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My First Month at Highland Solutions

Transparency and Collaboration Make for a Happy Team

Kristina Giffin's Highland headshot outside the Chicago office

Photo by Bridgett Colling

I’ve been at Highland Solutions for just over a month now. And I think I finally have an answer to the question I kept asking myself when I first came in to interview for a Front End Developer position:

Why do Highlanders seem so happy all the time?

People are usually pretty perky when talking about their company to a prospective employee. But this was different. The Highlanders who interviewed me seemed like they carried more of a satisfied, untroubled sort of happy.

I thought that maybe that meant that Highland was a party office with a busy game room and a beer keg that needed to be replaced every week. Did people actually get work done here? What made everyone so positive? Would that change once I was in the office every day?


Highland has no game room and no keg (though time is set aside to enjoy a drink with coworkers on Thursday afternoons). What Highland does have is an abundance of people who are friendly, passionate, curious, and highly competent. Everyone here has a drive to succeed and a level of caring about their work that ensures it is done well. But even that sounds like a pretty normal office full of smart, hardworking people.

What makes Highland special, to me, is how everyone here is celebrated for bringing their own particular skills and selves to the table. There is no looming company culture waiting to assimilate you. Highland is more of an amalgamation of the unique perspectives and drives of its individual team members. Everyone wants to develop themselves and their careers, but they also want to see the company grow and flourish. It makes for a pretty empowering and enjoyable place to work.


In addition to my unique and happy coworkers, a few other patterns stuck out to me during my first weeks at Highland.

1. The prevalence of collaborative decision-making

First and most importantly, for a new employee, I was not left to float directionlessly while I “got my feet on the ground.” I was immediately invited to project meetings where I could learn how things are done here. It blew my mind a little when I found out that opinions from everyone on the team were not just sought out — they’re the standard for how decisions are made here.

During my first design sprint, even though I have no real design skills, my thoughts and opinions were still taken into account. I even assisted with some new lines of thinking that helped us get to the eventual decision on what direction the product was going.

2. Transparency that builds confidence

Context is given to everything you do here. One of Highland’s main values is transparency, and let me tell you, it is a breath of fresh air and I am in heaven.

For the entirety of my career so far, I’ve never been given context for my work. I either wasn’t allowed in the majority of meetings or was passed things to do with no real knowledge of the client, the process, or why I was developing this particular page or feature. As someone who is innately curious about how things work and what my client’s history is, this has always bothered me.

Highland gives hows and whys at every step of our clients’ experiences with us. Whether it comes to conversations with new clients or prospective clients or why the company operates the way it does, people are prepared to give thoughtful reasons for everything we do. We have meetings once a week where the practice leads tell us the status of each prospective client we’re hoping to bring in. There is a sales board in the middle of our office with real numbers on it that anyone can look at at any time.

Highland wants each employee to be kept in the loop. Because knowledge is power, and power here means confidence in your work, confidence in your peers, and confidence that the company has your back.

This transparency and support for each team member to have the knowledge they need and to succeed at whatever they’re working on is inspiring on its own. But also builds a bond between everyone. This way of working builds everyone up, inspires them to be the best version of themselves, which in turn encourages people to keep doing great work.


In my first month at Highland, I saw something I haven’t seen before in my career: a truly happy team, powered by ubiquitous collaborative decision-making and a commitment to transparency that affects everything we do.

At first, I was a little skeptical that things here were too good to be true, but now I’m really excited to be a part of Highland’s future.