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Armando & John
Armando Diaz: When I was in college at Florida International University, I was dating this girl. Her dad wanted to talk to me about my career, and he said I should get my contractor’s license. He told me, “You’re born to do this. Did you know that Armando translated into English means ‘to put together’? I see building in you.” That conversation has stayed with me forever. I decided to get my bachelor’s degree and eventually my master’s degree at FIU, working during the day and going to school at night, and it was the best decision I ever made. It also made me want an opportunity to prove myself, to run my own job.
I couldn’t have gotten there without John. He always looked out for me. He knew that I would always put in the work, the time, the effort, the passion, but he opened the door for me and showed that it was there if I wanted to walk through it.
John Planz: I’ve been doing this work for a long time, so I know how important it is to connect the right people to each other. I saw that Armando had a real drive in him and wanted to prove himself to everybody. I just wanted to make sure he had a chance to shine, so I kept connecting the dots and telling him I would take care of him.
ARMANDO: John got me an interview with Suffolk so I could get experience on bigger jobs, and I made it to the MET 3 project. He kept telling me, don’t worry, you’ll get your opportunity. I know that’s why you’re here. The general superintendent told me I’d be running the job once we got to the first elevated deck. About five months in, he walked into the trailer and said, “You’re running the job from here on.” Then he walked out. That was a sudden rush I’d never forget. And I knew John had something to do with it.
JOHN: We had a really strong team on that project. In a way, it was more like a family with huge chips on their shoulders that we were going to build this incredibly difficult project together. And Armando and I got to the point where we were like brothers — although I may be the really older brother. We haven’t always agreed, but we’re always committed that these disagreements aren’t going to divide us in front of our team.
ARMANDO: I remember when I brought my then-girlfriend to the project on a Sunday. I walked the job with her, showed her everything, came into the office and there’s John. John was consistently there every Sunday for as long as I can remember. He met her and they hit it off immediately. It was a New York connection, since they’re both from there, and they talked for over 30 minutes. I walk into work the next day, and John didn't even say his normal “good morning” or anything like that. He just looked at me straight in my face. And he said, “You better not mess that up.” That’s it. Well, he didn’t exactly use the word “mess.” But that's all he said. And then he went about his business and I was just frozen. Like, what?
He ended up speaking at our wedding a couple years later.
JOHN: They were part of the three-person crew for me when I ran the Keys 100, which is a 100-mile ultramarathon from Key Largo to Key West. Everybody thinks it's hard on me, but I’m the one running. Those guys have to be in a van for 21 hours going three miles an hour for the whole race, then turn around and drive the 100 miles back to the hotel when it’s over. So, the commitment to do that for me is brutal.
Running 100 miles is about struggling through and getting to the finish. For Armando, though, it’s not acceptable to just finish. He knew I wanted to be in the top three for my age group, so he knew who everyone was and was tracking their miles and my times while he ran 15 miles alongside me. That race was the furthest I’ve ever run without having to walk — I got to about 85 miles. But I knew I was slowing down and wasn’t going to hit my goal, and I could literally tell by Armando’s face. He wanted to tell me to pick up the pace, but he didn’t have the heart. And I knew he could see in my face that I was thinking, don’t even say it, man. Because this is the best I’ve got right now.
JOHN: But that was an amazing journey, thanks to Armando.
ARMANDO: It’s really about the level of respect I have for him. That’s what we are. We’re brothers.
John Planz joined Suffolk in 1996 as one of the company’s first Florida employees. Over his racing career, he has completed 170 marathons, 19 Ironman triathlons, eight 100-mile races and 10 50-mile races. He and Armando Diaz have worked together since Armando came to Suffolk in 2013 as a structural superintendent. Armando, who was born and raised in Miami, has paid the mentorship forward: he regularly connects with Florida International University graduates interested in construction.
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