Just two days after starting work as a web developer at Paulsen, Tom Kamnikar became a father when he and his wife, Danelle, welcomed Maggie Kay Kamnikar into their family on April 7, 2004.

It's not often that two major life milestones — the beginning of a new job and one's entry into parenthood — align so closely. But in looking back twenty years later, it is clear how they dovetailed together quite nicely for the Kamnikar family.

"Those girls think of this place as home as much as I do," says Tom, whose second daughter, Lily, was born a few years later. "They used to come in when they were little and sit at my desk and color all afternoon. They've been to Christmas parties and picnics and Friday afternoons in the office."

Today, Tom serves as digital project manager at Paulsen, and he recently celebrated his 20-year anniversary. He sees many parallels between his evolution as a parent and his professional growth. "There are ups and downs and struggles, and it's just been part of the journey," he says. "Paulsen — and Sara (Steever) in particular — has always been so encouraging as far as me being a dad and helpful whenever issues come up."

Tom estimates he has worked on well over 100 web development projects during his tenure at Paulsen, each one presenting its own unique set of challenges. "It's a puzzle every day," he says. "Figuring out the puzzle and feeling like, 'Yeah, I kind of do know what I'm doing,' is probably the best part of my job."

His lack of inhibition when faced with a significant challenge has long impressed Tom's colleagues at Paulsen. "What I've always appreciated about Tom is that he's been unafraid of tackling big projects," says Chief Technology Officer Sara Steever. "He has the right attitude. It's an enormous advantage to have 20 years of consistency and institutional knowledge as well as the willingness to do the hard work and take on challenges."

A past project that stands out for Tom is a contest site Paulsen developed for Hallmark Cards, Inc. The site was launched in 2006, just as user-generated content was becoming popular. It allowed people to submit photos and captions that would then be voted on for inclusion in Hallmark's in-store greeting card lineup. "We built that from scratch," recalls Tom. "It was pretty cool."

Paulsen has earned numerous accolades for outstanding website development during Tom's tenure. In 2024, these included silver honors in the public service and self-promotion categories at the South Dakota American Advertising Awards. Other award-winning web projects in the past few years include a website for Timberlyne, a digital asset management app for RCIS and a microsite for Belchim USA's TOUGH on Weeds campaign.

In addition to anchoring web development capabilities for the agency over the past twenty years, Tom has also helped ground its cultural identity. He serves on the event committee, is a full-fledged participant in extracurricular activities — from Halloween dress-up days to in-office competitions to summer kickball leagues — and even hosts interactive trivia games for Paulsen's monthly happy hour.

"The joke is I always wanted to be a game show host. I am a theater nerd and improv guy, so doing that stuff is fun for me," says Tom. "But I like so much about the culture here that I want to protect it and make sure it keeps going."

Staying with one employer for 20 years doesn't happen as often as it did a generation ago, and Tom knows this reality well. But he's proud of his longevity and the meaningful work and relationships he's enjoyed over those two decades. "I just felt like that's what I was supposed to do," he says. "This place is my home. This is where I'm supposed to be."