“It’s only been the last five years that I’ve had fully a desk job,” said Jon Hie, Foss’ director of shipyard operations.
The California native has worked for a number of marine companies: Sea Coast Towing when the company was owned by Saltchuk Resources, then K-Sea Transportation which was acquired by Kirby Offshore Marine, and finally, to Foss.
“At the time, we were living in Hawaii,” he said of his family, “but we had a daughter who lives here (in Washington) and Sarah wanted to come back here. So when there was an opportunity to come back to Saltchuk, it felt like coming home.”
Jon’s oldest daughter, Emily, was an intern at Foss’ Fairview office. Sarah, his youngest, has joined him at the shipyard as an administrative assistant.
“This is actually my first job,” she said. “I’m very fortunate here, getting to work part-time and choose my work hours depending on my class schedule. I work full-time during the summer.”
While Sarah said she enjoys working in the shipyard, it’s actually her mother’s career she sees herself emulating: family therapist.
“I want to work with children,” she said.
Right now, she said, she’s settling for childish pranks.
“We definitely pranked each other at first. He went on vacation, and I changed out all the photos in his office with ones of animal faces. Then I went on vacation after he got back and came back and found all the same pictures stowed in my desk.”
“It’s great,” Jon said of working with his daughter. “Having a commonality is really fun. My whole career has been separate from what the family really does. My older daughter’s a teacher…it’s a family of psychologists. But now the girls understand what we do here. Sarah interacts with the crews on a daily basis. She gets to really understand how this whole thing works. How the industry works. She sees the customers. As a parent, it’s really fun to watch her mature in her career and as an adult.”
Sarah said the stereotype of the hard, unfriendly shipyard worker isn’t exactly true.
“I feel like I have a hundred dads sometimes,” she said of the men she works with.
“On top of that, the Foss Shipyard is kind of unique in a lot of ways,” Jon echoed. “I’ve been at yards on almost every continent and, as you know, we have multiple generations here. It used to be kind of common in trades, but it’s sort of gone away.”
Jon said he comes from a family of tradesmen.
“I started off doing that kind of work. I had the chance to move over, but I get to stay connected to something that produces something tangible. That’s important to me. It’s nice to have that background, and now I get to work on the other side, the contractual, finance, administrative side.”
Jon said he sometimes misses life on the docks.
“People can take what the shipyard guys here do for granted, including the shipyard guys themselves. There’s a lot of talent that goes with the big personalities we have here. Just look at our society. So much is mass-produced now. The guys sometimes don’t realize how much skill they possess.”