We are passionate about the work we do. At the same time, we know people in the middle of their careers are in the thick of it. Navigating the middle of one’s career means knowing priorities, handling trade-offs, taking on new responsibilities and challenges, and figuring out what endeavors matter most and why.

Kittelson hosted a mid-level staff retreat earlier this fall to talk and think together about this reality. We opened the retreat to all staff who wanted to enhance their project management capabilities, strengthen their connections within the firm, and discover additional supportive resources and relationships. It was a retreat planned for mid-level staff, by mid-level staff.

63 people (representing nearly all our offices) embraced this opportunity. Some of these people have been project managers for years. They came to the retreat to build and strengthen interoffice connections to uphold Kittelson’s guiding principle of “one office, many locations.” Others joined because they are moving into new roles managing larger projects. They sought advice for balancing concurrent priorities, planning for project success, and confidently carving their paths in the profession.

The group participated in two days of workshops, discussion groups, competitive lawn games, beautiful sunsets, and lots of team building time at beautiful Skamania Lodge near Portland, Oregon.

COO Brandon Nevers Speaking at Summit
Brandon Nevers kicks of the retreat by pinpointing the identified need for mid-level staff to have a space to check in with people at this point in their careers. This type of support and connection is essential for Kittelson to maintain our guiding principle of “one office, many locations.”


Presentations and discussion groups during the week included topics such as staying motivated, thriving through conflict, and knowing one’s true priorities. Several senior project managers spoke openly about challenges they’ve faced in their careers and what they’ve learned in the process: it’s about trusting one another and drawing on your resources, which are the people around you. Attendees then broke into small groups and shared their personal reflections on these topics.

"Ryan talked about what matters most and how we want to be remembered. Sonia talked about knowing your why, and how comparison is the thief of joy. These talks both resonated with me. This is a team approach; we are not competing with one another."


The next day, the group transitioned into making those priorities and successes actionable for the future. This involved breakout groups tasked with recommending connection options back to the firm. Finally, the time came for individuals to make commitments to themselves – writing down their next steps and declaring them out loud to their discussion group.

"As project managers, we set the environments for our projects. We have staff who are looking to us as role models, whether we like it or not. Hermanus' call for project managers to be decisive, clear, and trustworthy is important for creating the right environment in our projects."

- Alison Tanaka, Senior Engineer, Portland Office

Growth in a career is full of fascinating dichotomies – it’s both challenging and rewarding, stressful and empowering. What makes all the difference is taking this journey in an environment in which others genuinely care about your success and well-being. We can’t make challenges disappear, but we can support one another along the way. Support helps us remain motivated and passionate toward our goals of improving people’s everyday lives through better, safer, and more equitable transportation.