Taking care of employees

Special to The Baltimore Sun

Harper Kudler didn’t know much about Rummel Klepper & Kahl when she first met representatives of the engineering firm at a college career fair, but she was definitely familiar with some of their work — particularly the stadiums where the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens play.

Kudler has been with RK&K ever since she graduated from college about a decade ago; she’s now a senior project engineer in the site development group. Her own notable projects have been in Baltimore and beyond, including at the Johns Hopkins University and the National Zoo.

“The variety of our projects is pretty incredible,” said Bill Wood, human resources manager for RK&K, listing Interstate 795, the Intercounty Connector and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. And that’s just a small sample.

The company’s services include planning, engineering design and construction management, covering areas such as transportation, utilities, the environment and stormwater management.

“Our employees here in Baltimore help out other offices throughout the United States,” he said. “The list of projects you get to work on changes from day to day.”

That wide range of projects available to a larger firm like RK&K means employees are able to tackle new challenges and add to their skillset. The firm’s professional development programs also play a significant role in helping employees grow.

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“I’ve grown through the ranks,” said Lucia Noya, a senior manager in the water resources department who started as a design engineer at RK&K nearly 25 years ago. “The managers have shown me how to be a good leader, how to encourage our younger staff and bring them up.”

Kudler, meanwhile, had been interested in learning about new site planning software. She spoke to her manager and was promptly approved to go to North Carolina, all expenses paid, for training.

“RK&K trusts us, and they trust what what we learn will benefit the company that much more,” she said. “This is a tool that showcases our talents and also sets us apart from some other companies. I’ve utilized it in client interviews, and we’ve won some jobs [because of it].”

That trust comes from a prevailing philosophy at RK&K that sees the employees as the firm’s most important asset, since they — and ultimately their work — are what is provided to customers.

“We have to take care of our clients. We have to take care of our employees. And when we do those two things, the business takes care of itself,” Wood said.

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The firm’s management is said to be approachable, all the way up to the firm’s five partners, and transparent on topics such as the state of the company. RK&K encourages its workers to be members of professional societies and organizations and to take leadership and committee roles. There’s a market with healthy food inside the Baltimore headquarters, which overlooks the Inner Harbor. And the company provides free breakfast every Friday.

One benefit that Noya, a mother of three, is particularly thankful for is RK&K’s emphasis on employees having a healthy work/life balance.

“I was able to raise them as well as be a successful engineer,” she said. “I was able to use flex time [to work from home] when the workload was manageable.”

Employees also are able to let loose through volunteer efforts and social events, enjoying an ice cream social, maintaining an oyster garden in the harbor, participating in Habitat for Humanity, supporting STEM education in local schools, and hosting interns from YouthWorks, a city summer jobs program for teens and young adults ages 14-21.

All of these effectively bring together a range of people in an office that has nearly 500 of the company’s nearly 1,200 employees.

“These activities help me form relationships and get to know people from other departments that I might not otherwise see on a daily basis,” Kudler said. “It’s good for team building and puts faces to names. It makes the company seem a little bit smaller.”

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