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Ever since Ailsa Tuck earned her Foundation certification in 2019, she knew she wanted to achieve her Practitioner-level designation. So when the U.K. went on lockdown after coronavirus hit pandemic status, she figured she’d use this opportunity to get ready for the exam.
“APMP certification is the gold standard for the industry,” she says. “For me, accreditation is formal recognition of my commitment to the profession, as well as an avenue for improving my performance and bid outcomes by training in APMP principles.”
With this commitment in mind, Tuck, a bid manager at allpay Limited, signed up for her exam — but not just one. “I booked the Capture Practitioner exam, too, as a way to enhance my skill set, while complementing my bidding role.”
Tuck, who has been in the proposal industry over six years, took both tests on the same day. Here, she discusses how she prepared for this, as well as the benefits she’s seen, thanks to her certification.
WinningTheBusiness.com: What led you to become a proposal professional?
Ailsa Tuck, CP APMP: I’ve always enjoyed writing, organizing — and winning! I began my career in an administrative role supporting the tenders department where I gained significant experience, familiarizing myself with the various elements involved in preparing a bid, namely managing multiple deadlines and delivering under pressure in a professional environment. As my role developed, I was given the responsibility of writing, coordinating and managing the bids, which is where I found my niche.
I developed my skill set and focus on bid management and moved on to a leading payments specialist in fintech, where I now manage the tenders department and facilitate the end-to-end process. We’ve implemented several APMP processes and stages to our process since my training and accreditation, and our win rate has seen a boost of around 30% on previous years.
The world of bidding and proposals is a great fit for me. Few careers have the non-stop buzz of bids: juggling challenging deadlines, negotiating with stakeholders, leveraging your bespoke offering for each client, understanding the wider competitive landscape and continually collaborating to form comprehensive, compelling propositions.
Why did you decide to achieve APMP certification?
It’s an excellent way to prove to employers you are an established, committed professional within your arena. I’ve noticed APMP certification is now frequently a mandatory requirement for bid/proposal manager roles, which further proves its credibility and the confidence the accreditation instills in employers.
What benefits have you seen so far?
There have been so many! I feel I’ve benefited hugely from my membership and certification with APMP. I’ve connected with proposal management professionals around the world, which has proved invaluable for sharing experiences and best practices.
I’ve attended several APMP webinars from industry leaders, which are incredibly useful for gaining further insight and tips on how to continually improve the bidding function within your organization. I also regularly refer to the Body of Knowledge (BoK) for templates, processes and information to guide my department through the various stages of bidding.
Talk about how you came to the decision to take both the Practitioner and Capture Practitioner exams back to back.
I took both exams back to back purely for convenience. I preferred an intensive exam day to allow me to concentrate and remain focused. Each exam took 2.5 hours, with a one-hour break in between — enough time to drink a lot of coffee and prepare for the next!
What was the hardest thing about preparing for both exams at the same time?
Both exams were challenging, and there was an array of information to learn beforehand. Given the wide range of topics under each syllabus, the hardest thing was planning my time to effectively study.
If you’re an experienced business development or bidding professional, it is important to understand the key phrasing/wording and timelines outlined within the BoK. Each organization will have its own established business development or bidding processes and terms; however, they may contradict best practices in APMP. Don’t get caught out!
What’s one thing you wish you knew about taking the certification exams before you began this journey?
The preparation guides give a detailed overview of every element within each exam, so coupled with the sample papers, I felt very prepared. They are both challenging exams, though, so I would recommend a lot of preparation.
What are your top three tips for preparing for the exams?
I recommend viewing Strategic Proposals’ webinars, which are excellent resources. I attended Jon Williams’ APMP Practitioner Orientation session, which was hugely helpful, familiarizing me with the format and structure of the exam so I didn’t have any last-minute surprises. I took my exams remotely via a proctor, which I’d never previously done, so I think this helped me become more comfortable with the process and what to expect.
I would also recommend taking time to thoroughly review the OTE Preparation Guides for both Practitioner and Capture Practitioner certifications, available via the APMP website. The guides clearly outline which areas of BoK to review, which helped guide my learning and the specific areas I needed to focus on. The BoK was the sole resource I used to prepare for both exams, which is an exceptional resource for APMP members, hosting a wealth of information.
I took the sample papers available three times, until I was comfortable with the format and content. I made notes of the scores I achieved for each syllabus area after each exam, which allowed me to further revise the areas I was weaker on before I felt comfortable enough to take the real exam.
Any final advice for anyone who may consider taking more than one certification exam in a close time frame?
Take plenty of time to prepare beforehand. Plan your time wisely and take as many sample exams as you need until you feel confident with the real thing.
Learn more about the APMP Certification Program.