Internship Jamboree 2013

July 17, 2013

Amid trepid anticipation, Kittelson & Associates, Inc.’s (KAI’s) intern class of 2013 touched down in Baltimore, MD to kick off the Intern Jamboree, an annual tradition designed to allow interns to meet and learn from each other, to discover areas of transportation that they would not normally be exposed to, and (in most cases) to check out life in a different office and city. This year's Intern Jamboree was no different, and by the end of the week of June 24, 2013, we departed full of valuable friendships across the KAI network and fond memories to share with our offices.

Monday, June 24

The week kicked off with a casual breakfast and a set of introductions among the interns, staff from the Baltimore office, and our Intern Jamboree organizers: Joe Toole, Alek Pochowski, Alexandra Jahnle, and Kelly Laustsen. We then settled into our temporary workplaces for a few hours of project work, before reconvening in the conference room for a presentation on project management by Ed Myers and Pete Jenior from the Baltimore office. The session opened our eyes to the roles and responsibilities of a typical project manager at KAI, including coordinating staff efforts, managing budgets and hours, and handling client relations. After a long day, and having just missed the worst of a large thunderstorm, we headed over to the waterfront area in Federal Hill for a nice group dinner at Little Havana's. That we were at a Cuban restaurant didn't stop several of us from trying the crab cakes, a Maryland specialty. We certainly were not disappointed.

Tuesday, June 25

Tuesday morning started yet again with Dorrett Oosterhoff's continental breakfast, topped with fresh coffee and a plethora of yogurt and bread. Shaking off our jetlag, we settled into our work space to log a few hours of project time before meeting for a Roundtable Discussion with the amiable Joe Toole, the affable Kelly Laustsen, and the amusing Alek Pochowski. The informal roundtable gave us the opportunity to share our experience about our internships and careers thus far, and we found ourselves in an educational and uplifting discussion. After a half-hour break we found ourselves again in the conference room, but this time with the CEO, Mark Vandehey. The purpose of the meeting was to better understand the corporate structure of the company and also learn about the foundations upon which it was founded. We learned the true meaning of a flat corporate structure and also the role of executives within the company.

Following our time with Mark, roughly half of the interns joined Alek Pochowski in braving a reverse commute into DC to attend an event sponsored by the Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT) at the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Headquarters at Navy Yard, featuring guest speaker Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari. His talk delved deep into contemporary issues facing the transportation industry, and many of us took the opportunity to ask him questions. He concluded by urging us as young transportation students and professionals to maintain our passion in the field and to spread it among future generations. We joined our newly-made YPT friends across the street for happy hour and dinner; we found ourselves in such good company that we ended up missing our train back to Baltimore and had to wait for the last train of the night. By the time we returned to the hotel around midnight, we were all exhausted but immensely satisfied with what we had taken away from our rewarding day.

Wednesday, June 26

Just as we (and the Baltimore staff!) were becoming accustomed to squeezing altogether into the Baltimore office, we were faced with a new spatial challenge when KAI’s 14 shareholders arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday. After a morning full of workspace Tetris, countless introductions, and some fascinating life stories, we attended a hands-on tech session on the Four Color Planning method with Marc Butorac and Chris Brehmer. Given large plans of a parking lot for a new Costco, the interns and entry-level staff worked together with a dazzling array of colored markers to picture the flow of cars, pedestrians, and trucks, and to point out areas of potential conflict.

Immediately following the tech session we experienced the shortened, two hour version of ‘A Day in Accounting’ with Larry Van Dyke. The CFO led a passionate discussion on finances, negotiation, and trust that inspired even the most technical of us to grab Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher from his stack of recommended books. Afterward, we left the office and braved a threat of torrential downpour to attend a pre-game party at the beautiful Camden Yards with our co-workers. The night flew by as we cheered the Orioles to an unfortunate but resounding loss.

Thursday, June 27

At the crack of dawn, or slightly thereafter, we hurriedly packed our bags, threw them in Joe Toole's van, and headed to the train station. Woken by the conductor in our ever-so-comfortable station seats, we dashed with our guide, Alek Pochowski, through the throngs of business men and women to the metro. We arrived at Bike and Roll behind the Old Post Office Pavillion and began our introductions to additional interns from the USDOT, DDOT, Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, and Toole Design Group.

Led by Joe Toole, we began our bike tour of the District of Columbia. We made a quick stop to learn about L'Enfant's plan for the city at Freedom Plaza where the grand plan was beautifully etched into the pavement. We proceeded to the White House amid a sea of tourists to see the Zero Milestone, marched on to the WWII memorial (not without a quick ghost story from Joe along the way), and then found ourselves in front of The Capitol. The day was pleasantly warm and everyone's spirits were high. We set off in a charter bus to the Turner Fairbanks Highway Research Center, which was immensely educational. We toured the Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory used for testing highway infrastructure, the Highway Driving Simulator (which reminded us of a video game), the Saxton Transportation Operations Laboratory where we all marveled at the technology, and the Structures Laboratory where we wrapped our brains around the erudite topics discussed and had flashbacks to Mechanics and Materials classes. The day ended with a quick trip on the I-495 HOT lanes and some zesty pizza.

Friday, June 28

Friday, the last day of the Jamboree, began with meeting the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in the morning. After learning about the AAA Foundation's research efforts, Joe Toole led a panel of three representatives from different backgrounds in a discussion on 'National Transportation Policy,' which delved into the intricacies of transportation policy. Interns from the various agencies and firms were together again, representing a number of different majors, backgrounds, and interests. Our college majors ranged all the way from human geography and engineering to biology, policy, and law. This diverse arrangement of skillsets, along with such experienced panelists, resulted in lively discussion. The topics were crisp and the objections thought-provoking. Afterward, we adjourned for some free time over lunch to roam the streets of our nation's capital.

That afternoon, our group reconvened at the USDOT headquarters for an outdoors tour of their public transportation exhibits and to stroll through the park around the Navy Yard development, all the while being educated by Joe Toole about the transportation and planning of Washington, DC. The day ended with a group-wide closing ceremony in the DDOT headquarters. The ceremony included an informal Q&A with our Intern Jamboree Leaders and gave us the opportunity to reflect on the week. Among teary-eyes and heartfelt hugs, we went our separate ways, each returning back to our “home base” office to complete our summer internship. The 2013 Intern Jamboree was a success for all involved and taught us so much about KAI and the transportation industry as a whole.

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