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Valerie Kessie, CP APMP, Shipley BDC, has been in the bid and proposal industry for over six years. After she graduated from Lawrence University in 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies (policy) and French literature and Francophone studies, she landed a role as a business development associate at a renewable energy firm, where she was introduced to proposal management as a secondary responsibility. “As time went on, in addition to my BD responsibilities, I started to manage proposals, and coach and mentor new hires and interns on leading proposal efforts on behalf of the company,” she says. “I have always loved to mentor and coach people.” Here, Kessie, who is the associate, federal proposal specialist at Michael Baker International, discusses her advice for new professionals in the industry as well as how her background has helped her in her day-to-day.
Last year, you received APMP’s 40 Under 40 Award. What’s your advice to new professionals who are looking to make an impact in the industry and within APMP?
I was far beyond humbled and honored to receive this recognition by APMP, as it not only reflects my growth and confidence in the last six years, but it gives me confidence that my work has truly made a difference. I would advise new professionals to take advantage of the resources that APMP offers. Not only do you have access to conferences and seminars through your chapter, but the free webinars and the robust network of professionals are great benefits that can help advance one’s career.
I love to operate in a learning environment, and for other individuals who are attracted to this, I would recommend joining the LinkedIn APMP group, connecting with other industry members and being open to learning opportunities from every angle. LinkedIn has given me the opportunity to connect with so many other APMP members, and as they share and comment on content, my knowledge on the industry grows.
My advice is to build connections, network, explore opportunities and learn the art of negotiation by confidently realizing and building upon your worth.
How has your experience in environmental policy helped you throughout your career in bids and proposals?
My passion for environmental policy stems from my appreciation of innovation and sustainable practices. In addition to my environmental policy classes, I’ve taken a lot of government-based courses. This exposure enhanced my communication skills and showed me the ability to reach across the aisle, creatively and concisely, especially when external clients are in question. As I work on proposals, I understand that not every proposal submittal is the same. With this in mind, I tend to offer innovative proofs to technical solutions described by technical staff, such as infographics, callout boxes, etc.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received in your career?
“Don’t be a superhero.” This piece of advice is delivered by our department director to every new hire. As a proposal manager, it is so easy to fall into the habit of doing everything on your own. Practicing a mindset of delegation to use resources efficiently has surely contributed to the success in my career.
What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Getting to work with different teams, across different disciplines. Working for an AE firm, I am exposed to different types of projects on a weekly basis. The learning opportunities are endless and does not make my work experience monotonous.
What is your favorite APMP memory?
Last year during the pandemic, APMP went above and beyond and created a virtual experience (WBVE) that connected members across the world. Participating in that experience is my best memory to date. I was interviewed by APMP CEO Rick Harris for one of the Power Half-Hour sessions.
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