Culture at Our Core

By Liz Benecchi
Benecchi is a sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and a Kessel Run Engagement Team Intern.

BOSTON (22 November 2022) – Culture isn’t always the reason employees join a company but, for many, it’s the reason they stay. A company could be practically perfect on paper: it offers top-tier pay, amazing benefits, and even extended vacation time, but if the culture isn’t a good fit, those aspects can be irrelevant.

Statistically speaking, good culture is everything. 72% of workers claim that innovative culture is a factor that influences their decision of where they choose to work. Company culture also directly impacts employee retention. 32% of job-seekers who left a job within the first 90 days listed company culture as the contributing factor. In contrast, two out of three employees said their company’s culture was one of the main reasons for staying in their job.

Kessel Run doesn’t turn a blind eye to these numbers. Building and protecting company culture is paramount, not only because we value each employee individually, but because these aims are vitally important to who we are as a whole. Kessel Run’s culture is built upon our four core values: ideas over rank, bias for action, intense customer focus and continuous evolution.

While Kessel Run is a Division within Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Digital Directorate, this military organization is not rigidly downward-directed when it comes to generating ideas. Regardless of rank, we believe that every voice in the room should be highlighted and that good ideas can come from anyone. As Alissa Bookwalter, the Chief of Staff from the All Domain Common Platform (ADCP) product line, put it, "I don't care what your rank is, you're here for a reason. You are important, your ideas are important, and we truly need to live by that value."

Our employees aren’t afraid to make quick decisions, even when they face uncertainty, because Kessel Run emphasizes bias for action. We rely on each other, and agile action allows for efficiency and the opportunity to learn from your choices. Being a part of this ever-changing, fast-moving environment necessitates trust and understanding. To achieve this, Ann Griffin, Kessel Run Chief of Staff, offered, “I try to build relationships and find that common ground and personal connection with my direct reports. I think just getting to know a person is very important, and it's also the key contributing factor in building that trust.”

Evolving and iterating continuously are also critical to building the best software, and Kessel Runners are truly focused on user and stakeholder satisfaction. But continuous evolution isn’t just about the products we make for users – it also pertains to the constant work that we put in to improve the environment around us.

Kessel Run’s culture is also characterized by what each employee brings to the table and their belief in the mission, characteristics that extend beyond our core values. “We are a military organization. But at the end of the day, when we take off the uniforms, the camo and the stripes, we're all human beings with different diverse backgrounds. I think that is really unique,” said Griffin.

Griffin knows the organization like the back of her hand after working at Kessel Run for six years. She has had the opportunity to see the culture develop and evolve.

“Having a positive workplace culture means that you wake up feeling excited to work with your peers, and you believe in the mission. It's not just about making money and paying your bills, but also about building and making new relationships,” said Griffin.

Kessel Run is undeniably unique when compared to companies in the private sector. Leah Vincuilla Peterson, Chief People Officer at Kessel Run, said, “The number one reason why I hear people coming over from industry is the value of their work as it's directly related to the mission. We have direct on-the-ground effects and improvements that you can see on a daily basis.”

Yareidis Ising, the Engagement Director at Kessel Run, concurred, “Instead of building software for an app that makes more money, our primary focus is not profit, it's literal lives. And I think it's more important than any work that anyone else could ever do.”

Moreover, culture matters at Kessel Run before you’ve even walked through the door. Having a robust professional skill-set and numerous past experiences are far from the only things considered.

“When we're interviewing people, it's important to ensure that we're asking pointed questions, that they're the right culture fit, and that our core values are as important to them as they are to us. You can have all the experience and all the accolades, but if our culture is not the right fit, it's not going to work,” Ising explained.

A common hiring misconception is that potential employee candidates need to have military experience to work at Kessel Run, but this is far from the truth. Kessel Run hires numerous civilians, and diversity of experience is welcomed with open arms. Vincuilla Peterson explained, “If you don't have a military background, just be prepared to learn the alphabet soup. But if you are willing and prepared to learn, then we want people that don't have a military background because it's their experience that's going to bring that next level of innovation to our products.”

Looking toward the future of our culture, the work is never done. Workplace culture is something that needs constant improvement and continuous evolution to be the best that it can be. After all, with each new talented Kessel Runner coming in, our organization grows for the better.

As Griffin, the Kessel Run Chief of Staff, emphasized, “For so long, I think a lot of people just sat there in their cubicles thinking, ‘this is how work is going to be.’ It needs to be recognized that a positive workplace culture is available, and it shouldn't be just something we see on television or something we read in an article.”

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center
Digital Directorate
HBB, Kessel Run
Media and Communications Engagement