Member Spotlight on: The Co-Chairs of Our Professionals of Color Affinity Group – Morgan Anderson and Jeremiah Walker

As part of our ongoing commitment to nurturing an inclusive community of bid and proposal professionals, APMP has introduced a number of Affinity Groups, with the purpose of providing supportive spaces for professionals with shared experiences in life and the industry.

One of these groups is the Professionals of Color Affinity Group which, in 2024, will be headed up by Morgan Anderson (MA) and Jeremiah Walker (JW), serving as the group’s co-chairs.

I sat down with Morgan and Jeremiah to discuss their journey towards leading this group, what the Affinity Group is all about, and their goals for 2024.

Can you give me some background on yourself and your career up till this point?

MA: I’ve been working in proposals since I finished undergrad. I started as a marketing assistant and, like many others, I “fell” into the industry due to my writing background. I have worked across several industries: human resources, finance, investing and, more recently, science and engineering.

JW: I started my career in the United States Air Force. I was on active duty full-time for the first six years of my career, and then I did nine years as a reservist and defense contractor working in cybersecurity. After a decade in cybersecurity, I just hit a point in my career where I was starting to top out – there wasn’t really any more room for me to grow within the defense industrial base. But even more importantly, everything that I was doing was leading me towards business development and capture management. I wanted to be on that side of the table because I thought I could make a much more significant impact by being the one going out looking for opportunities to grow the business and create positions for new folks to come into the career field. I’ve been a full-time capture manager for the last two years.

How did you get involved with APMP?

MA: When I started, I was working with a smaller business as the sole proposal person, and saw the need to get into a group like APMP. I needed to meet more people who were working in my industry – so, I started volunteering and eventually became a member of APMP.

JW: I’ve been an APMP member for close to three years. Working in business development, there’s a lot of different professional organizations that you can join, but APMP was just the one in which I felt the most welcome. I really enjoy meeting the people who are doing this work. It’s good to have people who immediately understand your job, including the hard parts of it. It makes it kind of like a support network as well.

What drew you to the Professionals of Color Affinity Group?

MA: I identify as a Black woman, and I came to discover that there weren’t a lot of Black women in the industry when I first began. I wanted to find my tribe in the industry and connect with people that looked like me. Since being involved with APMP, I have started to see a positive change in the community’s demographic. The community is becoming more diverse, more open to new identities – with the addition of the Affinity Groups, I believe this trend will continue.

In 2020, APMP announced the Affinity Group network, and I discovered the Professionals of Color Affinity Group. I heard that one of the initiatives that the PoC Affinity Group was currently working on was outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). That really spoke to me as a graduate of a HBCU, because I was interested in the creation of intentional career pathways for minorities. I’ve been working here for almost two decades, and I have started to see a shift in the APMP community and in the greater proposal management community – I’m seeing a lot more female faces, and an increase in professionals of color. I wanted to get involved with the Affinity Group because I want to encourage a diverse safe space. I want people to understand that APMP is dedicated to making inclusive spaces. When I came into this industry, I would have loved to see a Black woman acting in a leadership role because I think representation is so important.

JW: I’m the only dedicated proposal person in my company, so when I go to proposal conferences, I’m usually the only person from my company that’s attending. I was really looking for a community of folks that I can engage with and share a natural affinity with right away. I identify very strongly as a person of color, so it was a natural fit for me to get involved with this group. Most of my career, I’ve been in positions where I’m the only minority in the room, and it’s exciting to engage with people who look like me and have had similar life experiences. It’s great that we can collectively navigate the profession and help each other out.

What made you decide to become Chair?

MA: I’m currently affiliated with the National Capital Area chapter. We have a graduate pathway program, and, in my own chapter, I was trying to figure out how that program could be expanded to minority institutions and really diversify the community that we’re serving. This Affinity Group covers all of APMP, and I felt like it would be a natural move for me to get involved with the group’s work to help make the kind of change that I’m wanting to see. I started making calls and asking everyone how I could get involved, and I think I called around so much that I volunteered myself into a leadership position. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m very motivated and energized for what we’ve got in store for the year ahead.

JW: When I started going to the Affinity Group and listening to what other people were saying, and I started thinking: “I have experience in this area!” The early parts of my career were disheartening. I didn’t know how to navigate the space. But my career finally started to take off once I started to engage with mentors and learn how to climb the career ladder. When other PoCs showed me not only that I could advance my own career, but also exactly how to do it, that’s when my career finally took off. As someone who’s been able to successfully navigate some of the challenges that other folks in the Affinity Group were facing, I wanted to be able to share my positive experiences and the way that I’ve navigated reaching a relatively high level within this space. But in the Chair position, I also get to learn from other people’s experiences and really listen to other people of color who have very different experiences of the industry. I want to be a servant leader – listening to what folks are saying about what their challenges are, and looking for ways that I can lead the Affinity Group to address some of those challenges.

What are you most excited about in assuming this new role?

MA: I’m most excited about representation. My younger self from 10 years ago would have loved to see a Black woman in a position of leadership within APMP. Things are changing, and we are trending towards a more diverse community, but I think representation is really important, especially for those who are new to the industry and may not know about the various initiatives and groups and benefits that APMP has. I’m excited to represent for my folks, but I’m also really excited to deepen the APMP experience. This is a professional organization – many of us get involved because we’re looking to increase our skillsets, increase our knowledge base and increase our salary, but I think there’s so much to be gained from having conversations about our experiences. It helps to really enhance the community and, in doing so, to create a web of networking opportunities. Just being involved in APMP, I’ve had the honor and privilege of meeting so many transformative people and I’m really looking forward to continuing that work as the affinity group chair. We’ve got a lot off exciting conversations coming in 2024.

JW: What I’m most excited about is the engagement with other people of color, especially those with different experiences than I have. It’s a diverse group, and we all live in different areas that have very different life experiences and demographic profiles. I think a lot of what comes up for folks in the group is that they see a lot of people of color working alongside them, but when they look up to the higher reaches of the career field, they don’t see that many people that look like them. So, I’m looking forward to figuring out how we better diversify our community up front, but also to be thinking about how we can position people to help them grow in positions of leadership. I’m excited about career management and mentorship, and the idea of being in a position to help identify and shape those paths to leadership for the next generation.

What are you looking to do with the Affinity Group in 2024?

MA: One of our core goals is validating APMP’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. APMP has strong DEI initiatives, and we would like to validate those initiatives and help to further them. We want to continue to do that collegiate outreach to historically Black and minority institutions and continue to engage APMP for funding to support some of our initiatives. Overall, though, I think the biggest takeaway from this Affinity Group is that we want to create a safe space for our participants. I got involved in APMP because I was the only person at my company that did proposals, and I needed a sounding board – I needed a peer. And now we’re in this group where we have peers, we also want to create a safe space for people that don’t have peers in their industry to talk about issues they face, such as race or discrimination. Rather than talking about that with their employers, which can be tricky, we’re creating a space where we can talk about those ideas, collaborate on ideas and get some ideas from others that we can take and apply to our daily lives. We’re hoping to have monthly events with a lot of cool stuff for people to be interested in.

JW: First and foremost is making sure that we’re creating a safe space for folks to feel free to talk about what their struggles are, have people who can share in that struggle, and collectively come up with effective and creative ways to move through that. I know that not everyone shares my goals or career ambitions, so we want to be present to whatever else we can provide from within this space. We also want to make sure that we are aligning our affinity group’s goals with those of APMP HQ, so we can help them meet their DEI objectives. I’m also interested in seeking out students, particularly at HBCUs, who are considering their career path. We want to make them aware of proposal management as a potential career. If I would have known that there was a financially viable path available to me that gave me the opportunity to use my skills, I might have chosen a very different way of approaching college and my career. That awareness, I think, is so important. We want to make sure young or aspiring professionals of color can see people who look like them who’ve succeeded in the industry before, because that just creates the sense of possibility and reminds them that it isn’t exclusive to a certain group of people.

What would you like to say to the members about the Affinity Group?

MA: I would just encourage folks to let us know and sign up if they’re interested. You don’t have to identify as a professional of color to come to the group. There’s plenty of managers who don’t identify as PoC that come to help themselves be better to the PoC in their communities. I would encourage members to join and discuss topics they want to discuss with the group. This group is entirely member-driven and its purpose is to enhance the experience for all APMP members.

JW: One thing I’m really excited about is being able to step into the role as a co-chair. Being a co-chair is not something I think I would have initially considered, but it is really great to do this alongside somebody like Morgan who is so organized and professional. Also, she’s from a different generation and background so she has a very different perspective. I think it’s really important, when you talk about diversity within a group, to also have diversity within your leadership team. It’s great to be able to start along this path with someone and roll this out collectively. It gives us much more opportunity to create an environment that works for all kinds of people. I want folks to understand that whatever we set out in our strategic vision for 2024, the goal first and foremost is to create a safe and inclusive environment for discussion amongst our members.

The Professionals of Color Affinity Group is having its first meeting of the year on January 26 12:00 PM ET to discuss goal setting for 2024, and all members are welcome to attend. Just email to register!

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