LAN’s Female Employees Tell Their Stories for Women’s Day 2022

A Profile of Talent, Diversity, and Commitment

If young people don’t see themselves represented in a field of work, it becomes harder for them to imagine pursuing a career in it. The AEC industry is a male dominated field, so this is an issue it must confront. Women account for only 27% of architecture and engineering professionals. These numbers paint a powerful narrative that has no doubt, at least in part, been a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

This International Women’s Day, the LAN Women’s Network, and LAN staff, are celebrating those who are rewriting this narrative and showing the substantial and valuable impact women are having across our industry. LAN Associates employs women at a higher rate than the industry average, and we’re shining the spotlight on a few of their stories this international women’s day. Everyone highlighted was nominated through an internal LAN recognition process.

Why is Representation Important?

You Have to See It to Believe It

Gender roles are formed in early childhood and continue to influence behavior through adolescence and adulthood, including the choice of academic majors and careers.

Marion Bryden

Accounting Manager

I like being organized, paying attention to details, and following a structure. After one accounting course my freshman year at college, I knew it was the career for me.

- Marion Bryden, Accounting Manager

Every company needs someone to make sure their books are in order, and as LAN’s Accounting Manager, Marion Bryden does just that. Marion has been with LAN since 2010, making sure all aspects of LAN’s accounting are covered. She does more than just ensure invoices get out the door and track payables. Her team works with all departments across LAN’s multiple offices. As a manager in the accounting department, a lot of the behind the scenes work that keeps LAN running goes through Marion.

Marion attended William Paterson University and knew accounting was for her after taking just one course in the discipline during her first semester. After school she worked in the accounting department of a wholesale giftware company for 22 years.

When she came on board at LAN, she quickly transitioned into an AEC industry pro as she learned the ins and outs of the new job. The New Jersey native likes being organized, paying attention to details, and following a structure.

Clara De Freitas

Senior Designer Architecture

You never know where life will take you. Growing up in Brazil it never crossed my mind I would be designing schools, hotels, and commercial buildings right outside NYC.

- Clara De Freitas, Senior Designer and Architect

Clara De Freitas is a Senior Designer in LAN’s architecture department. Born and raised in Brazil, she considered a career in medicine before her twin sister’s passion for architecture rubbed off on her.  After obtaining her degree in architecture from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in Recife, Brazil, Clara moved to the United States where she took advantage of her educational background to work for some of the best architectural design firms in New Jersey and New York.  

Throughout the course of her 15-year career, Clara has produced a diverse portfolio of work including residential, hospitality, educational facilities, and commercial projects. Clara is a passionate designer with experience working on architectural design projects from the initial schematic design through the final project close-out.

In her current role as Senior Designer, Clara works alongside the design team to complete construction documents and assist with interior design aspects such as selecting finish palettes. Clara’s extensive project portfolio, combined with her hands-on design approach is the key to her success.

Clara enjoys going back to Brazil often, and even ended up working remotely from her home country for a couple of months when a trip at the start of the pandemic left her unable to travel back to the US. 

Kim Hauser

Office Manager
AE Department

LAN is my second family. I started here while in high school in 1979, and while the company has grown substantially, that family atmosphere has never been stronger.

- Kim Hauser, AE Department Office Manager

Kim has been working at LAN Associates since 1979. While still in high school, she took on the role of a file clerk and walked to LAN’s offices after classes dismissed.  LAN was her first job, and she has been at the company ever since. Today Kim reports directly to the company president and senior vice president as the Office Manager for the architecture and engineering department.

Kim credits LAN’s founder John Lacz as a huge influence on her life and career. Kim says his advice helped lay the foundation for her understanding of the business, and the corporate culture he created provided her with all the support she needed to maintain a healthy work life balance while raising children and pursuing her career simultaneously.

Kim has the second longest tenure of anyone currently working at LAN, and she has watched LAN grow from 8 people when she started, to over 100 today. Her work is invaluable to LAN’s operations and her management keeps everyone on task as she works to ensure quality design deliverables get out the door in a timely fashion. 

Kim has a creative side and was interested in art and architecture from a young age. Her hobbies included supporting her children in their schools and sports (especially baseball) when they were younger, crocheting baby hats and booties and during the pandemic sewed fabric masks for friends, family & donations.  She also brought an after-hours yoga class to the office and hopes to bring it back in the near future!

Jennifer Mannino

Assistant Vice President Marketing

I’ve always had an eye for design and creativity. Using those skills to help people/businesses is what got me into marketing.

- Jennifer Mannino, Assistant Vice President of Marketing

Jen is an Assistant Vice President and head of the Marketing Department. Starting as the sole marketing coordinator in 2014, she built LAN’s marketing operations from the ground up. Along the way she overhauled the proposal process, company branding, and introduced a CRM system that brought a new level of data driven decision making to the firm. In addition to her contributions to LAN’s marketing efforts, Jen has had a strong impact on LAN’s corporate culture and internal team building. She has formalized internal employee resource groups, created the firm’s annual mentor program, hosted monthly company lunch and learns, as well as acted as the point person on company-wide town halls. She is also a chair of the firm’s LAN’s Women’s Network.

Jen attended Marist College where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media. She is a lifelong learner who is heavily involved in the AEC industry. She is active in several organizations and sits on the committee of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) NJ Affiliate and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey Next Gen. committee. 

Jessica Sancho

Senior Administrative Assistant

I have been working at LAN since I was 16 years old, and the company and its leadership have always been there for me.

- Jessica Sancho, Senior Administrative Assistant

In 1996, while still a student at Hawthorne High School, Jess took a job with LAN helping with filing and other office tasks, and she has been with the company ever since.  27 years later, Jess is a Senior Administrative Assistant and a vital part of a department that keeps LAN running smoothly.

In her early days at the company Jess worked directly with the company founder John Lacz and office manager Joann Van Splinter. She credits them both with teaching her everything she knows and considers them mentors. Today, Jess is heavily involved in the proposal process working with LAN team members from across different departments to ensure LAN puts its best foot forward when submitting to take on a new project. Whenever a report or proposal is due with a tight deadline, Jess always ensures that the demands are met.

Jess says LAN has always been there for her through the good times and when things got tough; she credits a dedication to employees with keeping her at LAN for so many years. As a mother of six, she understands more than most the importance of working for a company that respects a parent’s need to balance both work and home life.  Since LAN has always afforded this ability, during the pandemic in 2020 she felt the need to give back. She was in the office routinely handling the administrative needs of the entire staff, while the majority of the LAN team was working from home.  

Lara Spinelli

Senior Designer, PE Engineering

Efficient coordination between all disciplines working on a project is key, being able to walk down the hall to ensure that happens makes all the difference.

- Lara Spinelli, Senior Designer and Professional Engineer

The story of Lara’s pursuit of a career in engineering started with a love of combat robotics and her acceptance to Bergen County Academies’ Academy for Engineering and Design Technology (AEDT) in Hackensack, NJ. It was at this school she decided to dedicate her life to engineering and joined up with the “Titanium Knights,” a group of young students who entered regional and national competitions for the design, build, and battles of robots.

After high school, Lara attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology where she completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. Upon graduation, she worked for Valcor Engineering where she was on a team responsible for precision aerospace and nuclear equipment.

Today Lara Spinelli is a Senior Designer at LAN and with over eight years of experience providing design services in the engineering industry. Lara works as part of LAN’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) department to provide mechanical engineering designs for a variety of educational, municipal, commercial, and healthcare clients.

Lara enjoys the coordination between different disciplines working on a project and finds plenty of opportunities to work with a variety of experts from all fields at LAN Associates. Involved in all stages of a project’s development, Lara is responsible for conceptual design, project specification, equipment layout and distribution, HVAC system retrofits, and field reports. During the construction phase, Lara maintains an open line of communication with the contractor, promptly providing input on a design change or unanticipated finding in the physical space.

Lara is heavily involved in Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honors society, founded in 1885. She is the organization’s district director for NJ and heads all six NJ chapters.

Hannah Talos

Water Resource Engineer

I wanted to be in the room where decisions are made about how development projects will impact the environment.

- Hannah Talos, Water Resource Engineer

Hannah Talos’ love of nature and science led her to a career where she could use her passion to protect the environment. From a young age, she knew she wanted to be in the room where decisions are made about how to keep the natural environment safe while pursuing property development. This, combined with the influence of her father, who is also an engineer, was the driving force behind her enrollment in SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF). There she studied a specialty program in environmental resource engineering.

At LAN, Hannah works to ensure projects don’t have a negative impact on water resources like groundwater, wetlands, and streams. Her work is also vital to determining flood zones and the impact of rainwater.

Hannah got her start at LAN during her junior year of college when she was hired as an intern.  During her senior year, she was offered a full-time position at LAN and has been with the company ever since. She is currently working on a constructed wetland project that involves restoring wetlands and creating structures for stormwater management at the site of an apartment complex.

Growing up, anytime Hannah doubted her ability to become an engineer she reminded herself that she won an invention contest for her invention “glove pockets” – which she said were “literally just antibacterial pockets sewed onto gloves to hold tissues and Chapstick in the winter.” As with many of the best engineering designs this was a simple, yet elegant and effective solution to a common need.

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