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason - make sure to listen well.”

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment / contribution since you started working here?
Building a network of clients with a repeatable workload and a talented team to serve them. I am proud to contribute to this model and share it with future VAA Partners to help grow the company.

Pick three words you feel best describes VAA. Why do they apply to the company?
Relationships – This defines most businesses and we have been blessed with many great client relationships over the years where we have helped each other succeed.

Growing – We are always looking to grow and add services and staff that we and our clients see as beneficial to achieving project goals.

Responsive – A key to building great relationships, we do what we said we would do and get it done when we said it would be done. We return calls and emails promptly and if something goes wrong, we are proactive in fixing it and don’t pass blame.

From your perspective, describe the biggest differences between when you started at VAA and the company now.
We can certainly offer more to clients with the technology of CAD and Revit as opposed to hand drawing, which was common practice when I started. We also offer more today with the experiences and staff in civil, rail, architecture, mechanical, process and electrical. When I started, VAA was primarily civil and structural engineering.

If you could meet anyone, from any time period, who would it be?
My ancestor from Holland (Bernardus). He was a flour miller and it would be interesting to see how the Jansen name was made; how they lived and worked in those times; how they survived through the various occupations in Europe; and how they built and operated flour mills in Holland.

I do know Bernardus (19 years old) went to Hengevelde – a small community where he worked as a millhand at the Bolohermill owned by miller Ten Heggeler. Built in 1820, the mill one mile east of Hengevelde was special as it was made of bricks instead of wood.

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Interested in the stories from our other "25 & Up" club members? Click on a name to read another Q&A session.


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Our second featured “25 & Up” club member is Connie Cronquist. As a Front Desk Administrative Assistant for the past 26 years, Connie is the personality / friendly face of the company. We thank you for being you and congrats on this milestone.

How did you first learn about VAA?
I was job hunting in the fall of 1992 because the company I was at had been sold and was closing their Minneapolis office. After seeing an ad in the Osseo / Maple Grove paper, I called and made an interview appointment. Since my secretarial skills were a bit rusty, I did not know if I would be hired – they must have seen potential in me somewhere.

What is the best piece of advice you received throughout your career?
Be yourself and do your best in everything you do. It was a message my parents instilled in me when I was a young girl. It is also something I try to pass along to others.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment / contribution since you started working here?
I am the clerical point of contact and assist many of our engineers in the renewal process to ensure our licenses remain current nationwide and in Canada.

Also, I often hear I’m good at “knowing where things are” when new employees join VAA. I like to help where I can. Being a reliable resource when employees don’t know exactly where to go for an answer I think is comforting to many of our employees.

Pick three words you feel best describes VAA. Why do they apply to the company?
Integrity. Quality. Consistency. They are all connected - integrity because we make good on our promise to provide quality work consistently.

From your perspective, describe the biggest differences between when you started at VAA and the company now.
The culture of the company has changed so much. When I started, men wore suits with ties and women (the two of us on staff) wore dresses or suits, high heels, etc. (i.e., business formal attire). Gradually over the years, the atmosphere has become much more relaxed. People still dress professionally, just not so formal. I think this change has created a friendlier, more approachable environment.

Also, within our culture the teams are larger, more interactive and do more together. The team-building off-site activities help people to relax and get to know one another on a personal level.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?
You may be sorry you asked - somewhere around 450, including boots.

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Interested in the stories from our other "25 & Up" club members? Click on a name to read another Q&A session.


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Our 40th anniversary ends by highlighting five employees who have been with VAA for over a quarter of a century. Each shares a snippet of their VAA story in a Q&A session.

We begin with Partner / Structural Engineer, Kelsey Brown. Well respected for his technical skills and calm demeanor, he never misses an opportunity to acknowledge the growth and achievements of those around him. We thank you for being you and congrats on 25 years.

How did you first learn about VAA?
I saw an opening for a structural engineer in the “help wanted” section of the Star Tribune. After researching VAA (formerly Van Sickle, Allen and Associates) at the MN Consulting Engineers Council at the Miracle Mile in St. Louis Park, I applied for the position.

What is the best piece of advice you received throughout your career?Dick Van Sickle often said he would try to learn something new every day. Although I can’t say I’ve succeeded in this, I do look for those opportunities.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment / contribution since you started working here?
Providing analysis, advice and engineering guidance on difficult or
complex problems and projects. I enjoy the challenges and conversations you can’t solve by looking it up in a book – the ones that take creativity and some math.

Pick three words you feel best describes VAA. Why do they apply to the company?
Professional. Respectful. Creative. These words relate to our efforts externally with clients but also internally with how we strive to work with each other.

From your perspective, describe the biggest differences between when you started at VAA and the company now.
When I started, we offered civil and structural engineering and general arrangement services. We had a relatively small client base and I knew everyone well since we were a firm of 14.

What is the first music concert you attended?
Without my parents - Deep Purple. It was my first time seeing musicians improvise and “jam” together and my first experience with dense clouds of interesting smoke.

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Interested in the stories from our other "25 & Up" club members? Click on a name to read another Q&A session.


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Teams took turns pulling a 70,000-pound Gulfstream IV airplane in an event supporting the Special Olympics. Several employees from VAA’s South Dakota office participated, contributing to the overall $4,500 raised for the cause.

Watch news coverage of the event and hear one of our own, Shawn Vanhove, interviewed about the effort.


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Grow

Goal-setting raises the bar for performance in organizations. As mentioned earlier, growing different aspects of employee interests into skills – both professional and personal – benefits employee wellness and the company overall. Individuals who feel a healthy work-life balance have a higher tendency to stay and progress through the company. Goal-setting provides employees a natural opportunity to demonstrate leadership and self-motivation; typically leading employees to earn promotions. By using a goal-setting program to create clear avenues toward accomplishment, companies will develop happier employees that grow into skilled leaders.

As employees are promoted to leadership roles, their earlier interests may now benefit or be formally incorporated into organizational business plans. People are the catalyst for growth. By supporting personal goals, employees are empowered to develop the core of a business. Contributing individual drive to overall business goals can open the door on improvements from expanded service offerings to fostering a culture of wellness.


Repeat

Goal-setting is a life-long skill. Continuing to encourage learning and self-motivation is a benefit to employees and, from a corporate perspective, will grow and enhance an organization as a whole.


Read the other parts of this series for more information:

About the Author

Mary Pettit is a Human Resources (HR) Manager leading organizational development and leadership training; managing employee relations; and building strategies to retain and recruit key talent for VAA. She welcomes and values the opportunity to contribute ideas to company-wide business goals and aligning HR initiatives and monthly wellness activities to foster employee camaraderie. Earning her first HR certification in 2008, Mary has continued in the field with a PHR certification from the HR Certification Institute and a Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)-CP Certification.