Johnny Fitch never imagined he’d be where he is today. Specifically, that’s Midland, Texas, where it’s not uncommon for a customer to call with an urgent project that needs to be completed in eight days. But in a more general sense, where he is today is working as a construction manager for Danos, a position he’s held for the last 11 years. After decades of rising through the offshore ranks, Johnny finds himself navigating the vast terrain and hectic pace of the oil and gas industry of west Texas and beyond.
Growing up in Lockport, Louisiana, a small town about an hour south of New Orleans, he would hang out at the shop where his father worked. At just 11 years old, Johnny’s father taught him to weld and showed him how to drive a bulldozer. Just a few short years later, Johnny took a job as a welder at a local shipyard. When the oilfield took a downturn in the 1980s, Johnny was laid off, and that’s when he joined Danos, working as an offshore welder.
With Danos, Johnny found an opportunity for long-term career success. For 23 years, he steadily worked his way up the ladder: from welder to foreman and eventually, to superintendent. In 2008, recognizing Johnny’s unique skill set and experience, Danos promoted him in a somewhat diagonal direction to the superintendent/construction manager. Suddenly, after a life spent offshore, Johnny Fitch found himself working from the company’s corporate headquarters where he had new responsibilities developing cost estimates for onshore and offshore projects.
Though he had plenty of support adjusting to the new role, for someone accustomed to working with his hands and being in the field, it was a big change. His long gray beard stood out in the office environment, and he had to learn computer skills on the fly. But just as he has so many times before, he rose to the challenge, becoming one of Danos’ most valuable employees, frequently requested by customers to work on their projects. He even won the company’s prestigious Employee of the Year Award in 2008.
Hank Danos, owner and chairman of the board, says that no matter how complex the challenge, Johnny has a “never-give-up” attitude. “His technical knowledge, calm demeanor and self-assurance allow him to build trust and confidence with customers and team members alike,” Danos says.
Michael Guidry, general manager of production services, agrees that Johnny is a tremendous asset to the entire Danos team. “Every work group would benefit greatly by having someone who can get things done the right way like Johnny does. He’s “Mr. Reliability,” Guidry says.
No matter what his job title, Johnny has been a consistent and dedicated worker. These days he plans and helps execute everything from small projects to complex, multi-million-dollar projects across a wide range of environments. Along with his decades of experience in the field, he’s added new skills and responsibilities, always rising to each new challenge.
“My father spent his whole life working for one company,” Johnny says. “He’d get offers to leave over the years, but he chose to stay where he was because he was treated well. Danos has always treated me well, kept me working even when business was slow, and as a family, they really care about their employees. That means a lot to me.”
Johnny has gotten to know the Danos family. Unlike some other companies where employees rarely interact with top executives, Danos has always felt more like a family, he says. Johnny recalls a time many years ago when he returned home late one night from a customer’s offshore platform. He got a phone call that evening from Hank Danos. He was calling to let Johnny know the customer said everything had gone well and to thank him for his work. Johnny has also gotten to know Hank’s sons, Mark, Eric and Paul, over the years, and he has been touched by the sincere affection and interest they’ve each taken in him and his family.
“It’s not like at some places, where they treat you like just a number,” Johnny says. “At Danos, it’s ‘how’s your wife, how are your girls, how are the grandkids?’ They care about us like family.”
Most construction/project managers follow a similar path to the job: a college degree and then a few years working on projects before they’re ready to take on leadership roles. They have an impressive skill set, especially using computers and software, but the one thing they are missing is the one thing Johnny has an abundance of – decades of hands-on experience in the field. Though he sometimes has to ask for help with the digital side of his work, he is also a key resource for his younger coworkers.
“Books will only take you so far,” Johnny explains. “Drawings aren’t always clear, workers have differing abilities and limitations, and weather can always ruin an otherwise solid plan.”
Johnny’s experience has given him an advantage when it comes to planning because he’s able to anticipate and resolve problems before they occur. For example, by knowing which employees are prone to seasickness, you can avoid assigning them to a job that requires sleeping on or working from a boat. His real-world understanding makes him well-equipped to accurately bid and estimate jobs and see them through to completion.
Throughout his career, Johnny has seen some major changes in the industry. One of the biggest is the increase in safety awareness, especially in the offshore environment. Although Johnny has never been hurt on the job, he knows people who have and appreciates that safety is not just a priority at Danos, it’s one of the company’s guiding values. “I know if I ever were to go to management with a safety concern, no matter what the situation, I know they’d back me,” he says. He’s proud that Danos never cuts corners and seeks out clients who share the same commitment to operating safely.
“I think the more complex things get in our industry, the more important it becomes to get the basics right,” he says. “Being open, honest and fair – doing things the right way for the right reasons – that’s what makes you successful. I’m proud to work for a company that shares those values.”