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Employee Spotlight Sarah Dimaano, Area Mixtures Control Supervisor for Kane and DuPage Counties

Sarah Dimaano has been with the department for 15 years and currently serves in District 1’s Bureau of Materials. Here are some of her thoughts about her job and life outside of IDOT.

Tell me a little bit about what your current job entails?

With the help of my inspectors, we currently oversee 22 concrete and asphalt plants in our area (Kane and DuPage counties), ensuring all the production, testing and reporting of that material are in compliance with any specifications or contract special provisions. We also work directly with resident engineers, consultants, contractors and local agencies regarding mix design verification, testing and inspection.

What’s the most important impact of your work?

Helping to make sure a good quality product is going out for the traveling public’s use.

What’s your favorite part of the job and why?

Besides it being really cool that I can drive over a bridge or a road and point out to my kids that I was a part of that, and they’re able to actually see some of the work I’m involved with, I think my favorite part is the people. I’ve made some good friends and connections throughout my years at IDOT. As you move up, those connections become even more important as your job duties expand. I always joke that I definitely don’t know all the answers, but I’m great at using my resources … reaching out to people I’ve met throughout my time here, who I can count on to help point me in the right direction.

What does your department do?

I think it’s always cool to put a number on things, so I reached out to some of my “resources” and was able to get a few numbers to show a typical year for our district in the Bureau of Materials: 900,000 tons of hot mix asphalt paved; 240,000 cubic yards of concrete placed; nearly 9.5 million tons of aggregate inspected; more than 1,400 asphalt samples processed in our lab, with the majority completed in less than 48 hours; and more than 700,000 cubic yards of top soil approved.

What prepared you for your current role?

I hold a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in civil engineering. I also went through the PACE program here at IDOT, which besides being a ton of fun networking with peers, taught me valuable information.

The most valuable to me was probably learning ways to deal with different people and different personalities. I think it’s easy for people to assume everyone thinks and processes things in the same way. Sometimes it’s helpful just remembering, “Not everyone thinks like you, let’s not expect every person to come to the same answer in the same way.” Since I have only been doing the supervisor thing for a few years, I think the main thing that helped prepare me for the role is the fact that I was an inspector myself for over eight years. I like to think I have a good grasp on what that job deals with on a day-to-day basis and the issues faced. I like to look back on my previous supervisors, the good qualities, the not-so-good qualities, and try to be the supervisor I would’ve wanted to have.

Anything else you’d like people to know?

I like to tell people that I was never meant to be an engineer. I’ve really never been that great at math or thought of myself as a great problem solver. Before graduating high school, I auditioned and was accepted as a music major, then got offered a two-year softball scholarship at a nearby community college and accepted that instead.

After my two years and getting my gen eds out of the way, I was set to attend (Southern Illinois University) Carbondale as a geology major. Two weeks before school started, I switched majors to athletic training and physical education. After three semesters of that, on a whim, I switched to civil engineering … three and a half years into my college career. I felt like it was time to “put on my big girl pants” and finally challenge myself, stepping away from the known and easy way. I am still not great when it comes to change and the unknown (or math), but looking back, I sure am glad I took that challenge.