Gray text on white background reads: Start your career; Plan your future; Aspire for greatness; Reach your potential; Konnect with peers.In March 2023, nearly 80 Kittelson staff came together for the SPARK Summit, a two-and-a-half-day leadership development event for team members who are early in their careers.

Planners, engineers, marketing coordinators, administrators, accountants, and communications specialists from across the country had the chance to connect with peers, gain valuable insights about Kittelson’s history and vision, and learn how to build a strong career foundation.

Group of people posing with their hands in the air.

SPARK attendees giving their best "power pose."

SPARK Summit Structure

The goals of the SPARK Summit were threefold:

  • Start team members on their leadership journeys.
  • Help them build a tangible connection and understanding of the firm’s value, culture, and mission.
  • Help them build close peer relationships with staff who are at their level and who they will grow with during their time at the firm.

All sessions were run by Kittelson staff, with topics designed to help team members in the early years of their careers. Session topics included:

  • Engaging with Confidence, presented by Kate Sosa, Bailey Lozner, and Wende Wilber, which taught tools for being more confident, approaching conflict, and having difficult conversations.
  • Finding the Right Work, presented by Matt Bell, Krista Purser, and Bastian Schroeder, which gave principles for finding meaningful projects early in your career and following your passions to connect with the right work for you.
  • Coaching & Mentoring, presented by Jessica Josselyn and Riva Heinrich, which stressed the importance of finding a coach or mentor that will advocate for you and help you grow in your career.
  • Early Keys to Success, presented by Camilla Dartnell, Mike Alston, Sigal Carmenate, and Margaret Kent, which defined success and gave tools on how to manage your time to achieve your goals.

"Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued - when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."

- Brené Brown

Each of these sessions contained valuable information for attendees, and time outside of the sessions proved to be valuable and memorable as well. Power posing, intense game nights, and laughter were common themes throughout the summit. After the event concluded (with karaoke and a conga line), many staff explored Phoenix together through activities like skiing, hiking, rock climbing, basketball games, and museum tours.

Group of five panelists answering questions.

Matt Bell, Sam Mantsch, Mindy Weber, Jennifer Marks, and Sigal Carmenate speak on a panel during the "Coaching & Mentoring" session.

Kittelson’s Approach to Staff Development

At Kittelson, we’re defined by our people. Our growth philosophy is to hire passionate and motivated team members and give them space to pursue their interests. To balance our autonomous, trust-based way of operating, we seek to provide meaningful guidance and opportunities to help staff gain leadership skills and grow in their careers. The SPARK Summit is the first part of a career-long leadership development program that Kittelson offers to provide support at every phase of our team members’ career journeys.

“We believe that all of our staff play a leadership role and are leaders [in the firm], and we want to have a dedicated program that helps support people developing those skills,” says Senior Principal Engineer Sonia Daleiden, who serves as the firm’s director of staff development.

These internal leadership development summits are designed to complement other aspects of staff development, such as individual coaching and mentoring and “The ROAD Ahead,” our year-round professional development process that gives all team members consistent touchpoints with leaders to set goals and connect on feedback.

"SPARK helped connect me with new people from across the firm, build trust-based relationships, and develop friendships inside the workplace."

- Katie Popp, Transportation Analyst

Keeping the Impact Going

The impact of the SPARK Summit extends beyond the event-it is a starting point for ongoing learning and relationships that we hope will continue throughout attendees’ Kittelson careers. We’re grateful for everyone who planned, organized, and presented at the SPARK Summit, and look forward to our next leadership development summit, geared toward new project managers, later this year!

  • Five people jumping in front of rock climbing wall.
  • Woman in blue presenting to a group of people
  • Three people taking a selfie in front of a snowy landscape.
  • Group of people sitting at a circular table playing Uno.
  • Group of people on a hike in the Arizona desert.
  • Group photo in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright building.