October 22, 2019

IE5 Bonus: Healthy Communities Origin Story

Rick Adams, Nathan George, Melissa Miklus

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Well, what's something that we haven't talked about yet? We've got a few more minutes before we get to our... well, before we get to our picks of the week, I hope you all came with a pick. Pick of the week. Oh my gosh. Did you send out homework? I sent an e-mail? Come on, geez. Alright. But first, what's something we haven't talked about yet that you all want to talk about? I mean, I think what we had talked about, talking about like what we had talked about talking about when we talked about this a long time ago, we talked about how we came to be at RK&K and.

Which is an interesting story.
Which is an interesting story and like how Rick feels about the two people sitting to his right. OK. Alright, I will allow it. Let's go. Let's do it. Tell the story. Alright. Once upon a time in a far away land. Far, far away. About four years ago, I started a conversation right about this time four years ago with Rick Adams and Scott Crumley, and Karen Kahl. So three directors here at the firm.

I'd been in a traffic engineering position and
I really had a desire to focus on pedestrian safety. And, you know, the things I was talking about, like not not so much focusing on the needs of my clients who are all private, largely private at least. I wanted to do more with my projects. So I was putting my feelers out and I I got connected here with our and it was a new opportunity. I'm the first bike-ped person at the firm.

That's my job.
I solely focused on bicycle and pedestrian work. And that was a I guess I would say a risk in a way to bring somebody in and have them focused solely on this multi-modalism of the practice. But there was certainly a lot of energy around the room. And I could tell that there was this special X factor about the teams here at RK&K. So I thought, you know what? This is a great opportunity. They extended the offer and I couldn't say no.

It was very exciting to jump in and
get to work with Rick and work on a lot of really cool projects around the region is a learning experience for me in some ways because I was jumping into this new world that I needed to get to know a lot of people and I needed to make sure that I was there representing the interest of the firm. So I literally poured my heart and soul into making my position the most fruitful that it could be. It was probably the most rewarding when we went after the the DC Protected Bike Lanes project and won that project head to head with a lot of competition.

So that really said, you know, hey, we we
have the good and bright team. We're going to build something successful. So like I said, I jumped in headfirst and I was really focused on getting to know people. And that's where Melissa comes in. So. That's a scary moment. So Rick says to me one day, hey, there's this this young lady, Melissa, she's leading an office with the planning and design firm. They focus on bike and ped. You know, we haven't done a lot of work with them in the past, but we'd love to the team with them more.

So you should look her up and connect just like
you're doing with all these other people. I didn't even know that's part of the story. So I so I don't even know how I reached out, but I just got in touch with Melissa and said, 'hey,' 'Let's be friends.' 'Let's go get a coffee.' Did he friend you? So Melissa gets back to me. Hey, yeah. 'I'm gonna be in D.C. on this random day. Why don't we grab coffee ever by Union Station?' So we sat down for probably about an hour and started talking and it was unbelievable. We had this connection and all these same common interests that it was like, yeah. We we need to find a way to work together at some point.

Well, fast forward maybe a year, year
and a half after we met we just kept the conversation going and kept trying to find opportunities to work together. And Melissa started to get into a place where she was ready to make a move. And I said, well, give me your resume resumé. I'll share it with people here at RK&K. Okay. But wait, don't share your resume unless you wanna work at RK&K because we're going to hire you because you're amazing. So that is where she came to be at RK&K and I'll let her tell the rest.

Okay. Well, I think first
let's back up just a smidge. So we Nathan and I are now friends. We do the coffees, we do the grabbing of the drinks and actually I had a really bad back injury and landed myself in the hospital. And somehow I don't know how I told you about that. We must have had something scheduled. And I was just like, 'I kind of have a cane and not get around really well.' So he he was like, 'oh, well, I have Ravens tickets. Do you want to go to a Ravens game?' So I met Scott Crumley and Nathan took me to a Ravens game.

I can't I don't even know who else was there.
Were there other RK&K people there? A couple Fairfax folks. Were there? OK, see, I told you, I didn't know these people. I'm like, 'oh, cool, we're going to a Ravens game.' I'm not saying that sealed the deal or anything, but I thought that was that was very genuine and nice, and met Scott Crumley. And he was just such a nice guy. It was like one of the first times I think I've been out of the house without like assistance. So it's really great. And then I think we got more serious about our conversation after that. You have to kind of like meeting Scott and I had met Rick before. I like working a team on projects and a couple other folks.

And so, yeah,
when Nathan said, why don't you come in and bring your résumé? I mean, I brought a portfolio because that's what landscape architects do, you know. So I laid out a thing and I brought that in and met with, I think, two hundred people when I came in. I think we saw of portfolio were like, 'What is this? We don't do this in engineering.'. I remember Melinda came in and she's that. We've never seen anything like this before. So I'm pretty excited about it. I was like, OK. And I'm in the back of my mind.

I'm going like one landscape architect like it
was, will we do the graphic design? Like this is normal. But I'm glad you guys think it's special. So I like that. And John d'Epagnier was in the room and he was just like, 'I don't understand why you want to work in RK&K. Right. 'Like, why do you want to be this landscape architect all by yourself and all these engineers? Like, why do you want to do it?' And I had also given that some thought and asked myself that question. And I said to him, I don't know if you remember, but I said, 'you know, John, I really like being in the purple fish and the gray fish pond.'.

I remember that.
And he was like, well, OK, you know, we just. So, yeah. So I know that you all probably thought, again, scary, risky. Who is this crazy person? Not at all. No! But yeah, go ahead. I was just gonna say Tim, going back to the beginning, like Nathan said when we first met him. I think again was, as Melissa alluded to earlier, like we have a lot of experts in different areas and we saw our clients and our communities asking for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, complete streets, and we have people skilled in it. But we said we really need somebody that this is their passion because we have people who are passionate about bridges, we're passionate about interchanges and passionate about streams.

But we needed somebody was passionate about bike
and ped. And it's funny because when we interviewed him, it's like that's exactly what he said. And it was really a no brainer. So this is perfect, perfect person. And he started and he certainly has shown that it is his passion. So that was like kind of the first domino. And then Melissa's just built on it with the same passion. Like I said, we're giving our clients these people who are passionate bike and ped facilities, complete streets. Awesome. Great story. There it is.

The origin story.
It was like a prequel almost because we told the story at the end. Yeah. Prequel

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