Project Engineer Jason Bruhn was walking by a co-worker’s desk at SCJ Alliance’s Lacey office when he noticed the person performing an online task the hard way. He stopped and shared that with one simple click of a button, his colleague could save himself half an hour and a lot of additional clicks to get where he wanted to go. “That kind of stuff makes my day,” says Bruhn. “I really enjoy helping people.”
His teammates have noticed. Bruhn is this year’s winner of the SCJ Cares Award, an annual recognition of staff members who embody teamwork, collaboration, client service, SCJ’s core values and community service. The winner receives $2,000 and a week of paid vacation. President and CEO Jean Carr says the award is one that she’s most proud of. “It demonstrates our commitment to building a great culture inside the company and also to being an organization that supports local communities in a whole host of ways,” she explains. “It’s less about writing a check and more about showing up and doing something to make a difference.
Nominators described Bruhn’s ongoing support and mentorship of new and young staff members, the regular bike rides he organizes for colleagues, and their families and his leadership of the Olympia chapter of Math Counts, a national program for middle school students. Bruhn splits his time between the company’s Lacey and Centralia offices.
“Jason puts a big effort into making sure that new staff, whether young people or those who have just joined the company, don’t get swallowed up,” says Project Engineer Dan Phillips. “He spends a lot of time trying to help them be successful, even though he has his own work to do. When anyone comes to him with a question, he stops what he’s doing and helps.”
To Bruhn, such behavior comes naturally. “I know how hard it is when you start at a new place or get thrown into a big job,” he says. “It can be very confusing if you don’t have people supporting you.” His method is not to necessarily give people answers but to expand their understanding so they can arrive at the answers themselves.
That approach builds confidence, according to Carr. “Our younger staff know that they have someone they can go to and ask questions,” she says. “They build their skill sets and become more proficient at the kinds of tasks they’re assigned, so they feel more successful and happier at work.”
Outside the office, Jason has organized multiple bike rides, varying the needed skill level so more people can participate. Bruhn started riding in 2018 to get in shape and he’d tried arranging a family bike ride for years, but it never worked out. After learning that several colleagues shared his interest, he started a forum on SCJ’s intranet to invite others to join him.
An excursion along the Chehalis Western Trail drew out multiple staff members from different departments and their families. “We had kids with training wheels, people in their 60s and everything in between,” says Carr. “People wind up biking along and having conversations with folks that they may not work with on a regular basis, which builds that culture of connectedness.”
Bruhn is already planning more rides for 2022. “It’s great to see everyone out there enjoying what they do,” he says. “It’s a good way to get exercise with co-workers outside of the office environment.”
One of his other passions is Math Counts, a nationwide program that provides engaging math programs to US middle school students of all ability levels to build confidence and improve attitudes about math and problem-solving. Bruhn first got involved in 2000 when the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) ran the Olympia Chapter and eventually he took over organizing the annual competition. When NSPE closed the Olympia branch, he continued to organize the contest, buying trophies and refreshments, organizing volunteers and coordinating transportation.
He’s been doing it long enough that many previous participants have grown up. Bruhn recalls a man who stopped him in a clothing store and said, “You’re the Math Counts guy,” and then went on to share that his children were now attending MIT. “This father relayed to me how important it was for them to have been a part of the program,” he says.
The SCJ Cares Award was a complete surprise. Bruhn knows many of the past recipients and appreciates being in their company. “I’ve seen a lot of great people get this award in the past and I know how much they do for the community and in the office,” he says. “This is an amazing place to work, and I appreciate how much they support me. It’s been great to receive this award and I really understand what it means.”
Learn more by visiting the SCJ Alliance website.