In the fall of 2003, I packed my bags and traveled 711 miles from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota – my hometown – to Lakewood, Colorado, just outside of Denver. I was off to college to further my education. Four years later, much to my surprise, I’m back in Inver Grove Heights.

Ashley Krech sitting at her father's desk in 1991.

And while college is over, and my degree is in-hand, my education continues.

It’s 711 miles door-to-door from my home here in Minnesota to Colorado Christian University where I went to college. As the daughter of Jim Krech, and the granddaughter of Orville Krech – the founder of Krech Iron Works – my last name is one that is well known in Inver Grove Heights. And that’s OK with me. But in 2003, I wanted to stretch my wings a bit.

So off I went to Colorado to pursue my degree in interior design, a degree that eventually ended in English. It was fantastic. I met great people, received a top-notch education and overall had an amazing experience. When I graduated in the spring of 2007, I planned to pursue a career in either journalism or as a writer. I believed I’d never wind up back in the greater Twin Cities region. And I definitely didn’t think I’d wind up working at Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates.

You see, my dad is one of the founders of KOMA. (You may have read his InterKOM article a couple months ago… if not, click here. You’ll like it.) And, while I love him a lot, I didn’t want to be perceived as “going to work for dad.” After all, I was young, I had a degree and I had options.

But when a temporary position opened up at KOMA, I thought it might be a good chance to keep my skills sharp while I looked at other employment possibilities. So, I accepted the position, expecting to stay six months. Well, that was nearly two years ago.

Ashley Krech and interior designer Laura Bauer.

The fact of the matter is that the people at KOMA have given me an amazing opportunity to explore my interests and expand my skills. I had expected the position to be fairly straightforward, but the variety of the work – and the chance to tackle new and interesting projects – makes every day interesting and challenging.

That’s the thing with KOMA: it’s a place where employees are truly encouraged to grow. The principals – Brady Mueller, Dan O’Brien and my dad – truly want the employees to enjoy the work and feel rewarded. Something I didn’t fully understand or appreciate until I became an employee myself.

Sure, there are parts of my job that I like more than others… who doesn’t? But I look forward to coming to work every day. And whether I’m handling billing and invoices, helping to track project progress, writing reports or newsletter submissions, coordinating PR efforts, or doing research, I know my work is meaningful and helps us continue to do great things for our clients.

I’ve often heard my dad talk about the work he and his partners do, and about how they work as a team with their clients, and about how it’s important to make sure that “the people” remain more important than “the business.” Now I get to see it all in action… I get to be a part of it.

Jim Krech and daughter Ashley in 2009.

As for “working for my dad?” Well, it works out just fine. In our day-to-day work, we actually don’t have that much interaction. I spend a good deal of time with several other members of the firm, but it’s somewhat rare that my dad’s path and mine cross. Still, it’s nice to see his smiling face on a daily basis, and I love being part of something he helped to build.

I’m not exactly sure what the coming months and years hold for me. Perhaps I’ll stay here at KOMA – there are some additional ways I think I could help here, some additional things I’d like to try – but maybe I’ll move on. Either way, the nearly two years I’ve been here have taught me a lot.

Whether my next steps take me 711 miles, or more, or less, I’m going to cherish my current 7-mile commute. Turns out I can stretch right here in Inver Grove Heights.