Our company mantra has always been to hire motivated people and give them freedom to pursue their passions.
When Wayne Kittelson founded Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (Kittelson) in 1985, he knew he wanted to create an environment in which passionate transportation professionals could collaborate on meaningful projects and serve the people around them with better, safer transportation. For Wayne, expansion was a means to support the growth and passions of staff. He didn’t imagine that more than 35 years later, Kittelson would have 26 offices stretching from Anchorage, AK. to Miami, FL.
At Kittelson, we love that we get to address transportation challenges all across the country – so long as we maintain connection and remain “one firm, many locations.”
Staying connected across offices is an ongoing commitment of each person at Kittelson; it has to be if it’s something we’re going to claim as a firm. If you’re a transportation professional evaluating Kittelson as a potential workplace, we want to show you how this concept comes to life in our firm beyond the words on our website.
Kittelson’s Work Culture and Values
Kittelson’s company culture is based upon two main values: trust and serving others first. These principles empower us to collaborate across each location in meaningful ways that let our team members make an impact within our organization and our communities. We also believe encouraging our team members to pursue their transportation interests across different locations moves our industry forward.
Mark Vandehey, former Kittelson President and CEO: “Our two main values create a strong culture that binds our organization together. We use trust as a foundation, which largely eliminates the need for rules that other organizations typically require.”
Wayne Kittelson, Senior Principal and Founder: “Serving others first is the mindset we try to use when we make personal and professional decisions. Other companies or societies may put a conflicting core value ahead of this one like individual success, achievement, power, etc. In our view, there isn’t a benefit to our clients or individual staff members to work in an environment where people operate in isolation.
“We maintain a vision of one office in many locations. This is an inevitable operating style for us as a transportation firm, or any business that believes in and practices serving others first.
“Because of our company culture, both individual team members and clients benefit from the wisdom, experience, and capabilities they gain from a range of transportation professionals. Outward focus can sometimes lead us to collaborate with people and firms we compete against. We believe we can always learn from others, and work to recognize when and where we can meaningfully contribute to better communities and make our profession stronger.”
Mark Vandehey: “Our values have remained consistent over the years, but the vision has evolved. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t have imagined all the changes in technology and transportation. To keep pace, we’ve had to continually advance our skills to meet the needs of our clients and the communities we serve. Thankfully, lifelong learning is part of our company DNA, so we evolve and adapt quite naturally as needed. ”
Nathalie Rodriguez Sosa (Fort Lauderdale), Merline Desamour (Fort Lauderdale), and Susan Mah (Orlando) touch base on a project.
Why Staying Connected Makes Us Stronger
We believe maintaining connection across 25 offices has clear benefits for our team.
1. It gives our staff a sense of place at Kittelson. Strong personal relationships are paramount to an individual’s connectedness in a company. When those relationships exist across many offices, that staff member knows that she/he is truly part of the team.
2. It ensures our project managers are well supported. Our offices range in size, and a firmwide connection means our PMs can draw resources from many offices to form a project team in which everyone has the needed capacity, experience, and interest.
3. It fosters trust in one another. The better connected we are, the more we learn to rely on one another and work as one firm to serve every client.
4. It provides our people a more complete picture of the transportation world. Particularly for someone early on in their career, when a staff member can connect with Anchorage, Oakland, Miami, and Boston all in a day’s work, that person is going to develop a broader and more accurate understanding of the landscape in which our projects take place.
This connection not only creates a better working environment for our staff, but it benefits our clients in significant ways, too. But rather than just talking about it, we asked staff from each of our regions to explain how it plays out in day-to-day operations. Here’s what our people say.
Amy Lopez, Senior Planner, Oakland: “Knowledge of local issues typically resides with the people in a regional office. But technical expertise? That can reside anywhere within the firm and can be channeled to any local agency.”
Mark Vandehey: “One of my favorite quotes comes from business author Peter Drucker: ‘Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ A strong culture leads to stronger engagement from staff and a commitment to the organization’s success. It also helps promote a sense of ownership from all staff.”
Jennifer Musselman, Engineering Associate, Tampa: “I don’t think I’ve worked on a project that only involved staff in Tampa. We’re always pulling in folks to support us on local projects — either because we need a certain skill set or want to balance staff availability. Likewise, I’m always working on projects in other offices and regions and enjoy getting that mix of experiences when collaborating with other locations.”
Wende Wilber, Principal Planner, Anchorage: “Collaboration between offices is an integral part of the Kittelson culture; it is encouraged and celebrated. Project teams are established by selecting the best people to serve the client and project regardless of location. This fosters a firm-wide team that is invested in each other and the success of the Kittelson family, not 25 individual offices competing against each other.”
Mark Vandehey: “We view every member of our firm, regardless of location or a role, as a resource to the entire company and maintain a very flat organizational structure without divisions or departments that create silos. Project teams form based on what skills are needed as opposed to their location. This creates the best opportunity to deliver the greatest value to our clients and to develop our staff.
“The ability to connect in-person with local communities is one of the many reasons Kittelson has offices throughout the US. That said, a company spread across more than two dozen offices can make impromptu collaboration a challenge, so Kittelson continually looks for ways to connect team members, build interpersonal relationships, and share information intuitively.”
Margaret Kent (Boston) works on a project with Jorge Barrios (Orlando).
United Through Strong Communication
Organizational design, constant visits and exchanges between offices, and digital communication tools – such as encouraging video calls rather than just audio – help Kittelson maintain a cohesive corporate culture across its many local offices. It also creates a deep pool of knowledge that allows staff to support one another, both in terms of technical expertise and personal development. ‘One office with many locations,’ means clients who partner with Kittelson draw on the expertise and knowledge of more than 200 transportation professionals.
Mark Vandehey: “We view investments in time, travel expenses, and technology as important components of maintaining our culture as the firm continues to grow.”
Jennifer Musselman: “Our monthly all staff meetings are a great way to keep up with firm-wide initiatives, get to know new team members, and learn about projects we might not have otherwise heard about. Another great way we stay connected is through our interest groups/email lists. If I have a question about the state of micro-transit, I write a quick email to the ‘transit’ email address, and I get half a dozen answers from across the country in a matter of hours.
“We’re highly encouraged to establish connections with teams in other locations. Sometimes office visits happen in conjunction with a project. It can also be very beneficial to get the whole team together in person at least once for key meetings or field reviews. Other times you may go on a trip just for the sake of building new relationships that can lead to future project partnerships.”
Bailey Lozner, Northeast Region Operations Leader: “Some offices have virtual lunch meetings together just to get to know one another. Bend and Wilmington connected just last week over lunch.
“Regional operations leaders and administrators also play an essential role in keeping team members connected and helping all offices operate as one. Additionally, Kittelson’s internal communication efforts highlight employee accomplishments, share their stories, and promote our company values.”
Fabian De La Espriella, Senior Planner, Miami/Fort Lauderdale: “There are opportunities to engage with staff across offices through planned exchanges/encounters. These can happen in person or virtually via the various tools we have at hand to connect. We often have work sessions or meetings where we join a virtual room to hold discussions related to project work, or office matters such as hiring, business development, and office needs.”
Dorret Oosterhoff, Senior Office Administrator, Baltimore: “The firmwide admin team works together to see what is going on in other parts of the country and what we can learn from each other. Every Monday I post a newsletter for staff in the Northeast with updates on projects and people, and we always include fun informal pictures that roll into my inbox. We even host virtual baby showers!
“As the Northeast regional administrator, I collaborate with 43 staff in ten locations almost every day. To me, it honestly doesn’t matter where someone is located. I strive to be equally accessible to everyone at every office. I receive emails with pictures of broken printers, or a particular kind of chair that’s needed for someone’s office. I also screen share to show new staff how our databases work.”
Lauren Poling (Portland) meets remotely with Kittelson staff through Microsoft Teams.
What You’ll Find In Every Kittelson Office
Every Kittelson office has its own flavor, core clients, and lunchtime habits, but there are core elements you’ll find across all 25.
Fabian De La Espriella: “There’s always going to be people with the ability and disposition to meet with you to share about what they’re working on and discuss how there may be opportunities to collaborate. There’s also always going to be coffee and treats. And lastly, there’s always going to be a guest spot for you to plug in and work.”
Amy Lopez: “Great energy and warmth from the people. Friendly banter. Sharp, technically savvy people. Outwardly focused people. Someone willing to take you on a tour of the local sites and transportation network. Stories about peculiar design issues that, if they were just fixed everywhere, would make people’s lives so much better.”
Dorret Oosterhoff: “In each office you will find bright, engaged and self-reliant staff who don’t mind pitching in. It is a joy to work with all of them, and since I know so many people personally I can tailor my support. There is no one size fits all.”
Amy Lopez leads a brainstorming session in Kittelson Oakland.
Transportation Careers and Job Opportunities with Kittelson
Mark Vandehey: “Our culture and values play an important role in attracting the great people we have working at Kittelson. Maintaining our culture is also essential to retaining current staff, so they’re a big part of our hiring process. Staff at all levels interact with job candidates and share perspectives. It’s a great opportunity for our team members to reaffirm their commitment and remind them why they joined the firm.
Wayne Kittelson: “Kittelson can’t impose a culture or core values upon the people who work here. We can’t tell people what their core value must be, nor can we ‘make it so’ with a mission statement or similar company-wide edict. Kittelson is a reflection of the core values of its people. This is why I believe the hiring process is the most important activity Kittelson undertakes. The people we hire are the ones who take the actions, make decisions, and establish or sustain the core values Kittelson becomes known for.”
Get in Touch
If you’re a transportation professional interested in a career with Kittelson, start by reviewing our approach to hiring or connecting with us on social media. You can find us on Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. If you value lifelong learning, a trust-based workplace, and outward focus, we invite you to reach out to start a conversation with us.