If Daktronics wanted to create a slogan to sum up its relationship with the Koenig family, it would be, “With you from the start.” Considering Kelly Koenig came to Daktronics while he was a student at South Dakota State University — where he met his wife — he quite literally got his start here. We sat down with the family to find out what drew Kelly, wife Sara, and daughter Lexi to the company.
Kelly: In 1988, I received an internship in the Manufacturing Graphics department. At the time, paid internships were scarce. I was thrilled at the prospect of fulfilling my degree requirements when a classmate told me about the paid internship program at Daktronics. That made the difference in whether I received my degree or not.
Q: How did your career progress from there?
Kelly: I moved to the Animation department in the summer of 1989, then worked full time in the Art Design department, creating CAD drawings and air brush renderings of commercial signs and scoreboards for sports. A position opened up in High School Parks and Recreation (HSPR) field sales where I covered South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota for two years. When the infamous Elmer “Bud” Weiser retired from the Commercial market, I took over his position.
Q: Tell me how you met, Kelly and Sara.
Sara: We met at SDSU and got married in 1990. At first, I worked for Minnehaha County, so we lived in Baltic. We had four children — Austin in ’93, Lexi in ’94, John in ’97, and Wes in 2003 — so I became a stay-at-home mom. When Wes entered Kindergarten, I started the “mom” shift at Daktronics. I’m now part-time in the same group, Services. We support all markets.
Q: Lexi, the answer might seem obvious, but how did you come to Daktronics?
Lexi: I had actually started at North Dakota State University and then transferred to SDSU for entrepreneurial studies. Mom encouraged me to apply at Daktronics for student positions. I started in the Quote and Order group, then applied for the student position in Large Sports Venues. Then I applied for a full-time position as a project coordinator in the Commercial market. My supervisor encouraged me to look at a Spectaculars coordinator position, which is where I’m at. I really enjoy the contract work.
Something the whole family agrees upon is that Daktronics treats their students well. They know first-hand from two generations’ experience. Daktronics understands students have a finals week where students’ focus needs to be on studying; it’s part of the makeup and development of good students. With a number of initiatives, Daktronics encourages you to learn, whether it’s through pay incentives for good grades or continuing education benefits.
Kelly: Today, I often see individuals from outside our company submit applications for sales roles and I have to explain to them that education is our company’s foundation, and therefore a requirement for employment in certain roles.
Sara: When you come right out of high school, you have a certain mentality. Going through education, you learn you have to do this and that to achieve your goal. You learn to be a team player. Students come in having learned that lesson through their education, which makes them better workers.
Lexi: I have to say, I do like that Daktronics requires you to be a full-time student. It pushes you to graduate on time. Plus, you can build your own schedule.
Sara: I really appreciated that Daktronics provided me a place to put my career into gear again while keeping my family first.
Q: So, what’s it like working for the same employer? Does your work overlap at all?
All: No, not really. We enjoy having the same schedule for our company-wide holiday break!
Q: What advice would you give to people considering Daktronics?
Kelly: You get out of it what you put into it. Don’t close yourself off in your cube. Get to know people.
Sara: Really, I would encourage anyone to apply. It’s been a great place for us to work.
All: Daktronics will encourage you to move to a different department if you want new challenges or experiences.
Lexi: Something else I like is that Daktronics is constantly looking for ways to improve. I had an interview two months after starting a position where they asked me if I was happy and what could have been clearer in the interview process.
Q: What are some of your favorite Daktronics memories?
Sara: My favorite memories are the people. And the Christmas parties. Kelly was just out of college when we had kids, so we grew up here. It’s a genuine thing to get to know people’s families.
Lexi: I enjoy the picnic each year and the sign company connections. Who else will help you when you’re stranded in Fargo with a dead car battery? The sign company replaced it for me!
Kelly: There are lifetime friendships inside and outside the company.
Sara: You know, sitting here talking has made me realize Daktronics has been a part of our lives from the beginning, from the start of our family to present. We’ve been married for 27 years. Our whole lives have evolved around Daktronics and creating our family.
Lexi: It’s true. Some of my favorite memories were traveling to dad’s conventions.
Kelly: Yes, we would load up the kids and put the car seats in the back and travel to Kansas City or Chicago. They were great travelers, so we’d get ready and away we’d go.
Thank you, Koenig family, for your contributions to the company. Stories like these are what Daktronics is built upon. We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the company’s next 50 years!
This article is by Betsy Mans
in Transportation Marketing.