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

Marcia Carter-Griffith has been with PhoenixTeam for six months now, thriving in her roles as Data Analytics Consultant and Senior Functional Analyst. She has already utilized our Continuous Learning opportunities to take a course in Agile Methodology and received her Scrum Master Certification! Marcia also appreciates how our Village “takes the time to discuss important issues that affect our lives outside of work like mental health, our communities, and the people around us.”

Her top bucket list item is to see the Egyptian pyramids and if she could have coffee with a historical figure, Marcia would choose Dr. Mae C Jemison, an engineer, physician, and the first Black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Practitioner Leigh Moos’ favorite thing about her role at PhoenixTeam is delivering clients value at scale within the mortgage industry. “We care about having an authentic impact for the people who matter most. It is great to influence positive change and advocate for opportunities that result in happier, healthier, more equal, and more knowledgeable communities, team members, and clients.”Leigh holds that the best professional advice she has received is to maintain a work/life balance. She accomplishes this with support from PhoenixTeam leadership, friends, and family. Outside of work, Leigh enjoys watching her son play college baseball and her daughter perform. She also loves to travel, take day trips, or long vacations. Her favorite destinations include Disney, Key West, New Orleans, and New York City.

PhoenixTeam Engineer Lauren Guse has built a network and support system a year into her time at PhoenixTeam. She enjoys the opportunity to “make a difference in the lives of our clients” while she is challenged to become better at what she does. At PhoenixTeam, Lauren says she “feel[s] seen, heard, and valued by fellow team members” and is “grateful to work for a company where [she] not only feels comfortable sharing [her] ideas but is also empowered to do so.”

Lauren’s interests include animals and culture, with the dream of owning a big, ranch-style home with plenty of land for animals and the bucket list item of visiting Japan to immerse herself in the food and art.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Resonating with Steve Jobs’ thoughts on creating a career, Lauren believes that work is a large part of life, so everyone deserves to have a job that fulfills, impassions, and brings happiness. “I wake up every day genuinely excited to work for PhoenixTeam and that’s how I know I’m at the right place!”

Being a Business Analyst at PhoenixTeam is Michael Oliver’s first job in his career. He never knew how willing his team members would be to help the “new guy.” “The people here at PhoenixTeam care and want to see me succeed. The experience in my first six months has been full of great times, and many answered questions.”

As a kid, Michael always dreamed of having a Jeep Wrangler. He achieved that goal, and his next step is to lift it and put some big tires on it! As far as a dream home, the combination of a modern style home with a log cabin color pallette would be his choice.

Thinking back to his not so long-ago college days, his advice to himself now is; “Trust your instincts. It will all work out the way it is supposed to.”

There is no greater gift than the time you get to spend with a friend or a loved one. With Matt’s love for music, he would choose to spend some time with James Marshall Hendrix jamming to some music.

As for a dream home, “how cool would it be to live in a cob construction home?” Matt loves the look and sustainability of these homes and would love the opportunity to live in one.

Matt’s college education in fine arts didn’t bring him to his career in IT, it was the need to have job stability and the ability to financially support his family. “You can’t go wrong with a career in computer science, and it is something I have really found a passion for.”

Matt was drawn to PhoenixTeam by the amazing things he heard about the company culture from a fellow team member. “I can crunch data anywhere, but having an awesome group of fun people in the trenches with you every day is what takes it to another level!”

Melissa’s perfect day starts with a good cup of coffee and brunch. Reading, music, and spending the day at the beach with friends until the sun goes down is at the top of her list of favorite things to do.

Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” This quote especially resonated with Melissa when she began her job at PhoenixTeam. For her, working at a company that is fully remote was not something she ever thought she would enjoy. Melissa was concerned there would be roadblocks to fully connecting with her co-workers but has found that it was easier than she thought. “Through projects, virtual coffee breaks, and happy hours, the atmosphere is filled with team spirit and a sense of unity that I did not think could be reached in a remote environment.”

Melissa’s advice: “Find an opportunity within the field you are passionate about, and get a better understanding of what is involved in the day-to-day; it may pleasantly surprise you.”

Meet Gloria, a Business Analyst at PhoenixTeam. Spending time outdoors with family, friends and a good glass of wine tops her list! She is always ready for time spent listening to music, enjoying a picnic, engaging in a challenging hike, or a swim at the water park.

Her college career path was in early childhood education, but she is truly grateful for life taking her down a different path, ultimately finding herself at PhoenixTeam. What most drew her to PhoenixTeam was the opportunity to learn skills necessary in today’s world. Gloria enjoys the ability to grow in her career while learning from the incredibly skilled and knowledgeable people at PhoenixTeam.

The best part of Kris’s job is the variety in his work. Each day may bring a new challenge and he loves that. He also loves working from home and how it helps keep his work/life balance in check. Kris’s son and daughter are both college students. His advice to them, “Find your passion and then see what careers align with that passion. Your job will just be a job if you don’t love it, but if you are passionate about it, it becomes a part of who you are.” If you ask Kris the best way to cook a filet mignon, he will tell you, hands down, in a cast iron skillet. During the pandemic Kris took the opportunity and dove into cooking. Along the way he found a few great recipes that he has filed away for safekeeping.

Meet Sofia Castro, she was born in Brazil and moved to the US with her family when she was 2 years old. Sofia is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English. If she could plan a dream trip, it would be to Europe with her parents and her dog Benny. The itinerary would include Greece, Italy and Spain. During college, Sofia was involved in many internships for journalism but found her heart was not in it. This discovery took her down the path of working in the consulting field and feels lucky to have found PhoenixTeam. The inclusivity, leadership and positive work environment are the values that she admires most about PhoenixTeam.

Sofia lives by the advice once given to her, “Work hard and be kind! You never know what someone else is going through.”