Arlington, Virginia, June 18, 2024, – PhoenixTeam has been named to Inc.’s annual Best Workplaces list. Prominently featured on, the list is the result of a comprehensive measurement of American companies that have excelled in creating exceptional workplaces and company cultures, whether operating in a physical or a virtual facility.  

At PhoenixTeam, our dynamic and inclusive company culture is the cornerstone of our success and team member happiness. As a 100% remote company with talent spread across the country, our priority is to provide a culture where our team members can build authentic human connections and relationships regardless of location or time zone. We strive to create an environment where empathy, learning from failure, and the relentless pursuit of personal and professional growth are encouraged and celebrated. By focusing on the human element and empowering our team members to do meaningful work, they feel valued, heard, and motivated to advance in their careers. PhoenixTeam invests in its team members as much as they invest in the company and that is a key ingredient to its longevity, growth, and outstanding reputation as a technology company and partner. 

After collecting data from thousands of submissions, Inc. selected 543 honorees this year.  Each nominated company participated in an employee survey, conducted by Quantum Workplace, covering topics such as management effectiveness, perks, fostering employee growth, and overall company culture. The organization’s benefits were also audited to determine overall score and ranking. 

“We are honored to be recognized as a 2024 Inc. Best Workplace,said Tanya Brennan, CEO and Managing Partner of PhoenixTeam. When Tela Mathias, Tom Westerlind, and I founded PhoenixTeam in 2015, we did so with a commitment to always do the right thing by our clients, our communities, and most importantly, our team members who give their all every single day. It is an honor and privilege to provide our team with the culture, flexibility, resources, and support they need to be their best selves, both professionally and personally.” 

“Each year, Inc.’s Best Workplaces program recognizes the very best in terms of companies that have fostered a truly amazing culture,” says Inc. editor-in-chief Mike Hofman. “We use hard metrics and data as well as qualitative measures for judging in order to find the very best—and we’re proud that the program is highly selective.”

About PhoenixTeam 

PhoenixTeam is a technology company that specializes exclusively in the design, delivery, and care of technology solutions in the federal and commercial spaces. Our dream is to enable affordable and accessible homeownership for all Americans through customer-centric technology solutions. We believe that by bringing joy and purpose back to software development while bridging the gap between technology and business teams, we can really make a difference in the lives of clients and homeowners everywhere. PhoenixTeam is a woman and minority-owned small business headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. For more information, visit

About Inc. Media 

The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels including websites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print. Its prestigious Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. The global recognition that comes with inclusion in the 5000 gives the founders of the best businesses an opportunity to engage with an exclusive community of their peers, and the credibility that helps them drive sales and recruit talent. The associated Inc. 5000 Conference is part of a highly acclaimed portfolio of bespoke events produced by Inc. For more information, visit 

About Quantum Workplace

Quantum Workplace, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is an HR technology company that serves organizations through employee-engagement surveys, action-planning tools, exit surveys, peer-to-peer recognition, performance evaluations, goal tracking, and leadership assessment. For more information, visit www, 

PhoenixTeam Designated as One of MISMO's First Certified Consultants, Shaping the Future of Mortgage Industry Standards

ARLINGTON, VA, UNITED STATES, April 24, 2024 — PhoenixTeam is proud to announce it is one of MISMO’s first Certified Consultants. This new certification program was announced in January at MISMO’s 2024 Winter Summit, where PhoenixTeam was named an early applicant. MISMO’s Certified Consultant Program verifies PhoenixTeam’s industry domain knowledge, proficiency with MISMO standards, and commitment to supporting the MISMO community.

MISMO, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, created the Certified Consultant Program to meet a strong and growing business need for such expertise to help organizations begin or continue adopting MISMO standards. The program framework includes a multi-step process to verify that each consultant company meets the criteria outlined in the program requirements. The certification encompasses a comprehensive range of designations, positioning PhoenixTeam as a trailblazer in multiple facets of mortgage operations, specifically, residential mortgage origination and servicing as well as mortgage technology strategic planning and operational efficiency planning.

“We have been deeply involved with MISMO for the past five years and could not be more thrilled to be one of its first Certified Consultants,” said Tanya Brennan, CEO and Managing Partner of PhoenixTeam. “This achievement reflects our ongoing efforts to empower our clients with the latest MISMO solutions and insights to thrive in our industry.”

As a MISMO member since 2019, PhoenixTeam serves as trusted advisors, contributing its expertise towards evolving industry standards. This collaboration empowers PhoenixTeam to offer clients unparalleled subject matter knowledge and insights into how best to prepare their systems and organizations to embrace and adopt the new standards. PhoenixTeam’s deep involvement includes MISMO Champion Level membership, Residential Governance Committee membership, MISMO Bootcamp engagements, and team members who are Certified MISMO Standards Professionals (CMSP®) and Associate MISMO Standards Professionals (AMSP™). Additionally, PhoenixTeam facilitates 20 workgroups across various mortgage industry standards areas, and provides bronze level sponsorship at MISMO Summits.

This partnership with MISMO is a cornerstone of PhoenixTeam’s vision of enabling homeownership through technology. Celebrating this honor, PhoenixTeam looks forward to continuing our ongoing partnership as a Certified Consultant with MISMO, contributing to an even more efficient, innovative, and consumer-friendly mortgage landscape.

About PhoenixTeam

PhoenixTeam is a technology company that specializes exclusively in the design, delivery, and care of mortgage technology solutions in federal and commercial spaces. Our dream is to enable affordable and accessible homeownership for all Americans through customer-centric technology solutions. We believe that by bringing joy and purpose back to software development while bridging the gap between technology and business teams, we can really make a difference in the lives of clients and homeowners everywhere. PhoenixTeam is a minority and woman-owned small business headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. For more information about PhoenixTeam, visit

Phoenix Team Inc Female Founders - Tanya Brennan, Tela Mathias

Inc.’s seventh annual Female Founders list highlights entrepreneurs with world-changing companies

ARLINGTON, VA, UNITED STATES, April 10, 2024 — Inc. recently announced its seventh annual Female Founders list, honoring 250 of America’s most dynamic, pioneering, and inspirational women entrepreneurs whose innovations and ideas are shaping the world into a better place. We are thrilled that two of our founders have made this year’s list! Tanya Brennan, PhoenixTeam Managing Partner and CEO, and Tela Mathias, PhoenixTeam Managing Partner and COO, were selected from a record-breaking number of trailblazing applicants, female founders who are challenging the status quo and tackling some of the world’s biggest problems and have had the most significant impact in the past year.

Tanya and Tela connected early in their careers while working at Price Waterhouse Coopers Consulting on a Department of Veterans Affairs project for the VA’s loan guarantee program. They formed a friendship over a shared dream to create a company that valued authenticity, learning, and empathy equally as much as delivering on our client’s greatest challenges. This, combined with a burning desire to bring joy and purpose back to software development, turned their dream into reality. In 2015, Tanya and Tela, along with their like-minded colleague Tom Westerlind, PhoenixTeam Managing Partner and CFO, co-founded PhoenixTeam, a minority and woman-owned small business (SBA WOSB) specializing in consumer lending and financial services technology solutions for federal and commercial clients.

In 2023, PhoenixTeam expanded on a shared vision to “serve those who serve” by providing our country’s veterans an opportunity to leverage their experience and leadership in the civilian space. Together with John Trodden, CEO of Blue Bay Business Delivery, LLC, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), they founded Blue Phoenix, a Mentor (PhoenixTeam) Protégé (Blue Bay) Joint Venture. Blue Phoenix is a technology company that delivers unparalleled business and technology PMO and delivery excellence to federal clients.

“Merging Blue Phoenix as a joint venture just allows us to bring the best of both worlds to the table,” said Brennan. Mathias added, “Blue Phoenix’s fundamental mission is to aid servicemembers in returning to civilian life after serving our great country…. This was a great way to build a shelf from our business to meet the mission of aiding that transition and delivering tech excellence for the federal government, especially at the VA.”

With over 23 years in the mortgage industry, Tanya lends her expertise across the product discovery, development, and implementation lifecycle. She is often referred to as a “problem crusher,” eliminating every obstacle that impedes value realization. She is a dynamic leader with a keen ability to communicate the value of different approaches to her clients and thought leaders in the industry. In 2020, she was honored by PROGRESS in Lending as a 2nd Annual 2020 Lending Luminary Award Winner, celebrating people in the mortgage banking industry who inspire or influence others and recognize them for their industry vision and leadership.

Tela has spent the last 23-plus years implementing winning strategies in the federal and private sectors. Her career has been focused on defining, designing, and delivering these strategies in both the federal and private sectors. She serves as a strategic advisor to several of the country’s largest fintech providers, guiding them through their most complex transformations. Tela is a mortgage expert specializing in software product discovery and management, go-to-market strategy, and all things implementation and delivery. She leads PhoenixTeam’s AI team and serves as its thought leader in the space.

About PhoenixTeam
PhoenixTeam is a technology company that specializes exclusively in the design, delivery, and care of technology solutions in the federal and commercial spaces. Our dream is to enable affordable and accessible homeownership for all Americans through customer-centric technology solutions. We believe that by bringing joy and purpose back to software development while bridging the gap between technology and business teams, we can really make a difference in the lives of clients and homeowners everywhere. PhoenixTeam is a woman and minority-owned small business headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

About Blue Phoenix
Blue Phoenix is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) technology company that delivers unparalleled end-to-end technology and business outcomes to federal clients. A Joint Venture formed in 2023 between Phoenix Oversight Group, LLC (Mentor), and Blue Bay Business Delivery, LLC (Protégé), we specialize in delivering technology and program leadership excellence. Blue Phoenix exists to “serve those who serve,” providing our country’s veterans an opportunity to leverage their experience and leadership in the civilian space. Blue Phoenix’s combination of technology expertise and military fundamentals is the cornerstone of the world-class IT solutions we deliver to federal agencies.

Exciting news!! Inc. magazine today revealed that PhoenixTeam has earned its spot on Inc. 5000 Regionals: Mid-Atlantic list for the fourth consecutive year. Ranked No. 78 with a 130% growth rate, Phoenix remains one of the fastest-growing Mid-Atlantic private companies, based in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. This regional list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the Mid-Atlantic economy’s most dynamic segment–its independent small businesses.

A big thank you to our amazing Phoenicians for their relentless focus and passion, our partners for their collaboration and dedication, and of course, our clients, for the opportunities to partner with them to change the lives of those seeking homeownership.  We’re humbled, grateful, and excited for our plans to assist more federal housing agencies and commercial clients, ultimately leading to better outcomes for veterans and homeowners everywhere. Let’s continue to reach new heights together!

The 2024 Inc. 5000 Regionals are ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2020 and 2022. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2020.

Check out the full list:

MISMO Winter Summit 2024

The MISMO Winter Summit was jam-packed with insightful discussions, forward-looking sessions and it was also a celebration of MISMO’s 25-year anniversary of industry collaboration and standards development. Our team led 15 workgroup sessions, covering the latest standards in mortgage technology, credit reporting, and much more.

Let’s dive into the key insights and takeaways from the summit:

Embracing New Technologies:

A common theme of the summit was the focus on new technologies to streamline the mortgage process. Discussions and sessions highlighted the importance of enhancing security and transparency in transactions. The integration of AI, blockchain, and other emerging technologies is not merely a vision of the future, but a reality poised to reshape the mortgage landscape.

Legislative Developments- The VA Home Loan Awareness Act of 2023:

The proposed legislation brings greater awareness to the loan products available to Veterans by incorporating a disclaimer on the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) to increase awareness of the direct and guaranteed home loan programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Home Loan Awareness Act of 2023, detailed in a DS News story, is a bipartisan effort that underscores the industry’s continued efforts to highlight the VA home loan benefits available to those who have served our country.

New Initiatives: MISMO Certifications, Fee Modernization and Loan Servicing Data Standard

MISMO announced its new certification opportunities, including the MISMO Certified Consultants program and PhoenixTeam is proud to be an early applicant. “The new MISMO Certifications are designed for professionals and technology providers who demonstrate their commitment to effective business practices through their expertise in, and adherence to, MISMO standards,” said David Coleman, President of MISMO. “As adoption of MISMO standards continues to accelerate, we have more industry partners interested in pursuing the variety of certifications we are offering.”

MISMO is seeking participants for a NEW Fee Modernization Workgroup! VA announced plans for a collaborative effort with other federal housing agencies to develop a loan servicing data standard – more to come!

More Insights from the Sessions: AI, Credit Reporting, FHFA and SMART Docs®

  • The Emerging Tech Community of Practice session debuted an Emerging Tech updates segment that included trends, articles, and projections about emerging technologies such as AI and Blockchain.
  • The Artificial Intelligence panel discussion provided an engaging conversation around “The Missing Middle” and how to bridge the gap between ‘human only activity’ and ‘machine only activity’. Brian Stucky from Rocket Mortgage refers to this as “The Missing Middle.” Human only activities include components such as leadership, teamwork, empathy, judgement, and social skills. Machine only activities include accuracy, speed, scalability, quantitative capabilities, and iteration. The “missing middle” are hybrid activities that can train, explain, sustain, and interact. The implementation involves leveraging AI to perform tasks that don’t require human intervention, such as interpreting loan documents and assisting with origination systems. As a result, bankers are obtaining answers approximately 70% faster.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) shared an update on what it learned during recent stakeholder forums discussing how data digitization might drive transparency, increase access, fairness, affordability, and sustainability in mortgage lending. The stakeholder forums, focused on historical data and sequencing of events, had broad industry participation. FHFA acknowledged the industry preference for “big bang” vs. a phased approach implementation of the credit score changes. It also reiterated movement of the bi-merge implementation timeline and expect to announce upcoming FHFA stakeholder forms by the end of January.  Potential topics for future forums may include Gaming, Fair Lending, Cost to Consumers and Consumer Disclosure.
  • Although the implementation date for the credit score changes is pending, the Credit Reporting CoP continued their effort to develop implementation guidance of the MISMO standard and the representation of the FICO 10T and Vantage Score 4.0.
  • The use of SMART Docs®, remains a focus with the introduction of Version 3 which introduces the ability to verify data and documents while also being tamper evident.

We are grateful for the insights gained and more excited to put them into practice as we continue to execute our federal and commercial clients’ value delivery goals.

Follow PhoenixTeam on LinkedIn for the latest news and updates.

#MISMOWinterSummit #MISMO #ContinuousLearning #Adaptability

Jacki Frazer

We recently interviewed Jacki Frazer, Managing Director at PhoenixTeam and the well-deserved recipient of PhoenixTeam’s Leader of the Year Award. Our interview was nothing short of inspiring, and discussed many leadership topics, including her unique philosophy, the importance of team collaboration, her innovative strategies for overcoming leadership challenges.

Some key insights from our interview:

🏆 On Being Named Leader of the Year
Jacki shared her heartfelt feelings about receiving the Leader of the Year award, emphasizing the importance of team effort and collective success.

🌍 Leadership in Jacki’s Eyes
What does leadership mean? Our conversation revealed that for Jacki, leadership is less about authority and more about collaboration, mentorship, and showing growth in others.

🧭 Jacki’s Leadership Philosophy
Jacki shared her belief in collaboration with a focus on coaching. Her approach is a blend of empathy, strategic thinking, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

🚀 Tackling Challenges
Jacki recounted a particularly challenging situation and how she navigated it with grace and determination. The outcome? A stronger team and invaluable lessons in resilience and adaptability.

🌱 Advice for Aspiring Leaders
Jacki emphasized the importance of continuous learning, working closely with their leader or coach for honest feedback. Leadership takes time and effort and a continuous process that pays off over time.

📈 Upcoming Leadership Programs at PhoenixTeam
Finally, Jacki gave us a sneak peek into the exciting leadership community of practice program. This initiative promises to further strengthen the organization’s leadership culture and provide ample growth opportunities for team members.

Click here to watch the full interview

Why Phoenix Shawn Burke

In this “Why Phoenix” interview featuring Shawn Burke, Managing Practitioner at PhoenixTeam, we explore the dynamic culture of PhoenixTeam. Shawn uncovers what makes our Phoenix Village truly unique — its people, its culture of innovation, and its passion for excellence.

Shawn discusses topics including:
▶️ The dynamic and engaging culture at PhoenixTeam.
▶️ Key milestones and turning points that have shaped his experience with the team.
▶️ Inspiring moments that have stood out during his time with PhoenixTeam.
▶️ His time away from PhoenixTeam and the factors that influenced his decision to rejoin the team.
▶️ What makes PhoenixTeam a special and unique place to work.
▶️ His aspirations and plans for his future with PhoenixTeam.

Click here to watch the full interview!


In the “Why Phoenix” series, PhoenixTeam Village members share their personal and unique journeys within the organization. Vicki Withrow’s experience with PhoenixTeam is a testament to the power of this dynamic workplace. Her story takes us on a remarkable journey, highlighting the key milestones, challenges, and inspiring moments that have shaped her professional growth and personal development.

The Beginning of a Journey 

As I reflect on my time with PhoenixTeam, certain milestones and turning points come into focus. It all began with a connection and familiar face – Lindsay Bennett. Lindsay and I worked together for a short time previously and her dedication and ability to embrace change left a lasting impression on me. When Lindsay accepted an opportunity with PhoenixTeam, we connected on LinkedIn, and I watched as she and PhoenixTeam grew and impacted the mortgage tech industry. Searching for professional growth and a change for myself, one day I made the decision to contact her when she was searching for someone to join her on a project. Little did I know this would mark the beginning of a career with PhoenixTeam. 

In my first three years at PhoenixTeam, I served as a Product Designer and Product Manager on two of its largest programs at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan Guaranty (LGY). These programs challenged me in new ways, but it was the trust and support of our leadership that gave me the courage to embrace the unknown and showcase my experience. PhoenixTeam saw my worth, celebrated my work ethic, and always had my back. As a result, my confidence and sense of accomplishment grew both personally and professionally.  

In 2021, I transitioned over to support another large commercial mortgage technology client. Leading a team, we took a deep dive into the client’s world, creating high-quality design documents and future state vision. Here, I learned new creative techniques to elicit and understand the client’s daily challenges, the art of asking the right questions, and the power of empathy. We were making a difference, and the client knew that its voice, vision, and objectives, were heard and embraced.  

A Period of Transition

There was a moment when life presented challenges that caused me to consider a career outside of the mortgage industry and PhoenixTeam. After eight years in the fintech industry, I took a leap and transitioned into a new role as a Product Manager in the fashion industry, and I loved the idea of a four-day work week policy offered by this company. My father had been diagnosed with skin cancer, and this allowed me to spend more time with him. This timing, along with my aspiration to return to the fashion industry, couldn’t have been more perfect. When I shared my intentions to pursue a different passion with PhoenixTeam leadership, I was met with wholehearted support to follow my dreams. Our Partners blessed my departure and reassured me that I would always have a home with PhoenixTeam. 

During my new adventure, the deep product management, design, and implementation expertise I gained from PhoenixTeam set me apart from others. There were six systems I was responsible for as a Product Manager, but I was also called upon for assistance in the customer service arena, monthly catalogue creation, and general technology support. The role was very demanding and when colleagues asked, “WHERE did you come from?” The answer was simple – PhoenixTeam. 

I remained in touch with my PhoenixTeam comrades, and they always reassured me that my “village” was here should I find my way back. Within five months, I realized that the fashion industry was not as glamorous as I expected. I returned to the PhoenixTeam Village and was offered the chance to work with a well-known client whose work I greatly admired. This opportunity came under the leadership of Tanya Brennan, PhoenixTeam’s CEO and Managing Partner. She was the only “T” from our founding partners (Tanya, Tom Westerlind, and Tela Mathias) that I had not worked closely with to date, and I was thrilled to benefit from a new viewpoint and leadership style.   

As I look back, I have no regrets with my decision to take a chance and follow a dream. My time away allowed me to meet new people, try new things – even when doing so was professionally risky – and gain absolute clarity on what I need and deserve in a company. 

My “Why Phoenix” 

The heart of PhoenixTeam is its people, each of whom has a wealth of knowledge, a high bar for empathy and compassion, and a shared desire to make a difference. In our world, every project has its challenges, but it is navigating and conquering those experiences that bring the most inspiration. For me, it was several years ago when we were delivering a release under some intense pressure and facing significant challenges with delayed schedules and navigating a rigorous testing phase. In typical PhoenixTeam fashion, we all rallied to deliver on our commitment. Jacki Frazer, PhoenixTeam Managing Practitioner, and I were up until working until 2 a.m. to successfully push the release to production. The minute we dropped off the release call, I stood by the ocean in the cold winter air, tearing up with pride at what we achieved. That night is burned into my memory, and I draw on that energy whenever times get tough, or I just need a reminder of the outcomes I can deliver.  

PhoenixTeam has given me a space to push myself to new levels, learn from mistakes without fear, and benefit from true servant leadership and mentorship. I’ve been fortunate to work on federal and commercial programs which has afforded me the amazing opportunity to work with a majority of our Phoenicians. I hope there are those that can say that I made a difference for them. I am forever grateful for PhoenixTeam, its leadership, and its focus on humanity and authenticity.  

I will always be thankful to Lindsay Bennett, not just for leading me to this remarkable company but also for her continued mentorship and the heartfelt dedication she brings to everything she does. Without people like her, people who truly care and strive to help others prosper in their career, I would not have achieved the growth and success I have to date. There are many other Phoenicians who stand out as key players in my career journey, each of whom have impacted me in different ways. When you consider it all, everyone at PhoenixTeam is special and always eager to share their knowledge, personal and professional experiences, or just listen.  

Looking Ahead: 

As I look ahead, I intend to continue to crush every day and grow at PhoenixTeam. Over the past five years, my skillset has quadrupled. While my roots are in Product, PhoenixTeam gave me opportunities to stretch and successfully lead and deliver complex quality, implementation, and release management initiatives. My commitment to PhoenixTeam is strong. The PhoenixTeam Village has been a constant source of support during significant life changes, and I am eternally grateful for the love and mentorship they provide. 

PhoenixTeam is not just a workplace; it’s a place where dreams can flourish, and I am proud to call it home.

Vicki Withrow, Managing Practitioner, PhoenixTeam

This piece originally appeared in the October 2023 edition of MortgagePoint magazine, online now.

Authentic human connection and empathy are the keys to building great technology products. This is the core belief of PhoenixTeam, a technology company that specializes exclusively in the design, delivery, and care of mortgage technology solutions in the federal government and commercial spaces.

“PhoenixTeam is in the business of people. We celebrate the power of relationships, empathy, and intellectual curiosity,” says Tanya Brennan, Managing Partner and CEO of PhoenixTeam. “Great teams make great software.”

PhoenixTeam refers to each of its team members as practitioners, an ode to the continuous journey of practice and learning that is required to create delightful products. PhoenixTeam’s practitioners form and lead empowered teams to develop a deep understanding of their client’s problems and discover the optimal solutions. Brennan says that as practitioners we know the best way to overcome a challenge is to roll up our sleeves, ask questions, and learn by doing the work.

Often referencing a popular Theodore Roosevelt quote (see below) to inspire practitioners to take chances, PhoenixTeam encourages its team members to learn through failure and to pursue
ambitious goals on behalf of its clients. As Roosevelt said, “…The credit belongs to the (person) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” Brennan says, “That is PhoenixTeam, through and through.”

In the Right Place, At the Right Time

The founders of PhoenixTeam—Tanya Brennan, Tela Mathias, and Tom Westerlind—first met in 2001, fresh out of college working as entry-level management consultants who aspired to make
a difference. Tela, Tom, and Tanya, who together refer to themselves as “T3,” were each assigned to a multi-year project to support Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan Guaranty Service (LGY) through its major redesign of the LGY program to include regulatory, operational, and technology changes.

From the beginning, T3 knew that one day they would start their own company.

PhoenixTeam 3“The goal was to build a company we would want to be a part of,” says Tela Mathias, Managing Partner and COO of PhoenixTeam. “We wanted to create a great place for the talented people we already knew in the field, people that had been with us for years and years, while making a real difference for the mortgage industry, both on the federal and the commercial side.”

PhoenixTeam officially launched as a minority, woman-owned small business in 2015, just as the industry was implementing the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule.

“Looking back, it was an opportune time to start,” says Tom Westerlind, Managing Partner and CFO of PhoenixTeam. “We were in the arena with our customers, working side by side to implement TRID on a tight timeline. We were able to help our customers be successful during a difficult time, and word spread from there.”

With more work coming in, PhoenixTeam hired its first two practitioners, Lindsay Bennett and Melanie Lewis. Both quickly took on client engagement leadership roles and went on to lead two of PhoenixTeam’s biggest commercial accounts. In 2019, they became the first two team members invited to join the PhoenixTeam ownership group as Partners. Since then, the company has grown from a team of five to over 130 passionate, dynamic, and creative humans.

“They say you become who you surround yourself with, and I first joined PhoenixTeam because of the opportunity to reunite with a remarkable group of individuals who had left a lasting impact
on me, both personally and professionally,” says Chase Carpenter, Managing Practitioner.

To date, PhoenixTeam’s growth has been organic and 100% via personal referrals from its clients and practitioners. Brennan notes that the company has never relied on outside funding and has never hired a business development or sales team. “At PhoenixTeam,” Brennan explains, “every partner is a practitioner, and we sell by word of mouth and our outstanding performance.”

It is not the critic who counts; not the (person) who points out how the strong (person) stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the (person) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort  without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends (themselves) in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that (their) place shall never be with those cold and timid  souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

PhoenixTeam 2A Commitment to People

PhoenixTeam’s emphasis on authenticity and human connection harkens back to when T3 (the founders) first met. The lead Partner on that original LGY account back in 2001 was Ann Hopkins, Tela’s mother. Ann was a management consultant extraordinaire and civil rights advocate. “She taught by example to be a leader, take care of each other, and to challenge the status quo,” says Mathias. In her landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court recognized that Price Waterhouse had denied her partnership and discriminated against her based on sex stereotypes.

Within her practice, Ann taught five guiding principles: have fun, learn a few things, deliver a quality product that is perceived as a quality product, teach a few things, and make money. PhoenixTeam has taken these guiding principles as its foundation and continues to evolve them.

“We are committed to people, lifelong learning, service, diversity, and wellness,” says Mathias. In the spirit of that philosophy, in 2018, Phoenix started covering 100% of healthcare for its team members and their families, and now also pays for mental health services.

“Our team members deserve to come to work with less stress and we know healthcare is at the top of the list. Our desire is to do what we can, what is in our control, to reduce external stress so our
team members have fewer things to worry about and wake up ready to crush the day,” says Melanie Lewis, PhoenixTeam Partner.

When asked what qualities of PhoenixTeam allow it to attract and retain top-tier industry talent, Peter Read, Managing Practitioner, puts it simply: “Leadership…I know darn well I can text or cold call any of the partners or managing partners to talk personally and professionally. They have helped me flourish into a strong leader and have put me in positions where I am able to succeed based on my skills. They continue to invest in people both emotionally and financially. You will not get that anywhere else.”

The PhoenixTeam Difference

PhoenixTeam’s recipe for success is simple: top-tier mortgage technology talent, joy and purpose at work and home, and relentless focus on client outcomes. They believe this recipe enables their team members to become trusted advisors and deliver better outcomes for clients.

Top-Tier Mortgage Technology Talent: PhoenixTeam’s roots are mortgage and technology excellence. The company recruits mortgage technology talent with many years—often decades—of experience running mortgage lending and servicing operations. When you combine that with deep product and software development lifecycle expertise, you end up with a company of people like Becky Griswold.

In her 29-year career prior to coming to PhoenixTeam, Becky held several leadership roles at a top-10 mortgage bank leading product, technology, and enterprise services teams. Currently, she
leads the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO) accounts for PhoenixTeam. Earlier this year, Becky became PhoenixTeam’s newest Partner.

“I had been with Phoenix for about a year and was given an opportunity to lead a key initiative for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),” recounts Becky. “The catch was that we needed a team (like yesterday) … This began the journey to find the right talent in my network who would deliver high-quality value for USDA. I quickly assembled a team of 12 who hit the ground running in less than three weeks. Each is still part of the Phoenix village today, executing with passion.”

PhoenixTeam 4Joy and Purpose

“One of the great joys in life is finding your purpose, excelling at it, and discovering that your impact matters to something larger than yourself.”
— Maxime Lagacé

Early on in its formation, PhoenixTeam locked in on a vision to bring “joy and purpose” back to software development while bridging the gap between technology and business teams.  PhoenixTeam believes fiercely that individuals who have a clear purpose, who are connected to their teammates and clients, and who know that each of their colleagues and leaders have their back, will find greater happiness, dedication, and focus to the outcomes they drive. That can be a powerful thing.

Paul Weakley, a PhoenixTeam Partner and brilliant technologist, says he always seeks out difficult, enigmatic situations where the road to success must always be discovered. “I pursue the things I love…creativity, imagination, and problem-solving to support a mission that results in a positive impact on the world while working with friends who truly care for each other,” says Weakley. “Paul’s joy and purpose with clients is infectious,” says Brennan, recalling when he was nominated for Technologist of the Year by a mortgage client he supported even though, ultimately, he was ruled ineligible given he was not an employee.

Client Outcomes: Change is inevitable. PhoenixTeam leadership structures its contracts, software development approach, and management approach to expect change and adapt accordingly. They measure success by solving the business’s needs and achieving the outcomes set out by the client, even as those things change.

PhoenixTeam’s practitioners are experts at transforming legacy systems into modernized platforms that drive greater efficiencies. As a Salesforce Partner, PhoenixTeam is well known as a company comprised of “craft masters” who develop a clear understanding of each client’s vision and create custom strategic plans for discovery, development, and implementation of the new stack. PhoenixTeam’s experts work to break down every requirement thoughtfully, focusing on the “art of the possible” and helping to open clients’ eyes to process improvements and efficiencies
that previously seemed out of reach.

Lindsay Bennett, Partner, sums it up best: “Delivering better outcomes comes from embedding with our clients, internalizing their situation, and working together as one team. We’re not interested in showing up, ticking off a set of deliverables, and going home. We’re here to deliver value. Full stop.”

PhoenixTeam’s record aligns to this mindset. When a top mortgage FinTech engaged Phoenix to transform its lending process after more than a year of trying to implement Salesforce, PhoenixTeam wasted no time. Within a matter of weeks, the team reimagined the product vision, mission, and scope. They defined the first container of rapid value and 12 weeks later, onboarded the client’s first users. “Speed to value realization is the name of the game,” says Mathias.

PhoenixTeam 5When Jacki Frazer, Managing Practitioner, joined PhoenixTeam six years ago, her decision was based on a number of factors, but primarily because of the proven leadership of “T3.” Frazer recalls, “I knew that this company would be a major player in the mortgage industry, staffed with premium talent and a laser focus on our mission and purpose. In my six years with PhoenixTeam, those beliefs were confirmed. PhoenixTeam has been wildly successful due to its top talent, deep knowledge of the mortgage industry, and unwavering dedication to our clients. It is this winning combination that will keep PhoenixTeam at the forefront of technology delivery and ensure its continued success.”

“PhoenixTeam has supported USDA RD on multiple key initiatives over the past five years. They provided business advisory support services for GUS 2.0 to launch the new URLA; helped us develop the Business to Government loan and underwriting specifications leveraging MISMO standards; and, most recently, [are] leading the development of the Direct Loan Program loan origination replacement solution.”
—Dean Daetwyler, Director, System Implementation and Management Division, USDA SFH

Our Impact

At PhoenixTeam, the company’s leadership tells MortgagePoint that the word “impact” is not thrown around lightly or loosely. PhoenixTeam earned its reputation as an organization that “walks
the talk” because of the continuous impact it strives to deliver for its clients, community, and team members.

With its mission to enable homeownership through technology, PhoenixTeam initially supported mortgage banks and mortgage technology vendors to provide a better experience for borrowers and homeowners. PhoenixTeam then sought to partner with our country’s largest federal housing agencies to help them achieve their respective missions to enable affordable and accessible homeownership for all Americans. While it took several years to accomplish this goal, PhoenixTeam is honored to now support Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing Service (RHS), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan Guaranty Service.

“Community” is described by the PhoenixTeam leadership as a vital component to PhoenixTeam’s culture, and the company prides itself on supporting numerous causes near and dear to the hearts of its team members. As an organization that emphasizes inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (I.D.E.A.) in its day-to-day, PhoenixTeam supports, partners, and sponsors causes that increase awareness, affordability, and equal opportunity for minority and underprivileged communities, like Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the Down Syndrome Association, and the Florida Department of Blind Services. PhoenixTeam embraces its team members’ passion for community support too, marketing and matching funds raised for causes they care about.

Blue Phoenix TeamA New Venture: Blue Phoenix

In mid-2023, PhoenixTeam partnered with Blue Bay Solutions, LLC, to form Blue Phoenix, a mentor-protégé joint venture (MPJV) committed to serving those who serve by delivering technology excellence for federal agencies. Whereas PhoenixTeam’s niche is mortgage technology, Blue Phoenix serves all industries within the federal sector.

Blue Bay, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE)-certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), was formed in 2022 by John Trodden who was on a mission to provide a pathway for servicemembers as they reintegrated into civilian life and workforce.

“Veterans contribute technical and interpersonal skills, discipline, leadership, loyalty, commitment, and many other attributes to a company’s workforce—all of which improve the organization and the bottom line,” says Trodden, a disabled veteran who tirelessly served our country for over 25 years. John retired from the United States Marine Corps after serving 15 years as an enlisted member earning his commission to Second Lieutenant and then went on to serve an additional 10 years as a Commissioned Officer. Deployed overseas multiple times, John led troops into and through battle, receiving numerous meritorious, commendation, and achievement awards for leadership excellence.

John TroddenJohn says his decision to retire from the Marine Corps was not easy, but he was confident that he could apply his skills, military mindset, and passion to an industry also hungry for mission success and outcomes. He joined PhoenixTeam as part of its Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge Program, where he was able to learn and master the fundamentals of designing and developing software.

Within a few months, John started to connect the dots and bring to life the parallels between his military and civilian experiences that are so applicable to all industries. “I quickly came to realize that these young men and women are making a living, work hard, are smart, and are dealing in projects that are intricate with many levels,” notes Trodden. “Drawing upon my military leadership skills, I had 400 people from different walks of life, religions, backgrounds, and ethnicities under my command. But we all shared one driving force and mission, as we truly took care of one another. Troop welfare was huge, and we had each other’s backs. We were more than just brothers and sisters in arms. I thought, well, let me bring that mentality into this industry and see if we can make it work.”

Looking Ahead

Last month, PhoenixTeam and Blue Bay celebrated the launch of Blue Phoenix with their clients and partners in our nation’s capital. The founders reflected on their journey that night and the future state vision for PhoenixTeam, Blue Bay, and Blue Phoenix.

“Each of these companies put people first and seeks to deliver impactful and meaningful outcomes,” says Brennan. With PhoenixTeam’s long history serving commercial and federal agencies, and Blue Bay’s mission to help veterans transition to civilian life, Blue Phoenix is in the arena to solve tough problems and deliver outcomes for federal agencies.

As featured by MortgagePoint, October 2023

By Rob Smith, SPC, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, PPO, ICP-ACC, Senior Practitioner and Lean Agile Coach, PhoenixTeam

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines done as “no longer happening or existing.” It seems straightforward until you look at it from a situation or project, such as software development with numerous moving parts and ever-moving targets. The simple definition of “done” does not apply to delivery, program, and portfolio teams, which all define “done” differently. The term can be subjective according to the project, the company’s standards, and a laundry list of other variables that pose a challenge when setting expectations to achieve the desired outcome for the client. With so many evolving goals and moving pieces, how do teams of tech experts deliver valuable solutions for their clients, company, and community?

Senior Practitioner at Blue Phoenix and Agile Expert Robert (Rob) Smith credits implementing an Agile-based strategy for Blue Phoenix teams’ successful delivery of world-class, customer-centric technology solutions. Blue Phoenix specializes in shredding through problems and churning out solutions to deliver impact and value to its clients. “Our disciplines require our practitioners to be adaptable and quick on their feet due to the fast-paced nature of what we do,” said Rob, “We understand that the only constant in our work is change, so our practitioners always embrace and anticipate it—so much so that we even have a company-wide saying—pivot or die! This strategy ensures we think ten miles down the road, consider all obstacles, expertly adapt to change, and get things done.”

The Definition of Done (DoD) is a fundamental element of Agile that ensures every member of the Scrum Team knows precisely what is expected of them to deliver and when. Establishing a clear DoD at each level of the organization is vital and should be agreed on before any work begins on a project. Be clear. Be consistent. Have a shared understanding. This approach creates transparency, ensures quality aligns with the product and purpose of the organization, and avoids repeat processes by providing everyone a shared understanding of what work was completed as part of the increment. “We must integrate quality into our development processes by meeting the definition of done to prevent user stories that don’t meet the agreed upon standard from being promoted to higher level environments. It will prevent features that don’t meet the definition from being delivered to the customer or user,” advised Rob.

Keep in mind business and technology must be aligned to strike a balance between quality, risk, and speed of delivery. For instance, a manned spacecraft will require much more rigorous testing than an unmanned recreational drone. If the DoD demands exhaustive testing, it may slow down the delivery of the project. While the scope may change, it is important to maintain a consistent level of quality and effort unless a conscious decision is made to prioritize speed over quality. The bottom line is that the scope of the work may be impacted by the team’s DoD.

Rob took on the challenge of defining what it means for a project to “be done,” the Blue Phoenix Way, implementing an Agile-based strategy for outcomes that delight their clients. “The Phoenix definition of done (DoD) is when all conditions, or acceptance criteria, that a software product must satisfy are met and ready to be accepted by a user, customer, team, or consuming system. There are three steps to defining something as done,” says Rob:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What do we want our product to be like in production? What are all the things that must happen before a quality product or feature gets into the users’ hands?
  2. Determine the items the team has the capability and the capacity to complete during the given sprint or timebox. This becomes the team’s definition of done.
  3. Assess the tasks that fell off in the second step to determine how to accomplish them “now” and create a consolidated list of items the team can use to improve the efficiency and quality of their process and product over time.

These fundamental steps allow teams to align on what “done” means right now and what further development is needed to improve the process. The DoD for an increment is part of the organization’s standards that all Scrum Teams must follow as a minimum. If not clearly defined, the Scrum Team must create a DoD appropriate for the product. The Developers must conform to the DoD, and if multiple Scrum Teams work together on a product, they must mutually define and comply with the same Definition of Done.

“A team aligned on the ‘definition of done’ is a team that can identify improvement opportunities and build in greater quality and efficiencies. As impediments are removed, the team improves, and built-in quality improves,” said Rob. Phoenicians continuously collaborate and strategize to determine where they can build quality into their process while completing different tasks and corresponding criteria for assignments to be considered done. The team creates checklists for determining the completion of stories at the end of a sprint and releasing a code to production. The resulting checklists allow for a more efficient, streamlined sprint and product delivery. Just as Rob’s team redefined what it means to be done, Blue Phoenix redefines industry standards and practices daily through unwavering value delivery.

Rob Smith is a retired military officer with over nine years of experience as a Lean-Agile Trainer and Coach. He is a Senior Practitioner and Lean Agile Coach at PhoenixTeam. His distinct and adaptive international experience, combined with his military service and ethos, give him a unique perspective that applies to anyone who desires to succeed. Rob is passionate about sharing how his experiences in the service translate to success as a civilian. Please stay tuned for more articles on Veterans in the Workplace and how Blue Phoenix can help you leverage the power of our Nation’s Heroes!  

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