Richard Rittmaster, M.A. '09 M.A. in Organizational Psychology

Read about Rich Rittmaster, M.A. '09 & 
his career as a Senior Learning & Development Specialist.

Read about Rich Rittmaster, M.A. '09 &
his career as a Senior Learning & Development Specialist.

Richard (Rick) Rittmaster earned a Master’s of Arts in Organization Psychology from Adler University in 2009. As a Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Starkey Hearing Technologies, Rick has a daily impact on the lives of the employees, their families, and their communities.

Q: Tell us about your work. What do you do?
Rick: I work in Learning and Development for Starkey Hearing Technologies, which develops and manufactures hearing aids. My role consists of working with employees and managers to ensure that individuals are engaged in their work, that teams are working together effectively, and that as a company Starkey is aligned in its mission and purpose. Ultimately, the goal of Starkey is to provide the gift of hearing throughout the world.

Q: What is your impact on the individuals or communities with whom you work?
Rick: A lot of my work is done through either one-on-one coaching, or in a training/classroom setting. I train on a lot of different topics, but the most common topic that I focus on is basic communication skills. Starkey is a very professional environment, but even the highest functioning individuals still need education and practice when it comes to the most basic of communication skills.

The goal of my work is to encourage and empower individuals to be more effective through greater self-awareness, improved communication, increased respect for diversity, etc. However, what I really love about my job is that the skills these employees are building do not evaporate when they go home at night. I view my work as not only impacting Starkey, but also the families of Starkey employees and the communities where Starkey employees live.

Q: How did your Adler University experience affect where you are today?
Rick: I use my education from Adler everyday! On a very direct level, working with employees, even in a professional environment, can get very “clinical” very quickly. Even though I’m not actively counseling in a therapeutic sense, I am well equipped to identify areas of psychological concern. Additionally, working to create change in behavior for any individual requires a clinician’s set of skills. Patience, listening, and trying to inspire insight are crucial skills that I use every day and came straight from my education and practicum experience.

Another aspect of my Adler education that I apply in a more subtle manner is thinking about solving problems in a system, rather than a static environment. Adler pushed me to view the experience of an individual through the lens of the system, and I use this perspective to create more effective change at Starkey.

Q: Was there a particular Adler University faculty member or experience as a student that has most influenced you, and why?
Rick: While I was at Adler, I had the great fortune of working with Mitzi Norton and the Office of the President. On a professional level, working with the Office of the President allowed me access to a team-environment with direct goals of supporting the organization. Initially I was hoping to make a little money as a poor grad student; what I ended up getting was great experience, and a fantastic mentor and friend in Mitzi.

Q: What career accomplishment have you found most fulfilling, or considered your greatest professional accomplishment?
Rick: I work with a lot of individuals who are very technically minded (i.e. engineers and scientists). This group is challenging because they are incredibly intelligent, but their technical nature is often skeptical of the services I provide. In one training class, when discussing an assignment to practice “active listening”, a participant (a sr. engineer) spoke about how every night he comes home and reads the paper while his wife complains about her job, which she hates. Usually he is only mildly attentive to her woes; however as a result of the training and assignment, he put down the paper and practiced actively listening. His wife was so grateful that she started crying! He spoke about learning that even if he can’t “fix the problem,” listening can help his wife feel just a little more supported. Just like in counseling, “wins”/accomplishments in the professional environment tend to be small and broadly dispersed. But that is a win that sticks out in my mind as very fulfilling.

I was also recently selected to present at the Association for Training and Development (ATD)’s annual conference for training professionals. I’m speaking on providing innovative training solutions for technical employees. It is fun to share my development experience with other professionals in this field.

Q: What is the single most important piece of career advice you can give someone in your field?
Rick: If you’re planning on working in organizational development, don’t be afraid to start “small” in your first job. I came to Adler straight out of under-grad, and despite my graduate degree I still needed some professional experience to build my skillset. I ended up taking a Customer Service role as my first position at Starkey, which was never my plan, but in hindsight it was experience that has served me extremely well. The truth is, if your goal is to work in organizational development any professional experience is relevant. Hold on to your long-term goals of being an OD practitioner, but don’t be afraid to take a job that might provide great perspective in the long run.

Also, I’ve greatly benefitted from having a mentor to help guide me through various career situations and opportunities. In the clinical track, you are always exposed to supervision; but in the organizational track you don’t have this benefit immediately available. As you are transitioning from Adler to the professional world, having a mentor is a great way to maximize your learning from every situation you experience.

Q: What advice can you give a student just joining Adler University?
Rick: Take advantage of every experience you can, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. This is your time to explore the field of professional psychology. I loved graduate school because it is a unique opportunity to simultaneously focus your skills in preparation for a career as well as broaden your horizon in terms of your interest within this field. I initially started as an MAC student, but I ended up graduating though the Organizational program. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t utilize the all the options I had available to me.