ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Company Culture

03.23.22 by Kyle Haskett
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When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, it was 2008. I am sure many of you remember 2008 was a pretty terrible time for the economy and job market. I, therefore, decided to get my master’s degree and give the job market some time to recover. By 2010, when I graduated, things had improved but my classmates and I were just happy to have an offer, even if the conditions weren’t great. 

Boy o’ Boy have times changed. It seems like most companies have had to re-evaluate the way they approached talent acquisition. Salaries have gone up, benefits have increased year over year, and countless other tangibles have been improved. However, company culture is becoming more and more important to prospective employees in their final decision.

What exactly is company culture? Don’t worry, most people have a hard time defining what a company’s culture really is.  A quick internet search will tell you company culture is a set of attitudes, values, goals, and mission of a company and its employees.  

In my 10 years here, I feel that Wallace's Culture is all about 5 things: flexibility, openness, relationships, community, and responsiveness. I asked a select group of employees in varying roles and tenures to see if others shared my perception of the culture here at Wallace.

Flexibility

“The overall culture is one that acknowledges and values the human side of business, and one that values relationships, quality of life, and passion for what we do.” Billy Wiginton, PE, SE, ICC SI │ Associate │ Oklahoma City │ 9+ years at Wallace 

When I asked Billy to define the culture at Wallace I was inspired by his insight.  I love the idea of flexibility in the workplace as actually just acknowledging the human side of business. 

I have noticed increased flexibility most recently with the spikes in Covid cases. As I am sure many of you have experienced with Covid, I have had trouble keeping a normal work schedule with local public schools closing from day to day. I have arranged and rearranged my work schedule almost weekly since the end of 2021. I have had the pleasure to work for a boss, Justin Hartman, who understands this and allows me to do what works best for me. It is just one less thing to have to worry about knowing that my boss will let me work the schedule my life allows. One thing Justin consistently says when something comes up is, “family and health first, work is always secondary. Don’t worry about work, we will be just fine.” This is a mindset that I fully support and appreciate and shows the human side of business.

Openness

“Leaders listen as much as they talk, giving all employees a voice and an opportunity to affect their environment and the trajectory of our future.”  – Kevin Fitzpatrick, PE │ Associate │ Denver │ 15+ years at Wallace  

Openness is huge to me and helps keep employees like me engaged. As Kevin points out, I have always felt like I can bring big or small issues to my boss without any apprehension. I feel like this has been a two-way street for me in a very positive sense. I have not always been given a full answer if the question was sensitive or not public yet but I get a response like, “Thank you for sharing your concern, we are currently taking steps to address this.” Or “Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I will get you an answer once I have one.”  This response always makes me feel better because it lets me know that I am at a company that is always thinking ahead or is ready to listen and confront issues as they arise. I also feel like this helps the company see that we as the employees have our ears and eyes out trying to anticipate and solve challenges before they become problems.

Relationships

“Co-workers encourage and assist the development of younger employees to help them maximize their potential.  And Wallace is always looking for ways to grow but keeps an eye on how that growth affects its employees.” Kevin Fitzpatrick, PE

“Ever since I stepped foot in the office as an intern my junior year of college, I have been warmly welcomed, consistently challenged, and enthusiastically mentored. I believe Wallace provides an excellent structure for both professional and personal growth by encouraging collaboration.” Grant Phillips, PE │ PEI │ Tulsa │ 3+ years at Wallace. 

As Kevin and Grant both illustrate, Wallace often feels like you are working in a family environment. Everyone wants you to succeed and will take the time to make sure you have the tool and opportunity to achieve your goals. But as Kevin mentions, the leadership teams are always trying to anticipate not only how to grow but also keeping in perspective how that growth will affect all of its employees.

Community

“We believe the work we do will improve lives including our own.” – Tom Hendrick, PE, SE │ CEO │ Tulsa │ 33 years at Wallace. 

Wallace has a culture of giving back. At the beginning of each year, the company asks its employees what charitable organization we would like to support this year. Each office gets to choose a charity to support, and for 2021 the Tulsa office chose the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. This past year the company was able to match our donations giving a total of $20,000+. In addition to this charitable giving Wallace also allows employees a paid day to participate in a charity organization event of their choosing.

“Our culture and One Wallace means family and friends to me…I’ve always been a team sport person, and this is my team through thick and thin.” - Darcey Schumacher, PE, LEED AP │ Principal │ Kansas City │ 19+years at Wallace

Inter-office community is also a big part of Wallace. Employees are often participating in after-work activities together. Here in the Tulsa office, we have had volleyball teams, indoor soccer teams, softball teams, running groups, workout groups, and my favorite one to participate in the happy hour group! We have also participated in charity team events like Brew to Brew relay run in Kansas City. 

Responsiveness

“I don’t know any other firm that is as responsive as we are. That is one thing that I think stands out above everything else.” - Tom Hendrick, PE, SE 

I love the emphasis on responsiveness because I am someone who likes to solve problems when they arise. I love that I am allowed to drop what I am doing and jump into action when a Request For Information (RFI) comes in from the field. I work a lot with existing buildings and many times we do not have existing drawings, so encountering unanticipated conditions happens. 

“When it comes to disaster response - evaluating structural or roof damage due to tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, etc. - it can be pretty daunting knowing I have to drop everything and dive into a few stressful days of rough conditions and long hours. But then I put it in perspective and remember that these are small inconveniences compared to what these communities are going through and that we are “making lives better” by helping communities get back on their feet as soon as possible.” - Krista Looney, PE, SE, RRO │ Tulsa │ 9+ years at Wallace  

Probably the biggest example of our responsiveness comes from our forensic group. We have national retail clients with buildings all over the country and when nature strikes, we get the call. Often our forensic team will get a call and be on a flight the next day to investigate/survey/observe the damage from all kinds of weather events or natural disasters. 

Lastly, we are responsive within the industry, adding services where we see a need or re-evaluating the way we approach talent acquisition and retention. Wallace has been nimble and able to grow where the market opens and respond to the needs as they arise. 

In a time before company culture was key, Wallace Design Collective had cornered the market. And it's the people who have kept it excelling through the years. I can't imagine a company I would rather work for than one who has a great reputation and an even better culture. What a wonderful place to work, right? It is!

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Kyle Haskett, PE

Associate

Kyle received both his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering and Master of Science in Civil Engineering-Structural Emphasis from the University of Oklahoma. He is…

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