Every quarter the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) awards a team member with the Excellence Award

The goal of the award is to acknowledge, celebrate, and amplify team members who are rigorous in their work, and who collaborate well with peers and project partners. Team members nominate each other for the award.

Maria Sholtis, our content design fellow, won the award this quarter for the below reasons.

  • Attention to detail and dedication for doing the right thing
  • Thoughtful and well-informed input on design and content challenges
  • Collaborating without ego and communicating with clarity
  • Proactively finding ways to support the team
  • Being a pleasure to work with

ODDT team members said the following about Maria:

“I appreciate Maria’s attention to detail and dedication to doing the right thing. She has helped me communicate and steer projects in the right direction. They would not be so successful without her expertise.”

“Maria’s constant focus, professionalism, and expertise has been an inspiration and comfort to me since I joined ODDT.”

We had Maria answer a few questions so you could learn more about why we’re so proud to have her on our team.

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Tell us about your background.

Before coming to the City, I got my M.F.A. at the University of Pittsburgh and worked as an archivist in my hometown library. I spent a lot of time doing research, writing instructions, and helping people find answers to their (sometimes unusual!) questions.

Ultimately, it was important to me that I work with words for a living. I also wanted to stay in public service. (Like Arin Black, the first winner of this award, I appreciate that sense of purpose.) That’s how I ended up pursuing a role with ODDT.


What’s your favorite word, and why?

Oh, that’s tough. It changes all the time! Since it’s autumn, though, let’s go with conjure

It’s not a word I get to use much on phila.gov. But it makes me want to settle in with a ghost story, a cozy blanket, and all things pumpkin spice. What’s not to like about that?


What are you most proud of accomplishing while working at the City?

I was excited to take a lead role in the content migration for the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Building their new site was a rewarding experience, and I really enjoyed working with their team. Since I’m into history and historic preservation, the subject matter had personal meaning to me.

I’ve also worked with ODDT’s product team on some interesting projects, from creating web applications to redesigning paper forms. Again, there’s always a feeling of accomplishment in taking a project from concept to completion. Along the way, I’ve enjoyed learning about the product team’s individual expertise—and trying to keep up with their group banter.


What’s one thing you’ve learned participating in the content migration of Phila.gov?

Something that was immediately eye-opening was the breadth of the City’s work. As part of the content migration, we get immersed in the details of what the departments do, and the scale is incredible.

One side effect is that you build a semi-encyclopedic knowledge of those processes. And when you leave work for the day, you take it with you. You’re chatting with your friends about recycling, and suddenly, you find yourself describing all the varieties of dumpster licenses … in detail … or maybe that’s just me?

In any case, I’ve learned that distilling all that complexity takes careful planning, healthy collaboration, and a whole lot of work.

I’m fortunate that my fellow content team members are generous with their knowledge and eager to support one another. Learning is an essential part of the job. All together, it makes for a work environment and mission that I’m really happy to be part of!

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Congratulations, Maria, on winning ODDT’s Excellence Award!