by Brian Nordli
February 28, 2019

At Solstice, interns don't do coffee runs.

Take it from Kelly Folliard, who joined in 2008 as its first intern and is now director of delivery enablement. That commitment to employee development has helped the digital solutions consulting firm develop new leaders and recruit employees that have been crucial to its growth.

"The essence of our culture still remains the same as when I walked in the door on my first day,Kelly says.

We spoke to Kelly and two other team members about how the company and its employees have grown from the ground up.

 

Solstice office
Photography By Jason Brown
Solstice pods
Photography By Jason Brown
Solstice gamers
Photography By Jason Brown

 

FOUNDED: 2001

EMPLOYEES: 423 (339 local)

WHAT THEY DO: Solstice, part of Kin + Carta, is a digital innovation firm that provides digital solutions for Fortune 500 companies.

WHERE THEY DO IT: West Loop, Chicago

EARLY RISERS: On Fridays, Solstice holds an 8 a.m. coffee talk, where employees can present new ideas they have for the company to their coworkers.

MEET YOUR MENTOR: Solstice partners new hires with a team member who has the experience within the company to share. That person provides mentorship and training to help the mentee grow and develop their skills.  

BUELLER? BUELLER?: From playing hooky to pair programming, learn how Solstice takes a page from Ferris Bueller to build a culture of collaboration.

 

Gregg at work

Gregg portrait

 

Gregg Wheeler, Chief Growth Officer

Gregg plants the seeds for growth at Solstice. As Chief Growth Officer, he oversees the demand group, which is comprised of sales, partnerships, marketing and business development teams. He also drives growth at the global level for other Kin + Carta businesses.

BEYOND WORK: Gregg hits the pitch with his soccer club at least once or twice a week.

 

What initially attracted you to Solstice in 2010?

After working in the tech and software sectors at Accenture, some startups and then a large bank, I wanted to use my experience to create something, rather than just make incremental improvements. Solstice gave me a place where I could help create something from the ground up based on a compelling vision and strong values.

 

With a global sales team, we’re able to understand the uniquenesses of each market and how we can best approach a client’s needs holistically.”

 

As Solstice has expanded to have a global presence, what challenges did that growth present?

Our expansion from Chicago to New York and the East Coast, and then to the U.K. and beyond, has come with its challenges and opportunities. There are the standard challenges of working across multiple time zones and understanding cultural differences, both with our sister companies and clients. We’ve worked hard to build a culture of openness and knowledge sharing to break down any barriers and silos so that we can work closer together to solve our client’s problems.

 

You mentioned there were opportunities with expansion. What advantages does having a global sales team provide?

After joining Kin + Carta, a global digital transformation consultancy, we’re now able to leverage 1,500 employees across four continents and engage with Fortune 500 companies to turn their legacy enterprises into digital businesses. With a global sales team, we’re able to understand the uniquenesses of each market and how we can best approach a client’s needs holistically.

 

Henry at Workj

Henry Portrait

 

Henry Oyuela, VP of Engineering

Henry joined Solstice as a consultant more than six years ago. He guides a global team of engineers who help Fortune 500 companies develop digital solutions. Beyond developing innovative digital solutions, his goal is to provide his team with guidance, mentorship and opportunities to grow and develop their skills.  

BEYOND WORK: Henry grew up playing soccer and that joy of stepping onto the field and running a match persists to this day.

 

What were some of the biggest challenges your team faced when you joined Solstice?

I came in at a consultant level in December 2012. At the time, the company was in a startup stage, and Solstice Mobile had won a big contract with a Fortune 500 company. We were challenged to build their iOS and Android mobile apps. We had a talented and enthusiastic team of architects, engineers, scrum masters, designers and QAs but, like most startups, we were still developing our processes and structure.

We followed the Agile principles and were successful. Along the way, we found ways to improve things for the entire company and created communities within the organization that is looking to continuously improve processes within the firm. It gave us a sense of purpose, ownership and autonomy to drive the company forward.

 

 

As Solstice has scaled to a global level, how do you ensure your team continues to grow and develop?  

As we continue to grow, we work to build strategies that not only improve employees’ skills and our leadership skills but also our culture. We continuously seek employee feedback to improve, whether that’s one-on-one or in a team huddle.

We have several rituals where we share with employees the company’s development and provide room for them to inspire each other. We have 8 a.m. coffee talks on Fridays where employees present a topic about how to solve a challenge facing the company and weekly team meetings where employees present projects from across the company.  

 

As we continue to grow, we work to build strategies that not only improve employees’ skills and our leadership skills but also our culture.”

 

With a larger team, how have your team’s technical capabilities expanded?  

When I joined, we were focused on mobile from a capability standpoint. We dabbled with a lot of innovative and emerging technologies, but mobile was our bread and butter. Today, I’m amazed at the capabilities we have in house.

We’re able to build solutions from a multitude of technologies at every layer in the stack. We can build front-end experiences using web technologies in React, Angular or mobile technologies like Swift, Kotlin, or React Native. We can build back-end systems using microservices built in Mulesoft, Spring Boot, .NET Core, Node.JS or Python. We can build infrastructures from the ground up using Pivotal, GCP, AWS, or Azure. We have a DevOps and automation practice with the ability to build CI/CD pipelines using Jenkins, Spinnaker, Kubernetes, Chef and Puppet. We have a labs team working on emerging technologies like augmented reality, blockchain and AI. Our capabilities continue to evolve with every new engineer we add to the team.

 

Kelly at work

Kelly portrait

 

Kelly Folliard, Director of Delivery Enablement

Kelly joined Solstice as an intern more than 10 years ago. Now the director of delivery enablement, she partners with Solstice’s clients to help understand their goals and then translates that information to the tech team to develop a solution.

BEYOND WORK: In a fast-paced world, Kelly practices yoga to slow down.

 

We understand you joined Solstice as its first intern. What did you learn from that experience?

Solstice has taught me so much about servant leadership. Interns here don’t do coffee runs or administrative work. I was given big projects during my internship tenure with the sincere belief that I had the ability to make an impact. From the beginning, I saw that we were all working towards a common goal, and everyone always went the extra mile to lend a hand or make an interaction a teaching moment. Solstice has an unwavering belief in what people are capable of. While we've evolved over time, the essence of our culture still remains the same as when I walked in the door on my first day.

 

 

What opportunities are there for employees to shape the direction of the company?

Everyone has the opportunity to drive or contribute to quarterly initiatives that map to our organizational goals. Each of these things helps shape the Solstice of the future. At the same time, everyone is empowered to look for opportunities to improve the organization and bring new ways of working to the table.

 

While we've evolved over time, the essence of our culture still remains the same as when I walked in the door on my first day.”

 

How did your team or company support you in that growth?

I’ve grown up at Solstice, so I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and the ones I’ve earned. When I started, I was an individual contributor. Since then, I’ve taken on multiple client project roles, moved into leadership positions, mentored my peers, and drove internal organizational initiatives.

My mentors helped me make this all possible. They saw opportunities for me to stretch into a new role or build a new skill set and helped guide me toward the proper training and support to be successful.

 

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