Blog Barista: Katelyn Cripps  |  Nov 14, 2018  |  Workplace  |  Brew time: 5 min

Before Kunz, Leigh & Associates (KL&A), I was used to working with robotic employees who showed up, did their job, and left as soon as 5PM rolled around. I was hard-pressed to find anyone who spoke to each other outside the job. I was used to isolating cubicles, where collaboration and communication were extremely limited. In fact, if you weren’t wearing headphones, I’m pretty sure you could hear a pin drop.

Throughout my experiences as an intern, and office associate, I was left with the impression that “real-life” office work was dreadfully boring. Each day, I walked into a quiet, greyscale workplace with hundreds of cubicles which seemed abysmal.

It was any creative person’s nightmare.

But KL&A has been a dream; a good one. Here, the workplace has a small culture of its own, from our wildly competitive, childlike ping-pong championships to the incredible generosity while fundraising for numerous charities during the year. Things like innovation, ideas, and the pursuit of knowledge are valued. The people are valued. The culture and the people, alone, were the reasons why I nominated KL&A for the Detroit Free Press Top Workplace award. Which, thanks to KL&A’s employees, we were just awarded! *silently celebrates at desk*

When my first day at KL&A approached, I felt the overwhelming feeling of being inadequate. I was walking into an internship knowing little to nothing about custom software development or any industry jargon. Although I was eager to learn, I questioned whether or not I would be a good match for KL&A. My background was, and is, in creative design, advertising and marketing. So, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about programming languages, database design, or the Agile development framework.

But KL&A took a chance on me, for which I am extremely thankful.

After a single week of settling into this new role, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Everyone was so helpful, and kind. If I ever had a question about software, someone was always willing to answer it without judgement. It was clear that everyone not only loved what they were working on, but they also loved where they worked. It was refreshing, and it really opened my eyes to what a workplace should be like.

Despite the occasional jesting about “fetching coffee,” as an intern I am treated just like any other employee, plus I’m given creative freedom (for most things). The freedom I have to initiate employee engagement, propose social media strategies and campaigns are among the things I never imagined I’d be doing fresh out of college, let alone in college. The trust is what shocked me the most at KL&A. My leadership listens to ideas, plays devil’s advocate for ideas, and ultimately, trusts my ideas. Throughout my time in school, I was told consistently that I shouldn’t expect much coming out of college. That I would probably work my way up. That creative freedom would come with experience. But that’s not the case here.

Over the last several months, most of my ideas have come to life which blows my mind (some are still in development). Even to this day, I’m still in awe of how cool it is to work at KL&A. And I’m not saying that just because I still work here as intern. I really do believe in KL&A. If ever I am stuck on something, I find it easy to talk it through with my colleagues and leadership because of the open-door policy. Whenever I need a break from the blue light of my computer screen, I go watch a chaotic ping-pong match. But the aspect I love most about KL&A’s workplace is that everyone cares. They care about doing a great job, they care about each other, and they care about their clients. Have you worked for a place that truly does all of those things? I haven’t, until now.

I have learned many things, especially about marketing and social media, despite my in-progress degree. Experience, creative freedom and yes, sometimes failure, is the best teacher. In comparison to my craft, I have learned something even more invaluable. Which is that even if you love what you do, you should also love where you do it. The environment for your passion is equally essential to a balanced life.

People want to work for companies where culture is valued, voices are heard, and success ensues. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours of their life at work, which doesn’t include working overtime and/or the few hours spent at home to “catch-up.” That may not seem like much, but that’s almost a decade’s worth of work if someone spent—at least—eight hours at their job. Every. Single. Day. So, if we’re spending a third of our lives at work, shouldn’t we love what we do? And where we do it? Absolutely!

Among so many other deserving Michigan companies, I’m so happy that KL&A received the recognition for their continuous efforts which has made KL&A become an outstanding place to work. Everyone in the KL&A family goes above and beyond to make sure the company is a place where people look forward to walking into work. The workplace has become an exceptional balance between personal life and work life.

The 2018 Top Workplace award is an incredible achievement for everyone at KL&A. I truly believe, without all of the employees, KL&A wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is nor would the workplace be so special. But the real reward for me this year has been working for a successful, ethical and hardworking company that values its employees’ personal and professional growth, their health and happiness, and their families. For that, I feel very honored.  

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