We want to give you an idea of who our people are. What makes them tick. Inside the office and out of it. Because business, in many ways, is actually deeply personal.
Today I sat down with one of MartinRiley's Building Envelope Specialists, JD, and his beard...
JD SITTON: ALWAYS A PUNCH LINE, ALWAYS A BRIGHT SIDE
“What do you like to do in your free time JD?"
“I like beer…” I knew that answer was coming. “But I haven’t been drinking a lot of it lately.” We talked about JD joining his wife, Alicia, in some major lifestyle changes. It started with the Keto diet and now they are also spending a month eliminating eggs and dairy as way to rule out allergies.
“So what do you have left...just veggies and meat, right?” I asked. There was a heavy pause.
JD seemed to be observing a moment of silence in honor of all the carbs and cheese that they’d left behind. In honor of all the beer he’d left behind. But quickly, he switched gears and told me how good it’s been for them. That seems to be a theme with JD though, he will tell you ‘like it is’ but there’s always a moral to the story, or at least a punchline (he wanted to be a comedian growing up). With JD, it seems there’s always a bright side.
PART OF A LEGACY
JD has been with MartinRiley since 2008, starting off as an intern drafting for the mechanical department. He had plans to transition to Texas after his schooling to work alongside his father as a home builder. But when the housing market crashed in ‘08 his dad encouraged him to stick with a stable job for the time. Fast forward 11 years and now JD is a seasoned building envelope specialist, a Registered Roof Observer, and will soon be sitting for his test to become a Registered Roof Consultant*. JD is one of many that are carrying on this niche specialty - and legacy - that MartinRiley founder, John Riley was particularly dedicated to.
When asked what the most inspiring parts of his job were one response from JD was that he felt he had the opportunity to work his way up at this company.
“You can start at the bottom, and the sky's the limit,” he says.
JD saw one example of that opportunity through Mike Hamilton, who after 17 years became Vice President at the firm and is now carrying on John's role and vision at MartinRiley. And JD is able to see his own career full of potential for a similar trajectory.
*Credentials for Registered Roof Observer and Registered Roof Consultant are gained through IIBEC (International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants)
HOMEBREWING OR MOONSHINING?
After a pause in conversation JD looked back at his notes. “Beer.” He clearly wanted to get back to this important topic. But it’s not just the drinking of the beer that has JD besotted. In the past few years JD and others in the office have applied themselves to the craft of hombrewing. JD comments that making beer is a great time to get together with friends. The initial process takes about 5-6 hours and they split what they’ve made that day. “If there’s three of us, we’re going to try to make fifteen gallons, so each can take home five.” Fermentation takes about 2-3 weeks and then you can bottle it or transfer it to a keg. Nearly all the people he brews with are kegging their beer now; “...carbonate it, get a tap at home for your garage fridge and pour your beer there,” he says. The tone of his voice implies that this. Is. The. Life. They experiment with flavors: IPA (India Pale Ale) - a hoppier beer, or maybe a stout or porter in the fall or winter. And for friends that aren’t fans of darker beers they might brew a lighter wheat beer similar to a Gumballhead or BlueMoon.
“Did I hear that you guys were selling some of your brews locally?” I ask.
“Oh no, no, no.” JD is quick to correct me. “That’s actually illegal.”
“Would that be considered moon-shining?”
“Well, something like that,” he responds. Let the record reflect that JD does not distribute alcohol illegally.
The real story: JD and others in the Building Envelope department (Mike Hamilton and Ed Bradley) have sampled their home brews at various festivals. Festivals like Brewhaven Festival in New Haven and DeKegger Beer and BBQ Fest in Decatur, where they won 1st place in the 2017 home brew competition!
NEWEST PASSION: VINTAGE AUDIO
JD is a lover of all the music. He listed country music names to contemporary hip hop, classic and heavy rock, and death metal. “Oh and I like to turn on the blues and jazz station as well.” Listening to his favorite artists through the vintage audio setup he’s been working on is "like hearing them for the first time all over again.” The sound is so different, "so warm," he says. "I know everyone says that, but I didn't understand it until I heard it." JD has been doing his homework and searching facebook marketplace and craigslist for the right equipment at the right price. He recently found a Marantz 2238B amplifier and fixed it up.
“[I] Cleaned the pots and switches and all of a sudden this thing fires up and breathes life and it sounds fantastic.”
Next he is on the hunt for the right speakers (has his eye on Klipsch KG2 or KG4s). JD is happy to report that so far his wife, Alicia, has been on board with this venture.
JD and Alicia have been married for 5 years now. JD has only all things good and supportive to say about Alicia. He mentions that she recently “scraped and pillaged” over $100 on a shopping rebate app to put toward a Nintendo Switch for him. Since he can’t compete with the middle and high-schoolers on Fortnite, he is enjoying this recent gaming endeavor, “sitting on the couch at night, geeking out” while watching Netflix with his wife.
JD and Alicia moved into their first house in the fall of 2017.
“We are home bodies.” JD says. “If we can be home, fantastic. When we first moved into our house we were sitting on the couch and said, ‘remember when we were in that apartment, and we were thinking if we had that house we could do that thing right here [sitting on the couch], and now we’re doing it, isn’t that awesome?' Yeah that’s awesome.”
FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MARRIAGE, THEN COMES THE GOLDENDOODLE.
JD and Alicia are also proud parents to Buster, a 1.5 year old, 85 lb. goldendoodle.
“My in-laws house, that’s his second home. We say ‘want to go to grandma's house?’ And his ears perk up. He’s our first child - he’s our trial son. So we are mom and dad to him.”
Buster is well trained...now. JD first describes the agony of puppy hood, before house breaking and pre-dog lessons (Flying Colors comes highly recommended). But after hilarious and horrifying house training stories (all you dog owners know what's up) we switch to the bright side: Buster is a an amazing dog-son! These days he is mostly off leash, greets school children every morning and likes to regularly check in on the other neighborhood dogs Buddy, and his “lady friend Maggie.”
SUPERPOWER OF CHOICE
“...I like Spider-man…” JD responds, “...but Superman can fly. I’d probably fly. But then you have people that are like Deadpool, like complete weirdos and I’m like tha...a...at’s me...e. But really, just the ability to fly.”
Since his early 20’s JD has rocked facial hair. But THE beard arrived on the scene a few years back. Its' evolution began when he broke his ankle. Since JD we was mainly desk bound, not much client interaction, he decided to let it grow. The results were impressive, and receiving no negative feedback he decided to learn to maintain it. It’s become part of his persona now, and while his wife isn’t a fan of the mustache he's been working on she loves the beard. Maintenance includes daily beard wash and beard oil, and professional grooming:
“I have a guy. Tyler from The Executive Barbershop downtown. Does a fantastic job.”
BEST PIECES OF ADVICE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN OR WOULD GIVE TO OTHERS:
"Own your mistakes," JD says. “You can be really good at something but the growth does not occur until you...[screw up]. When you make mistakes own them and do everything you can not to do that again.”
And, “credit those that deserve it...it's important that you make sure the folks that you work with know, that you know, that what they’ve done is important...shine the light on the person that drafted it for you. Because you’ve done it yourself, and that's...not easy."
SOME FAVORITE PROJECTS
Wade Utility Plant at Purdue University: “It’s a big, ugly building. But intense. Three phases, three years.” He then mentions the Fort Wayne International Airport, also a multi-year, multi-phase project.
“Why do you like these phased projects?” I wondered.
“There’s something to be said about client relationships lasting...and when you have to go from one side [of the building] to the other and it takes multiple years, that’s a long play and you don’t what to screw that up. And when you understand…[your client is]...happy from one year to the next, that’s a great feeling.
Another favorite was the Horticulture Building at Purdue University (a Spanish Clay Tile replacement project). “When we get the opportunity to work with high end product there’s an extra bit of awesome. It’s fun because the design and implementation are unique.”
EUREKA MOMENT: YOU FIGURE OUT IN TEN MINUTES WHAT THEIR ISSUE IS
Additional job inspiration for JD: solving problems for clients. At this point in his career he’s seen enough that he can simply say, with confidence, “we will figure it out….” And they do. Whether it’s back at the office or during a 3 am epiphany.
“And then there’s those eureka moments where you go to a site and [the owner] is like, ‘I’ve called this many people and they can’t figure it out.’ Have they sprayed a hose right here? [I ask] Well let’s try that. And it ten minutes you figure out what their issue is.”
And you better believe spray testing in winter temps isn’t exactly fun JD points out...
“But then you get in your warm car, turn on your music and you are golden.” Bright side. “And six months later you call them back to make sure everything is going well, and it is. That’s a good feeling.” Bright side.