Advancing as One at KPA

From cheering on growth for her team members to cultivating organizational alignment, this senior manager is fostering a culture of support and success for developers.

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on Feb. 21, 2024
Advancing as One at KPA
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 When Cara Adams was working toward her computer science degree, a colleague at her part-time job in an insurance office helped her land an entry-level role as a web developer. Adams was thrilled, but when she gave notice, the reaction from her manager was less than enthusiastic.

“My manager laughed and told me I would hate my new role,” she recalled. “I didn’t let it stop me, and as a leader, I never want to discourage anyone on my team from learning and growing. Even if they will eventually grow and leave my team, I will cheer them on.”

Today, Adams has grown her career as a developer and now is a senior software development manager at KPA

Adams’ team began as a small startup and was acquired by KPA in 2020. At the time of the acquisition, Adams said, there was no immediate need to fold the team into KPA’s larger culture.

 

WHAT KPA DOES

KPA provides environment, health and safety, and workforce compliance software and services for mid-size companies.

 

As the team grew from two members to seven and then nine, establishing cultural and process alignment between Adams’ team and the rest of KPA became more pressing.

“My vision for this is two-fold,” explained Adams. “First, to improve our overall development, maintenance and communication processes to improve time-to-market and reduce production defects. And second, to align these new processes and communication methods with the other teams at KPA.”

Built In sat down with Adams to hear how she is building a strong culture on her team and helping every colleague to thrive as part of KPA.

 

How do you build team culture?

Cara Adams
Senior Software Development Manager

Team culture starts with respect, trust, communication and intention. My philosophy is that everyone has achieved their current level of career through their own desire, drive and experiences, and I firmly believe   that we are all making the best decisions we can with the information we have available to us at that time. We each hold ourselves to an individual standard of excellence while assuming positive intent from others.

We each hold ourselves to an individual standard of excellence while assuming positive intent from others.”

 

I am intentional about communicating — in both team and one-on-one settings — that regardless of seniority, experience level or anything else, we are all equal players and participants on this team. 

I solicit input from everyone on the team and encourage each person constantly to step outside of their comfort zones into an area where we can learn something new. It’s OK — and actually very valuable — to make mistakes. As John C. Maxwell writes in Failing Forward, “Your mistakes do not define you; they educate, empower, and enable you to reach your true potential.”

 

How do you help your team grow their careers? 

Helping people develop their careers is dependent on two major points: setting a goal and not being afraid to start. I’ve had conversations with many people over the years — some never consider doing anything differently, some think about it and decide they are happy where they are and some are aspirational but either they aren’t sure how to “get there” or don’t feel like talking about advancement with their manager is appropriate.

If you’re a front-end web developer and want to learn microservices architecture, there are courses you would need to take. If you let your manager know, they can help get you involved with that hands-on, relevant experience that goes on your resume.

 

What is the employee value proposition for those thinking about joining KPA?

KPA offers the ability to work with great people to build meaningful products. I can say with confidence that everyone I have interacted with since joining has reinforced that KPA’s values are not just listed on a piece of paper somewhere, they are truly guiding principles that permeate through the teams and layers of leadership. The longevity and retention of employees here is remarkable and speaks for itself. 

Having alignment with my personal value system and the company’s core values makes what I do each day feel authentic and frictionless — and that is the sweet spot where the magic happens. It is a wonderful feeling to come to work each day feeling supported, trusted and respected.

 

KPA’S VALUES

  • Integrity
  • Helpfulness
  • Excellence
  • Agility
  • Respectfulness
  • Teamwork

 

What is something exciting that you are currently working on with your team? 

This is going to be one of those answers that is exciting to me and might have others scratching their heads and thinking, “Now why is she excited about that?!” I am really looking forward to helping the team assess, re-architect and build out various areas of our product that will help scale our business. 

There will always be an internal tug-of-war between sales and development teams when selling SaaS products to consumers. It is an excellent problem to have as a company when the sales teams are continually asking if our product can support customers exponentially larger than the last large customer they sold to. I want to make sure we are always thinking forward and planning for continual growth, stability and efficiency.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by KPA.

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