Portland Webworks 2023 Peoples Choice Award winners

Celebrating the PWW Team

2023 People's Choice award winners and team member retirement recognized

Portland Webworks/GovWebworks celebrated the 10th annual People’s Choice awards during our 2023 holiday party at Via Vecchia in Portland, Maine. The three winners were awarded plaques and gift cards for the categories of Most Valuable Player, Grace Under Pressure, Most Versatile, and this year, a Certificate of Achievement to Todd Merry for his retirement. While many employees received accolades from their peers during the voting process, the winners stood out for their contributions in 2023.

“We are so fortunate to have the right skills, the right work ethic, and the right pieces put together to achieve something we have never achieved before,” said President Justin Davis about the company seeing 27 percent growth in client projects this year.

Congratulations to the following People’s Choice award winners, and to Todd on his retirement! Details below.

Most Valuable Player: Ezra Friedlander

Ezra Friedlander, People's Choice Award WinnerThe MVP goes to the employee who has been most essential to the company’s mission over the past year. An overwhelming majority of votes went to Ezra for his work with the State of Idaho. Ezra has been a valued developer on Idaho projects since he joined the company in 2013.

“When he followed his dreams and moved to Hawaii in 2019, he showed that valuable work can transcend time zones and huge expanses of ocean,” said Kevin Ferguson, Director of Software Development, introducing the award. “He is diligent and meticulous, he’s also thoughtful and kind. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with Ezra.”

As one of his peers noted in the anonymous voter comments, “No one is cooler under pressure than Easy E! Ezra had an extraordinarily demanding year as the tech lead for idalink, while also welcoming a new member to his family and avoiding natural disasters, all without breaking a sweat.”

Another coworker agreed: “Ezra is always calm, collected, and ready to get the job done, allowing his teammates to focus on the priorities.”

Yet another team member highlighted the fact that, “I am sure I have seen Ezra in very stressful situations where code freezes are happening and things are exploding. I have never seen Ezra anything other than calm, collected, and ready to get the job done. His ever-calm attitude helps lower the temperature for the entire team and allows everyone to focus on what needs to be done.”

The following comment sums up why the MVP award is so well deserved: “Ezra has shown an extremely well-rounded approach to his technical work and team leadership this year. He has expertly balanced many competing demands and made time to mentor and support his teams in many different ways.”

Some of the projects Ezra has worked on this year include:

  • ADRIS Modernization
  • Idaho Tobacco
  • Idaho idalink Refresh

Thank you, Ezra!

Grace Under Pressure: Tammy Schlesinger

Tammy Schlesinger, People's Choice Award WinnerThis is the employee who is best known to be unflappable, and who demonstrates tact, consistent productivity, and exceptional grace when under pressure.

“People always think a project manager or QA will get this award because we are all under a lot of pressure,” said Alison Schestopol, Director of Project Management and QA. “But this year someone new to the organization got tossed into the fire and we’re so glad she didn’t quit in the first three months!”

“Tammy has been through trial by fire as a new PM and always seems to take the punches in stride,” echoed a coworker. “She is friendly, even keel, and a great addition to the team.”

Other team members noted:

“Tammy consistently handles tricky client situations with precision and grace. Even when pressure is high, she communicates effectively, creates tracking and information sharing tools, and stays cool and collected while she manages her teams.”

“Tammy has shown impressive grace in challenging situations. She doesn’t focus just on surviving the challenge but looks for ways to improve herself and her team in the process.”

One quote that summarizes Tammy’s contributions emphasized, “Tammy played a crucial role in spearheading important projects this year. She’s shown amazing leadership, communication, and commitment that make it easy for her teammates to focus on their tasks at hand and create an environment of productivity.”

Some of the projects Tammy managed this year include:

  • Fermilab
  • Idaho Tobacco Project
  • Idaho idalink Refresh

Thank you, Tammy!

Most Versatile: Brett Kana

Brett Kana, People's Choice Award WinnerThis award goes to the person who stands out for the ability to step in when needed, no matter what the need is, and go above and beyond to get the job done. This award is a clear fit for Brett, who has filled the roles of business analysis, quality assurance, and project manager in addition to his user experience design tasks.

“From his QA and PM background, Brett moved seamlessly into a variety of roles within his title of user experience designer,” said Sarah Crossman, Director of User Experience, in her introduction. “He is extremely thoughtful and purposeful in his planning of project activities and extraordinarily attentive to what makes a project different and what’s going to make it a success.”

One team member underlined the fact that, “Brett has worn many hats during his time here, and it’s fantastic to have someone who brings so much value to every project, and is so thoughtful about what each project needs.”

Other team members noted:

“Brett has established a well-deserved reputation as being able to handle things. He brings his finely honed set of skills to bear on many different challenges – the epitome of versatility.”

“Brett has worn many hats during his time here, and it’s fantastic to have someone who brings so much value to every project, and is so thoughtful about what each project needs.”

In summary, a peer underlined, “Brett is a model of versatility, having evolved from project manager and business analyst and user experience designer, as well as writing for the blog and adding to the in-person office crew. He’s a great addition to the team!”

Some of the projects Brett has leant his skills to this year include:

  • American Battle Monuments Commission
  • Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  • Fermilab
  • Florida Turnpike Enterprise
  • Idaho idalink Refresh

Thank you, Brett!

Retirement Certificate of Achievement: Todd Merry

Todd Merry, Certificate of AchievementTodd Merry was given special recognition during the awards portion of the evening for his exemplary service at Portland Webworks over the past 15 years as first a contractor and then full-time employee. Not only is Todd a multiple People’s Choice award winner from past years, but he helped to define the role of Quality Assurance Engineer at Portland Webworks. He will be greatly missed, and we can’t help hoping he will be back in some capacity.

In announcing the award, President Justin Davis said, “When Todd came in 2010, it was so long ago that if you were alive at that point you may have been watching the TV show Lost, or you may have been marveling at the very first iPad, or listening to Justin Bieber on the radio, though Todd was definitely not listening to Bieber!”

Justin went on to note that on top of his many technical skills, “Todd has a natural sense of humor that is always on point for the audience. Clients talk about how much they value Todd. People look forward to having Todd on their teams. Todd has won the respect and admiration of his clients and his colleagues and leaves an indelible mark on our organization’s culture.”

The many comments from team members capture the impact Todd had on our organization:

“Todd is simply one of the kindest, most reliable people I have ever worked with. That’s a rare combination and I will miss collaborating with him and know that whatever is to come for Todd will be amazing because he is.” – Mark

“What I most appreciate about Todd is his warm heart and willingness to always lend a hand. His passion for the company is undeniable. He embodies everything quality, as a tester, a colleague, and a human being. I feel privileged to have worked with him. I hope retirement fills his cup, because he deserves it.” – Tammy

“I hold Todd fully responsible for opening up the rabbit hole that is reconstructing Lego kits from piles of old bricks. Organizing them scratched an itch I never knew I had, not that I can ever hope to reach Todd’s levels of organization. My favorite memory of Todd was going to an Elvis Costello concert with him and Alison when on a business trip in Minneapolis. Only he would have sought out tickets and dragged us out there, and I’m so glad he did.” -Tom

“While Todd is well known for his exceptional QA/PM/BA/DEV skills, it’s also his many other qualities that I will miss: his technical knowledge and wisdom, his zany humor and sharing stories of “back in the day,” his fabulous holiday costumes (light-up Christmas tree sweaters, anyone?), that booming voice and clacky keyboard that signals his presence when in the office. PWW has been all the richer because of Todd and his contributions and while it’s sad to bid farewell, I wish Todd all the best in this next phase of his life, and look forward to hearing tales of retirement, because you know there will be quite a few of them!” -Diane

“I am going to miss working with Todd because Todd is an amazing colleague that everyone wishes to have. He is an excellent QA, he can also play PM and developer roles. He’s very responsible and enthusiastic at work. Outside of work, Todd is very friendly, he often shares with us about places he traveled, things he did, etc. I’m touched every time seeing Todd sharing pictures and activities he has been doing with his dad.” -Dang

“I’ve only been at PWW for roughly two months and, in that time, Todd has been so helpful and willing to meet and answer any questions I might have, whether it’s Drupal or Google Analytics. I’m sad I won’t get to work with him more but am so happy for him and his retirement!” -Danielle

“My wish for Todd as he goes into retirement is that he gets all the time he deserves to enjoy time with loved ones and explore new places and passions.” -Tracy

“Todd’s consistent good humor, calm demeanor, and easy manner is a model of the PWW spirit. He may be retiring, but my guess is he will be an honorary member of the team for as long as he wants to keep us up to date on his adventures. I’m so glad to have shared my time at PWW with Todd!” – Melissa

Some of the projects Todd has contributed to this year include:

  • California Behavioral Health Infrastructure
  • Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  • Idaho DWH Department Site
  • Minnesota DEED

Thank you, Todd!

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