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Carrie Jordan, CF APMP, wears many hats in her daily life. A bid and proposal professional for 14 years, she is currently the director of proposals at the Microsoft Proposal Center of Excellence (PCoE). She also regularly volunteers in her community and is a small-business owner, running her custom woodworking, furniture and décor store Tall Pine Woodworks with her husband Chad.
Jordan started her career in bids and proposals wearing many hats as well. After beginning as an administrative assistant temp worker for a software company and taking on increasingly complex tasks, she was asked to copyedit resumes and past performance examples for an FBI proposal. “After weeks on that project and demonstrating my eye for detail and ambition, I was transitioned into a full-time project administrator role and granted a top-secret clearance to serve on our (now won) FBI project as well as projects at DISA and DIA,” she says. “Alongside that project admin work, I continued to help with proposals. Eventually, they put me into a proposal coordinator role and later proposal management.”
Jordan has continued to grow in her career, being named one of APMP’s 40 Under 40 honorees in 2021. Read on to learn what Jordan describes as her best accomplishment (and biggest challenge) as well as why she went into business for herself with her family.
Tell us about your biggest professional accomplishment.
I was fortunate to be part of a small team to ideate and create a brand new proposal service (the PCoE) for Microsoft — what an opportunity! Starting as a proposal manager — along with my leadership team Diana Parker and Vicki Griesinger and my peers Stacey Duwe, Amanda Heather and Robin Clarke — we “built the plane on the way down.”
During an eight-month pilot phase, we supported as many proposals as possible, delivered as much impact as we could, and began creating structure and SOPs along the way. Pilot success led us to receive formal funding in FY21. From there, my manager Diana gave me incredible growth opportunities to expand beyond proposal management into strategy and operations of PCoE. Now as the director, my mission is to be the best proposal shop in the industry and the best proposal shop to work for in the industry. We have an incredible win rate and NSAT in pursuit of the first part of our mission, and our team constantly reports of their overall job satisfaction, work/life balance and enjoyment working for PCoE.
Conversely, what was the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
By far, the biggest challenge was living the all-too-common culture of working nights, weekends and holidays on a regular basis. Working in an environment that views proposal professionals as administrative backstops was definitely the lowest point of my career. I was working unhealthy hours, underappreciated for my efforts and didn’t have a leader who stood up for my basic human needs (such as bathroom breaks and holidays off!)
I quickly learned that I had to be my own advocate in that environment and changed my approach to proposal management and scheduling as well as how I presented myself and my expectations. That alone made a huge difference because I believe people treat us the way we let them treat us, though having strong leaders advocating for you certainly helps. Now that I run the PCoE proposal team, I get to help my team set those boundaries for themselves and go to bat for them if they face unrealistic or unhealthy work demands. I value work/life balance as much as I value the proposal excellence we deliver because a highly skilled winning team is of no use if they’re exhausted, unhappy, unhealthy and disconnected from their regular lives. They’re probably tired of me saying it, but because of my experience, I will champion work/life balance in the proposal industry as long as anyone will listen.
Why did your family decide to start your business Tall Pine Woodworks?
It started when we wanted to furnish our own house. My husband Chad and I bought our first house together in 2013 and quickly realized we needed more furniture to fill it. We couldn’t find exactly what we wanted on the market, and we also didn’t have a fortune to spend on new furniture, so Chad decided to try to build his own desk. He was raised to be handy around the house but building furniture was entirely new. He was self-taught (and YouTube taught) and built an awesome desk! Next, he made us a console table, and it snowballed from there. Guests commented on how great the furniture looked and suggested we start a business. I’m entrepreneurial at heart so I dove right in and opened a shop, photographed merchandise, designed a website and filed our business with the state. Orders have been pouring in since then! It’s a fun, creative outlet for Chad, and it satiates my entrepreneurial ambitions, so it’s a great side business for us. We’re building a new house and Chad’s woodshop will be three-times larger, so he’s very excited!
How do you think your role as small-business owner has helped you flourish in your role at Microsoft?
When you’re a new small-business owner, you have to learn a lot of different skills and manage all aspects of the business yourself. I’ve had to file for a business license and tax ID, design a website, gather customer requirements, communicate status frequently, ensure quality and customer satisfaction, manage the business budget, market on social media, report on personal business taxes, find shipping solutions, negotiate with suppliers, and the list goes on! Being a business owner builds resilience and confidence that I’ve been able to carry to my work at Microsoft.
You are also an active volunteer. Why do you think it’s important to give back to your community?
I wish I volunteered more! With five children, I try to dedicate time to one volunteer organization at a time, so I am still as present as possible at home. Right now, I’m serving as a mentor through Generation Hope, which connects sponsors/mentors with college parents to help them pay their tuition and to coach them through the challenges of being a college parent. I had my daughter when I was finishing my last year of college, so I can attest to how hard it is to be a parent (especially to a new baby), excel in school and work full-time. I’ve made it out of some challenging circumstances with a great family and career, and I think it’s important to give back in a way that inspires college parents to finish their degrees and pursue impactful careers. It’s such a blessing to be able to volunteer and to have the experience that can show my scholar what’s possible. I learn just as much from her as she does from me. Volunteering is one of those things that even though the pursuit is to give back to others, the volunteer receives just as much, if not more, from the experience.